Watchmen Storms the Box Office
Storming into theaters as the sole major release is Watchmen, the long-awaited adaptation of the classic superhero graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
Watchmen, directed by Zack Snyder and released by Warner Bros., hits wide on more than 3,600 screens, a record for an R-rated film. The movie also will open on 124 IMAX screens.
Warner Bros. is hoping for a repeat of the success of Snyder’s last film, an adaptation of the Frank Miller comic book 300, which opened the same weekend two years ago and charged to a domestic gross of $210 million.
With nothing else opening to steal its thunder, the only question is how much the Watchmen will rake in. Some estimates run as high as $70 million, reflecting the intense fanboy interest in the film.
However, reviews to date have been all over the place, ranging from flat-out pans to proclamations of a masterpiece. The film’s R rating, graphic violence and lengthy running time also may curb the interest of non-fans.
Hit Targets Big Screen with Thomas
Hit Entertainment is bringing its hit children’s TV franchise Thomas the Tank Engine to the big screen.
Variety reports the feature, due in 2010, is the first project for Hit Movies, a new division of Hit Entertainment.
The company, which also is the home for Bob the Builder and Barney and Friends, will make mostly live-action films and will start with adaptations of its TV hits. Plans call for a move into producing a broader line of family films.
Heading up the L.A.-based division is former Nickelodeon exec Julia Pistor, who oversaw SpongeBob SquarePants and Rugrats features for the channel.
“We're not making preschool movies or making movies just to have feature-length TV episodes,” Pistor told Variety. “We're looking to tell stories that are compelling to the whole family.”
Banjo Celebrates 30th With DVD Release
The 1979 classic short film Banjo the Woodpile Cat has arrived for the first time on DVD in a special 30th anniversary edition.
Banjo was the first animated film from former Disney animators Don Bluth, Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy. The trio went on to produce the independent animated classic The Secret of NIMH, the start of a long series of animated feature films.
The film won the National Film Advisory Board’s Award of Excellence for family films and Golden Scroll Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy films.
Banjo the Woodpile Cat has been released in a special two-disc edition that includes a digitally remastered edition of the film in both fullscreen and widescreen formats, as well as more than 90 minutes of special features.
The DVD is available at amazon.com and via download at MyToons.com.
Studio Ghibli, Toyota Team on Training Center
Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli will team up with Toyota to open a new animation training center in western Japan, reports Variety.
Ghibli, which has made Hayao Miyazaki’s acclaimed feature films Spirited Away and Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, will open the training facility in the carmaker’s research and development facility in Aichi Prefecture.
Twenty new animation hires will be sent to the facility for two-year courses in animation techniques and exposure to the carmaker’s robotics technologies.
Executives told Variety that the idea is to expose students to the same mix of technology and handmade artistry that marks the studio’s approach to filmmaking.
W!LDBRAIN Expands to L.A.
W!LDBRAIN, producers of the hit Nick Jr. series Yo Gabba Gabba!, have announced plans for an animation studio in Los Angeles.
The Sherman Oaks-based facility will help the San Francisco-based producer continue to expand its animation work into TV, films and games, Variety reports.
The move was made to accommodate both the studio’s own production slate and its growing work-for-hire business.
Heading up the studio are Chris Staples and Michelle Papandrew of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. CG animation will be supervised by Josh Book.
The company’s current slate of projects includes an animated Jeff Foxworthy pilot for Fox, and the Higglytown Heroes series for Disney Channel. It also is developing a Yo Gabba Gabba! movie, an animated variety show called Bubble Guppies for Nick, shortform series Team Smithereen, and a live-action-animation hybrid movie based on the Kidrobot toys.
Rob the Robot Co-Production Assembled
Singapore-based One Animation and Canada’s Amberwood Entertainment have agreed to co-produce the preschool animated series Rob the Robot.
The 3D animated series, developed and commissioned by TV Ontario, will begin production this spring on 52 11-minute episodes.
