Tuesday, November 25, 2008

News - 11/25/08...

Fox Abandons Saturday Morning Cartoons in January 2009

The Fox network will not be replacing its lineup of Saturday morning cartoons after 4Kids ceases programming on the network in December. Starting in January 2009, Fox will replace its lineup of cartoons with 2 hours of infomercials and 2 hours of local affiliate content. Several of 4Kids' more popular shows will move to the CW network.

Director Talks Wonder Woman – New Pics!

As the Wonder Woman animated movie nears release, Warner Premiere has started rolling out the assets and aggressively getting the word out about this latest entry in the DC Universe series of PG-13, direct-to-video superhero films. To that end, the studio has released a Q&A with the movie’s director, Lauren Montgomery, who previously co-directed Superman Doomsday and helmed episodes of Legion of Super Heroes. She also served as a storyboard artist on Justice League: The New Frontier and Marvel’s latest animated video feature, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow. Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation will release Wonder Woman on March 3, 2009. See the official website at www.wonderwomanmovie.com.

Question: You’ve gone from directing one-third of Superman Doomsday to helming the entirety of Wonder Woman. What’s that progression been like for you?

Lauren Montgomery:
It’s mostly in scale of responsibility. On Doomsday, it was all about my one section of the film. Now, it’s everything from background design and color to character design and camera angles, helping select the voices for the cast and approving every storyboard for the entire film. So (she laughs) it was all a lot harder. It’s been an incredible learning experience, it's probably the most hands-on I've ever been on anything, and it’s really prepared me for more of those responsibilities in the future.

What were the driving factors behind the final design of Wonder Woman?

We kept the designs simple enough for animation, but we wanted to give them a slightly more detailed, less cartoony look for the PG-13 content. Wonder Woman went through a lot of different versions. Gradually, and for the betterment of the film, we determined that she should look strong and athletic without being manly. She’s an Amazon, so I wanted her to be able to be taken seriously. We wanted her to look like she worked out, and not just make her a curvy, busty pinup. So I tried to give her slightly slimmer hips versus the hourglass figure, and I think it makes her more believable and engaging in a lot of action.

Did you utilize a different color palette from previous DC Universe films?

We wanted the film to be vibrant, but we also needed our characters to fit into their settings. Our color stylist, Craig Cuqro, used colored filters to set the characters into their backgrounds, and our overseas studio Moi added a lot of diffusion, which gives the characters a really nice kind of glowing look, especially during the scenes in Themyscira. The soft diffusion throughout the scenes in Themyscira makes everything seem much nicer, like a paradise. The style adds a lot of quality to the overall look of the film.

Are you a mythology aficionado?

I always liked epic stories, and Greek mythology was a subject that kept my attention in school. The characters were larger than life—they were gods and each had their own nuances and specialties. Being an artist, I could really visualize those characters and that made their stories that much more interesting. Wonder Woman is based in mythology, but it doesn't follow it to a tee by any means. I really just had to bone up on my Wonder Woman version of mythology, so I could make sure that we pleased the fans. We wanted to stay true to the legend but we did eliminate or underplay some of the sillier aspects of that mythology.

Like the fact that the Amazons have an invisible jet, but they with fight swords and don’t appear to have indoor plumbing?

There are a few things in the movie that we opted against really explaining because, honestly, the explanations were more convoluted than not explaining it at all. You don’t need to break down the minor details. If we tell you exactly where the invisible jet came from, then that’s time and energy that would’ve taken away from our core story.

How did Michael Jelenic’s script complement your approach to direction?

Michael Jelenic has really strong, entertaining ideas in his scripts. Seeing his first drafts really inspired me because there was a lot of action that showed her true strength. He told a story that captivated me the entire way. Beyond the action, Michael is good at interjecting a lot of humor—Steve Trevor’s sense of humor echoes Michael’s in many ways. He also likes to write a lot of director-embellished action scenes, which didn’t always make it easier on me. That's the one thing I’d like to punch him for. But otherwise, he did a great job.

What’s your depth of love for comics and/or super heroes?

I was always more a fan of animation than comics. I just didn’t realize until I was a little older that you could actually make a living making cartoons. And once I discovered that career path, I knew exactly what I was going to do when I grew up.

My love of superheroes didn't really start until Batman: The Animated Series. That series just took everything to a higher level. It didn't speak down to people, it made you think more, it had really serious stories, and it went about telling those stories in a way that didn't put the violence right out there for you to see. It kind of undertoned it. It was more sophisticated storytelling and that drew me to the Superman and Justice League series, and then I ended up working on Justice League. So most of my experience with superheroes comes through animation, not actually through the comic books themselves.

You now work side-by-side with Bruce Timm on DC Universe films. What’s it like to go from fan to colleague?

Working with Bruce is extremely interesting, and not in a bad way (laughs). This is going to greatly understate it, but he knows what he's doing. It’s always a really good learning experience just to sit back and watch him, to see how he works, because Bruce definitely has his own way of doing things. Pretty much all the calls he makes are the right calls—it’s obvious in the body of work that he's produced. When he makes a call, even if I don't agree with it 100%, I usually just let it go because I know the film is going to be better for it.

A lot of filmmaking is finessing, and I've learned a lot of that art from Bruce. He knows the little tricks to make things a lot better—certain things to avoid, simple camera moves, and ways to not draw attention to the camera. And he’s an amazing editor. He has a way of looking at a film and being able to identify the important parts and really hammer them home. I'm still kind of focused on the storyboards, planning everything out so it plays the way I want it. I don't really think about cutting around or rearranging scenes because I already did that in the storyboards. But Bruce can look at that footage and know immediately how to rearrange the scenes to make things that much better and that much smoother. That’s what I’m trying to learn from him now.

