Thursday, December 31, 2009

News - 12/31/09...

New Rapunzel image

SlashFilm points to a new image from Disney's upcoming animated fairy tale Rapunzel. It's hard to tell if the image is an actual still from the film or just concept art, but it's worth checking out either way. Rapunzel hits theaters next Thanksgiving.

Bomb Threat at DreamWorks

Some people at DreamWorks were sent home today because of a bomb threat at the studio. They later discovered it was just the trailer to the next installment of Shrek.

Seriously though, studio employees are writing about the bomb threat on Twitter.

UPDATE: According to Arthurk192, “Authorities have determined that the package was not a bomb. It was, in fact, a gift from overseas, officials said.”

UPDATE 2: The Glendale News Press has an article about the suspicious package at DreamWorks.

(Thanks, Scott)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

The Funtastic World of Hanna Barbera

We posted the centerpiece of this animation back in 2006, but here is an expanded version featuring the pre-show with Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. Boy is this script corny, but the animation is fantastic, full (maybe too full) and at this point, quite nostalgic. The character animation for The Funtastic World of Hanna Barbera ride at Universal Studios Florida was produced at Sullivan Bluth Studios in 1990, and was directed by David Steinberg. The ride ended its run at the Orlando theme park in 2002. Thankfully someone had the foresight to photograph this bootleg video:

(Thanks, Matthew Gaastra)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Help the Hodges Charity Auction

The son of animation artist Tim Hodge (Mulan, Brother Bear, VeggieTales) was in an auto accident last August. The situation is difficult for the Hodge family, whose son remains in a coma today. Tim explained on his blog:

As you may not realize, our short term insurance expired in September. The rest of the family could renew, but Matt became a pre-existing condition. So Matt’s healthcare since that time has all been out of pocket. Vanderbilt Hospital was gracious to us and forgave our six figure debt to them. But Matt’s ongoing care and future rehabilitation is still in the balance.

The help the family, the comics and animation community is rallying together to stage a massive eBay art auction beginning January 21st. The website has images and details about the donated artwork. It is an impressive collection that includes a diverse group of artists including Drew Struzan, Charles Schulz, Nick Park, Frank Thomas, Craig McCracken, and Nico Marlet (above). The list of artwork is growing by the day, and it all goes to a worthy cause so participation is encouraged. Should you wish to simply help the family without participating in the auction, the Hodges’ website also has details on how to make a fully tax-deductible donation to the family.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Acker's 9 Battles Machines on DVD and Blu-Ray This Week

If you missed catching Shane Acker’s well-received CG-animated feature 9 during its theatrical run this fall, you can enjoy it this week on DVD and Blu-ray. Exec produced by Tim Burton and Russian helmer Timur Bekmambeto, this visually stunning pic centers on a band of doll-like “stitch punk” creatures who have survived a war waged between humans and machines.

Written by Acker and Pamela Pettler, the Focus Features release is based on an Oscar-winning short made by the filmmaker when he was a student at USC. The voice cast includes Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Christopher Plummer, John C. Reilly and Martin Landau. Toronto-based Starz Animation produced the film’s impressive animation.

The 80-minute DVD release is priced at $29.98, while the Blu-ray version sells for $39.98 (you can pick it up on amazon for $25).

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Jibjab Offers Animated Take on the Crazy Events of 2009

Over the past five years, the brilliant animators at Jibjab have spoiled us with hilarious animated takes on the notable and dubious achievements of each year. The good news is that they haven’t let us down again. Their awesome two-minute 2009 wrap is packed with witty lyrics and clever animated zingers about Tiger Woods, President Obama, Octomom and Jon Gosselin, to name a few.

The company, which specializes in e-cards and toon sendables, had a remarkable holiday season. According to Quantcast, the site registered 33 million unique visitors in the past month and was a top 50 destination in the U.S.! That's more people than, and combined.

You can check out JibJab’s “Never a Year Like 09” toon here:

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Avatar and Animated Features Picked as AFI’s Significant Moments

The American Film Institute has singled out James Cameron’s Avatar and the year’s wave of top-notch animated features as two of eight “moments of significance”of 2009.

AFI called Avatar a "pioneering effort to unleash the human imagination,” and added. “With an army of technological wizards at his side, writer/director/producer/co-editor Cameron called upon the forces of art and technology to create new tools for storytelling that are groundbreaking in both scope and scale. The magic of the motion picture—and the transfer of its power to television and now video games—has always found its truest power in its immersive qualities, and with Cameron's advances in CGI and 3-D, Avatar enters AFI's almanac as an achievement that will have profound effects on the future of the art form."

Seeing animated films as a single trend, AFI noted, “Though animation has been a genre of great impact since the dawn of the moving image, 2009 marked a year that saw a dazzling explosion of noteworthy work from many of the nation's finest artists, and in forms vast and varied—from classic hand-drawn stories like The Princess and the Frog to stop-motion splendors like Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox; to computer-generated creations like 9, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Monsters Vs. Aliens.

The other "moments" listed by AFI included Twitter, the tough economic climate, the debut of The Jay Leno Show in primetime, reality TV’s loss of boundaries, the end of analog TV, and Michael Jackson’s death and the concert film This Is It.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

UK Poll Names Top Animated Film

UK Pollster OnePoll have asked 4000 animation fans to name the top animated film of all time.... and the overwhelming response was.... Pixar's Toy Story. Interestingly, eight of the top ten are all modern films, with five being wholey computer animated. Eight of ther top ten were Disney (or Disney-related) films. here is the full list:

1. Toy Story
2. Shrek
3. The Lion King
4. Finding Nemo
5. Ice Age
6. The Jungle Book
7. Monsters, Inc.
8. Beauty And The Beast
9. Bambi
10. Aladdin
11. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs
12. One Hundred And One Dalmatians
13. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
14. Watership Down
15. WALL•E
16. Fantasia
17. The Nightmare Before Christmas
18. The Little Mermaid
19. Cinderella
20. Alice In Wonderland

Elmer Fudd for Geico Car Insurance

(Thanks, William Skaleski)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon trailer V.2

(Thanks, Iain Robbins)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Mary Blair concept art showcased in “Walt Disney’s Peter Pan”

Jim Hill reviews the latest volume in the Disney Archives storybook series. Which is illustrated with paintings that this Disney Legend created for the Studio’s 1953 release

It’s always been one of the great what-ifs of Disney history. What if … All of the Studio’s overseas markets hadn’t been cut off by the start of World War II?

It’s well known that – as of the late 1930s -- Walt was well into development of full-length animated versions of “Alice in Wonderland,” “Peter Pan” and “The Wind in the Willows.” And had everything gone according to plan, feature film versions of these three projects would have been released to theaters during the early 1940s.

