Wednesday, December 17, 2008

News - 12/17/08...

Rumor Central: Animation Collective Not Paying Artists?

Just a week after the news about Nick’s downsizing in New York comes this rumor about NY studio Animation Collective. A reliable Cartoon Brew reader writes:

“I wanted to let you know that I recently spoke to one of my friends and colleagues who works (worked) at Animation Collective in NYC. It looks like they shut down shop (whole staff) because they couldn’t pay their employees. Larry Schwarz (CEO) told the staff that one of their contracted clients can’t pay them. Word on the street is that Animation Collective hasn’t paid their staff in four weeks! Another gloom sign in the animation world. Ugh. Can it get worse? I’m guessing yes.”

Can anybody provide more details about the situation? Let’s hope this is not true because it would be a disgraceful and unacceptable way for any studio to treat their employees.

UPDATE: We received an email from an artist who had been working at Animation Collective. The artist asked for anonymity but allowed some of the information to be shared with Cartoon Brew readers. The artist says that not all the productions at the studio were affected, however the studio was never compensated for one of the productions that they completed for a French producer. Since being laid off, the artist still hasn’t received AT LEAST four weeks of payroll, some of it dating back to September and October. According to this artist, the studio hired accountants and lawyers to help them recover the money owed, but to date Animation Collective hasn’t delivered any of the backpay and isn’t offering details about what’s happening. They only apologize to employees and say their payments have been delayed.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Wolverine Trailer Is Here

Here's a better HD version of the new teaser trailer forX-Men Origins: Wolverine on The movie, starring Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber, chronicles the beginning of Logan's journey to become the indestructible Wolverine. It opens May 1, 2009.

Day Eclipses Delgo

Twentieth Century Fox’s remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still claimed the top stop at the North American box office, earning an estimated $31 million during its opening weekend. Meanwhile, Fathom Studios’ flagship CG-animated feature, Delgo, grossed less than a million dollars in its debut frame. Distributed by Freestyle Releasing in about 2,160 theaters, the fantasy indie took in an estimated $916,000 despite boasting a star-studded voice cast. Overture Films’ Christmas comedy Nothing Like the Holidays fared better, opening to roughly $3.5 million from just 1,671 theaters. The animated features Dragon Hunters from Futurikon and $9.99 from Israeli-born director/animator Tatia Rosenthal both kicked off their Oscar qualifying runs in Los Angeles, but opening results for the very limited engagements aren’t in yet.

With so much major-studio output, independent animated features have been having a tough time competing in the marketplace lately. Companies hoping to unleash the next
Hoodwinked have been disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm from audiences. One of the most recent entries, Exodus Films’ Igor, was made for around $30 million and has only grossed about $27 million worldwide. Put out by the Weinstein Co., Igor enjoyed a more robust marketing campaign than Delgo, but still struggled to turn a profit. Lionsgate’s Happily N’Ever After performed a bit better, grossing just over $38 million around the world last year, while the Weinstein Co.’s Doogal, a reworking of the European release Sprung: The Magic Roundabout, only managed $7.4 million in the U.S. Another import, director Luc Besson’s Arthur and the Invisibles, did poorly in the states, though it ended up grossing $113 million worldwide.

With the majors all migrating to stereoscopic 3-D, the indies will have an even tougher time unless they embrace the latest technologies. The recently released 3-D space adventure
Fly Me to the Moon from nWave Pictures and Illuminata Pictures was the first animated feature to be created specifically for stereoscopic exhibition, and managed a small profit with a worldwide gross of $32 million. LAIKA also had the foresight to shoot its first stop-motion feature, Coraline, in 3-D, which should help its chances of a successful theatrical run to kick off in February.

Delgo, which began its long journey to the big screen in 1998, couldn't expect to compete aesthetically with Disney’s Bolt or DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar: Escape to Africa
, which are both still in theaters. What Delgo does have going for it is the sci-fi/fantasy angle, which differentiates it from the talking animal fare.