Has drawing always been a passion?

In my younger years I drew a lot and I wasn't quite as social. When I came home after school, I would finish my homework, and then sit in my room and draw. And that's all I did, because I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I would save my money and buy books like The Art of Pocahontas and The Art of Hunchback—whatever Disney art book was out that year. I would take it home and look at it, and I would think, “Okay, now my drawings aren't anywhere near as good as these drawings, so I’d better get to work to make them as good.” I figured the more I practiced, the sooner I would get that good, so I drew as much as I possibly could.

Who are your influences artistically today?

I don't have specific artists exactly, but I was definitely influenced by the Disney films. Those were the drawings I was tracing and sketching during my early years. I would study each and every one of the princesses and draw them until I had them all down by heart. My facial features are still influenced somewhat by Disney characters. As I got older, I was definitely influenced by Bruce's style in Batman, and I started getting into anime and some of the more subtle styles in anime drawing. The clothing is a little more detailed than the typical American animation, more believable, yet still simplified. It’s the way they draw bodies and cloth that I kind of incorporate into my drawings, as well as certain aspects of how they would draw hair. So I’d say I have a few different influences in my art style.

Do you have a preference between male and female superheroes?

I definitely prefer female leads because I feel it’s just easier to direct their acting. They’re allowed to show a much wider range of emotions. A woman can be feminine and tomboyish, and she can hit all the same poses that a man can hit. But if you start putting a man in a feminine pose, especially a superhero man, it doesn't fly. So when you're dealing with the male super heroes, you have a much, much more restricted range of acting. It’s not just a challenge, it’s more of a limitation in general. You can do more with a woman character and it’s still acceptable. So it's a lot more enjoyable for me. Plus, on a personal level, I think it’s good to give girl fans more options. When I was a girl, I would watch Thundercats and all I really had to choose from was Cheetara. I always wanted more female heroes and I never really got them. Hopefully we’ll be able to explore more of them in these DVDs.

Ultimate Pink Panther, Superman Doomsday on DVD

Fans of the Pink Panther live-action films and cartoons can now own the Pink Panther Ultimate Collection, an 18-disc compilation of movies and animated shorts put out today by MGM. Also available is the two-disc special edition of the animated feature Superman Doomsday, the title that kicked off Warner Premiere’s DC Universe series of PG-13 direct-to-video movies.

Pink Panther Ultimate Collection
includes the classic films A Shot in the Dark, Inspector Clouseau, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Revenge of the Pink Panther, Trail of the Pink Panther, Curse of the Pink Panther and Son of the Pink Panther, as well as the 2006 remake of The Pink Panther. Also included are the previously released Pink Panther Collector's Edition and Pink Panther Cartoon Collection Volumes 1-9.

The nine cartoon collections feature more than 190 animated comedy shorts, including the Oscar-winning
The Pink Phink, as well as Sink Pink and Pink Ice, the only two cartoons in which the mischievous cool cat speaks. Available for the first time in one package are Pink Panther Cartoon Collection Vol. 1, Pink Panther Cartoon Collection Vol. 2, Pink Panther Cartoon Collection Vol. 3, Pink Panther Cartoon Collection Vol. 4, Pink Panther Cartoon Collection Vol. 5: The Ant and the Aardvark, Pink Panther Cartoon Collection Vol. 6: The Inspector Vol. 1, Pink Panther Cartoon Collection Vol. 7: The Inspector Vol. 2, Pink Panther Cartoon Collection Vol. 8: Roland and Ratfink, and Pink Panther Cartoon Collection Vol. 9. The whole set lists for $199.98.

Based on the bestselling graphic novel
The Death of Superman, Superman Doomsday was released last year, but Warner Home Video is hoping fans will want to check out some new bonus materials. The two-disc set carries a suggested retail price of $24.98 and includes the documentary When Heroes Die: The Making of Superman Doomsday. There’s also commentary, featurettes titled The Clash of the Juggernauts and Requiem and Rebirth: Superman Lives!, a Justice League: The New Frontier featurette and four bonus episodes of Superman: The Animated Series
hand-picked by producer Bruce Timm.

Nick Shows Get Holiday Cheer

Nickelodeon is getting into the Yule Tide spirit with holiday-themed premieres of Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! The Wonder Pets! and The Fairly OddParents during the month of December. In addition, “Frosty Fridays” returns on Dec. 12 with mini-marathons of holiday episodes of Nick favorites every Friday of the month, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! “A Great and Grumpy Holiday/The Super-Special Gift”
debuts on Dec. 5 at 1:30 p.m. (ET/PT), Wubbzy and his friends go up to Mt. Zubba Bubba to get a Christmas tree for Wuzzleburg Square and are chased off the property by Old Man Grumpus. Wubbzy sets out to soften Grumpus’ heart by decorating the perfect tree to surprise him. In the second story, Wubbzy wants to thank Daizy for her help decorating the Wubb Club by getting her a super-special Christmas gift, but is stymied when she asks for a rainbow. He journeys to the North Pole to see if Santa Claus can help him and on the way he helps out the Abominable Snowman and a Baby Penguin.

On Monday, Dec. 8
at 8 p.m., The Wonder Pets! “Save the Nutcracker!” will put a contemporary spin on Tchaikovsky's holiday classic. Directed by Emmy Award winner Jennifer Oxley, the special takes place on Christmas Eve as the Mouse King emerges from a picture book and steals the Wonder Pets' Nutcracker present from the classroom. Linny the Guinea Pig, Turtle Tuck and Ming-Ming Duckling pursue the Mouse King into the book, dancing through a winter wonderland filled with sugar plum fairies and sweet treats to the music of Tchaikovsky's “The Nutcracker Suite.”

