Thursday, February 12, 2009

News - 02/12/09...

Imagi Update

Imagi the California Studio is still hanging fire. By that I mean, nobody's working at the Sherman Oaks facility, the studio is pretty much non-communicative about when and if people will be returning to work, and employees I've talked to have no serious clue about what's going on.

Meanwhile, at Comic-Con in New York City, the fragment of Astro Boy that was screened for an eager public met with positive response.

... [T]he animation is absolutely flawless (despite the insistence of the moderator that the clip was still “rough”) but to Astro Boy fans out there who were skeptical of this type of treatment, rest assured that you will not be disappointed with Imagi’s vision of the character. Personally, I’m counting down the days until the film’s debut in October ...!

But there might be more days to count than Comic-Con spectators bargained for, since nobody seems to know if the movie has enough funding to get itself completed. Some (now former) Imagi employees represent that "Animation on the picture is about half done," and "The crew in Hong Kong is working without pay ..."

Speaking personally, I'm really hoping that this "working without pay" thing doesn't catch on. Also, that it isn't true.

In the meantime, TAG has over the past three days called: 1) the company lawyer, 2) the company CEO, and 3) the company's Sherman Oaks, California switchboard, all without result. On the other hand, we've bumped up against some fine voice messages.

We're now in the process of drafting grievances against Imagi for employees' unpaid salaries and vacation money, which amount to some heavy coin. With luck, there will be heavy coin to actually retrieve.

More details as they develop.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Imagi Update II

I have now -- finally -- talked to a couple of Imagi officials, and they tell me the following:

* Funds for the studio to restart and restaff are expected in momentarily. (Yes, I know. We've heard this before.)
* Back pay owed to employees will be paid.
* Pay in lieu of
notice of layoff will be paid. (This means that folk who were phoned on the weekend of January 24-25 will be paid for the following week, since the collective bargaining agreement requires it.)
* Personal Service Contracts will be honored.

All this is fine news, but of course it may not happen if money doesn't begin flowing ... and soon. In the meantime, TAG has mailed and faxed grievance letters to the company.

Per the officials, the top priority for the officials is to get Astro Boy back on track, as that's their priority. I was told that snark from various furloughed employees is beginning to bubble up on Facebook and other places on the internets, and the honchos (who said they weren't getting paid either) don't consider it helpful to getting pictures back into production.

They would like to get all Imagi's projects back in work, but Astro Boy is the priority.

More info as we get it.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Duty 4 Leads GAME Award Nominations

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare leads the pack of nominees for the GAME British Academy Video Games Awards.

The game, developed by Activision, earned nominations in seven of the awards’ 15 categories, followed by six for Rockstar’s
Grand Theft Auto IV.

Boom Blox
earned creator Steven Spielberg his first nomination for a videogame.

The winners will be announced March 10. The full list of nominees can be found at,664,BA.html

Eloise in Africa Feature Coming to DVD

Animation Collective will produce the direct-to-DVD animated feature Eloise in Africa, based on the classic children’s series and due for release in conjunction with the upcoming live-action movie, Eloise in Paris.

Directed by Sergei Aniskov, who also worked on Animation Collective’s
Kappa Mikey, Eloise in Africa will be the first in a series of annual direct to DVD animated features. Patrick Meehan, chairman of Eloise rights holders HandMade Films, and Larry Schwarz, CEO of Animation Collective, announced the project at the Plaza Hotel where the famous Eloise
stories by Kay Thompson took place.

Production began in October on the feature, which will be made entirely at Animation Collective’s New York City facility.

Dentsu Moves to Chub City for TV Series

Tokyo-based Dentsu Inc. has acquired all rights to the Chub City toys brand, and plans to develop the property into an animated TV series.

The series will be developed by the company’s Los Angeles-based subsidiary, DCI-LA, with Mitsuharu Inoue, whose credits include the hit Cartoon Network series Bakugan Battle Brawlers, serving as creative director.