But WWII did derail Disney’s plans. And as a direct result, production of “Alice” and “Peter” were put off by more than a decade. And in the case of “The Wind in the Willows,” Walt’s animated version of this much beloved Kenneth Grahame story went from being a stand-alone project to becoming part of a package film, 1949’s “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.”

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

But given the storyboards as well as those pieces of preproduction / development art that have leaked out for the
David Hall version of “Peter Pan” (which shows that Disney Studios seriously considered producing a far darker take on J.M. Barrie’s tale) … In hindsight, maybe we were lucky that production of this animated feature was postponed ‘til 1953. So that Mary Blair could then rise up through the ranks at Walt Disney Studios and become a real creative force on the Animation side of things.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t as if this
Disney Legend actively steered clear of Neverland’s scarier aspects. Take – for example – Mary’s take on Skull Rock.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Or this concept painting of Captain Hook sneaking out of the shadows as he gets ready to run Peter through with his sword.

But what Blair really brought to Disney’s version of
“Peter Pan” was a visual sense of whimsy that – in large part – perfectly matched Barrie’s literary wit. Which then allowed Neverland to really come to life.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

I bring this up today because – last month – Disney Press just released the fourth storybook in its Archives series,
“Walt Disney's Peter Pan.” Which uses many of the concept paintings that Mary Blair created for this animated feature to illustrate this 64-page hardcover.

Copyright 2009 Disney Press. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, one of the other real pleasures of paging through
“Walt Disney’s Peter Pan” (besides Ms. Blair’s concept art of course) is the text that accompanies this imagery. Which was put together by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, the talented team behind the best-selling “Peter and the Starcatchers” series.

Barry & Ridley do a brilliant job of tailoring Barrie’s oft-told tale to Blair’s concept art. Which results in a concise but still very entertaining retelling of the Peter Pan story.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

So the younger members of the family are sure to enjoy
“Walt Disney’s Peter Pan” for its story, the older members of your clan (especially those who are animation buffs) are sure to marvel at this book’s illustrations.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Especially given how closely Walt’s artists & animators followed Mary’s vision when it came to how particular scenes & sequences were staged in this 1953 Walt Disney Productions release.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

A charming mix of strong illustrations and tightly written text (
“All of this happened before, and it will happen again. It could happen anywhere, but this time it happened in London ...”)

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“Walt Disney’s Peter Pan” will make a fine addition to your family’s Disneyana library. Especially if you’ve already purchased the first three volumes in this Disney Archives series, Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland, “Walt Disney's Cinderella” and “Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Hydra Captures Decaying Homunculus

Humble houses a “directing collaborative” they call Hydra, which is led by Sam Stephens and John Hobbs. They tackle projects that “fall outside the usual creative constraints of commercial work,” and below is just such a film. It’s titled Homunculus, which means “little human” in Latin. It includes time-lapse photography of decaying food stuff, mixed with CG animated characters created in Maya.

Belgians Bust Out Old Timey Animation

The Belgium-based duo comprised of Michélé De Feudis and Joris Bergmans recently directed this throwback music video for the band Team William. For lovers of old-timey animation from the likes of Max Fleischer and Ub Iwerks, this should satify your cravings. The track is titled You Look Familiar. [safe for work, but there's some ass-slapping and blurred out bits]

New Year's Linkage

Another round of animated news and factoids.

So how did I miss

... In an article published on Tuesday in L’Osservatore Romano under the headline “Aristotle’s Virtues and Homer’s Doughnut,” “The Simpsons” was praised for its “realistic and intelligent writing” (and rapped on the knuckles for “excessively crude language, the violence of certain episodes or some extreme choices by the scriptwriters”) ...

That's the Vatican newspaper that is praising the Yellow Family.

Give our fine conglomerates something that interests them, and they will come:

Global media giants including Disney, Viacom and Star TV will have their presence felt at the first China International Animation Copyright Fair opening on Wednesday in the southern city of Dongguan.

... [T]he fair, a top one in the country, would boost the protection of the copyright of animation works and promote trade and research with regards to animation products.

Seth M. provides
another interview about satire, prime-time entertainment, and other things.

... I always thought it would be funny to have the Parents Television Council write an episode of "Family Guy" and give them full creative control. Then see how good the episode is. That's something we've actually discussed in the writers' room. We haven't proposed it yet, but if somebody from the PTC reads this, it might be worth discussing ...

While we're on the subject of the Middle Kingdom, Shanghai list
touts the work of five indie animators:

China's animation industry is receiving a huge amount of support from the government in a push to develop China's creative industries. At the same time, many of China's emerging independent creatives are producing eye-opening work that more often than not doesn't make it into the mainstream media channels.

Below are 5 of our favorite indie animations from 2009. Even if you can't understand Chinese, you'll enjoy the visual feast ...

Click through and feast away.

In case you'd forgotten, that Marvel-Disney deal? It's ready (at last)
to consummate.

Marvel Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: MVL) is about to disappear. The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) acquisition is set to close this week. Some have criticized this $4.2 billion cash and stock deal, but there is going to be more merit to this combination with Disney than just traditional M&A. That old strategic word comes up: synergies. For starters, Disney has a market cap north of $60 billion and that makes this a relatively small deal to carry out for the Mouse House ...

And the Motley Fool
tells us how Disney can maximize the value of its Marvel acquisition:

2. Pixar can render Marvel properly. If Disney had acquired Marvel before snapping up Pixar, this would have been a gutsy call. However, if anyone can turn some of Marvel's lesser-known heroes into animated art, it's Pixar's Brad Bird -- the guy responsible for Pixar's The Incredibles and cult favorite Iron Giant before that ...

Time Magazine's Richard Corliss
laments the taste of the American public:

... If the good doesn't drive out the bad, it should at least stir in young minds a healthy skepticism for movie mediocrity, and zero tolerance for crap.

Explain to me, then, why
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel earned more than $75 million in its first five days of release. Was the boffo gross due to brand recognition after the 2007 movie about Simon, Theodore and Alvin was a hit? ...

Lastly, we wrap up with Slash/film's
article about How to Train Your Dragon and the latest trailer, complete with Brendan Connelly's usual sneering.

But the first commenter, who claims to have actually seen the film, says this:

I had a chance to see the unfinished movie a couple of weeks back. It was one of those marketing screenings and Katzenberg was even in attendance. It was easily their best movie yet. They may have a bit of a problem though with the eventual comparison to the "dragon" riding in Avatar, though this is obviously a completely different film ...

I know that the DWA crew is high on the picture, and I like the energy in the bits and pieces I've seen. We'll find out if it's a hit the end of March.

Have a terrific New Year.

Animation Guild Blog)

Which classic sci-fi film was just declared a national treasure?

Star Wars was already on the National Film Registry.

Star Wars. Alien. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Those are just three of the sci-fi films that the Library of Congress has added to its National Film Registry since 1989, meaning that they are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant and must be be preserved for all time.

When Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced today 25 more motion pictures worthy of inclusion on the list (and you can check that 1989-2008 list here to see the level of film we're talking about), only one sci-fi flick made it—1957's The Incredible Shrinking Man, directed by Jack Arnold and scripted by Richard Matheson.

If you're not familiar with the film about—well, what the title says—check out what Orson Welles had to say about it:

Also of interest to sci-fi fans—the 1911 short adapted from Windsor McKay's Little Nemo comic strip, 1979's The Muppet Movie, Sally Cruikshank's 1975 cartoon Quasi at the Quackadero, and Michael Jackson's 1983 music video Thriller.

Here's the complete list of this year's honorees:

1) Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
2) The Exiles (1961)
3) Heroes All (1920)
4) Hot Dogs for Gauguin (1972)
5) The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
6) Jezebel (1938)
7) The Jungle (1967)
8) The Lead Shoes (1949)
9) Little Nemo (1911)
10) Mabel's Blunder (1914)
11) The Mark of Zorro (1940)
12) Mrs. Miniver (1942)
13) The Muppet Movie (1979)
14) Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
15) Pillow Talk (1959)
16) Precious Images (1986)
17) Quasi at the Quackadero (1975)
18) The Red Book (1994)
19) The Revenge of Pancho Villa (1930-36)
20) Scratch and Crow (1995)
21) Stark Love (1927)
22) The Story of G.I. Joe (1945)
23) A Study in Reds (1932)
24) Thriller (1983)
25) Under Western Stars (1938)

Which films would you have added?

Grant Williams as The Incredible Shrinking Man

Freddy Krueger's claws (maybe) seized by UK customs officials

Looks like some poor UK horror fan ended up with a lump of coal in his stocking, because according to the London Telegraph, officials from the UK Border Agency seized a set of cool (but potentially deadly) claws it claims are similar to those worn by Robert Englund in Wes Craven's Nightmare On Elm Street films.

If you ask us, this sharp souvenir looks more like it was meant to be a Wolverine replica than anything Freddy Kreuger ever wore, but if you can't trust the UK Border Agency on sci-fi/horror neepery, who can you trust?

Tim Roth On Returning For Another 'Hulk' Movie: 'I've Talked About It With Marvel'

While 2008's "Incredible Hulk" only performed marginally better at the box office than its 2003 counterpart, many fans praised Louis Leterrier's take on Marvel's green goliath as a significant upgrade from Ang Lee's earlier film. One of the most notable improvements, according to many critics, was the addition of award-winning actor Tim Roth as the villainous soldier Emil Blonsky opposite Edward Norton's scientist-on-the-run Bruce Banner.

Even though [SPOILER ALERT] Roth's character was on the receiving end of a Hulk beatdown at the end of the film (despite becoming the mutated behemoth Abomination), the door was left wide open for a potential return. And as Hulk fans know, Blonsky is a regular presence among Hulk's rogues.

While chatting with Roth recently about "Lie to Me," the Fox television series in which he plays a human lie-detector of sorts, I managed to slip in a few questions about his experience battling one of Marvel's most iconic characters — and whether we'll see Emil Blonsky square off against Hulk again down the road.

"Yeah, we’ve talked about it — I’ve talked about it with Marvel," said Roth. "When you do your deal, you sign up for three [films]. So, I’ve done the one ... and basically, I don't know what they have planned, but they can bring me back."

"What they’re doing now is ... putting these characters together in different ways," he added. "With the Sam Jackson thing, and having [Robert Downey Jr.] come in at the end of 'Incredible Hulk' was the first clue to that — and I don’t know if they want to bring [Blonsky] back, but I told them I’m absolutely game for it. It would be so much fun to do it again. I’m in it for three."

Of course, Roth's willingness to return for another film seems like a given if the experience was even half as fun as he made it out to be.

"I had the best time ever with that one — more fun on set than anybody," he laughed. "I did it purely for my kids, so my boys can laugh at their dad and have fun with it."

"What’s been really interesting [about recent superhero movies] is, they're taking these heavy-weight actors and turning them into these characters, and populating a very bizarre world,
" said Roth of Hollywood's fascination with comic book movies lately. "They’re brilliant, but they also entertain the kids, and I think it’s a very smart move ... yet you’re still running around like a kid in them."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

News - 12/30/09...

'Batman: The Animated Series' Writer's Bible Reveals Story Intentions And Villainous Traits

While I would never deny the amazing quality of the recent DC Universe animated movies — heck, "Wonder Woman" was my favorite comic book film of the year — my first love will always be "Batman: The Animated Series," the much beloved cartoon that made household names out of Kevin Conroy, Bruce Timm and Harley Quinn throughout the comic book community.

Although the show is long over, there's still plenty of "Batman: TAS" goodness for fans to enjoy. Recently, the show's "Series Writer's Bible" made the rounds online, revealing some fascinating insight into the cartoon's production process from the creative minds of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini.

Read on for some of the highlights from the "Batman" writers' bible.

The Origins of Crime: The show's obvious reliance on film noir and crime story tropes wasn't just an extra enjoyable layer — it was part of the series' fabric.

"Our half-hour series will have a darker look and tone to it," states the bible. "With a nod to the crime films and novels of the 1940s, we will combine both old and new in this 'Dark Deco' visual design and create a fresh take on The Batman."

Change of the Cowl: Aside from the heavy use of '40s-era crime story elements, the bible boasts a list of other changes that the show made to the Batman mythos. Notable changes include describing Batman as a solo act without too much help from Alfred and Robin, Robin's own status as a solo crime fighter, and the Dark Knight's conflicts with the Gotham Police Department.

"Our stories will be hard-edged crime dramas with villains who play for keeps," the bible reveals of the changes made to Batman's famous Rogues Gallery, who were intentionally created to be "as wild, dark and sinister as we can make them."

The Funny Business: There is an entire section of the bible devoted to the show's use of humor, which, ironically enough, is pretty funny in and of itself.

"The humor in our version of Batman should arise naturally from the larger than life characters and never tongue-in-cheek campiness," instructs the bible. "Dry lines in tough situations and occasional comments about the outlandishness of costumed villains is certainly within the realistic context of our vision of Batman."

Character Building: The bible has an extensive rundown of all of the various characters that popped in and out of Timm and Dini's Gotham City, heroes and villains alike. Interestingly, the bible notes that aside from Joker, Penguin and Catwoman, each new villain introduced — such as Riddler and Poison Ivy — would be encountering Batman for the first time.

"Many of the villains faced by Batman will combine an eccentric, outrageous sense of criminal 'fun' with deadly efficiency," the bible describes. "After all, if they're going to give a character as extreme as Batman a run for his money, they'll have to be pretty extreme themselves."

SAG, Unions and Financial Core

Apparently the Screen Actors Guild has been educating aspiring actors about the downside of not joining the Guild when they start getting industry jobs.