The Fairly OddParents “Merry Wishmas!”
episode premieres on Friday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. When Timmy wishes that every kid could get one magical coupon for the most-wanted Christmas gift they didn't get, Cosmo and Wanda turn into magic mailmen and deliver "wish coupons" to every kid in Dimmsdale. Suddenly "Wishmas" explodes into a bigger holiday than Christmas, and an out-of-work Santa moves in with the Turners. Timmy then has to convince Santa to return to the North Pole and start making toys again before Wishmas replaces Christmas forever.

The Frosty Fridays
marathons will also include seasonal episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and the Nick Jr. hits The Backyardigans, Dora the Explorer, Go, Diego, Go!, and Yo Gabba Gabba!

Space Chimps, Nutty Professor on Disc

The grandson of the first monkey in space leads his own mission and the grandson of a wacky scientist experiments with better living through chemistry as two CG-animated features make their home-video debuts this week. Space Chimps from Vanguard Animation and Starz Media comes to DVD and Blu-ray today, along with The Nutty Professor from The Weinstein Co. and Genius Products.

Produced by John H. Williams
(Shrek, Shrek 2) and Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, The Addams Family), Space Chimps features the voices of Andy Samberg (Saturday Night Live), Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Patrick Warburton (Family Guy), Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies) and Stanley Tucci (ER). The adventure-comedy follows the exploits of a mischievous circus chimp named Ham (Samberg), who happens to be the grandson of the first primate ever sent into orbit. As a publicity stunt, Ham is chosen to lead a mission into space to explore a mysterious new planet. When he and his crew crash land on the bizarre world and find their lives in peril, Ham must prove that he really does have the right stuff.

The film marks the directorial debut of writer Kirk DeMicco, whose screenwriting credits include the 1998 Warner Bros. animated feature
Quest for Camelot and the upcoming DreamWorks Animation production Crood Awakening. Space Chimps is also the first animated feature for Sonnenfeld, who produced Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events and directed such live-action hits Get Shorty, Men in Black and Men in Black II.

Bonus features include a casting session presented by Fox Movie Channel, various TV spots, a still gallery and trailers. The release carries a suggested retail price of $23.98 on DVD and $31.99 on Blu-ray.

The classic Jerry Lewis comedy
The Nutty Professor is animated for a new generation with Lewis reprising the role of Julius Kelp. This time, it’s his grandson, Harold Kelp (Drake Bell) who gets hold of the experimental elixer that gives him the cool, confident personality he’s always wanted, along with an unwelcomed air of conceited arrogance.

The movie is directed by Paul Taylor, who helmed the
Blur shorts In the Rough and Aunt Luisa before taking on his first feature. The script was written by Evan Spiliotopoulos (Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers), and Rainmaker Ent. handled the animation.

The DVD lists for $19.97. Bonus features include
“The Science of Animating The Nutty Professor”
and a character storyboard gallery. The movie has been rated “G” by the MPAA.

Animax Canuck Script Contest Closing

All Canadian citizens living in Canada or elsewhere have until Nov. 31 to submit their entries for Animax’s Canucks Cartoon Script Contest. Animax, a Los Angeles-based animation company that just opened a new studio in Toronto, is accepting seven-minute cartoon script entries online at www.animaxinteractive.com/canuck.

Co-founded by former SCTV star Dave Thomas, Animax has expanded its operations into Canada, where producer Patricia Burns will head production. Thomas recently sold the prime-time animated series Bob & Doug to Canwest Global. Set to premiere in January of 2009, the series is based on the Bob and Doug McKenzie characters created by Thomas and Rick Moranis for SCTV and the cult-favorite movie Strange Brew. Moranis will serve as an exec producer, but the voice of Bob Mckenzie will be provided by Dave Coulier of Full House fame.

Thomas and members of his Animax team will judge entries, along with noted agents, producers, writers and artists from both Canada and the U.S. Prizes will include the “Top Banana,” a development option with Animax Ent. worth $2,500 (Canadian) and a beer. Second- and third-place winners will receive $1,500 and $1,000, respectively.

The script contest is open to all styles of writing, but Animax is particularly looking for concepts that target the tween, preschool and adult demographics. Scripts must be original and no longer than 10 pages in length.

NY Times on "King of the Hill"'s Pamela Adlon

The New York Times has profiled actress Pamela Adlon and her balancing act between her life as a mother and her two radically different acting jobs: as the voice of Bobby Hill on King of the Hill and as Marcy Runkle in the Showtime series Californication. The article also covers her difficult transition from a child star into a working actor in Hollywood, and how her voice-over roles saved her career.

AWN on Africa's Animation Studios

Animation World Network has examined the growing animation industry in Africa, currently well-established in Egypt and South Africa but growing elsewhere as well. The article highlights some of the best known work emerging from Africa's animation studios, and also points out the lack of animation education and the problem of skilled animators leaving for better opportunities in Europe or the United States.

"Bolt" Stories: Mark Walton as Rhino, John Lasseter x 2

Several news stories about Disney's new movie Bolt have been published as part of the movie's launch. CNN follows how Disney story development artist Mark Walton got the job to voice Rhino, the hyperactive hamster and rabid Bolt fan, noting that his work on the scratch vocal track was just never replaced.

