Thursday, March 12, 2009

News - 03/12/09...

Princess and the Frog Gets Earlier Release

The Walt Disney Co. has moved up the release date for its 2D animated musical feature The Princess and the Frog to Dec. 11.

Previously set to open on Christmas Day, the movie also will get an exclusive run in Los Angeles and New York starting Nov. 25, Variety reports.

The movie now opens opposite the Peter Jackson film The Lovely Bones, leaving the Christmas Day family market to Fox’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

CalArts Event to Honor Engel’s Impact

CalArts will explore the legacy of animator Jules Engel in a special event at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater set for April 18.

The highlight of the event is a roundtable discussion titled “The Influence of Jules Engel on Contemporary Animation,” featuring El Tigre creator Jorge Gutierrez, SpongeBob SquarePants creator Steve Hillenburg, The Simpsons director Mark Kirkland, Kung Fu Panda director Mark Osborne, independent animator Joanna Priestley, and Henry Selick, director of Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The discussion will begin at 5 p.m. and will be followed at 7 p.m. by a cocktail reception and exhibition of Engel’s fine art.

Engel’s career in animation began with such Walt Disney classics as Fantasia and Bambi, and included creating cartoons for UPA and Format Films. He became one of the most beloved instructors at CalArts, which is hosting the April 18 program as part of a centennial celebration of Engel’s work.

Tickets to the event cost $100 for the discussion and reception, and $50 for the reception only. More information on the show and on how to buy tickets can be found at

Disney Unveils D23 Official Fan Hub

D23 is the name of the first official fan community in the 85-year history of the Walt Disney Co.

The program includes access to the new D23 website, which features news and feature articles, event information, a Walt Disney Archives section devoted to the company’s history, and a boutique with special members-only merchandise.

Membership costs $74.99 for one year and also includes a subscription to the new Disney twenty-three quarterly magazine, a membership certificate and card and a discount on admission to special events such as the D23 Expo, set for Sept. 10-13 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The D23 Expo is being billed as the “ultimate Disney fan experience,” and will feature programming, celebrity appearances, keynote speakers, interactive experiences, sneak peeks, film screenings and exclusive merchandise.

VIZ Translates Miyazaki Essays

Starting Point: 1979-1996, a collection of acclaimed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s essays, notes, sketches and rare interviews, will be translated into English and published by VIZ Media for release in July.

The book includes the director’s notes on the movies he made during the time span, as well as a critique of the work of Osamu Tezuka (
Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion), personal recollections of his father’s experiences in World War II, and a full-color manga essay about eating on aircraft titled Kuchu de O-Shokuji.

The book will be published in paperback and is expected to retail for $29.99.

Sound Innovator Thom to Address SIGGRAPH

Oscar-winning sound editor and designer Randy Thom will deliver a keynote address at this year’s SIGGRAPH conference, set for August 3-7 in New Orleans.

Thom has worked on more than 75 films and won Oscars for Best Sound Editing on The Incredibles and Best Sound for 1983’s The Right Stuff. He also has 12 Oscar nominations for sound work on films ranging from Return of the Jedi to Ratatouille.

He began his career working as a sound designer and re-recording mixer for Lucasfilm in 1979. He is now the director of sound design at Skywalker Sound.

Partly Cloudy details

PixarPlanet shares details and official plot synopsis for Partly Cloudy, short Accompanying Pixar’s Up. Directed by Peter Sohn, Partly Cloudy will play in front of Up starting May 29.

Value of B.C. animation production rose 38% in '08

The amount of money spent on animation productions in British Columbia rose 38% in 2008 over the previous year, according to data released Monday by the BC Film Commission.

That figure jumped to a 79% increase for domestic animation spending -- nearly $97 million in 2008, compared to $54 million in 2007 -- even though domestic spending on film projects as a whole decreased slightly.

In 2008, there were 25 domestic animation projects, as compared to only 10 in 2007.