An extensive licensing program also is planned for the property,

Csupo Brings Immigrants to TV

Gabor Csupo is returning to animated TV with a six-episode commitment for an expanded version of his feature film Immigrants (La Dolce Vita).

With interest in the feature rising – it sold to Germany’s Savoy Film and Turkey’s Ozen Film at the European Film Market – HungariCom will represent the new TV version in the global market, according to a report in Variety.

Csupo is a former partner in Klasky-Csupo, which created and produced the popular Rugrats series for Nick. He also was an animator and designer on The Simpsons and other animated series.

Rush, Wenham Sign On to Snyder’s Ga’Hoole Feature

Actors Jim Sturgess, Geoffrey Rush, Rachael Taylor and David Wenhem have signed on to provide voices for Watchmen director’s Zack Snyder’s upcoming animated feature, Guardians of Ga'Hoole.

The film is based on a children’s book series by Kathryn Lasky that features a cast of owl warriors.

The film is set to be made in Australia, according to The Hollywood Reporter, with animation by Animal Logic and a release planned for July 30, 2010.

Kango Launches Endangered Species Site

Conservation International and Dana Point, Calif.-based company Kango (a division of G8R Group) announced the launch of Tales 4 Tomorrow, a new kids online brand which promotes animal conservation. The website ( will offer children games, videos and virtual worlds and aims to entertain and teach them about the plight of endangered animals all over the world. The brand’s toy line will be distributed by Fiesta and will include eco-minded plush toys, games and trading cards.

Visitors to the site will also be able to help four Conservation International Endangered Species programs: The Big-Eyed Tree Frog, Maintaining and Restoring Tiger and Rhino Habitat, International Tiger Coalition and Panda Guardians. Five percent of plush toy sales made on the site will be donated to the non-profit organization’s activities.

“It’s an honor to be working with Conservation International on such an important issue," says Adam Unger, Kango’s senior VP and general manager. "They are simply the best organization to support our mission. Our hope is that Tales 4 Tomorrow will raise awareness and inspire the next generation of CI members to improve our planet.”

T4T Plush and Fun Packs will be available in the first quarter of 2009 at toy and gift retailers as well as zoos, aquariums, and gift stores through Fiesta through Fiesta. For more information, visit, and

Happy Tree Friends Heart U

If you fall prey to the giant marketing gimmick that Valentine’s Day is, your options are running out. Ordering something for your loved one online is now a FedEx situation, so you’re probably going to the mall. Or you can sit at your computer and watch stuff, and hope a gift falls onto your keyboard. Start with the latest “anti-Valentine” from Happy Tree Friends - I Heart U.

Up director Pete Docter reveals the method behind Pixar's magic

Pete Docter, director of Disney/Pixar's new animated movie Up, and producer Jonas Rivera told reporters in New York and Burbank, Calif., that the movie mixes tragedy and comedy, talking dogs and floating houses in an effort to touch the heart.

Docter and Rivera screened the first 46 minutes of the movie to audiences at New York Comic Con and at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., this week, and SCI FI Wire was there.

Up tells the story of 78 year-old Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner), who in his golden years sets out on the adventure of a lifetime by tying thousands of helium balloons to his house. The only problem is that Carl gains an unexpected traveling partner in 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer Scout Russell (Jordan Nagai), whom he finds on his porch. Together they embark on a journey to remote South America in a quest to find the legendary Paradise Falls.

The following is an edited Q&A that combines interviews with Docter and Rivera in New York over the weekend with comments the duo made in Burbank on Tuesday.
Up opens May 29. (Massive spoilers ahead!)

How did you come up with the odd concept for Up?

It started with the idea of escaping and getting away from everything. [Co-director and screenwriter] Bob Peterson and I got together and started thinking about that and came up with the image of a house floating in the sky with balloons. We both thought, "Wow, that's really intriguing." Something about it encapsulated the idea of escape. We also wanted to do something with an old man. There's been a lot of great humor possibilities that we've explored with a grouchy old guy. So then we thought about how the old guy would get into the floating house, and that thought experiment led to the house. ...