Elsewhere, Disney Animation chief creative officer John Lasseter has been interviewed about the movie. The Dallas Morning News chats with Lasseter, who talks about animation's strengths as a storytelling medium and the inspirations for Bolt, and also makes an offhand comment that they might just make a TV series instead of a sequel movie. Meanwhile, another chat with FirstShowing.net deals more with Lasseter's new responsibilities in the studio, his views on animated moviemaking, the use of 3-D in Bolt and other Disney movies, and the return of hand-drawn animation in upcoming The Princess and the Frog.

Briefly: Sony Lands Marvel Anime Dist. Rights; The Influence of Tezuka

* Sony's newly formed Intl. Product Expansion Group will be distributing the Marvel anime series produced by Madhouse Entertainment. [Variety]

* The Japan Times looks at the legacy of Osamu Tezuka's manga and its influence on Japanese pop culture and culture worldwide.

Must-Read Article About the Future of Media

If you read just one article this week, no, make that this month, make it Kevin Kelly’s “Becoming Screen Literate” from last weekend’s NY Times Magazine. It is essential reading for anybody who works in the visual arts. In the piece, Kelly argues that images have replaced words as our dominant form of expressive currency, though we have not yet achieved “screen fluency” that allows us to utilize and manipulate moving images in the same way that we can do with text. It’s interesting to note that a lot of Kelly’s descriptions of contemporary live-action filmmaking basically describe the process that animation artists have been pioneering for the past century. Even before CGI, animation has always been a more flexible and fluid art form than live-action. Finally, live-action is achieving that malleability, he writes:

For directors who speak this new cinematographic language, even the most photo-realistic scenes are tweaked, remade and written over frame by frame. Filmmaking is thus liberated from the stranglehold of photography. Gone is the frustrating method of trying to capture reality with one or two takes of expensive film and then creating your fantasy from whatever you get. Here reality, or fantasy, is built up one pixel at a time as an author would build a novel one word at a time. Photography champions the world as it is, whereas this new screen mode, like writing and painting, is engineered to explore the world as it might be.

Another major theme in Kelly’s piece is that the line between creator and consumer is blurring to the point where average people are not only consuming visuals but also creating their own through remixing and repurposing existing imagery.

Rewriting video can even become a kind of collective sport. Hundreds of thousands of passionate anime fans around the world (meeting online, of course) remix Japanese animated cartoons. They clip the cartoons into tiny pieces, some only a few frames long, then rearrange them with video editing software and give them new soundtracks and music, often with English dialogue. This probably involves far more work than was required to edit the original cartoon but far less work than editing a clip a decade ago. The new videos, called Anime Music Videos, tell completely new stories. The real achievement in this subculture is to win the Iron Editor challenge. Just as in the TV cookoff contest “Iron Chef,” the Iron Editor must remix videos in real time in front of an audience while competing with other editors to demonstrate superior visual literacy. The best editors can remix video as fast as you might type.

What is most thrilling, however, is Kelly’s vision for the future of media, which is something that I’ve long thought but been unable to put so eloquently into words. Having witnessed the technological progress of the past twenty years, we’re not too far from achieving these possibilities:

With our fingers we will drag objects out of films and cast them in our own movies. A click of our phone camera will capture a landscape, then display its history, which we can use to annotate the image. Text, sound, motion will continue to merge into a single intermedia as they flow through the always-on network. With the assistance of screen fluency tools we might even be able to summon up realistic fantasies spontaneously. Standing before a screen, we could create the visual image of a turquoise rose, glistening with dew, poised in a trim ruby vase, as fast as we could write these words. If we were truly screen literate, maybe even faster. And that is just the opening scene.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Animated 'Naked Brothers Band' Special on Nick

No Nudity, Just Animation.

Verging on global success nearly too big for their own shorts, the kid comedy The naked Brothers Band will be making its animated debut in the forthcoming week, as Nickelodeon pushes forward with its annual Superstuffed Weekend, which commemorates the Thanksgiving Day Weekend. The cartoon special, called The Supertastic 6, hopes to offer fans of the show (and fans of the band) all of the same elementary humor and original music that fans expect. The Naked Brothers Band, a success in multiple territories both on television and on the concert stage, aims to capitalize on their current popularity, as culled from national tours and even movie releases.

The Naked Brothers Band, which is composed of real brothers who co-produce real music, but aren't really naked, is one of many music-based teen/tween sensations that has eked its way into regularly scheduled children's programming. Developed through Nickelodeon, The Naked Brothers Band is a live-action series that tracks actual brothers Nat Wolff (age 14) and Alex Wolff (10) and their journey through adolescence, which may or may not be related to the art of music. The series' writer/director is Polly Draper (mother), and the series' music supervisor/co-executive producer is Michael Wolff (father).

"We're excited to premiere The Naked Brothers Band's first animated special which showcases their humor in a fun, new, fantasy-filled format," Marjorie Cohn, Executive Vice President, Development and Original Programming, Nickelodeon Networks stated.

"This season fans can experience the Naked Brothers Band in a variety of ways with the new movie, animated special and Nat and Alex's upcoming live national tour."

The animated special that Nickelodeon is planning on airing, The Supertastic 6
, hits the airwaves on Wednesday, November 26th at 8:30pm (ET). When a jazz musician (and criminal mastermind) is so jealous of the Band's success that he can't stand it, he threatens to take away the world's hair supply. Drama moves into action as the brothers, the only ones who can stop the global balding epidemic, transform into their superhero alter egos: The Supertastic 6.

