Monday, December 22, 2008

News - 12/22/08...

Canemaker Animates South Beach Fest

The South Beach Int’l Animation Film Festival announced that Oscar-winning animation legend John Canemaker will be a guest of honor at the next annual event in Miami, Fla. The four-day event is hosted by the Miami Beach Cinematheque Theater in the heart of South Beach’s famed art deco district, and will spill into other nearby venues between April 2 and April 5, 2009.

Canemaker is an independent animator and animation historian whose 2004 Academy Award-winning film The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation is based on his own life and marks a personal and professional breakthrough in its treatment of a troubled father/son relationship.

He recently co-produced and directed animation sequences for Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood, a 26-minute documentary that premieres on Turner Classic Movies on March 24 at 8 p.m. (ET).

South Beach International Animation Festival features both juried and showcased screenings. Participants are treated to art and technology exhibits, hands-on demonstrations, panel discussions and classes for beginners and masters. The highlight of the 2009 event will be screenings, lectures, and question-and-answer sessions with Academy Award-winning animators. All events are open to the public and the format encourages artists and audience to commingle.

The South Beach International Animation Festival was launched in 1999 with the Alliance Cinema and was supported by Animation Magazine and Chuck Jones Studios. The second event, Cinema In Paradise, blossomed into an international festival with work arriving from Japan, Denmark and Australia. For more information on the upcoming fest, go to

WALL•E Wins Over Chicago Critics

Disney/Pixar’s WALL•E has been honored by yet another group of movie reviewers as end-of-the year picks continue to roll in from around the country. The film garnered four 2008 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, including Best Picture. It also took Best Animated Film, Best Original Screenplay for the script by Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon, and Best Original Score for Thomas Newman’s work.

was the most recognized film of 2008 among Chi-Town critics. The sleeper hit Slumdog Millionaire was second with three awards for Best Director (Danny Boyle), Best Adapted Screenplay (Simon Beaufoy) and Most Promising Newcomer (Dev Patel). Warner Bros.’ The Dark Knight earned a Best Supporting Actor win for Heath Ledger, as well as Best Cinematography for Wally Pfister. The Swedish horror sensation Let the Right One In also took a pair of awards. The pic was named Best Foreign-Language Film and Tomas Alfredson was voted Most Promising Director.

Mickey Rourke racked up another Best Actor prize for his starring role in Darren Aronofsky’s
The Wrestler, and Anne Hathaway took Best Actress for Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married. Kate Winslet received the Best Supporting Actress for Stephen Daldry’s The Reader. Ari Folman’s animated Waltz with Bashir was beat out in the Best Documetary category by Man On Wire
, James Marsh’s film chronicling the 1974 attempt by a French daredevil to walk on a wire suspended between the two World Trade Center towers.

The awards represent voting by the 55 members of the Chicago Film Critics Association, an organization covering print, radio, television and the Internet. Winners were announced on Dec. 19 on WGN-TV by CFCA president Dann Gire and group members Dean Richards and Richard Roeper.

2008 CFCA Award Winners:

Best Picture: WALL•E
Best Director: Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actor:
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler
Best Actress:
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Best Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet - The Reader
Best Original Screenplay: WALL•E (Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire (Simon Beaufoy)
Best Foreign Language Film: Let the Right One In
Best Documentary: Man On Wire
Best Animated Feature: WALL•E
Best Cinematography: The Dark Knight
(Wally Pfister)
Best Original Score:
WALL•E (Thomas Newman)
Most Promising Performer
: Dev Patel - Slumdog Millionaire
Most Promising Director: Tomas Alfredson - Let the Right One In

Disney Revs Up Kid Knievel

BoldWalt Disney Television Animation has begun production on Kid Knievel, a 2D-animated comedy series about a 12-year-old boy who aspires to become the world's greatest daredevil. Famed thrill seeker “Kaptain” Robbie Knievel will serve as a stunt consultant on the series, which is slated to premiere in the fall of 2009 on the soon-to-launch Disney XD channel. Kids will be able to catch a sneak peek when five 55-second original animated shorts debut on in advance of the television premiere.

