Thursday, December 18, 2008

News - 12/18/08...

Cheech and Chong Make Smokin’ Animated Debut

Bob and Doug McKenzie aren’t the only classic comedy duo getting animated. Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, who built an empire on pot humor in the ’70s and ’80s, will return in Cheech and Chong's Smokin' Animated Movie. Independent licensee, producer and DVD label Big Vision Ent. and animation production company Chambers Bros. Ent. have signed an exclusive deal with music mogul Lou Adler, owner of Ode Records, for the rights to the Cheech and Chong library of recorded comedy content and will give it new life through animation. The exclusive worldwide production and distribution agreement includes all theatrical, television, home video and digital rights.

Smokin' Animated Movie will be directed by Eric and Branden Chambers, who will also produce with brother Keith Chambers and Houston Curtis of Big Vision. Adler, Curtis and the Chambers Bros. will serve as exec producers. The project will be completely financed by Big Vision Ent., which is exploring the possibilities of a theatrical release in addition to television and home video. DVD, digital and television sales will be handled through Big Vision's TV and home video arm, which currently distributes more than 100 titles throughout the U.S. and around the world.

“We feel that Cheech and Chong's special brand of comedy appeals to multiple generations,” says Eric Chambers, partner of Chambers Bros. Ent. “By lending a unique animation style to these classic and timeless bits, we are able to transform the comedy into something fresh, exciting and even more hilarious than ever before.”

“It's great to be doing a movie where Cheech and I never have to get out of bed or be on-camera,” comments Tommy Chong. “The fans have already shown us they love the material, and the animated bits play funnier by being able to see the character reactions. I highly suggest watching it while smoking a big fattie!"

Cheech Marin adds, “During this age of feature animation everywhere, it's about time that we got animated because we've been doing animation without the animation for years. Whether you watch it smokin' a fattie or stone-cold sober, it's just plain funny!”

Cheech and Chong were recently roasted by Comedy Central and have kicked off a reunion comedy tour that is selling out venues worldwide. Updates and information about the project will be made available at

Bolt, WALL•E, Madagascar Songs on Oscar List

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released a list of 49 tunes eligible for consideration in the Best Original Song category of the 81st annual Academy Awards. The lineup includes two songs from Disney’s Bolt and one each from Disney/Pixar’s WALL•E and DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. Nominations will be handed out on Thursday, Jan. 22 at 5:30 a.m. (PT). The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 22 at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center. ABC will carry the live broadcast in the U.S.

The two songs from
Bolt are “Barking at the Moon” with music and lyrics by John Powell and “I Thought I Lost You” with music and lyrics by Miley Cyrus and Jeffrey Steele. The song “Down to Earth” from WALL•E features music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, with lyrics by Peter Gabriel, and “The Traveling Song” from Madagascar: Escape to Africa
was written by Hans Zimmer and from the Black Eyed Peas, who also performed the song. “I Thought I Lost You” and “Down to Earth” have already been nominated for Golden Globes.

On Tuesday, Jan. 6, the Academy will screen clips featuring each song, in random order, for voting members of the Music Branch in Los Angeles. Following the screenings, members will vote to determine which three, four or five songs become nominees in the category. A maximum of two songs can be nominated from any film. If more than two songs from a film are in contention, the two songs with the most votes will be the nominees.

To be eligible, a song must consist of words and music, both of which are original and written specifically for the film. A clearly audible, intelligible, substantive rendition of both lyric and melody must be used in the body of the film or as the first music cue in the end credits.

Dark Knight Has Stellar DVD Debut

Warner Bros. The Dark Knight quickly became the top-grossing film of 2008, and is set to become the best–selling home video release of the year even quicker. Warner Home Video announced that film sold more than 13.5 million copies worldwide in its first week at retail. By the end of this week, the blockbuster is expected to outsell all other movies released in the past 12 months. Fans snatched up approximately 1.7 million Dark Knight Blu-ray discs in the first week, setting the high-water mark for future high-def debuts.

Dark Knight hit retail in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Japan, Benelux and Australia last week, and managed to beat the slump that has plagued the home video industry this year. The recession didn’t stop consumers in the U.S. from buying 3 million copies on the first day of release. Revenues earned from sales and rentals are just icing on the cake for a production that has grossed close to $1 billion at the box office worldwide since opening in July. To date, only Titanic, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest have managed to reach the billion-dollar mark.

Warner Bros. is re-releasing
Dark Knight
in theaters on Jan. 23, hoping to do even more business once the Oscar nominations are announced. The late Heath Ledger is likely to be up for Best Supporting Actor, and Christopher Nolan may be in the running for Best Director. The flick is sure to garner nominations in a number of other categories.

Laika studio lays off 75, halts CG feature project

Portland, Oregon-based animation studio Laika Entertainment laid off about 75 people Wednesday, halting production on what would have been its second feature film.

The studio has decided to shelve computer-generated Jack & Ben's Animated Adventure and proceed instead on other projects, The Oregonian quoted a studio spokeswoman as saying Wednesday. She added that the company expects to make a series of announcements after New Year's Day.

