Monday, January 19, 2009

News - 01/19/09...

Planet 51 Trailer

Golden Tomato Award winners

The winners of Rotten Tomatoes’ Golden Tomato Award have been listed here. With a 96% fresh rating, Pixar’s WALL-E came in at number one on a list of best reviewed wide releases, with two other animated titles also making the top ten — Kung Fu Panda at number six with an 88% rating, and Bolt at number eight with 85%. In addition to wide releases, a list specifically for animated films can also be read on the site, and includes Chicago Ten and Horton Hears A Who in addition to the other previously mentioned movies.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine Promo Photo!

Hugh Jackman has sent Ain't It Cool News a note about the additional filming taking place in Vancouver right now for X-Men Origins: Wolverine along with this new promo photo featuring (from left to right) Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), Remy LeBeau/Gambit (Taylor Kitsch), Logan/Wolverine (Jackman), Victor Creed/Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber) and Silver Fox (Lynn Collins). The Gavin Hood-directed prequel opens in theaters on May 1st.

Click on the photo for a very large hi-res version!

Mary and Max opens Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival in Park City started last Thursday night, kicking off with an independent animated feature by Adam Elliot. The first reviews appearing online are intriguing - catching many veteran festival goers by surprise. Check out these quotes from Scott Foundas’ review in the LA Weekly:

For the first time in its 25-year history, the Sundance Film Festival opened Thursday night with a movie from Australia. It was also the first time the festival has opened with a feature-length animation — one, I feel confident in saying, that is among the strangest animated films ever made.

Pixar this most certainly isn’t. In fact, where most feature-length animated films, by sheer virtue of the painstaking labor involved, aim to reach the broadest possible audience,
Mary and Max — which took over a year to produce, at an average rate of five seconds of finished animation per day — is as insular and private as any live-action “personal filmmaking.”

In the eight years that I’ve been covering Sundance, this is one of the only times the opening night film has been less than a calamitous failure, and maybe the only time it has been a movie of serious ambition, worth talking, thinking and arguing about afterward.

Mary and Max is in negotiations for theatrical distribution and will hopefully open in the U.S. in 2009.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Reeves Commits to Cowboy Bebop

His sci-fi remake The Day the Earth Stood Still didn’t exactly hold the world spellbound, but Keanu Reeves is hoping for better success with a live-action adaptation of a popular anime series. Daily Variety reports that the actor is officially attached to play Spike Spiegel in 20 Century Fox’s big-screen take on the animated Japanese TV series Cowboy Bebop.

Cowboy Bebop follows the adventures of a rag-tag band of intergalactic bounty hunters who operate out of a spacecraft dubbed “Bebop.” Ringleader Spike Spiegel is long and lean with the looks of an ‘80s pop idol and the moves of Bruce Lee, and his right hand man, Jet Black, is a muscle-bound brute with a heart of gold and a titanium arm. Rounding out the team are the beautiful, but deadly, vixen Faye Valentine and adolescent computer whiz Ed, a girl perpetually in a world of her own.

Sunrise In., producer of the anime show, will reportedly play a role in the development of the live-action version. The company’s Kenji Uchida and Shinichiro Wantanabe will serve as associate producers, as will series scribe Keiko Nobumoto. In addition, series producer Masahiko Minami will act as a production consultant. The English-language screenplay is being written by Peter Craig (Nevel is the Devil) and Erwin Stoff, who produced The Day the Earth Stood Still, is producing the pic through his 3 Arts production company.

WALL•E, Bashir, Persepolis Up for BAFTAs

Director Andrew Stanton’s WALL•E, Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir and Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parannaud’s Persepolis are the nominees for this year’s BAFTA for Best Animated Film. As previously announced, Persepolis and Bashir are also among the five films up for the award for Film Not in the English Language. WALL•E will also be vying for kudos in the Sound and Music categories when the British Academy of Film and Television presents the BAFTA Awards from films released in 2008 during a ceremony on Feb. 8 at London’s Royal Opera House.

In the Short Animation category, Aardman’s TV special Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death is up against the lesser-known Codswallop from director Myles Mcleod and Varmints from Marc Craste. A Matter of Loaf and Death premiered on BBC over the Christmas holiday and scored big ratings for the public broadcaster.

