Friday, March 20, 2009

News - 03/20/09...

Pixar’s UP to Open Cannes Fest

Disney/Pixar’s UP has been selected as the opening ceremony film for the prestigious Cannes Festival this year. Directed by Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.) the 3-D feature will makes its big Cannes splash on Wednesday, May 13.

This is the first time an animated feature has opened the festival in the 62-year history of the event. "Cannes has demonstrated for many years its interest in animation by selecting films from DreamWorks, as well as films that use animation differently like Persepolis and Waltz With Bashir,” Thierry Fremaux, Cannes Film Festival's delegate general was quoted in Variety. “It’s audacious to open the festival with an animated film, but we're conscious of our duty: It’s by stretching its boundaries that cinema remains universal.”

Co-directed and co-produced by Bob Peterson, who co-wrote Finding Nemo, UP is an unusual comedy adventure in which a curmudgeonly 78-year-old flies away to the wilds of South America (with the aid of thousands of balloons) accompanied by a nine-year-old wilderness explorer. Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Raztenberger, Delroy Lindo and newcomer Jordan Nagai round up the excellent voice cast.

Dumbo (1947), The Fantastic Planet (1973), Fritz the Cat (1974), Shrek (2001), The Triplets of Belleville (2003), Shrek 2 (2004), Over the Hedge (2006), Persepolis (2007), Kung-Fu Panda (2008) and Waltz with Bashir are other animated titles that were chosen as Cannes Official Selections in years past.

Disney/Pixar’s UP will premiere in the U.S. on May 29 and in France on July 29. French actress Isabelle Huppert is the Cannes jury president this year, which will unspool May 13-24.

Monsters Set for Annecy, 3 Territories

Alphanim’s new children’s series Matt’s Monsters will screen in the TV section of the Annecy International Animation Festival and has been sold into three new territories.

The comedy series, co-produced by Alphanim, RAI Fiction and Lanterna, will appear in Asia on Cartoon Network, in Portugal on RTP, and in Israel on Noga Communications.

The series is a 2D/Flash production and is already set to air this year on RAI Due in Italy, M6 in France, Jetix in Holland and TSR in Switzerland.

The Annecy festival is set for June 8-13.

Sony Forecasts Meatballs with New Trailer

Sony Pictures Animation has released a new trailer for its upcoming 3-D CG feature film, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

The film, which opens in theaters on Sept. 18, is adapted from the popular children’s book. Phil Lord and Chris Miller wrote and directed the film, which stars the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Tracy Morgan, James Caan and Mr. T.

The trailer can be seen at the movie’s official site,

Crunchyroll Scores Streaming Anime Series

The popular U.S. anime and social networking site Crunchyroll has ordered up a whole new wave of streaming animated imports, including the first-ever English-language release of Osama Tezuka’s Black Jack.

The site, along with Tezuka Productions and Yomiuri Telecasting Corp., will air the classic 1970s anime, directed by Makoto Tezuka and based on his father’s famous manga.

Among the other distribution deals Crunchyroll has struck are:

* A deal with Fuji Creative Corp. for the anime titles Glass Maiden and Cat Man to begin airing this spring.

* The rights to action-comedy series Reborn!, based on the Akira Amano manga, from d-rights Inc.

* A partnership with Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. to stream more than 30 complete Korean drama series.

* And the continuation of a partnership with TV Tokyo Corp. that will add such titles as Mainichi Kaasan (Kaasan – Mom’s Life), Saki – The Player and Chi’s Sweet Home, along with the continued simulcast of Naruto Shippuden, Gintama and Shugo Chara.

Shaman, Sweet Dreams Win Big at SXSW

Shaman by Luc Perez and Sweet Dreams by Kirsten Lepore took the Best Animated Short and Special Jury Awards at this week’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

Shaman, a tribute to Inuit culture, consists of 7,000 hand drawings—a mix of acrylic on paper and 2D computer animation. A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Lyon, Perez has experimented with various animation and live-action techniques in his commercial work throughout his career. Based in Denmark, his previous shorts include 23 Rue des Martyrs (1997) and Stranger Blues (2003). Shaman has also been selected for competition at this year’s Annecy festival.

