Friday, March 13, 2009

News - 03/13/09...

Up Gets Trailer, Short Partly Cloudy

Pixar has unveiled the full theatrical trailer for Up and is attaching the animated short film Partly Cloudy to the May 29 release.

Directed by Peter Sohn, Partly Cloudy features a baby-delivering stork named Peck who has to handle the increasingly rambunctious babies created by a lonely and insecure cloud named Gus.

Sohn steps into the director’s chair having voiced Emile in the feature film Ratatouille and worked as a storyboard artist and animator on various Pixar films. Kevin Reher produced the film.

The new trailer for Up can be viewed at the movie’s official website, or at the sites below.



Windows Media:

High Definition:


Lazlo, Pocoyo Top Cartoons on the Bay

Another Cartoons on the Bay concluded in beautiful Positano, Italy over the weekend with an awards ceremony that saw many kudos heaped upon Cartoon Network’s Camp Lazlo and Zinka Ent.’s darling 3D preschool series, Pokoyo. Other big winners include The Amazing Adrenelini Bros. from U.K.-based toon house Pesky Animation, Skyland from Method Films of France, the stop-mo special A Very Barry Christmas from Cuppa Coffee in Canada and a series pilot titled Little Kingdom from the U.K.’s Astley Baker Davies.

“This is quite a surprise,”
remarked Camp Lazlo creator Joe Murray during one of several trips to the stage to accept the coveted Pulcinella Award. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my talented crew at home toiling away while I’m here enjoying all this Italian hospitality.”

Camp Lazlo
took Best TV Series for Children and Best Program, while that loveable scamp Lazlo himself (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui) was named Best Character. The irreverent comedy series about a summer camp gone awry was also named Best TV Series for Children by a special jury of subscribers of Rai, the Italian television network controlled by festival sponsor Rai Trade.

The jury described
Pocoyo as “a beautifully designed developmentally appropriate charming story for preschoolers with wonderful comic acting.” The CG show from Spain won Best TV Series for Infants and also picked up the award for Best European Program.

“We’re looking to this to launch the next phase of our world domination plan,”
Pesky Animation producer David Hodgson joked with us shortly after accepting the award for Best TV Series for All Ages with The Amazing Adrenelini Brothers, a co-production of Studio B in Canada. Hodgson is half of the husband-and-wife team behind Pesky. His better half, Claire Underwood, directs the wacky Flash show about a trio of daredevils who travel the globe and wreak havoc. “This is significant for us because it’s out first jury award and we’re hoping it will help bring broadcasters to the show in the first place so we can get it in front of the kids.” Adrenelini Brothers was first shown at Cartoon Forum in 2003, where it got the attention of Cartoon Network, which aired a series of Adrenelini shorts.

Producer Phil Davies of Astley Baker Davies is also hoping their win for Best TV Series Pilot will draw broadcasters’ attention to
Little Kingdom, a 2D show about tiny fairies and elves who live in a magical, miniscule land. He tells us the company is in talks with one of the major U.K. broadcasters and says a win like this may help push the deal through. At the very least, he’s hoping it will generate some interest from those who previously hadn’t heard of the project. Just getting selected for competition got it in front of a jury of distinguished animation professionals that included Lisa Salamone Smith, Walt Disney Television Animation’s senior VP of production; Daniel Lennard, senior director of original animation for Turner Broadcasting System Europe, U.K.; Kim Wilson, creative head of children's programming for CBC Television, Canada; and Sabine Weber, head of TV movies and series for ORF, Austria.

, a 3D anime-inspired sci-fi romp from Method was honored with the prize for Action & Adventure TV Series, while HFF—Potsdam Babelsberg of Germany’s toon adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart won Best Short Film and Cuppa Coffee’s A Very Barry Christmas was named top TV Special. Meanwhile, The Unicef – Campania Region Prize for Educational and Social Program went to Day Dream from the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Special mentions went out to Star Wars Clone Wars – Volume 2 from Cartoon Network Studios, U.S., Aladdin’s Adventures from Làstrego e Testa of Italy, the short One D from Canadian animator Mike Grimshaw and Rabbit
, an acclaimed short from U.K. filmmaker Run Wrake.

Cartoons on the Bay is held each year in Positano, featuring four days of screenings and special presentations. This year, Roy E. Disney and Italy’s Bruno Bozzetto were presented with the Career Award. In addition and DIC Ent. in the U.S. and Enarmonia in Italy were each named Studio of the Year.

Other Cartoons on the Bay 2006 winners:

Jury of Rai Subscribers Award for:

TV Series For Infants
Chiro & Friends
Iconix Entertainment Co., Ltd., South Korea

TV Series For All Ages:
Gino The Chicken Lost In The Net
Lanterna Magica, Italy

Imago (short film)
Sacrebleu Prods., France

Marvel Forms Global Branding Team

“Advisors Assemble!” may not have the same ring as the Avengers’ famous battle cry, but Marvel’s new special advisory board is nonetheless charged with a heroic mission: to promote the company’s iconic superheroes in every corner of the globe.

