Thursday, March 26, 2009

News - 03/26/09...

Watch the new trailer for Where the Wild Things Are here

The new trailer for director Spike Jonze's film adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's book Where the Wild Things Are has debuted on the Web, and we've embedded it below. (Thanks to

The trailer, which premiered yesterday on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, brings Sendak's quirky book to life in a series of beautiful and haunting images.

The movie stars Catherine Keener, Max Records, Mark Ruffalo, Lauren Ambrose, James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara and Forest Whitaker and is slated to open on Oct. 16.

SuperNews AIG Bonus Clip

Did you tune into the premiere of the SuperNews half-hour episodes? If not, here’s a segment from the show that features Obama, Biden and Hillary wrestling with the whole AIG mess. SuperNews airs on Current at 10pm ET/PT on Fridays.

New Ice Age 3 trailer

A new trailer for Ice Age 3: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs has appeared online and can be watched in Flash version on MSN. The third installment to the successful Ice Age series, which hits theaters on July 1st of this year, stars the voice talents of John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, Seann William Scott, and Josh Peck.

Laurie and Rogen talk Monsters Vs Aliens

A video interview with Hugh Laurie and Seth Rogen, who provided vocals for the characters Dr. Cockroach and B.O.B. in DreamWork’s Monsters Vs Aliens, can be viewed on ComingSoon. Monsters Vs Aliens, which opens this Friday in conventional and IMAX theaters, follows the story of a group of creatures sent by the government to defeat an alien invader.

Interview with Super Rhino, Rapunzel director

An interview with Nathan Greno, who directed the short film featured on Bolt’s DVD, Super Rhino, can be read at Animation World Network. In the Q&A session, Greno discusses pitching his short film idea to John Lasseter, as well as how he came to helm Rapunzel alongside Byron Howard. “I wanted to do something unexpected and with a twist to it,” Greno states when questioned about Super Rhino’s conception.

How To Train Your Dragon image

A promotional image for DreamWork’s upcoming film, How To Train Your Dragon, can be seen after scrolling down slightly on Animatoons. The animated comedy, which is set to open in theaters on March 26th, 2010, tells the story of a young Viking who attempts to train a scrawny, toothless dragon to be a brave hero.

Ray Aragon, 1926-2009

Animation artist Ray Aragon passed away on Sunday, March 15, at the age of 83. He had been in poor health in recent months. Aragon was born in Boyle Heights, California on January 23, 1926, the second oldest of five children. After high school, he enlisted in the military for WWII, and served overseas in France and Germany for eighteen months beginning in March 1945. Following the war, he studied illustration on the GI Bill at Chouinard Art Institute.

Aragon was frustrated working in advertising illustration, and in the mid-1950s, he returned to Chouinard to take night classes. There he met instructor Marc Davis, who also happened to be one of Disney’s top animators. “I told him what I was doing,” Aragon said, “and he realized I wasn’t happy so he gave me a number and said, ‘Call Ken Peterson.’ I said, ‘Marc, I can’t draw Mickey Mouse. I can’t draw Donald Duck.’ But Marc said ‘Never mind.’ So I called Ken Peterson and they hired me in the layout department on Sleeping Beauty.”

Layout sketch by Ray Aragon from Mary Poppins.

After Sleeping Beauty, Aragon continued in the layout department on 101 Dalmatians (1961) before moving on to a diverse career that included working at a wide range of LA studios (UPA, Fred Calvert Productions, Hanna-Barbera, TMS, Sanrio, Tom Carter Productions, Filmation and Warner Bros). Besides the two Disney features, his film credits include Gay Purr-ee, Mary Poppins, Yellow Submarine, Metamorphoses, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, The Iron Giant and In the Heat of the Night. On the latter film, he worked closely with director Norman Jewison as a storyboard artist. In a recent interview, Aragon reflected on the nature of his collaboration with Jewison and how he contributed to the shot set-ups in the film:

“We were looking for locations and…we get off the main highway [onto] a small road just to explore and we come to a roundhouse for the engines. So we drove up and it’s a dead end! The place is abandoned, hadn’t been used in years. We walked in and I looked back at the sunshine, and it’s rather dark inside where we are. Then I said, ‘Mr. Jewison, what if instead of the sequence being shot by the river, Tibbs comes in here to get help [and] finds he’s trapped? He’s trapped and those guys pull up in their cars and we see them in the bright sunlight with their pipes as they come in.’ I’m not even part of the crew! This script was written by one of the top writers of the day and I’m just this guy, you know? How dare I change his script. And Jewison looked at me, just gave me this cold look, and I said to myself, ‘Oh God! He’s gonna fire my ass right here.’ And he said, ‘Alright, smartass. Board it that way.’ I did it [and] the picture was shot that way.”