WALL•E Among AFI’s Top Flicks

The American Film Institute has released its list of the top ten films and TV shows of 2008. Disney/Pixar’s WALL•E is the only animated movie to make the cut, keeping company with a couple of superheroes and some Best Picture Oscar hopefuls. Though South Park has been honored a couple times in the past, no toons made the TV list this year.

In 2007, Disney/Pixar’s
was the only animated production recognized by AFI, an organization created to protect and preserve the legacy of the moving image art form for future generations. Each year, the AFI Awards honors excellence in motion pictures and television within the context of a year in review. HP has created 20 scholarships to the AFI Conservatory for a second consecutive year, one for each of the AFI honorees. The AFI Conservatory is world-renowned for its advanced training of the next generation of storytellers.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Frozen River
Gran Torino
Iron Man
Wendy And Lucy
The Wrestler

Breaking Bad
In Treatment
John Adams
Mad Men
The Office
The Shield
The Wire

This Way Up Wins at SIGGRAPH Asia

The inaugural SIGGRAPH Asia concluded last week in Singapore with the 2008 Computer Animation Festival Awards. This Way Up from U.K. animators Adam Smith and Alan Foulkes of Nexus Prods. was named Best of Show. The short film and two other winning works were chosen by a panel of industry experts based on their commendable use of computer-generated imagery, animation and storytelling.

This Way Up
is an animated caper is about a day in the life of A.T. Shank and son, two hapless undertakers who make their way across country with a coffin that just won’t stay put. The CG short was created for Mike Judge’s touring showcase, The Animation Show, and funded by the BBC.

A Jury Award was given to
Kudan by Taku Kimura. A production of Links DigiWorks Inc. in Japan, the computer-animated fantasy film tells the story of a man who is accidentally transformed into a “Kudan,” a Japanese monster which has a human head and the body of a cow. The creature speaks a human language, predicts war or disaster and dies in three days.

Another Jury Award went to
, which took the top prize at SIGGRAPH in Los Angeles, Calif. earlier this year. Created by Gobelins, l'école de l'image students Julien Bocabeille, Francois-Xavier Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchland, Quentin Marmier and Emud Mokhberi, the slapstick comedy has two octopuses helping each other escape from the grasps of a stubborn restaurant cook.

“Picking three winners from 685 entries to represent the best of animation techniques and creativity was a challenge,” comments Computer Animation Festival chair Jinny Choo. “The entries submitted were from around the world, making SIGGRAPH Asia a truly global platform. The Computer Animation Festival itself saw overwhelming support from the industry and public alike, with close to 1,300 people attending the Electronic Theatre sessions. All of the shows were completely sold out.”

More than 3,200 artists, researchers, developers, gaming experts, filmmakers and academics gathered at Suntec City over four days to discover new products, talents, technology and techniques in the digital media industry. A total of 49 countries were represented in an array of thought-provoking works and breakthrough ideas presented at the show. The SIGGRAPH Asia 2008 Job Fair, produced by, was also a big success with 20 studios from around the globe recruiting for more than 80 positions. Companies participating included Animal Logic, Double Negative Visual Effects, Lucasfilm, Pixar and Ubisoft, among others.

The next edition of SIGGRAPH Asia will take place Dec. 16-19 in Yokohama, Japan. The 2009 conference will be chaired by Masa Inakage, a professor of Environment and Information Studies and chair of the Media Design program at the Graduate School of Media and Governance at Keio University in Japan. An internationally renowned digital artist, director and producer, Inakage is one of Japan's leading authorities on emerging technologies and digital entertainment content production. For more information about SIGGRAPH Asia 2008, go to

My Disney Q & A

So early last week I get a number of phone calls from staffers at Disney Animation Studio ... which pretty much go like this:

"Hi. We've had some meetings over here, in the theatre. And management is telling us that the studio is going to a 45-hour workweek, but nobody is going to get their salaries rolled back, and some people will be getting wage bumps, and that some production support people are getting let go.

"Can they like, do that?"

My answer is yes, with a long-winded explanation. Then I get asked to come over and visit, and a few days later I do ...