The comic-book publisher turned animation and movie studio has its eyes on China and India in particular, appointing to the board Bollywood film producer Manmohan Shetty and China-based digital entrepreneur Peter Yip, Variety reports.

Marvel is looking to fill two more slots on the board, and reportedly is keen to find people with expertise to represent Marvel in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. Heading the board is James Halpin, a Marvel director for 14 years and former president of CompUSA.

Marvel’s president of worldwide consumer products, Simon Philips, is serving as liaison between the board and the company.

Sesame Workshop Cuts Staff 20%

The producer of Sesame Street is laying off a fifth of its work force due to the recession.

The nonprofit Sesame Workshop said 67 members of its staff of 355 people will be let go.

Sesame Workshop was founded in 1968 and brought
Sesame Street to television the following year. It has remained a staple of children’s broadcasting for 40 years, growing to encompass a large output of TV programs, books, merchandise and interactive content.

New Naruto Game Set for DS

The fourth edition of the popular video game Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Council is being developed exclusively for the Nintendo DS.

Based on the popular VIZ animated series, the game series has sold more than 800,000 copies in North America. The forthcoming game will be the first game released for the DS in North America to feature the
Naruto Shippuden story arc.

The game will feature wireless multiplayer battles for up to four players and will be available in spring 2009.

The Last Terrytoon one-shot

I’m back with another lame attempt by a classic cartoon studio to be relevant in the 1960s.

Today I’ve got what I believe is the last theatrical one-shot produced by the Terrytoon studio in New Rochelle, New York.
Search For Misery (1963) is a real curio. I suspect it was concocted as a pilot, an attempt to break into prime time television. Why not? Everyone else was doing it at the time - and Terrytoons was actually owned by a major network, CBS. With other prime time animated series patterned after sitcoms and adventure shows, director Bob Kuwahara and writer Larz Bourne concocted this spoof based on TV’s most tried and true genre: soap operas.

Though years ahead of
Mary Hartman, Pitiful Penelope lacks the wit and social satire this sort of thing required. The humor is labored and deliberate. When the character names (Roland Stone, Big Delia, Kay Niver) are the cleverest thing in the script, you know you are in trouble. Cosmo Anzilotti did all the animation, Tom Morrison is the narrator, Dayton Allen and his wife Elvi portray Roland and Penny, respectively. I give it points for being different, and for its attempt to appeal to adults. It’s certainly one of the oddest things Terrytoons ever produced. Because it is so rarely seen, I thought it would be worth a post.


Toon Zone News Talks with Artist Toby Bluth on Presenting "Pinocchio" in Disney View

Growing up in Utah, Toby Bluth and his brother Don were so deeply inspired by the films of Walt Disney that they've both developed careers in and around animation. Toby Bluth has done a variety of work for Disney, ranging from the fine art paintings inspired by Disney films, writing and illustrating Disney books, and serving as the art director for The Tigger Movie in 2000.

Bluth's latest challenge was "Disney View," a new feature debuting on the newly released Pinocchio Blu-ray edition that uses Bluth's paintings as a sort of mask to make the full-frame sized movie fit on widescreen high-definition television sets without stretching or cropping the source image. Toon Zone News was able to sit in on a roundtable conference call with Bluth and Disney to discuss his work on the new Blu-ray.

All images in the below roundtable interview can be clicked to enlarge to high-definition resolution.

MINDY JOHNSON: My name is Mindy Johnson. I'm with Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Global Publicity Group, and it's my great pleasure and honor to represent the classic animated titles with the great library at the Walt Disney Studio.

Today, we're going to explore some of the great visual treats inside the classic film of Walt Disney's Pinocchio. And joining us today is Toby Bluth, a Disney artist and true legend in his own right.

Oh, dear. Hello, everybody.

JOHNSON: We are also joined by Evan Acosta who is a part of the Disney DVD Production Team and led the Pinocchio Blu-ray feature which became the very first Disney View feature. Evan is here to handle many of our technical questions. And, of course, we're here to take a look at the great work that Toby has done and to give you a sense of what the Disney View feature involves.

I'm going to start with a few preliminary questions to get the ball rolling for Toby. But then, please, jump in at any time. Please state your name, perhaps where you're from and offer up your questions.

Toby, tell us a bit about your lifelong history with Walt Disney. I know you have a tremendous love of his work certainly,

Yes, I do. I was raised on a farm in a little place called Payson, Utah, and we had one movie theater there. My brother, Don - maybe some of you know Don Bluth. He also does film. He and I would ride our horses into town and go to the Star Theater because there were no DVDs, no home videos.

If a Disney film came through, we would stay and watch it through maybe three, maybe four times. We were Utah dirt farmers. That means put it in the ground and you grow it and you dig it up and then you eat it. You just live right off the land.