Based on a series of popular Australian children’s books, the series follows Rob as he and his friends explore the humorous Robot Galaxy.
Spore’s Will Wright to Deliver SIGGRAPH Keynote
Will Wright, the renowned designer of such games as SimCity and Spore, will give a keynote address at the 2009 SIGGRAPH conference.
Wright’s SimCity franchise, which includes SimEarth and SimAnt, has sold more than 58 million copies worldwide. The release last year of Spore, in which players create new species and share their evolutions with others, was praised as another innovation in game play.
Wright has earned many awards and honors, including PC Magazine’s lifetime achievement award and being named to Entertainment Weekly’s list of the 100 most creative people in entertainment.
SIGGRAPH, now in its 36th year, will be held Aug. 3-7 in New Orleans.
CBR Talks with Virginia Madsen on "Wonder Woman"
Comic Book Resources interviewed actor Virginia Madsen about her role as Hippolyta in the direct-to-video animated movie Wonder Woman, out now on DVD and Blu-ray disc. Among other topics, Madsen discusses the superheroes she liked and disliked as a kid, the challenges of voice-over acting over on-camera acting, how Hippolyta was different from other roles and how being a mother herself affected her performance, and what her son thinks of being in a cartoon.
The Legend of Milu Deer: Princess Yoyo
One of my favorite sources for learning about obscure foreign animated features is TwitchFilm.net. Certain films though are perhaps best left undiscovered. Case in point: the forthcoming CG effort called The Legend of Milu Deer: Princess Yoyo directed by Guo Weijiao. The film is largely a response to DreamWorks’s Kung Fu Panda. The success of a Chinese-themed story produced by an American company miffed a lot of Chinese citizens and has inspired them to make more (if not better) use of their cultural symbols and traditions.
The film is being produced by the Zhonke Weiwo Digital Technology Co. in collaboration with the Scientific Art Center of the Institute of Automation in the Chinese Academy of Sciences. According to the film’s official website, they are employing “special effects such as 3D deformation, hair, fabric, particles, groups animation, motion capture, and network rendering, which reaches the [most] advanced level in the world.” Apparently, the world they are referring to is the one of 1990.
The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television is planning to offer this movie as a “present” to the people of China for this year’s 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. If this is a present, I’d hate to think how they punish people in that part of the world.
The full Wolverine trailer is live here
USA Today has posted the new full trailer for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which you can watch below.
Abrams: Star Trek will reveal backstory you've never seen
J.J. Abrams, director of Star Trek, told reporters on Saturday that the movie re-introduces the original series characters, played by a new cast of actors, in a way that will seem fresh yet familiar to fans.
"This movie is not made for people who know the backstory," Abrams said. "If you know the backstory, you finally get to see scenes you've never gotten to see but have been referenced in Star Trek. And not just character moments, but mechanical things that people will be like, 'Oh, my God, that's cool!'"
Abrams added: "This is a movie that doesn't start over in a way that is playing with what is known [or] in a way that would upset people, I think, fans of the show. And yet it allows us to ... deal with the same characters and have the same fundamental relationships. One of the things that for me was always sort of tricky is [the original show] never dealt with how they came together. Why we cared about them as this group. I mean, this is a movie, in a weird way, about these orphans who sort of come together and form this family. And by the end of the movie, I think you love all of them."
In the course of making the film, Abrams—who has previously admitted he wasn't a Trek fan—said that he found his own appreciation of the characters of Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest.
"If someone had asked me beforehand, 'Who's your favorite character?' my answer would have been 'I don't have one,'" Abrams said. "I don't really connect with any one of them. But now if you asked me I would say, 'I can't [choose]. I love all of them.' I couldn't answer that question. And it really is, whether it's Uhura [Zoe Saldana] or Chekov [Anton Yelchin] or Bones [Karl Urban] or Scotty [Simon Pegg] or obviously Kirk or Spock, this group is a wonderful group."