In the 1970s, Aragon developed an ambitious and visually striking feature adapatation of Don Quixote while working at Fred Calvert Productions. The film was never realized. Aragon’s animation career included numerous detours into other fields, such as live-action films and theme park design. One of his favorite projects was designing the ride El Rio del Tiempo” (The River of Time) in Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion. He was involved in every aspect of its creation from the costumes to backdrops.

Personal drawings by Ray Aragon

Director Brad Bird remembered Aragon’s work in the early pre-production efforts on The Iron Giant:

“He was a great guy, very vigorous. Though he had the draftsmanship chops to do really precise, nailed down work (see his layouts from 101 Dalmatians), his joy was from really vigorous, rough exploration, and I would classify his involvement with Iron Giant in that way. By that time in his life he had no enthusiasm for nailing it down with any tight drawings. “At the beginning of the film, we took a small group of artists on a trip to Maine for inspiration (though it was a little too early in the year to get the foliage the way we needed it for the film) and Ray was part of that group. I just remember a bunch of us bundled up in warm clothing against the biting cold wind and here’s this old guy hiking up the cliffs wearing cargo shorts. He was funny, energetic, and passionate about drawing. Like his friend Vic Haboush, he loved being around younger people and seemed to match their vigor about life. I feel very happy that I had a chance to work with him.”

Ray also taught during the 1980s at CalArts. Art director and production designer Ralph Eggleston (Toy Story, Wall-E, Finding Nemo), who had Aragon as a life drawing teacher for three years, recalled:

“The most important thing Ray Aragon said to me when I took his first few life drawing classes at CalArts was ‘You can’t draw. And that’s a compliment.’ It wasn’t as if I didn’t know this (and I still struggle with it!), but I didn’t realize until later what he really meant: that I didn’t have any bad habits to unlearn. Ray Aragon began teaching Life Drawing classes at CalArts my first year, 1983. He didn’t rely on formulas of construction, but instead encouraged LOOKING and DRAWING WHAT YOU SEE in LINE. He really didn’t get into shading forms, but wanted us to learn how to describe form with line alone–a very difficult thing to do! I can’t say I was always the most consistent student of his classes, but what he taught me stuck, and has aided me in every project I’ve approached since, and can be summed up in one word: LOOK. The only thing I regret is that Ray didn’t begin teaching layout classes until shortly after I left CalArts–something I would have truly valued. Friends and I would run into Ray at the Sherman Oaks Galleria for years after we left school, sitting in the food court, filling sketchbook after sketchbook with sketches of people passing by…the guy loved to observe and draw, and it showed in everything he did."

Personally, I got to know Ray better than many of the veteran artists I’ve interviewed, and it was such a privilege to have known him for the time that I did. When an artist of his caliber dies, the biggest regret you have is simply not spending more time with them. Every time I visited with Ray, I learned something new, not just about his life and career, but about what it means to be an artist. I have fond memories of talking art in his studio, surrounded by his sketchbooks and artwork, as well as shelves lined wall-to-wall with books.

I remember once we were talking about crowd scenes, and he pulled out a book of Reginald Marsh drawings, and began to analyze the work by showing how every individual figure in a Marsh scene had distinctive personality and posture while still fitting within the overall composition. I also remember arriving at his house on multiple occasions during the scorching heat of the Valley summer only to find him outside working on hands and feet in the garden. Ray was a hands-on kind of guy; if he wasn’t in the garden, he might be in the garage working on his vintage car, a Triumph TR3.

