Thursday, December 11, 2008

News - 12/11/08...

Sundance Shorts Announced

The Sundance Institute announced the program of short films selected to screen at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. This year the shorts program received 5,632 submissions, and a record 96 were selected to compete. High-profile entries from the U.S. include Bill Plympton’s Hot Dog, Don Hertzfeldt’s I Am So Proud of You and PES’ Western Spaghetti. International selections include British filmmaker Matthew Walker’s John and Karen, Swedish director Jonas Odell’s Lies and French, animatior Yi Zhou’s hear, earth, heart. The 2009 festival runs January 15-25 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Sundance, Utah.


Dear Beautiful (Director: Roland Becerra; Screenwriters: Roland Becerra, Meredith DiMenna)—The sudden appearance of exotic flowers in New Haven spawns an unprecedented epidemic that threatens to destroy the city. Paul and Lauren, a married couple, are caught between the catastrophe and their own troubled relationship.

Field Notes From Dimension X: OASIS (Director: Carson Mell)—Captain Fred T. Rogard muses in isolation on planet Oasis.

From Burger It Came (Director: Dominic Bisignano)—An animated film that recounts early 1980s-era Cold War fears of a young boy in middle America. Using a variety of techniques, the visual narrative is colorfully assembled over semi-documentary audio conversations between a grown adult recounting his fears and his mother's memory of the time and her own concerns.

Hot Dog (Director: Bill Plympton)—Our plucky hero joins the fire company to save the world from house fires and gain the affection he so richly deserves. Typically, the results never turn out the way he planned.

I Am So Proud of You (Director: Don Hertzfeldt)—Dark family secrets cast a shadow over Bill's recovery in this second chapter to Don Hertzfeldt's 'Everything will be OK'. (Winner of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Grand Jury Prize, U.S.).

I Live In The Woods (Director: Max Winston)—A Woodsman's fast-paced journey, fueled by happiness, slaughter and a confrontation with America's God.

Joel Stein's Completely Unfabricated Adventures (Director: Walter Robot; Screenwriter: Joel Stein)— Journalist Joel Stein takes us on an animated adventure through the waste treatment plant of Orange County.

Western Spaghetti (Director: PES)—Everyday objects become delicious ingredients as we learn how to cook spaghetti through stop-motion.

The Yellow Bird (Director: Tom Schroeder; Screenwriter: Jay Orff)—The animated journey of a young man fleeing the draft during World War I. After taking a job on a cattle ranch in eastern Montana, an accident occurs causing him to reflect back on his life as he seeks medical attention in a nearby town.


Cattle Call/ Canada (Director and Screenwriter: Matthew Rankin, Mike Maryniuk)—A high-speed animation film documenting the art of livestock auctioneering.
A Film from My Parish: 6 Farms/ Ireland (Director: Tony Donoghue)—An animated film shot on location in North Tipperary. It consists of six stories by six farmers from one parish.

hear, earth, heart/ France (Director: Yi Zhou)—A white box unfolds to reveal a surreal and shifting landscape of fragmented clouds, suns, mountains, stardust, darkness and flames that eventually freeze in time and space.

John and Karen/ U.K. (Director and Screenwriter: Matthew Walker)—John the polar bear apologizes to Karen the penguin after an argument.

Keith Reynolds Can't Make it Tonight/ U.K .(Director and Screenwriter: Felix Massie)—Keith Reynolds leaves his hat in his car. This isn't the only mistake he makes today.

Lies/ Sweden (Director: Jonas Odell)—Three perfectly true stories about lying. In three episodes based on documentary interviews we meet the burglar who, when found out, claims to be a moonlighting accountant, the boy who finds himself lying and confessing to a crime he didn't commit and the woman whose whole life has been a chain of lies.

Mister Cok/ France (Director and Screenwriter: Franck Dion)—Mister Cok is the owner of a large bomb factory. Looking for efficiency and profit, he decides to replace his workers by sophisticated robots; however one of the workers does not accept being discarded so easily.

Out of Control/ Mexico (Director: Sofia Carrillo)—Remote and alone, various personalities share feelings of solitude in the interior of a labyrinthine house.

Skhizein/ France (Director: Jérémy Clapin; Screenwriters: Jérémy Clapin and Stéphane Piera)—Having been struck by a 150-ton meteorite, Henry has to adapt to living precisely ninety-one centimeters from himself.