The premiere of The Supertastic 6
kicks off Nickelodeon's "Superstuffed Weekend" and is a half-hour television special. Nickelodeon additionally notes that the new season of The Naked Brothers Band will include a variety of musical guest stars form bands such as Papa Roach, Simple Plan, and The Roots, to name a few. The season three premiere of The Naked Brothers Band, which aired on October 18th was the number-one live-action program for the recorded week with kid and tween audiences, with more than four million total viewers (P2+) tuning into the hour-long episode, "Mystery Girl."

on Nickelodeon: Nickelodeon (www.Nick.com), now in its 29th year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. It has built a diverse, global business by putting kids first in everything it does. The company includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, online, recreation, books, magazines and feature films. Nickelodeon's U.S. television network is seen in more than 96 million households and has been the number-one-rated basic cable network for 14 consecutive years. Nickelodeon and all related titles, characters and logos are trademarks of Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B).

Clay "Mary and Max" to open Sundance Film Festival

The world premiere of "Mary and Max," a clay animation feature film from Academy Award-winning short film creators Adam Elliot and producer Melanie Coombs, is the opening night film for the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, the Sundance Institute announced Wednesday.

It's the first time that an Australian film will open the festival, and the second time for an animated film. (
"Chicago 10" opened the festival in 2007.)

Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette and narrated by Barry Humphries,
"Mary and Max" was written and directed by Elliot.

"Mary and Max"
tells the tale of an improbable pen-pal friendship between two very different people: Mary Daisy Dinkle (Collette), a lonely Australian eight-year-old living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max Jerry Horovitz (Hoffman), a severely obese 44-year-old man living in New York.

Spanning 20 years and two continents,
"Mary and Max" is a journey that explores friendship, autism, taxidermy, psychiatry, alcoholism, obesity, kleptomania, sexual difference, religious difference, agoraphobia and more. The story is based on the director's own pen-friendship that has also lasted over 20 years.

The film is narrated by Australian legend Barry Humphries, and features cameos from Eric Bana, singer Renee Geyer and Australian music icon Ian "Molly" Meldrum ,along with Julie Forsyth and John Flaus.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Sundance Film Festival runs from
January 15 to 25 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.

"This portrait of a global friendship between two marvelously dysfunctional people is an exceptionally moving, funny and thought-provoking work,"
said Sundance Film Festival director Geoffrey Gilmore. "Mary and Max" is the first film of its kind to open the festival, and we anticipate audiences will embrace Adam Elliot's feature-length directorial debut for its poignant story, exceptional voice talent and technological creativity."

"Mary and Max"
marks renowned Australian animator Elliot's return to Sundance. His short film "Harvie Krumpet," also produced by Coombs, screened at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

Elliot has been awarded five Australian Film Institute Awards for his four previous films. These films, which also include
"Uncle," "Cousin" and "Brother," have screened in hundreds of film festivals all over the world.

"By opening night, it will have been five years since Melanie and I began working on the film. It has been a whale of a pregnancy, and we are so thrilled that the birth will be in Sundance. It is a dream come true to unveil our film in such an honored and nourishing environment."
said Elliot.

"Mary and Max" was executive produced by Mark Gooder, Paul Hardart, Tom Hardart, Bryce Menzies and Jonathan Page, and co-executive produced by Iain Canning, Andrew Mackie and Richard Payten with associate producer Pauline Piechota.

"Mary and Max" was financed by Screen Australia, Adirondack Pictures and Film Victoria, and is being sold internationally by Icon Entertainment International.

"All of us could not think of a better place to launch Adam's labor of love. It is thrilling to have the home of independent filmmaking recognize Adam's enormous talent,"
said Icon CEO Mark Gooder.

The entire 2009 Sundance Film Festival program announcement will be made on Wednesday, December 3 and Thursday, December 4.

Interview with John Ratzenberger

PixarPlanet has posted an exclusive interview with John Ratzenberger wherein he talks about Pixar, his humanitarian work, and more. From Toy Story to the forthcoming Up, Ratzenberger has appeared in every Pixar film and is often considered as Pixar’s lucky charm.

Brand Spankin' New Coraline Pics!!!

My love for Coraline knows no bounds, and each new picture brings more excitement for a guy who oozes machismo, yet still has a soft spot for cartoons and animation.

Laika and Focus Features just released new pictures from the Coraline feature for you to check out. Since the film was shot in 3-D, and these pics are in 2-D, you won't get the awesome 3-D effect. Ask your older sister to just punch you in the back of the head until your vision gets so blurry, the pictures appear 3-D. Or until you blackout. If you blackout from your sister punching you, then your sister is either really tough, or you're a complete wimp. I really shouldn't write articles when I'm hungry and lightheaded...

Check out all of the pictures below! Click on each picture to check out the hi-res version!

Haven't checked out the production videos on the website yet? Click HERE to read up on them and get access to the codes needed for each video.

"Animated Batman" Inspired Statue By Bruce Timm Set For Release By DC Direct

The popular DC Direct line will release a Batman: Black & White statue designed by Bruce Timm and inspired by Batman: The Animated Series.

Official details on the statue can be found below.


Designed by: Bruce Timm
Sculpted by: James Shoop

The wildly popular DC Direct statue line continues! Innovative Batman artist and animator Bruce Timm lends his talents to the Batman: Black and White Statue series by creating an original design of the Caped Crusader leaping into action based on his animated work!

Painted in monochromatic tones, this statue measures approximately 7.25" high x 6" wide x 6" deep. It features a Bat-logo-shaped base and is packaged in a black-and-white box.

On Sale May 13, 2009

Warcraft Expansion Sees Record Sales

Blizzard Ent. has announced that World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, the second expansion pack for the hugely successful game franchise, sold more than 2.8 million copies in its first day of availability, making it the fastest-selling PC game of all time. The record was previously held by the first Warcraft expansion, The Burning Crusade, which saw nearly 2.4 million copies fly off store shelves in 24 hours back in January of 2007.