And there just wasn't the magic that we saw at the Star Theater as when something like Pinocchio or Snow White came through. They were really quite magical. And that's where the romance started originally.

My brother Don was older, and being older he could draw better than I could and I thought his things were wonderful. When I was six years old, I was always very frustrated because he drew so well and he was so talented. But when I was six years old, I remember I drew a picture.

It was on yellow legal paper and it said, "Happy Birthday, Pluto" and I misspelled "happy." But I put all the characters there. Minnie Mouse was there, Mickey, Dumbo, everybody was there. And I think it's interesting that here I am all these many years later doing the same thing I was doing when I was six years old.

And I want to interject one thing about this particular film, Pinocchio. It was made in 1940 or released in 1940 and I was born in 1940. So, you know, I feel a particular affinity for this film.

JOHNSON: Well, good timing then. Evan, if you could, let's go back to how this idea came about.

Sure. As you know Pinocchio is in a 4:3 aspect ratio. If you have a wide screen television or a high definition television your aspect ratio is 16:9, so, when you're viewing a 4:3 film or television show, you are forced to look at very plain black bars or gray bars (left), depending on your television, which sort of wastes the space that consumers see.

It was felt that we would like to bring Pinocchio into the next generation of technology by expanding the film into this new 16 x 9 ratio, all the while, respecting the classic aspect ratio that it was originally created in. So, we wanted to artistically add to the sides of the panels and we worked with Feature Animation and Toby was the perfect candidate considering his long history in the medium that the film was actually created in.

Essentially, by utilizing the technology in Blu-ray, we're actually able to place these panels in real time over the film. So it is an option for the user to turn this on or off. If you're a classic Disney fan and you wish to watch the film in its original presentation, you can absolutely turn these off.

JOHNSON: So, to clarify, it isn't embedded with the film but it's its own separate aspect of the screen.


JOHNSON: Okay. So with that kind of a background, Toby, tell us a little bit about getting the call for this project and this idea...

BLUTH: Well, I got the call because I've worked at The Disney Studios for many years now. I was the art director on The Three Musketeers and The Tigger Movie
and particularly older Disney. And then I've been working with Disney Fine Art. Disney Fine Art is called Collector's Addition and they do - or they had me do paintings and they reproduce these. They're called Giclées. And that came to the attention of the studio and the style that I work in.

A lot of people have difficulty with water color, and I don't think it's that water color is so difficult. I think that every artist finds what his medium is. I just had an affinity for water color. I love the way it looks. I like the light and the air that come into it.

So they asked me if I'd like to do this. I might say, though, that it's a little intimidating. If you pick up a classic like Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Fantasia, or Bambi, these are the Disney gold films for me. They are the films the whole studio was built on. And to adjust or tamper with it at all, it needs to be done with great respect because it's a little intimidating. These were brilliant films and you don't want to distract from it.

The thing I had to watch the most was I want whatever I add to the film to look like it should have been there and to look like the film and in the style of the film. That's why it was all done in water color and I used the same medium as the film. Hopefully, the audience is not really aware that there's anything that's been done to the film.

JOHNSON: Let's go back to some of the Disney View frames where we get a chance to look at some of the pieces from the film. We'll sift through a few of these and perhaps as we're moving into some of these, Toby, if you could talk a little bit about some of the approaches that you took.

What I did originally was I went back and looked very closely at the film. Whenever I was adding a design element to it, like the panels in the scene with Jiminy Cricket at the window (left, opening titles use the same design elements), those panels are wood carvings that are in Geppetto's workshop. I would take that element and utilize it then in the maskings.

These maskings are very much like theatrical or stage maskings, where you have wings that you walk into or to frame the thing. Or they're like a matting, when you have a picture framed and you have a matte with it. It's there to be in the style of the art, and to enhance and not to distract from it. So that's what these are.

And the borders around there, you'll notice the borders on this particular one where Pinocchio's on the steps (above), the wood carving on the left and on the right are like a matte. They frame the film, but I always tried to leave the center of attention where it was. It is just there to frame it.

JOHNSON: We've got examples of the some of the panels that you worked with. If you could, talk a little bit about your choices and decisions.

Well, the first time Jiminy Cricket appears in the film, he looks through Geppetto's window and the design there, with the little blue circles and the wood border around it, is that area of the window that Jiminy Cricket was looking through (above). So I used the same designs and same materials and the transition became easier.

Just before that, we're outside in the night sky, where we go down across the village, it's the same blue that is outside those windows. So as these panels cross-dissolve, they hold the mood of the moment and it flows freely from on to another. The bookshelf panel was at the bottom of one of the background's bookshelf, so I took that off and incorporated it. I turned it upright so it goes vertically rather horizontally and incorporated it into the borders of the frame (above).

The little village by day, that's the woodwork outside of the doorway when Pinocchio comes out of the house and it's Geppetto's door. So it fit, you know, the style of what they had used on the background.

