Monday, January 12, 2009

News - 01/12/09...

Nick Wants More Penguins of Madagascar

Nickelodeon has ordered an additional 26 episodes of the upcoming CG-animated comedy series The Penguins of Madagascar, a co-production of DreamWorks Animation SKG. The pick-up brings the total order to 52 installments of the show, which will premiere on Nickelodeon following the network’s 22nd Annual Kids' Choice Awards on Saturday, March 28 at 9:30 p.m. (ET/PT). The series will then move to its regular timeslot on Saturdays at 10 a.m. beginning April 4.

Based on characters form the hit DreamWorks Animation feature film Madagascar, The Penguins of Madagascar follows the adventures of Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private, four penguins who fancy themselves an elite commando strike force operating from their Central Park Zoo headquarters. While the brothers have their flippers full keeping their multi-species zoo neighborhood happy, their secret missions sometimes lead them to venture out to New York City's busy subways and sewer systems. Just when they think they have things under control, they get a new neighbor in BoldJulien, a party animal and self-proclaimed “King of the Lemurs.” Throughout the season, the show will introduce new animals while bringing back old friends from the theatrical films.

“Our partnership with DreamWorks Animation has yielded a true gem in The Penguins of Madagascar,” says Cyma Zarghami, president of Nickelodeon and MTVN Kids and Family Group. “We're excited to be bringing these characters to our audience with the same level of excellence they have come to expect from the hit Madagascar feature films.”

Produced at the Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif, the series is exec produced by Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley, (Disney's Kim Possible, Hercules, Sky High) and features the voices of Tom McGrath as Skipper and Andy Richter as Mort. Additional voices include Jeff Bennett (Enchanted) as Kowalski, James Patrick Stuart (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) as Private, John DiMaggio (Futurama) as Rico, Nicole Sullivan (Mad TV) as Marlene and Danny Jacobs (Futurama) as Julien, King of the Lemurs. Sneak peeks at the show premiered on Nickelodeon over Thanksgiving weekend, drawing an average of 14 million viewers.

Ghostbusters Game Set for June

The Ghostbusters are back with an all-new adventure in time for their 25th anniversary, and this time it’s an interactive spook hunt. Atari announced today that Ghostbusters: The Video Game is set for release across North America on Tuesday, June 16, before rolling out worldwide release on June 19th. Created in partnership with Sony Pictures Consumer Products and acclaimed development studios Terminal Reality and RedFly, the game is written by original Ghostbusters writers and stars Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, and reunites many of the original cast members.

Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson also reprise their roles for the game, which takes place two years after the events in
Ghostbusters II. Manhattan is once again overrun by ghosts and supernatural forces, and the player must join the original team as a new recruit and test a variety of unique gadgets and other tools for tracking and wrangling the many phantasms plaguing New York City.

Atari will release
Ghostbusters: The Video Game for PlayStation3, PlayStation2 Xbox 360, Windows, Wii and Nintendo DS. The launch will coincide with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's worldwide debut of the original Ghostbusters motion picture on Blu-ray Disc.

Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II
grossed more than $500 million at the box office worldwide. To further celebrate the 25th anniversary, Sony Pictures Consumer Products has licensed the property for several new commemorative products including toys, t-shirts, comic books, prop replicas, and a theme park attraction. In addition, the original Ghostbusters car (Ecto-1) has been fully restored with plans for special promotional appearances throughout the U.S., with additional replicas touring Europe. The Blu-ray Disc release of Ghostbusters will feature Slimer Mode, a picture-in-picture graphical viewing experience, a featurette on the refurbishing of Ecto-1, and more.

More Toei Toons On Crunchyroll

Galaxy Express 999 and Captain Harlock are the latest anime series from Japanese animation production studio Toei Animation Co. Ltd. to join the offerings at online video outlet Crunchyroll. The shows are available today with streaming, subscription and download-to-own options at The episodes can be purchased for $1.99 apiece, and Crunchyroll will also be providing bundle options for each series.