Wrath of the Lich King was released simultaneously in North America, Europe, Chile, Argentina, and Russia on Nov. 13; Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand on Nov. 14; and South Korea and the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau on Nov. 18. In celebration of the launch, more than 15,000 stores throughout the world pened their doors open at midnight to serve eager fans, some dressed as their favorite characters from the game. Several locations were visited by Blizzard Ent. representatives, who met players and signed copies of the game.

“We’re grateful for the incredible support that players around the world have continued to show for World of Warcraft,” says Mike Morhaime, CEO and co-founder of Blizzard Ent. Wrath of the Lich King contains some of the best content we’ve created for the game so far, and we look forward to seeing even more players log in to experience it in the days ahead.”

World of Warcraft is subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game that boasted 11 million players prior to the launch of Wrath of the Lich King. More information on the new expansion can be found at the official website, www.wow-europe.com/wrath.

Via Aint It Cool News -

Quint visits the Disney Animation Research Library, hangs with composer John Powell and wraps up his series on BOLT!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my final piece on Disney’s Bolt. I have been granted a lot of crazy insights into what it takes to develop a Disney Animated movie under the watchful and caring creative gaze of John Lasseter.

My first step on this journey, and probably still the most amazing part of it all, was getting to chat with and shadow Lasseter for a day as he made his rounds on the project. That consisted of watching Lasseter give notes and work with directors Byron Howard and Chris Williams on different scenes, frame by frame.

My second visit was focused more on the daily ritual of the directors and top creative team members going over new shots by animators, some needing work, others okayed and moved forward to lighting.

And today marks the final piece of this series. This one has everything and the kitchen sink, as they say. I’ll give you a brief rundown of my big press day visit to Disney before a more detailed (and exclusive) look at two much more interesting Bolt related visits: a half-day spent in the scoring booth with John Powell (The Bourne movies) and a half-day visit to the incredibly secretive Disney Animation Research Library (the ARL), where they archive billions of dollars worth of vintage Disney animation as a resource for current animators to see, up close and in person, the work of the genius animators going all the way back to Oswald, predating Mickey.

Let’s start with the Mouse House visit. I’ll keep it brief, but Disney did a big, big press day that had giant hordes of press moving throughout the halls of Disney Animation. I was hanging out with my usual compatriots like Devin Faraci from CHUD and the other online peoples, but we did get to mingle with the crazy group of foreign press… Lots of Asian and European groups… the mix of accents was pretty awesome.

They arranged the day so we’d all shuffle from room to room meeting different key people and getting a taste of the process. Since I’ve gotten my own, in-depth versions of much of these visits I’ll skip the animation coverage and discussion on the background technology and leave those to the previous articles.

The highlights of this trip for me was watching Devin go into the sound booth and voice Rhino the Hamster in a scene. One, it was greatly entertaining watching Devin make weird sounds in a situation that doesn’t involve booze and tipsy studio publicists and two, he was actually really good in the booth. He could have another career in voice acting if he gets tired of hating the world on CHUD. Thirdly, this was one aspect of animation I haven’t gotten a chance to see and I loved watching people in a glass room try to sync up to animation.

In all my time on the site I’ve only seen 2 sound-booth things… one was hanging out as Bruce Campbell recorded all his grunt and groans during his ADR session on Bubba Ho-Tep (also saw him do the TV edit version, replacing all the “f*** you”s with “forget you”s, which was awesome). The other was watching a close friend who also had a cameo in King Kong go in and scream for an hour under the direction of Phillipa Boyens. I love seeing this stuff happen, the real nuts and bolts of filmmaking are in these sessions.

Mark Walton, who actually voiced Rhino, joined us and this dude was a blast. He’s an animator who was brought in to do the voice as a placeholder and ended up being so nerdily perfect for the TV-addicted uber-fan character that they couldn’t find anyone better to replace him. Walton was not only super friendly and nice, but also seemed to be one of those genuinely happy people… you know what I mean? You see them all over the Pixar behind the scenes, people doing what they love and getting paid for it.

I got a few pics of Mark when they brought out one of the hamsters they used as reference for the character during the animation process. Check ‘em out:

Speaking of the animation process, my second favorite part of this trip was getting to sit down at a computer and play around with Maya, the 3-D software used to create 3-D animation. Not just for cartoons, but it’s also the core that most visual effects are built on. Everyone had a model of Bolt on their computers and we had a Disney guy walk us through a kind of introduction to Maya, letting us play around with moving the character.

I made Bolt an angry dog, eyes narrowed, tail down, ears back, teeth barred, but Devin put me to shame, twisting up limbs and contorting the poor dog until he looked like a Rob Bottin effect from The Thing. I’m not kidding… Bulbous eyes, disfigured body… it was a thing-dog, no question.

It was a fun afternoon, no doubt, but it paled in comparison to my next day that was split between visiting the Fox lot to watch John Powell score the film and visiting the ARL.

When I showed up on the Fox lot I was a little nervous. Would Tom Rothman sense my presence? He’s not exactly the world’s biggest fan of AICN and he probably has enough money to disappear me a few dozen times over if he wanted to… and my name was in the system! I’m sure there was some alarm going off somewhere.

The orchestra building is the one used to score every episode of The Simpsons and was expansive. There was a big, wide booth with billions of dials and nobs, looking out onto the orchestra.

I was there for the strings and woodwinds, the brass instruments were coming in later.

I can’t describe to you the feeling of sitting in the room as an orchestra plays different cues. It’s like listening to Dark Side of the Moon out of a Mono speaker, then slipping on a pair of stereo headphones… there’s an immersion factor when you sit feet away from 60 plus musicians playing in harmony that I’ve never experienced before.