The movie starts out almost tragically and then sort of changes tone. Can you talk about managing that?

Well that was important because, two reasons. One, we get to such a kind of a wacky place that I felt like we need a real foundation of emotion. ... My favorite films have this great balance of both. ... Walt Disney talks about "for every laugh there should be a tear" kind of a thing. And a guy [who] was a great mentor of mine, Joe Grant, who worked right here with Walt Disney back in the days of Dumbo and Sleeping Beauty and was working up till he's 97, had always phrased it: "What are you giving the audience to take home?"

And I think that's, for me, the things I take home. Yeah, the jokes are funny, but they kind of go out of your head. It's really the emotional stuff that you carry around with you for the days and weeks and sometimes even years after you see the film. And so we wanted to plant it that way. It was also important just to really care about why is it so important for this guy to get the house to the falls. You needed some weight of ... something you really cared about, and so we worked really hard to make that backstory something that was meaningful to Carl, and therefore the audience.

What do you think the audience will take home?

... It's in the setup and in the payoff at the end of the film. ... Carl worries that he missed this adventure. When we think of adventure, we think of exotic travel and wild places and meeting people and stuff. ... And what he realizes is that he actually had the greatest adventure, which was the wonderful life he had with his wife. And I think, for me, that's the thing. ... Most of the time, when I think back on great events, I remember, it's these small little moments: ... being with my kids having hot chocolate or cleaning out the basement with my wife and just get to laughing. ... Little moments like that. And that's what we tried to portray in the montage. ...

What does the 3-D add to the film?

... I think it adds a sort of a depth. ... One thing that was important to me is to not distract you from the story. ... Some films [revel] in the 3-D and they do a lot of ooga-booga [pokes his hand forward], you know, reaching out. ... For this type of film, we're trying very hard to make it ... subtle. ... It adds to the richness, to the depth of the environments. ... You walk through the jungle, and you can see all of these layers going back. And the space when you set foot on the edge of that cliff along with Carl, and he sees Paradise Falls, it adds a real richness there.

Rivera: I think the flying as well. They go up in the sky, and looking through the clouds and things, and that's one of the things we've done, and the way we're treating 3-D is treating the screen as a window, looking in, as opposed to breaking things out into the theater. So it's sort of treating it like theater, where you're looking through at the stage almost, and it really gives it a nice warmth of depth. ...

Where did the idea for talking dogs come from?

We do this all the time. You're sitting around the table, and you just make up lines for them. Like, "What are they thinking right now?" "Are you going to eat that?" kind of stuff. And so we just thought, "Well, what if you really play that through, and instead of [anthropomorphizing] them, as most cartoons do, what if we stayed true to what a dog is thinking—at least what we think they're thinking—and ... we came up with the collar idea. ...

It seemed like an approach that hadn't really been covered before. And an opportunity for humor. A lot of the stuff we're trying for in this film is humor in true. Like, it's not necessarily big slapstick gags, but it's like little moments that you recognize as real, and hopefully that kind of falls into that category, as wacky as it is, that you kind of feel, "Oh, yeah, that's what a dog would say." ...

Has there been any breakthrough in technical achievements with Up? Monsters, Inc. achieved fur, and Finding Nemo did water. Does Up raise the bar in any way?

Docter: The big one that comes to mind is the sense of caricature. It may not seem like a technical thing, but given Carl's weird proportions, ... he's such an odd bird, and we were looking for a simplicity, so it was a hard thing to figure out. We have great technical directors that model everything, and they really think about physics. They are pulling a lot of simulations based on how cloth falls or how balloons move, and we came in and said, "That's great, but what I want is caricature. How do we turn this up or simplify the cloth behavior?" They had to go back and Boldfigure that out. How do you capture, using a computer, the things that people draw?

Rivera: It's the only time I've seen the technical directors stumped. ...

Docter: Yeah, we made them cry. (laughs)

Carl and Russell alone could have been really annoying, but together they balance one another out perfectly. Was it hard to find that place of equilibrium?