This Way Up/ U.K. (Directors: Adam Foulkes, Alan Smith; Screenwriters: Adam Foulkes, Alan Smith, Christopher O'Reilly)—Laying the dead to rest has never been so much trouble.

Chipmunks “Squeakuel” Has Director

After earning more than $360 million at the box office worldwide last year, the singing rodents are making their way back to the big screen. Fox 2000 and Regency have tapped Betty Thomas (Doctor Dolittle, The Brady Bunch Movie) to direct Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

My Name is Earl star Jason Lee, who took some critical guff for his performance in the first film, isn’t confirmed to be returning to the role of Dave Seville. The chipmunks will be voiced again by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney, and trio of actresses will be cast as the voices of the Chipettes, female chipmunks being introduced in the sequel.

The followup is being produced by Ross Bagdasarian Jr., whose father created The Chipmunks, and Janice Karman. Erin Siminoff is overseeing production for Fox 2000.

Introduced in 1958, Alvin, Simon and Theodore quickly became popular recording stars, churning out 16 studio records, selling more than 43 million albums and snagging five Grammy Awards. The animated Alvin and the Chipmunks TV series debuted in 1983 and was broadcast in more than 100 countries. An animated feature and various TV specials followed.

New Work Critics Wired for WALL•E

The far-out Disney/Pixar love story WALL•E was voted Best Animated Feature by the New York Film Critics Circle, an organization of reviewers from Big Apple-based publications that honors excellence in U.S. and world cinema. The Harvey Milk biopic, Milk, was named Best Picture, and Sean Penn got Best Actor for playing the title role. Sally Hawkins took Best Actress for the indie Happy-Go-Lucky, which earned Mike Leigh the Best Director win.

Last year, the New York critics chose Marjane Satrapi’s French-language autobiographical feature Persepolis at the top toon. This year’s Persepolis is Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir from Israel, which has been racking up its share of awards since hitting the festival circuit. Like their Los Angeles counterparts, the Gotham reviewers went with the more commercial release this time around. With these latest accolades WALL•E has emerged as the frontrunner in the Oscar race. Nominations for the 81st Academy Awards will be announced on Thursday, Jan. 22.

The New York Film Critics Circle also passed over Bashir for Best Foreign-Language Film, opting instead to bestow the honor upon the Romanian drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile). To view the complete list of 2008 winners, go to

Raggedy Ann pencil test

Sorry this is a bit hard to see, but it’s an early pencil test of Tissa David’s “Candy Hearts” sequence from Richard Williams Raggedy Ann and Andy (1977). I meant to post this last year when we acknowledged the film’s 30th anniversary, but I couldn’t find it then. Copies if this (in 16mm) were floating around the New York animation community in 1976 and I was lucky enough to snag a dupe copy back then. It’s interesting to compare it to the finished version. It’s one of the few animated features never released on DVD and that’s a real shame. Michael Sporn has written extensively about the film on his Splog, and of course John Canemaker wrote a wonderful companion book detailing it’s creation.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

"The Archive Series: Story" features a stunning selection of art from Disney's Animation Research Library
Jim Hill reviews this impressive new hardcover from Disney Editions. He also talks up Don Hahn's book signing tomorrow night at the Barnes & Noble at the Americana at Brand

In response to last week's review of Jeff Kurtti's newest book , "Walt Disney's Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park," I got the following e-mail:

Not everyone who reads JimHillMedia is interested in the Disney theme parks. Some of us come to your site because we want to learn about Disney & Pixar's animated films. So how about a Christmas gift suggestion for all us animation fans?"

Hmmn ... Well, there were umpteen million Highlander films. So I guess that there'd be no harm in saying "There can be only one ... II"

Because if you're a Disney animation fan and/or you've got one of these folks on your holiday shopping list ... There is a book out there right now that will really make this Christmas a special one. And that's "Walt Disney Animation Studios -- The Archive Series: Story" (Disney Editions, December 2008).

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Of course, if you do buy someone a copy of this hefty hardcover, you should probably add a sponge to their holiday package. That way ... Well, this animation fan will then have a way to deal with all the damage that they'll cause as they unintentionally drool over the 224 pages of drawings found in this book.

Seriously, folks. I'm not kidding. The selection of art from Disney's Animation Research Library that you'll find inside of "The Archive Series: Story" is really that good. This book goes all the way to Disney's very beginnings. Showing you -- typos & all -- Walt's original story outline for "Steamboat Willie " ...