Created by Sandro Corsaro,
Kid Knievel centers on Francis Little, a boy who overcomes incredible obstacles in his quest to become famous for his death-defying acts. Inspired by the will and determination of daredevil Robbie Knievel, son of the legendary Evel Knievel, Francis pursues his daily dose of danger with his loyal friends Gunther and Sam by his side. His imaginative journey takes him speeding down a river in a rocket-powered kayak, jumping Dead Man's Drop on a skateboard and riding a unicycle while blindfolded atop a herd of white rhinos.

Animation producer Chris Savino
(Johnny Test, The Powerpuff Girls), who has twice been nominated for an Emmy Award, serves as exec producer and director on the series. The voice cast includes Chris Edgerly (Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law) as Francis Little, Matt Jones (Greek) as quirky best friend Gunther, and Danny Cooksey (Xiaolin Showdown, Pepper Ann)
as obnoxious older brother Brad.

“As our first animated show for the new Disney XD platform, Kid Knievel sets the tone for the animated series to come,” says Eric Coleman, senior VP of original series at Walt Disney Television Animation. "It has break-out characters, fresh designs, big laughs and great action.”

Disney XD is a re-branding of Toon Disney. The basic cable channel will debut in February with a multi-platform setup that will showcase a mix of live-action and animated programming for kids 6-14, especially boys into discovery, sports, adventure and humor. Offerings will include sports-themed programming developed with ESPN. In the U.S., Disney XD will be a 24-hour, advertiser-supported network reaching 72 million households.

WALL•E, Bashir, Persepolis Nominated by London Critics

Critical darling WALL•E from Disney and Pixar is among the five films nominated for Film of the Year by the London Film Critics’ Circle. The acclaimed animated doc Waltz with Bashir from Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman is up for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, along with Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s Persepolis, another animated biographical account. Persepolis was nominated for an Academy Award last year, but is up for contention in the U.K. this year because it didn’t open there until early 2008.

The London Film Critics’ Circle Awards doesn’t have an animation category, so it’s quite a coup when a family-friendly animated film makes the list at all. The Aardman/DreamWorks Animation feature
Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit was up for the Attenborough Award for British Film in 2005, but other than that London reviewers haven’t shown much love for the art of animation come awards season.

is competing against the live-action heavy hitters The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,
 Milk and The Wrestler. Meanwhile, Waltz with Bashir and Persepolis are in the company of fellow foreign-language entries The Orphanage from Spain, Gomorrah from Italy and I’ve Loved You So Long from France/Germany. DC Comics’ Batman has also become an award-worthy franchise as Heath Ledger picks up a posthumous Actor of the Year nomination and Christopher Nolan makes the cut for Best British Director for their work on the Warner Bros. blockbuster The Dark Knight

The 29th annual London Film Critic’s Circle Awards will take place at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on Feb. 4. See the full list of nominees at

Layout artist James "Jim" Mueller dead at 85

James "Jim" Mueller, a layout artist at Hanna-Barbera, Ruby-Spears, Warner Bros. and Filmation, died November 13 in Prescott, Arizona. He was 85.

"After over 40 years in the business, Jim retired and eventually moved to Prescott, where he made many new friends, took up fishing, and got himself a cat, Biscuit!", said friend Bill Exter. "He enjoyed his new life, but still kept in touch with old friends in California."

Mueller was a layout artist on Spider-Man (1967-70), Jabberjaw and The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour (both 1976), The All-New Super Friends Hour (1977), Scooby's All Star Laff-A-Lympics (1977-79), Challenge of the SuperFriends (1978), The Godzilla Power Hour (1978-80), The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show (1979), Pac-Man (1982), Smurfs (1982-1984), The All-New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show (1983), and The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo (1985).