Warner Bros.’
The Dark Knight, directed by British filmmaker Christopher Nolan, is nominated for a total of nine awards, including Best Special Visual Effects. Featuring work by a team led by Chris Corbould, Nick Davis, Paul Franklin and Tim Webber, the pic faces off against Warner Bros.’ The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Eric Barba, Craig Barron, Nathan McGuinness, Edson Williams), Paramount’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Pablo Helman), Paramount’s Iron Man (Shane Patrick Mahan, John Nelson, Ben Snow) and Sony’s Quantum of Solace (Chris Corbould, Kevin Tod Haug).

Dark Knight
is also recognized for music, cinematography, editing, production design, costume design, sound and makeup and hair. In addition, the superhero flick has garnered another Best Supporting Actor nomination for the late Heath Ledger, who recently won the Golden Globe in the category.

Movies up for the BAFTA for Best Film are
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button from director David Fincher, Frost/Nixon from Ron Howard, Milk from Gus Van Sant, The Reader by Stephen Daldry and Slumdog Millionaire from Danny Boyle. Slumdog, which took top honors at the Golden Globes and earned Boyle the directing prize, is also a contender for Outstanding British Film. The other nominees are Steve McQueen’s Hunger, Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, Catherine Johnson’s Mamma Mia! and James Marsh’s documentary Man on Wire
. To see the complete list of BAFTA nominees, go to,657,BA.html.

Jim Henson Co. Honors Nintendo’s Miyamoto

BoldVideo game legend Shigeru Miyamoto, general manager of Nintendo Ent., is the top recipient of this year’s Jim Henson Honors, which acknowledges organizations, individuals or products that reflect the core values and philosophy of the late Jim Henson and the company he founded. Among the other three honorees is the Electronic Arts video game Spore, the latest interactive sensation from Sims creator Will Wright and his Maxis development studio.

Jim Henson Honorees:
The Jim Henson Celebration Honor
- Shigeru Miyamoto, general manager of Nintendo Ent.,
The Jim Henson Community Honor - The Center for Puppetry Arts Distance Learning Center, a non-profit arts organization
The Jim Henson Creativity Honor - Shepard Fairey, street artist
The Jim Henson Technology Honor - Spore, video game from Maxis and EA

As the creator of such iconic video games as Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros. and the Zelda series, and the person who ultimately oversees every Nintendo game, Miyamoto has invigorated America's love for gaming with the creation of Nintendo's hugely popular Wii console. Going beyond mere amusement, Miyamoto recently developed Wii Fit, dedicated to improving physical health and well being. In addition to giving players a workout, it is also being used as a rehabilitation tool by physical and occupational therapists to help patients with balance, endurance and core strengthening.

The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta Georgia is a unique program in which children and adults are educated, enlightened and entertained as they learn about puppetry from all over the world. Since 1978, the Center has been dedicated to giving students from all backgrounds the opportunity to learn about the fine craft of puppetry arts from the experts. With a variety of projects accompanied by study guides, teaching aids and live demonstrations presented via satellite, the CPA Distance Learning Center has introduced the art of puppetry and creative storytelling to school communities all over the U.S. and the U.K., and has inspired thousands of children to discover their own creative voice.

Los Angeles-based street artist Shepard Fairey, known for the international “Obey Giant” guerilla art campaign, is the creator of three-tone image of Barack Obama that emerged during the 2008 presidential election. The wildly popular poster featuring the single word “Hope” became a powerful symbol in the election year and demonstrates the way art can inspire and unite.

Spore gives gamers their own personal universe in a box. Players build their own galaxy from scratch, modeling unique creatures and evolving them over time so that they can survive and thrive in an ever-changing virtual world.

The Jim Henson Honors was established in 2005. Criteria used in the evaluation process include a commitment to creativity, innovative applications of art and technology, and inspiration of others. The winners were announced by Jim Henson Co. co-CEOs Brian Henson and Lisa Henson.

Lost cartoon investment not my fault, says creator

British investors who lost over £500,000 ($741,000 U.S.) in a failed TV cartoon series weren't cheated, insists a mom who created the show.

Recruited through a network of family and friends, over 500 people bought shares in 2001 in Alison Mackenzie's idea for Bagees -- humanoid cartoon characters based on various bags "living" under the stairs in a hotel cupboard. Featuring dozens of talking bags, the stories were originally written for her children in the 1980s.

The cartoon got as far as an an animated pilot episode, which took up much of the money. It featured handbags, a golf bag and a laundry sack.