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... as well as elaborate pencil sketches that then map out complex story-driven camera moves for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

What's truly striking about all this artwork is -- for the first time ever -- you're given a real understanding of how these often-simple-looking sketches then drove both the look & the mood of the finished motion picture.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

At the same time, "The Archives Series: Story" allows you to take a look at story ideas that Walt Disney Animation Studios took a look at and ultimately abandoned. Like this concept for "Cinderella," which had Cinderella's dress actually begin to disintegrate at the very first stroke of midnight. In this version of that film's story, that's why Cinderella fled the palace. To avoid having the prince see her turn back into that poor girl who cleans up in the kitchen.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

This profusely illustrated volume also allows you to take a look at animated sequences that Walt tried to put into development and eventually gave up on. Like that cartoon version of "The Little Mermaid" Disney tried to produce back in the late 1930s (This animated sequence was supposed to have been part of an ambitious film biography of Hans Christian Andersen that Samuel Goldwyn wanted to co-produce with Walt. This project ultimately fell apart because Goldwyn & Disney couldn't agree on a script. So Walt went off and produced a film that combined live action & animation all on his own, 1946's "Song of the South.")

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Speaking of "Song of the South," "The Archive Series: Story" feature Bill Peet's colorful story sketches for that film's Laughing Place sequence. You'll also find Joe Ranft's wonderful boards from the "What's This?" sequence in Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Not to mention the Brizzi Brothers' brilliant work on "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" 's "Hellfire" sequence and "Fantasia 2000 " 's "Firebird Suite." Or Chris Sanders' exceptional storyboards for "Mulan" and "Lilo & Stitch."

Fully 61 Disney animated films, featurettes and shorts are represented in 'Walt Disney Animation Studios -- The Archive Series: Story." Everything from Glen Keane's career-making work in "The Fox and the Hound" 's bear attack sequence ...

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... to the inspired silliness of that 1956 Humphrey the Bear short, "In the Bag."

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

So if you really want to impress the animation fan on your holiday shopping list, I'd get them a copy of "The Archive Series: Story." Just remember to include that sponge, okay?

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

On the other hand, if you live the LA and the animation fan that you're shopping for this year just loves collecting the signatures of his favorite filmmakers ... Well, you may want to swing by the Barnes & Noble at the Americana at Brand tomorrow evening. When veteran Disney producer Don Hahn will be signing copies of his latest book, "The Alchemy of Animation: Making an Animated Film in the Modern Age" starting at 7 p.m.

Boston Man Sues Andre 3000 and Cartoon Network over "Class of 3000"

Boston postal worker Timothy McGee has filed a copyright infringement, breach of contract, and misappropriation of trade secrets lawsuit against OutKast frontman Andre 3000, Cartoon Network, and Turner Broadcasting, claiming that he developed "characters, artwork, storylines...and concepts" that were used to create the series Class of 3000. McGee claims that he submitted a proposal for his show, which followed a group of young musicians trying to break into the Atlanta music scene, in 1997 to Mike Lazzo in 1997, almost 10 years before Class of 3000 debuted on Cartoon Network.

Cartoon Network stated that they were aware of the lawsuit, but "as a general practice, we don’t comment on litigation."

"Venture Bros" Season 3 Becomes First Adult Swim Show on Blu-ray

The HD Room is reporting that The Venture Bros. Season 3 will be the first Adult Swim series to be released in Blu-ray high-definition in addition to DVD. Both DVD and Blu-ray are scheduled for release on March 24, 2009, spanning 2 discs for 13 episodes. The Blu-ray will also come with an exclusive CD including 20 music tracks from the series. Suggested retail pricing is $29.98 for the DVD and $44.98 for the Blu-ray.

James Tucker: "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" Meant as "Pure Fun"'s PULSE News has interviewed James Tucker, producer of the new series Batman: The Brave and the Bold, about his approach to the show and the episodes that have aired so far, including last Friday's "Evil Under the Sea!" which featured the debut of Aquaman. Tucker states that, "I take my inspiration from Bob Haney's zany, crazy Brave and Bold issues, where anything can happen," adding that the show is meant to be "pure fun" that isn't dragged down by "the heaviness of reality" and be a great entry-level cartoon as Super Friends or the Adam West Batman series were to a generation of kids.