Galaxy Express 999 takes place in the distant future and revolves around Tetsuro, a human boy who wants his body replaced with a robotic one. To do so, he has to reach the Immortal Planet onboard the space train Galaxy Express 999. He is joined on the long journey through space by Maetel, a beautiful and mysterious blonde woman dressed in Russian style. Each episode has them arriving in a new planet's space train station.

Captain Harlock
is set in the year is 2977. Mankind has become complacent and stagnant, devoting its time to entertainment while machines do all the work. When a mysterious invader from the stars catches Earth unaware, only the legendary space pirate Captain Harlock and the crew of the Arcadia have the will to stand against them.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Calif., Crunchyroll is a leading online entertainment brand focused on Asian entertainment including anime, drama and music. Other Toei animated series offered on the site include
Digimon Adventure 02, Fist of the North Star, Pretty Cure and Slam Dunk
. Crunchyroll is funded by the group Venrock and boasts a distribution channel and partnership program that delivers content to more than four million viewers worldwide. More information can be found at

Toon Boom Acquires Cambridge Animation

Toon Boom Animation Inc. announced that it has closed a definitive agreement with competitor Cambridge Animation Systems to acquire all of the Intellectual Property of Cambridge and the Animo animation software product line. Toon Boom says the acquisition furthers its market consolidation strategy in the global animation industry and reinforces its leadership in the media, entertainment and educational arenas.

“We welcome Animo customers to Toon Boom,” says Toon Boom president and CEO Joan Vogelesang. “Toon Boom caters to the needs of the animation community at large and will continue to remain on the leading edge of technology, efficiency and creative freedom. As a proponent of digital pipelines, media convergence and 2D/3D integration, this acquisition is expected to accelerate Toon Boom's objective in delivering powerful animation solutions.”

Cambridge Animation Systems’ presence in Europe and Asia will allow ToonBoom to continue to strengthen its market position as a primary technology partner for animation projects globally.

“Toon Boom was the natural partner to pass on the torch and see the global animation industry benefit from this market and technology consolidation,” remarks Cambridge’s Cormac Slevin.

Emmy-winning Toon Boom’s client base runs the gamut from major studios to individual animators working out of home studios. Leading companies using its software solutions include Nelvana, Warner Bros., Mercury Filmworks, China Central Television, Toonz Animation India, eMation, Rough Draft Korea, Alphanim, Cosgrove Hall, Cromosoma and Enarmonia, to name a few. High-profile productions completed with Toon Boom’s technology include Les Triplettes de Belleville, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, The Rugrats, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, Curious George, Go West: A New Lucky Luke Adventure and The Simpsons Movie. For additional information, go to Toon Boom at

Verbinski Explores RPGs for Universal

Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski wants to venture into the darker side of massively multiplayer online role-play games for the big screen. According to Daily Variety, the filmmaker and Universal Pictures have acquired a 2007 Wall Street Journal article about someone who has abandon his real life in favor of living as an animated avatar in a virtual world. Verbinski plans to direct and produce the pic from a screenplay by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises).

The film will be based on Alexandra Alter’s article about a diabetic, chain-smoking 53-year-old married man who spends up to 20 hours a day online, where he is a wealthy, musclebound entrepreneur. Verbinski will produce through his Universal-based Blind Wink Prods., along with WAM Films’ Alain Chabat, Stephanie Danan and Sarah Shepard.

This is the second video-game related movie Verbinski has signed on to direct for Universal. He is also helming a vfx-laden, live-action version of Take Two Interactive’s hit sci-fi survival game Bioshock. In addition, he is producing Universal’s remake of the popular Korean monster movie The Host, and is developing his first animated feature, Rango, with Johnny Depp on board to provide the voice of the title dog in the Paramount flick.

Nolan Up for DGA Award

A few years ago, it would have seemed far-fetched for a filmmaker to be up for major awards for directing a comic-book movie. With The Dark Knight, director and co-writer Christopher Nolan has not only helped to legitimize the superhero genre, but has also managed to put himself on track to land an Oscar nomination for his work on a film involving a caped crusader. The Directors Guild of America (DGA) has announced that Nolan is one of five nominees for the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for 2008.