Kirsten Lepore’s Sweet Dreams is a remarkable stop-motion piece about the life of an adventurous cupcake that finds itself on a peaceful island inhabited by vegetables! Her other short credits include Story from North America and Guess Who. Kirsten earned her BFA from The Maryland Institute College of Art in 2007. Her animations have been featured on TV, the web, at international festivals, and recently in Stash magazine. Her latest clients include MTV, Heinz, Chronicle Books, Utah’s Hogle Zoo and illustrator Michael Slack. You can learn more about this talented animator at
You can catch Sweet Dreams below:

Judi Krant’s debut feature Made in China was selected as the best narrative feature, while Scott Teems’ That Evening Sun took home the Narrative Feature Audience prize at SXSW festival.

Titmouse Games Dives into Seven Haunted Seas

Hollywood-based toon shop Titmouse (adult swim’s Metalocalpyse) has officially launched its original game development studio venture, Titmouse Games. This new gaming arm is overseen by gaming veteran Aaron Habibipour who joins the team as creative director. Habibpour has worked on titles such as Guitar Hero, Darkwatch and Gun, and has won several awards for outstanding art and innovative gameplay.

"Titmouse Animation is the worst-kept secret in the industry, and we always felt that our super-geek cred and weirdo-but-accessible vibe would apply to the video game world," says Keith Fay, VP and creative producer for Titmouse Inc. "Aaron is a big, twisted metal-head geek, and he has the experience and the chops to bring a certain juicy deviance to the Titmouse universe."

Titmouse Games’ maiden voyage is the original console Action RPG, Seven Haunted Seas, which is described as a “mixture of steam-punk and graphic novel-like artwork,” and follows the dark comedic tale about an undead pirate, Scurvy Pete, that returns from hell to find a dark, post-apocalyptic future.

The Titmouse team plans to partner with like-minded publishers and explore options for digital distribution on future projects. For more info, visit or

Producer: Jetsons live-action movie still a go

Producer Donald De Line told Dark Horizons that a live-action movie based on the 1960s animated TV series The Jetsons is still a go. The movie was first announced in May of 2007.

"In fact, Robert Rodriguez, who lives right here in Austin, has done a great draft of the script, and we're all talking with Warners right now about getting that together," De Line said.

Rodriguez is the writer/director behind Sin City and Spy Kids, among other things.

The original incarnation of the half-hour Hanna-Barbera show, about an American nuclear family in a fantasized jet-age future, aired Sunday nights on ABC from Sept. 23, 1962, to March 3, 1963.

Questions and Answers

So let me share actual recent questions I've been asked in the studios and on the phone, and the actual answers I've supplied.

(Happily, they're better than my "I've got no idea" of a couple of days ago ...)

How's the animation business holding up? (Often phrased as: "What's going on out there?")

The theatrical side is fairly robust, the t.v. side fairly depressed. The brighter area in television land is prime time animation. Fox owns the concept, and others are trying to get in on the act. But by and large, bread-and-butter kid cartoon shows are going through a rough patch because live-action has encroached on the usual ebb and flow of half-hour, animated product. Other studios are chasing the Disney model (live-action half hours), even though it's expensive. This has hurt staffing on the television side of animation.

The biggest gainers in animation have been on the theatrical side. DreamWorks animation was adding staff throughout 2008, also Image Movers Digital. The Disney Animation Studio laid off crew when
Bolt ended, and will probably lay off traditional artists at the conclusion of Princess and the Frog, but staff will be increased as Rapunzel gets deeper into production ...

What do you do when your studio doesn't pick up your personal service contract, but wants to keep you on and renegotiate your wage increase to zero?

Studios have the right to exercise or not exercise contract options (that's why they're built into the initial deal). If they want to retain you but not pick up the option to extend, they're no doubt looking at market conditions and deciding that you will stay around ... even though you won't be getting that contractual wage bump.

