Wednesday, January 21, 2009

News - 01/21/09...

Obama Inauguration Prompts Spider-Man/Superman Team-Up

FROM NEWSROOM BLOG: The Hollywood studio system couldn’t make it happen, but President-elect Barack Obama pulled off a bit of movie-worthy magic yesterday. No, he didn’t make the country’s trillions of dollars in debt disappear via high-tech FX overnight before he even moves into the White House; he brought Superman and Spider-Man together in the same room to fight for the good of the nation.

OK, so maybe it was actually actors Tobey Maguire and Brandon Routh. They were on hand at Abram Simon Elementary to perform some community service as part of the president-elect’s call to community action on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. But the momentous meeting was the kind that comic geeks salivate over.

Read more about the Spider-Man and Superman team-up for Barack Obama’s inauguration at

Outnauguration Party by Joe Fournier

It was not just Inauguration Day in the United States; it’s also the first-ever Outnauguration party. Cartoonist Joe Fournier created this animated short documenting the event.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Obama Dog Decision Airs On Disney Channel

Yesterday’s Inaugural ceremony in Washington D.C. was surely the main event of President Obama’s ascent to power, but Monday kids got their own celebration on Disney Channel. Kids’ Inaugural: We Are the Future was a 1:30 hour event that featured several live performances, but viewers were also treated to some animated comedy, produced by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. The America’s Next White House Dog shorts aired before and after commercial breaks, spoofing FOX’s hit series American Idol. Hollywood-based animation studio Six Point Harness created the four shorts, which are all assembled end-to-end in this clip below.

"It All Started Here" exhibit links NYC, animation

Within a decade after the invention of the motion picture camera, New York became the United States' center for film production as well as animated cartoons for theaters.

The first true character with a mind of its own was Gertie, the Trained Dinosaur, animated in 1914. Gertie was but one of a long line of cartoon stars that would follow. Each succeeding decade introduced new characters, from Koko the Clown and Felix the Cat in the 1920s to Skrat, Manfred, Sid and Diego from the feature film Ice Age.

New York's 103-year relationship with the animation industry is explored in "It All Started Here!" an exhibit on view from Tuesday, January 20 until Friday, February 28 at The Arts Exchange, 31 Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains.

Curated by Howard Beckerman and J. J. Sedelmaier, it's presented by ArtsWestchester in partnership with J. J. Sedelmaier Productions, Inc. and Blue Sky Studios.

ArtsWestchester is partnering with Jacob Burns Film Center and The Picture House in Pelham to present exhibition-related programs that are open to the public.

The Arts Exchange
Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.
(914) 428-4220

Programs for Families

Make Your Own Zoetrope
Saturday, February 7
1 to 2 p.m.
The eye and brain work together in mysterious ways - you can bring an
animation to life. Attendance is limited.
RSVP to (914) 428-4220 x223 or

Zoom, Boing, Smash!
Saturday, February 21
1 to 2 p.m.
Fred Weinberg, renowned and award-winning sound designer and composer, leads a lecture and discussion about the creation and application of sound effects in animations.
Free and open to the public
RSVP to (914) 428-4220 x223 or

Programs for Families

ArtSpeak: Meet the Curators
Friday, January 23
Noon to 1 p.m.
Howard Beckerman and J. J. Sedelmaier.
Attendance limited.
RSVP: or call Julia Dixon at (914) 428-4220 x278

Jacob Burns Film Center
364 Manville Road, Pleasantville
(914) 747-5555

Wide World of Animation

J.J. Sedelmaier Productions
Tuesday, January 27
7:30 p.m.
Intro and Q&A with J. J. Sedelmaier, and a clip show featuring his work from television shows such as Saturday Night Live, Beavis and Butt-Head, Harvey Birdman and Strangers with Candy.

Animation for Kids
Thursday, February 5
5:30 and 7:30 p.m
Take Mighty Mouse, Tom Terrific, Deputy Dawg, add Superman and Popeye, and top it all off with a healthy serving of segments from Schoolhouse Rock and Sesame Street -- it's a recipe for pure animated fun.