When I walked into the hat building last Friday morning, most everyone I encountered had similar questions about the meetings earlier in the week, about why the studio is doing the 45-hour thing. I responded to questions for an hour and a half, the same way I did over the phone; below is a compilation of my answers, attached to the employee questions:

Q: At our meeting, they told us the studio's moving to a mandatory 45-hour week on our next picture. I thought the regular work-week was forty-hours. What gives?

I assume the studio's going to a forty-hour week with five hours of required, pre-paid overtime. They have the right to demand "reasonable" amounts of overtime from employees, so the forty-five hour work-week is certainly doable. (Unlike DreamWorks Animation, most Disney Feature employees work without personal service contracts and are "at will.")

Q: They told us that a lot of employees would be getting the same pay, but some of us would be getting pay hikes. What's up with that?

Based on what I've been told, over-scale employees are getting their hourly wages cut, since they are now working an extra five hours of overtime (calculated at 1 1/2 times their hourly rate) at the same weekly salary. So, their previous hourly rates -- based on the old forty-hour week -- would have to be trimmed to accommodate the new five hours of o.t. being built into the same weekly wage.

Q: Can the studio do that?

Sure the studio can do that, if you the employee remain above the collective bargaining agreement's minimum hourly rate for his or her classification. What they're doing -- and this is a rough calculation -- is cutting above-scale employees hourly wages by around 15%-18% when they build in the extra hours.

Q: And some people are getting a bump because ...?

Because they're working at scale ... or close to scale. And the studio has to increase their weekly salary because it's adding five extra hours at time and a half, and everybody has to stay above the minimum rates. So ... more money for them.

Q: Why is the studio making these changes?

I think they want to cut labor costs as much as possible. But they have to make the cuts within the parameters of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Hence, scale employees receive more weekly pay, over-scale employees get lower hourly rates.

Q: They're not framing it quite that way.

I'm assuming they're putting a sunny spin on it. But they haven't confided in me, so I'm making an educated guess about their inner thoughts and motivations.

Q: Well, I'm happy I at least still have a job.

A lot of people have mentioned that. Great times we live in, huh?

Disney isn't alone in its Hollywood belt-tightening. We're in a recession, and every entertainment conglomerate is hack-hack-hacking away.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

BBC Names Betty Boop, Wonder Woman, and Jessica Rabbit as Top 'Toon Female Icons

BBC News has posted a list of cartoons and animated characters who "have challenged stereotypes of how "good girls" should look and behave and have proved an important and useful catalyst effecting change in women's battle for equal rights." The Fleischer Brothers' Betty Boop, DC Comics' Wonder Woman, Jessica Rabbit of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and Shrek's Princess Fiona are all named on the list, along with Eidos' video game icon Lara Croft, comic book heroine Tank Girl, and comic strip adventurer Modesty Blaise.

NY Times Speaks with Ari Folman on "Waltz with Bashir"

The New York Times has profiled director Ari Folman, director of the biographical animated documentary Waltz with Bashir. The movie chronicles Folman's time in the Israeli Army during the 1982 Lebanon war, telling the story of his own younger self at the time and the massacre of hundreds to thousands of Palestinians which was inadvertently facilitated by the Israeli Army. Folman discusses how the movie came into being and why he opted to retell some segments using animation.

John K. and the importance of eyes -

Eyes and how versatile they can be (if you let them)

There are different cliques of animators and cartoonists, each of who have learned a handful of eye shapes and expressions. There are Disney eyes, Cal Arts eyes, Prime Time eyes, Anime eyes, Deviant-Art eyes etc. There are imitation-Spumco eyes.

Thanks to Paul B for this Disney eye-sheet!

Each of these sets of eye expressions is extremely limiting. They don't allow for spontaneous invention. Artists memorize their handful of expressions from the style they like and for the rest of their careers can only express symbols of the simplest emotions - using the same symbols and flat emotions that have been beaten to death for years. What fun or creativity is there in that?

As Frank and Ollie say, cartoon acting can't compete on the same level as live action acting:

this last sentence seems like a big contradiction to me. "we must concentrate on acting" - after admitting that cartoons lacks "the subtle shadow patterns...."