To me that's what makes film or theater work, when two characters spark off one another. We found that almost by accident with Buzz and Woody on Toy Story. With Monsters, we initially just had Sully and the little girl. It wasn't until we had a suggestion to add a friend, Mike, that Sully started to develop. For Up, it was a little tricky to find what it was about this little kid that would push this old guy's buttons. It was his tenacity for sure; Russell won't take no for an answer. No many how many times Carl slams the door on his face, ding-dong, the kid keeps coming back.

Retail Poster Artwork For Upcoming "Wonder Woman" Direct-To-Video Animated Feature

Artwork from retail poster for the upcoming Wonder Woman animated feature has been released.

For a closer look at the retain poster, click on the thumbnail below.

The above poster should be appearing soon in retail outlets across North America.

The direct-to-video Wonder Woman animated feature hits DVD, Blu-ray, and OnDemand on March 3rd, 2009.

Storm Cameo In ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ Movie Cut, Says Producer, But Might Make DVD

Attentive X-Men fans might have caught a hotly rumored cameo in the most recent “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” trailer. We know Gambit, Sabretooth, and even the loudmouthed Rob Liefeld creation Deadpool are all going to be featured. But one other mutant appeared to have sneaked in the back door: Storm!

There’s a small girl with bright white hair who could easily pass for a young Ororo Munroe at about the 1:53 mark of the trailer. (Read on for a screenshot of the scene in question.) And now, producer Lauren Shuler Donner appears to have confirmed that Storm was at least originally slated to appear.

“She was a little part of the movie,” Donner told Widescreen Vision. The bad news is, however, that Ororo may be skipping straight from the trailer to the “Wolverine” DVD.

“She is no longer in it,” the producer said. “But she was in a village where they visited. The movie was edited, and that particular character didn’t make that scene.”

The scene would make sense since Wolverine is quite a bit older than Storm — his mutant abilities allow him to age well. So it’s entirely possible within the continuity of the X-films that’s he could have encountered her as a child. Just be prepared to have that encounter left to the imagination until after “Wolverine” leaves theaters.

“We’re still editing,” Donner added. “We’ll show in the DVD scenes that were not included, but there are not really that many.”

Japanese ‘Dragonball Evolution’ Trailer Serves Up New Scenes From The Film

As we continue to count down the days until the April 8 release date of “Dragonball Evolution,” you can only imagine our excitement when we stumbled across an all-new sneak-peek at the film, fresh from what appears to be Japan’s version of “Entertainment Tonight.”

Given that there’s really no way we can possibly prepare you for the pure awesomeness that awaits you (seriously, we could easily spend a good 300 words based solely on Piccolo’s appearance in the clip), we’ll spare you our digital geeking-out and just let you check out the clip for yourself, then read on for more “Dragonball” news.

Par for the course, your ever-lovin’ Splash Page team have been all over “Dragonball Evolution,” bringing you the latest international clips, theatrical posters, online trailers, and exclusive interviews with the cast, including Emmy Rossum and Jamie Chung. Stay tuned to Splash Page for the latest on “Dragonball Evolution” and all of your favorite comic and comic book movie news.

EXCLUSIVE: Paul Giamatti Says It Would Be ‘Fantastic’ To Play The Penguin In ‘Batman 3’

There’s been no shortage of casting rumors flying around when it comes to potential villains for the next Batman film, whether it’s Rachel Weisz playing Catwoman or Eddie Murphy playing The Riddler. And while we’ve had some fun with them from time to time, there are a few rumors that seem plausible enough to bring to the stars themselves for comment — for example, the recent buzz that “Sideways” star Paul Giamatti could play The Penguin in the follow-up to “The Dark Knight.”

When MTV News bumped into Giamatti, we ran the rumor by him to find out what he had to say about it.

“That would be fantastic,” Giamatti told MTV News. “I’d love to do that.”

Giamatti claimed he hadn’t heard about the rumors casting him as the Batman villain last played by Danny DeVito (and before that, by Burgess Meredith), but said he’d be honored to play the classic Batman villain.