... A skirmish broke out last week over thesps being persuaded to quit the Screen Actors Guild.

SAG First VP Anne-Marie Johnson and several board members ... leafleted outside a class conducted on the technique of filing for
"financial core" status at the Hey, I Saw Your Commercial workshop studios in Los Angeles.

"We felt it was important to make sure that people attending the class get all the information about taking that step," Johnson told Daily Variety. "It's not something that we can ignore." ...

And what exactly is "that step?" Just this.

Members who go "fi-core" resign their SAG membership and withhold the dues spent by SAG on political activities but can still work on union jobs ...

The Supreme Court ruled some years ago that nobody had to be a member of a union against their will, but did have to pay those portion of dues that unions used to administer and police the contracts under which those persons worked. (Again, the dues excluded are for icky political stuff. In TAG's case, that amount to 4% of total dues.)

So what's the advantage to resigning and going financial core? You don't have to go on strike.

What's the disadvantage? You can't run for union office, you can't vote, and you might be damaging yourself politically with union members who think unionism is a good thing.

But everyone makes up their own mind.

Despite SAG's efforts, a total of nearly 2,000 actors have filed for financial core status, according to SAG's most recent filing with the federal government.

To be specific, 1,894 SAG members have resigned and gone fi core out of a total membership of 128,187. That's 1.47%.

Back in 1982, TAG had a bunch of members resign from this union and take financial core status. For most, it was done so they could legally return to work near the end of a ten-week strike. Since then, there have been a handful of people who have resigned membership for one reason or another.

I've never had a problem with people taking financial core status. I wouldn't do it myself, since I'm one of those lefties who believe in collective bargaining, collective action, and E Pluribus Unum. But I also believe in people knowing what their rights are (which is why I'm writing this.) And if somebody believes resigning from union membership is right for them, hey, go for it. There have even been a few times in the course of my illustrious union rep career when I've asked people to go financial core, just to get them out of what's left of my hair.

They've always refused.

The interesting thing is, over the last several years, we've had more financial core non-members wanting to come back to full membership than the other way around. 1982 is a long time ago, and few people believe that the fine conglomerates for which they work is actually in their corner.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

The Wise Old Producer

... speaks*.

He said -- yesterday when we were having lunch -- that he believed that a good, hand-drawn feature could make a lot of money. (More than TP&TF.)

I said, based on evidence to date, that isn't the case. Because, except for The Simpsons Movie, no hand-drawn feature in the last decade has made more than $120 million domestic, and all we have to go on are the hand-drawn features that have been released, not the ones that would do gangbusters if they could only get themselves made.

(Having now done some research, I have to revise my original comment. I think a case can be made that the right hand-crafted feature could do big business. The question is, who will do it?)

Here are the domestic and worldwide takes of the most recent American hand-drawn features:

U.S. Hand-Drawn Features -- 1999-2009

Tarzan (1999): (d) $171 million; (ww) $448.2 million.
Emperor's New Groove (2000): (d) $89.3 million; (ww) $169.3 million.
Atlantis (2001): (d) $84 million; (ww) $186 million.
Lilo and Stitch (2002): (d) $145.7 million; (ww) $273.1 million.
Treasure Planet (2002): (d) $38 million; (ww) $109.6 million.
Brother Bear (2003): (d) $85.3 million; (ww) $250.4 million.
Home on the Range (2004): (d) $50 million; (ww) $104 million.
The Simpsons Movie (2007): (d) $183.1 million; (ww) $527 million.
The Princess and the Frog (2009): (d) $64 million.

So, having now done some research, I would have to say the Wise Old Movie Producer is probably right, for not only is he the Wise Old Movie Producer, but he has data that helps prove his point: Lilo and Stitch and The Simpsons Movie. (If a hand-drawn feature can reverse the down-trend twice, it can do it three times.)

But come on, somebody! Create a zazzy, new, hand-drawn epic. Prove the theory! There's gotta be one out there somewhere.

* Revised from my original comment here.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

JibJab Ends 2009 With Stop Motion and Song

JibJab is famous for using cutout digital photos of famous people and (in particular) politicians to make us all laugh. This year, they pushed aside the digital tools, and sharpened their scissors. Here’s their 2009 wrap-up animation – Never a Year Like ‘09. Congrats to the Spiridellis brothers, and to the many artists who pulled this together like Devin Bell, Ian Worrel, Jeff Gill, Kevin Elam and Alan Cook.

Belated Holiday Wishes

In this day in age, ’tis the season where more and more “holiday cards” have become digital, leaving mantle places and refrigerators bare of holiday greetings with the exception of ‘once a year’ correspondence from Aunt Millie and her 9 cats, out in Sheboygan, Idaho. I just spotted this one on Glossy, from JWT which I thought was a nice mix animation by Blacklist, with a glimmer of hope for 2010. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!


And if this puts you in the mood for more reasons to procrastinate at work, you can check out these sites which have put together a list of other holiday cards:

While is might not be the norm to direct you to some of our “competitor’s” sites, I figure it’s the holiday season, so why not let them do all the work while I sip on egg nog and stuff myself with Christmas cookies. Kidding…at least about letting them do all the work.

9 Reborn on DVD

The 80-minute CG feature from director/writer Shane Acker, 9, grossed over $40 million at the box office before heading to DVD. Not than anyone but me is keeping track, but 9’s namesake Nine, the live-action feature from Academy-award nominee Rob Marshall, opened with only $5 million last weekend. Acker’s post-apocalyptic tale opened with $10 million, and hits DVD shelves today. Take that, living, breathing actors!

Disney Institute open enrollment Announced

The 2010 schedule for Disney Institute open enrollment programs is now available at Located under the Web site’s “Events” tab, the extended calendar offers increased flexibility for professionals who want to book training through the end of the coming year.

Open-enrollment programs include three- and five-day programs available at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and a series of one-day programs offered at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif. One- and three-day programs are dedicated to specific topics such as quality service, leadership excellence, people management, brand loyalty, and inspiring creativity. The five-day programs dedicate a day to each of the five core Disney Institute curricula.

Open-enrollment programs take participants onstage and behind-the-scenes of Disney locations. Meeting with Disney leaders, they discover proven best practices from The Walt Disney Company that are easily adaptable to their organizations.

Disney producing Israeli children's shows

Disney has decided to start producing original Hebrew-language children's shows featuring Israeli actors for the Disney Channel in Israel, reported Globes.

The Disney Channel began broadcasting in Israel in September and has since then featured only dubbed versions of Disney's American shows and cartoons.

Disney has a long positive relationship with Israel. The most prominent example of that was a millennium exhibition at Epcot Center at Disney World in Florida 10 years ago that featured a presentation of Jerusalem and referred to the city as "the heart of the Israeli people."

