Wednesday, November 26, 2008

News - 11/26/08...

A New L.A. 'Toon Studio

The L.A. Times reports on a new animation studio plunking down in the city of the Angels:

Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, whose giant Buddha, bug-eyed monsters and magical mushrooms packed in huge crowds last year at the Museum of Contemporary Art, is putting down roots in Los Angeles. A multifaceted artist who embraces painting and sculpture, film and mass-produced goods as part of a single enterprise, he is planning to open an animation studio here next summer ...

The company has leased a building on North Highland Avenue, to be adapted to the studio's needs. With 6,220 square feet of space on the first floor and 2,760 square feet on the second level, the facility is expected to accommodate about 30 employees, said Daniel Rappaport of Management 360, Kaikai Kiki's talent management firm in Los Angeles.

The studio's first project will be a feature-length animated film based on "Planting the Seeds," the shorts that premiered at Murakami's mid-career retrospective at MOCA ...

Interesting, is it not, that with all the talk of outsourcing and downsizing (and yes, that stuff does go on), other animation companies relocate here from overseas.

Why? Because we have a talent base that is second to none, and foreign producers want to tap into it. (Nobody is coming here for the low labor costs and rock-bottom costs of living.)

TAG's task, as always, is to get Murakami signed to an agreement, so if you end up working there on Highland in the near future, do take action and let us know. The future you protect will be your own.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Way To GO!

Here's a surprise:

... The prospect of SAG going on strike by mid-January, just as primetime's pilot season starts in earnest, is ensuring that more broadcast network pilots will be produced under AFTRA contracts rather than SAG next year, top studio brass confirm ...

"If they're about to go on strike in mid-January, why would we not do deals with AFTRA wherever possible?" said a senior business exec at a top TV shop. "The short-term mentality of (SAG's) leadership is just staggering to us." ...

Nine months ago in Florida, a highly-placed IA rep said to me:

"If these SAG idiots get real wild and crazy, then guess what? They won't have a lot of actors under their jurisdiction. AFTRA can sign up digital productions and SAG's going to be out of freaking luck" ...

This looks to be happening right soon, if Variety is halfway correct.

... [L]ong-standing agreement has been that SAG reps all projects shot on film, while SAG and AFTRA have an equal shot at projects shot electronically, which used to translate to shows shot on video (multi-camera sitcoms, soaps, daytime and latenight yakkers, etc.).

But with most primetime skeins now shot in high-definition digital formats, AFTRA's electronic purview has greatly expanded. And in the past year, with the biz on SAG strike watch, a number of upcoming skeins have opted to go with AFTRA deals ...

The resistance among producers to shooting on digital vid rather than film has abated in recent years as the quality of high-def digital vid has improved. And in cost-conscious times, studios are unlikely to bend to the will of film purists, especially on new projects, studio execs say.

So let's go over the high points, shall we?

Point One: SAG has exclusive jurisdiction of television shows and theatrical features shot on film. And film is slowly, steadily going away.

Point Two: SAG and AFTRA share jurisdiction of shows in the digital format.

Point Three: AFTRA has no possibility of going on strike, as it's ratified it's new three-year deal. But SAG could pull the strike trigger at any time.

Which labor organization you think might be signing up more work? Which labor organization might be signing up more work into the distant future, since it is less apt to hit the streets with picket signs at an inopportune moment?

SAG throws around words like "fair" and "just" as it complains that the producers' last contract offer wasn't (isn't) good enough.
To an extent, I sympathize with the guild, but I learned years ago that whining about what's fair, or "what we deserve" doesn't get you far in corporatist America. What gets you much further down the Road of Economic Justice is having the leverage to attain your stated goals.

Because every other labor group is on board with the current deal, I honestly don't think SAG has the muscle to reach its self-described Promised Land. But if it keeps threatening job actions, it could find itself in a small, hot hell of its own creation.

And what's that hell, exactly? A world where AFTRA has more working members and more contracts than the Screen Actors Guild, and SAG -- no longer the Alpha labor organization for actors -- ends up the smaller, weaker union.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Scotsman jailed for singing "Spiderpig" to cops

"Spiderpig," the satiric Spider-Man theme from "The Simpsons Movie," was definitely the wrong tune to sing to police officers in Scotland.

David Mullen, 22, was sentenced to three months, partly in connection with the incident, which was ruled to be breaching the peace. The other offense was calling an officer "ginger" in a police van.

Mullen, of Blairgowrie, claimed that he was singing "Spiderpig" because that was the ringtone on his mobile phone, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported Monday.