However, investors only learned that their cash was lost on Monday, when Mackenzie, 52, of Walderslade, Kent, admitted during an interview with BBC South East that the company was now insolvent.

"I regret their dream was not realized," she said. "It could have so easily gone the other way."

"She just disappeared, you know," said Dani Bradford, a friend of Mackenzie who designed the original characters. "There were updates on Web sites. Suddenly, the Web site disappeared.

"It's hurtful more than anything, you've put so much into it, and so many people believed and put so much into it."

In March 2007, the Medway Messenger reported that questions began to sprout after Mackenzie stopped answering investors' letters and phone calls. The following month, Mackenzie contacted the paper to say -- in an echo of Monty Python's "dead parrot" sketch -- that Bagees weren't dead, just dormant.

Cosgrove Hall, the animation studio which produces Postman Pat, agreed to work on the project if certain conditions were met. However, "the idea failed to attract any support or a broadcast contract," the BBC reported.

Mackenzie's most recent statements had asserted that the shareholders' funds was valued at over £300,000 ($445,000). Her Web site -- when it was in operation -- suggested that the Bagees were expected to be a success.

"I was most surprised to see Alison Mackenzie's interview with the BBC stating she had apologized to all the investors of Bagees," said Kevin More, one of the investors.

"This is the first I've heard of any apology to her investors, that the company is now insolvent and she has lost all our money," he added. "I have personally lost over £1,200 [$1,800], with my family losing another £600 [$900].

"I am shocked by this announcement, however, not surprised, as she disappeared a couple of years ago, changing her contact details and not replying to any correspondence. She always seems to have a good sympathy angle with the media, but no regard for her investors or the money she has lost them.

"As this money was raised through family and friends, you would expect her to treat them better."

Bernice Welland, of Biggin Hill, invested over £400 ($590). She then talked 20 others into giving a total of £13,000 ($19,300).

"I got a couple of phone calls from Alison, and she asked me would I have any friends or family who would like to invest and become shareholders, and they did, because they all thought the same as me," Welland said. "They were good stories, they were good drawings, and it was a lovely idea for children, it really was a lovely idea."

Asked by the BBC why she hadn't provided investment updates on her company Web site as she had promised, Mackenzie replied: "All I can do is apologize. I was really at the end of my tether by then. I'd tried absolutely everything, I had no more to give. What else could I say other than we've got no more money."

"It [the company] is insolvent. The accounts are still filed, but it's a dormant company," said Mackenzie, who had invested thousands of pounds of her own money.

"I regret the distress and upset for the shareholders, but I never intended it to be like that, it snowballed out of control."

Given the sack: characters from Alison Mackenzie's failed Bagees series.

Three's a crowd in E. European cartoon bed scene

A peasant, his eyes bugging out, watches a naughty princess lifting her skirt and showing him her posterior. Then he gives her a pig.

And then the princess gets in bed with two men.

That's what's found in just one episode of a kids' cartoon being shown during the lunch hour in Romania. And TV bureaucrats say they can't ban the show, since it's being aired by Miramax, which is licensed in the neighboring Czech Republic.

Aired daily at noon, Stories from Magyar Folklore is intended for kiddies under five. However, the show has become a cult fave with students and teenagers, and is scoring in the ratings.

Another episode depicts a serving girl wiggling her bare bottom in the face of a king in exchange for jewels.

Romanian TV watchdogs have complained to Miramax about the cartoons' "indecent content."

"They are not suitable for young children and should not be on the air at all, let alone on a children's channel," British tabloid The Sun quoted an angry mom as saying.

Cheeky behavior: Stories from Magyar Folklore offers stories that are popular beyond its intended pre-school audience.

"Watership Down" composer Angela Morley dies, 84

Oscar-nominated transgender composer Angela Morley, who provided music for the 1978 animated feature film Watership Down, died Wednesday in a Scottsdale, Arizona hospice. She was 64.

Morley wrote most of the score for Watership Down, although the prelude and opening was by Malcolm Williamson.

The orchestrator for Ralph Bakshi's Fire And Ice (1983), Morley died peacefully following a long struggle with cancer. Her beloved partner Chris and other family members at her side.

Last Boxing Day, she suffered a fall in the bathroom at her home in Scottsdale which broke her hip. Prompt surgery satisfactorily dealt with this injury, but complications soon set in.

Originally credited under her birth name Wally Stott, she underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1972.