China Convenes Int'l Animation Fair

Global media giants including Disney, Viacom and Star TV will have their presence felt at the first China International Animation Copyright Fair opening on Wednesday in the southern city of Dongguan.

The event, jointly organized by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and Guangdong provincial government, has attracted about 450 institutions and enterprises from both home and abroad, said Jin Delong, director of SARFT's department of publicity management, at Monday's press conference.

Some 1,200 exhibition booths would stand in the 30,000 square meters exhibition area and a cartoon and animation copyright transaction pavilion would be the highlight, said Jin.

China currently has more than 1,000 companies focused on anime products.

Nearly one third of all Barbie dolls were manufactured in Dongguan which is also a factory for Snoopy and Mickey Mouse products, said Wang Daoping, an official in charge of publicity in the southern city.

Jin said the fair, a top one in the country, would boost the protection of the copyright of animation works and promote trade and research with regards to animation products.

The city is planning to spend up to 40 million yuan (about 5.8 million U.S. dollars) next year in nurturing the potential market for original animation products and other toys.

About 400,000 people are expected to visit the fair which will last until Jan. 3 next year.

3 of 2009's Top 10 Animated

Three of the top 10 box office giants of 2009 were fully-animated films. Another four of the largely live-action films had significant CGI portions.

It should surprise no one that the highest-grossing animated film of the year was PIXAR's Up, whicxh came in at third at just under 300 million dollars worldwide. Up was beated by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (at just over the 300 mill mark) and Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen, which was 100 million more than Potter worldwide.

Further down the list at number 8, DreamWorks checks in with Monsters vs. Aliens, with just under 200 million in worldwide box office, and Blue Sky/Fox' Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs at number nine.

In a film year marred by pink slips, post-writers' strike repercussions, slashed budgets and other consequences of the current economy, that Hollywood is chuffed about earning its biggest box office year in history is a bit perverse. Still, as the industry, like most of the country, sorts out its fiscal future, audiences did prove yet again that in times of monetary adversity, it will dig deep to find a means of escape. And, if the recent Christmas holiday weekend attests, they sought to be transported in record numbers.

Top Ten Goofs

Everybody comes up with their own list of stupid that's done in and around Hollywood, but one of our fine trade papers (via Reuters, via the New York Times) compiled a few errors that caught my attention.


Axed TV shows usually stay dead, yet two titles canceled by former Fox chief Sandy Grushow in 2002 refused to go quietly. One was Seth MacFarlane's
"Family Guy," which was moved around the schedule and even put opposite top-rated hits "Survivor" and "Friends" before getting yanked. After the show's repeats got strong ratings on Adult Swim and netted big DVD sales, the comedy made its way back to broadcast in 2005. "Family Guy" is now Fox's second-highest-rated scripted series and has produced a successful spinoff ("The Cleveland Show") ...

Fox is the only network to hit big with prime time animation. (Others have tried, but only Fox has succeeded.)

I could never understand why the network canceled FG in the first place. It had a loyal fan base, it was doing okay considering how it got kicked around from time slot to time slot, but it was still drop-kicked out the door. As a Fox exec told me years ago: "Thank God for the millions of DVDs that flew off the shelves. If not for that, the show never would have come back."

But bad decisions get made all the time, by everybody. Fox is also the company that put The Blind Side into turn-around, and now the $29 million production is making buckets of money for Warner Bros.

But the newspapers don't think it's just Hollywood companies that are stupid. In the interests of being fair and balanced, here is the articles Top Pick for dumbness:


Has there ever been a longer 14 weeks? The 2007-08 walkout was a largely avoidable mutually destructive act that occurred at exactly the wrong time. In addition to almost wiping out an entire pilot season, the strike sent shows into repeats, driving a ratings crash that broadcasters have not been able to recover from thanks to increased DVR use and viewers fleeing to cable. In the end, writers outmaneuvered the studios, but few felt as if they actually won.

Some writers maintain that the DGA, after the dust had settled, got a better deal than the WGA. And since then, development deals have evaporated, writing staffs have shrunk, so who really outmaneuvered who?

Little did we know at the time, back during that winter of 2007-2008, but the job action began almost the same moment the American economy nosed into recession. Was the strike, in the end, a net plus? The only thing I know with certainty is that TAG-repped artists working on prime-time, WGA shows took it on the chin when hundreds of them were laid off during the strike.

It was not pretty.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Anime/Live Action Adaptations

Mamoru Oshii, director of the Ghost in the Shell movie, will be directing a live action adaptation of Mitsuteru Yokoyama's seminal boy and his remote controlled giant robot Tetsujin 28-go (aka Gigantor).

Oshii had already directed a stage play version of Tetsujin 28-go, which featured a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound), six-meter-tall (20-feet-tall) replica of the title robot.

Imagi (the recent Astro Boy movie) had indicated the intension of produce a CGI Tetsujin 28 CG movie.

Previous adaptations of the 1956 manga include a 1960 live action tv series, 1963 anime TV series, 1980 anime TV series, 1992 anime TV series, 2004 anime TV series, 2005 live action TV/CG movie and 2007 anime movie.

1967 live action TV series Giant Robo (aka Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot), 1998 OVA Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still, and 2007 GR: Giant Robo anime tv series are also variants of Tetsujin 28.

Upcoming in Japan

Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

Gekijouban Yu-Gi-Oh! ~Chou-Yugo! Jiku o Koeta Kizuna~ (10th anniversary movie)

Detective Conan: The Lost Ship in the Sky

Rintaro's (Rintaro's CG children's movie)

Senko no Night Raid - espionage set in 1931 China


Votoms: Gen-ei Hen promoted as the final part of real robot war franchise

Girl Who Leapt Through Time (new live action, starring Riisa Naka, voice of the lead in the Hosoda anime)

Tono to Issho

Hellsing Ultimate VII


Makoto Shinkai, best known for his solo work greating Voices of a Distant Star, announced a new project, to be created with most of the main staff from 2007's 5 Centimeters Per Second. The project is being described as "lively" adventure, action, romance, and a girl dealing with loss and preparing a final farewell.

Preview art can be seen on Shinkai's site


20th Lupin III TV special, the Last Job will air on Japanese TV on February 12th The story follows the supposed death of not-so-gentlemanly thief Lupin's police inspector adversary Zenigata and his battles with a ninja gang over stolen Japanese treasures.


Tono Municipal Museum will host an anime adaptation of Mizuki Shigeru no Tono Monogatari (Shigeru Mizuki's The Legends of Tono), a work by the famed yokai manga creator, best known for GeGeGe no Kitaro.


Tatsunoko Production 's 1970 anime series The Adventures of Hutch the Honeybee (Konchu Monogatari Minashigo Hutch) will get a new anime movie, set to hit Japanese theatres in summer 2010.


A new DVD cut of Evangelion 2.0 has been confirmed to be in the works for a Spring release.