My advice is: Seriously look around and see what other jobs and wages are out in the marketplace, and seriously consider taking one when you find it. And let your old employer -- the one that didn't pick up the option -- know that you'll be moving on if they don't match the newer job offer.

I suggest this approach because, if you're truly unhappy with the way you're being treated and want to be treated better, the only way you'll get what you want is by playing chicken ... and being willing to walk away from a deal you're not happy with. It's the only way you can negotiate with higher effectiveness.
Having that willingness to say "no" is key. (And yeah, this could be tough to do in the present work/economic environment.)

My supervisor and I haven't been getting along. He doesn't think I'm a "team player." What do I do?

(My answer here ties in with the numerous
other posts I've done on this subject; here is yet another version:)

Not what I did in the workplace.

When I worked at Disney, I was a feisty, stick-up-for-myself, mouthy kind of story guy. This was relatively okay under the regime that hired me, but wasn't okay under the regime that came in later. Sadly, I didn't get the memo about the rule change and so was shown the door.

One of the harder things to do in the studio environment is knowing the acceptable boundaries of behavior with your boss. After watching a lot of different studios for a long time, I've concluded there is no totally foolproof mode of behavior, but in general: 1) Don't contradict your supervisor in front of superiors, 2) Don't tell your supervisor "I told you so" when they turn out to be wrong and you turn out to be right, 3) Go the extra mile and be as agreeable as the law and your internal rheostat allows (and be sure your rheostat is properly adjusted for the reality in which you are working.)

My 401(k) has tanked. What do I do?

Stay at least partially in stocks. And wait for the market to rebound.

(Easy advice to give. Harder advice to follow.)

There is no super-great answer here. The market has already eaten it and is, as I write, moving up again. (And yeah, it might go down some more ... although I think it's far closer to the bottom than the top.)

There are no great pearls of wisdom to be given in this space. I'm far from an expert, but few if any financial advisors saw the stock market Tsunami coming, and fewer still know when the market will recoup its losses. (My guess is: a while.)

If you are young, you'll likely have time to recover from this fall off the cliff and should consider remaining in equities. If you are old and near retirement age, you should have been weighted in bonds going into this. If you weren't, calculate what you need to live on in retirement and develop a plan to claw your way there. Maybe it's working an extra three years, maybe it's taking Social Security earlier, maybe it's diversifying your reduced accounts. Whatever it is,
develop a plan.

My general advice: Don't invest beyond the tolerance of your nervous system. And for heaven's sake, figure out the amount of punishment your nerves will tolerate.

Etcetera, etcetera. Now you know the kinds of questions I've been getting in the last few weeks and months. Also the accompanying answers.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

At the Hat

An afternoon spent breezing through the hallways of Disney Animation Studios, and nothing much to report, except ...

The PATF artists to whom I spoke think that this "black princess, white prince" semi-controversy is silly:

"Black/white isn't what this movie is about. It could be anywhere or anybody in this story. The race thing just isn't a factor ..."

Staffers feel that some of the jobs that management eliminated doing this new hand-drawn feature has cost the studio more money than it's saved.

"Older style, made-by-hand cartoon features are not the kinds of movies the new management is used to making ... or knows real well ..."

Everybody is working hard and with satisfaction over the quality of the movie they're making. Rapunzel moves steadily into production. (It's ... ah ... changed some over the six or seven years it's been in work.)

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Beware the Links of March

Toonish Links for a Spring day ... (watch out for French sprites ...)

Apparently there is blow-back over having Dora (the well-known explorer) grow older:

Many parents were up in arms recently when Nickelodeon announced plans for a new-and-improved Dora the Explorer. Specifically, an older, more sophisticated, 10-year-old Dora for tweens.

"As tweenage Dora, our heroine has moved to the big city, attends middle school and has a whole new fashionable look," the press release stated, showcasing a silhouette of the new Dora that looked to be wearing a micro mini skirt, long hair swinging sexily below her shoulders.

...With images of Bratz dolls pole-dancing in their heads, many parents took to the internet to protest the change.
"What, little girls don't have enough fashion-obsessed trash idols?" one commenter quipped over at "The outrage is powered by pent up outrage over the sexualization of our daughters, of their dolls and their clothing," ...

