Wednesday, February 18, 2009

News - 02/18/09...

Second Wolverine backstory trailer is now here

The second of three new 60-second ads for X-Men Origins: Wolverine has gone live, and you can view it after the jump.

The spot, titled "Brothers," focuses on the wartime experiences of Victor Creed/Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber) and Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) through history, leading up to a fateful meeting with Stryker (Danny Huston). A woman also figures in the dispute that evolves between Sabretooth and Wolverine.

The first spot aired on Sunday; Fox aired the last one-minute spot last night.

Editors Cut WALL•E A Historic Honor

WALL•E became the first animated feature to win the American Cinema Editors (ACE) Eddie award for best edited feature film—possibly foreshadowing an Oscars victory.

Stephen Schaffer received the award Sunday for his work on the Disney-Pixar film in the comedy or musical category, while
Slumdog Millionaire took the same honor for a dramatic movie.

managed to beat out WALL•E when it came to the Cinema Audio Society Award for best sound mixing in a motion picture.

is nominated in both the best editing and best sound mixing categories for this year’s Academy Awards, which will be presented Feb. 22.

Meanwhile, the animated nominees in the CAS’ DVD original programming category—Disney’s
The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning and Warner Bros.’ Justice League: The New Frontier—lost out to the music disc Smashing Pumpkins: If All Goes Wrong.

also won the top honor at the Art Directors’ Guild Awards, where The Dark Knight
won the award for best design on a fantasy feature; and at the American Society of Cinematographers.

DreamWorks Goes to NASDAQ; Allen’s Cashed Out

DreamWorks Animation announced Friday it would transfer its stock listing from the New York Stock Exchange to NASDAQ effective Feb. 26 in a move designed to save costs.

The studio told wire service Reuters the change will give its shareholders "access to the most advanced trading platform and ... cost effective services available on the market today."

Meanwhile, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has sold his remaining shares in the company and has no further stake in DreamWorks Animation as of Dec. 31.

Allen had invested $500 million in DreamWorks as a startup in 1994 and as of December 2007 had owned about 18 percent of all Class A common shares.

Reuters estimates investing in DreamWorks paid off well for Allen, who likely made back significantly more than his original investment.

Cartoon Movie Names Euro Toon Honorees

The organizers of Cartoon Movie, a trade event for the European animation industry set for March 4-6 in Lyon, France, have announced the nominees for this year’s tributes.

The tributes are intended to recognize those who have contributed the most to the development of European animation over the last year.

The nominees are:

Best European Director of the Year

1 Thorbjorn Christoffersen, Craig Frank and Kresten Vestbjerg Andersen (Denmark) for Journey to Saturn
2 Jacques-Rémy Girerd (France) for Mia and the Migoo
3 Tomm Moore (Ireland) for Brendan and the Secret of Kells

Best European Distributor of the Year

1 BAC Films (France)
2 Intersonic (Slovak Republic)
3 Lusomundo (Portugal)

Best European Producer of the Year

1 Anima Vitae, Cinemaker (Finland), Ulysses (Germany), A. Film (Denmark) and Magma Films (Ireland) for Niko & the Way to the Stars
2 Crone Film (Denmark) and Sola Media (Germany) for Sunshine Barry and the Disco Worms
3 Kandor Graphics, Perro Verde Films and Green Moon (Spain) for The Missing Lynx
4 Cartoon Saloon (Ireland), Les Armateurs (France) and Vivi Film (Belgium) for The Secret of Kells

The winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held March 7.

Disney XD Debut Soars to Ratings High

The newly re-branded cable channel Disney XD got off to a solid launch, earning record ratings for the channel with its first original series, Aaron Stone.

The re-brand of Toon Disney began Friday with back-to-back airings of
Stone starting at 7 p.m. The debut surpassed all Toon Disney debuts in kids 6-14 and scored best-ever levels for kids 6-14 and boys 6-14 in that time slot.