Blue Sky Studios: Ice Age
Monday, February 23
5:30 and 7:30 p.m
A program consisting of Blue Sky Studios' first feature film, Ice Age, and its Academy-Award winning short film Bunny.

The Picture House
175 Wolfs Lane, Pelham
(914) 738-3161

New York Independents: Legendary Films & Filmmakers

Sunday, Jan 25
Noon to 2 p.m.
Animation in Advertising
Series of animated advertisements with a discussion panel including celebrated New York animators J.J. Sedelmaier of J.J. Sedelmaier Productions, Tim Speidel of Arnold Worldwide, and Howard Beckerman, animation industry veteran, author and teacher.

Sunday, Jan 25
4 to 6 p.m.
Independent Animators/Films
Animated short films plus a discussion panel including legendary New York animators Jeff Scher, Patrick Smith, Emily Hubley, George Griffin, Michael Sporn and R.O. Blechman. Films to be screened: Bottom's Dream (John Canemaker, 1984), Puppet (Patrick Smith, 2006), You're Outa Here (George Griffin, 2008), One Self: Fish/Girl (Emily Hubley, 1998), Eggs (Faith and John Hubley, 1970), Sundae In New York (Jimmy Picker, 1983), and films by Tony Eastman, R.O. Blechman, Michael Sporn, Jeff Scher and Bill Plympton.

Online Critics Call Wall•E Year’s Best Picture

BoldThe internet-based critics group known as the Online Film Critics Society has named WALL•E best picture of the year. The group also gave the Pixar/Disney CG-animated film honors for best original screenplay and best animated movie of the year.

The Dark Knight
won four honors from the group, as did Let the Right One In, a vampire film from Sweden. The Batman sequel The Dark Knight won best director for Christopher Nolan, supporting actor for Heath Ledger as the Joker, cinematography for Wally Pfister, and original score for James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer.

Let the Right One In
won the best foreign-language film honor, best adapted screenplay and a pair of newcomers awards for director Tomas Alfredson and actress Lina Leandersson.

Darren Aronofsky’s
The Wrestler earned two acting honors, with Mickey Rourke winning best actor and Marisa Tomei winning supporting actress. The remaining winners are Michelle Williams as best actress for Wendy and Lucy, Slumdog Millionaire for best editing, and Man on Wire
for best documentary.

WB and Autodesk Cut Jobs

Warner Bros. and software maker Autodesk are the most recent companies to announce extensive layoffs in the face of the economic downturn.

WB announced it will eliminate 800 jobs. The studio says the cuts will come via outsourcing 300 jobs, not filling about 200 open positions and laying off another 300 positions. A WB spokeswoman told the Hollywood Reporter that the layoffs would be spread throughout every division at the studio, which has a large animation department, and at every level of job up to the exec VP level.

Autodesk will layoff 750 workers—about 10 percent of its work force—as part of a restructuring plan aimed at reducing expenses. The company, which makes the prominent animation software package Maya, also has reduced its stock guidance and is spinning off its location services business to Hale Capital Partners.

Calon, Osmond Team Up to Tame Shiloh

Wales-based independent toon maker Calon TV is developing a TV movie called Shiloh that is based on an idea from singer Merrill Osmond.

Osmond, formerly the lead singer for the 1970s family group The Osmonds, intends to perform the soundtrack for the film and is working on the script along with Mal Pope.

The movie is about an orphaned girl living in the Old West who befriends a special horse named Shiloh and saves him from cruel horse traders.

Calon, based in Cardiff, is best known for its award-winning preschool series Hana's Helpline.

China Cuts Taxes for Animation Companies

China has reduced business taxes for qualifying animation companies by 3 percent.

The news, first reported in the China Stock Journal, says qualifying companies must earn at least 60 percent of their revenues from animation and develop at least half its animation in house.