Nolan faces tough competition from Danny Boyle for Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire, David Fincher for the Paramount/Warner Bros. release The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Ron Howard for Universal’s Frost/Nixon and Gus Van Sant for Focus Features’ Milk. The winner will be named at the 61st Annual DGA Awards Dinner on Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Hyatt Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

The DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film has traditionally been one of the industry's most accurate barometers for who will win the Best Director Academy Award. Only six times since the DGA Awards began in 1948 has the Feature Film winner not gone on to win the corresponding Academy Award.

"Creature Features" host Bob Wilkins dead at 76

"Don't stay up late, it's not worth it."

So deadpanned creator and host Bob Wilkins, wearing thick nerd glasses and smoking a huge cigar, on his Creature Features show on the San Francisco Bay Area's KTVU Channel 2 in the early 1970s.

Wilkins, whose love of bad science fiction and horror flicks presaged Mystery Science Theater 3000, died peacefully Wednesday in Reno, Nevada at 76. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for the past several years.

In another incarnation, as host of KTVU's 1977-79 afternoon kids' program Captain Cosmic, Wilkins brought the anime series Uchu Senkan Yamato (also known as Spaceship Yamato and Star Blazers) to the continental United States. He also aired Gerry Anderson's British 1960s stop-action series Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

Wilkins began Captain Cosmic after the huge success of Star Wars -- and having vacationed in Hawaii the previous year and seen the enormous popularity of Japanese superhero TV shows in the Aloha State.

As Captain Cosmic (and accompanied by robot sidekick 2T2, a spoof of Star Wars' R2D2), Wilkins started the show with the original Flash Gordon serial, then went with the live-action 1966 Japanese series The Space Giants (Maguma Taishi). Other shows reaching Northern California through his 1977-79 show included Ultraman, Johnny Sokko & His Flying Robot and Spectreman.

In order to reach a wider audience, the Japanese series were shown dubbed in English rather than in Japanese with English subtitles, as had been aired in Hawaii.

These serials were shown dubbed in English rather than in Japanese with English subtitles in order to appeal to a wider audience.

Cosmic, who flew around the galaxy with 2T2, was "faster than a speeding BART train," the half-hour show's opening sequence declared.

"I was disguised," Wilkins once recalled. "I had a cape on and a helmet that covered my face, so you couldn't tell who I was.

"But of course, by the voice, people knew it was me. The younger kids didn't know who it was because they couldn't stay up late at night and watch the horror movies."

Born Robert Gene Wilkins in Hammond, Indiana on April 11, 1932, he was the only boy among seven children. The son of a steelworker, Wilkins served in the Korean War. He later graduated from Indiana University with a marketing degree.

Working at a Chicago advertising agency, Wilkins started in the mailroom and became a copywriter.

In 1963, he moved to California. That year, he first appeared on air at Sacramento's KCRA. He was writing and producing commercials for the station when he was hired as a substitute host the following year for an afternoon movie show.

Wilkins won his own timeslot in the fall of 1966, hosting the late-night Seven Arts Theater.

In 1971, KTVU hired to host Creature Features, known for its cinematic stinkers (Ed Wood Jr.'s Plan 9 From Outer Space was first seen in the Bay Area on his show).

Wilkins gave up hosting Creature Features in 1979, handing the job to San Francisco Chronicle writer John Stanley. On Sacramento's KTXL, he continued Seven Arts Theatre from 1971 to 1981.

After retiring, he moved to Reno. In late life, he continued to make appearances at comic book and fantasy festivals.

Sally Wilkins told the San Francisco Chronicle that her husband remained active about his family and helping others during his retirement years. While she was in church in Reno, Wilkins would paint over graffiti in the Nevada city.

"I don't think he ever realized how many young people he influenced," Sally Wilkins said. "Every once in a while, a person would recognize him on the street and say, 'Hey, you're the guy I would watch from my bedroom late at night.'"

Besides his wife, Wilkins is survived by children Rob and Nancy.

Condolences can be e-mailed to Scott Moon, who maintained a Web site about Wilkins (, will will pass them along to the Wilkins family.