The characters will reflect the new cast's interpretations of them. "Like when John Cho came in, I was like, 'Oh, that's funny, because he's this comedian,'" Abrams said. "And he was so good. He was so surprisingly good. And [now] Sulu's a character, who, ... I love this guy. I love how thoughtful he is, I love how kind of brave he is. Kirk is now a guy who I relate to, in a way that I never did. Even though I love now looking at what [William] Shatner did. It's awesome."
Star Trek opens May 8.
Pinocchio 70th Anniversary DVD Arrives Next Week
Next Tuesday, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment will release the Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD. The 88-minute film was the second feature-length film from Walt Disney’s, and it has been digitally restored. This 3-minute BBC spotlight video includes an interview with Dick Jones, the voice of Pinocchio.
DID YOU KNOW: Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pigg, Sylvester, Barney Rubble, etc) voiced Gideon the Cat in Pinocchio.
New Monsters Vs Aliens clip
A short clip from DreamWork’s animated comedy Monsters Vs Aliens can now be seen at ComingSoon. The video features the character Ginormica being introduced to a secret government facility. Monsters Vs Aliens hits traditional and 3-D compatible theaters as well as IMAX screens on March 27th.
New Info on "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" Episode "Innocents of Ryloth"
Lucasfilm has released a synopsis of "Innocents of Ryloth," the upcoming episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars which will debut on Friday, March 6, 2009, at 9:00 PM (Eastern/Pacific) on Cartoon Network. This second chapter of a three-part story follows General Obi-Wan Kenobi and his platoon of clone troopers as they interact with the civilian population they are tasked to protect, growing to care for them and gain a new perspective on their mission. Writer Henry Gilroy and supervising director Dave Filoni cite several World War II movies, especially The Guns of Navarone, as their inspiration for this episode.
The full press release follows:
Innocents are caught in the crossfire in the second chapter of a three-part saga in STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS
(click to enlarge)
After spanning the galaxy, the conflict comes home in “Innocents of Ryloth,” an all-new episode of the hit animated series STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, premiering at 9 p.m. ET/PT Friday, March 6, on Cartoon Network.
The second in a three-part saga chronicling the liberation of a Separatist-held planet, “Innocents of Ryloth” looks at the civilians caught in the crossfire of the sweeping galactic conflict. When Obi-Wan Kenobi and his clones are sent to the surface to sabotage a powerful Separatist weapon, they encounter heavy resistance from the droid army – but they also come face to face with the humanity of those that they are sent to protect. Seeing the “human” side of the occupation helps to give the clones a new perspective on the war.
“We really wanted to tell a story about troops going into a foreign land, maybe being a little insensitive to the people, but growing fond of them and coming to love them and wanting to rescue them from their plight,” says Henry Gilroy, co-writer of the episode. “We saw it as an opportunity to reflect those great World War II stories of the American GIs moving through Europe and encountering the people of those areas, particularly orphans.”
For Gilroy and director Dave Filoni, inspiration for this particular story came from The Guns of Navarone, a classic war film in which a commando team must infiltrate impregnable enemy territory to destroy a gun emplacement. The narrative device proved to be an effective method for getting the Republic behind enemy lines – and into the occupied homeland of a downtrodden native race.
“The idea is that this cannon is preventing our heroes from arriving to help, to liberate the planet, and basically it’s going to come down to one Jedi – Obi-Wan – to save the day,” Gilroy explains. “Plus, we’re able to really emphasize just how evil the villains are as they use the inhabitants of the town as human shields.”
Family Guy Fulfills Jedi Destiny
The circle will soon be complete—and the Ewoks will party in Quahog.
The cast of the popular animated Fox series Family Guy have completed a table read for a special episode parodying Return of the Jedi. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the episode is tentatively titled Episode VI: The Great Muppet Caper.
The series’ parody of the original Star Wars: A New Hope, titled Blue Harvest, was a huge hit on TV and on DVD. A parody of The Empire Strikes Back, titled Something-Something-Something Dark Side, is due to air in the fall.
No word on when the Jedi spoof will air, or whether the parodies will continue into prequel territory.