These people don't seem to appreciate that in conglomerate land, it's anything for a smooth buck. And if enlarging the franchise makes Viacom more money, then the franchise gets enlarged, capice?

Pixar's Ronnie Del Carmen explains his passion for drawing comic books.

... I gravitate towards books that have a controlling idea behind them, no matter how slight. I think it makes the editing process easier but more than that it makes the book about something. The question I deal with in my day job as story supervisor is: "What is--insert project here--about?" So, rather than just having a series of images that can run the gamut of drawings and scribbles I have in my sketchbooks I thought about what I was experiencing over time with my sketchbooks. What could a compilation of my drawings be about? ...

It's been noted elsewhere in more than a few places, but we still note the passing of Millard Kaufman, co-creator of Mr. Magoo.

A former newspaperman who launched his screenwriting career after serving in the Marines during World War II, Kaufman quickly made a mark on pop culture by writing the screenplay for "Ragtime Bear," the 1949 cartoon short directed by John Hubley that introduced the near-sighted Mr. Magoo.

The character, which was voiced by actor Jim Backus, was modeled in part on Kaufman's uncle.

"My uncle had no problem with his eyes," Kaufman said in a 2007 National Public Radio interview. "He simply interpreted everything that came across his way in his own particular manner, and he could at times be a little bit difficult, but he would only see things the way they existed highly subjectively to him."

The Nikkster projects Monsters Vs. Aliens opening, domestic and worldwide grosses, citing a box office specialist:

Media analyst Rich Greenfield of Pali Research today writes (registration required) that his prediction for Monsters vs. Aliens' worldwide box office estimate of $483M is "conservative ($186 domestic, $297 international), given the recent strength in domestic movie attendance trends (consumers escaping from the gloomy economy) and the benefit the movie should see from premium 3-D" pricing ...

(Nikki's commenters write of their disdain for DreamWorks animated product, forgetting the old Hollywood axium: "A good movie is a movie that makes a lot of money.")

Not to rest on its laurels, Disney/Pixar's Up will get the big launch at some French resort or other:

Disney-Pixar announced that a 3D presentation of its coming animated feature “Up” has been selected as the opening night premiere of this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

But speaking of the country that helped launch our own ... the French film business is on a roll:

French filmmaking powered up in 2008, with budgets and production levels rising for the second year running.

The number of French-nationality pic productions rose to 240 last year from 203 in 2006 and 228 in 2007 ...
French investment in domestic pic production skyrocketed 28.6% to 1.22 billion euros ($1.6 billion).

Much of it was driven by two high-bracket animation features from EuropaCorp, both directed by Luc Besson: "Arthur and the Two Worlds War" ($89.3 million) and "Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard" ($82.0 million), plus Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud's docu "Oceans" ($64.7 million).

Have a glorious Friday.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Walt’s Ashes

It’s only a matter of time before they cut these scenes from your favorite Disney films:

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Seth MacFarlane’s Hulu Commercial

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane has apparently become enough of a celebrity to appear as himself in a commercial for Hulu:

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Teen Wolf Animated in Canada

Vancouver animator Brent Bouchard recently produced a new short film, titled Teen Wolf. For those of you not up to date on your Teen Wolf references, in this 1985 live-action feature film, Michael J. Fox played Scott Howard, his girlfriend was named Lisa ‘Boof’ Marconi, and his bestfriend was Rupert ‘Stiles’ Stilinski.

‘South Park’ Superhero Parody Spoofs ‘Watchmen,’ ‘The Dark Knight’ & Dark Comics Trend

Wsednesday night’s episode of “South Park” offered a parody of the “dark superhero” movie trend, and there was no shortage of references to subject matter Splash Page readers have become more than familiar with lately — including everything from “Watchmen” and “The Spirit” to “The Dark Knight.” Heck, there was even a quick cameo for Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns.”

See if you can spot the guest spot for Miller’s iconic creation in the frame below:

But that wasn’t all comics fans could get a kick out of in Wednesday night’s “South Park.”