The family is planning a memorial for fans in coming weeks, Sally Wilkins said.

Aronofsky A No Go

MTV's Splash Page recently looked into the persistent chatter about an adaptation of famed wandering assassin with child in manga Lone Wolf and Cub, directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Pi)

From the post:

“I’d love to do that. It’s one of [Japan's] great pieces of literature. ” Aronofsky told MTV.

“The rights from Japan were never cleared,” Aronofsky related. “They tried for a while. I don’t think it’s getting out of there anytime soon.”


Imagi, animators of the new Astro Boy are testing interest levels for T28 with a CG sizzle reel for a remote controlled giant robot Tetsujin 28.

Creative Director of Imagi Animation Studios Felix Ip also offers Tetsujin 28 openings over the decades

On a related note, a reminder that Tetsujin 28 redesigns aren't always for the best

The Business

Japan Probe reports on the growing concern with the shrinking number of animators employed in Japan.

Most studios outsource the actual drawing and animation portions of their projects to other Asian countries, a practice that could hurt future development of the industry. Some believe that individuals must spend decades doing animation grunt work before working as directors or story planners. They fear that outsourcing all that manual labor reduces the amount of anime-related jobs in Japan and it could lead to a shortage of Japanese people capable of creating anime masterpieces.

"G.I. Joe" Movie Site Online

Superhero Hype reports that Paramount has opened a website for the upcoming film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Right now, the site has only the logo and credits, and allows visitors to register for updates.

The film will hit theaters on August 7, 2009.

Music Copyrights Threaten Nina Paley's "Sita Sings the Blues"

Nina Paley's critically acclaimed feature film Sita Sings the Blues cannot be distributed due to music licensing issues over the 1920's recordings of singer Annette Hanshaw, according to an interview with Paley at and on Paley's weblog. The music label that holds the copyright on the compositions is currently demanding $50,000 (down from $220,000 quoted earlier), with additional payments per home video unit sold (DVD, download, or on-demand) and for every $1 million in ticket sales at the box office. The on-going conflict with the rights-holders has been raised by technology website Boing Boing and by film critic Roger Ebert in his rave review of the movie.

All DC Films On Hold At Warner Bros.

I know, surprising huh!?

You'd think they'd want to rush a few guy-in-tights movies into production after the wad of cash "The Dark Knight" made for the Burbank babes.

According to David Goyer, of "Batman Begins" and "Blade" fame, Warner Bros have pressed pause on their superhero projects for the time being.

"A lot of the DC movies at Warner Brothers are all on hold while the figure out, they're going to come up with some new plan, methodology, things like that so everything has just been pressed pause on at the moment", the writer/director tells IESB. ''It was the double header of both Iron Man and The Dark Knight coming out, so more than ever I think they've realized, I think DC was responsible for 50% of Warner Brother's revunue this year, something crazy like that, so they realized that comic books, it's become a new genre, one of the most successful genres."

Among the superhero projects that Warner Bros have in development :

Justice League of America - George Miller is attached to direct a superhero team-up movie. Megan Gale, Teresa Palmer and Adam Brody onboard to play Wonder Woman, Talia Al Ghul and The Flash, respectively.

Super Max
- Goyer has penned this "Green Arrow" film in which the emerald-toned superhero is sent to a Maximum Security Prison. Apparently Superman and The Joker might make cameo appearances, among other popular comic characters.

The Flash
- OriginBoldaBoldlly set to be directed by Goyer, David Dobkin ("Wedding Crashers") has now taken over the reigns on this fast-man feature. Ryan Reynolds was set to play the character when Goyer was involved, but that's no longer the case.

The Man of Steel -
The sequel to "Superman Returns" will see Kal-El going head-to-head with a new villain. This one is always on-and-off at the WB. Nobody seems that confident to make it. Might they just end up going with Mark Millar's "Superman" trilogy reboot idea?

Batman 3
- The inevitable second sequel to "Batman Begins". All those rumours you've read - Eddie Murphy as The Riddler, Shia LaBeouf as Robin - can be taken with a mound of salt.