The Beatles Join the Rock Band Revolution
The Beatles are coming to Rock Band.
Management for the Fab Four announced a special Beatles version of the popular music videogame will be released Sept. 9, the Associated Press reports.
Titled The Beatles: Rock Band, the game will be available as a standalone game priced at $59.99, in a guitar bundle for $99.99 and in a limited edition premium bundle for $249.99. The bundles will include controllers modeled on the instruments used by the band.
The game will be released simultaneously for Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3.
Beatles management Apple Corps, MTV Games and Rock Band maker Harmonix are partners in the deal.
Garden DVDs to Bloom in Canada
The popular animated preschool TV series In the Night Garden, which has sold 750,000 DVDs to date in the United Kingdom, is set for its first DVD release in Canada.
Produced by U.K.’s Ragdoll Productions, the first DVD release will be titled Welcome to the Garden and feature four episodes of the series. The series will be distributed by Nelvana Enterprises under its Treehouse Presents label, and will be distributed by Universal Studios Home Entertainment Canada with an on-sale date of April 28. Nelvana acquired the Canadian DVD rights from BBC Worldwide America.
The series has a been a huge hit in the U.K. for Ragdoll, which also created the popular Teletubbies series.
KidsCo Secures MarVista Titles
KidsCo has acquired from MarVista Entertainment the broadcast rights to such animated titles as Anastasia, Beauty and the Beast and The Pied Piper for its Western Europe feed.
KidsCo is a joint venture of NBC Universal, Cookie Jar Group and Corus Entertainment. Launched just over a year ago, the channel is available in more than 40 countries in Europe, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Other MarVista titles that will air on the channel include The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Cinderella and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Hard times force fan to sell prized Rings, Star Wars costumes
It is a dark time for the republic: The economy's so bad some ardent sci-fi fans have had to sell off their prized possessions, CNN reports.
That includes this CNN "iReporter," who posts images of his original Star Wars stormtrooper costume, which he sold for $700, and a Lord of the Rings Nazgul Ringwraith costume, which he sold for $2,000 to pay off his wedding.
Click through the link to see what else people are selling.
Animation Illustrates Auto Maker’s Misery
As auditors hint that General Motors may not be worth saving, we turn to Nick Anderson and Todd Ramsay. The two have summed up the situation with a short Flash-animation titled Running on Empty.
Erotic Moments in Mysh and Mashko’s Music Video
Mysh & Mashko teamed up to create this erotic music video for the song Beautiful Moments of War. The track is by The Walking Man, and the production process started with Mysh drawing the characters on paper, which were then scanned into the computer. Mashko composed the elements in Flash, added some animation and then built the masking effect that reveals each drawing. Some minor adjustments were made in After Effects.
[NSFW - animated nudity and sexy time]
Hugo Weaving on a Transformers 2 Return
Hugo Weaving spoke to AdelaideNow about the return of Megatron in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen:
"I've already done it," Weaving says, adding Bay had told him to keep the news hush-hush. "He's over in LA and we were working on the video split sort of thing and I had this strange conversation where he seemed to imply it was all a big secret. So there you go, I've given you the secret scoop."
So how is Megatron resurrected?
Weaving is coy about revealing too much, but does give a tiny hint.
"I think in the last one, doesn't Optimus Prime pick up a little bit of, a little shard of the cube, or the thing that's left, and he takes it with him. Maybe there's something there... but I don't know," he laughs.
The sequel hits conventional and IMAX theaters on June 24.
UPDATE: Director Michael Bay has posted the following on his official site:
Okay cat is out of the bag. Megatron is back ---- but you will only get to see him from the long lost past. We go way back in time as this movie explains the mythology of the Primes. He is not a tank like everyone suggests, but an alien vehicle. But sadly he does not has much screen time.
