Friday, February 27, 2009

News - 02/27/09...

New 'Wonder Woman' Animation Nears Release

Diana Takes to Home Video

Finally making its way to home video in the first week of March 2009 is the direct-to-video film Wonder Woman. A feature-length presentation that espies Princess Diana of Themyscira braving a traditionally clever myriad of wit, combat, and testosterone in order to preserve not only her pride in the Amazonian sisterhood, but to save the world from an increasingly villainous threat as well. Directed by experienced storyboard artist Lauren Montgomery and produced by the frequently credited Bruce Timm, Wonder Woman provides fans of an ever-widening animated DC universe with another home video sized adventure.

Princess Diana, "a daughter of untold beauty" from the island of Themyscira, is at the center of Warner Premiere's next release. A remarkable embodiment of her people, Diana is at once beautiful, headstrong, and intelligent; her somewhat rebellious nature belies a greater curiosity for the outside world. While Diana's curiosity is often an embattled ideal when pressed with the pride of her Amazon peers who hold to Amazonian law rather didactically, her loyalty is tested when army fighter pilot Steve Trevor crash-lands on Themyscira.

As Wonder Woman continues, Diana defies local custom of her warrior race by promising to accompany the American back to his home civilization. But as the princess heaves this sociological burden upon her shoulders, a much greater risk to the Amazons and to the world at large is brewing: Ares, the god of war, has escaped his imprisonment at the hands of the Amazons. Keen on seeking revenge on the Amazonian women as well as driving the entire human race into a cataclysmic world war, Ares' power and smugness threatens to wipe innocence clean from the face of the planet.

Becoming the mythical Wonder Woman to save her people and her planet, Diana is forced to grow up fast, making increasingly tough, mature decisions in a world that all too often fosters petulant, reactionary sentiments. Courtesy of Warner Premiere, Wonder Woman hits store shelves on March 3rd, 2009 for $19.98 (single-disc), $29.98 (two-disc edition), and $29.99 (Blu-ray edition). A 74-minute film in letterbox aspect ratio, bonus features on the Wonder Woman video release include a sneak peek at the next DC animated title (Green Lantern) and for the special edition releases, in-depth documentaries: "Wonder Woman: A Subversive Dream" and "Wonder Woman: Daughter of Myth."

"The thing I like most about these projects [within the animated DC universe] is that each of these movies really does have a different, unique feel," Bruce Timm commented on the look and feel of Wonder Woman. "It would have been very, very easy and frankly a lot simpler and cost effective to stay in that TV series design style and world view. But each of these movies really does have a unique feel -- in the design, the score, the cast, even the title sequences. We've been able to expand creatively and that makes these productions fun."

The Velveteen Rabbit trailer online

Apple hosts a trailer for the upcoming film The Velveteen Rabbit. The feature, a combination of live-action drama and animated adventure, is directed by Michael Landon and features the voices of artists such as Jane Seymour, Tom Skerritt and Ellen Burstyn. The Velveteen Rabbit opens in theatres on February 20.

Futurama Creators, Cast Review Series Past, Future

The future for Futurama is decidedly unclear — not that that’s anything new.

The sci-fi comedy series ran from 1999 to 2003 on Fox before production ended. But sales of DVDs and repeats on cable showed interest in the series remained high, and a four direct-to-DVD features were commissioned to continue the show.

With the fourth DVD feature, Into the Wild Green Yonder, finished and release, there is once again talk that this may not be the end for Fry, Leela, Bender and friends. Sales of the DVDs and the success of the show on Comedy Central have raised the possibility that Fox may make more Futurama, and the show’s creators are just waiting for the green light.

“We would love to continue making more Futurama episodes in whatever form,” says series co-creator Matt Groening. “I think we haven’t exhausted all the story ideas.”

Executive producer David X. Cohen says he’s even got the story worked out. “I find myself in the shower in the morning thinking about the next episode that will come on the heels of this episode,” he says. “So I have it mostly worked out and pretty much ready to go if the call comes in from Fox.”