Disney took 30 years or so to create a few approved Disney expressions, always weighing them against whether they are appealing (their type of appealing) or not. This severely restricted the range of their acting - in my opinion.

While I agree with Frank and Ollie that we can't compete directly with realistic subtle live action acting, we can more than make up for it with cartoon license if we think liberally.

Having to do limited animation for most of my career, while really wanting to do lush full animation, has made me make practical choices in what to focus on.

In this series of layout poses from "Stimpy's First Fart", a lot of the body poses are held so I could concentrate on the facial expressions. If I was stuck with a handful of eye expressions off a model sheet to work from, I would be completely handicapped in trying to get any specific subtle emotions out of my characters. Because I admire lots of different drawing styles and I absorb techniques and shapes from many different schools of thought, I can draw from a larger pallette of expressions than you will find in most cartoons. I am not afraid to make up shapes on the spot as needed - and then never use them again.

I don't actually memorize a thousand expressions and then summon them up for the appropriate emotions taking place in the stories. I don't think about what eye and mouth shapes to use at all - for the most part. Instead, I act out the scene as I go and draw what I'm feeling. The shapes of the eyes change and bend almost without my conscious control. Somehow my pencil just knows the shapes that will convey the emotions I'm feeling. It isn't random weirdness just to be weird - it's all in context of the story.

The eyes and pupils will grow, shrink, change shape - whatever it takes to tell the ever changing emotions of the characters. The poses that come easiest are the ones generally with the most appeal. Now and then there is a particularly hard subtle emotion to capture, and I have to analyze what my own facial muscles are doing - and those poses tend to come out less appealing - even ugly. I would rather they all be appealing but worry more about the whole scene in its continuity.

Ren is actually a lot cuter in these scenes than Stimpy. Stimpy is experiencing ugly emotions and he is not used to them. He is usually happy. On the few occasions that he doesn't feel blissfully and idiotically happy, he has a hard time releasing his new unfamiliar emotions. They hurt him and I feel him struggling them to contain themselves, but they burst through against his will.

In general I want the overall effect of a scene - even if it is intense and theoretically ugly - to be cute - to be making fun of ugliness. This is different than just being ugly for the sake of it. There are many actually unappealing drawings in Ren and Stimpy and I cringe whenever I see them - but it's never my intention. To me, even gross can be appealing - as in Basil Wolverton's drawings.

Some of Stimpy's uglier expressions on these sheets appear in countless cartoons on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and have become stock expressions just like the ones I rebel against that come from other house styles.

The important thing to me is not to memorize stock shapes and expressions, but to be able to summon up any shape imaginable that suits the emotional idea I need to convey. This means I have to be a fan of many many styles and many other mediums, so that I am not bound by a small handful of animation shortcuts and visual cliches.

The other trick is to able to wrap unfamiliar shapes around your characters' constructions so that the expressions don't just float on a 2 dimensional plane in front of the head shape. Not always easy! That's why "solid Drawing" is the most important fundamental tool we have.

David Fincher Remains Ready To Rock With ‘Heavy Metal’

We’re extremely excited about the announcement that David Fincher, Zack Snyder and Gore Verbinski still intend to direct segments of a new “Heavy Metal” animated feature, but it’s probably for the best that we temper our enthusiasm with a bit of caution. According to Fincher, the undoubtedly awesome film has yet to move on from the development stage.

“We’re still trying to get that made,” Fincher told MTV News.

Even so, does the director, hot off the critical success of his new film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, have any particular “Heavy Metal” stories that he would like to adapt to the screen?

“I’m ready to bat clean-up. I’m ready to do whatever story no one else wants to do. We have like twenty-four stories and artwork for it. Zack Snyder is picking one and I think Verbinski has one that he likes. We’re seeing where it ends up. I have time to do one or two and I have dibs on eight or nine, so somewhere in there we’ll figure it out if we can ever get the money together.”

The new “Heavy Metal” movie would be the second animated feature based on the long-running comic magazine of the same name. The original film, which debuted in 1981, is a cult classic that pushed the limits of adult-themed animation with its nudity, sexuality, and violence.