Last year, British Columbia hosted 12 animation projects for foreign firms, up from nine in 2007. However, the value of foreign animation projects in B.C. declined 27% to $25 million from $35 million.

In total, there were 37 animation projects last year, nearly doubling 2007's 19. Spending rose to $122 million from $89 million in 2007.

Last year, animation accounted for 38% of total domestic spending on film projects in British Columbia and 3% of total foreign spending on films in the province.

A total of $150 million was spent on British Columbia animation in 2008, with 82% spent entirely within the province. Of that, $112 million was spent on domestic projects (87% within B.C.) and $38 million on foreign projects -- nearly all for United States studios -- of which 67% stayed inside the province.

Animation counted for 14% of the province's entire film budget last year, and 10% of all film spending within British Columbia.

For domestic and foreign projects alike, animation represented 14% of the film budget as well. However, 26% of film spending entirely within the province was for animation, while that figure shrank to 3% for foreign projects within B.C.

Current animation productions in British Columbia for Canadian companies include The Adventures of Artie the Ant (Chasing Pictures); Barbie and the Diamond Princess, Barbie in A Christmas Carol, Barbie Presents Thumbelina, Barbie: Fairytopia - Mariposa, Escape From Planet Earth, Max Steel - Balance of Power and The Nutty Professor (Rainmaker); Being Ian, Class of the Titans 2, Kid Vs. Kat and Side Show Christmas (Studio B Productions); Crash and Quest (Atomic Cartoons); Ed, Edd 'n Eddy (AKA Cartoon); League of Super Evil and Storm Hawks (Nerd Corps Entertainment); Nehiyawetan (Let's Speak Cree) (Nehiyawetan Productions); Pearlie (The Park Fairy) (Bardel Entertainment); Raven Tales (Raven Tales Production); Rollbots (Post Only) (Amberwood Entertainment); and World of Quest (Cookie Jar Entertainment).

B.C. animation productions for American studios include
Edgar and Ellen, Hoodwinked 2, Viva Pinata and Wow! Wow! Wubbzy (Bardel Entertainment); Car Talk and My Scene
(Atomic Cartoons); Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman (WGBH Educational Foundation); Hero:108 (Mike Young Productions); Martha Speaks (Studio B Productions); Maryoku Yummy (B.L.T. Productions); and Twisted Whiskers (Cloudco).

Co-productions include
Captain Flamingo (Special) (Atomic Cartoons), Zeke's Pad (Bardel Entertainment) and Zigby (Thunderbird Films). Post-production for Gundam 00
was done for Japan's Sunrise studio.

British Columbia is North America's third-largest film and TV production service market, behind only Los Angeles and New York.

"We were very fortunate to have increased our production activity and industry employment in B.C. last year, particularly when economic circumstances proved trying for so many sectors including ours," said Peter Leitch, chair of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of BC and president of Mammoth and North Shore Studios.

"The film and television industry is changing at a phenomenal pace," said David Paperny, president of Vancouver-based Paperny Films. "The ability of B.C. companies to respond quickly and adapt to both economic and technological change are the defining characteristics of our industry, and they will drive the industry's success over the long term."

Spirit of the Forest screens at Toronto kids' fest

Anjelica Huston, Sean Astin, Giovanni Ribisi and Ron Perlman are among the all-star voice cast in Spirit of the Forest, a Spanish animated feature film to be shown at this year's Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children.

Directed by David Rubín and Juan Carlos Pena, Spirit of the Forest depicts animals fighting deforestation. When they find out that greedy Mrs. D'Abondo is planning to cut down the entire forest, gophers Furi and Linda rally a ragtag team of animals to help keep their home from being destroyed.

The film was one of many announced Tuesday to be shown at this year's festival, which runs from April 18 to 24.

Another animated feature, Germany's Little Dodo, shows how a happy-go-lucky young orangutan stumbles upon a violin and is determined to learn how to play it. In the process, he shakes up life in the rainforest from treetop to trunk. Directed by Thilo Graf Rothkrich and Ute von Münchow-Pohl, it's in German with English subtitles.