In The Simpsons Movie, Homer sings "Spiderpig" to the tune of "Spider-Man" while walking a pig across the ceiling. Mullen's rendition took place July 25 while he was seated in the back of a police van after getting in a fight in Blairgowrie, Perthshire.

"He started the song and that was the origin of the joke, but things went further. He felt he had not done anything to be apprehended for," said defense lawyer Paul Ralph.

Mullen was handed another eight months in prison for assaulting a police officer and breaching a curfew while on bail. He Mullen breached his curfew October 30, assaulting a police officer on three days later.

Mullen, of Harriet Row, had been abusing alcohol since the age of 12, Ralph told Perth Sheriff Court.

"It is tragic that you have taken alcohol for almost half of your life. You have a dreadful record for a man of 22," said Sheriff Robert McCreadie. "It is now your decision if you want to continue down the tragic and appalling road you have chosen for yourself. "

Futurama Blasts Off into Wild Green Yonder

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced that the fourth, and perhaps final, feature-length Futurama movie will hit retail on DVD and Blu-ray on Feb. 24. Titled Futurama: Into The Wild Green Yonder, the release boasts guest spots by illusionist Penn Jillette, hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg, talk radio star Phil Hendrie and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, as well as a host of bonus features.

Mankind stands on the brink of a wondrous new Green Age, but ancient forces of darkness, three years older than time itself, have returned to wreak destruction. Meanwhile, Bender is in love with a married fembot, and Leela's on the run from the law—Zapp Brannigan's law. Fry is the last hope for the universe and fans will finally learn the truth about “Number 9 Man,” a mysterious character from the earliest days of the series.

Bonus materials will include audio commentary from Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche and various writers and animators. There will also be a making-of mockumentary, deleted scenes, a storyboard animatic, 3D models with animator discussion, a
“How to Draw Futurama In 10 Very Difficult Steps” tutorial, an examination of the acting technique of Penn Jillette and the featurettes Matt Groening and David X. Cohen in Space!, Bender’s Movie Theater Etiquette and Zapp Brannigan’s Guide to Making Love at a Woman
. The Blu-ray version will also offer video picture-in-picture commentary by Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Michael Rowe, Lee Supercinski, Patric M. Verrone and Peter Avanzino. The movie will carry a suggested retail price of $29.98 on DVD and $39.98 on Blu-ray.

4Kids Expands Dinosaur King Reign

Leading broadcasters in Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, Ireland and Central European markets have picked up 4Kids Ent.’s animated action series Dinosaur King. Blending traditional and CG animation, the show is set to launch on YTV in Canada, Animax in Central and Eastern Europe, MNET in South Africa, Televisa in Mexico and RTE in Ireland. In addition, 4Kids has sold home video rights to Universal in France and Contender in the U.K.

Based on the internationally successful arcade and collectable card game from Sega, Dinosaur King chronicles the adventures of Max, Rex and Zoe (a.k.a. the “D Team”) as they race around the world to uncover secrets that bring dinosaurs back to life. They are able to transport themselves anywhere in the world in their quest to find all the dinosaur cards that have been lost by the time-traveling Dr. Z and his bumbling team of bad guys.

In the U.S., Dinosaur King airs Saturday mornings on 4Kids TV. The new licensors join a growing list of global broadcast partners that includes Mediaset in Italy, RTL2 in Germany and France 3 and Canal J in France. The second season of the series has been renewed by Jetix in Latin America, the U.K. and Scandinavia.

SpongeBob Musical Hits U.K. Stage

SpongeBob SquarePants is the latest cartoon charater to get a live theatrical show. SpongeBob SquarePants: The Sponge Who Could Fly – A New Musical! will premiere at London’s Hackney Empire on Feb. 3, kicking off a U.K. tour that will hit major cities from Brighton to Glasgow.

Based on the “The Lost Episode/The Sponge Who Could Fly” episode of the hit Nickelodeon televison series, the musical tell a story of courage and coming of age as SpongeBob’s sets out to ‘achieve his dream of “flying” with the jellyfish of Jellyfish Fields.

The adventure has been recreated for U.K. audiences by Fiery Angel, the artistic team behind the current hit children’s touring musical,
LazyTown Live! It is written by Steven Banks, head writer and story editor of SpongeBob SquarePants, co-producer of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius and the author of more than 20 children’s books. The musical also features original songs and adaptations from composer/lyricist Eban Schletter, who has written music for SpongeBob
and other television shows. For tour details, go to

Disney’s Zoradi to Keynote 3D Summit

As Walt Disney Feature Animation’s 3-D comedy-adventure Bolt gets set to have a lucrative holiday weekend, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Group president Mark Zoradi has been added to the list of keynote speakers for the upcoming 3D Entertainment Summit. The event will take place Dec. 1-2 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, Calif.