Morley was nominated for Oscars for orchestrating and arranging the music for The Little Prince (1974) and The Slipper and the Rose (1976).

In 1971 -- already credited as Angela Morley -- she composed for It Furthers One To Have Somewhere To Go, an episode of Halas and Batchelor Cartoon Films' Condition of Man series.

Wally Stott was born in Leeds, Yorkshire on March 10, 1924. He started in bands at age 15 as an alto-saxophonist, and with other musicians being conscripted with the start of the war, he was in demand. He also started writing arrangements. He was principal saxophonist with the Oscar Rabin Band and the Geraldo Orchestra from 1944, where he wrote swing, symphonic and choral arrangements for it.

He studied with Hungarian composer Matyas Seiber, who lived in London, and took a conducting course given by German-born Walter Goehr. He was mentored by Canadian composer Robert Farnon, and became a light music composer best known for "Rotten Row" and "A Canadian in Mayfair." An early LP was London Pride (1958).

Stott also wrote the music for the seminal comedy program Hancock’s Half Hour, and was the musical director for The Goon Show throughout the 1950s. In 1962 and 1963, he arranged and conducted the British entries for the Eurovision Song Contest, "Ring-A-Ding Girl" and "Say Wonderful Things," both sung by Ronnie Carroll. He worked with Shirley Bassey and Dusty Springfield, and arranged the first three highly regarded LPs by Scott Walker.

After transitioning to Angela Morley, she moved to Los Angeles. She scored many episodes of Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest, Hotel, Wonder Woman and many other series in the 1980s. She moved to Scottsdale in 1994.

Morley twice shared Emmy Awards for music direction: for the specials Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas (1987) and Julie Andrews in Concert (1990).

Coraline sneak peek

I’ll keep it brief: Go see this film!

I saw Laika’s Coraline tonight and, despite the publicists request to embargo reviews for three weeks, I can’t stifle my enthusiasm. It’s great! A beautiful little gem, a stop-motion masterpiece and certainly Henry Selick’s best film.

The Academy has its first contender for 2009. I will have a lot more to say about the movie in future post… but here are a few more superlatives: The animation is terrific. The art direction is fantastic. Shane Prigmore, who did the 2D animation the replacement faces were based on, is the unsung hero of this show - his work is superb! And yeah, the story is solid. They Might Be Giants have a cameo song in the film! And speaking of cameo’s, there is a nifty visual tribute to Joe Ranft…

That’s all I’ll say about it for now. However I’m a bit concerned about the marketing. The bus posters and billboards (particularly one at Hollywood and Highland) are not very attractive. This film has so many incredible visuals, surely something more compelling than this could be created. Memo to Focus Features: you have a hit on your hands, please tell the world.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Forbes on the Rescue of Imagi's "Astro Boy"

Forbes discusses how the current financial climate has made life difficult for Imagi Animation Studios, currently deep into production of the CGI animated adaptation Astro Boy. Recent news indicated that Imagi was facing a short-term cash flow problem that threatened to scuttle the studio, and Forbes expands on the story by noting that CEO Douglas Glen had secured US$30 million in financing during the summer of 2008, but that $20 million of it fell through by mid-November. However, the firm was promised $20 million in replacement financing in December, allowing production to continue.

Bruce Timm Talks "Wonder Woman;" New Screenshots Released

Ground-breaking animation legend Bruce Timm heads an impressive cast and crew as producer of “Wonder Woman,” the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe animated original PG-13 movies due from Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation on March 3, 2009. Warner Home Video will distribute the all-new film, which will also be available OnDemand and Pay-Per-View as well as available for download day and date, March 3, 2009.

Fans in the greater Gotham area will have a chance to see the premiere of “Wonder Woman” at New York ComicCon on Friday, February 6 in the IGN Theatre at The Javits Center. Timm will lead the post-premiere panel and also be available for autographs during a midday signing session on Saturday, February 7.

Timm is the creative force behind many of Warner Bros. Animation’s greatest modern-day successes, driving DC Comics’ most recognized super heroes to new heights of popularity as the focal point of television series and made-for-DVD films. Timm’s current mission has been as producer of the DC Universe animated original movies, and the first three – “Superman Doomsday,” “Justice League: The New Frontier” and “Batman Gotham Knight” – have met with both critical raves and consumer success.