Many animated films are among the 41 shorts to be seen at Sprockets, the only film festival for young people in Toronto. They include:

Shorts Programme: Reel Rascals Shorts
Especially programmed for Sprockets' youngest audience members. Age recommendation 3+

Cello (Tatiana Kurnaeva, Russia, No Dialogue)
In this exquisite animation that resembles watercolor paintings, an insect takes a child on a magical musical journey.

Spot and Splodge in Snowstorm (Lotta Geffenblad and Uzi Geffenblad, Sweden, Swedish with English subtitles)
Best friends Spot and Splodge are excited to go outside and play in the snow, but a snowstorm threatens to spoil their fun.

Maggie and Mildred (Holly Klein, U.S.A., English)
Maggie and Mildred recount all the ways they have fun playing together in this unique animation made entirely with yarn.

Giraffes Can't Dance (Bryan Cox, Maggie McGuire, U.S.A., English)
All the other animals are certain that giraffes can't dance, until the night one giraffe proves them wrong in this charming story narrated by Billy Dee Williams.

Miriam's Colors (Jelena Girlin and Mari-Liis Bassovskaja, Estonia, No Dialogue)
Miriam, her brother and their pet chicken turn a black-and-white world into a colorful one.

MuMuHug - "MuMu's Pumpkin Mask" (Vick Wang, Taiwan, No Dialogue)
Join the lovable MuMuHug on his island home as he transforms a strange mask into something fun.

MuMuHug - "Line Up, Please!" (Vance Yang, Taiwan, No Dialogue)
Join the lovable MuMuHug on his island home as he teaches baby seals to properly line up.

Shorts Programme: Canadian Shorts
Celebrate homegrown talent with this diverse collection of short films. Age recommendation 7+

Jabbawaki (Sean B. Conly, English)
Jabbawaki, a monster with a fondness for frightening humans, falls in love. To prove his adoration, he embarks on a trip far into the wild, discovering magical lands and meeting mythical creatures that teach him no journey is just a destination.

Ha'aki (Iriz Pääbo, No Dialogue)
This unique animation offers a fresh and interesting perspective on Canada's favorite sport.

Hooked (Kristin Williams, No Dialogue)
A salty and irascible old fisherman finds his horizons expanded when a friendly but persistent spider comes to call. This film also screens in the Future Frames programme.

Shorts Programme: Loot Bag
Loot Bag presents a collection of outstanding animated films, offers thoughtful storytelling and plenty of laughs. Age recommendation 7+

The New Species (Evalds Lacis, Latvia, No Dialogue)
An insect must engineer a daring escape for a fellow insect captured by a bug collector in this fun and expertly crafted stop-motion animation.

Carrot on the Beach (Pärtel Tall, Estonia, No Dialogue)
A snowman trying to outsmart a rabbit attempting to steal his carrot nose finds out that the rabbit isn't the only creature after him.

The Bunjies (Ged Haney, Andreas Hykade, Germany, English)
Meet the Bunjies - four school-age rabbits ready to prove they are the future of rock 'n' roll - after they've finished their homework, of course.

New Adventures with Jack and Pedro - a Papa Pedro Papa Jack (Anna Erlandsson and Staffan Erlandsson, Sweden, Swedish with English subtitles)
Best friends Jack the snake and Pedro the tortoise adopt a lost baby bird, but the rambunctious nestling soon puts their parenting skills to the test.

Chepogi (Leon Estrin, Russia, Russian with English subtitles)
This beautifully hand-drawn animation tells a story based on a Korean legend about a poor man whose life is transformed through an encounter with an unusual being.

Animacat (Claude Luyet, Switzerland, No Dialogue)
A cat chases a mouse throughout a diverse series of segments, each animated by a different artist, offering a fascinating look at a variety of animation styles and techniques.

Zoologic (Nicole Mitchell, U.S.A., No Dialogue)
A finicky zookeeper is taught a lesson by an unconventional penguin.