Variety Examines Animation on the Cheap in Feature Films

Variety has spoken with several animators who are using new techniques and technology to produce animated feature films on smaller budgets, several of which are now candidates for a Best Animated Feature nomination. Among the subjects interviewed are Tatia Rosenthal, director of the stop-motion animated $9.99; Max Howard, producer of Igor; Ari Folman, director of the documentary Waltz with Bashir; and Mark Adler, director of the science-fiction movie Delgo. The interviewees all discuss how they managed to raise money to make their movies, cut corners and stretch their budgets, and use newer technology to produce their work.

"("Igor" Director Anthony Leondis) wanted to have lots of costume changes for one character," says [executive producer Max] Howard, and that would have involved lots of extra animation the budget could ill afford, so a compromise was struck. The character's clothes do change a lot, "but it's just changing the textures on the same shapes. It's a clever way to get the costume changes and keep in the budget," Howard explains.

What's amazed me is the number of indie animated features now being done. There were thirty-five being peddled -- at thirty-five different price points -- in this year's American Film Market here in Los Angeles, and I'm thinking those numbers will be going up in future years.

I mean, how could they not? There's a worldwide thirst for these kinds of films, and though the standards keep rising, the talent and ingenuity at making them seem to rise along with them... if not the budgets.

When one of the lower-cost indies breaks out, which will undoubtedly happen sooner or later, the creative universe will change in both good and bad ways.

In the meantime, Pixar, DreamWorks and Blue Sky Animation appear to have locks on high-line, higher grossing animated features.

New ‘Dragonball Evolution’ Trailer Appears Online

A new trailer for the live-action adaptation of popular anime/manga series “Dragonball” (now titled “Dragonball Evolution,” it seems) has hit the ‘Net, but judging by our experience with previous trailers for the film, we’re not sure how long it will remain out there — so watch it while you have the chance.

The film features Justin Chatwin as Goku, the hero of the film, as well as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” alum James Marsters as the villain, Lord Piccolo. Just in case you missed it, “Dragonball” co-star Jamie Chung recently discussed the rumors of “Dragonball” sequels and reshoots with MTV, while Emmy Rossum hinted at an “incredible monster” featured in the film.

“Dragonball Evolution”
is scheduled to hit theaters in April 2009.

Warner Home Video Officially Announces Upcoming "The Zeta Project" DVD Release

The highly-anticipated home video release of The Zeta Project gets a March 2009 date.

Warner Home Video has officially announced a March 17th, 2009 release date for The Zeta Project: The Complete First Season DVD collection. This two-disc DVD set will contain eleven episodes from the first season of The Zeta Project. While initially reported by the studio as a complete series release, Warner Home Video will instead split the series over two separate two-disc releases. For a breakdown of the episodes included on each disc in the two-disc The Zeta Project: The Complete First Season DVD release, see below.

Disc 1
The Accomplice
His Maker's Name
Remote Control
Change of Heart
The Next Gen

Disc 2
West Bound
Crime Waves
Taffy Time
Kid Genius

The cover art and bonus material is yet to be releases but, as fans know, bonus material is currently being produced by RetroFit Films.

The official press release, and accompanying package art and disc art, is expected to be released shortly. Warner Home Video already has plans for The Zeta Project: The Complete Second Season, according to their press information. The second set is expected to contain the remaining fifteen episodes of The Zeta Project’s 26-episode series.

Warner Home Video has set a $26.99 MSRP for the March 17th, 2009 DVD release of The Zeta Project: The Complete First Season.

"Last Airbender" Cast Announced

Noah Ringer, Jackson Rathbone ("Twilight"), Nicola Peltz ("Deck the Halls") and singer Jesse McCartney have been cast in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Last Airbender," a live-action adaptation of his popular Nickelodeon anime-inspired series "Avatar" reports Entertainment Weekly.

Karate star Ringer, who was discovered at an open casting call in Texas, will play Aang the Avatar (the spirit of the planet manifested in human form).

Aang is the last surviving Airbender and a monk of the Air Nomads, a race of people with the unique ability to manipulate the air around them. He is assigned with the task of keeping the Four Nations at peace.

Rathbone plays his friend Sokka, a Southern Water Tribe warrior, while Peltz plays Sokka's fourteen-year-old sister Katara.

McCartney is in talks to play the Fire Nation’s exiled evil prince Zuko. The film is scheduled to open July 2nd 2010.

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