Fincher is quick to point out the magazine and movie’s influence on some of the most beloved sci-fi films of all time.

“There’s no ‘Blade Runner’ without ‘Heavy Metal.’ There’s probably no ‘Alien.’ It was such a fertile breeding ground,” explained the director, noting the magazine’s influence on today’s digital animators. “Wherever you go in the world you go to any computer animation company and there lying around is ‘Heavy Metal’ magazine.”

He’s also hopeful that a revamped, R-rated “Heavy Metal” film can push digital animation into the future.

“The world will at some point be ready for something other than singing, furry f–king animals,” Fincher told MTV.

First look at Meatballs

Film School Rejects has posted an exclusive first look at Sony’s upcoming animated feature, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. The site features a new still from the film, which shows two of the protagonists from the movie. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs hits theaters on September 18th, 2009.

Extended Up clip

A new clip from Disney/Pixar’s Up can be viewed on the film’s official website by clicking on the house that appears once the page loads. The video is an extension of the scene played out in the movie’s teaser trailer, which can be seen here. Up, which opens in theaters on May 29th of next year, follows the adventures of a grumpy senior citizen and a pudgy boy scout in their efforts to travel through the jungles of South America.

Goldilocks, Mermaid, Transformers on Disc

The new CG-animated movie Goldilocks & the 3 Bears Show from the Jim Henson Co., Genius Products and The Weinstein Co. brings family-friendly enchantment to home video this week. Also on order for the tykes is The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea Special Edition for the girls and Transformers Energon: The Ultimate Collection, a four-disc set of the the animated series for boys.

The latest installment in the Jim Henson Co.’s Unstable Fables series,
Goldilocks features the voices of Brooke Shields, Tom Arnold and Jamie Lynn Spears in a reality-show twist on the classic fairy tale. In this rendition of the story, Goldilocks is a sassy reality TV star who decides to film her next show at the humble home of the Bears. She sets out to bring them a taste of the celebrity life, but ends up learning the importance of being part of a family. The disc lists for $19.97 and includes a lesson on how to draw a character and The Making Goldilocks and the 3 Bears Show.

The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea
was first released in 2000. The sequel focuses on Melody, the daughter Ariel and Prince Eric. Threatened by Morgana, the evil sister of sea witch Ursula, Ariel and Eric try to keep Melody from learning about her mermaid roots. While frolicing in the sea with Ariel's old friends, Sebastian and Scuttle, the teen discovers her heritage and becomes an unknowing pawn in Morgana’s evil plot. Bonus features includes a new “Underwater Mer-Venture Challenge” game, a “What Am I?” sea creature game, a storybook Narrated By Jodi Benson (the Voice of Ariel) and “Gonna Get My Wish,” a song that was deleted from the original release.

Transformers Energon: The Ultimate Collection
contains all episodes of the animated action show that debuted on Cartoon Network in 2004. The Energon is the one energy source that can revive the evil Unicron and bring him back to power. To stop him, Optimus Prime utilizes the "Spark of Combination" to mobilize his small Autobot force and transform them into larger, more powerful robots. The box set from Paramount Home Entertainment carries a suggested retail price of $61.99.

WALL•E Tops Time Magazine List

One of the latest entities to chime in with its own list of the top films of 2008, Time Magazine puts the animated Disney/Pixar hit WALL•E at the top of the heap. In this particular lineup, the sci-fi cartoon from director Andrew Stanton outranks such acclaimed live-action entries as Milk, Slumdog Millionaire and Synecdoche, New York. Also making the list are the CG-laden Iron Man from Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures, and Speed Racer from Warner Bros. Curiously enough, the underperforming live-action adaptation of the classic anime series was chosen over Warner’s mega-blockbuster The Dark Knight.

2. Synecdoche, New York

3. My Winnipeg

4. 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days

5. Milk

6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

7. Slumdog Millionaire

8. Iron Man

9. Speed Racer

10. Encounters At The End of the World

For what it’s worth, WALL•E also made author Stephen King’s top-ten list, as posted on Entertainment Weekly’s The master of horror puts the toon at No. 3, behind The Dark Knight and Slumdog Millionaire. Tropic Thunder, Funny Games, The Bank Job, Lakeview Terrace, The Ruins, Redbelt and Death Race round out his list in order of rank. “The first half an hour is an almost wordless tone poem that combines humor with an elegiac sadness for our throwaway culture,” King says of WALL•E.