The three-time Emmy Award winner stole a few moments from his work on the next DC Universe film to discuss the evolution of the made-for-DVD movies, Lauren Montgomery’s rise to stardom, his 20-year working collaboration with Andrea Romano, and Wonder Woman’s boots.

QUESTION: What progression have you seen through the first four films in the DC Universe animated original movies series?

The thing I like most about this whole ongoing project is that each of these movies really does have a different, unique feel. It would have been very, very easy and frankly a lot simpler and cost effective to stay in that TV series design style and world view. But each of these movies really does have a unique feel – in the design, the score, the cast, even the title sequences. We’ve been able to expand creatively and that makes these productions fun.

QUESTION: You’re known for revolutionizing the animated look of DC characters in several landmark TV series. What was the thought process behind the character design in this film?

We didn’t want to do anything that even remotely looked like what we have done with Wonder Woman on Justice League. She presents a challenge because she needs to be drop-dead gorgeous, but also very, very strong both physically and emotionally. She’s a powerful presence and we had to find that balance between athleticism and glamour.

Lauren (Montgomery) really took the lead on the design of Wonder Woman herself, and I think she came up with a very unique approach. It’s not like anything you've seen from the comics, though we did look at a lot of the comics for inspiration. We liked the George Perez version and Adam Hughes' version, and all points in between. But there are a lot of the things that Adam and George brought to the character that were so specific and detail-oriented that they wouldn't necessarily translate to animation. We wanted to keep the number of lines down to a minimum – to create a relatively simple and straight-forward design. It was quite a challenge, but I think the design Lauren came up with is exactly what it needs to be.

QUESTION: Were there any specific design elements you wanted to include?

A character like Wonder Woman is so iconic and yet, over the course of her history, there have been lots of subtle changes. We couldn't stray too far from the comic book look, but you do have a certain amount of leeway in terms of how you interpret those elements for animation. It sounds really insignificant, but one of the things that we specifically liked about Adam Hughes' most recent take on Wonder Woman was that he gave her kind of baggy boots – instead of those super tight go-go boot-type things. They kind of flare out at the bottom and they’re flats, not heels. That made her more athletic – it kind of planted her and gave her a solidity that we really liked. It’s a minor change, but it had an effect on her design.

QUESTION: What sets Wonder Woman apart from the first three DCU films and prior incarnations of the character?

One of the things that really intrigued us the most about the whole Wonder Woman mythology is the actual mythology of it. Her character has distinct roots in classic Greek mythology, so we really played that up. The movie actually starts with a fairly long, epic battle that takes place in ancient times. It’s swords and sorcery, die-hard Amazon warriors versus monsters and barbarians. We worked hard to establish the character design, the costume details, the weaponry design and the background styling and I think, within the first 30 seconds of watching the movie, you're going to think, “Wow, this doesn't look anything like we've done before.” It’s noticeably a quantum leap away from the first three movies.

Beyond the mythology, Wonder Woman gets to play with several dichotomies. It’s Amazon culture versus man's world; ancient mythological times versus the contemporary world; and, of course, all the male and female issues. All of those conflict themes run throughout the entire movie – in the script and visually – and I think it all comes together and gels unlike anything we've ever done.

QUESTION: How did Lauren Montgomery earn the opportunity to sit in the director’s chair?

Lauren is one of the fastest rising artists I’ve ever worked with. When we first started working with her on Justice League, she really hit the ground running. She was still relatively inexperienced – she’d only had a couple of jobs in animation at that point – and even today I seem to forget that she’s actually still quite young. But on Justice League, we could see she had a lot of potential and her stuff was really good. Every time she would turn in a new storyboard, we'd be like, “Wow, who did this? This is really good.” And every month, she just kept topping herself. She was really paying attention and obviously on this really fast-tracked learning curve – she was teaching herself, absorbing everything around her. She was this sponge, sucking up all of our perspectives and developing her own unique sensibilities. Within a really short period of time, she became our best storyboard artist. Those are the people we recruit to become directors.

QUESTION: What does Lauren Montgomery bring specifically to Wonder Woman?

Just from a purely practical standpoint, having her as a director means that I don’t have to worry about things. I know she’s looking at the storyboards – and I know she’s going to catch all the little things and fix them. If a storyboard isn’t up to speed with the caliber of the rest of the film, she's going to stay late and re-draw it herself – and plus it and to make it a thousand times better.