It wasn’t like going to an orchestral concert… I’ve done that before, but it wasn’t as immediate, personal. I suppose it has to do with the size of the room. Instead of a giant concert hall, all this was in a room smaller than an elementary school gym and instead of sitting out in an audience, I got to sit amongst the orchestra members, in the empty seats that would later be filled with trumpet and trombone players.

Powell himself stayed in the recording booth. Because he was doing these cues in pieces, with only half the orchestra, he had to stay in the booth where it was being mixed with the other pieces as they played live, so he could make sure everything was coming out as he intended.

In my time there, I got to hear a wide variety of themes since they were recording the end of the movie, which goes from action elements to the sweet family love theme as it hits the end credits. There is even a comedy beat as a very annoying character gets thrown out of an automobile, which was especially fun watching them tinker with, trying to nail the stinger that punctuates that annoying jackass’ tumble to the pavement.

I divided my time between sitting out in the orchestra and in the sound booth with Powell. I didn’t speak with him too much, not wanting to bother him as he worked, but he did come over and introduce himself. I found him to be a very funny guy in my brief interaction with him, obviously enjoying himself.

Before I left, Chris Williams, co-director of Bolt, came by to oversee some of the scoring. I got a shot of him standing, watching the session:

It was an amazing experience that I wish every movie fan could have a chance to see at least once in their life. Feeling the vibration of sound completely envelop you as a soundtrack is created is damn near a religious experience for a movie lover. It is magic, pure and simple.

Before I departed the scoring stage, Powell handed me a manila envelope that had one of his sheets of score (Titled Meet Bolt) with a note thanking me for coming down. It was a very nice gesture.

The next and final stop on this whirlwind tour was actually something that made this whole experience come full circle. When I did my first trip a few months ago, I met with John Lasseter who raved and raved about the Animation Research Library. He said finding out that his new position at Disney put him in control of the ARL it was like being a kid a Christmas thinking he has opened all of his presents, only to spot the biggest one tucked way under the tree with his name on it.

They don’t typically let non-animators visit, but being that Lasseter and I spent a good portion of our meeting geeking out about traditional animation he insisted that I make a trip out there.

To give you an example of how secretive this place is, there was talk… serious talk… about blindfolding me on the drive down there. They settled for me swearing I would not reveal the location (I was never given an address). I can see why.

Before I left Austin for this trip I was asked what my favorite Disney animated movie was. Without a doubt my favorite is Pinocchio. I don’t know why I love that movie so much, but since I was kid that was my favorite of the classic Disney, beating out the princess stories.

When I arrived I was told that I couldn’t bring in my camera, but I could take some pictures of the lobby, so you’ll some of those sprinkled throughout. I was introduced to a very nice guy and I’m a terrible man because I’ve forgotten his name. But this guy lead me and a couple of the Disney/Pixar reps on a tour of the ARL and went out of his way to indulge me.

For starters, they had a big display set up for me featuring a ton of original hand-painted backgrounds from Pinocchio. These things took my breath away… to be able to smell the paint of Geppetto’s workshop, see the brushstrokes used to make a scene that has been burnt into my psyche since before I have solid memories… it’s amazing.

The ARL is an archive, meant to preserve original drawings, backgrounds, glass paintings, animation cells, sketches, etc going back to the very first Disney cartoons. They have giant rooms carefully air-conditioned, de-humidified and protected with a foamless, waterless fire prevention service in order to make sure the history of Disney does not ever go up in if a fire, like what happened at the Universal lot earlier this year, should ever break out.

White-gloved employees were going through page after page after page of original Snow White artists sketches, logging them into the computer system as I watched. It looked like a complete scene featuring Snow White, each scene number in line with the one before it. If they weren’t 70 some years old you could flip through them and see Snow White come to life with your bare eyes.

The point of the ARL is to give current Disney animators the chance to make appointments to come in and look through the original work of the forefathers. I was told that high-res digital files were being made of all of the pieces in case of catastrophe, but there is nothing like holding the paper up yourself, being able to see the imprint of pencil to paper or paint to cell. It allows animators to see evidence of technique of the 9 Old Men and everyone who worked on the animated classics.

The storage rooms are incredible. You could set a heist movie around this place. If you have seen those older movies with libraries that have the shelves on a rack system, controlled by wheels on the sides, that’s what they had in place here. Each rack was numbered and the ends had a list of the films represented.

Each file box had an enveloped collection of original artwork. One in particular came out and put a big, big smile on my face. I like Oswald the Rabbit, but I’m not a big geek for him, so when they brought that out I was impressed with the history of it… but when they brought out the original hand-drawn pencils of Mickey’s first appearance in STEAMBOAT WILLIE, my heart skipped a beat. It’s like Indy finding the Idol, I was probably rubbing my face and thinking if there was any possible way I could pull of a snatch and dash. As Belloq said, we merely pass through history. What I was seeing WAS history.

The poor tour guide was then forced to be my own personal radio DJ. I kept requesting certain things and he’d go find me something. I saw original color backgrounds from Song of the South (the briar patch), pencils from Robin Hood and some absolutely mind-blowing glass art (used for multiplane purposes… they’d paint on glass and set them up in a row, combining into a single image with incredible depth of field). The two that stood out to me the most were the log across the chasm from Sleeping Beauty and the long shot of Pleasure Island from Pinocchio.

What is different about these glass pieces were just how vibrant the art has stayed. It’s literally the difference between color and Technicolor.

I understood why they were so secretive immediately. The ARL housed not just the physical history of Disney Animation, but literally billions of dollars worth of art. I have to admit, my palms were getting mighty itchy and if I was unobserved I don’t know if I could have helped myself from “borrowing” some pieces for my own art collection. They were smart enough to keep a close eye on me and take away that temptation.