The trial policy also requires companies have 30 percent of all employees and 10 percent of its R&D staff be certified animation developers.

GenArts Acquires SpeedSix

Leading vfx software firm GenArts, Inc. announced Tuesday its acquisition of SpeedSix Software.

The deal means SpeedSix’s plug-in package Monsters and Raptors, which includes tools for retiming, particle effects, lens distortion matching, fire, and organic fluid backgrounds, will be offered alongside GenArts’ Sapphire software for creating visual effects.

All SpeedSix employees are now GenArts employees and will continue to work out of the company’s U.K. offices.

"Batman: The Animated Series" Soundtrack Release A Success, Sells Over 2500 Copies

The recent Batman: The Animated Series soundtrack release has sold over 2500 copies since December 2008.

A representative for La-La Land Records, the label responsible for releasing the Batman: The Animated Series soundtrack, has confirmed for The World's Finest that the soundtrack release has sold over 2500 copies to date with demand for the title still strong. The representative for La-La Land Records says that the high sales, and even selling out, can only help as the label hopes to convince Warner Bros. to release more Batman: The Animated Series soundtracks. The representative says that nothing has been finalized yet, but further details are forthcoming about future DC Animation-related soundtrack releases.

The first Batman: The Animated Series soundtrack release was officially shipped out on December 16th, 2008, and was an out-of-the-door hit for the label. Both fan and critical response has been overwhelmingly positive. The soundtrack had a limited edition print run of 3000 copies, leaving less than 500 available to purchase.

A representative for La-La Land Records urges fans to order the Batman: The Animated Series soundtrack as soon as possible to successfully obtain a copy.

Details on the soundtrack can be found here. Stay tuned for further updates.

"American Dad" Vol. 4 Coming in April

From, comes news that American Dad's fourth DVD set is tentatively scheduled to hit stores on 4/28/09 and will be three discs. The price will likely be $39.98 again. The episode list and extras aren't revealed yet.

Is Disney’s Bob Iger Worth $30 Million a Year?

Blogs were abuzz last week after it was revealed that Disney CEO Bob Iger took home $30.6 million in salary and bonuses in 2008. So what exactly has Iger done since taking over the company in 2005? Fortune magazine recently published an article “Bob Iger rocks Disney” that talks about his accomplishments during the past few years. While the studio has been financially successful with many of its projects—Hannah Montana, High School Musical, Jonas Brothers, Cars, “Princesses” and “Fairies” franchises—it could also be argued that most of these are short-sighted projects designed to cash in on popular trends. With the exception of some of John Lasseter’s initiatives, there appears to be little vision within the company for creating quality work that has long-term and multi-generational value. Is it any surprise that three of Disney’s four highest-grossing movies of the 2000s have been based on Pirates of the Caribbean, a theme park ride that opened over forty years ago at Disneyland.

Here are some noteworthy facts and figures I ran across in the Fortune piece:

* Iger’s two biggest strategic changes since taking over: One was his subtle but seismic decision to refocus the company and most of its more than 150,000 employees around its roster of ‘franchises,’ like the Jonas Brothers—Iger defines a franchise as ’something that creates value across multiple businesses and across multiple territories over a long period of time.’ The second change was unsubtle: Just days into Iger’s new job, Disney acquired Pixar, bringing Apple’s Steve Jobs onto the company’s board in the process.

* Cars is an example of a Disney franchise that is successful on many levels: Three years after the movie came out, sales of [Cars] licensed merchandise are running at more than $2 billion annually. [The film only grossed $462 million worldwide.] A Cars sequel is in production. Disney will soon launch an elaborate Cars virtual world. But the biggest bet on Cars is Cars Land, a 12-acre stretch of Disney’s California Adventure theme park set to open in 2012.

* Iger has been getting rid of some middle-management: Internally, in a move treated like D-day, Iger dismantled a corporate strategic-planning department that had to clear most of the company’s major decisions. “When he took that job, Disney was really messed up,” recalls Jobs. “Bob looked at the guys running the divisions and said, ‘You’re in charge of your businesses now.’”

