Tuesday, February 24, 2009

News - 02/24/09...

Disney Buys Kids Animation Site Kerpoof

The Walt Disney Co. has acquired Kerpoof, a kids-oriented website that lets users easily create pictures, cards and short animated clips.

Kerpoof launched in 2007 and will continue as its own online portal, according to TechCrunch. Disney has already begun to incorporate Kerpoof’s technology and simple interfaces into its Disney Characters site.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

WALL•E Scores First With Sound Editors

The Motion Picture Sound Editors gave its top honor Saturday night to WALL•E, which took home the prize for best sound effects, Foley, dialogue and ADR animation in a feature film.

That made the night a double honor for Ben Burtt, who in addition to designing the sound for WALL•E won a career achievement honor for his work dating back to the original Star Wars. George Lucas presented the career achievement honor during a ceremony at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

The Dark Knight won two awards, music in a feature film and sound effects and Foley in a feature film.

On TV, Cartoon Network’s
Star Wars: The Clone Wars won the TV animation category, while Warner Bros.’s animated Batman: Gotham Knight
won the direct to video honor.

The full list of winners follows:





DIALOGUE AND ADR IN A FEATURE FILM: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


TELEVISION ANIMATION: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, "Lair of Grievous"




SHORT FORM SOUND EFFECTS AND FOLEY IN TELEVISION: Battlestar Galactica, "He That Believeth In Me"



DIRECT TO VIDEO: Batman: Gotham Knight



SPECIAL VENUE: Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk

An iPhone Stopwatch for Animators

Veteran animator Randy Cartwright, who is currently working on Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, has released a useful iPhone application designed specifically for animators called the Animation Timer. He describes on his website what it does:

Timing is very important in animation. In order to animate convincingly you must know how many frames each part of an action takes.

Animators can use a stopwatch to time out actions but there has always been an annoying problem. Stopwatches show time as 1/100ths per second but movie film runs at 24 frames per second. To find out how many frames you need to do a tiresome calculation containing 41.66667 each time.

I’ve always wanted a stopwatch that would show the time in exactly the format I need so I decided, what the hey, I might as well make one, so here it is.

For more details, visit Randy’s Animation Timer website. The application is available for $2.99 on the iTunes store. Search for “animation timer”.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Congrats to Kunio Kato who won the Oscar Sunday night for his animated short The House of Small Cubes (La Maison en Petits Cubes). He gets bonus points for thanking his pencil in his acceptance speech and also for the funny reference at the end.

Below is Kato’s Oscar-winning short in two parts:

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Tuesday Mouse Watch : Michael Jackson’s Disneyana collection goes up for bid in April

Thanks to the nice folks at Julien’s Auctions, JHM showcases some of the Disney-related items that will be offered in the “King of Pop: a Once in a Lifetime Auction”

“There's probably no greater connoisseur of Disneyana than Michael Jackson … “
-- Chris Willman, senior music writer for Entertainment Weekly

Over the past 25 years, whenever some rare Disney cel would sell at auction for a ridiculously high price and/or an anonymous phone bidder would agree to pay this huge sum for some curio from the Parks, other interested buyers in the room would just sigh in resignation and then say: “That’s gotta be Michael Jackson.”

Indeed, there are those who still insist that the real reason that Disneyana became such a big money business in the late 1980s / early 1990s was because Jackson would get into these bidding wars with Hollywood’s other deep-pocketed Disney obsessive, Steven Spielberg. That it’s these two and their extremely competitive natures that eventually drove the price of cels straight through the ceiling.

But still – given the many pieces that Michael was allegedly to have snatched up over the years – his Disneyana collection became the stuff of legend. Which is why many collectibles fans dreamed of someday visiting Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. Not to ride the rides and/or hang out with Bubbles the chimp. But – rather – see all of the Disney-related treasures that were said to be scattered around the grounds.

Well, if that’s something you’ve always wanted to do (i.e. visit Neverland Ranch), you no longer need to drive all the way out to Santa Barbara County. Neverland Ranch is coming to you ..

Copyright 2009 Julien's Auctions. All Rights Reserved

… in the form of a once-in-a-lifetime auction. Which will be held in Beverly Hills April 22nd – 25th.