Zoradi will bring the opening day of the summit to a close by showcasing several new pieces of 3D footage from Disney's slate of 17 digital 3-D motion pictures due to be released over the next several years. He joins a growing list of speakers that includes DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, director/producer James Cameron (Avatar) and Fox Sports Television Group chairman and CEO David Hill. Other recent additions to that list include DreamWorks Animation exec producer Greg Foster, IMAX Filmed Entertainment chairman and president Jason Clark and actor/director/producer David Arquette.

Co-produced by Unicomm LCC and Bob Dowling, former editor in chief and publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, the Summit will assemble around 300 to 400 execs from film, television, video games and other areas of content creation and distribution. The conference aims to educate these industry leaders on various aspects of 3-D technology with live demonstrations of never-before-seen content screened on both cinema and 3-D television systems. Attendees will learn how 3-D relates to business practices and will hear from a dynamic group of leading experts in the field. For more information, go to

"Delgo," Anne Bancroft's last work, out Dec. 12

an animated film featuring Oscar-winning actress Anne Bancroft's final screen role, debuts in theatres across the United States on December 12, Atlanta-based Fathom Studios announced Monday.

Bancroft, who died in 2005 at 73, voiced Sedessa in the film. She won an Academy Award for her role in
The Miracle Worker
, and appeared in such other live-action films as Great Expectations, The Turning Point, The Elephant Man and The Graduate.

The action-adventure is the first animated feature-length film for Fathom Studios, which has produced award-winning computer animation since 1991.

In the movie
Delgo, when a carefree teenager forms a forbidden friendship with a spunky princess, hostilities between their two peoples escalate, setting the stage for an exiled empress to exact her revenge and reclaim her rule.

Freddie Prinze Jr.
(Scooby Doo) and award-winning actress Jennifer Love Hewitt (Ghost Whisperer) star in this family film with messages of tolerance and cultural unity.

The film also features voice performances from Val Kilmer
(Batman Forever), Chris Kattan (Saturday Night Live), Kelly Ripa (Live with Regis and Kelly), Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile), Eric Idle (Monty Python and the Holy Grail), Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange), Burt Reynolds (Smokey and the Bandit) and Lou Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman).

Delgo takes place in the magical land of Jhamora, which is divided between two cultures: the Nohrin, winged masters of the skies, and the Lockni, who harness the mystical powers of the land. The epic scope of the film is brought to life with lush, rich environments, otherworldly creatures and a unique color palette.

garnered "Best Feature Film" at Anima Mundi 2008, and is rated PG with a running time of 90 minutes.

"Shaun the Sheep" wins International Emmy Award

Aardman Animations' "Shaun the Sheep," which airs on CBBC in the United Kingdom, joined the British sweep of this year's International Emmy Awards on Monday night.

Winning in the Children and Young People category, the kids' series was one of seven British shows to win International Emmys. Awards were presented in 10 categories at a black-tie ceremony at the Hilton New York Hotel.

Other nominees in the Children and Young People category were the live-action
I Feel the Words, produced by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation); Patito Feo, la historia más linda (Ugly Duckling), produced by Argentina's Ideas Del Sur S.A. and airing on Televisa; and Ping-Pong, a Norwegian production airing on NRK, SVT, DR, YLE and KRO in Scandinavia.

Meanwhile, Britain's time-traveling detective show
Life on Mars received its second International Emmy for best drama series.

Winning the Emmy for best actor was David Suchet, for portraying British media mogul Robert Maxwell in the biography series
Maxwell. Lucy Cohu won best actress for her role in the true-life drama Forgiven, about a suburban housewife who decides to rebuild her and her husband's lives together after reporting him to authorities for sexually abusing their daughter.

Other British Emmy winners included
The I.T. Crowd (comedy), Life on Mars (best drama series), Strictly Bolshoi (arts programming) and The Beckoning Silence (documentary).

The Emmy for the non-scripted entertainment category was handed out for controversial Dutch hoax-reality show
The Big Donor Show.

Jordan and Argentina won their first-ever International Emmys. Jordan won the new telenovela category with
Al-Igtiyah (The Invasion), while Argentina's Television por la identidad, won in the TV movie/mini-series category.

U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao presented the Directorate Award to Liu Changle, founding chairman and CEO of Hong Kong-based broadcaster Phoenix Satellite Television.