The broadcast, which included previews of upcoming series
Jimmy Two Shoes and Kid vs. Kat
, reached 6.5 million unduplicated total viewers and 2.6 million kids 6-14.

The ratings were an increase of more than double the audience of the same timeslot a year ago.

Holiday Grosses Good News for Friday, Coraline

Horror remake Friday the 13th topped a record-breaking President’s Day weekend that saw holdovers such as the 3-D stop-motion feature Coraline hold up extremely well.

grossed $45 million over the four-day weekend, easily outdistancing second-place finisher, He’s Just Not That Into You, which pulled in $23.4 million in its second weekend of release for a cumulative gross of $59 million.

finished a strong fourth-place behind action film Taken, grossing $19.1 million for a total gross of $39.4 million to date.

Of the new releases,
Confessions of a Shopaholic opened in fifth place with $17.3 million, while thriller The International earned $10.7 million, coming in behind comedy holdovers Paul Blart: Mall Cop and The Pink Panther 2

Variety reports the weekend’s box office gross was up more than third over last year.

Pink Panther 2 opening titles

In case you didn’t rush out to see the latest Pink Panther movie - here’s the part you really wanted to see: The opening titles. Karin Fong directed the sequence for Hollywood based Imaginary Forces. Anyone know who did the character animation?

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Koko flip book

Here’s a piece of Fleischer animation unseen in over 80 years… in fact it may never have been seen in movement at all. Director Bob Jaques loaned animator John Vincent his rare copy of Betty Boop’s Movie Cartoon Lessons which features a Koko The Clown flip book template. Vincent then put together a quicktime of the Koko run cycle. The result: twelve seconds of pure bliss!

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Disney's newest princess makes a grand entrance at the 2009 American International Toy Fair

Jim Hill brings you the latest news from the Jacob K. Javits Center, where Mattel just previewed many of its "The Princess and the Frog" products. Which will be hitting store shelves later this Fall

What a difference a week makes. Just seven days ago, as you walked up to NYC’s Jacob K. Javits Center …

Photo by Jeff Lange

… you couldn’t help but notice the enormous “Up” that was draped over the convention center’s main entrance.

Photo by Jeff Lange

Of course, that was because Comic-Con was in town. And Walt Disney Studios' marketing department wanted to make sure that everyone who visited the Javits over NYCC’s three-day run knew that Pixar’s latest would be opening in theaters on May 29th. In Disney Digital 3D, no less.

But this week, it’s the American International Toy Fair that has set up shop inside of this cavernous convention center. And it’s not fanboys who are now wandering these exhibition halls. But – rather – anxious retailers. Who – in the face of last year’s 3% drop in toy sales – are all desperate to find the next sure thing.

Which -- as far as the folks at Disney Consumer Products are concerned -- isn't Carl Fredricksen (i.e. the cranky 78 year-old balloon salesman who stars in “Up”). Which is why the folks at DCP have been soft pedaling Pixar’s latest and instead talking up Walt Disney Pictures’ big release for Christmas 2009. Which is “The Princess and the Frog.”

Indeed, the big news coming out of Toy Fair yesterday was that Mattel had just unveiled its upcoming "The Princess and the Frog" product line. Tony Award-winning actress/singer Anika Noni Rose (i.e. the voice of Princess Tiana) was on hand Monday as all of these dolls, play sets and role-play dresses which were inspired by her character from this new animated film were then rolled out. Here's a shot of a few of those products.

Copyright 2009 Disney / Mattel. All Rights Reserved

Mickey is really counting on "The Princess and the Frog" (Which will introduce the Company's first new Princess in more than 10 years) to re-energize its 10 year-old Disney Princess franchise. For while the Mouse did enjoy $4 billion in global sales of DP merch last year, the toy industry also experienced a 10% drop-off in doll sales over that same period. Which -- given the millions of Disney Princess dollies that Mickey tries to move on an annual basis -- isn't exactly a healthy trend

Mind you, some of that drop-off could be attributed to a sameness in the marketplace. The same old tired / safe product on store shelves. Which is why Mattel is really hoping that Tiana – what with being Disney’s first African-American princess and all – will really stand out from the crowd. Break through the clutter & abundance that you find at those Big Box stores.