Live-Action 'Ben 10: Alien Swarm' Enters Production
Live-Action / CG Alien Force Moves Forward
Cartoon Network is inching closer to the world television premiere of its new live-action movie adaptation of the original television animation Ben 10: Alien Force. In March 2009, Cartoon Network and its industry partners will move into full-production on the feature, which centers on a new, original plotline set within the Alien Force universe of Ben 10 lore. Directed by Alex Winter, who previously helmed Cartoon Network's Ben 10: Race Against Time TV film, this latest endeavor is expected to premiere on the kid's cable channel in fall 2009.
Ben 10: Alien Swarm, as it is officially titled, finds fifteen-year-old Ben Tennyson, his headstrong cousin Gwen, along with resident frenemy Kevin in another of their seemingly never-ending battle with aliens to save the planet from an intergalactic threat. Like its predecessor, the film is self-categorized by Cartoon Network as a live-action/computer animated hybrid.
Script polished, cast assembled, and principal photography underway, Ben 10: Alien Swarm is quickly moving forward. The storyline of the television movie follows Ben as he makes the tough and somewhat contentious decision to break ranks with his fellow Plummer allies in order to help a friend in need. A mysterious girl in her own right, Elena, a long-time friend of Ben's, hints at an oncoming alien threat to the Earth. As such, Ben Tennyson, along with Gwen and Kevin, lend their super powered instincts to help Elena in her mission to find her missing father.
The main cast of the Ben 10: Alien Force live-action movie will include Ryan Kelley as fifteen-year-old "Ben Tennyson," armed with a new Omnitrix and all. Galadriel Stineman joins as "Gwen" and Nathan Keyes takes on the role of "Kevin Levin." Alyssa Diaz will be playing the character "Elena."
"Batman: The Brave And The Bold" Picked Up For Additional 26 Episodes, Further Details
The World's Finest has confirmed Batman: The Brave and The Bold has been picked up for an additional 26 episodes.
While no formal press release has been issued at this time, The World's Finest can confirm that production on a second season of Batman: The Brave and The Bold is already underway. Expect further details on the upcoming season of Batman: The Brave and The Bold to be revealed later this year as the first season winds down.
Please note that details on the second season, including when and where it will air and more, will be announced at the Cartoon Network upfronts scheduled later this year.
In related news, new credit information has also been released for scheduled upcoming episodes of Batman: The Brave and The Bold. The March 13th, 2009 episode "Mystery in Space" is written by Jim Krieg and directed by Brandon Vietti, with writer Todd Casey and director Michael Chang working on the March 20th, 2009 episode "Trials of the Demon!" The World's Finest also confirms that Greg Weisman, known for his work on both the Gargoyles and The Spectacular Spider-Man animated series, will be writing an upcoming episode of the Batman: The Brave and The Bold.
The Batman: The Brave and The Bold episode “Game Over for Owlman!”, the next all-new episode of the series, premieres this Friday, March 6th, 2009. Joseph Kuhr writes and Ben Jones directs. For further details on the new episode, click here!
Heroes to Return for Fourth Season
Despite a ratings decline this season, NBC plans to bring back "Heroes" for a fourth season, said entertainment president Angela Bromstad.
The Hollywood Reporter says the network plans to order 18-20 episodes of the show for next season. That's fewer hours than "Heroes" first or current third season (which each had orders of at least 23 episodes), with season two having been cut short due to the writers strike.
For all its headline-making audience erosion, "Heroes" is still tied with NBC's "The Office" as the network's top-rated series among adults 18-49 this season. "Heroes" also still performs well internationally.
The network has privately discussed setting a series end date for "Heroes," which would followed the creative model used with critical success by ABC's "Lost," SCI FI's "Battlestar Galactica" and FX's "The Shield." But even if NBC ever made such a move, Bromstad said, they wouldn't want to make next season the conclusion.
The Onion reports that Barack Obama has been outfitted with motion-capture sensors and that his entire presidency is being recorded in 3-D. While the article is obviously in jest, I wonder how far away we are from the day where all of our lives will be recorded in digital form giving us the option to virtually replay personal events from different perspectives and to create different outcomes.