It was an incredible trip and probably the most geeky-cool moment of any of these visits.

I don’t know how many of you have seen the movie yet, but I found Bolt to be a really sweet film. I knew pieces worked out of context, but it was a relief to see them all gel together. It might not have the cool-factor of something like The Incredibles or WALL-E, but it has the heart, a great amalgam of Pixar’s heart and Disney’s sensibilities. I haven’t seen it in 3-D yet, but I plan on catching it again so I can check that out.

That wraps up my
Bolt coverage. I thank all of you following along with me on these journeys and a big thanks to Andrew Runyan, Jack Pan, the folks at Disney, the creative team behind Bolt
and Mr. John Lasseter for letting me take a gander behind the curtain and share with you guys what I saw lurking there.

I’m diving headlong into the Holiday Gift Guide (to be delivered this Thursday on Turkey Day, as usual) and it’s going great so far, but if you have any last minute suggestions, I’m still looking for cool stuff to include. Feel free to drop me a line!


Jeff Bridges’ ‘Making Iron Man’ Photo Diary

In addition to his work in front of the camera, actor Jeff Bridges apparently has quite the eye for photography, too. Case in point: The online photo diary he recently posted to his personal website, featuring more than 30 images from the set of “Iron Man.”

Titled “Making Iron Man,” the photo diary provides a particularly interesting behind-the-scenes peek at the making of Marvel Studios’ blockbuster — including candid shots of director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr, as well as much of the cast, crew and special effects that made the film possible. Bridges also provides handwritten commentary for many of the images that provides a narrative of sorts for the images.

I’ve posted one of my favorite photos here, which shows a table in legendary effects producer Stan Winston Studios lined with pieces of Iron Man’s armor and, in the background of the shot, a model of Frankenstein’s Monster likely used in one of the studio’s past projects. The juxtaposition of Iron Man’s armor and the classic movie monster is impressive, but there are a lot of other images worth checking out in Bridges’ gallery, too.

Along with the aforementioned tour of Stan Winston Studios, some other highlights from the Bridges’ photo diary include the group effort that went into him shaving his head for the role of Obadiah Stane, as well as some very documentary-style photos from script sessions with various creators involved with the film. It’s worth mentioning again how impressive this photo diary is, and how much it says about Bridges’ talent as both an actor and photographer.


San Francisco DJ/mix master Mike Relm has mashed up a treat for fans looking forward to Lionsgate's upcoming releases.

Check out this funky mash-up trailer for 'Punisher' vs 'The Spirit' vs 'Transporter'.

'Transporter 3' opens in theaters November 26th.
'Punisher War Zone' opens in theaters December 5th.
'The Spirit' opens December 25th.

‘Young X-Men’ Writer Marc Guggenheim Weighs In On ‘X-Men: First Class’ Movie And Character Lineup

Ever since it was announced that “Gossip Girl” creator Josh Schwartz would focus on the junior X-Men in the upcoming “X-Men: First Class” film, we’ve been trying to wrap our brains around how that would work. Would it be the junior X-Men as established in the last film, “X-Men: The Last Stand” — more of Iceman, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, and Angel? And if so, how would Rogue fit in, now that she’s had the cure?

Or would it be the junior X-Men as established in the comics? We asked “X-Men: First Class” scribe Jeff Parker what he thought when the news broke and now we’re asking “Young X-Men” writer Marc Guggenheim. And wouldn’t you know it? Both of the comics writers heard the news the same way we did — by reading it in Variety.

“It’s funny,” Guggenheim told us, “when they first talked about doing this [before Schwartz was attached], Variety had the project as ‘Young X-Men,’ so I thought it might be coming from the comic. But the idea of a junior group of X-Men has been around long before I started writing it.”

In the ’80s, there was “The New Mutants,” which focused on Cannonball, Psyche, Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Karma, and of course, Kitty Pryde, who resented being put on the junior team. (This also gave rise decades later to “Academy X,” with characters like Surge, Icarus, Elixer, Wallflower, and Wind Dancer.)

In the ’90s, there was “Generation X,” where you had a group outside of Professor Xavier’s Academy for Gifted Youngsters being trained by Banshee and the White Queen, including Jubilee, Husk, Skin, M, Chamber, Psych, Synch, Penance, and Mondo. And this decade, Grant Morrison upgraded the concept of the junior X-Men in ‘New X-Men” (although if wasn’t the whole focus) by enlarging the school and including students such as Dust, Angel Salvadore, Beak, quintuplets the Stepford Cuckoos, Quentin Quire, and the Omega Gang.

But it’s from “The New Mutants” class that Guggenheim draws from the most in his current series, “Young X-Men,” which also includes new members like Ink. So if Schwartz’s “First Class” dips into his “Young X-Men” series, he won’t mind.

“I certainly don’t feel like he’d be treading on any territory that I’ve established,” Guggenheim said. “The idea’s been around for a while. But I hope I’ve put new characters on the chessboard that he’d want to play with.”

And should Schwartz want to pick his brain about which of the many characters in the X-Men universe would work for his film, Guggenheim says he’s available for consultation. He’d most likely advise him to focus on the next generation of mutants from “Last Stand,” rather than doing “a young Cyclops and Jean Grey.” And Guggenheim would tell him not to feel bound by what’s in the comics — create some new characters from his own imagination.

“What movie would you rather see?” he asked. “There’s more in the next generation than the junior versions of the very first group, now that you already have movies where they’re established as adults. Do a sequel, not a prequel.”

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