This is the actual personal property of the King of Pop that’s coming up for bid. And as you might expect, this means that there are some simply amazing pieces of Disneyana that will soon be going up for auction.

Okay. So there’s the stuff that virtually every Mouse fan already has. Like Michael’s own pile of Disney reference books.

Copyright 2009 Julien’s Auctions. All Rights Reserved

But how many of us can say that we own a bust of Walt Disney?

Copyright 2009 Julien’s Auctions. All Rights Reserved

Or – for that matter – a full-sized diorama of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? Which was presented to Michael Jackson by the cast of Walt Disney World?

Copyright 2009 Julien’s Auctions. All Right Reserved

That’s the really fascinating aspect of much of the Disneyana that’s up for bid here. Not that it’s just rare stuff (EX: This Peter-Pan-catching-his-shadow figure which used to decorate the interior of some Disney Store).

Copyright 2009 Julien’s Auctions. All Right Reserved

We’re talking about one-of-a-kind custom pieces that Disney artists created just for Michael Jackson. Check out this Peter Pan installation that was specifically designed to fit into the ceiling space at the King of Pop’s home.

Copyright 2009 Julien’s Auctions. All Right Reserved

Note that Peter Pan and Tinkerbell are actually electrocuting Captain Hook here. Given that electricity didn’t factor into the original J.M. Barrie story or the 1953 Disney film … Well, that’s kind of a departure, don’t you think?

Copyright 2009 Julien’s Auctions. All Right Reserved

But you have to understand that many of these pieces were created during the “Captain EO” era. When the Walt Disney Company regularly went out of its way to try & make Michael happy.

I mean, take a gander at this Pinocchio animated diorama (Which – as the little plaque at the top of the case will tell you – was “Created Personally for Michael Jackson”).

Copyright 2009 Julien’s Auctions. All Right Reserved

Never mind about your hidden Mickeys. If you look closely in Geppetto’s workshop, you can actually spy a hidden Michael !

Copyright 2009 Julien’s Auctions. All Right Reserved

This was during the age when Disney couldn’t (or wouldn’t) say no to Jackson. So if Michael wanted a set of Geppetto & Pinocchio heads for the walkaround characters that appeared in the Parks …

Copyright 2009 Julien’s Auctions. All Right Reserved

… that’s exactly what he got.

And now – thanks to the nice folks at Julien’s Auctions – you too now have a shot at owning these one-of-a-kind collectibles. But as the Fairy Godmother once told Cinderella …

Copyright 2009 Julien’s Auctions. All Right Reserved

“But like all dreams ... Well, I'm afraid that this can't last forever. “

The exhibition of all the items that will be up for bid in the “King of Pop: a Once in a Lifetime Auction” will be held April 14th – 21st at 9900 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, CA (which is directly adjacent to the Beverly Hilton. Which -- FYI -- begins offering special Neverland auction packages starting on the 14th).

As for the auction itself … That will be held April 22nd -25th at the same location. With the Disneyana items slated to come up for bid on Friday, April 24th.

Please note that there will be a $20 per person charge for the exhibition and auction. But a portion of the proceeds will be donated to MusiCares®.

The former Robinson’s Department Store where the “King of Pop: a Once in a Lifetime Auction” will be held in April

Mind you, if you can’t actually make it out to Beverly Hills over those dates but still want to take part in the “King of Pop: a Once in a Lifetime Auction,” Auction Network will broadcast live streaming video of this event and will provide its viewers with real-time opportunities to bid.

Or if you just think that you’re never ever going to have a chance of owning any of Michael Jackson’s Disneyana collection, you can always commemorate this event by picking up the five volume color catalog for the “King of Pop: a Once in a Lifetime Auction.” Which comes in two varieties:

Copyright 2009 Julien’s Auctions. All Right Reserved

The $100 version (which features images of the more than 2,000 items of furniture, memorabilia, arcade games, and garden statuary that are up for bid) or the $500 limited edition version (i.e. There will only be 500 of these boxed sets which will then be personally signed & numbered by Michael Jackson).

So, okay. So you never actually made it to Neverland (which has recently been renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch). You can still get a hint of what it was by attending the “King of Pop: a Once in a Lifetime Auction” next month in Beverly Hills.