The ceremony also honored
Law & Order
creator Dick Wolf. Sam Waterston, who has appeared as prosecutor Jack McCoy in over 325 episodes since 1994, presented the special International Emmy Founders Award to Wolf, whose shows are seen worldwide in their original or locally produced versions.

The Black Dog’s Progress

Count me in as a fan of Stephen Irwin’s eccentric little animated shorts (check them out here). The Black Dog’s Progress may be his most ambitious one yet. It tells the sad story of the Black Dog, created by animating dozens of small flipbooks:

watch more at aniBoom

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

"Afro Samurai: Resurrection" Coming to DVD & Blu-Ray reports that the upcoming Spike TV movie Afro Samurai: Resurrection will be coming to DVD and Blu-Ray from FUNimation on February 3, 2009.

The DVD features the voices of Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Mace Windu from Star Wars Episodes I-III), Lucy Liu (Charlie's Angels, Kill Bill), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker from Star Wars, The Joker from Batman: The Animated Series), and Yuri Lowenthal (Superman from Legion of Super Heroes, and Ben Tennyson from Ben 10: Alien Force).

The movie will be available in the Spike TV broadcast version, the 2-disc director's cut DVD, and the high-definition director's cut Blu-ray disc. See the trailer here.

The #1 Topic of Conversation

Everywhere I've gone the last few days, the Big Question is:

"So ... Is SAG going on strike?"

I'm asked this because I'm a union rep, and therefore (supposedly) knowledgable on the subject. But what I know about the internal workings and political dynamics of the Screen Actors Guild is next to nothing.

What I do know is that a second strike will do serious damage to everybody else who works in the entertainment business. Grips, cinematographers, editors, makeup artists and costume designers, animators, sound technicians, and all the rest.

Now, I get that SAG President Alan Rosenberg ... and no doubt a lot of other SAG members ... don't like the deal that other labor organizations hav made with the AMPTP. It's understandable that SAG isn't crazy about various aspects of the deal now on its plate, because truth to tell, there are sections in the freshly negotiated IATSE deal with the Alliance that the IA reps in the room were less than totally enthusiastic about.

But hey. Nobody ever negotiates the ideal, but merely the possible. The template for New Media was in place before the International and its guilds and unions sat down in the big meeting room, forged by the DGA, WGA, and AFTRA over the previous ten months. Some of it was good, some not good, but all of us knew we had to hammer out something that lived inside that model ... and live with it. And live to come back and negotiate a new template another day.

SAG, however, seems hell-bent on moving down a more militant road. Mr. Rosenberg says that a strike vote doesn't necessarily mean a strike, but we heard this refrain twelve months ago from the President of the WGA, and the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan now has four million fewer contribution hours in it than without the writers' job action. And trust me, it impacted where our November 2008 deal ended up, because everything, and I mean everything, is interconnected.

Which brings us to now. There's a strong chance that the Screen Actors Guild will go out in a couple of months time. The trades say it will mainly impact prime-time television, but that's nonsense. A SAG strike will stop television, theatrical films, and voice recording for animation. If it last long enough, like three or more months, it will destroy livelihoods, trigger bankruptcies, cause idustry workers to lose their homes.

If SAG was the first labor union out of the negotiation box, a strike -- however bad the ultimate result might be -- would at least make some sort of sense. But SAG is the now the last guild up to bat, and so is saddled by the contract points already negotiated. Worse, it's saddled with the deal made by the actors union with which it refused to merge (and thereby control) not once but twice.

And now SAG is on the brink of piling more stupidity on its earlier idiocies. The Directors Guild spent two million dollars to learn that New Media is still embryonic, and the money to be made there is still paltry. This might be different in three years, which is why most unions' New Media agreements sunset in three years and almost everyone starts over.

None of thise, however, is good enough for SAG. The guild will continue its brinkmanship strategy and go after strike authorization. Despite Rosenberg's softer cooing noises, I think the odds are good the Screen Actors Guild will hit the bricks. Once it does, several things will happen:

1) IATSE member won't be joining SAG picketers in solidarity. They will most likely be hurling tomatoes from passing cars.

2) Producers will accelerate the shift from film to digital tape. And AFTRA, which has jurisdiction of digital tape, will get a surge of new signators.

3) The entertainment conglomerates will endure whatever small flesh wounds they receive and ultimately laugh all the way to the bank.

4) Lots of film workers will cry all the way to bankruptcy court.

Let us pray that this sad script doesn't play out the way I've described it. Because the last thing the movie industry needs as the economy melts down is a long, debilitating job action.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Battlestar Galactica Season 4 Promo!

This'll be the most you'll see of the spacely sprockets until January 16, 2009 at 10pm ET/PT, so enjoy...

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