* Disney makes a lot of money from sports: Sports juggenaut ESPN—80% owned by Disney—is estimated by Doug Mitchelson of Deutsche Bank to have generated around one-third of the company’s $8.4 billion in 2008 operating income.

* Their classic franchises are not as big a part of the company as they once were: A decade ago the Mickey Mouse and Winnie-the-Pooh franchises accounted for 80% of the company’s consumer products business; today it’s closer to 50%.

* Disney is currently the most valuable media company in the world: Under Iger Disney has become the world’s largest media conglomerate by market value, worth around $40 billion.

* Steve Jobs, who is Disney’s largest individual shareholder with a 7% stake, likes Iger: “I consider Bob Iger a friend,” says Jobs. “I don’t have a lot of friends. I just really like him, and he’s a really solid guy.”

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Coraline artists at Gallery Nucleus

Gallery Nucleus was going to have a book signing and artist panel with some the artists who worked on Coraline. Everything was already set but once the Art-Of book came out and the artists saw it they were extremely disappointed at the lack of credit for their work.

The book gives most of the credit to Tadahiro Uesugi for characters and background designs. They love Tadahiro but felt the book misrepresented nearly all the other artists who worked on the film. So Nucleus has decided to cancel the book signing and instead make it an artist panel where the artists will bring samples of their work to show and to talk about their involvement - giving them a chance to set the record straight.

The artists are as follows: Shannon Tindle, Shane Prigmore, Dan Krall, Chris Appelhans and Jon Klassen. Gallery Nucleus is in Alhambra, California. The event is at 2pm on Saturday February 7th, and there’s a $10 admission. Check the gallery website for more information.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Bill Plympton on Al Jazeera

Who would’ve thought that Arab news networks would give more time to American indie animators than cable programs in the US? This is an in-depth 22-minute interview with Bill Plympton that recently aired on Al Jazeera’s One on One hosted by Riz Khan.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Captain Marvel/Shazam Movie Still Alive? Producer Michael Uslan Hints At Film’s Future

DC’s Captain Marvel has the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules and various other attributes that provide an acronym for “SHAZAM!” (the word that transforms Billy Batson into Captain Marvel) — but what about his ability to make a move to the big screen? After the on-again, off-again project seemed to fall back into limbo last week when screenwriter John August said the Captain Marvel/Shazam film “won’t be happening,” the film’s producer Michael Uslan told MTV News that fans shouldn’t abandon hope of seeing the hero in theaters.

“I will only say one thing — and all I will do is quote Samuel Clemens to you,” hinted Uslan. “This is direct from Captain Marvel himself: ‘The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.’”

While that certainly doesn’t mean we’ll be seeing anyone utter “Shazam!” on the big screen any time soon, it should offer some hopeful signs of life for a project that many viewed as flat-lining after last week’s news. Heck, maybe we’ll still get to see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson play Black Adam after all!

For those that haven’t been keeping track, the Captain Marvel/Shazam film (also referred to as “Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam”) made a big splash at San Diego Comic-Con International last year with Johnson’s announcement that he plans to play Black Adam in the film. In November, it was announced that the project was moving from New Line Cinema to Warner Bros — appropriately enough, given its ownership of DC Comics — and co-directors Peter Segal (”Get Smart”) and Michael Ewing were attached to the film.

Just last week, however, screenwriter John August dashed many fans’ hopes when he wrote on his blog that the film “won’t be happening,” and that he didn’t think “it’s on the studio’s radar at all.”

While Uslan wouldn’t comment further on the status of the Captain Marvel/Shazam movie, his tease would seem to insinuate that there’s still a chance moviegoers will get to see Billy Batson call down a bolt of lightning down the road.

Frak Me! Bsg Auction Makes A Million!