Let's go through some of the other panels there. The curtains that I was talking about for Stromboli's stage (above), those are on the left. And a very important part of all of this was the lighting. In the early Disney films, the light source and the air were extremely important. And the lighting from here comes from down below. It's a stage and it has foot lights. So you notice the swirls in the curtains, all of that is part of the stage design that framed the Stromboli piece. Some of the pieces were almost amorphous, like the exterior in the rain. I was almost painting light and air because I didn't the item, once again, to call much attention to itself. If you go back inside of Stromboli's cart, the interior of the wagon, those were the beams that supported the wagon. I took that element and designed it and adapted it so that you would feel like the colors and the palette and the location of the wings.

When we get to Pleasure Island, it brought the carnival, and which is why the colors are bright, and there so many stripes and everything. Those were also items that could appear in like four or five or six backgrounds and I could just meld them altogether and take a piece one and a piece of another and incorporate them to create the locale.

And you see the cards in the pool hall panel (above)? Pinocchio was playing cards with a character name Lampwick and so I used the colors of the pool hall and the cards because they were playing cards to frame this. That was also the frame around the mirror that was in that room. When Lampwick starts turning into a donkey, he looks at himself in the mirror and kicks the mirror because he's so frightened. But that was the border that was used there, and you'll notice up above there is a donkey in the little frame. It's also interesting because they put a lot of symbolism in these things. The horseshoe is turned upside down and symbolically what that has meant is your luck has run out. So these kids are in deep trouble.

In the salt mines, that's a very amorphous, sort of outside, misty, light and air with stones and cliffs and boulders. But I had to be careful not to do too much background, otherwise it would detract from the action that was going on.

When you go underwater, you notice there's sort of that moiré look, like when you're looking at water, it starts moving around. And that's when Pinocchio goes down underneath the sea. This one looks like it's a little hard to tell what it is because it's light blue at the top and dark blue at the bottom, but this had to frame two different things. It has to frame when they were down deep in the water with Monstro the Whale and it was quite dark. It also has to lighten up because Geppetto and Pinocchio come up to the top of the water and then it was a light blue sky. So I made this transition in it. So those are some of the concepts that I used.

JOHNSON: These look fairly small, but what type of size were you working with in?

These are 18 inches tall and 4 inches wide.

JOHNSON: And just for everyone's general knowledge, the original artwork for these will be housed at the Animation Research Library with the Walt Disney Studios and become part of the permanent collection there.

Q: Can you remind me how many of these there are?

Around 11, I think. There was some that were painted that we did not use.

ACOSO: We ultimately ended up using 11.

Q: How exactly is it activated and switched off?

Off of the main menu on the Blu-ray DVD of Pinocchio, when you choose to select to play the film, there'll be a secondary option that shows up that asks you if you wish to watch this feature with Disney View. And from there, that's how you activate it. Otherwise, you can simply hit "Play Movie," and it'll play without the panels.

Q: Why to make panels? Why not to try to extend the scene of the animation?

The most important thing in approaching this was respect for the original material. It's an awful lot like a good movie score or accompaniment. You really shouldn't be that aware of the accompaniment because the song isn't the thing that's, you know, important there. When the movie is showing and you're aware of the emotions and what's going on, you shouldn't really think about, oh, isn't that a great piece of music. I'm there to accompany the film, and I'm there to be a background for the film. I reminded myself of that the whole time I was working on this.

There are certain films that need to be preserved and need to be reproduced as best as you possibly can and, once again, without destroying any of the original integrity of the film. You don't ever want it to look like somebody tampered, whether it's with the sound or whether it's with the color or the picture or the matting or the framing. It's all got to start from of point of great respect.

Q: How long did you work on it?

I think it took about three months, maybe a little bit more.

Q: Are you planning to go back to any of the other Disney classics and do something similar?

JOHNSON: Well, this is the first of its kind and we’re excited about this innovation.

Q: Has the audio has been enhanced as well on that particular format?

Yes, absolutely. We have two audio options. There is a new English 7.1 DTS HD master audio soundtrack, and then the restored original theatrical soundtrack. The 7.1 mix is only available for Blu-ray.

Q: Toby, was there any time where you felt that the panels were distracting and you had to start them over?

Yes, there was. There was one panel that I did and we all looked at it and we all knew that it needed something else. It wasn't the right piece. So, you can't win them all. And when you get it wrong, then you go back and get it right.

Q: Can you describe what those panels were and what scenes they were being used for?

Let's go to the underwater scene if we could because it was the first pass I'd made at painting the water underneath the ocean. People made comments like it looks a little bit like Dr. Seuss, I think was one of the comments. It just really didn't work. So I went back and picked up specifically that moiré pattern of water moving across the bottom of the sea. That's the only one that we repainted. But my first attempt at it, when I finished know, when you do something that's not quite right, you usually know. And it was very important to everyone that we got this right and that we captured the moments for it.