The Coyote and the Tortoise (Len Simon, U.S.A., English)
In this clever and funny twist on the tale of the tortoise and the hare, a coyote is certain he can win a race through the desert when challenged by a tortoise.

The 7 Days of the Week (David Cowles and Sean McBride, U.S.A., English)
Sing along with They Might Be Giants as they celebrate not having to go to work and extol the joys of practising trumpet every day.

Shorts Programme: Future Frames 2009
Future Frames presents outstanding short films created at post-secondary film schools across Canada. Age recommendation 15+

Hooked (Kirstin Williams, Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, No Dialogue)
A salty and irascible old fisherman finds his horizons expanded when a friendly but persistent spider comes to call. This film also screens in the Canadian Shorts programme.

Fresh Eggs (Vadim Bazhanov, Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, No Dialogue)
A desperate duo running on empty along a blazing desert highway must stop to refuel... but can they keep their cool when the heat rises?

A Trick of the Wind (Jae Hyun Lee, Vancouver Film School, No Dialogue)
A creative young man, tuned out to all but the object of his affection, finds his life blown comically off course by the winds of fate.

C Block (Vladimir Kooperman, Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, No Dialogue)
A courageous canine is desperately determined not to lose his beloved chew toy in heart-wrenchingly bleak and unforgiving nuclear future.

The Nature of Battle (Nat Dart, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, No Dialogue)
Cargo planes with a deadly looking payload loom threateningly on the horizon of an already-devastated wasteland.

The Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children offers children and youth the opportunity to learn about film and cultural perspectives from around the globe. Through the power of film, Sprockets is helping to transform the way children and youth see the world.

The 12th annual Sprockets includes a week-long School Programme for students in grades 1 to 12. The School Programme is designed with curriculum links and support material for educators.

Tickets are now on sale. Visit the official Web site,, call (416) 968-FILM (toll-free 1-877-968-FILM), or visit the Box Office at 2 Carlton Street, West Mezzanine level (near College subway station).

Hours of operation are Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $6.60 for children and $10.61 for adults; Reel Rascals and Jump Cuts Young Filmmakers Showcase tickets are $6.60 per person (prices do not include GST, building-fund fee or service charges).

E1 Entertainment Releases "Gulliver's Travels" Clips

E1 Entertainment has released two video clips of the new DVD and Blu-ray disc of Gulliver's Travels, the classic Fleischer Brothers animated movie that has been newly remastered and released on DVD and Blu-ray disc.

"All's Well"

"It's a Hap Hap Happy Day"

Gulliver's Travels is available now on DVD and Blu-ray disc.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Updates on 'Jonny Quest' and 'Shazam' Movies

Warner Bros has been oddly silent on the production of the live-action Jonny Quest movie since August 2007, when it was announced that screenwriter Dan Mazeau and producers Adrian Askarieh and Daniel Alter had been hired to develop the film.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was rumored to play Race Bannon, and in a recent interview with Moviefone, Johnson at least confirms that he is indeed involved with the project and provided an update on the production status.

"Right now we're just still redeveloping, if you will, what that movie will be," says Johnson. "That's with myself and Andy [Fickman] and Zac Efron, but it's still in the developmental stage. Zac is my buddy -- I like Zac -- and I think that we would make a great pairing."

This news appears contradictory to reports that the rumors of Zac Efron playing Jonny Quest were "fake."

Moviefone also asked Johnson about the status of Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam:

Moviefone: Director Peter Segal has described it as 'Big' meets 'Batman' -- think it can actually live up to that?

[Laughs] Thanks Pete -- way to put us out there! I love the idea of working with Pete again. We've become really good friends. I'm not too sure where it's at right now, to be honest with you. There was a considerable amount of creative differences between the script that came in and the tone and the direction that the studio wanted to take the movie. So I believe we went back to square one, but Pete's got great ideas, and I'm pumped to work with him again.