She's smart and very detail-oriented, and very well-rounded in terms of her areas of expertise. That was important on this film. Some directors are really, really good at directing action, but they don’t really care so much about the drama, other directors are the exact opposite. Lauren is excellent at both. She knows how to push the envelope on an action scene, and she’s probably the best director of acting that I’ve ever work with. She’s the complete package.

QUESTION: Can you give an example of Lauren Montgomery’s expertise in directing animation “acting”?

We rely on our storyboard artists to really inject acting into the storyboard drawings as a key for the overseas animators. We’re blessed with really, really excellent vocal performances on these films, but you need a very good storyboard artist to act out the character's motions and emotions in simple drawings.

There's a short sequence in Superman Doomsday where, after Superman has died, Lois Lane goes to meet Martha Kent for the first time. It’s a very simple, subtle scene – just two women meeting and commiserating with each other over the loss of Superman. It's shot very simply with two-shots and close-ups. The thing that makes this scene so powerful is the very clear emotion on the character's faces, and that was the sequence Lauren storyboarded. When you look at it on the screen, it’s as though we got really good actresses giving performances charged with emotion in their specific facial expressions and body language. Ultimately, it was Lauren’s storyboard and direction that really brought that scene to life.

QUESTION: Can you define the greatness that is Andrea Romano.

What can I say about Andrea that I haven’t said a zillion times before? She's brilliant. It’s actually tough for me to even compare because I’ve been blessed with Andrea on every single project that I’ve done as a producer since 1990.

She knows me so well that half the time I don’t even have to give notes during a recording because she’s already anticipated what I’m going to say. And if do have to say something, I barely get half the sentence out before she finishes the sentence for me.

The main aspect of Andrea’s job is that she needs to get performances out of the actors that the producers and directors want. It has to fit our vision of the scene and the film. As dialogue is written on the page, you could have 30 different line readings of any individual line – it really depends on what else is happening in the scene or the intent of that specific line of dialogue. But Andrea has an obvious natural instinct for the meaning of the line. Most importantly, she knows how to translate that information into actor-ese to get that performance. She can put our thoughts into words so that the actors can understand where she's coming from and what’s needed for the scene. Simply put, she’s great.

QUESTION: Andrea Romano’s resume speaks for itself. Does she have a virtue we don’t normally hear about?

I’ll tell you this – one of the things I love about Andrea is that she’s fast. She just cuts right to the chase, never goes down blind alleys, and she physically talks fast. It’s funny because when I first started working with her, I didn’t think I was going to be able to keep up. She's just so full of energy, it’s like she must’ve been main lining Red Bull before every session. But that’s great for me, because I’m very ADD myself. She doesn’t equivocate, she’s just right to the point – attack, attack, attack, get it done. For me, that’s perfect.

Please visit the film’s official website at

The Anime Business

Video Business has confirmed that Navarre Corp. has laid off around 50 employees, including chief operating officer Brian Burke, 20 from the FUNimation, as well as from Navarre’s finance, information technology and operations departments, among other areas. The company’s general counsel, Ryan Urness confirmed that it represents 7% to 8% of Navarre’s total workforce

Employees who had been overseen by Burke, considered Navarre’s No. 2 business operations executive, will now report to the company’s CEO, Cary Deacon.

Urness said no further positions are targeted for elimination at this time.

“This is completely a cost-cutting initiative based on broader economic issues, which are affecting our customer base,” he said.

Robert of Robert's Anime Corner store on what's on the ascent is sales as anime's on the descent. Be sure to read the comments.

I honestly think it would be better for the Anime industry to stop focusing in bulk sales and start focusing more on quality titles delivered quickly. Studios really lost their way back in 2003-2004 when they started to focus on mass market sales, and stopped listening to the fans. Hell, they hardly listen to us anymore. Viz is making a huge mistake contracting with Warner for their HV products starting in April. Warner will relegate Viz to the garbage bin as soon as the first license comes along that doesn’t sell as well as Naruto or Bleach.

Tiamat's Disciple collects some dire portents for Tokyopop's UK operations. The comment conversation discusses the challenges of a North American manga distributor doing business in the UK.

Anime News Network reports that Japanese convenience store chain am/pm has begun testing a manga rental program. The company eventually aims to rent 100 volumes a day and generate 450,000 more yen (about US$5,000) per month in each store.

Bandai Entertainment Inc. has changed their DVD replicators to Technicolor.