He also laid out individual episodes of
Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down (1970), The Jetsons and Paw Paws (both 1985) and Peter Pan and the Pirates (1990), as well as the 1977 TV special A Flintstone Christmas.

He was story director of 1972's
The Flintstones Comedy Hour, and was storyboard director of 29 episodes of Muppet Babies between 1985 and 1986.

More recently, Mueller hosted the live-action 1995 series
The American Outdoorsman
. He was one of the show's executive producers, starting in 2007.

Born in Blue Island, Illinois on July 25, 1923, James Mueller was a United States Army veteran.

Services and arrangements were at Heritage Memory Mortuary, 131 Grove Avenue in Prescott.

"Yes Man," but maybe "Tale of Despereaux" as well

Although filmgoers gave thumbs up to Jim Carrey's live-action
"Yes Man"
this weekend, they also gave a qualified endorsement tBoldo Matthew Broderick's animated family film "The Tale of Despereaux."

Distributed by Universal,
debuted in third place with $10.5 million. Broderick's the voice of a tiny mouse taking part in a heroic mission.

The comedy
"Yes Man," a Warner Bros. release, topped the box office with an $18.2 million opening.

Will Smith's drama
"Seven Pounds," from Sony, debuted in No. 2 spot with $16 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

"The Tale of Despereaux"
played in 3,104 theaters for an average of $3,385 per screen. Meanwhile, "Yes Man" played in 3,434 theaters for a $5,288 per theater average, while "Seven Pounds" opened in 2,758 theaters for $5,801 per venue.

In its fifth weekend, Disney's
was in seventh place with $4.3 million.

Complicating the picture for new films opening Friday was the presence of snowstorms blanketing the Northeast. Severe weather also hit parts of the Midwest and Pacific Northwest.

"Those markets back east just got hammered," said Chris Aronson, distribution executive for 20th Century Fox.

The total box office fell for the second weekend in a row. Holiday films for this year fell far behind the strong results provided in 2007 by hits as the partly animated "Alvin and the Chipmunks."

This weekend, the top 12 movies collected $82.8 million -- down 44% from the same time last year, when "National Treasure: Book of Secrets"
was No. 1 with $44.8 million.

Year-to-date revenues through Sunday reached $9.24 billion, virtually the same as the same date last year, according to box-office tracking company Media By Numbers LLC.

"The movie business may be recession-proof, but this weekend, it's not weather-proof," observed Media By Numbers president Paul Dergarabedian.

Ticket sales were especially affected by winter storms in such major markets such as New York, Boston and Detroit. Boston, normally a top-10 market, was near the lower end of the top 25 on Friday.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at United States and Canadian theaters were released by Media By Numbers.

Rare Commercials by Tex Avery, Ed Benedict and Tom Oreb

YouTube user ‘VidResidue’ has uploaded a couple of rare 1950s animated commercials worth sharing. The first is a Kool-Aid spot directed by Tex Avery and designed by Ed Benedict. I think it’s amazing that Avery’s last theatrical cartoon—Sh-h-h-h—was released in 1955 when he was only 47 years old. Tex’s flame burned out prematurely. As much as I enjoy his TV commercials (of which I’ve only seen a dozen or so out of hundreds that he directed), it’s disheartening that one of animation’s greatest directors has a late body of work that is comprised entirely of lightweight advertising jobs and cheap TV shows. (Earlier this year I did a lengthier post about Avery’s late-career.)

Next is a Peter Pan Peanut Butter spot designed by Tom Oreb. I’m guessing the director of the spot is Charles Nichols.

Here is the model sheet that Tom Oreb created for the TV version of Peter Pan characters (click for bigger version).