Still, nothing’s been decided and Cohen is reluctant to predict the odds of the show’s return. “I couldn’t put an exact figure on that,” he says. “It’s certainly not zero, it’s not a hundred, so we can say 50-50 for lack of a better term.”

Groening, an icon in animation since creating The Simpsons more than two decades ago, says there’s a good case to be made for continuing Futurama. “We did these four movies fairly quickly, certainly by animation standards,” he says. They also were done for much less money than animated theatrical features, which in the case of The Simpsons Movie took four years to make.

In creating visuals for the Futurama DVDs, Cohen and Groening says they tried to create more cinematic visuals and were very happy with the animation work done by Rough Draft Studios. “They really knocked themselves out,” Groening says.

For the voice cast, coming back to their Futurama characters after a gap was easy because the actors had helped create them from the start.

Billy West says he put a lot of thought into figuring out what characters as diverse as Fry, the Professor and Dr. Zoidberg would sound like.

“Zoidberg was a combination of two actors that were — they weren’t leading men or anything. One was Lou Jacobi from Diary of Anne Frank,” says West. “And then there was this other guy named George Jessel, he was like a vaudevillian burlesque comedian and he had a marble mouth.” Merging the two created just the right mix of strange for the character, and fit the visual of Zoidberg’s squid-like mouth.

Similarly, voice actor Phil LaMarr says his character, Hermes Conrad, was originally not going to have a Jamaican accent. “It wasn’t until I think the fourth episode that Matt (Groening) came in and said, ‘Yeah, it’s not really working,’ which is like a death knell,” LaMarr says. “They’d already replaced two major characters at that point on the show. So when they go, ‘Can you do a Jamaican accent?’ – ‘Yes!’”

Lauren Tom says the case was similar for her character, Amy Wong.“She was supposed to be a car mechanic — really tough, lesbian, sort of dyke-y,” she says. “But Matt liked my laugh, so he said, ‘We’ll just case you and then figure out what to do because I’ve got to get that laugh in there somewhere.’”

Maurice LeMarche, who voices a variety of voices including Kif Kroker, Calculon and Morbo, says the characters evolved and deepened as the show progressed. He cited Kif’s relationship with Amy as an example. “I think that’s where the characters grow, not necessarily a change in the sound of their voices, but in what they want,” he says.

Groening says he’s spent the last year looking into the contemporary animation scene — he was a judge for the Annecy festival in France — and says the outlook for animation is very good these days. “I saw just a staggering amount of great, great stuff,” he says.

That also extends to the recent run of outstanding animated features. “This year, I think one of the best animated movies ever made — and maybe you don’t have to qualify it with animated — WALL•E, is a great science-fiction movie,” he says. “And then you see Waltz with Bashir, this Israeli movie that’s unlike any other animated movie I’ve ever seen.”

Humane Society of U.S. nominates Disney's "Bolt"

Disney's Oscar-nominated animated film "Bolt" has been nominated by the Humane Society of the United States for this year's Genesis Awards.

Presented by the largest animal protection organization in the U.S., the 23rd Genesis Awards will be handed out Saturday, March 28 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. Nominees were announced Wednesday.

Bolt is competing in the feature film category with live-action movies Marley and Me, Red and Saving Luna.

Nominated for the Sid Caesar Comedy Award are two episodes of cartoon series airing on FOX: McStroke (Family Guy) and Apocalypse Cow (The Simpsons).

In the Children's Programming series, the nominees are Manny's Mouse Traps, an episode of Disney Channel's Handy Manny, and Grooming Gary, an episode of Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants.

The only awards show of its kind honoring the news and entertainment media for showcasing animal issues, this year's Genesis Awards gives the nod to an eclectic range of popular fare.

"Animal protection is a subject that is finding its way into all media genres and platforms because it's an issue of genuine interest and concern to audiences everywhere," said Beverly Kaskey, senior director of the HSUS' Hollywood office and executive producer of the annual Genesis Awards. "This year's Genesis nominees prove that whether you're a fan of animated comedies like Fox's Family Guy or The Simpsons, or unscripted series like FX's 30 Days or Animal Planet's Whale Wars, there's a compelling and entertaining story to be told."