Copyright 2009 Julien’s Auctions. All Rights Reserved

For further information about the “King of Pop: a Once in a Lifetime Auction” and/or to check many of the items that will be up for bid, please head on over to the Julien’s Auctions website.

Watch the 2009 movie sneak peek from Sunday night's Oscars

The quick previews of upcoming 2009 movies, which immediately followed ABC's Oscar telecast on Sunday, have found their way onto YouTube, and you can watch 'em below.

The films previewed are Sherlock Holmes, Funny People, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Public Enemies, Julie & Julia, The Soloist, Up, Fame, Terminator Salvation, (500) Days of Summer, Amelia, Whatever Works, Inglourious Basterds, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Monsters vs. Aliens, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Angels & Demons, Old Dogs, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, The Boat That Rocked, An Education, State of Play, Imagine That and G-Force.

Is Emily Blunt out of Iron Man 2?

Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau told E! that Emily Blunt is definitely out of the superhero sequel and that Mickey Rourke hasn't been officially cast but is a fan, according to a report on Playlist.

Favreau made no mention of Scarlett Johansson, who is rumored to be in line for Blunt's role of Russian superspy Natasha Romanoff, who doubles as Black Widow.

On E!'s post-Oscar show, Favreau reportedly said that Fox exercised its [Gulliver's Travels] option on Blunt, preventing her from appearing in Iron Man 2.

Why you should care about the Watchmen companion DVDs

Watchmen director Zack Snyder told reporters that he had a strong hand in the development of the companion DVD/Blu-ray releases tied to the March 6 theatrical release of his adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic graphic novel, as did the cast of the movie, who ad-libbed in character for a mockumentary based on the film.

Snyder also offered new details about the upcoming releases:
Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic, due March 3, and Tales of the Black Freighter, an animated short based on the popular pirate comic book from within the Watchmen world, due March 24.

The motion comic includes the complete 12-part iTunes version of the graphic novel. Black Freighter
stars Gerard Butler as the voice of the captain.
Snyder is planning an ultimate cut of
Watchmen that will integrate Black Freighter into the film, but you can see the short by itself first. Also in the Black Freighter package is Under the Hood
, a mockumentary about Hollis Mason's costumed-avenger memoirs, which features much of the film's cast.

Snyder and Gibbons spoke with a group of journalists on Friday in Beverly Hills, Calif., about the companion discs. The following Q&A features edited excerpts from that interview.

How involved were you in the DVD spinoffs?

We were pretty involved in The Black Freighter. Eric [Matthies] basically spearheaded the Under the Hood mock documentary. Because he was doing the [electronic press kits] and all the behind-the-scenes stuff, he put together this proposal. It's basically a TV show called The Culpepper Minute, which is a magazine show that started in the '70s. ... When the original book Under the Hood first came out, they did a story on it. This is supposedly a follow-up story to their original story, like a "Where are they now?" kind of thing. So they interview all the cast in character that they can. I think the Comedian [Jeffrey Dean Morgan] is like, "Get that f--king camera out of my face."

Can you talk about making these more than just straight-to-video gimmicks, but rather authentically Watchmen properties?

Especially that piece is, because they have access to all the cast. All the cast basically had done a ton of research because they had to ad-lib the dialogue, because it's [an] interview. Carla did an amazing job, because they have the original interview of her. So she's, like, in her early-'70s look, and she had just done all of her research, so she had it so she could kind of talk about the rape allegation. It's pretty interesting. Then Steve McHattie [who plays Hollis Mason in the movie], of course, they interview him like they're in the Gunga Diner doing the interview. That's where the interviews take place, and I just feel like, after so much work that these actors put into researching their roles, they were actually able to pay off that research with these ad-lib experiences, which was cool. Then they also shot this historical footage; like, they take Hooded Justice, they get a Bolex [camera] and go down some alley with some "vintage" cops, and they shoot some handheld scratchy footage of him arresting someone.

Gibbons: It's really good to hear that there are the same elements attached to the movie as there were in the comic book. Not everybody used to read the text pages in the back, but if you do, it really enriches the experience of reading the comic book. From what Zack's saying, that's going to be the case with this. I've only seen the trailer of the Black Freighter stuff, and it's not in the EC horror comics style that I did, but it does look scary. It does look terrifying, and it should be. It's only the short trailer, but, again, I notice a few of my panel compositions have crept in there. I do like the kind of gaudy horror of it all. You seem to have captured that.