Look for the first wave of “The Princess and the Frog” merchandise (which will include apparel, home décor, consumer electronics, school supplies and personal care products) to start rolling in in late October / early November. Just in time for the holiday shopping season.

Of course, if you just can’t wait to learn more about this upcoming Walt Disney Animation Studios release (Which will be Mickey’s first hand-drawn full-length animated feature since “Home on the Range” had its theatrical debut back in April of 2004), you might want to consider making your way to the Moscone Center in San Francisco on Friday, February 27th. Where – on the first day of WonderCon – Craig Sost and Marlon West will be hosting a panel on “The Art of 2D Visual Effects.” Which will make use of a key scene from “The Princess and The Frog” to help illustrate WDAS’ distinctive production process.

Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

And if you’re still kicking yourself because you missed out on that “Up” panel that was presented at NYCC, don't worry. Pete Docter will be hosting another panel about this upcoming Pixar Animation Studios release at WonderCon on Saturday, February 28th.

Cartoon Network Orders Season of "Marvel Super Hero Squad"

Variety is reporting that Cartoon Network has acquired a full 26-episode season of Marvel Super Hero Squad, bringing some of its most iconic superheroes to the screen in late 2009. Voice talent will include Tom Kenny, Charlie Adler, Steve Blum, and Grey Delisle. Alan Fine, Simon Phillips and Eric S. Rollman will serve as executive producers.

UPDATED: The official press release announcing the acquisition follows.

All-New Marvel Super Hero Squad Animated Series to Debut on Cartoon Network in Late 2009
__________________________________________________ ______________________

Cartoon Network has picked up 26 episodes of the all-new Marvel Super Hero Squad animated series to debut on the network in late 2009. Marvel Super Hero Squad is an action-packed show featuring super-stylized versions of its most popular characters including Captain America, Silver Surfer, Hulk, Wolverine and Iron Man.

When the greatest heroes on the planet unite to face the world’s greatest villains, you get the biggest, most family-friendly Super Hero team-up in TV history… Super Hero Squad. It’s no small job protecting Super Hero City from VillainVille’s infamous criminals… but Iron Man, Wolverine, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, Thor and the Falcon are always up for the job.

Shouting “Hero Up!” as they rush into battle, the Squad must keep Dr. Doom’s allies from gathering pieces of the Infinity Sword. Otherwise, Doom will use the Sword to rule the universe! Luckily, the City is filled with Marvel Super Hero guest-stars to help out in a pinch. These brave heroes totally deliver the action – but with plenty of humor on the side.
Marvel has attracted some superstar talent to play the roles of the dynamic heroes and villans of Marvel Super Hero Squad including: Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants), Charlie Adler (Transformers 1 & 2), Steve Blum (Wolverine and the X-Men, Hulk Vs.) and Grey DeLisle (Fairly Oddparents and The Replacements).

Marvel has also secured some superstar talent to play the guest-stars of
Marvel Super Hero Squad including: Wayne Knight (Seinfeld), LeVar Burton (Reading Rainbow, Star Trek: The Next Generation), Michelle Trachtenberg (Gossip Girl, 17 Again, Buffy), Greg Grunberg (Heroes), Lena Headey (Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles, 300), Adrian Pasdar (Heroes), Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galatica), Jennifer Morrison (House), Tamera Mowry (Twitches and Sister, Sister), Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street
films) and Stan Lee as the Mayor of Super Hero City.

Eric Rollman, Marvel’s President of Animation commented; “We are thrilled to have Cartoon Network as the U.S home for the show and appreciate the hard work everyone at the network have put into making this deal come to fruition. Marvel Super Hero Squad represents many firsts for Marvel in that it’s our first Marvel Universe show inclusive of characters from across the many worlds of Marvel and our first action series with a humorous twist. The commitment both Marvel and Cartoon Network have made to this show should establish it as an evergreen fixture for both companies for many years to come.”