His daughter Victoria remembers that, “He had an open eye for everything,” and that he taught them to “Look at all the opportunities there are out there. He came out of East LA during the Depression. This is one thing he always said, ‘If there’s a brass ring, take it, take the ride.’ Victoria goes on to describe him as an upbeat person who loved life and always remained down-to-earth. “He loved to talk to everybody,” she says. “It didn’t matter if you were the gardener or the girl at the checkout counter. He really liked to talk to people And whenever we had parties at our house, everybody would want to talk with him. He touched everybody in one way or another.” Last month, Aragon summed up his career to an interviewer in this way: “My career in the movie business—in animation and live action—was nothing but sheer joy. I loved it! I always did! We all did, you know. It was a bunch of wonderful people.” He is survived by his wife, Lena, two daughters, Victoria and Lorena, and two grandchildren.

For more vintage images of Ray, see this set of photos he took at Disney in 1958 during production on Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

"The Art of Pixar Short Films" is long on great stories & inspirational sketches

Jim Hill reviews Amid Amidi’s latest book, which takes an in-depth look at all those CG shorts that helped establish Pixar Animation Studios’ rep for great storytelling

When did you first become aware of Pixar?

For most folks, this animation studio initially came on their radar back in November of 1995. That was when “Toy Story” first bowed in theaters and then quickly became the must-see movie of that holiday season.

But for a number of us more hardcore animation fans, our interest in Pixar actually predates “Toy Story” ‘s release by more than a decade. It was this animation studio’s visually dazzling yet genuinely funny shorts that initially caught our eye.

Copyright 2009 Pixar / Chronicle Books. All Rights Reserved

I myself … Well, the first Pixar production that I ever saw was “The Adventures of André and Wally B.” I caught this then-ambitious CG short at Cambridge’s Off the Wall Cinema back in the Fall of 1985. Back when this teeny, tiny theatre would regularly hold screenings that showcased the very best animated shorts that were making the rounds on the festival circuit.

So why did I personally find “André and Wally B.” so memorable? Well, you have to remember what computer animation looked like back in the early 1980s. With all those chromed, reflective surfaces and flying camera moves. Back then, CG was usually slick and visually impressive … but also kind of heartless.

Whereas “André and Wally B.” … These were the first computer-animated characters that looked & moved like hand-drawn animated characters. They squashed & stretched. More importantly, they performed the sort of takes & hoary old sight gags that would make Tex Avery proud.

Copyright 2009 Pixar / Chronicle Books. All Rights Reserved

In short, the crew behind this Lucasfilm Computer Graphic Project (i.e. George Lucas’ CG unit which Steve Jobs purchased in 1986 for $10 million and then renamed Pixar)’s production were really trying to do something different here. Combine these new fangled tools with old fashioned storytelling.

And Amid Amidi’s new book, “The Art of Pixar Short Films ” (Chronicle Books, February 2009), actually walks you through how John Lasseter and his team learned their craft. How they used each of Pixar’s shorts to push the boundaries a bit. Experiment with new tools. Not to mention making some very funny little movies.

What’s particularly nice about “The Art of Pixar Short Films” isn’t its use of seldom-seen photographs (Like this image of John holding the actual unicycle that Pixar’s production team used for reference while they were animating the studio’s 1987 short, “Red’s Dream”) …

Copyright 2009 Pixar / Chronicle Books. All Rights Reserved

… But – rather – that Amidi isn’t afraid to dig into the more controversial aspects of the Pixar story. Take – for example -- the studio’s decision to revisit its Academy Award nominated short, “Knick Knack” in 2003 …

Copyright 2009 Pixar / Chronicle Books. All Rights Reserved

… and perform cosmetic surgery on those two busty babes who appear in this wildly funny 1989 film.

Copyright 2009 Pixar / Chronicle Books. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, Amid does get John to go on record as to exactly why Pixar officials felt it was necessary to deboobify “Knick Knack.” Despite rumors to the contrary, Lasseter insists that this really wasn’t a case of …

“ … big bad Disney coming in and insisting we do this … it was our own choice. It was just crossing the line for me personally as a father, so I made the decision to reduce (these characters’) breast size.”

That (to me, anyway) is the best part of “The Art of Pixar Short Films.” Not the more than 250 full-color illustrations, pencil sketches, storyboards, photographs and fully rendered frames that you’ll find scattered throughout this 160 page hardcover. But – rather – all the great behind-the-scenes stories that Amidi uncovered while he was interviewing all of those Pixar veterans.