The move is normal in the animation industry, said the company.

Laika attributed the layoffs "to the normal expansion and retrenchment of the employee roster that occurs in the animated film production process," the Portland Business Journal quoted Maggie Begley, a spokeswoman for Venice, California-based Laika, as saying.

"Basically, we lost some people on the development side for a project we’re not working on any more, which is a natural part of the animation process because it takes so long to make these films and market them," Begley said. "The layoffs were the result of the project being shelved and Coraline being no longer in production.”

About 280 people are still with the company.

Its first feature film, the 3D stop-motion Coraline, is scheduled to reach theaters February 6. Teen star Dakota Fanning has the title voice role.

The layoffs don't point to financial trouble for Laika, Begley said. Laika has at least 20 projects in development and will announce several during the first quarter of next year, added the spokeswoman, who would not disclose the company's revenue

"Phil Knight's commitment to the company is complete and total, and it's unfortunate what's happened, but it's something we needed to do from a business point of view,"
she said. "Everything at Laika is onward and upward."

Last year, Laika split with Jack and Ben's writer, former Pixar animator Jorgen Klubien, over
"creative differences." However, the Oregon studio continued to proceed with the project. Earlier this year, it signed Barry Cook, director of Disney's Mulan (1998), as the director.

In an earlier life, Laika was financially troubled Will Vinton Studios. Nike co-founder Phil Knight acquired the company in 2003, renaming it Laika two years later. His son Travis is an animator and executive with the company.

Last Thursday, Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski gave Laika's partners, including Travis Knight, the state's top filmmaker recognition award.

Also featuring the voice of
Desperate Housewives' Teri Hatcher and Deadwood's Ian McShane, Coraline tells of an Ashland, Oregon girl who meets creepy versions of her parents in a parallel world. Director Henry Selick is best known for Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas

Rankin/Bass’s Tale of Holiday Woe

The official Rankin/Bass website has a disturbing front page story that alleges Warner Bros. is witholding millions of dollars owed to Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass, creators of classic holiday specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. More details about the situation can be found in this article printed in Rankin’s hometown Bermuda paper The Mid-Ocean News. According to that piece:

The dispute arose when popular 1980s cartoon ThunderCats was re-released recently as a DVD box set by Warner Bros, which owns the distribution rights to that and 21 other Rankin/Bass titles. The box set went on to sell over a million copies, prompting Mr. Rankin to wonder about profits owed to him and his colleagues. “Sales were jumping off the charts,” said Mr. Rankin in an exclusive interview with the Mid-Ocean News.”But Warner Bros said they didn’t have any accounting on it except that they’d sold a million copies. My legal team started investigating and found out that for the last 20 years they’ve been deducting handling fees of $200,000 annually.”

Mr. Rankin explained that while Warner Bros readily admits an accounting error resulting in $2.6 million of improper deductions, they claim he caught the mistake too late.
“They knew it was wrong, but said that because it has been so long, the statute of limitations has kicked in. You would imagine that Warner Bros, which makes an awful lot of money with our productions would say, ‘We’re sorry about our mistake. Here’s what we owe you’.”

(Thanks, James Hutson)

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

New Star Trek trailer

The wacky folks at NEO f/x took the soundtrack from this trailer for the upcoming Star Trek movie and combined it with images from Filmation’s animated Star Trek. The result:

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Maddie Blaustein, Meowth Voice Actor, 1960 - 2008

Voice actor Maddie Blaustein has passed away at the age of 48 after a brief illness. She was best known as the voice of Meowth on Pokemon and as Solomon Muto in Yu-Gi-Oh! Blaustein also wrote a number of comics, sometimes credited by her birth name of Adam Blaustein, including a run on Milestone Comics' Static.

Marg Helgenberger and David McCallum on Voicing Hera and Zeus in "Wonder Woman"

Warner Animation Studios has released a new interview with actors Marg Helgenberger (CSI) and David McCallum (The Man from UNCLE, NCIS) about their roles as Hera and Zeus, respectively, in the upcoming direct-to-video animated movie Wonder Woman. Among other things, the pair discuss why they accepted the roles of King and Queen of the Gods, how voice acting differs from on-camera acting, and whether they were comic book fans before taking on the roles.

Three images are included with the interview, two of which are new high-definition stills from the movie. For the full interview, read the press release here.

Briefly: Soccer Star Pele Gets Animated; Disney Channel Goes to Russia

* Brazilian soccer legend Pele will be the star of an animated feature film to be made by Compact Disc India Ltd. [Reuters UK]

* The Walt Disney Company will be introducing the Disney Channel to Russia next year after overcoming regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles. If it gets regulatory approval, the channel will have a significant step up on its competitors by being a nationwide free channel instead of being satellite or subscription-based. [Reuters]

Keanu Reeves Eager To ‘Do Something Good’ With ‘Cowboy Bebop’

FROM MOVIES BLOG: It’s no secret that Keanu Reeves loves anime — a main influence on the “Matrix” series. It’s also common knowledge that the actor holds a place in his heart for sci-fi, as evidenced by films like “A Scanner Darkly,” “Johnny Mnemonic” and the currently-tops-in-theaters “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” It’s no surprise, then, that Reeves’ latest passion project revolves around his desire to make a live-action “Cowboy Bebop.”