The 23rd Genesis Awards will also present The Wyler Award to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi for making news on behalf of animals. The award, named after Genesis Awards founder and former Broadway headliner Gretchen Wyler, was previously bestowed on Sir Paul McCartney and Hayden Panettiere.

This year's event is dedicated to ending the Canadian seal hunt.

The Cat Piano Trailer

Here’s the stylish trailer for The Cat Piano, a just-completed animated short by our friends at the People’s Republic of Animation in Adelaide, Australia. The short is directed by Eddie White and Ari Gibson and its content described as, “a city of singing cats is preyed upon by a shadowy figure intent on performing a twisted feline symphony.” We offered White’s earlier short, Carnivore Reflux, co-directed with James Calvert, way back when we launched Cartoon Brew Films. That short can now be seen on YouTube. The guys at PRA are enthusiastic, young and skilled, which is a powerful combination. It’s commendable that they continue doing shorts inbetween their busy workload of TV commercials, music videos and long-form commissioned projects.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Simpsons Picked Up for 2 More Seasons

The Simpsons will live long enough to legally order a drink, thanks to a two-season pickup from Fox.

Matt Groening’s animation fixture will continue for 44 more episodes, bringing its total to an impressive 493.

The show first aired on Jan. 14, 1990, and Fox last month kicked off a year-long celebration with the slogan “Best. 20. Years. Ever.”

Street Fighter vs. Jonas Bros., Round One!

Moviegoers this weekend face the difficult choice of fight or sing.

In one corner of an otherwise slim week for new movies, is the videogame adaptation Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li. The Fox film, which stars Smallville’s Kristin Kreuk, Chris Klein and Neal McDonough, opens on about a thousand screens and should draw in fans of the long-running game franchise.

On the singing side
is Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience. The Disney release featuring the immensely popular music act will only be released in 3-D, and should attract plenty of the group’s screaming fans.

’ release effectively knocks Focus Features’ animated film Coraline to 2D-only venues. Animated fare will take back those screens in a month’s time, when DreamWorks Animation’s Monsters vs. Aliens
hits on March 27.

In the meantime, the opening for the long-awaited adaptation of Watchmen is only a week away...

Trek Crew’s Next Stop: Family Guy

The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation is set to beam into Quahog on an upcoming episode of Family Guy.

The upcoming episode, titled “Not All Dogs Go to Heaven,”
will feature Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Wil Wheaton, Denise Crosby, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes in an episode that sees the Griffins head to a local Star Trek convention.

The episode is due to air
March 29, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Family Guy
scored a major hit with its Star Wars: A New Hope parody, Blue Harvest, and a planned spoof of The Empire Strikes Back is due next season, with a Return of the Jedi
parody also in the works.

ELANS Announce Host For Awards Ceremony

The producers of the 3rd Annual ELAN Awards are thrilled to announce that their Host for this year's show will be Tom Kenny, known the world over as none-other-than the one, the only ... SpongeBob SquarePants.

Holly Carinci, Founder & Producer of the ELANS, an awards show that just went international honoring the talent behind video games, animation and, also new this year, visual effects. "Honest-to-god, I have to make certain that I have drunk a cup of the strongest coffee on-hand in preparation for a telephone conference with Tom," Carinci laughs. "I thought Seth would be an impossible act to follow, but not for Tom!" Seth MacFarlane was the Host for last year's ELAN Awards, following in the footsteps of Captain Kirk (William Shatner) the award show's inaugural Host.

"Since my kids are far too busy playing video games to talk to me anymore, I'm looking forward to the social interaction of the ELAN Awards," quips Kenny. And the ELAN Awards are looking forward to Tom Kenny: With the recent difficult times experienced by their awarded industries through studio closures and job loss, the producers of the ELAN Awards' and their partners' only wish for this year's show is to put smiles back on faces. "Tom will make our guests remember that what they do for a living is entertain people at a time they most need to be entertained and that theirs is a talent that should be celebrated and awarded," says Carinci seriously.