Slamdance Names Toon Selections

The Slamdance Film Festival has announced its lineup of short films, which includes 14 animated entries screening in their own program. Now in its 15th year, the event “by filmmakers, for filmmakers” was created in response to the commercialization of the Sundance Film Festival. This year’s celebration of independent cinema is will be held January 15-23 in Park City, Utah. See the entire lineup up 2008 selections at

Contenders in the Animation category are:


Graeme Hawkins, writer/director/producer

North American Premiere/2008/U.K. / 3 min.
The five senses through the eyes and imagination of a young boy.

The Adventures of Ledo and Ix
Emily Carmichael, writer/director

World Premiere/2008/U.S./ 5 min.
Two 8-bit video game characters confront the void.

Alice’s Attic

Robyn Yannoukos, writer/director; Brian LoSchiavo, writer
World Premiere/2008/USA/ 4 min.
A fragile Alice tries to overcome the fears that overwhelm her.

Dear Fatty

Hsin-I Tseng, writer/director

2008/U.S./ 7 min.
A little girl writes a letter to her pet hamster, Fatty.

ELA, In Love At First Byte
Fernando Sarmiento, director/producer; Alejandro Sarmiento and J.F. Mackeprang, writers
North American Premiere/2008/Argentina/11 min.
Action-packed epic follows the final adventure of E.L.A. Young Warrior Princess, who is forced to finally face her darkest nemesis and save Earth from total destruction.

Flute Babies
Gretta Johnson, writer/director/producer

Utah Premiere/2008/U.S./5 min.
A lonely alligator and an imaginative cat are introduced.

Woodpecker, writer/director/producer

World Premiere/2008/Japan/ 4 min.
A story of the mischief of the forest.

Kanizsa Hill

Evelyn Lee, writer/director
North American Premiere/2008/U.S./ 8 min.
A forgetful body desperately searches for his head as the two find themselves lost in an oasis of illusions.

Seeking You
Jean-Julien Pous, writer/director

North American Premiere/2008/Canada/ 3 min.
A man wanders through the night in Hong Kong.

Swimming Moon

Nahomi Maki, writer/director/producer
Utah Premiere/2008/U.S./4 min

A being is driven to madness by the full moon, discovering a sensitive, beautiful and deep dream world.

Martin Falconer, writer/director/producer

International Premiere/2008/U.K./4 min.
A young fledgling makes an extraordinary first flight.

Trepan Hole
Andy Cahill, writer/director/producer

2008/U.S./6 min.
A film about spastic movement and concentric circles.


Hayley Morris, writer/director/producer

Regional Premiere/2008/U.S./7 min.
An old man floats in the sea of his diminishing mind

An Unquiet Mind
Chihwen Lo, writer/director/producer

2008/U.S./Taiwan/6 min.
A mercurial journey of mood swings and deep restlessness.

Sony Animation Signs First-Look Production Pact with Gotham Group

Variety is reporting that Sony Pictures Animation has signed a first-look production deal with the Gotham Group, which produced The Spiderwick Chronicles and has recently expanded into a full-fledged production company. The Gotham Group is reported to be working on a Dead Space animated movie for Starz Media (following up on the Dead Space: Downfall direct-to-video released earlier this year), as well as a 3-D CGI animated film Quantum Quest, which was initiatied by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"Bakugan" to Become Feature Film

The Hollywood Reporter notes that Universal and Stuber Productions have signed a deal with Spin Master to produce a Bakugan Battle Brawlers feature film. No information was given on potential release dates or whether the movie will be animated or live-action.

Starpulse Interviews David Willis, Writer of ATHF and Voice Actor for Meatwad has posted an interview with David Willis, writer for Adult Swim's Aqua Teen Hunger Force and the voice of Meatwad. Willis almost gives away actual information about the upcoming season and DVD volume 6 release, talks about the critical reaction to the ATHF feature film, and describes the most amazing piece of ATHF fan art he has ever seen (hint: it involves a body part and it hurts just to think about it).