JOHNSON: This was the first of its kind, the very first approach on this, yes? What kind of challenges did that present for you?

Well, I've done a lot of theater work. I've done over 100 stage shows, Broadway musicals usually, so I had a lot of experience with scenery. In approaching this, what I did was I approached it as if it was a stage set. You have you have the wings in theater, on both sides of the stage and they frame the picture there because the stage is not going to go anywhere, you know. All you can do is give a feeling or an ambiance of what's going on, the mood of the scene. I thought of these things as wings for a stage set. So it's like a matte around a frame or wings on a stage set.

Q: I know you were heavily inspired by Gustaf Tenggren and I was wondering if you were able to review some of his works that were in the research library?

Yes. I have quite a collection of Tenggren books, and Tenggren was one my heroes as I was growing up. I have a few original Tenggren's hanging on the walls of my house. So I was very familiar with Tenggren. You may not be aware, but when Tenggren was the art director on this movie, he was a Swedish artist who had been to Rotenberg, Germany. And the villages, and the towns, and some of the streets are just Rotenberg, Germany. I took a trip to Germany - to Rotenberg - expressly to see these villages. When you see the backgrounds in Pinocchio, you're really seeing a lot of Tenggren and a lot of Rotenberg.

Q: There was another Disney member that they credit with some of the European influence, Albert Hurter.

Yes. I like Albert Hurter's work but it didn't have the effect on me that Tenggren did. Tenggren was an illustrator and a book illustrator for starts. And so he was very aware of storytelling and environments and that kind of thing. Hurter had wonderful, incredible imagination. He did a lot of, like, the clocks and props and things like that. He had a real flair and a gift for that kind of thing, but he didn't do the overall look or the ambiance, the scenes like Tenggren did.

Q: Is Disney View an idea you might carry into the theaters if you release Pinocchio and these other movies theatrically?

No, it's largely designed to facilitate the aspect ratio within technology of home entertainment. So the short answer is no.

Q: Toby, is producing art for the Disney View any different or is it a lot different from your regular Fine Art Productions?

Not really. It's all the same thing. So whether you do it for prints and Giclées like I do with Collector's Edition or whether I do it for a film like The Three Musketeers or The Tigger Movie, it's all the same elements. You know, you have lighting, you have scenery, you have costumes. It's a very theatrical approach that I take to this. And the principles apply no matter what you're doing. It's the same principles.

Disney films were, particularly during this period --
Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Fantasia, and Bambi
-- there was a lot of theatrical lighting. They would use a spotlight or a strong light source to let you know where to look. And that's very much a staged, theatrical type device.

JOHNSON: Lighting is a key part of what you considered in approaching this, certainly within the work and your designs.

Definitely was, and if you look at this picture of little Cleo and her fish bowl (above), you see that the light is coming straight on. They pointed that light right at the fish bowl and the rounded edge of the woods behind is in shadow and dark. So it's almost like it's got a spotlight on it.

JOHNSON: And that's also true in the blue fairy image.

Yes. As soon as she comes into that room they changed all of the lighting and brought up the lighting around her and consequently there's really no place you could look at that picture without looking directly at her. Everything else is totally obscured or upstaged by the light source. She is the light source. You know, there was an angelic character. It was a spirit character that came from a different world and she became the light source for the scene.

JOHNSON: And great care was taken in utilizing the panels. The Disney View feature is designed to reflect and to work with the art emanating from the film.

Right. If you look at Toby's panels, obviously they don't match the final output that's on the Blu-ray disk because we used Toby's panels as the base of where to start. Obviously the design stayed, but we really had to go in there and look at every single shot that these panels existed and adjust it according to the light source. For the example of the Blue Fairy coming into Geppetto's house, you'll see that Toby's original panel was brown, but in the image here, it is very much dark blue with slight highlights along the wood to sort of accentuate the light coming from the center.

We also took great care in the timing of how these panels are dissolved. Essentially the panels cross dissolve between each other programmatically using the Blu-ray technology. That allowed us to view through the timeline of the film to gradually dissolve between each panel. By doing so, for example, you'll notice before the blue fairy comes in the panels are very much dark brown. It's a night scene and as she comes through the window we actually dissolve in real time to this more blue colored panel with the light source coming from the center. The eye begins believing that there is a light source coming from the center of the screen and it's bleeding beyond the 4:3 frame into 16:9 panels.

Q: Toby, in The Tigger Movie, you used a style of water colors approach. Is that a similar approach you're using here or is that totally different?

Yes, the original illustrations were water color, pen and ink drawings, so I incorporated not only the water color, but a lot of the pen and ink feel to it because I wanted it to look like the original. You know, everybody loves Winnie the Pooh and here we are doing the Tigger movie and I wanted people to come out of that theatre and say oh, that's exactly the way I remember it.

JOHNSON: what does it feel like providing the framework of such masterful work? Is that a bit daunting?