“Oh yeah, cool,” he said when I asked him about the flick recently. “We’re trying to do that.”

As fans of the Japanese classic TV series know, “Bebop” follows a crew of bounty hunters traveling around the universe in the year 2071. Reeves hopes to play Spike Spiegel, one of these futuristic cowboys forced to pick up the slack after a population crash and hyperspace gateways have left law-enforcement unable to capture many of the galaxy’s most ruthless criminals.

For more on Keanu Reeves’ plans for “Cowboy Bebop,” head over to


The animation community lost a lot of veterans this year. As we do, sadly, almost every year.

Now that we are close to Yuletide, we note those who have moved on. In case you missed their departures when they happened, you will find a partial list below the fold ...

(We'll be honoring these and many more of our late companions at our annual Afternoon of Remembrance, scheduled for February 7, 2009 at the Lasky-DeMille Barn across from the Hollywood Bowl.)

John Ahern. Layout artist, animator and director. He had a long career from which he retired in the early 2000s. -- October 29, 2008

Gordon Bellamy -- animator, designer of robots, and long-time Manhattan resident. He worked at Disney in the fifties and animated on Brad Bird's Iron Giant, but what we remember him for around here are his descriptions of the terror attacks on 9/11, for he lived blocks from the World Trade Center. -- January 29, 2008

Bob Carr -- an animator who started at Disney in the 1950s, then went on to Hanna-Barbera, Filmation and Bakshi, retiring after his work on American Pop -- September 27, 2008.

Charlie Downs -- Animator, story artist, designer, with a long career at Disney and other studios. -- July 21, 2008.

Ollie Johnston -- legendary Disney animator and the last of the Nine Old Men. He worked on almost every Disney feature between Snow White and The Fox and the Hound. Ollie was also co-author of the best-selling The Illusion of Life, an animation bible if ever there was one. -- April 14, 2008

Ted Key -- the father of America's favorite maid Hazel, but also the creator of the immortal Mr. Peabody and Sherman. -- May 3, 2008

Brice Mack -- a veteran Disney background artist (Fantasia, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp) who went on to run his own studio. -- January 2, 2008.

Bill Melendez -- animator, director producer and studio owner. He walked out of Disney's in 1941, striking with his fellow artists for better wages and treatment, but what he'll be remembered for is the "Peanuts" characters he brought to life on the television screen. A Charlie Brown Christmas and some of the others will probably run on the tube until the sun reaches its red-star phase. -- September 2, 2008.

Bob Winquist -- designer and legendary Cal Arts instructor, Bob energized and inspired countless animation artists who now lead the animation industry. -- September 10, 2008.

We're on a large ship, all of us, and as we plough through the dark water, we watch ... and remember ... as some of our fellow passengers go ashore to brighter, happier destinations.

At least, that's the way I think about it.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Cover Art For Upcoming "The Zeta Project: The Complete First Season" DVD Release

Warner Home Video has provided the hi-res cover art to the upcoming much anticipated DVD release.

Click on the thumbnails below for a closer look at the front cover art for The Zeta Project: The Complete First Season.

More information on The Zeta Project can be found out at The Zeta Project subsite at The World's Finest website. Warner Home Video has set a $26.99 MSRP for the March 17th, 2009 DVD release of The Zeta Project: The Complete First Season.

Stay tuned for further updates.

TR2N IN 3-D?

You might want to hang onto those "Journey to the Center of the Earth" glasses, according to a scooper for Aint it Cool News the upcoming "Tron" sequel will be shot entirely in 3-D!

I think the masses would love this tidbit of info. Tron 2.0 is going to be shot ENTIRELY in 3-D. They are really excited about what they are going to be doing with the Tron world in 3-D.

With new technology, they can actually wear the glasses at the monitors as they shoot & it will show them exactly how the 3-D will look so that they can get exactly what they are looking for.

If there has ever been a world that 3-D would totally embrace, I think it would be the world of
. Specifically, we are going to get a first person view from inside of a light cycle in the film. That should be a lot of fun.

''Tr2n'', due 2010, stars Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde and Beau Garrett.

Holidays Are Animated For Apple - Again

In what seems to be a brewing tradition, the Get a Mac ads take a trip to stop-motion-town during the holidays. Last year we were sung into alliegance, while this year they trim a tree and meet a new fury friend. The 2007 spot was produced at Laika/House and developed by TBWA, and I suspect this year is no different.

Tree Trimming

I Can Do Anything

Can You Help This Neglected Robot?

Some 2D animated characters are lucky enough to make it to Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends, but what becomes of CG robots with no home? We see the sad side of neglected animation characters in this short titled AHD168 - produced by ahd Imaging out of the UK. For the price of a cup of coffee, you can help….

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