Wonder Woman
- Joel Silver has been trying to get a feature film version off the ground for years. They paused momentarily while Miller tried to get his "Justice League"

Talia Al Ghul Gets Apprenticeship

Teresa Palmer ("Bedtime Stories", "2:37", the ill-fated "Justice League of America") has snagged a plum role in Disney's live-action "Sorcerers Apprentice" movie, according to THR.

The flick, headlined by Nicolas Cage, will see Adelaide-bred Palmer playing the love interest of the Apprentice (played by "Tropic Thunder" co-star Jay Baruchel).

Taking its cues from the classic Goethe and Paul Dukas-inpsired Mickey Mouse portion of "Fantasia," the live-action feature centers on an apprentice (Baruchel) who is left to tend to a magic workshop when his sorcerer master (Cage) leaves it in his hands. The apprentice gets a broomstick to do his chores for him, but things get out of Boldcontrol when the broom develops a mind of its own.

Jon Turteltaub is directing; Jerry Bruckheimer is producing.

Palmer, of course, is still attached to play Talia Al Ghul in the "Justice League" film which Warner insisit is still very much happening (they just won't talk dates).

10 videogames that redefine science fiction

There's not a lot of variety in the way videogames present science fiction. For various reasons, game designers prefer to stick with what people already know. This means Star Wars, Blade Runner, and Aliens. The reluctance to go to unfamiliar places has been part of why there's an oppressive sameness to videogaming in general, and sci-fi videogames in particular. Where is videogaming's sci-fi with a twist? Where are our Gattica, Dark City, Clockwork Orange, and WALL-E?

The answer is they're there if you look.

10) Multiwinia

You've never seen carnage quite like this before. Each map in Multiwinia is a battleground where the weapons are centipedes, spiders, ants, UFOs, plagues, firebombing, nuclear strikes, and meteors, plus the obligatory hundreds of pew-pew lasers. In this violent digital landscape, you'll see hints of some sort of civilization and culture: statues, temples, holy trees, and the masses of shuffling jostling multiwinians themselves. It helps if you've played Darwinia, the predecessor puzzle game that explained how this weird virtual reality came to be so violent. Believe it or not, the reason is spam email.

9) Outcast

In many ways, this 1999 game was before its time, using voxel technology (don't ask) for the landscapes and a fancy AI for the non-player characters as they went about their daily lives. It had a very Stargate sort of plot, with a scientist and some military accomplices going through a dimensional portal to explore the other side. Once there, they find a fully-realized world, complete with its own inhabitants, history, ecology, religion, and cultural groups. There was very little in this game that felt like it had been lifted from the usual sci-fi templates, and this was further reinforced by everything having a strange new name. Perhaps credit goes to the fact that the developers were Belgian, which is a bit like France, but a little funkier.

8) Myst and its sequels

More games need to borrow from Jules Verne. Myst's 19th Century brass and mahogany aesthetic still looks great. These bright bubble dimensions are the kind of places you want to go when you look at them: idyllic, quaint, and somehow slightly eerie with all those unexplained moving parts. I wonder what that crank does...?

7) StarTopia

If there's one thing missing from videogaming sci-fi, it's humor. StarTopia has the guts to refuse to take itself seriously, and the comedic chops to pull it off. It had a little bit of The Sims, a little bit of Silent Running, a little bit of Dungeon Keeper, a lot of different aliens with character, and everything very British and tongue-in-cheek. It's no coincidence that this space station sim from 2001 was dedicated to Douglas Adams.

6) Out of This World

This 1991 2D game told the story of a scientist accidentally beamed to another planet, where he has to evade predators, escape slavers, and ultimately work with a friendly alien. It was notable for how it didn't use any text to tell its story (think of it as the videogame version of WALL-E), but it was still remarkably cinematic, thanks to smooth animation and lush graphics of a fantastical alien world.

5) Rise of Legends

One part steampunk, one part straight-up Arabian Nights fantasy, and one part Stargate-inspired laser firing space cats. Some people considered it incomprehensible, but for those who took the time to see how the pieces fit together, Rise of Legends presented a unique and well thought-out blend of fantasy and sci-fi. The central conflict had to do with a space faring race corrupting the world with "dark glass", which fit nicely into the game's themes of fire, sand, and glass. Rise of Legends is also the best place to go if you're curious what a mech would look like if it had been designed by Leonardo da Vinci. The answer: utterly awesome!

4) Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

Alpha Centauri wasn't much to look at. It was a strategy game about a brown alien world covered in pink fungus. Yeah, pink. But it featured excellent writing, imaginative characters, and an intricate ecology. The premise was that representatives of Earth were sent to colonize a distant planet, but along the way, they broke up into squabbling factions. The game begins as they land separately and try to survive, prosper, and ultimately dominate, each in their own way. As far as videogames where the story world is intertwined with the gameplay, Alpha Centauri is among the best of any genre.

3) Tron 2.0

The world of TRON is a sort of cross between The Incredible Shrinking Man, that episode of Lost in Space when they turn miniature to go into the robot, and a snooty European fashion expo. It was the product of a dawning awareness in the 80s of computers, videogames, and computer-generated graphics. It featured vehicles by Syd Mead (who's much better known for his work in Blade Runner and Aliens) and costumes by Jean Giraud that have since become iconic. Oddly enough, TRON wasn't widely imitated. But Monolith's under-appreciated 2003 TRON 2.0 did a superlative job recreating the world of the movie.

2) The Fallout series

This isn't just your garden variety post-apocalypse. This is the post-apocalypse of an alternate history, in which the world was frozen in the 1950s long enough to develop fusion cars, robots, and cyberspace. But these fusion cars have sweeping Cadillac fins, these robots are clumsy retro hulks, and this cyberspace is sepia toned. And then along came a nuclear holocaust and ruined it all. The beauty of Fallout is that even though it takes place in the ruins, it still presents a vivid picture of the unique world before the bombs.

1) BioShock

BioShock is the story of an underwater city, built out of an ideology that has exiled itself from the real world, but gone horribly wrong. Social engineering has created a twisted art deco and fascist dystopia, populated by Big Daddies, Little Sisters, ravenous Adam-addled splicers, a twisted entertainer, a cowardly gangster, and a mysterious mastermind. Although the actual world is restricted and linear, it's one of the most thoroughly realized videogaming worlds, and a best-case example of what happens when talented designers decide to risk going someplace videogames don't go. There aren't many games that can so directly tie their influences to Ayn Rand, the Coen brothers, and Stanley Kubrick.

Cel-ebrating Animation’s New York Roots

We’ve plugged the forthcoming It All Started Here! several times already, but once more couldn’t hurt. I also couldn’t resist posting this photo of J. J. Sedelmaier and Howard Beckerman which appeared in the Westchester section of the local NY Times on Thursday. The Times article gives a good overview of the events planned starting next Saturday around the New York area. Don’t miss this series if you live in the Northeast. You’ll hate yourself if you do. For even more details, click here.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Selick's "Coraline" premieres at Portland festival

The Henry Selick stop-motion feature film "Coraline" will hold its red-carpet world premiere Thursday, February 5 to open Oregon's Portland International Film Festival, the Northwest Film Center has confirmed.

Featuring the voice of Dakota Fanning in the title role,
Coraline will be screened at 7:30 p.m. at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

Although figures have not been formally released, Portland-based Laika Entertainment's first animated feature film has been budgeted at an estimated $35 million to $70 million. It combines computer and stop-motion animation.

After moving into a new house with her family, a girl named Coraline discovers a mysterious world hidden behind a locked door. That world echoes Coraline's real life- right down to a woman who claims to be her mother- but everything in it is somehow off and creepy. When Coraline returns to her own dimension, she is horrified to discover that her parents have been taken prisoner in the parallel world. Determined to rescue her parents, Coraline resolves to battle the evil that lives on the other side of her door.

Co-produced with Pandemonium,
will be distributed internationally by Universal Pictures.

The 32nd Portland International Film Festival runs from February 5 to 22. Drawing an audience of over 35,000, PIFF is the biggest film event in Oregon. It premieres over 100 international shorts and feature films to Portland audiences each February.

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