How will the final extended version integrate Black Freighter? The comic book had it intercutting with scenes from the main story.

It does that a little bit. Not as much as I would have liked, to be honest, but because most of it's bookended by the Bernies [characters at a New York newsstand]. I feel like it does kind of flow and go in and out in kind of a nice way. We did these things where when the kid's looking at the comic book, we drive into a frame, and it starts to animate, so there's cool stuff like that. I had wanted to be either Rorschach's [Jackie Earle Haley] voice over a picture from Black Freighter or hearing Gerry talking over it. It does have a little bit, but I think it could have been a little bit more. It's one of those things that when you're designing the movie and you're kind of sneaking this thing into it; it's a little bit difficult to engineer these scenes for the film that can kind of do both. One's going to compromise the other in some ways.

Are Bernard and Bernie on the short film, or just in the ultimate extended cut?

It's just for the extended. It's not even really in the director's cut, either. It's actually just for the Black Freighter version.

How much of that will include Bernie the newsstand owner's relationship with the newsstand kid?

It's he and the newsstand kid, I would say, more than anything. The Top Knots are there knockin' around, gettin' mad. They don't like that he's reading a comic book. We did little bits, even though it's maybe not in the comic book, where Hollis Mason is buying a magazine, just trying to bring characters from the outside world [to] sort of pass through the newsstand to make it feel like a community of characters. It's also kind of interesting, maybe, and fun that an audience would get an opportunity to expand the world and feel like it's living and breathing even more than just a straight linear movie would do. I think when you're in the movie, we really don't have a lot of time to f--k around. You've got to stay on point, and you've got to keep going, because time is so critical, so it's kind of fun to have the Black Freighter version where it is pretty luxurious.

The motion comic is 325 minutes. Could the movie have been twice as long?

I mean, if you watch it, if we shot it panel for panel, that's what it would have probably been, six and a half hours. And that's not taking into account dramatic pauses by actors doing dialogue, which they tend to do. I think at least six and a half hours long.

Gibbons: That is the actual running time of a literal translation of Watchmen. Paul Levitz at DC showed it to me to see what I thought about it. I thought, "Well, I don't think we really need this." So I said to Paul, "If I really don't like it, is it likely to get made anyway?" And he said, "Probably." So I said, "Well, OK." I showed it to my teenage stepdaughters, and they went crazy. They said, "This is great. This is fantastic. Can we see some more of it?" So I kind of changed my mind about it, really, just on their enthusiasm. Certainly I was involved in it as a consultant, so I went through the script with them, and they'd show me the animated and the rough animation. It's a tremendous feat of cutting all the foregrounds out and extending the backgrounds and resizing it, but on an iPod it looks brilliant. The reason why, I think, is because the panels are kind of exactly the same size as in the comic. So it's like isolating a panel and watching it move.

Does it have the original ending, with the squid?

It's exactly the book. It's just the book.

A Gladiator for IRON MAN 2?

'American Gladiator' and professional wrestler Matt Morgan had a podcast chat with FeelThePain.net recently. In it he mentioned a couple of comic-related projects he may be involved in.

Matt Morgan as BEAST on American Gladiators
© NBC-Universal

Morgan, who appeared on the show as "Beast", said that he's had conversations with the producers of 'Smallville' about appearing on the show as Doomsday. His comments are a bit puzzling, as the role has already been cast, with Sam Witwer playing the human counterpart to the character and a stunt person in heavy makeup playing the monstrous version. Still Morgan seemed to say that the character would somehow be tweaked so that he could step into the part is the show went to a ninth season.

However, Morgan spoke with much greater certainty about 'Iron Man 2'.

"I don't want to get myself in trouble," the athlete/entertainer said during the podcast. "I'm also being [cast] in 'Iron Man 2', as obviously a villain. I can't really go into which character I'll be playing yet."

Morgan credits the 'American Gladiator' show as opening doors to these other opportunities.