Briefly: Katzenberg Says Economy Stalls 3-D; Image Signs Dist. Deal with BKG

* DreamWorks Animation SKG CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg is stating that the ongoing economic downturn is hampering his efforts to release more 3-D movies, since theater owners cannot convert their theaters for the 3-D equipment. [Boston Globe]

* Image Entertainment has signed a home-video distribution deal with BKN Home Entertainment, giving them access to release 300 episodes from more than 26 properties on home video and digital distribution; titles include Legend of the Dragon, Kong, and Zorro - Generation Z. [Home Media Magazine]

Baker Honored By IPA

Makeup master Rick Baker was honored by the International Press Academy over the weekend in Los Angeles, and TV's True Blood and the movies Ghost Town, The Dark Knight, Iron Man and WALL*E all took home trophies.

John Landis, who worked with Baker on
An American Werewolf in London, presented Baker the Tesla Award for recognition of visionary achievement in filmmaking technology. Landis first hired Baker in 1971 for Schlock, and Baker's work in An American Werewolf in London won the makeup artist the first of six Academy Awards.

won the award for best animated/mixed media film.

Ricky Gervais won best actor in a motion picture, comedy or musical, for
Ghost Town, in which he played a dentist who can suddenly see spirits.

The award for best editing went to Dan Lebental for
Iron Man. He told SCI FI Wire that he's already prepping for the sequel. "I'm going out right now to call [director] Jon Favreau, and he'll be pretty excited about it," Lebental said. "We're going to do a lot more incredible things with Iron Man 2. We're all pretty jazzed about it." Iron Man won also for best DVD extras.

Best sound editing and mixing went to Richard King for
The Dark Knight. Best original song went to "Another Way to Die" from Quantum of Solace.

In the TV categories, best supporting actor went to Nelsan Ellis in
True Blood. Anna Paquin won best TV actress in a drama.

In the DVD categories,
War Games, the 25th Anniversary Edition
won best youth DVD.

The International Press Academy is made up of more than 150 domestic and foreign entertainment journalists who work for TV, radio, interactive, print and Internet outlets worldwide. This is their 13th awards show.

Baker Dishes On Wolfman Makeup

Multiple Academy Award-winning makeup artist Rick Baker told SCI FI Wire he's not exactly sure why The Wolfman is delayed for more than half a year, but added that his work does pay homage to the original 1941 Universal Pictures Wolf Man, not Baker's other lycanthrope movie, An American Werewolf in London.

Baker--speaking in Century City, Calif., on Dec. 14, where he received the Tesla Award from the International Press Academy--said, "It was a troubled project from the start. The first director [Mark Romanek] left, and Joe [Johnston (Jumanji, Jurassic Park III)] took it over, but it looks real good. I saw how they set it in [19th]-century England, and it looks spectacular."

The film stars Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot, who inherits his family's curse: turning into a werewolf when the moon is full. Baker faced a challenge crafting the makeup that would transform Del Toro into a wolfman.

"I had a lot of trouble with that, because Benicio already looks like a werewolf, especially when he grows his facial hair out," Baker said. "I kept telling them that he wouldn't look too much different."

But Baker managed. He used prosthetics and rubber masks to create the wolf face. Unlike the lycanthropes in An American Werewolf, though, Del Toro's Talbot doesn't undergo a complete body transformation. "In [American Werewolf], I was turning the whole body of a man and transforming him into a wolf," Baker said. "This one is different, and harkens back to the classic Wolf Man [played by Lon Chaney Jr.] I'm not sure what they are going to do about the transformation; I heard they are going to do it in CG, and I think that is a mistake."

Computer-generated technology has affected some of Baker's work. Sometimes the mix of makeup and digital technology works well, he said. "In the case of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, it was a meld of CG animation and makeup to turn Brad Pitt old, and many people say that it was the best combination of the two technologies that they've ever seen. I'm very proud of that."