Along with co-opting the growl of Christian Bale’s Batman (with a little of Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach thrown in), the cast of “heroes” in the episode maintained a near-constant narration regarding the troubles of “my city” a la, well… just about every comic book film made in the last year.

Beyond that, the episode managed to play around with a long list of comic book tropes, including “there one minute, gone the next” exits, costumes that shouldn’t be able to conceal anyone’s identity and, in one scene, the habit of adorning one’s secret lair with “trophies” from past adventures. (I’d like to think that was the Rubik’s version of Marvel Comics’ “Cosmic Cube” in Dr. Chaos’ hideout.)

You can watch the full episode (titled “The Coon”) over at the official “South Park” website.

(Thanks Splash Page)

Italy Animation 'Huntik' Earns Second Season

'Huntik' Animation Season Two Delivers Next Year

Currently entertaining audiences on Saturday mornings through The CW4Kids, the animated television series Huntik: Seekers & Secrets appears destined for an extended stay on western shores. Whether through the newly established trading card game from Upper Deck, the on-going online gaming campaigns, or the recently announced second season greenlight -- Huntik looks to be on the minds of TCG collectors and animation fans for several months to come.

Huntik: Secrets & Seekers
follows a group of headstrong and excitable teens as well as their mentors whom in a world of magic and fantasy must travel the world in search of mythical artifacts said to hold tremendous, ancient power. Most notable centered on a precocious puzzle-solving kid named Lok Lambert, the cartoon pits Lok and his globe-trotting friends against a shady organization hell-bent on stealing these artifacts--mythical beasts called Titans--all for itself. Joined by a sharp-witted rich girl named Sophie, a clever and slick mentor in Dante, and Zhalia, a brooding gal if there ever was one, Lock must reconcile the loss of his somewhat-estranged father with the harsh reality of saving he world from an organization hoping to unleash chaos on the world.

Rainbow S.p.A., the original Italian animation group and media company behind
Huntik has announced their plans to push forward with a second season of production of the animated series. The first season currently airs or has previously been sold to broadcasters such as Jetix (UK), MTV3 (Finland), KTV (Africa), Logi Channel (Israel), and Filma (Turkey). Other broadcasters include RTL2 (Germany), MNet (South Africa), Alter TV (Greece), and Network Ten (Australia). The second season, an additional twenty-six episodes of adventure, is likely to premiere across platforms in Italy and the U.S. as well.

The second season of
Huntik: Secrets & Seekers will have a planned international delivery of fall 2010. Rainbow will reportedly include new characters for the next season, such as additional relatives of Sophie (of the Casterwill family), new villains, and of course, new mythical Titan characters for the teenage heroes to encounter along the way.

In related news, Upper Deck has formally kicked off their publishing and distribution efforts of the official
Huntik trading card game. Fans of the series can either opt for a nine-card booster pack or a more thorough starter set… or perhaps splurge on the 159-card Booster Set, said to include all sorts of limited edition and/or rare cards of the Huntik TCG collection. According to Upper Deck, the two-player Starter Set offers a bonus DVD with a full Huntik
episode and trivia game; two themed decks, Foundation and Organization; a Seeker Training Guide; a game mat with quick start guide; and 21-card Mission pack.

on Rainbow S.p.A.: Rainbow ( is an international company in the global cinema and television industry.

Rainbow Animation Studio is headquartered in Italy. Rainbow was founded in 1995 and quickly became a successful player in the sector of animated television series, having successfully penetrated the highly competitive market of children's programming with original material.

AWN Interviews "Venture Bros." Co-Creators on Season 3 Blu-ray and Season 4

AWN has interviewed Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer, the co-creators of Adult Swim's Venture Bros., about the upcoming release of season 3 on Blu-ray and the next season of the show, which debuts in November 2009. Publick and Hammer discuss how the show has evolved since its origins as a Jonny Quest parody, the decision by the network to air the show in high-definition and release it on Blu-ray disc, upcoming guest stars for season 4 (including Brendon Small, H. Jon Benjamin, Seth Green, John Hodgman, Patton Oswalt, and Kevin Conroy), and the dramatic changes at the end of season 3 and how they'll affect season 4.

"Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode 2" Coming to DVD reports that Warner Brothers is releasing Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode 2 on DVD July 21st.

The DVD will not only contain the special, but also a special extended edition with 15 minutes of never-before-seen footage. Also includes video commentary, deleted scenes, an animation meeting, and behind the scenes footage.

"Pinocchio" 70th Anniversary DVD/Blu-ray Deliver Monstro-Sized Sales Debut

The Hollywood Reporter is stating that the new re-release of Pinocchio topped national home video sales for the week ending March 15, 2009, with Blu-ray disc sales accounting for 15% of the total units sold. The relatively high number of Blu-ray discs sold suggests that the format may be expanding past technology early adopters.

Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers Top Forbes' "Animation A-List Actors" List

Forbes magazine has published their list of the "Animation A-List Actors," created from "the animated films released since 1980 that earned at least $50 million domestically," compiling "a list of every actor who portrayed a top-billed character in at least one of the movies." The full list of actors is:

- Eddie Murphy
- Mike Myers
- Cameron Diaz
- Owen Wilson
- Tim Allen
- Tom Hanks
- Robin Williams
- Ellen DeGeneres
- Jack Black
- Ben Stiller

It was not explained why Ellen DeGeneres made the list for Finding Nemo while Albert Brooks is missing, or why Owen Wilson was included for Cars but Bonnie Hunt or Paul Newman were not.

"G.I. Joe" Season 1 Part 1 Deploys on DVD on July 21, 2009

TVShowsOnDVD is reporting that G.I. Joe Season 1 Part 1 will be coming to DVD on July 21, 2009. The 4-disc set will run approximately 700 minutes, chronicling the on-going battles between the elite counter-terrorist team of the title and the would-be world dominators of Cobra. No artwork or special features are available at this time.

Knowing Has Edge Among New Releases

The VFX-heavy sci-fi action movie Knowing leads a three-horse race for newcomers at this weekend’s box office.

, which stars Nicolas Cage and is produced by Summit Entertainment, opens wide on 3,332 screens. The film, which features Cage as a man who discovers a time capsule whose contents predict the end of the world, is directed by Alex Proyas of Dark City, The Crow and I, Robot fame.

Opening just behind
Knowing is I Love You, Man, a DreamWorks/Paramount comedy that will be seen on 2,711 screens.

The other major release this weekend is Universal’s
Duplicity, starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, on 2,575 screens.

Holdovers include the third weekend for Warner Bros.’ graphic novel adaptation
Watchmen, Disney’s Race to Witch Mountain and Focus Features’ animated feature Coraline
, entering its seventh week of release.

Web Offers Simultaneous Naruto Premiere

VIZ Media will for the first time stream an all-new episode of Naruto Shippuden online the same day it first airs in Japan.

The episode will stream for free with English subtitles on March 26 at the official Naruto website, Canadian fans can catch the episode the same day on

“The web site is the ultimate destination for anything Naruto and currently contains nearly 100 full-length Naruto episodes, all offered in high quality streaming video, and is completely free for viewers,” says Ken Sasaki, VP of strategy and business development, VIZ Media.

Exhibitors Assemble for Hong Kong Filmart

More than 500 exhibitors are due to gather for the Hong Kong International Film & TV Market, running Monday through Thursday.

The 13th annual edition of the event, the Filmart will be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and showcase the latest productions as well as production facilities from around the region.

A series of seminars also is planned, featuring such topics as “The Changing Face of Hollywood in Asia” and “Distribution of Asian Product in the U.S. and International Markets.”

Animation and digital entertainment will share a spotlight in one of the event’s pavilions.

The event, organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, is part of the Entertainment Expo Hong Kong, which opens Monday with an opening ceremony that includes the Asian Film Awards ceremony.

Filmart attendees are welcome to visit the Animation Magazine booth #1U11, where we’ll be distributing copies of the magazine and looking for the latest buzz on animation & vfx projects in Asia.

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