It felt very intimidating. You have to step carefully and look closely. There was a feeling of real responsibility, and the only word I know is intimidating. I'm taking what I consider to be one of the five most important animated films ever made by the Disney Studios and I'm trying to adjust things. So I have to admit when I started out I thought should I be doing this or shouldn't I be doing this?

But I think through it all and we have such a great crew working on this. Nobody makes a film all by themselves. You know, people adjusted the lighting, people did all these different things. But it's definitely a group effort and we have such a great team working on it that they paid attention to all these things. With that image of Pinocchio on the steps, you know where that light's coming from and it throws that shadow up on the wall and it's very clear what's going on.

Q: If you had your pick of any other Disney films in the vault right now, what other films would you like to do this again for?

Top of the list would be Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and hopefully we're going to do that. I hope that happens. I don't know. That's not my decision, but I would do it for Snow White. Well the five. Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Fantasia and Bambi. Like I said earlier, those are the gold that this studio was founded on. And still, I consider them the most important films they've done. Not that this studio hasn't made great and wonderful films after Walt was gone, but my love for Disney is usually for Walt Disney, and the period of films that he directed and oversaw and produced. That's what I like. I like Walt Disney and I want it to look like Walt Disney.

Toon Zone News would like to thank Toby Bluth for taking the time to speak with all of us; to Mindy Johnson and Evan Acoso at Disney; and Jackie Cavanagh at Click Communications for setting us up for the event. Pinocchio is available now on Platinum Edition 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray, although Disney View is an exclusive Blu-ray special feature.

Imagi Again

I motored back to Imagi in Sherman Oaks this a.m., checking up on how the studio's doing after its January shutdown. A lot of staff is back ... but a lot of staff isn't.

There's crew working on Astroboy, artists working on Tusker and Gatchaman. Nobody, however, is sure how long they'll be employed or how long the studio will stay open ...

"Imagi seems to have a game plan. Everybody's been paid the money they're owed. The company is finishing Astroboy for an October release, and it's getting the other two projects in shape for pitches to distributors. Both of properties are coming along pretty well ..."

Another employee said:

"Management here isn't saying how long the doors will stay open. But I don't think management here knows. As far as I can see, the intent is to keep everything going, but Hong Kong [the mother ship] isn't saying much about the money situation. Options on some personal service contracts aren't being picked up. I'm pretty sure the company wants to retain people, but I think it's keeping options open if the money flow stops again. They don't want to be in the position they were in back during January, where they couldn't meet payroll and had a lot of long-term personal service contracts they couldn't honor ..."

My take-away, after jawing with staff into the early afternoon, is that the company intends to stay in business if at all possible, but the global economic freeze-up isn't making it easy. As an artist who's been there a long time said:

"If we can get to October and a solid release for Astroboy, then things are on more solid ground. They'll have more money. But the question is: Can we get to that place? And if Imagi has to shut down again, will they get the same quality people back? Because employees won't wait around, they'll take other jobs."

We'll just have to wait and see how things turn out. (Like there's some other choice? In this economic environment?)

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

SPIDEY 4 in 2011

Plus: AVENGERS delayed in the Marvel movie shuffle

Marvel Entertainment, Inc. has announced a new set of release dates for its film slate. Included on the new schedule is a 2011 bow for 'Spider-Man 4', with 'The Avengers' getting pushed back nearly a full year to 2012.

Fans can look forward to the webslinger's return on May 6, 2011, as Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire continue the franchise that made Marvel a star player in Hollywood. As with previous 'Spider-Man' films, that one is a Sony Pictures Entertainment production.

Marvel had previously staked out that date for the release of the new 'First Avenger: Captain America' movie, with the mega-crossover pic 'The Avengers' slated to come out few months after. '

Now Marvel has shuffled its film schedule to make room for Spidey. 'Iron Man 2' remains locked into to its previously announced May 7, 2010 release. However 'Thor', which was also slated for 2010, is now on tap for June 17, 2011. 'Captain America' will arrive later that same summer with a July 22, 2011 date.

Finally, 'The Avengers' will arrive on May 4, 2012.

Confirmed: Scarlett Johansson is Iron Man 2's Black Widow

E! Online confirmed that Scarlett Johansson has signed on to Jon Favreau's Iron Man 2, taking over the role of Black Widow.

Johansson (The Spirit) steps in for Emily Blunt, who had to drop out because of a scheduling conflict with Gulliver's Travels.

The news confirms a rumor first reported by Entertainment Weekly.

"Scarlett is thrilled to be a part of Iron Man," Johansson's representative, Marcel Pariseau, told E!

Lucy's Voice Actress Contempt Conviction Case is Voided

The Associated Press reports that a judge has threw out a contempt-of-court conviction and orders a new trial on Pamelyn Ferdin, the actress who played Laura Gentry on the live-action Filmation series Space Academy, as well as the voice of Lucy Van Pelt in 3 Charlie Brown/Peanuts specials (It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown and A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Play It Again, Charlie Brown).