PULSE News Talks with James Sie on the Atom for "Batman: Brave and the Bold"'s PULSE News has interviewed actor James Sie about his role as the Atom (and his evil parallel-universe counterpart Dyna Mite) in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Sie discusses how his son influenced him to take the role, saying, "He was tired of me being the bad guy," and adding that the role has given his son "tons of bragging rights." Sie also discusses how he sees the character, how easy it is to play the character against Aquaman, and what it was like to work with the cast and with voice director Andrea Romano.

Rourke in IRON MAN 2

Actor confirmed for villain role

It's official. Actor Mickey Rourke is confirmed to be appearing as the heavy in 'Iron Man 2'.

A breaking report from the Hollywood Reporter states that the actor, who is enjoying a career resurgence after his critcally-acclaimed leading role in 'The Wrestler', has signed on as "a russian villain."

Mania readers know well that Rourke was tipped for the part back in early January. Just weeks later rumors circulated later that negotiations between the actor and Marvel had gotten rocky, with the studio reportedly low-balling him on his paycheck. Since then the actor's status in the film has seemed doubtful.

Now, apparently all doubts have been erased and Rourke is on board. It still remains to be seen if Rourke is playing Iron Man's armored nemesis The Crimson Dynamo (as most fans are hoping) or the lesser villain Whiplash (as previously claimed the The Hollywood Reporter).

Marvel has been stung by several instance of being pennywise and pound-foolish about the sequel to the film that put them on the map as a stand-alone studio. Jon Favreau publically insinualted that the studio was balking at signing him on the sequel. Then actor Terrence Howard parted with the franchise over money issues. Samuel L. Jackson came right out and said they were being cheap about bringing him back as Nick Fury. Then the Rourke rumors began.

To their credit, Marvel has resolved all conflicts except for Howards, bringing Favreau back into the fold last year, signing Jackson to an amazing 9-picture deal and now getting Rourke to suit up.

New ‘Wolverine And The X-Men: Heroes Return’ DVD Trailer Debuts

The first DVD collection of the hit “Wolverine and the X-Men” animated series is heading to shelves next month (just a few weeks before Logan makes his solo live-action debut in the “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” movie), and we have your first look at the new trailer for “Heroes Return,” the series’ opening storyline that will be collected on the DVD. Check it out here, then read on for the DVD specs and more details about the collection.

Hitting shelves on April 21, “Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return” will include the three-part story that kicked off the ongoing Nicktoons animated series back in January.

According to the official plot synopsis, the animated series begins with a world that “has spiraled out of control, and it’s up to Wolverine to reunite the broken heroes formerly known as the X-Men to prevent the world’s destruction and save the future.”

The DVD’s featurettes and character profiles will be “encased in an embossed O-Card,” and specifically include:

- Character Profiles: Wolverine and the X-Men
- Making of
Wolverine and the X-Men featurette
- Audio commentary with Supervising Producer Craig Kyle and Head Writer Greg Johnson
- Audio commentary with Lead Director Boyd Kirkland and Director Steven Gordon
- Nicktoons Network Going InScene
Wolverine and the X-Men

The DVD should retail for $14.98.

You Know It's Bad When ...

Everybody is aware of our... ah ... economic problems. But on a micro-economic level I think the animation biz has reached a new level.

Because yesterday, when I was walking through one of our fine, signator studios, the first six people I talked to said the following without prompting:

"I am really glad to be working."

Now. I get people telling me this here and there. And I've gotten more of it in the last couple of months.

But a half dozen people people in a row telling me this without prompting? A new record.

They must be really, really happy. Or a little bit ... I donno ... uptight.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Moloney Unleashes the Animated Thunder of Thor

Michael Moloney, an animator in Pasadena, California, produced this Flash-animated quickie in his spare time. This is the Norse god of thunder, and his name is Thor. Behold:

Not Quite So Many Screens

I think I've mentioned how Aliens Vs. Monsters 3-D imaging really pops off the screen at you. (In other words, I thought it worked real well).