Hasbro, the world’s leader in action figures, is the Master Licensee for Marvel Super Hero Squad toys which have already seen success at retail.

Executive Producers: Alan Fine, Simon Phillips and Eric S. Rollman
Co-Executive Producer: Joe Quesada

Supervising Producer: Cort Lane
Producer: Dana Booton
Supervising Director: Mitch Schauer
Production Studio: Film Roman and Marvel Animation

Briefly: The Rapid Rise of "Chaotic"; Disney in Harbin; Iranian Satirist's Toon

* The Los Angeles Times has taken a look at the rapid rise of Chaotic's trading card game, crediting the synchronization between the online and physical card games, the strength of the video game industry despite the current economic conditions, and the animated TV series (free registration required).

* A Disney licensing company has taken over the Harbin Ice Lantern Festival, replacing the usual ice sculptures of pagodas and monuments with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Winnie the Pooh. [New York Times]

* The works of the late Iranian satirist Manuchehr Ehterami are soon to be adapted into an animated feature film directed by Ahmad Arbani. [Tehran Times]

"The Simpsons" Renewal

Today I ran into a veteran Simpsons artist who told me:

"We know that they're writing new Simpsons scripts, but nobody on staff has been told that we're doing another season. Everyone is just waiting ..."

But if Harry Shearer on MSNBC can be believed, there will be a 21st season of the Yellow Family, so move over Gunsmoke ...

What's made the artistic crew at Film Roman/Starz increasingly nervous has been the cutting of staff and the replacement of producers. The layout department has been streamlined and the art has gone digital, even as the show shifted to high def.

So now The Simpsons (allegedly) launches into another season, and the artists who make the visuals happen will have additional employment. At a time of financial turmoil and meltdown, this is a good thing. But as an artist at Family Guy said last week:

"Most of Fox Television's successful franchises are built around animation. Why would they give that up now? It's what keeps the company afloat."

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

New York Toy Fair: The new Wolfman unveiled

Mezco's 12-inch figure

Fans got a good look at the new lycanthrope from the upcoming reboot of Universal's The Wolfman at the 2009 American International Toy Fair in New York this week.

In the remake of the classic movie monster property, Benicio Del Toro plays the hairy beast (literally and figuratively). The movie has been off the radar since the studio decided to shift the release date from April to November 2009.

But the full-moon junkie was actually in all his glory at Mezco's booth, where the company showed off its intricately sculpted Wolfman movie tie-in figure in both 7-inch and 12-inch versions.

Mezco's 7-inch figure

Mike Drake, Mezco's director of special projects, confirmed to SCI FI Wire that the Wolfman figures were sculpted from the likeness of Del Toro (underneath the wolfie changes, of course). Both size versions of the figures will give collectors the choice of either the normal, fierce Wolfman posture or the crouching, bloody post-attack Wolfman.

Mezco also showed off a preliminary design for a prop replica gold medallion, which is featured in the film as a key component of the curse plaguing the Talbot family.

Del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot, the prodigal son of Sir John Talbot (played by Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins), who returns home after the mysterious disappearance of his younger brother. The Wolfman hits theaters on Nov. 6; the Mezco figures will be available for purchase this fall.

EXCLUSIVE: New ‘Wonder Woman’ Animated Clip Reveals The Origins Of DC’s Amazon Princess

It’s been a few weeks since we had news from the “Wonder Woman” animated feature front, but the latest update is a big one! Warner Bros. Home Video has provided MTV with an exclusive new clip from the upcoming feature-length animated film that puts the spotlight on the third member of DC’s comic book trinity, everyone’s favorite Amazon warrior princess.

Check out the new clip below from the “Wonder Woman” animated feature, which will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray March 3:

While we don’t get to hear Keri Russell voicing Wonder Woman in the clip, we do get to hear Virginia Madsen as Hippolyta, and see some other moments from the character’s origin brought to animated life.