This weekend saw furious splurging on the remnants of Battlestar Galactica, with auctioning off props, costumes and artwork from what is considered the finest Science Fiction TV series ever made, and up there with the best Sci Fi ever filmed, ever.

Fans eager to pick up a tangible piece of the magic drove prices way above expected price estimates, with iconic props and 'hero' items all going for more than four figures, and in some cases, five figures.

Online bidding was intense, but matched by activity by fans who had made the journey to Pasadena. Sunday's activity saw international bidders cross whatever timeline was necessary to join in with die hards and locals who turned up at Pasadena Convention Centre, some who had come from as far away as London. With 800 items up for auction, prices began to head north as lot numbers hit the 500s and fans saw their chance of owning a piece of history running out as Sunday afternoon in the US (Monday morning in Sydney) rolled on.

I don't care if you just paid $US4000 for my knife. I want it back. Now. NOW.

The two day auction proved remarkably successful, with the first day unofficially pulling in over $482,000, and the second going beyond that, taking the unofficial total past the million dollar mark. Way past the $AUD Million, for sure!

Prices for seemingly ordinary props, like an empty cardboard Aerilon Salt container, went for $US400, and the water bottle shown briefly in a scene in Razor going for $US600 and a coffee mug on screen for seconds went for $US500 respectively. Possibly the most extraordinary price for a prop was the nine inch long, wooden model of the Battlestar Galactica that was used in the attack plan in 'Hand of God'. It sold for $US9500. Octagonal clipboards from the show all sold for more than $US500.

The iconic red dress worn by Tricia Helfer as Number Six sold for $US13,000, with proceeds going to Tricia Helfer's animal charities. Katee Sackhoff's flight suit (as hot shot Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace) however, went for even more - $US14,000.

The only disappointment for the weekend were the big ticket items - the full sized models of the Viper Mark 7, Cylon Raider and Raptor that all failed to meet their reserves. With price estimates beginning north of $US30,000, $US50,000 and $60,000, it seems that the GFC has affected front lawn space for super wealthy Sci Fi fans.

Stars from the show, including Richard Hatch (Tom Zarek) and Micahael Hogan (Saul Tigh) turned up in a real treat for bidders. The final sections of the auction (only two hundred items to go at time of posting!) include the life-sized Museum Cylon Centurion from the mini-series, both Adama's and Roslyn's desks (and their contents) and the Eye of Jupiter and the iconic BSG 75 emblem from the Galactica's Command Information Centre (CIC), which is expected to fetch more than $US5000.

Although at this rate, expect $US10,000.

Concept art went early on Saturday, and that's where the bargains were. A full colour sketch of a Mark 7 Cockpit went for just $US175.

Here are some of the items and their prices:

The Scroll of Pythia (the won used for swearing in of Presidents Roslyn and Baltar) $US7000

The Bloodied Pen that Felix 'Butterfingers' Gaeta used to stab Gaius Baltar $US1400

The Cylon Transponder used in the miniseries found under the Dradis displays $US3000

Joseph Adama's Lighter handed from Bill to Lee Adama - $US5500

The FTL key, which still lights up - $US3000

Laura Roslin's Thermos, from which she drank Chamalla Root Extract Tea - $US400

Doc Cottle's Medical Bag - $US1300. His cigarettes and lighter went for $US400!

The 'Hand of God' battle plan models were probably the most outrageously expensive, pound for pound. The Galactica model went for $US9500.

A piece of the Blackbird's Hull, signed by the actors, in character - $US4500.

The suitcase nuke that blew up Cloud 9 at the end of Season 2 - $US3750.

The Arrow of Apollo went for $US7740.

Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck)'s flight suit went for $US14,000.

Saul Tigh's Whiskey Bottle $US1900.

The Galactica's Top Gun Beer Stein $US4500.

Admiral Cain's dog tags - $US3800.

Apollo's Raptor Helmet - $US7000.

THE Knife from Razor - $US4000.

The small wooden model of the Galactica used in 'Hand of God' $US9500.

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