“You know, I’m still stuck back in the ‘Batman’ TV show days,” confessed Giamatti. “That’s what I grew up watching, so I never followed the more current stuff. But The Penguin would be great to do.”

Christopher Nolan Directing Inception Next

The third Batman movie will have to wait. reports thatChristopher Nolan has set up his next project with Warner Bros., an original screenplay he wrote called Inception. The "Dark Knight" director hopes to shoot the sci-fi action film in the summer for a release during summer 2010.

Inception is described as "a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind."

This pushes back any potential filming on a third Batman film, but three years -- and The Prestige -- passed between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Nolan has also long been attached to direct a big-screen adaptation of the British TV series "The Prisoner" for producer Scott Stuber at Universal.

NYCC2009: Bill Plympton's "Horn Dog," Fascist Santa, & New Feature "Jealousy"

Independent animator Bill Plympton was on hand on Saturday afternoon at the 2009 New York Comic Con to screen several of his films for a welcoming audience, including the debut of his latest short film "Horn Dog," the fourth in the "Dog" series of movies. The first movies he screened were a short biographical film about him made for the Sundance Channel and then the trailer for his latest feature film Idiots and Angels (read our interview with Plympton and our review of the movie). Plympton noted that Idiots and Angels ("one of the most fun projects I ever did") just opened in France about 3 weeks ago to great reviews and great audiences. He added that he's working on a distribution deal now that will hopefully lead to a release of the movie in the United States this summer.

Plympton also let the audience know that he's starting on a new animated feature film now called Jealousy, about two lovers who are perfect for each other, but friction starts between the two and they end up trying to kill each other by the end of the film. He described it as "very dark" and similar to Idiots and Angels, and added that he had been actually working on the storyboards at his booth on the convention floor during slower moments. He said that the new movie will be a lot more trippy, "as though I took drugs every day."

The next film screened was his contribution to a Japanese project about the Olympics, which would consist of a whole series of animated films about sports from around the world. In "The Luv Race," three runners pursue a chase car driven in front of them, vying for the affections of the pretty girl that's sitting in the back of the car with chocolates, serenades, and paintings. Bizarrely funny, but Plympton's fans would be greatly disappointed if it wasn't.

Next was the music video for Parson Brown's "Mexican Standoff," which he did almost a year ago. The original video cut in some live-action footage because Plympton had only had a week to do it and couldn't finish the animation in time. However, when Plympton had some free time this past summer, he finished it on his own time. The song is supposedly about a menage a trois breaking up a relationship, though Plympton didn't know that until after he finished the video, which features a woman in a tower with a cowboy and a biker fighting over her. He liked the exaggerated and stylized nature of the animation in the video, such as the buffalo with human faces observing in the background, and wanted to use a similar style for Jealousy.

The next film was either an extremely early or slightly late Christmas present: "Santa: The Fascist Years," a short that was as mordantly funny as its title. Plympton said he did it when he had a free week over Thanksgiving, with the idea dating back to when he was doing print cartoons in the 1980's. The short was a pseudo-newsreel with narration by Matthew Modine chronicling the brief reign of terror from the North Pole that occurred in the 1940's and was largely whitewashed from history. Both "Mexican Standoff" and "Santa: The Fascist Years" should be available on iTunes, and the sales have surprised him. He thought the movie would be too specifically American, but it has racked up non-trivial sales in France, Japan, "and maybe even Germany."

The last film screened for the attendees was
"Horn Dog,"
where Plympton's well-meaning but thick cartoon dog falls in love and again proves to be his own worst enemy in achieving the object of his desires. It was a bit of an adventure for Plympton, since he hadn't even seen the final movie himself. The sound for the movie had come in on Friday and the movie he screened at the panel was just the burned disc he found on his sound-editor's desk that morning. He said it was still not quite finished, but that it was pretty close to done.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to stick around for the Q&A section of the panel. Visit Plymptoons for more news and information about the works of Bill Plympton.

(Thanks Toon Zone)

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