“Many of our upcoming titles and back catalog will be replicated by Technicolor -- they have a pedigree in the realm of DVD replication that few can match and we are excited to be working with them moving forward on our releases,” said Director of Marketing Robert Napton.

DVD replications problems delayed the release of several Bandai titles going into the holidays.

ChrisBeveridge on why ADV Films is bothering with a Lady Death blu-ray

Is consolidation the future of online media?

Worth Checking Out...


Production I.G has posted a double interview with Junichi Fujisaku and Chiaki J. Konaka, series composers for Real Drive and Ghost Hound respectively (two anime based on concepts by Ghost in the Shell's Shirow Masamune)

Roland Kelts on Hollywood remakes of anime for Malaysia's The Star Online

Colony Drop talks Looking Death Right In The Eyes: The Biggest Anime Moments Of 2008

Erica Friedman on Ga Rei Zero Anime

Madhouse's mecha show Rideback is getting a bit of buzz Anime Vice's take, also Hajime no Ippo (Fighting Spirit)

Thought Baloons offers a graphic take on Black Jack

How to Create "an Anime Artwork" in Photoshop

SOFT POWER HARD TRUTHS / Soft power meets 'Afro Samurai'

On the non-anime/manga front, Four Questions for Animation and Cartoon Historian Jerry Beck


Anime producer and distributor Right Stuf, Inc. and its Nozomi Entertainment division are promoting January 27 release of the ARIA The NATURAL – Part 1 DVD Collection will new "virtual postcards" at the official site.

Ghibli Tour

Gainax has animated a Shuriken Girls promo for the recent Consumer Electronics Show.

stop motion Street Fighter

Astro Boy cake

A picture of the Mamoru Oshii directed stage version of Tetsujin 28 aka Gigantor
Gurren Lagann mash-ups

Anime Blade Runner

Right Wing Nationalist Manga

Richard Bazley, director for popular "Joy to the World" Sky commercial, has launched a new site.

Yokai Attack illustrator Tatsuya Morino's "Trip Trek"

Domo Kitty


The Anime Network has launched a site beta

Prime Minister Taro Aso uses Sailor Moon to demonstrate how the Japanese culture relates to reality during a visit to d South Korea.

Ghibli World presents producer Suzuki Toshio meeting Steven Soderbergh

The Hooded Utilitarian finds some Kazuo Umezu

Art in Progress has apparently made a Takashi Murakami documentary.

Yuricon is celebrating the birthday of their mascot with an art contest.

16 things you might not know about Star Trek's beloved villain Khan

Last week, Ricardo Montalban of Fantasy Island and Star Trek fame died at the age of 88. Although he worked on a variety of film and TV projects, he was particularly beloved by Star Trek fans for his portrayal of the charismatic villain Khan Noonien Singh, who first appeared in the TV episode "Space Seed" and later helped revive the Trek franchise as the show-stealing antagonist in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Khan was as mysterious as he was popular, though, and we found 16 things that even Star Trek fans might not know about the lovable superhuman tyrant.

♦ In the first treatment for "Space Seed," there was no Khan. Instead, the villain that would become Khan was first written as a Nordic superman named Harold Erricsen. That's right, Harold.

♦ In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Khan and Kirk never see each other face to face, nor did the actors. "I had to do my lines with the script girl, who, as you might imagine, sounded nothing like Bill [Shatner]," Montalban told the Toronto Sun.

♦ Khan's bridge scenes on the Reliant were filmed on the same set used for Kirk's bridge scenes on the Enterprise. Producers just redressed the set, which is one of the reasons the actors filmed their roles four months apart.

♦ Although Khan recognizes Chekov at the beginning of the movie, Chekov never appeared in the original Star Trek episode where they presumably would have met the first time. His character did not join the show until later.

♦ An early draft of the script would have had Khan and Kirk actually confront one another in person during a scene that lasted a whopping 12 pages.

♦ In another version of the script, Kirk's mission was to calm a rebellion being led by his son. But guess who was really behind the uprising? Khaaaan!

♦ Director Nicholas Meyer told Montalban to keep Khan's right glove on at all times to add mystery to the character. Viewers were left to form their own theories about why he wore the glove.

♦ There were persistent rumors that Montalban's bulging chest had been artificially enhanced for the role of Khan. In fact, the production designer created the open-chest outfit specifically to highlight the 61-year-old's robust physique.