Ferdin was facing five days in jail and a $1,000 fine until Wednesday when Judge John Segal voided her conviction in 2008 for violating a court injection that barred harrassment of UCLA faculty members who use animals in their research.

Last June, Ferdin demonstrated outside the home of the school's primate researcher and handed out fliers that include phone numbers, addresses, and photographs of some of the researchers.

Attorney George Siede argued that Ferdin's constitutional rights were violated because she wasn't informed that she had the right to counsel and of her right against self-incrimination before she took the stand.

A new trial against Ferdin is scheduled on April 28, 2009.

Witch Mountain to Challenge Watchmen

The big question going into this weekend’s movie openings is whether Watchmen can hang on to the top spot.

Zack Snyder’s hyper-faithful adaptation of the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons graphic novel will be challenged by newcomers
The Last House on the Left, a remake of Wes Craven’s 1972 genre classic, and Disney’s Race to Witch Mountain, a reimagining of the 1975 franchise-starter about kids with powers.

Witch Mountain, which stars Dwayne Johnson, will open on 3,187 screens, while Last House will show on just over 2,400. A third new release, the Fox Searchlight comedy Miss March, opens on 1,742 screens.

Directed by Andy Fickman (
Anaconda, She's the Man) , Escape to Witch Mountain has been getting positive reviews for its well-executed action set pieces, good humor and Dwayne Johnson's (the artist formerly known as The Rock) charming screen persona. The film's impressive visual effects were handled by Furious FX, Proof and RotoFactory. Disney fans who grew up in the 1970s will be happy to know that original Witch Mountain child stars Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards make cameo appearances in this franchise reboot. Also along for the ride are Watchmen actress Carla Gugina who stars as an astrophysicist and always-reliable director/actor Gary Marshall who plays a UFO expert.

All three new releases offer a stark contrast to
Watchmen’s dense, R-rated and lengthy superhero epic, which debuted to a gross of $55 million last weekend.

Meanwhile, Cinematical reports Focus Features’
Coraline will be easier to catch in 3-D, with many 3-D capable screens picking the film up again now that the limited run of Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience
has finished.

Eisner Pitches New Nick Series to Buyers

Never let it be said that former Disney execs can’t work with their onetime rivals.

Mouse House rival Nickelodeon brought out former Disney chief Michael Eisner to present the stop-motion animated comedy series Glenn Martin, DDS to media buyers at the annual upfront presentation in New York, reports Mediaweek.

The series, about a family that goes on a road trip to see America, will debut this summer on Nick at Nite and is the first series from Eisner’s post-Disney production venture, Tornante. Nick has ordered 20 episodes of the series.

The channel’s other major project with a Disney pedigree was
Penguins of Madagascar, a series spinning off the popular animated feature films from DreamWorks Animation topper Jeffrey Katzenberg, who headed up Disney Studios’ animation efforts under Eisner.

, which debuted its pilot in November on Nicktoons, will begin airing the first of 26 episodes on Nick starting March 28.

Family Fest Honors Animator Roman

The International Family Film Festival honored animator Phil Roman with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Film at its 2009 edition.

The award, known informally as the “Friz” award after famed animator Friz Freleng, was presented to Roman in recognition of excellence in animation and visual effects. It was presented March 1 by Simpsons actress Nancy Cartwright at a ceremony at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood.

Now semi-retired, Roman’s first job in animation was as an assitant on Walt Disney’s
Sleeping Beauty. He went on to work on such successful and popular animated projects as the Peanuts specials, Garfield specials and series, the classic holiday special How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Simpsons and King of the Hill
. He founded the Film Roman animation studio in 1984.

The International Family Film Festival, now in its 14th year, previously honored such animation legends as Charles Schulz, Bill Melendez, Joe Barbera and Friz Freleng.

WB Seeks Ideas for New Batman Game

Warner Bros., Mochi Media and DC Comics have issued an open call for developers to submit ideas for a new Flash game based on the Cartoon Network series Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

Game developers can submit their ideas, mockups and portfolios for review through March 27.

Ten finalists will be chosen to further develop their ideas and the finished games will go live on in June. The top game will receive a cash prize of $9,000, plus a $15,000 contract to develop a second game. Four additional finalists will win a $5,000 prize, and the last five developers in the top ten will each get a $4,000 prize.

Details and submission information can be found at

Notes on Coraline

One of the items on my infinitely long to-do list is to write some thoughts about the exquisite artistry behind Coraline. While the film is flawed, it still ranks as one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in some time watching a mainstream animated feature. It pleases me to no end to see that the film has been a box office success (as far as stop-motion animation goes at least). It currently ranks as the third-highest grossing stop-motion feature of all time, trailing only Chicken Run and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

A large reason for the film’s financial success has been the deep pockets of Laika owner Phil Knight. As much as I’d like to believe that audiences will discover good films if they’re made, the truth is that despite a film’s quality, investing money into its promotion is a necessity lest one ends up with an Iron Giant. I’m not sure that Knight even understood what he was doing when he put his fortune behind this film, but I can’t think of a recent debut film by a major animation studio that has been bolder, riskier and more imaginative. Laika has the opportunity to carve out a niche as a truly unique animation studio, and I sincerely hope they continue following this path that they’ve embarked upon with Coraline.