Junod, a Shinichiro Kimura directed 60 minute anime account of the account life of the first foreign doctor to arrive at Hiroshima after its atomic bombing is scheduled to be completed in January 2010. A trailer can be seen here.


NHK will be broadcasting four shorts based on the work of sci-fi writer Shinichi.

The four animated stories and their animators are "Muryo no Denwaki" ("Free Phone") by Pantagraph, "Atarashii Asobi" by Tayuta Mikage, "Kotta Jikan" by Tetsuro Kodama, and "Gogo no Kyoryu" by Takashi Kato. The two live-action stories are "My Kokka" ("My Nation") and "Kofu na Ai."


A second Big Windup! (Okiku Furikabutte) baseball anime is scheduled for Spring 2010. A compilation OVA of the first series will be released in March


Fuyumi Ono (12 Kingdoms) and Ryu Fujisaki's (Hoshin Engi) horror manga Shiki will be adapted into an anime series by Studio Aniplex


2004 mecha anime Soukyu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor is on its way back via Soukyu no Fafner: Heaven and Earth


Masami Kurumada's (Saint Seiya) boxing series Ring ni Kakero 1 will be back in April with Ring ni Kakero 1: Shadow


TAGRO's Abnormal Physiology Seminar (Hen Zemi) manga is being adapted into an anime series

Worth Checking Out...


ANN spoke to Girl Who Leapt Through Time (and more recently, Summer Wars) director Mamoru Hosoda

Iwa ni Hana on Loups - Garous - a sci-fi novel to be released in North America by Viz and adapted into anime by Production I.G

David Levine 1926-2009

David Levine was one of the great caricaturists of the 20th Century. He was best known for his work for the The New York Review of Books. He passed away today at age 83 and here is his obituary from The New York Times. It’s worth noting (at least on this blog), Howard Beckerman and Fred Wolf both told me that Levine began his career as an assistant at Famous Studios (Popeye, Casper, et al) in the early 1950s. A gallery of his caricatures can be found here.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

War Machine Will 'Kick Some Major Ass' In 'Iron Man 2,' Promises Joe Quesada

There's no shortage of hype surrounding the debut of War Machine in "Iron Man 2," and according to Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, the character will more than live up to his action-packed tease in the new "Iron Man 2" trailer.

"I've actually seen a rough cut of the movie, and it's going to be good," Quesada told MTV News during the opening night of "Marvelous Color," a new art exhibit in Manhattan. The exhibit highlights Marvel's history of prominent African-American characters, with special attention paid to six of the publisher's most well-known heroes: Storm, Black Panther, Luke Cage, Blade, Falcon and of course, War Machine.

"[Don] Cheadle is one of the greatest living American actors, what do you expect?" said Quesada of the actor playing War Machine's alter ego, James "Rhodey" Rhodes, in the blockbuster sequel. "I think fans are going to love it — especially fans of War Machine — and he does kick some major ass."

According to Quesada, African-American characters like War Machine have always had a special place in his heart — though his favorite of the bunch has yet to make his big-screen debut.

"I've always had a special connection to the Black Panther," he said. "One of the things that made Marvel stand out for me was that they had a character called the Black Panther. As a Latin kid growing up in Queens, while I'm not African-American, the Black Panther signaled to me that Marvel was open to characters of all race while other companies weren't at that time. It really made Marvel feel like it was my company."

However, Quesada kept mum when it came to which War Machine story would fuel "Iron Man 2" — or any future "Iron Man" movies, for that matter.

"There are a lot of classic Iron Man stories, but being sort of an insider, saying anything would be tipping my hand a bit," he said. "I'd rather just avoid it altogether and tell people that Iron Man is in great hands."

And while he kept similarly quiet regarding "Thor" plot points, he did offer up some thoughts on how the upcoming, Kenneth Branagh-directed film will be a very different experience than the typical comic book movie.

"I've sat through the story meetings and sat with Branagh," said Quesada. "The character is in tremendous hands. Branagh understand the mythology and what he doesn't understand, he's asking questions about — in particular, the comic book mythology. He's really immersed himself in it."

"It's going to be pretty epic, and regardless of what you think it's going to be, it's going to surprise people," he added. "It's an interesting piece for a superhero movie. It's going to change the conventions of the superhero movie."

The "Marvelous Color" exhibit runs through February 26 at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute in Manhattan.

Time-traveling Back to the Future Delorean for sale on eBay

Got $89,000 and an urge to channel Marty McFly? Then head over to eBay and check out the most screen accurate Back to the Future Delorean time-machine replica you're ever likely to see, brought to our attention by our friends over at collider.

According to the seller, this super-accurate replica is even better than the real thing, because "sadly, the 'actual' film cars have been rotting away on the Universal backlot for the last 25 years, being picked apart and neglected. You wouldn't want it. This car is what you want, a car that looks exactly like what you saw in the film, with all the cool lights, sounds and buttons you thought the car in the film had (but never really did). People are often really disappointed when they see a prop up close. Movie props are designed to be filmed from a distance, but this car truly looks and feels 'real' even up close. It is in many ways 'better' than the 'real' car, as many replica props often are, because the people who build them spend so much more time and effort tending to every last detail."

Some of the stated features which have us checking our checking account balances include:

Programmable time circuits which function just like those in the film.
Functioning digital speedometer on the dashboard (reads actual vehicle speed).

Main Time Circuit switch functions just like in the film, with all sound effects.

All interior indicators and switches light up, just like in the film,

Sound effects for door openings.

Includes "Plutonium rods," which can be loaded in to the "reactor" on the rear of car, just like in the film.

Exterior flux band lighting

Custom "95 MPH" in-dash speedometer like the one mocked up for the film. The stock Delorean speedometer only goes up to 85MPH.

Screen-accurate "OUTATIME" metal-stamped license plate with 1986 registration tag.

Our only quibble? No matter how good those time circuits look, can they really be said to "function?"

The auction ends Dec. 31, so if you want to party like it's 1985, get your bid in now.

Go behind the scenes with the awesome Avatar mockumentary

James Cameron's not the only visionary changing the way we watch movies. In a hilarious behind-the-scenes video from the comics over at Free Love Forum, one of the bootlegging industry's true geniuses explains the new technologies he had to invent to realize his vision.

"This is the movie that I've been dreaming about pirating since I was 14 years old," says director Tim Carson.

Check it out below.

Transformers 2 voted both best and worst movie of 2009

What was the worst movie of the year? What was the year's best action movie? Based on Moviefone's poll, which received 238,000 votes, the answer to both of those questions was the same—Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Who was the year's sexiest female star? Which actress gave the worst performance? If you guessed that the winner in both of those categories was also the same, you'd be right. Transformers 2 star Megan Fox proved to be as divisive as her film, which somehow grossed $834 million in worldwide ticket sales even so.

As for the best overall film of the year, that turned out to be New Moon, which grabbed 41 percent of the votes, beating out both Avatar and Star Trek, which turned in relatively anemic results of 14 percent and 11 percent, respectively. (Though in the best action-movie category, the three films weren't quite that far apart.)

Paranormal Activity came in as the best horror movie, with 42 percent of the vote, beating out Zombieland, which only captured 20 percent.

The year's sexiest male star? Why, New Moon star Robert Pattinson, of course, with 46 percent of the vote. Who else did you expect?

Check out Moviefone for the complete results—and let us know how you would have voted.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

News - 12/29/09...

He-Man art show at Gallery 1988

L.A.’s Gallery 1988 has a new show for the new year, Under the Influence: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Artists Dan Goodsell, Jeaux Janovsky and Chogrin (above) join 100 others to reinterpret the 80s Filmation TV show and Mattel action figures. The exhibit opens Friday January 8th with an opening reception from 7pm-10pm. More art and info on the G-1988 blog.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Richard Corliss Speaks

... a discomforting reality:

... Alvin took in more in its first four days than the early December animated feature The Princess and the Frog did in its first 32 days (18 in wide release). The chipmunks should earn back their $70 million budget in a week or two. ...

Like it or not, every exec in the entertainment conglomerate pyramid is taking note of this.

"People are tired of CGI..."? Not hardly.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Third Season of Boondocks to Bounce Back in Early 2010

Aaron McGruder acclaimed and controversial animated series The Boondocks is slated to return to TV in early 2010. Variety reports that McGruder has been tweeting about the debut of the third season of his controversial show in early 2010.

The [adult swim] hit centers on two street-wise African American kids (Huey and Riley Freeman) who have been moved out of Chicago by their grandfather to live with him in the predominantly white fictional suburb of Woodcrest. Produced by McGruder's Rebel Base Productions and Sony TV, the first two seasons consisted of 15 episodes each. The voice cast includes Regina King, John Witherspoon and Cedric Yarbrough. Ed Asner, Marion Ross, Snoop Dogg, Samuel Jackson, Donald Faison, Cee-Lo, Mos Deff and Busta Rhymes were some of the well-known guests in the first two seasons.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

NYC Animation in the 2000s

A checklist of happenings in the New York animation scene during the 2000s, courtesy of ASIFA-East prez David Levy. It’s a commendable idea and would be fun to see it grow with additional contributions from NYers.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

It's the Tax Break, Stupid

Universal-NBC GE (soon to be Universal-NBC Comcast) has been a feeble player in the animation game. Universal Animation Studios essentially closed shop this month, and the company has been a non-presence in theatrical animation, as well as a chronic under-performer in live-action.

Now, of course, it's done a deal with Chris Meladandri and is partnered with Mr. M.'s Illumination Entertainment to make CGI animated features. For a period of time I wondered where Illumination was going to set up its studio, but then I found out the business model: Illumination works out of offices in Santa Monica, freelancing development and doing productions overseas.

It's first animation feature, Despicable Me was produced in France. Not India. Not China. But the land of champagne and camembert. And why is that? ...

... 3D toonpic "Despicable Me," which is produced by Chris Meledandri, [is] among the first five recipients of France's tax rebate for international shoots.

Paris VFX house Mac Guff handled animation modeling, texturing, rendering and compositing on
"Despicable Me," which is the first film from Universal's family film unit Illumination. .

When you are a pretender to animation's throne and not named Pixar, DreamWorks or Blue Sky, you have to watch your pennies, especially when you're dealing with a tight-fisted conglomerate like General Electric.

So Illumination-Universal will get its big French rebate, and the picture will roll out next Fall, and we will see if Mr. Meladandri's lower rent business model results in profits for Universal's shiny new animated feature.

If it does, other companies will likely sniff after the same sort of game plan. And if it fails, there will be small interest in replicating Illumination's blue print.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Found: The anti-smoking commercial R2-D2 and C-3PO made

Hey, kids! If you won't listen to Mom and Dad when they tell you not to smoke, then how about two robotic Star Wars stars?

We're not so sure that a warning about the dangers of smoking from the lungless R2-D2 and C-3PO is likely to sway anyone, but it seemed like a good idea to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services back in 1981, when it got the pair to deliver "A Message From a Distant Galaxy Far, Far Away."

Check it out below.

Beautiful footage of underwater radio-controlled model Enterprise

Space: the final frontier. Oh, really? No so fast! After watching this awesome video of the Enterprise swooping and spiraling through the water, we've got to believe that the true final frontier is a swimming pool somewhere in Japan.

Take a dip below and see if you agree.

'Captain America' To Start Filming In June?

Marvel Studios’ “Captain America” movie may finally be heading in front of cameras next June.

According to an interview with director Joe Johnston at Fangoria, Johnston is “readying for a June start” for “The First Avenger: Captain America.”

Information about the “Captain America” film has been in relatively short supply since Johnston — the director of “The Rocketeer” and the upcoming remake of “The Wolfman"was signed to direct the film last year. "Chronicles of Narnia" screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are also attached to write the script which is reportedly set in World War II.

Given that “Captain America” is scheduled to be released in July 2011 — two months after Kenneth Branagh’s “Thor” adaptation hits theaters — it’s somewhat surprising that the lead role has yet to be cast.

Back in 2008, popular speculation centered around Will Smith wielding the shield — rumors which were eventually shot down by Smith himself.

More recently, several actors have voiced their desire to portray Captain America, including “Twilight” actor Kellan Lutz and “Chuck” star Zachary Levi. However, “Avatar” and “Terminator Salvation” star Sam Worthington recently caused a splash when he told MTV News about his interest in the role.

"I'm a fan. I'm a fan of comics. I'm a fan of Captain America," explained Worthington. "I think I'd be lynched if I played the role, but I'd kill to play it."

Does 'Iron Man 2' Trailer Reveal Plot Detail For Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow?

We were all over the official "Iron Man 2" trailer when it hit the 'Net a few weeks ago, giving you the five most important scenes from the trailer, a shot-by-shot analysis and even some thoughts on what the "Iron Man 2" trailer reveals about the film's plot. But even after all of that coverage, there's something we missed.

Right around the 1:40 mark in the trailer, there's a scene featuring Scarlett Johansson in action as Black Widow, and some keen-eyed observers around the InterWebs have discovered what could be a major plot point revealed in a few frames. Check it out for yourself:

Notice anything? Well, if you're willing to brave a SPOILER ALERT, go ahead and read on for what could be an intriguing plot point revealed in this scene.

If you need a hint (and I did), cast your attention to Scarlett Johansson's left arm, just below the shoulder of her Black Widow costume. Notice the patch partly hidden by her hair? Does it look familiar?

We could be wrong, but it sure does look a lot like the S.H.I.E.L.D. insignia, doesn't it? Check it out:

Can you say "Black Widow: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D."?