♦ Montalban wasn't the only buff character in the movie. All of Khan's men were played by Chippendale dancers.

♦ Many reviewers, including Roger Ebert, considered Montalban's performance a highlight of the film and a key reason why it was successful. Khan was later voted the 10th greatest screen villain of all time by the Online Film Critics Society.

♦ Montalban's TV performance was singled out, too. Khan from "Space Seed" beat out the original Cmdr. Adama and the Doctor for Emmy Magazine's title of "TV's Most Out-Of-This-World Character."

♦ Executive Producer Harve Bennett had never seen an episode of Star Trek when he was hired onto the film, so he sat down and watched all the episodes. Deciding that what the previous film lacked was a good villain, he settled on Khan Noonian Singh. Thanks, Harve!

♦ We almost didn't see Khan in Star Trek II at all, though. An early draft of the film featured two new villains instead, called Sojin and Moray.

♦ Khan's wrath almost didn't make it into the movie either. The original title was The Vengeance of Khan, but was changed in deference to another science fiction movie then in the works, Revenge of the Jedi. (Which, as we all know, later ended up having its own title changed as well!)

♦ If you want to know more about Khan, look for a trilogy of novels by Greg Cox that feature his rise on Earth and also his struggles on Ceti Alpha V after being stranded there. The first one is The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, Volume One.

♦ And if you're wondering where Khan's name came from, look no further than Gene Roddenberry, who named the character after his friend Kim Noonien Singh.

'Lost in Space' actor Bob May dies at 69 in Calif.

AP – In this file photo showing the crew from the original cast of the television series 'Lost in Space' pose for a group portrait with the shows' robot in Boston in this Saturday, Dec. 2, 1995 file photo. From left in the back row are: Bob May, Bill Mumy, Mark Goddard, Jonathan Harris; in the front row from left: June Lockhart, Marta Kristen, Angela Cartwright. May, whose versatile career spanned more than 40 years and was best known for playing the robot has died. He was 69.

Bob May, who donned The Robot's suit in the hit 1960s television show "Lost in Space," has died. He was 69.

May died Sunday of congestive heart failure at a hospital in Lancaster, said his daughter, Deborah May.

He was a veteran actor and stuntman who had appeared in movies, TV shows and on the vaudeville stage when he was tapped by "Lost in Space" creator Irwin Allen to play the Robinson family's loyal metal sidekick in the series that debuted in 1965.

"He always said he got the job because he fit in the robot suit," said June Lockhart, who played family matriarch Maureen Robinson. "It was one of those wonderful Hollywood stories. He just happened to be on the studio lot when someone saw him and sent him to see Irwin Allen about the part. Allen said, 'If you can fit in the suit, you've got the job.'"

Although May didn't provide the robot's distinctive voice (that was done by announcer Dick Tufeld), he developed a following of fans who sought him out at memorabilia shows.

"Lost in Space" was a space-age retelling of "The Swiss Family Robinson" story in which professor John Robinson, his wife and their children were on a space mission when their craft was knocked hopelessly off course by the evil Dr. Zachary Smith, who became trapped in space with them.

May's robot was the Robinson family's loyal sidekick, warning them of approaching disaster at every turn. His line to one of the children, "Danger, Will Robinson," became a national catch phrase.

The grandson of famed vaudeville comedian Chic Johnson, May was introduced to show business at age 2 when he began appearing in the "Hellzapoppin" comedy revue with Johnson and his partner, Ole Olsen.

He went on to appear in numerous films with Jerry Lewis and in such TV shows as "The Time Tunnel," "McHale's Navy" and "The Red Skelton Show." He was also a stuntman in such 1950s and '60s TV shows as "Cheyenne," "Surfside 6," "Hawaiian Eye," "The Roaring 20s" and "Stagecoach."

He was particularly fond of his Robot role, once saying he came to consider the suit a "home away from home."

Lockhart said May wore the suit for hours at a time and learned the lines of every actor in the show so he would know when to respond to their cues. Because it wasn't easy to get in and out of the suit, he kept it on during breaks.

"He was a smoker," Lockhart remembered. "From time to time (when he was on a break), we'd see smoke coming out of the robot. That always amused us."

May and his wife lost their house in November when a wildfire destroyed their upscale mobile home park in the San Fernando Valley.

Survivors include his wife Judith; his daughter; his son, Martin; and four grandchildren.

Funeral services are pending.

No comments: