Monday, March 23, 2009

News - 03/23/09...

Knowing crashes into first place in its opening weekend

The sci-fi action thriller Knowing opened in first place at the March 20 weekend box office, taking in an estimated $24.8 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Race to Witch Mountain, last week's number-one movie, dropped a modest 47 percent in its second weekend, ringing up about $13 million to take fourth place, with a 10-day domestic total of $44.7 million, the trade paper reported.

Watchmen, meanwhile, continued its fade, taking in just $6.7 million to finish fifth in its third weekend, raising its domestic box office to $98.1 million.

The Last House on the Left dropped 58 percent in its second weekend, with $5.9 million and a sixth-place finish, taking its total to $24 million.

Promo and Making-of Video for Chinese Animated film THE LEGEND OF MILU DEER

When Kung Fu Panda became a major success in China, it served as a wake up call for the local animators to take a hard look at themselves. For an animated film based on Chinese culture that was produce from an outsider and was able to smash China’s box office record in animation, it really begs the question on why can’t the Chinese animation industry pull off the same level of success on its own turf. This is where The Legend of MiLu Deer: Princess Yoyo (麋鹿傳奇) steps in to answer that call. Its a fantasy CG animated film featuring the national treasure of the Père David’s Deer. Here’s how the official site describe the plot in a nutshell:

In ancient times, when Milu was deified as dogs, humans and animals lived in harmonious world. The King of Milu Deer and his daughter, Yoyo, with all the deer subjects in the beautiful marsh and mountains lightheartedly. There was a tale that the horn of the king have a magical power, it could make the dream come true. To gain it, the young human prince and the evil Koradji lead the army to catch the King in the mountain. Then, Qingmu, the captain of Haiqi horses, lead the confederates ambuscade in the lake under the mountain. One day, rebellious Yoko eat a nameless grass which transformed her as a beautiful girl. She met the prince Can, and won his heart back. The two young bloods dueled with the Koradji and Qingmu, though there were dangers, they still supported each other. Finally, the evil was defeated by the kind and harmony of nature was protected. In the end, Can transformed as beautiful male deer and get into the embrace of nature with Yoyo and other deers.

The tentative release date is in July. You’ll find the promo and the making-of video below.


Making-of video

Giant Robots! Small Robots! Little Girl Robots! They’re All In The FOREST OF NEMI!

Yes, we’ve written about this one before but I’m a big, big fan of Korean animation house Studio Flying and director Gap Kim and a recent swing by the Studio Flying website had me falling in love with this one all over again and so here it is.

For those unfamiliar, Kim is the director of Aachi and Ssipak, the post-apocalyptic scifi comedy animation set in a world powered by feces - a film that was a big hit on the festival circuit and whose continued lack of North American distribution simply baffles me. Since Aachi, Kim has been working on a handful of other projects, including brothel-set martial arts fantasy Mad Monkey - promo here - and a rumored feature length expansion of 2005 short film Forest of Nemi. Expansion or not, there’s a lengthy promo for Nemi online and the slightly more kids-oriented tale of giant robots run wild looks like just a fantastically good time. Check it out below!

Visit the Studio Flying website here

English subtitled trailer for Musashi: The Dream of the Last Samurai!!!

As to be expected, Production I.G. brings their A game to this project, led by famed animation director Mamoru Oshii.

Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) was an unrivalled swordsman in the days when internal wars in Japan had virtually ended. Nevertheless, he wrote a master treatise on military strategy, The Book of Five Rings and sought “the way” to enlighten his spirit and cultivate his mind. But could this image have been manufactured by the generations that followed…? Mamoru Oshii will take on an unusual portrayal of this legendary and aloof warrior, between spectacular duels and a tragic life in pursuit of greatness. With The Book of Five Rings as his guide, Oshii will unsheathe the true vision of the greatest swordsman in Japanese history! Medieval chivalry, horsemanship, swordsmanship and the essence of The Book of Five Rings will be pure entertainment!

It looks great. Calling it a subtitled trailer is a bit misleading as there is no actual dialogue in it. But, the titles are subbed. That’s something, right? Until technology confounds me no more we’ll have to direct you straight to AnimeNewsNetwork for the trailer. Follow the link.

Find the trailer here

GhibliWorld interviews Studio Ghibli’s KOSAKA KITARO

Damn, whenever GhibliWorld scores an exclusive interview it’s worthy of taking notice.

This time the site managed to get to speak with internationally renowned animator Kosaka Kitaro, an assistent to Hayao Miyazaki ever since the utterly brilliant “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” wayyyyy back in 1984. More recently he was the Director of Animation on “Howl’s Moving Castle” and Assistant Director of Animation on “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea”.

Needless to say if you have any interest whatsoever in animation, especially of the Japanese variety, you owe it to yourself to check this out.

Head over to GhibliWorld for the interview

Trailer Arrives For Kitamura And Iwai’s BATON!

Well, well, maybe he should have been doing animation all along ...

As frustrating as Versus director Ryuhei Kitamura can be when working in live action (which is very), when you think about it most of his annoying excesses in that format are things generally considered strengths in animation. Hyperactive camera motion? Lots of posturing and over emoting? These are not issues so much in the animated world, and neither are the high levels of production design that Kitamura generally demands but frequently cannot deliver on his tight live action budgets. And so the hopes are high for Baton, Kitamura’s first foray into directing animation. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s brought All About Lily Chou Chou director Shunji Iwai along for the ride as a producer.

Produced for the 150th anniversary of Yokohama, Baton employs a mix of traditional and rotoscoped animation. And it is, of course, a scifi-action story. The first trailer has just arrived on the official website and while I’m not a huge fan of the look of the rotoscoped sections - the human faces are a touch expressionless - I really like the feel of this thing on the whole. Check it below!

Visit the official site here.

Toon Boom Presents Expert Corner with Otis Brayboy

Otis shares with Toon Boom his thoughts on using their Storyboard Pro Program -


That is the word I would use to describe the Toon Boom Storyboard program. I have been producing storyboards for over 18 years, and the Toon Boom program is the best I have ever worked with. I most recently produced storyboards for a live action feature, where I was able to swim through ten pages of script a day with this program. Adding text alone used to take so much time and now, it is a breeze to do so. If I had had this program when I was the Storyboard Supervisor on FOX TV′s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, my very talented team would have had much more time to think of storytelling and shots to draw rather than finding pages and physically Scotch taping text onto the storyboards.

I am often asked to speak at schools, and now I can do some very exciting demonstrations for the students, instead of just passing around paper storyboards the size of phone books. I am currenty working on my next short film, and I will definitely be using Toon Boom Storyboard and Toon Boom Animate exclusively.

See more here

Two BYU animated films to receive "Student Emmys"

The Brigham Young University Center for Animation extended its award-winning tradition by earning two "Student Emmys" this year.

The program's two most recent films, Pajama Gladiator and Kites, will receive two of the three trophies given Saturday in the College Television Awards' animation category, awarded annually by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

The recently completed Kites was unveiled to the news media Wednesday at a campus event. In a radical departure from their tradition of comedies, the BYU students chose a poignant feel for the new short. The film tells the bittersweet story of a boy and his grandfather using their shared love of kite flying to deal with a major change in their lives.

Pajama Gladiator premiered last year. Five BYU students who worked on it went on to help produce Pixar's next blockbuster, Up, which hits theaters in May.

The latest awards bring the Center's haul to nine "Student Emmys" in the six years that the BYU program has been entering films. The student animators and their professors will find out whether their films placed first, second or third at the gala awards ceremony Saturday in Hollywood.

"In this industry, experience is everything, and this was absolutely the best thing I could be doing right now to prepare for my career," said Kites co-producer James L. Jackson, a BYU junior who was a newlywed as of last weekend. Jackson and his wife are working the award ceremony into their honeymoon itinerary.

Jordan Pack, the other co-producer, has graduated and works for Disney Interactive in Salt Lake City.

"Animation is a ridiculously collaborative effort -- a single production crew will have people from math, art, film and animation backgrounds," said senior Jed Henry, who directed Kites. "My greatest source of satisfaction came from seeing all these differently skilled people working towards one artistic goal."

Center for Animation director R. Brent Adams highlighted that collaboration -- both among different students majoring in different fields and even among university administrators -- as a reason for the BYU program's success.

"The support of administrators from three colleges and at the university level allows us to give more students more experiences than they can get anywhere else," Adams said. "That's why we have professionals from Pixar and all the top animation studios visiting campus every semester to mentor and recruit our students."

Kelly Loosli, Ryan Woodward and Cynthia Overman were other faculty mentors on the films.

Pixar president Ed Catmull declared BYU students "the best in the industry" at a press conference on campus last year.

"Over the years, Pixar has worked with a lot of different universities around the country and hired people," Catmull said then. "One of the interesting things is, all of a sudden, in the last few years, we found that BYU has risen to the top. BYU has an extraordinary program here."

Kites can be seen at To watch Pajama Gladiator, click on and look for it on the bottom right of your screen.

or -

Here’s Pajama Gladiator, which features a boy who is abducted by aliens:

And now watch Kites, which is a tale about a boy handling the death of his grandfather:

You can see the animatic and turn-arounds from Pajama Gladiator over at the official site. Also, check out the macquette for the Grandpa character from Kites at Jonathan Hoffman’s blog.

Chinese gov't can't bear Winnie the Pooh currency

Chinese authorities are getting oh-bothered by play money with cartoon pictures of such iconic kids' favorites as Disney's Winnie the Pooh.

The country's National Anti-Pornography and Anti-Illegal Publications Office last Friday ordered its branches nationwide to confiscate "toy money" mainly sold to youngsters at book stores or stands near schools, Wednesday's Beijing News reported.

With patterns and sizes similar to the real thing, the play money is a brisk seller across China. It's being sold at 0.25 Renminbi (3.6 cents U.S.) per piece in southwestern Chongqing Municipality, Tuesday's Chongqing Economic Times reported. The "money" has a face value reflecting all currently circulating currency from 0.5 to 100 RMB.

Local media reported this week that similar play money is also being sold in northern Tianjing Municipality, eastern Jiangsu Province and southwestern Sichuan Province.

Chinese regulations require that anything patterned on the Renminbi, China's unit of currency, receive approval from the People's Bank of China, the country's central bank.

Tips sent to the Anti-Illegal Publications Office's hotline allege that some of the play money is made in Yiwu City, located in eastern Zhejiang Province, a center for producing and trading accessories.

The office said it would also search for the play money's sources, punish makers and vendors, and turn suspects over to police, the Xinhua news agency reported.

"Jabberjaw" writer Robert "Bob" Fisher dies

Robert "Bob" Fisher, one of the writers of Hanna-Barbera's 1976 Jabberjaw series, died last September, cartoon historian Mark Evanier wrote Thursday on his News From Me site.

Fisher's age was not available. His death apparently had been unpublicized, Evanier said.

Fisher was also a writer for The Snow Queen, the English dub of the 1957 Soyuzmultfilm animated feature film Snezhnaya Koroleva.

He wrote many TV and radio shows, plays and movie screenplays, often with his partner, Arthur Marx -- the son of Groucho Marx.

His live-action TV series included Alice, Bachelor Father, The Donna Reed Show and The Mothers-In-Law.

With Arthur Marx, he wrote the hit Broadway play The Impossible Years, as well as two shows about the Marx Brothers: Groucho: A Life in Revue and the book for the musical Minnie's Boys.

"Wonder Woman" Direct-To-Video Animated Feature Debuts Strong Home Video Sales

The new Wonder Woman direct-to-video animated feature featuring the popular DC Comics heroine debuts strong, selling over 100,000 copies in first week.

According to various home media retailing outlets, the new Wonder Woman direct-to-video animated feature made a strong debut on the home video sales charts. The feature hit the DVD sales chart at #5, selling an estimated 107,000 copies for the week ending March 8th, 2009. The Wonder Woman animated feature also made a strong debut on the Blu-ray charts, placing #6 with estimated sales of 17,000 copies. Analysts state that while this isn't the strongest debut for a direct-to-video animated feature starring a DC Comics character, the broad appeal of Wonder Woman should give the title a healthy shelf life. Keep in mind the number does not take into account rental numbers, OnDemand numbers, or legal download numbers.

Above is the cover art for both the Blu-ray and Two-Disc Special Edition DVD release of the direct-to-video
Wonder Woman
animated feature.

The two heads of Gulliver

Last night I had a great time catching up with one of my favorite animated features of all time, Max Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels (1939). However, it was not to the newly released Koch restored version we mentioned in this post last month.

I started watching the Koch DVD (they sent me a review copy) and I must admit, for a minute or so I was delighted with the crystal clear soundtrack and the brighter picture. But right away, during the opening shipwreck sequence I could tell something was wrong. I pulled out my one-dollar public domain copy to compare — and upon examination here’s what I concluded:

#1 The Koch version squeezed the original 1:66 screen ratio to a 1:85 “letterbox” picture. All the picture information is there, but flattened - all the characters are squat, fatter.

#2 The Koch restoration removed frames from the animation. The characters move less fluid in the Koch version. This is particularly noticeable in any fast moving action or dancing sequences. Like the Ladd “colorization” shorts, it must have been cheaper to “clean up” less frames, and digitize the movie “on threes” (to keep sync with the soundtrack).

#3 The DVNR has softened the picture, particularly blurring the elaborate background paintings.

I don’t have a perfect copy of the film to compare this “restoration” to - but I do have production stills (in black & white). These are photographs of the original cels and backgrounds, released for publicity purposes in 1939. Below (click thumbnails to see enlarged images) compare the black & white still of a cel (center, below) with a color frame (left, below) from the Koch DVD. Note how everything in the color frame is now squat and fuzzy.

If you want to see more frame grabs and the technical specs from the Koch version, head on over to DVDbeaver/HD Sensei, or get a second opinion over at The Blu-Ray Blog. Me - I’ll keep enjoying the copy I bought for a buck, and hope that someday the original neg is restored by the corporation that holds it. In the meantime, while I’m in my Gulliver mood, I’ve taken the occasion to post an excellent four page publicity story from Good Housekeeping (click thumbnails below to read). Enjoy!

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Bolt's Rhino gets his own fully awesome Blu-ray short film

The DVD and Blu-ray release of Disney's animated film Bolt will include an all-new short film, Super Rhino, centering on the peripatetic hamster played by Mark Walton.

Rhino dreams he has the superpowers to save his heroes; the short closes with a stage performance of "The Best of Both Worlds" (covering co-star Miley Cyrus' song).

Nathan Greno, story supervisor on Bolt, directed Super Rhino. Walton, a visual development artist at Disney animation, reprises his voice role. The two participated in an online group interview on Wednesday; the following Q&A features edited excerpts. Bolt drops on Blu-ray on March 22 and on standard DVD on March 24.

How was Rhino chosen to star in his own short?

When we were wrapping story on Bolt, [Disney creative executive] John Lasseter asked us to start thinking about a short for the DVD. I pitched the idea of Rhino gaining the powers of his hero, Bolt. John loved the idea and asked me to work up a pitch. Needless to say, the pitch went well, and I was given the opportunity to direct the short.

Why do you think it's so often the supporting characters from these animated films (Mater, Jack Jack, etc.) that people want to see star in their own shorts?

The supporting characters typically carry less story/plot weight, so you can be more broad and pushed with them. Supporting characters also take up less of the film's screen time. A short is a great opportunity for supporting characters to shine. Rhino is so pushed and single-minded, the idea of him starring in his own film was really entertaining to me.

What can you tell us about the difference between working on the film Bolt and the short Super Rhino?

With features you're typically dealing with more characters, plot, emotion, story arc, etc. A short is the same, only much ... shorter! In the case of Super Rhino, I even had the advantage of using pre-established characters. Putting an unexpected spin on them was the fun part. My biggest challenge on Super Rhino was learning to work with other departments outside of the story department. I honestly learned something new every day. I went from working in my storyboarding bubble to working with every department in the building. It was an amazing, eye-opening experience for me. The advantage with the Super Rhino short was having the advantage of using pre-existing characters. The fun came from the unexpected story twists I put them through. ...

How did Miley Cyrus feel about Rhino doing "Best of Both Worlds?"

Frankly, I'm afraid she was consumed by jealousy and a serious inferiority complex. I can't blame her. It's got to be hard to see the writing on the wall. No, seriously, I'm not sure if she's seen the finished film with my singing yet, but I'm sure my (purposely) bad version of the song makes her look even better by comparison. ...

Have you met Miley Cyrus, and did you get her autograph?

I did meet Miley Cyrus! This young woman at the studio suddenly shouted at me from down the hall, and was complimenting my performance, and I thought she was sweet. Then someone asked if we wanted a picture together, and I didn't realize until she came up right next to me it was her! She seemed really nice. I didn't have time to get her autograph, but I got a nice picture with her! ...

Which scenes look best on the Blu-ray?

The scenes that will look best in Blu-ray will have Rhino, in all his glory, on the screen. Actually, I haven't seen the Blu-ray transfer yet, but I bet any scene with a lot of detail (there are some beautiful backgrounds in the movie) will really sing in Blu-ray.

Dark Knight Director's Brother Arrested for Murder

Holy headline-making, Batbro!

Matthew Francis Nolan, the older brother of Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan, has been arrested by the FBI in his hometown of Chicago and is now awaiting extradition to Costa Rica to face murder and kidnapping charges.

According to the the bureau's Windy City office, the Violent Crimes Task Force apprehended the 40-year-old Nolan without incident as he was leaving a bankruptcy court hearing yesterday.

Nolan has been wanted in Costa Rica since 2006, when local authorities charged him with the kidnapping and murder of a Florida businessman a year earlier.

According to the FBI complaint, the elder Nolan concocted a Joker-worthy plot to lure the victim, Robert Cohen, to a hotel by pretending to be a multimillionaire jewel merchant hoping to do a business deal. Instead, Nolan intended to recoup $7 million Cohen owed another Florida man. Nolan and an accomplice, Douglas Mejia, allegedly held Cohen ransom in hopes of extracting the money, but when the family failed to meet their demands, they killed him, per the complaint.

Mejia was convicted of kidnapping and murder and is now in prison.

Nolan was collared just as police were probing his role in a separate $700,000 bank-fraud scheme. He's been ordered held without bond until extradition proceedings are completed.

Nolan's 38-year-old sibling, Christopher, broke into Hollywood with the mind-bending thriller Memento and has since gone on to reinvent the Caped Crusader in 2005's Batman Begins and 2008's The Dark Knight. The latter—cowritten by their younger brother, Jonathan—has since become the second-highest grossing film of all time.

Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood

Set your Tivos! Next Tuesday, March 24, is the premiere of Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood, a half-hour documentary on Turner Classic Movies. The film airs at 8pm (ET) followed by eleven Jones shorts and the feature-length The Phantom Tollbooth. Memories of Childhood, directed by Peggy Stern, is based on interviews with Jones from 1997. The documentary also includes new animated sequences by John Canemaker that bring to life moments in Jones’s childhood, as well as clips from his films and archival materials. To anybody familiar with the Jones autobiographies, the documentary won’t shed a whole lot of new light onto his early years (the biggest revelation is that he was physically abused by his father). Nevertheless, I found it quite enjoyable to watch and think it offers a solid introduction to this animation great.

For another viewpoint on the documentary, see this review in the NY Press by C. Edwards, which says:

The scenes with Jones, which feel like snippets that didn’t make it into a larger interview, are inter-cut with simple pieces of animation directed by award winner John Canemaker. Designed to draw parallels between Jones’ words and his career, the “newly animated” segments would be overshadowed by the work of Jones, which is probably why they show so little of it.

If you go to the linked review above, there’s also a lengthy response from Jones’s grandson Craig Kausen, who offers his take on the documentary.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

NY Times on "Monsters vs. Aliens" Turning to 3-D

The New York Times has taken a look at how the upcoming Monsters vs. Aliens was turned into a 3-D movie, noting that,

"After work on the movie was well under way, [Jeffrey] Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation’s chief executive, informed [co-directors Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon] that they would also need to deliver the movie in 3-D." Among other topics, the article notes the trepidation of the pair and their producer Lisa Stewart ("I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, great, I’m going to have a headache for the next two and a half years,’ "), Katzenberg's reassurances on the latest generation of 3-D technology ("I’m pretty sure that no business can succeed in which it makes the customer hurl,"), the $15 million added cost to make the movie 3-D and the business drivers that justify the added expenses, and how the filmmakers learned to use the technology and produce the final film.

Bryan Fuller Wants To Mount A New STAR TREK TV Series!!

"I told my agent and told the people of J.J. Abrams' team I want to create another 'Star Trek' series and have an idea that I’m kicking around," acclaimed TV writer Bryan Fuller said in an IF Magazine story posted March 2. "I would love to return to the spirit of the old series with the colors and attitude. I loved 'Voyager' and 'Deep Space Nine,' but they seem to have lost the ‘60s fun and I would love to take it back to its origin."

I learned this thanks to a Friday post in James Hibberd’s Live Feed, and found myself pondering Fuller’s intent.

Fuller’s a giant Trek nerd who began his TV career writing on “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager” (before moving on to create “Dead Like Me,” “Wonderfalls” and “Pushing Daisies”) so his interest wasn’t a surprise.

I was wondering more about premise. If Abrams’ fast-approaching Kirk-Spock movie proves as big a hit as everybody thinks it will be, that means sequels, and that means the further 23rd century adventures of Kirk and Spock wouldn’t likely be headed for live-action TV. Would the new series take place in the late 24th century era of Old Spock, several years subsequent to the events of “Nemesis”?

“I would love to do it in the same era as the J.J. Abrams movie, but on another starship on a completely different adventure,” Fuller tells Ain’t It Cool. “But it really is a dream and there is nothing official about it at all.”

There are rumors afloat that Abrams asked for a two-year “freeze” that would keep any “Trek” TV show off the air until at least 2011, but Abrams told Hibberd that his movie contract afforded him “no veto power” over any proposed TV series. (I’m not sure how much of a impediment a two-year freeze would be anyway, since my understanding is Fuller is contracted with “Heroes” producer NBC Universal until the end of 2010.)

One catalyst that could help garner support for a series is Abrams' longtime best friend Greg Grunberg, an actor who played a major role in “Company Man,” the Fuller-scripted first-season “Heroes” episode widely regarded as the series’ finest hour.

"Make Your Own Morph" Contest Launched by and Aardman Animations and Aardman Animations are teaming up to launch a "Morphmation" competition, which will invite people to submit their own 2-minute stop-motion animations starring the Morph figure in the "Make Your Own Morph" kits sold by Budding filmmakers can submit their short films at through the end of April. The top 5 funniest and wackiest shorts selected by will be displayed on Aardman's YouTube channel for public comment, with Aardman selecting a final winner from the five. The winner will receive "a one-off signed original sketch – taken from a scene within their film – drawn by Peter Lord, Creative Director of Aardman and co-creator of Morph." Second-prize will be a copy of Stop Motion Pro 6.5 High Definition software (used by Aardman), and an Animation Station, and third prize will be an Animation Station.

The full press release follows.

Firebox teams with creators of Morph to launch ‘Morphmation’

March 2009 has teamed up with Aardman Animations – the creators of Morph – to launch an animation competition entitled ‘Morphmation’. Inspired by the hugely popular Make your Own Morph product that the quirky gift e-tailer sells, Firebox will be encouraging Morph lovers to send in their 2 minute stop-motion animations starring the lovable clay figure.

The film festival with a difference will run for six weeks – from mid March until the end of April. Budding animators can upload their entries onto’s dedicated webpage: The e-tailer will then select the five funniest and wackiest Morph adventures and display them on Aardman’s Youtube channel, whereupon fans can rate and comment upon the entries. When choosing the final winner, Aardman will take these comments into account.

The lucky Morphmation winner will receive a one-off signed original sketch – taken from a scene within their film – drawn by Peter Lord, Creative Director of Aardman and co-creator of Morph. Runners up will receive a copy of 'Stop Motion Pro' software and an 'Animation Station' product.

Christian Robinson – MD of comments: "Take Hart was one of my personal favourite TV shows growing up: Tony Hart was an absolute inspiration, and the characters of Morph, Chas and Nailbrush will always have a soft spot in my heart. I’m obviously not alone, as our ‘My Own Morph’ kit has become a top seller for Firebox since we launched it in September last year, with thousands a week being sold over Christmas. We are truly honoured to be working with Morph’s creators, Aardman Animations, on the Morphmation project, and can’t wait to see the creativity from our customers that this awesome competition will hopefully inspire.”

Peter Lord – Creative Director of Aardman and co-creator of Morph, comments: “We started animating with modelling clay because it was cheap and easily available, but we discovered, as we went along, that it's also amazing fun. Modelling clay is really perfect for animation and I'm really excited to see what you can do with it. Amaze me!”

University friends Michael Smith and Tom Boardman set up in 1998 with the dream of retailing, marketing and manufacturing a select range of new and unusual products from around the world. The company survived the dotcom boom and bust and has developed into a successful multi-channel retail operation including an award-winning website and a mail-order catalogue. Originally building a reputation for having the latest gadgets, games and boys toys for men, Firebox now services a broader market, identifying the latest trends in consumer products to bring quirky and unusual designer homewares, innovative gadgets and amusing gift ideas to their customers ahead of mainstream retailers.

About Aardman Animations:
Aardman, based in Bristol (UK), co-founded and run by Peter Lord and David Sproxton, is a world leader in animation. It produces feature films, television series and television commercials for both the domestic and international market. The studio has won over 400 international awards including 4 Oscars®.

Aardman’s multi-award winning productions are novel, entertaining, brilliantly characterised and full of charm that reflects the unique talent, energy and personal commitment of the very special people who make up the Aardman team. The studio’s work is often imitated and yet the company continues to lead the field producing a rare brand of visually stunning and amusing independent and commercials productions

From Dime To Dime (1960)

If it’s Saturday, it must be time for another obscure 1960s cartoon that, for one reason or other, was never released to TV. Today we have another Paramount Modern Madcap that showcases an adult vice - in this case, gambling.

From Dime To Dime is the story of a Las Vegas loser who listens to his “conscious” (personified as a little green man) and gambles his last dime, to have seemingly the luckiest day of his life. There is almost nothing really funny in this cartoon - it’s more of an anti-gambling morality play than anything else. The background designs by Robert Owen are worth noting, because that’s the best thing in it. Harvey Comics acquired this picture from Paramount for use on their ABC-TV New Casper Cartoon Show but, like The Plot Sickens and In The Nicotine, felt it was inappropriate for kids. A suicide gag at the conclusion didn’t help its chances for Saturday morning broadcast.

Only a short excerpt from this film appears on the Harveytoons: the Complete Collection dvd set - so, for the sake of animation history, here is the entire cartoon:

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

BOA's "Monsters vs. Aliens" deal raises eyebrows

The recipient of over $45 billion in taxpayer largesse, the Bank of America is paying for about 55,000 Monsters vs. Aliens tickets -- at a cost of $175,000.

DreamWorks Animation's feature film will be released next Friday, March 27.

The bank is marketing a coupon for a free upgrade to see the 3-D version of Monsters vs. Aliens, a $2 to $5 dollar value. While it's intended as a bonus to bank customers, anyone with an e-mail address can get the upgrade.

The promotion will continue until May 29 or until the coupons run out. Hollywood Movie Money, a cinema promotions firm, organized the deal.

"These activities drive real business for us," Bank of America spokesman Joe Goode told Forbes magazine. "This opportunity enables us to reward customers for their business and loyalty at a very small price to the bank."

Goode defended the promotion, saying that it rewards customers for their loyalty and support. He told the Daily Beast that it's is a cost-effective way to pass on savings to customers. The bank is pursuing promotions in "a strategic and cost-effective manner to grow our business and generate returns for investors -- a group that now includes the American taxpayer," he said.

Around 2,000 of the 7,000 screens showing the film will have the 3-D version. Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield said that the average price premium per ticket for the 3-D version is $3.18, which would be split between studios and theater owners.

"We find it odd that a bank that just received $45 billion in government aid is paying for consumers across the U.S. to see a movie in 3-D vs. 2-D at no extra cost," Greenfield wrote in his blog.

The bank denies that its new promotion is linked in any way to the fact that DreamWorks Animation president Lew Coleman is the Bank of America's former vice- chairman and chief financial officer. "We recognize the money we've received from the government is an obligation, but the only way to fulfill all of our obligations is to pursue business activities that generate income," Good said.

Earlier this year, the Bank of America was criticized for spending $10 million on an "NFL Experience" Super Bowl party. However, the company disputes that figure, saying that the shindig cost somewhere in the low hundreds of dollars.

DreamWorks has had Super Bowl problems of its own. During the game, it airing a 3-D commercial for Monsters vs. Aliens that cost it a reported $9 million.

In the fourth quarter of last year, the animation studio's profit dropped 45%, partly because DVD revenue from
Kung Fu Panda didn't approach the success of Shrek The Third

Could Warner Bros. Be Putting The Kibosh On R-Rated Superhero Films?

After “Watchmen” opened to less-then-expected opening weekend box office numbers (not to mention a major drop-off in second weekend sales), was panned by most critics and, more importantly, deemed “too confusing” or outright offensive by many parents expecting a standard superhero flick (which resulted in numerous reports of families walking out of the show), could the “end be nigh” for R-rated superhero films at Warner Bros.?

According to IESB, an unnamed source “buried deep into the folds of the Warner Brother’s lot” reports that the studio may indeed be putting an end to R-rated superhero fare, and rather, sticking with films that carry a more family-friendly but still with an edge PG-13 rating moving forward. The source goes on to cite the financial success of such PG-13-rated flicks as “The Dark Knight” (currently at $1 billion and change) and “Iron Man” ($582M) as proof that movie going audiences may not be ready for more adult-themed superhero action.

While the box office take on “Watchmen” thus far should carry a big asterisk given its just-shy-of-three hours running time, and the fact that a majority of hardcore comic fans seemed to have liked the film, the source quoted at IESB pointed at the ever-present “bottom line,” saying that not only did the box office draw play into this rumored decision, but also the fact that “kids bought the shirts and the toys and the masks etc. [for 'Dark Knight' and 'Iron Man'] which means more money for the studio…no kids will be asking mommy to buy them shirts or Rorschach masks from this one.”

As usual, we remind our readers that, since there’s no “official” word out of Warner Bros. regarding this possible move, that this report should stay firmly in the “rumor” category for now. However, given the risk involved with a film like “Watchmen,” it will be interesting to see how this latest saga plays out.

New ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’TV Spot Highlights The Ladies In Logan’s Life

We’ve already seen the final movie trailer for “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” but 20th Century Fox has cut together a new TV spot for the film that is now making the rounds. Check it out below.

Up until now, the promo images and big trailer moments have focused on the movie’s male cast members, like Gambit, Sabretooth, Blob and Wraith, but this new spot opts to include a couple of ladies in Wolverine’s life.

The trailer calls out both Emma Frost, known to faithful X-Men readers as White Queen, and Silver Fox. We also get a look at Agent Zero and a few quick action shots that have shown up before. With Emma getting an early call-out in the the character rundown, Frost fans have got to be a little excited to see how much screen-time the diamond-hardening telepath is going to get in the movie and how good or evil she’s going to be when she shows up, being that she is one of the most two-faced ulteriorly-motivated gals in the X-Universe.

The mutant lineup revealed so far as been extremely impressive for a Wolverine spotlight flick. You’ve got to wonder who else director Gavin Hood and writer David Benioff may be saving up their sleeves for the movie’s premiere.

Cylons have The Plan and SCI FI Wire's got an exclusive peek

Watch our exclusive clip from the upcoming Battlestar Galactica spinoff movie The Plan, directed by and starring Edward James Olmos. Jane Espenson wrote the screenplay.

The Plan—which will likely come out on DVD and will also air this fall—recaps the story of the destruction of the human Colonies from the point of view of the Cylons.

The cast also includes Michael Trucco, Aaron Douglas, Dean Stockwell, Tricia Helfer, Grace Park, Rick Worthy, Matthew Bennett, Callum Keith Rennie, Michael Hogan and Rekha Sharma.

Ad Agency Approaches Don Bluth Films to Produce Water Conservation TV Spot. Watch the Segment and a Behind the Scenes Look of the Spot here:

The Park&Co film and video department recently had the great honor of teaming with Don Bluth and Gary Goldman of Don Bluth Films. The two legendary animators created this excellent TV spot to educate people about where they use water most in their homes. Park&Co handled the scripting and creative direction and Don Bluth Films produced and directed the animation.

Don and Gary have a rich history in animation dating back to many well known Disney films. Over the years they have produced a total of 12 films, including:The Secret of Nimh, Thumbelina, All Dogs Go to Heaven and Anastasia. It was thrilling to partner with such esteemed talent, and bring their experience to the Water-Use It Wisely cause.

The TV spot will run Phoenix-wide in April and May 2009 as part of an overall media buy for water partners across the Valley, including:

Avondale, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA), AZ American Water, Chandler, El Mirage, Gilbert, Glendale, Global Water, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, SRP, Tempe, Goodyear.

(Thanks Park&Co Advertising)

Disney and Henson Film Companies Receive 'Environmental' Award reports that the Walt Disney Co. and the Jim Henson Co. will receive awards for their "environmental and social responsibilities" in filmmaking at a March 23rd event celebrating the establishment of the Anaheim University Akira Kurosawa School of Film.

The event will be held in Beverly Hills, CA and will be attended by George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese.

Adam West Talks Batman, Family Guy, and Super Capers

The LA Times has interviewed Adam West on his roles as Batman and Mayor Adam West on Family Guy. West reveals that he will physically appear with Rob Lowe on Family Guy in a "hysterical" live-action scene for an upcoming episode of the animated series.

West also mentions he will guest star in a new episode of 30 Rock, and discusses his role in the new superhero spoof film, Super Capers which opened in select theaters March 20th:

“It’s a very bright comedy adventure. In it I’m a cab driver [who has] gotten a hold of the Batmobile and converted it to a taxi cab — with air conditioning. I meet up with a young guy who’s trying to be a super hero, played by an actor named Justin Whalin, who is quite good, and I’m able to drive him around on some of his misadventures. It’s a family film which means you can take anyone from a 2-year-old to your great-granny to it and they probably would all enjoy it. I’m happy to be part of that.”

You can view the trailer for the film at

To read the complete interview, click here.

Vin Diesel on "Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena" & His Depths of Geek

Yahoo has an interview with Vin Diesel on producing (and starring in) The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena in which Diesel freely admits being a fanboy, a hardcore gamer, a Dungeons & Dragons roleplayer, and a "huge fan of game animation."

Says Diesel, "I am a Tekken guy. I am a Dead Or Alive guy. I'm a Soul Calibur guy. And I played these games like every kid would love to have played these games -- on fifty-foot screens. My dedication to these fighting games has been a little sick at times, because it's been in these huge auditoriums, and I've created these tournaments -- I have all these guys come and play, and we'd sooner be playing fighting games for money than poker. There's nothing cooler than sitting in an auditorium filled with people and having your avatar on a 50-foot screen kicking someone's booty."

Click here to read the complete interview.

Henson's 'Dinosaur Train' to be Showcased at MIPTV reports that The Jim Henson Company will be showing off its new pre-school CGI series Dinosaur Train at next month's MIPTV.

The series is already slated to air on PBS Kids in the fall, and has also been acquired for broadcast in Canada. And expect to see pre-school products by the fall of 2010. DVD releases are already planned as well, with PBS handling distribution.

In a company statement, Lisa Henson (co-CEO of the Jim Henson Company) says, "Based on input from paleontologists, science educators and early childhood education experts, Dinosaur Train has developed an ambitious and creative curriculum that harnesses children's enthusiasm for and curiosity about dinosaurs."

Sam Ewing, head of international sales, new programming at Jim Henson, adds: "Programming for pre-schoolers has to be fun, and Dinosaur Train hits the mark perfectly, bringing together two of their favourite themes -- dinosaurs and trains."

Click here to read the original press release for the series.

MGM Cartoons: Altered and Reissued

Cartoon historian David Gerstein has been rummaging through the Library of Congress and has come up with the dialogue cutting continuities for several MGM cartoons and has noticed discrepancies between the films as they exist today, and these original copyright documents. As noted on Cartoon Brew back in June 2005, MGM not only retitled their cartoon shorts for reissue, but would go in and edit out or reanimate topical gags for rerelease. These copyright cutting continuities are important because they describe scenes and gags which no longer exist. Due to a vault fire in the 1970s, the original negatives for the pre-1951 MGM cartoons no longer exist. Unless rare nitrate projection prints are found, these documents are now the only record of the original films.

Thad Komorowski has just posted the continuity for Avery’s Dumb Hounded. Compare it to the re-release version of the cartoon itself to note the differences. Apparently a whole new opening sequence was added. Thanks to David, for sharing his diligent research with the animation community. Now I’m wondering if that fabled “marriage ending” to Red Hot Riding Hood is in the original release?

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Marvel Animation Age & Toon Zone Interview Greg Weisman on "Spectacular Spider-Man"

Greg Weisman is a veteran of the television animation business with nearly 2 decades of experience under his belt and a resume that includes work for the likes of Disney, DreamWorks, and Warner Brothers. He is best known as supervising producer and story editor for Gargoyles, a television show that still inspires incredible dedication in its fanbase. He has also contributed scripts and stories for shows like Men in Black, Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles, The Batman, Ben 10, Kim Possible, and the Legion of Super Heroes.

Last year, Weisman took on the job of being supervising producer, story editor, and writer for The Spectacular Spider-Man, the smash hit animated series spotlighting Marvel Comics' famous web-slinging, wall-crawling superhero. On the eve of the show's debut on the Disney XD network, and its second season to debut this summer, the Marvel Animation Age and Toon Zone News were able to speak with Weisman about the experience of the first season of the show and try to weasel some more information about the second season out of him.

MARVEL ANIMATION AGE/TOON ZONE NEWS: I'm going to start with a slightly unorthodox question: what's the one thing that you wish nobody would ever ask you again about The Spectacular Spider-Man?

(laughs) That's a good question. I guess the obvious thing is, "Why did we make Montana into Shocker?" just because I've answered that one so many times that I suppose I'm a little tired of it, but the truth is that even that doesn't bother me too much, because I feel like I've got a good answer (laughing). But there's nothing that leaps out of me like an, "Oh, shut up!" kind of thing. That's probably the closest I can come to.

MAA/TZN: Cool. Now I don't have to cross out any of the questions I was going to ask you later.


MAA/TZN: Now, can you talk a little bit about how you planned...

"Oh, shut up!" No, sorry, sorry...(laughter)

MAA/TZN: Can you talk a bit about how you planned each season of The Spectacular Spider-Man? How far in advance do you plan?

We definitely planned season-by-season. Even then, we planned with a view towards what would be coming in the following season. So, because I had to plot season 2, I had to have at least a general idea of where season 3 would go, though it may or may not ever happen. When we started with season 1, we broke down the entire 13 episodes and we had a fairly good idea generally of what we had planned in season 2. Then I had a VERY large bulletin board -- it was actually so big, it was 2 bulletin boards bolted to the wall next to each other to make one really big one -- and I had a lot of index cards of various colors. Green index cards were for villains, blue ones represented things going on in Spider-Man's life, pink ones represented things going on in Peter Parker's life, yellow cards represented our big bad villain, and orange cards represented points in time, since we were on a calendar. Since we're staring in September of his junior year, Halloween had to come in October, so orange cards worked for things that were fixed in time.

So we had all these different cards and we just kept moving them around on the board until the whole season started to click. We also made sure that we were building an arc at a time, so after we had gotten the whole season approved by Sony and Marvel, I brought in the writing team and we'd have a story meeting where we'd break an arc at a time. We had those I'd say about once a month, on average. I'd take them to lunch, and then we'd come back and sit in front of the bulletin board and take the 3 or 4 episodes that were in the arc we were currently working on and break those, and the individual writers would go away and work on their outline and their scripts.

MAA/TZN: Did you have much room to improvise or follow some interesting digression that you hadn't really thought of at the beginning of the season?

There's discovery along the way at every point in the process, so we might think of something in the writer's room, where it's like, "Hey, what if we tried this?" "Oh, that's really cool!" Likewise, the writer or I might come up with something in the process of writing the outline or the process of writing the script. But I'll be honest, there wasn't a ton of digression, because we only had nineteen-and-a-half minutes of content per episode, and so much story and so many characters. We're a very dense, very packed show. We're very content heavy, so there's not a lot of room to go off on a nice little tangent about a character because we just don't have the space for it. If you did that, you'd have to lose something else, and we rarely have time to do that. As it is, there was way more content that we wanted to include than we had screen time. But, you know, the writing process is full of surprises. You get great lines of dialogue that you would have never thought of at the beginning of the process. You get nice little moments between characters. The action itself, both in the writing process and the storyboard and the directing process, is always full of surprises for us, and serendipity and all that kind of stuff, so we try not to be rigid. We try to be very fluid through the whole process, but we also try to make sure we have all our ducks in a row because production is hard. Ultimately, it's very time intensive, so you want to make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you get started or else you just find yourself flailing.

MAA/TZN: Given how dense the show is, was there anything in season 1 that sort of surprised you in the way it kind of took on a life of its own, or went off in a direction you weren't expecting it to at the beginning?

I'd love to answer "Yes" to that, but I don't know that there were a lot of surprises. There were a lot of pleasant surprises in the sense that when we started working on the show, we didn't have a voice cast yet, so once the voice actors come in and they start to breathe life into these characters, that influences you. You begin to hear strengths of your actors and you begin to write towards those strengths a little bit more, as opposed to writing in a vacuum. This great cast did a magnificent job at handling everything we threw at them, but once you get to know those voices, it becomes easier to write towards their strengths and do fun stuff with them. Jonah's obsession with wasting time was something that sort of tossed into the pilot, and that became sort of a trope for him, because when Daran did the character and he'd put these ridiculous deadlines on things. "I want it done in 3.7 seconds!" It just was funny. On the humor side, that's where a lot of discoveries got made. We just found things that were really funny, so they were things that we came back to over and over again for individual characters because it made us laugh and we could always use a good laugh. From a plotting standpoint, most of that was done in advance, and there weren't a lot of surprises there, but from a character standpoint, a lot of that is by virtue that the voice cast is doing such a great job.

MAA/TZN: I know a lot of times I hear that someone will come in and read for a part, and that will really change or sharpen or define the character for the writers. You just mentioned something like that for J. Jonah Jameson, did that happen with anybody else on the show?

Yeah, I think almost every character taught us those lessons, like what Crispin Freeman did with Electro, and with Flash Thompson. Certainly Josh LeBar did amazing stuff with Flash that really encouraged us, especially in season 2, to give more depth to his character. We think that Grey DeLisle is hilarious as Sally, the girl that everybody loves to hate on our show, but we think she's really funny, so we gave her some more attention. Even Kevin Michael Richardson as Principal Davis. Principal Davis has, I don't know, 8 lines total in season 1? But in season 2, he's got a couple of great little ad libs there that we kept in because they were just both funny, but they also really helped define Davis as an individual and not just as a functionary character -- "OK, we took the name from the comic books, but otherwise this guy just exists to serve a role." Now, he's more of a person to us.

So little touches throughout from all the actors, really, but also things that the writers have come up with. Little bits that the storyboard artists do that also sort of reveal character are really important as well. It's a gift having this great cast of characters -- heroes, villains, supporting cast -- from the Spider-Man canon. Before actors come aboard, before any writing is done, we're handed this phenomenal ensemble from the canon, and so we really want to try as much as possible to make all these characters come to life. And again, we don't always have as much time in an episode as I'd like to spend on this character or that character, but over the long haul, we're hopeful that everyone from Coach Smith to Mary Jane Watson is going to get a lot of character development. Some will get more than others for obvious reasons, but we're really doing justice to this great ensemble.

MAA/TZN: One of the things that I like about the show is that it strikes a good balance between the lighter, fun aspects of superhero comics and Spider-Man in particular, with the darker elements that crowd into his life. Do you find it difficult to maintain that balance between those two poles?

Um.....let's see, what's the right answer...I'm a magician! (laughs) The truth is that it's not that difficult. I'm not saying that it's not sometimes a challenge, but that is the way I love to write. To me, drama is more dramatic if it's offset by comedy, comedy is funnier if the situation is serious. I think that these are tools that serve us well, and you only have to go to Stan's original work on the book with Steve or with John Romita Sr. to see that that's always what Spider-Man is about. Long before Joss Whedon made it an art in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is what Stan was doing. So, with great role models like those two guys I just mentioned, this is what we're trying to do on the show: to always have this balance so that there are moments with just these great laughs intertwined with...well, maybe "horror" is too strong a word, but moments when certainly Peter is horrified.

Certainly it helps to have a great writing staff, great voice actors, a terrific voice director Jamie Thomason -- he's just done some amazing work. That's taken forward by partners Vic Cook, supervising producer, who, when it comes to directing the show, makes sure we've got a lot of fun stuff happening there as well, and then right on through post-production. We have jokes in the music. Peter's ring tone is "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." It's a throwaway, but we think it 's funny. Maybe we think it's funnier than it is, but we're just trying to put as much up on the screen that makes the audience go, "Wow, they even thought of that." We're constantly trying to up the ante on that.

MAA/TZN: I know you did your homework on the source material, but are there any red herrings that you planted during the seasons? Things that you put in there deliberately with the intent that you were trying to throw off the comic book fans?


MAA/TZN: Can you go into what some of those things were, exactly?

No, I'm not going to (laughs)! I mean, we're premiering in March, and I don't really want to scoop the shows themselves. There's stuff we did in there to make the show dramatic and exciting and hopefully surprising, but always, always trying to be true to the spirit and the core of the original comics. It's for someone else to decide whether we succeed or not, that's, but that's absolutely the goal. But for me to sort of say, "Oh, and here they are," (laughs) I'm not going to do that.

MAA/TZN: Not even for season 1?


MAA/TZN: That's cool. Riffing off that same idea, one thing that everybody knows about Gwen Stacy is "The Death of Gwen Stacy." How did you manage the weight of those expectations while you were writing season 1?

Well, I think the thing to keep in mind, from my point of view personally, has to do with how old I am. I'm not quite old enough that I was reading Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, but when I started reading Spider-Man, I was reading Lee/Romita, and so to me, if someone said, "Spider-Man," that's what I thought of. So Gwen's a very important character to me. I know exactly what you mean when people -- particularly to a more modern, younger audience – say that the thing that people remember about Gwen is her death, but for me, that's not true. I remember being shattered by her death, but I remember GWEN. I remember falling in love with Gwen reading those issues when I was a kid, so what I wanted was for the audience to fall in love with Gwen. In terms of what's on the horizon for her, we're not going to make that what she's about. We're going to make her into the type of character that people fall in love with. And we're going to try and make it real. One of the challenges with characters like Gwen, or Mary Jane or Harry, specifically those three, is that we didn't meet them until Pete went to college, and we didn't want to take their college personas and slap them down into high school. We were cheating by putting them into high school at all. We didn't want to wait four years to introduce these characters who are so important, so we decided to extrapolate backwards. We know what they were like in college, so what might they have been like in high school? We weren't slapping the college Gwen Stacy or the college Harry Osborn into the high school era. We were figuring out, "Hey, what was Harry or Gwen like in high school? What might they have been like?" and trying to create something that was both surprising for the audience, but also would feel true as we moved forwards through the seasons.

MAA/TZN: I have to admit that you he had me going at the end of season 1 about that, though. I was actually a little surprised at how upset I was at the idea that it might actually happen.

Well, we love the character, and I'm glad you feel that way. Really, that's what I was trying to do. It bothers me that all anyone thinks of when they think of Gwen Stacy is her death, because, again, that wasn't my experience. We have no intention of killing her in the short term. She didn't die until college, we're still in their junior year of high school. And not that her death wasn't significant, but that's not what I think of, and for all the strengths of the movies, one of the things that always struck me was that the Mary Jane Watson they created in the first movie was really a lot more Gwen Stacy than she ever was Mary Jane. I wanted you to care about Gwen, not just go, "(Oh, she's a) target" but actually care about her as a character, so if we succeeded, I'm really glad.

MAA/TZN: Can you pick out any one particular element from season 1 that you really wanted to try and work it in and you just couldn't, because of time or because of some other reason?

There was stuff that was cut for time in almost every episode. For example, there was a really, REALLY funny sequence in episode 6, where Rhino is looking for Peter Parker, because Peter Parker is the guy who always takes pictures of Spider-Man, so he thinks that, in Rhino's sort of deliberate but slow-thinking way, "If I find this Parker guy, he could lead me to Spider-Man." There was a scene we wrote where he's basically going through the phone book looking for all the Peter Parkers, and he breaks down the door of one guy who's this old, blind, African-American bassoon player, and accuses him of being Peter Parker the photographer. The guy's blind, and he says, "Do I look like I'm a photographer?" (laughs) and Rhino's just really frustrated because there are a lot of Peter Parkers in the tri-state area. I'm not doing it justice, but it was Clancy Brown as Rhino playing off of Kevin Michael Richardson as Peter James Parker the classical bassoonist, and it was just hilarious. It was written, it was recorded, and it was storyboarded, but at the end of the day, the show was long and we could cut that scene out without anyone noticing or knowing, and that's too bad because it was really funny. We had a sub-plot with Ned and Betty and their growing affection for each other, but that kind of got lost by the wayside towards the latter half of the season. Andrew Kishino was Ned Leeds and Grey DeLisle was Betty Brant, and it was good stuff, but again, they're both sort of secondary characters in the show, and so stuff that involved their little romance kind of got shelved. Their growing romance kept getting shelved, so I'm actually hoping we have a season 3 where Ned would be more important and we could start to put some of that material back in because it wouldn't feel so tertiary. He would feel a little bit more directly involved with the story.

MAA/TZN: Speaking of which, since I figure it's probably been about 15 minutes since someone last asked you, is there any new news about season 3?

No, there isn't. I wish there was. Basically, we've been told that we have to wait for the show to premiere, and I'm sure they have to see how the ratings are and everything like that before they'll pick up season 3. So, we're premiering on Disney XD on March 23rd, and we're hopeful that not too long after that, they'll call us up and say, "OK, let's get going." We're really in a kind of limbo state right now until the show gets on the air.

MAA/TZN: You knew at the end of season 1 that you were greenlit for a season 2, is that right?

Actually, we learned that we got the pickup for season 2 about 2/3rds of the way through season 1, so there was a large span of time when Vic and I were working on season 1 and 2 simultaneously. That was kind of brutal schedule-wise, but we definitely found out about the pickup during the first season.

MAA/TZN: Did that give you kind of a little bit more freedom to wander off and leave some things hanging at the end of season 1 because you knew you'd be able to pick up on them in the second season?

It did, although again, you have to keep in mind that season 1 was all plotted by that time. There were certain things that we planned to leave hanging, crossing our fingers that there would be a season 2, but if we didn't they would just be things left hanging, I guess. We're totally done with all the work for season 2. My last day at Sony was at the end of January, and we left some things hanging for the end of season 2, and we aren't sure that there's a season 3. To some extent, we try to give a little bit of...for lack of a better term, I'm going to say, "open-ended closure" to each season. We can't tie up every single loose end because then if we did get the next season, we'd be kind of screwed up, so we kind of have to hope that we'll be back to finish up what we started, but there was an element to plotting both seasons when it came to taking it on faith that we'd be back, and crossing our fingers that we weren't kidding ourselves.

MAA/TZN: Given that I guess you're not working on season 3 of the show yet, can you talk about what other stuff you're doing at the moment? There were some new comic projects that just got announced recently, right?

I'm not really working on any comics right now. We finished all the work on Gargoyles and Gargoyles: Bad Guys, and those will be coming out as trade paperbacks this summer, and from a comic book standpoint, that's pretty much all I'm doing right now. There's a couple of things that got announced that aren't going to happen, and there's one thing that isn't announced and that may happen, but just we're a few days away from closing the deal, so I don't really want to talk about it. But what I can say is that I wrote an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and hopefully will write one or two more, filling the gap here, and I've got a few other projects in the works that Warner Brothers and I'm hopeful that one or more of those will go. And I'm hopeful that Spider-Man will be back.

MAA/TZN: Yeah, I thought I remembered reading that you were going to be doing a series, but I guess that's not happening?

There were a couple of series announced by SLG, and then economic meltdown took place and with tremendous regret, they just informed me that they can't afford to do those projects right now. One of them, we're trying to place somewhere else, and I think we will, but it's just a little too soon to say for sure, and the other one's just kind of in limbo. And then I was also doing something for DC Comics that also got cut back, so. Wouldn't mind doing something for Marvel Comics! But nobody's asked me. (laughs)

The Marvel Animation Age and Toon Zone News would like to thank Greg Weisman for taking the time to speak with us, and to Caroline Mendoza at Sony for setting up the interview. The first season of The Spectacular Spider-Man will debut on the Disney XD network on Monday, March 23, 2009. For more details, visit the Marvel Animation Age news article about the Disney XD launch episodes.

Celebrate 'International Talk Like William Shatner Day'

Voice actor Maurice LaMarche (Futurama, Pinky and The Brain) has posted the following to his Facebook group The Genius of Moe: Fans of Maurice LaMarche:


In honor of William Shatner's 78th birthday [3.22.1933], I am declaring March 22nd to be "International Talk Like William Shatner Day!" Hey, we have "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" , and Shatner inspired a helluva lot more kids to be like Captain James T. Kirk than any who wanted to be some smelly, toothless, "arrr-ing" frickin' pirate.

And to commemorate what Maurice hopes will become an annual event, he has created a video tutorial explaining how to do a proper Shatner impression, now available via

"Naruto Shippuden" Episode 101 Gets Simultaneous Debut in U.S. & Japan on Mar 26, '09

VIZ Media has become the first American anime company to achieve the "holy grail" of anime fans: a episode of an anime series that will debut simultaneously in both the United States and Japan. Episode 101 of Naruto Shippuden will be available for free at the official Naruto website at on March 26, 2009, the same day that the episode will debut in Japan. Canadian viewers will also be able to watch the new episode on on the same day.

The full press release follows.


Fans Are Invited To View The Simulcast At On March 26th And Watch The Newest NARUTO Shippuden Episode For FREE!

San Francisco, CA, – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), one of the entertainment industry’s most innovative and comprehensive publishing, animation and licensing companies, continues to generate tremendous interest in its animated NARUTO series and the property’s latest story arc – NARUTO Shippuden – with a special announcement that the newest Shippuden installment, Episode 101 (English subtitled), will stream for free in the U.S. on March 26th on the company’s official NARUTO web site,, the same day the episode is scheduled to air in Japan. This episode of NARUTO Shippuden can be viewed in Canada on March 26th on

This is the first time that the official U.S. NARUTO web site will simulcast an episode with the broadcast in Japan. NARUTO is one of the most popular Japanese anime and manga properties in the world and this special simulcast is part of VIZ Media’s ongoing plan to bring hit animated properties and the latest content to its audience via the web. NARUTO is a co-production of TV TOKYO, VIZ Media parent company Shueisha Inc., and Pierrot Co., Ltd.

“We invite NARUTO fans across the U.S. to visit on March 26th for this very special presentation,” says Ken Sasaki, Vice President of Strategy & Business Development, VIZ Media. “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. For those who have yet to check out the newest NARUTO Shippuden story arc, there’s still plenty of time to get up to speed before the latest episode debuts later this month!”

On the manga (graphic novel) side, VIZ Media is complementing the interest in NARUTO Shippuden with an accelerated publishing schedule for upcoming editions of the best-selling NARUTO manga series, making them available to North American audiences sooner than ever before. Between February and April, eleven new volumes of NARUTO manga will be released, moving the series from Volume 34 to Volume 44 before returning to a quarterly release schedule beginning with Volume 45 (July 2009). First print-run editions of the volumes released in March and April also will include a special promotional bookmark or sticker.

Created by Masashi Kishimoto, NARUTO was first introduced in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine in Japan in 1999 and quickly became that country’s most popular ninja manga targeting tweens and teens and has sold more than 80 million copies to-date. The manga series (rated ‘T’ for Teens) and animated counterpart (NARUTO rated ‘T’ for teens, and NARUTO Shippuden rated ‘T’+ for older teens), is one of VIZ Media’s most successful properties and has captivated millions of fans across North America, Europe and South America.

In the NARUTO manga and animated series, Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja in training, wants to be the best ninja in the land. He's done well so far, but Naruto knows he must train harder than ever and leaves his village for intense exercises that will push him to his limits. NARUTO Shippuden begins two and a half years later, when Naruto returns to find that everyone has been promoted up the ninja ranks—except him. Sakura’s a medic ninja, Gaara’s advanced to Kazekage, and Kakashi…well, he remains the same. But pride isn’t necessarily about becoming a ninja, especially when Naruto realizes that Sasuke never returned from his search for Orochimaru. Plus, the mysterious Akatsuki organization is still an ever-present danger. As Naruto finds out more about the Akatsuki’s goals, he realizes that nothing in his universe is as it seems. Naruto is finding that he’s older, but will he also prove wiser and stronger?

Earlier NARUTO episodes are also currently available for free on a variety of web-based, video streaming outlets that have partnered with VIZ Media, including HULU and JOOST. Earlier episodes of NARUTO Shippuden are available for free on

More information on NARUTO is available at

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