However, it's worth pointing out that Johansson's character didn't appear to have the symbol on her sleeve in any of the previous images we've seen of her in costume as Black Widow. Neither the first image of Johansson as Black Widow nor the most recent shot of her in costume seem to feature the patch.

If that is indeed a S.H.I.E.L.D. emblem, it looks like Nick Fury could be receiving some help from Russian superspy Natasha Romanoff when "Iron Man 2" comes to theaters in May 2010.

Cool new trailer for Nolan's weird sci-fi Inception

We're eager to see Christopher Nolan's upcoming mind-bending sci-fi thriller Inception but still don't have a clear idea what it is. But the new trailer for the film is now live (at, and it sure looks cool. Is that city actually folding in on itself??

The movie, from the director of The Dark Knight, stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine and Dileep Rao. It opens July 16, 2010.

Disney sees superhero dollars in Marvel unknowns

Movie fans have shown a willingness to be entangled by Spider-Man's web over, and over, again. But will they want to crawl into the comic book world of Nova, seen here in an image provided by comic-book giant Marvel Entertainment Inc. That's the kind of question facing The Walt Disney Co. as it nears its $4.2 billion purchase of Marvel Dec. 31, 2009.

Moviegoers have shown a willingness to be entangled by Spider-Man's web over and over again. Now, as Disney prepares to buy the comic-book powerhouse Marvel, it faces the question of whether fans will also get attached to characters as obscure as Ant-Man and Iron Fist.

The Walt Disney Co. is making a $4.2 billion bet that they will as it nears completion of its acquisition of Marvel Entertainment Inc. this week. The cash-and-stock deal brings those characters and thousands of others to an entertainment empire that already includes Mickey Mouse, Kermit the Frog and Hannah Montana.

Disney's biggest challenge will be to get enough people enthused about second-string superheroes to justify the price — about $1.2 billion, or 40 percent, more than what Marvel's stock was worth when the deal was announced Aug. 31.

The high price means Disney will have to find new ways to earn revenue from Marvel — perhaps by bringing Marvel-licensed toys to more store shelves around the world, and by digging deep into its comic vault for potential new blockbusters.

Although Disney is constrained by the fact that big-name Marvel superheroes such as Spider-Man are already locked up in long-term deals with rival movie studios, Disney has had a history of successfully turning unknown talent such as Miley Cyrus, the actress behind "Hannah Montana," into multibillion-dollar enterprises.

"With Marvel, it's not just about `Iron Man' and `Hulk,'" Caris & Co. analyst David Miller said. "It's all about the other 5,000 characters that you and I don't even know about yet."

Disney shares are already being helped, having risen more than 20 percent since the deal was announced, partly on the hope for new character development and better use of Marvel heroes in movies, stores and theme parks.

Marvel shareholders are expected to give final approval to the offer on Thursday, with the closing of the deal to follow immediately.

The deal has already spawned a bout of speculation in the comic book world about who will be the next big Thing.

Possibilities include classics such as Ant-Man, the alter-ego of mad scientist Dr. Henry Pym, and Dr. Strange, the mystical go-to guy whenever there's an extradimensional threat. Both are connected to The Avengers line of characters that Marvel had started developing for the big screen long before Disney made the deal; Iron Man and the Hulk are among the Avengers that Marvel already has tapped.

There are about 5,000 more characters, including obscure ones such as martial arts master Iron Fist from the 1970s and up-and-coming ones such as the Runaways, a street-savvy pack of teenagers that have become a recent Marvel comic-book hit.

Whoever is the next comic book movie star, Marvel has a track record of success: its "Iron Man" movie took in $572 million at box offices worldwide despite the character once being a B-lister in the pantheon of superheroes.

"They picked the right one and they did it the right way," said Gareb Shamus, whose company Wizard Entertainment Group runs several of the Comic-Con fan conventions around the nation. "When you do that you've got a franchise that could last forever."

Through the deal, Marvel gains the ability to quickly reach more markets worldwide. Disney is by far the world's top licenser of its character brands, with $30 billion in retail sales in fiscal 2008, compared with fourth-place Marvel at $5.7 billion, according to License! Global magazine.

"It gives Marvel the opportunity to expand internationally and leverage the Disney retail relationships as well as their licensee relationships," said Tony Lisanti, the magazine's global editorial director.

Marvel Chief Executive Isaac "Ike" Perlmutter, who owns 37 percent of Marvel stock, also secured himself the top job overseeing the Marvel business after the acquisition. That includes decisions on which characters are developed into movie stars.

Disney, which is based in Burbank, Calif., and plans to keep Marvel's operations in New York, hasn't tipped its hand on what lesser-known characters it believes have the potential to leap off the printed page.

And there are some characters Disney says it is happy to let other movie studios keep developing, including Spider-Man at Sony Pictures and the X-Men and Fantastic Four at 20th Century Fox. Marvel earns royalties and a piece of the merchandising sales from those movies, and Disney soon will, too.

Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said the company may initially develop new characters on television rather than in movies. Its boy-focused cable channel, Disney XD, already airs 25 hours of Marvel cartoons every week and recently launched in Japan, as well as in several European and Latin American countries.

Television is where Disney incubated such hits as "Hannah Montana" and "High School Musical." Since their debut on cable TV's Disney Channel, the franchises have spawned movies, concerts and a cascade of related merchandise.

"Instead of making a $200 million movie and kind of betting the farm on one character, you can develop a television pilot, a television series," Iger told analysts this month.

Disney would benefit the most from new characters that Disney and Marvel develop together because the company would own the franchises outright instead of simply receiving licensing fees from the movies that Sony Corp. and News Corp.'s Fox produce on their own. Those deals last until Sony and Fox stop making the movies.

New characters could also be a boon for fans who are tiring of sequels.

Analysts note that when Disney does land a hit, it is quick to spread the success around to its other businesses.

That's why "Hannah Montana" and "High School Musical" have combined to sell billions of dollars in merchandise, and why "Cars" — a product of Disney's purchase of Pixar — is getting its own section at Disney's California Adventure theme park. Conversely, Pirates of the Caribbean was a theme park ride decades before it became a huge movie franchise.

"What Disney does better than anyone else is they leverage content across multiple platforms," Miller said. "When Disney has a hit film property, it uplifts and enhances all the other businesses."

Superman Loves Spider-Woman

Superhero fan films are one thing, but Bollywood films based on comics... Well, they're usually an entirely different kind of awesome.

Take, for example, 1988's "Dariya Dil." In one sequence posted on YouTube, stars Govinda and Kimi Katkar suit up as Superman and Spider-Woman, respectively, for a song-and-dance number. Along with showing off their slick moves while flying through the air, the pair also take a break to toss some bad guys around — right before they kick off the next dance number, that is.

Now that is the sort of Marvel/DC crossover we probably won't see in the comics any time soon.

Hey, it's a slow day, okay?