Along with witnessing the beginnings of Wonder Woman’s unique road to royalty among the Amazons, we also get to see the role Alfred Molina’s character, Ares, ends up playing with regard to the secret island that becomes the Amazons’ home.

Previously, we heard from Nathan Fillion about his role as Steve Rogers’ the man who wins Wonder Woman’s heart, as well as Vicki Lewis’ thoughts on voicing the character Persephone. We also received some Wonder Woman fashion tips from comic book animation veteran Bruce Timm, the film’s producer.

Exclusive: ILM’s Snow on Iron Man Mocap

In an exclusive clip, ILM visual effects supervisor Ben Snow explains how motion capture and the iMoCap system were used to dress Robert Downey Jr. in a digital Iron Man armor.

Click the Link Below to View the Exclusive Clip:

Disney's "Bolt" barks way to #1 spot in Britain

With a gross of 2.8 million pounds ($4 million U.S.), Disney's 3D-animated movie Bolt reached the top of the British box office over the weekend, Screen International said Tuesday.

That includes standard as well as 3D versions of the feature film, about a young dog journeying cross-country to reunite with his owner, Penny. Including previews, Bolt made the equivalent of $7.8 milion.

Overseas in general, Bolt finished distant to The Curious Cast of Benjamin Button, bringing in $16.5 million at 3,696 locations. Most that came from its British debut, as well as its second weekend in France, where grosses rose 2% to $4.3 million.

Bolt has made a total of $131.8 million outside North America so far. Walt Disney Studios has chosen to stagger release dates in an effort to direct attentions to individual markets. Revenues remain promising, as Britain and France are both entering school holiday periods.

Doh!: Self-Tasing guy likened to Homer Simpson

Even Ricky Hodgkinson's lawyer acknowledges that he resembles the intellectually-challenged Homer Simpson.

Judges at Walsall Magistrates' Court in England heard how, after a drinking session with friends, Hodgkinson shot himself in the chest with a million-volt Taser just to see if it worked.

It did.

"He is like the cartoon character Homer Simpson," defense lawyer John Walker said Monday.

"It was a silly thing for him to do, but he hasn't used it on anyone but himself. As he stands before you today, he realizes he has put himself in a serious situation by purchasing that weapon."

Hodgkinson, 26, of Perton, near Wolverhampton, pleaded guilty to one charge of possessing a weapon for the discharge of toxic/liquid gas -- in contravention of the Firearms Act 1968. Police may carry Tasers in Britain, but the weapons are illegal for civilian use.

The defendant's actions did, in fact, resemble Homer's goof-ups in a Simpsons episode aired last September 28, Sex, Pies And Idiot Scrapes. In it, Homer becomes a bounty hunter with neighbor Ned Flanders, but winds up repeatedly shooting himself with a Taser. Homer also Tases Ned's coffee to warm it, using the weapon on some cheese in a croissant and to loosen some ear wax.

"I suppose I have to agree with my solicitor -- I am a bit like Homer Simpson, it was a stupid thing to do, really," Hodgkinson, an unemployed father of one, admitted after the hearing.

"I wanted to test it out to make sure it worked, so I shot myself in the chest. I was told it discharged a million volts, but I wasn't left in much pain at all."

Police found the weapon shortly after midnight January 9 during a search following a late-night disturbance in the town center of Darlaston, near Walsall.

Hodgkinson initially admitted buying the Taser for "self-defence," the court heard.

"The Taser gun was found on the defendant, who was then arrested," prosecutor Jason Cordon-Bowen told the court. "The weapon was inspected by an expert in firearms, who said it was a Taser gun which gives off a one-million volt shock when activated using electrodes. It is used as a self-defense weapon, but it is prohibited.

"He told police he bought it for £100 from a friend," Cordon-Bowen said. "He said he was disappointed as he had tried it out on himself and was not in much pain at all. He felt hard done by and said he had not used the weapon on anyone but himself."

The case was adjourned until sentencing March 9.

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