In yesterday’s Variety, Laika took out a two-page ad thanking the people who made Coraline. The first page was dedicated to the film’s crew, the second page thanked individuals. My digital photo of the ad is a bit funky looking but at least you can see what it looks like. Click on it for a bigger version:

In other Coraline news, a stage musical will open this May at the MCC Theater in Manhattan. This musical has been in the works long before the film came out so it has little to do with cashing in on the success of the movie. Not to mention that it’s opening at a smaller off-Broadway theater that prides itself on taking “risks on plays that the commercial theater often ignores.” The musical version features music and lyrics written by Stephin Merrit (Magnetic Fields) and direction by Leigh Silverman (Yellowface, From Up Here, Well).

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

5 ways the unfilmable film Watchmen could have an unthinkable sequel

After Watchmen topped the box office this past weekend with a strong, if below expectations, performance, can Warner Bros. really not be thinking about a sequel?

Yes, director Zack Snyder swore he wouldn't return for another movie (aside from a joke sequel published in Bazooka Joe bubblegum, but he himself is proof that the impossible can happen, since a lot of people called Watchmen unfilmable until he filmed it. And he did tell the New York Times, "Listen, they own the rights. If they wanted to go and hire some guy to make them a sequel to Watchmen, I don't know that they would get any of those actors to do it, and I know that I wouldn't have anything to do with it. But they own it. They can do whatever they want."

The actors have also confirmed their contracts carry an "available for sequels clause." Billy "Dr. Manhattan" Crudup also told the Associated Press, "Contractually, we are obligated ... I will do it. I just don't know what it is we would do."

That's the real question about a sequel or prequel. Not would they do it—because Hollywood has shown it will do just about anything for money—but how would they do it? To date no concrete ideas have emerged, but there are a few hints here and there about what might happen, and plenty of historical precedent from Hollywood itself.

Here are five things Warner Bros. is probably already considering:


If you think doing a straight-up sequel without the guiding hand of Zack Snyder is blasphemous, remember that the sequel rights are controlled by Fox, as part of its settlement with Warner Brothers. Fox is one studio that's never been shy about moving on without original talent. Who decided that the Alien brand could live on without Sigourney Weaver? Fox. When the naysayers claimed that the Terminator franchise should be shut down without James Cameron, Fox made big bucks by betting on Rise of the Machines. If the payoff seems large enough, there's little doubt Fox would do the same with Watchmen.


Hollywood loves a good (or bad) superhero spin-off, with Fox again leading the way. After three X-Men movies, Fox is about to come out with the biggest superhero spin-off to date, Wolverine. The successful Batman flicks resulted in the not-so-successful Catwoman. And even the admittedly lackluster movie Daredevil was deemed deserving of a spin-off called Elektra. There are any number of major and minor characters from Watchmen who could get their own movie, with the most likely candidate being Nite Owl 2. Also, there is no reason Dr. Manhattan couldn't rematerialize Rorschach.


Watchmen creator Alan Moore himself came up with two concepts for prequels that have not been done ... so far. The first idea was going to be a 12-issue series based on the 1940's superhero team Minutemen. The second proposal was to explore the early life of Rorschach and/or The Comedian through journals or diaries. Neither one leaps off the page as an immediate blockbuster, but there is enough background material there for a screenwriter to run with.


There already is another Watchmen story out there, in the form of a video game called Watchmen: The End Is Nigh, which focuses on Rorschach and Night Owl's adventures as a heroic duo in the 1970s before the Keene Act outlawed masks. This one even has a pedigree Watchmen fans should approve of, since it was written by original Watchmen comic editor Len Wein, and Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons served as an advisor during development.


Finally, a reboot or reimagining sounds implausible today, but it's been done in some form with Batman, The Hulk, Superman, The Punisher and even the Fantastic Four (if you count the Roger Corman film as an original). And reinventions of Daredevil and Fantastic Four (again) have been discussed in the news recently, even though those films are only six and four years old respectively. The easiest way to cash in on a Watchmen sequel might just be to remake it. There are certainly enough unused scripts from many previous attempts at making the film, commissioned by everyone from Terry Gilliam to Darren Aronofsky. Admittedly this is probably the least likely scenario in the near future.

It's still unclear whether Watchmen will be profitable or not, despite its mostly positive reviews from fans of the graphic novel. But with a worldwide gross of $92 million heading into its second weekend, one thing's for sure—if audiences listen to screenwriter's David Hayter plea to "Please go see the movie again next weekend," Fox will make sure that in one form or another, someday we'll be watching more Watchmen.

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