With this in mind, the ELANS have made numerous changes to their production this year in an effort to help the industry deal with today's difficult economic times, first postponing the date in order to help each company and individual get their submissions in, then changing the venue from an 1,800 theater-style show to a warm, intimate dinner show, essentially keeping the glitz-and-glamour that is the ELANS while keeping the evening obtainable and focused. "This year's show will be extremely exclusive as well as all-inclusive," reports Carinci, "because we wanted - no, we needed - to make sure that we were able to produce a world-class show for these world-class industries, offering a truly first-rate, thoroughly enjoyable experience. In order to do this we had to limit the number of attendees to 600 this year."

Confirmed: New contract to keep Star Trek The Experience alive in Vegas

SCI FI Wire confirmed today that a contract has been signed with CBS/Paramount to reopen the Star Trek The Experience exhibit in Las Vegas on May 8 —starting with at least a new restaurant and retail shop—to coincide with the opening of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movie.

"It is a bit premature to talk about it, but I can confirm that a contract has been signed," Liz Kalodner, executive vice president and general manager of CBS consumer products in New York, told SCI FI Wire exclusively. "I do not have any further comment."

Las Vegas city public information officer Jace Radke confirmed to SCI FI Wire that the Star Trek The Experience, which closed at its home at the Las Vegas Hilton, will move downtown to the Neonopolis Center. "This is going to be a major part of the downtown redevelopment we have been working on, and the city department of business development has been trying to encourage attractions like this to the area," he said.

Experience featured a restaurant and bar, shops and motion-simulator rides themed to Star Trek: The Next Generation ("Klingon Encounter") and Star Trek: Voyager ("Borg Invasion 4-D")
. It's expected the new exhibit would feature similar rides at some point. For now, however, the plans envision just a new version of Quark's Restaurant and Bar, a Museum of the Future (perhaps incorporating elements and characters from the new movie) and a shop.

For his part, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said, "We are very excited about this for downtown."

The move would be part of the city's effort to redevelop the older part of downtown Las Vegas—situated at the end of the Strip of large casinos—into a more vibrant tourist and residential area. The Neonopolis project is one of the centerpieces of the area. (Neonopolis manager Rohit Joshi is out of the country and could not be reached for comment.)

Radke added, "We are trying to secure other projects as well, but this Star Trek exhibit is happening, and we hope to have a portion of it ready by May 8. We're working on getting the Ts crossed and the Is dotted in the contract."

Journalist Mark Hansel, who writes for In Business Las Vegas, has seen the contracts signed by studio officials, Neonopolis owners and the city of Las Vegas. "I have seen the contract, and I know that the city redevelopment manager met with CBS officials in New York to seal the deal," said Hansel, who has covered the downtown redevelopment for years for In Business and the Las Vegas Sun. "They are hoping that there will be some sort of premiere event at the time of the movie opening that will be out here. Obviously, the big premiere will be in Hollywood, but they hope to have something out here, too."

The costumes, the historic timeline, models of the ships and other items at the Star Trek Experience exhibit will be moved to a museum that is planned for the new location, but much of the exhibit probably wouldn't be opened until the end of 2010.

"I wouldn't expect the cool stuff for about a year," Hansel said. "A lot of it also depends on the popularity of the movie and how well it does, but the trailer looks like it's going to be pretty great." He added: "The price is going to be cheaper, maybe $20 or $25, and there may be package deals or year-long memberships, that kind of thing."

Hansel said interest in the exhibit waned in recent years. "I talked to people in the town about it, and they just weren't going or interested, but now there's a new buzz, especially since this is going back to the early years of the series," he added.

The new venue already has a 3-D enabled movie theater, and there may be plans to have a 4-D "experiential" ride similar to the ones at the Hilton. Joshi projected that 7 million visitors could come to the exhibit a year, which Hansel said is "a reasonable estimate."

Neonopolis will also host the Southern Nevada Fine Arts Museum, a Barbizon School, the Spanish-language Telemundo station and an upscale nightclub. The biggest draw is expected to be the Star Trek The Experience.

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