So it's kind of a bummer that there's this fly in the stereoscopic ointment:

Last week DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg told investors that “Monsters,” with an estimated budget of $165 million, would be able to be seen on “in excess of 2,000 3D screens,” out of the 7,000 screens planned for opening weekend.

“We believe this number will be more than enough to allow our film to serve as a proof of concept and to propel the new format forward,” he said on the investor call.

But that’s a far cry from what DreamWorks had anticipated, and will be a blow to its ability to maximize the moviegoing experience and ticket sales on the movie ...

As a history freak, I think the parallels between the movies tech conversion now and the one that was happening during our last big economic hiccup (1929-1933) ... are downright eerie.

In 1929, Talkies were happening in a Big Way. At the beginning of that year, there were still mega budget silent movies being made; by the end of it, hardly any were getting produced. Everything was "All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!"

Converting theaters from silent to sound was going full bore, then the stock market crashed and the economy imploded.

And the numbers of theaters converting to sound slowed waaay down.

It's little noted today, but there were still lots of silent movie houses well into the 1930s. Lots of films were sent out as sound and silent as late as 1932.

So here we are in the next century, in the middle of another economic meltdown, and whattayanknow? Another tech conversion of movie theaters gets reduced to a crawl.

Here’s the key reason for the slowdown: Installing digital cinema installation required for 3D can cost $100,000 per screen. These installations are typically financed using a virtual print fee (VPF) model -- meaning that the studios pay an agreed fee per screen, per movie, to offset exhibitors' costs.

The studios have been covering their part of the cost. The theater-owners’ portion of the financing has needed to come through venture capital financing, which has dried up since the catastrophic news on Wall Street ....

Regardless, Monsters Vs. Aliens will be launched on a huge number of screens, just not in as many 3-D venues as DreamWorks Animation would have liked. How this impacts grosses, nobody knows.

But since this is DWA's one 'toon release this year, it would be good if it doesn't impact the movie very much. Right?

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Trade Ad For Recently Released "Wonder Woman" Direct-To-Video Animated Feature

The World's Finest has obtained a recent trade ad, made exclusively for Canadian publications, for the recent Wonder Woman animated feature.

Click on the thumbnail below for a closer look at the Canadian-exclusive trade ad for Wonder Woman.

Watchmen writer begs fans to see movie again. Please!

In a rare bit of groveling by a screenwriter, Watchmen co-writer David Hayter has posted an open letter to fans to go see the movie again so that more movies like it will be made.

This after the much-anticipated $150 million movie received mixed reviews and failed to crack $60 million at the domestic box office in its opening weekend (the final figure is $55,214,334, BoxOfficeMojo reported), which was below expectations.

Hayter's argument is that the movie is unique: A studio-produced faithful adaptation of a challenging literary work, "made by fans, for fans," and that if it fails to garner significant box office revenues, a movie like this will never be allowed again.

"Hundreds of people put in years of their lives to make this movie happen, and every one of them was insanely committed to retaining the integrity of this amazing, epic tale," Hayter (X-Men) wrote. "This is a rare success story, bordering on the impossible, and every studio in town is watching to see if it will work. Hell, most of them own a piece of the movie.

"So look, this is a note to the fanboys and fangirls. The true believers. Dedicated for life,"
Hayter added. "If the film made you think. Or argue with your friends. If it inspired a debate about the nature of man, or vigilante justice, or the horror of Nixon abolishing term limits. If you laughed at Bowie hanging with Adrian at Studio 54, or the Silhouette kissing that nurse. Please go see the movie again next weekend. ... Demonstrate the power of the fans, because it'll help let the people who pay for these movies know what we'd like to see. Because if it drops off the radar after the first weekend, they will never allow a film like this to be made again."

Hayter makes no apologies for the difficult nature of the material. "It may upset you," he wrote. "And it probably will upset you. And all along, we really meant it to. ... And yet ... Trust me. You'll come back, eventually. Just like Sally."

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