The Wolfman, originally slated to open in the spring, instead will debut in November 2009.

Stephen Norrington to Reinvent The Crow

Stephen Norrington has signed on to write and direct a reinvention of The Crow, based on the comic created by James O'Barr, says Variety.

Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media is negotiating with producer Ed Pressman to acquire the film franchise and finance the film.

Pressman produced the 1994 Alex Proyas-directed adaptation, in which rock musician Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) is murdered trying to rescue his girlfriend from thugs, and returns from the dead one year later to exact vengeance.

For Norrington, The Crow deal marks the end of a long screen sabbatical. After making his breakthrough with Blade, Norrington took on a big-budget comic transfer with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Neither the director nor his star, Sean Connery, has made a feature film since.

"Whereas Proyas' original was gloriously gothic and stylized, the new movie will be realistic, hard-edged and mysterious, almost documentary-style," Norrington said.

Bat-Rumor: Rachel Weisz to be Catwoman?

Sheesh! Christopher Nolan just got done saying he has no idea what the story for the sequel to 'The Dark Knight' will be. Still, E! gossip columnist Ted Casablanca has heard from Warner Bros. sources that the studio is considering an actress for the role of Catwoman.

The actress? None other than Rachel Weisz.

We're all for seeing Nolan's Catwoman, but it remains to be seen if the director is going there. If he does Weisz wouldn't be our first pick. She wouldn't be in our top 10 actually.

IRON MAN 2 working title?

Most movies film under a secret code title or working title so that advertisements and public postings won't tip fans to the production location. Remember 'Rory's First Kiss'? Turned out to be a quiet little art house film called 'The Dark Knight'.

Now /Film is reporting that Marvel is using "Rasputin" as the production title for 'Iron Man 2'.

Todd McFarlane insists on directing new SPAWN movie

Todd McFarlane has been trying to get the new 'Spawn' movie going for almost a decade now. He told GamePro that the sticking poing has been getting a studio to let him direct the movie. Here's an excerpt from the extensive Q & A with the Todd:

GAMEPRO: Superhero films are red hot at the moment, with Iron Man and The Dark Knight seeing blowout sales. Is this a good chance to bring back Spawn for a second Spawn movie?

Yeah, you know...ever since Iron Man came out, the phone's been ringing. A movie studio CEO called me today, actually: "I just wanna say we're interested." But I think he was the last of the big studios to call me! [laughs] But I'm still of the mind that [a Spawn movie sequel] is a lower budget, cooler, creepier movie. When we get there, it'll get made. [This goes back to something I said a few years ago], which is that the movie studios will start burning through the A and A- characters. They did a fantastic job with Iron Man, who I don't think many fans would describe as an "A+" character, by getting him up to that level with the movie.

The dealbreaker is, I direct it. I tell everybody that in advance. The answer is, the only way anyone will say 'yes' to that is if I keep the budget low. If I make it an $80 million budget [Spawn movie sequel], they won't let me direct it...nor would I want to direct it. There are too many guys who are smarter that can do it. But a $10 million dollar creepy movie? I can do that one....In the movie idea I have for Spawn, there is no super villain. It's a completely real drama that happens to have a spook in it. And it doesn't mean that the spook has an arch-enemy or a nemesis, or any of that. It just means that there's a sentinel stuck in the middle of The Godfather.

GAMEPRO: Interesting -- are you saying you actually want to direct a Spawn movie sequel?

That's why I haven't sold it! I keep telling people that...there have been a few people who have called over, and they said "I already asked my boss and the answer is 'okay'!" [They're saying,] "keep the budget low and it's yours. We just want it." Look, with $10 million -- and understand that I'm just picking a number here -- you're not going to have a lot of money to work with. They'd have to get a young, inexperienced director anyway. My answer is, why not me? If you're going to go get a schmuck, let me be your schmuck. And oh by the way, I've been living with this movie in my head for a long time. I don't feel like trying to convey what's in my brain to somebody would take too long. I can just do it myself. And people aren't adverse to it. You know, Frank Miller is directing his stuff now.

For more from McFarlane, go HERE.

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