Tilda Gets Animated

Tilda Swinton at the Oscars (left) and Hermey the Dentist Elf from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (right).

One of them was molded from clay.

We're just sayin' ...

(Thanks TMZ)

Oscars Snub Animated Films Again

There was some controversy this year (and in past years), as to why animated features are so often left out of the Best Picture category at the Academy Awards. Only Beauty and the Beast was nominated in this category (losing to The Silence of the Lambs), and this year many think WALL-E should have been included. Look no further than Rotten Tomatoes to see what critics thought of the film - ranking it the highest of any major release with a 96% rating. You shouldn’t be surprised that the same thing happened in 2007 - Ratatouille did the same thing with a 96% “freshness” rating.

So if our films are going to get this cold shoulder, let’s do a little math. At the Oscars, it’s not about box office, but the day before and the day after, it’s all about box office. So let’s look at a yearly comparison of Best Picture films vs. Best Animated Features - since 2001, the year the Best Animated Feature category was added. As you can see, animated films regularly beat out the live-action projects, and have earned 33% more at the box office since 2001. I leave you with one word - “scoreboard.”

By the way, animated films aren’t the only projects left out in the cold - only eight foreign language films have been nominated for Best Picture.

(Thabks Lineboil)

The Art of 'Usagi Yojimbo' at the Cartoon Art Museum

Usagi Miyamoto on Exhibit Soon

San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum will soon be paying tribute to one very special long-eared samurai; a creature whose fantastical if not mythical exploits have traversed many lands, in turn crossing many swords of many strangers (and on some occasions, friends as well). Usagi Miyamoto, a warrior on a pilgrimage occasionally drawn into conflicts of remarkable difficulty, is a rabbit of transparent character. The subject of a Cartoon Art Museum springtime exhibit, Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo will surely draw comics artists and longtime fans of sequential graphic artistry alike

"The Art of Stan Sakai: Celebrating 25 Years of Usagi Yojimbo" will begin its run at the Cartoon Art Museum starting late February 2009.

The story of a samurai rabbit, taking place in the beginning of Edo period Feudal Japan (17th Century), Usagi Yojimbo weaves a tapestry of interrelated narratives that dart in and out of classic Japanese mythology.

Sometimes integrating legends of persons of god-like with those of lesser status, while other times regaling readers with the intricacies of common jealousy, Usagi Yojimbo is a long, beautifully structured social experience, whose anthropomorphic characters enhance the existence of these myths, legends, and tales from afar.

Figuring out how Usagi himself fits into these towering story arcs Japanese folklore is sometimes a puzzle in and of itself until the comic manages to wind its way through marvelous visuals of period-specific architecture, clothing, pottery, and much more. Reasons for the durability and staunch intrepidness of the character Usagi, and of the comic Usagi Yojimbo, can perhaps be mentioned in the same breath. First appearing in comics by Stan Sakai in 1984, Usagi Yojimbo is a frenetic historical narrative that delights in tugging at cleverly positioned folkloric subplots like marionette strings.

The Cartoon Art Museum recently wrapped up an impressive exhibit centered on Henry Selick's stop-motion feature presentation Coraline. Starting February 27th, 2009 according to previously published notes, and continuing through Independence Day weekend, the museum will feature 60 original artwork items from Stan Sakai regarding his ongoing comic Usagi Yojimbo. The exhibit will reportedly sport artwork that covers all twenty-five years of the samurai rabbit's existence, from early pencil sketches to completed story pages, cover artwork, and even watercolor paintings.

Sakai, born in Kyoto, Japan but later moving to and later growing up in Hawaii, appears to have created an everlasting figure in the comics world, perhaps beloved by many even if they do not know why. A writer and artist, winner of most major comics industry awards, and certainly one deserving of a career-spanning retrospective such as this, Stan Sakai's strong references to Lone Wolf and Cub, Groo the Wanderer, and a host of Kurosawa films are most evident. There are 23 volumes of Sakai's works, collected; his most recent is Book 22: Tomoe's Story, which was published by Dark Horse Comics back in July 2008.

on The Cartoon Art Museum: The Cartoon Art Museum (www.CartoonArt.org) is the only museum in the western United States dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of cartoon art in all its forms. This institution houses 6,000 original pieces in its permanent collection.

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