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Navarre Shuts Down BCI Eclipse Division

The Navarre Corp. has issued a press release announcing the demise of their BCI Eclipse subsidiary label, effective immediately. The label was best known for their boxed sets of the He-Man, She-Ra, Dungeons & Dragons, and Prince Valiant animated series, but the press release states that the label has been "unprofitable for the past two years." There will be "a workforce reduction, a writedown of assets, and the incorporation of BCI's exclusively distributed DVD business into the company's distribution segment." and Google Launch MyToons Live and Google have launched MyToons Live, a social networking application that uses Google Earth technology to graphically represent animators' activity on a real-time global map. The application is a free download off the website.

For full details, read the press release here.

Fred Ladd Talks "Astro Boy," "Kimba," and Classic Anime on Anime Today Podcast

The latest Anime Today podcast contains an interview with Fred Ladd, producer of the earliest anime imports such as Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, about his upcoming book Astro Boy and Anime Come to the Americas, the similarities between Osamu Tezuka's Kimba and Disney's Simba the Lion King, the live-action Speed Racer movie, and the new CGI animated Astro Boy.

For full details, read the press release here.

Alan Horn Talks Batman, Superman, Lantern

Warner Bros. president Alan Horn recently spoke to Collider at the premiere of "Yes Man" where he talked about the future of the studio's plans for the various DC superhero movie adaptations.

Most importantly of course is director Chris Nolan's follow-up to "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight". Horn says "We've been talking to Chris Nolan and what we have to do is get him in the right place and have him tell us what he thinks the notion might be for a great story, but Chris did a great job and we'd love to have him come back and do another one."

It's always welcome to hear a studio actually taking its time on a film to get the story right. Horn adds "The story is everything and we are very respectful of Chris. We have a wonderful relationship with him and we are going to be respectful of his timing and we want to get it right. Also, I think the fans expect that - they want us to make a terrific movie - we have to give them another great movie."

The next Superman however seems much more tenuous - "Probably in the next couple of years. We're very anxious to bring Superman back also."

As previously reported in the Aussie press earlier this week, the
"Green Lantern" project is apparently considering studio space at present. Asked about the projects status, he admits that it's probably the next superhero film the studio will put out - "I think Green Lantern is probably the best guess but I can't promise it at this moment."
He adds that it is "On the runway. Hasn't taken off yet, but we're close."

Finally what about the long-troubled "Justice League: Mortal"
feature? Horn says "Not yet."

James Cameron's Forbidden Planet?

Sounds like James Cameron's going to be hanging onto his membership card to the L.A Science-Fiction club a little longer. The "Avatar" helmer is reportedly interested in directing a remake of 60s classic "Forbidden Planet".

You'll recall Cameron briefly flirted with this project in the 90s - at one stage talking to his
"Terminator" lead Arnie Schwarzenegger about headlining the picture.

This latest incarnation is being produced by Joel Silver and has been penned by
scribe J. Michael Straczynski.

IESB has the low-down...

Watch A New Knowing Trailer!

A new trailer has gone live for Knowing, the SF thriller from director Alex Proyas (Dark City, The Crow), which stars Nicolas Cage and Rose Byrne.

The story, written by Ryne Douglas Pearson and Richard Kelly (Southland Tales), centers on Cage, a professor who stumbles on terrifying predictions about the future contained in a time capsule--and sets out to prevent them from coming true. Knowing opens March 20, 2009.

Pixar Makes Bolt?

I can dig that there's a lot of personnel overlap, but I think Newsweek has a detail wrong as it writes a profile on #35 of its Newsweek Fifty:

The animated features "Wall-E" and "Bolt," both produced by Pixar studios, where Lasseter is the chief creative officer, just received Golden Globe nominations for best picture ...

Obviously magazine fact-checkers aren't what they once were. (Thank Gawd for the intertubes.)

Bolt, I'm afraid, is going to make less at the U.S. box office than its predecessor Chicken Little, but more than Meet the Robinsons, which stalled out just south of $100 million.

I'm sure that the Disney Co. is wishing that the white doggie was up in
Madagascar 2
's air space, but it doesn't look like the picture is going to climb to that elevation.

More's the pity.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

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