Like Bud Luckey’s inspirations for the two main characters in “Boundin’ “

“For the jackalope, Luckey envisioned an Edgar Buchanan or Wallace Beery type; for the lamb the model was someone more like Wally Cox."

Copyright 2009 Pixar / Chronicle Books. All Rights Reserved

Or how “Jack-Jack Attack” hadn’t actually started out life as a stand-alone short. But – rather – as a subplot that got dropped from “The Incredibles.” As Brad Bird told Amid:

“I had originally imagined that storyline with the babysitter as a running gag I could cut away to if the action got too slow or the plot machinations became too complicated. But once we started getting the film up on reels, I discovered that the story had enough momentum without it and it was actually a distraction to cut away to the babysitting scenes.”

Copyright 2009 Pixar / Chronicle Books. All Rights Reserved

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of fun to be found in just paging through “The Art of Pixar Short Films” and scoping out all of the illustrations. I mean, check out Steve Purcell’s great concept art for the Banshee from “Mater and the Ghostlight.”

Copyright 2009 Pixar / Chronicle Books. All Rights Reserved

Amid Amidi strikes just the right balance with this handsome new hardcover. There are just enough new stories to interest history buffs like myself. While – at the same time – there are enough great illustrations to be found in “The Art of Pixar Short Films” that animation professionals & students of the medium will probably want to pick up a copy of this new Chronicle Book just for inspiration and/or reference purposes.

Long story short: This book about Pixar’s shorts doesn’t sell the Studios’ legacy short at all. So put “The Art of Pixar Short Films” on your short list. And the next time you’re in the neighborhood, make a short stop at your local bookstore and pick up a copy.

Original ‘The Crow’ Director Alex Proyas Calls Planned Remake ‘Ridiculous’

Back in December, it was announced that Stephen Norrington would direct a remake of “The Crow,” the 1994 cult film based on James O’Barr’s classic graphic novel. While there are those clamoring for the gothic hero to grace the screen again, many are flabbergasted at the notion of retreading on Brandon Lee’s final film.

Joining the list of the shocked, awed and repulsed is Alex Proyas, director of the original “Crow” and the newly released “Knowing.” Proyas told Digital Spy, “The whole notion of remaking ['The Crow'], to me, is just ridiculous and I’d have nothing to do with it, as I’ve had nothing to do with any of the sequels or the TV show or any of that stuff.”

“That’s other people involved with that and I wouldn’t even dream of remaking the movie,” he continued. “Because as far as I’m concerned, that’s Brandon Lee’s movie and that’s why I finished the movie — in memory of Brandon. That’s the only reason I finished it actually.”

Brandon Lee, the son of famed martial artist Bruce Lee, was accidentally killed during the shooting of a scene in “The Crow.” A blank bullet struck and killed the actor during a scene in which Lee’s supernatural character is being targeted by gunfire.

While there have been many other versions of “The Crow” since — including one starring “Terminator 2’s” Edward Furlong — Lee’s character of Eric Draven has been mostly left untouched. Mark Dacascos portrayed the character in the short-lived “The Crow: Stairway to Heaven” television series, and now the actor spends his days judging cooking competitions on “Iron Chef: America.” Perhaps, as Proyas suggests, it’s best to let sleeping dogs — or birds — lie.

Animation News from the 2009 Cartoon Network Upfront

The Cartoon Network 2009 Upfront is finished! Check below for news about all the new and returning shows, with images (click any image to enlarge), or click here to read the Cartoon Network press release for this year's upfront.

Returning series include Star Wars: Clone Wars, Chowder, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, The Secret Saturdays and Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

The PR mentions a total of 164 new half-hour episodes of returning comedy and action-adventure series.

New Chowder and Flapjack episodes will come this summer. Ben 10: Evolutions will come in 2010. League of Super-Evil looks pretty cool, as does Adventure Time. Other returning series that have been announced previously: Marvel Superhero Squad, Bakugan, Hot Wheels Battle Force 5, Pokémon.

Live-action coverage omitted.

Scooby-Doo - Mystery, Inc.
A sleepy little village, Crystal Cove, boasts a long history of ghost sightings, poltergeists, demon possession, phantoms and other paranormal occurrences. The renowned sleuthing team of Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo arrive to prove all of this simply isn't real -- but they don't realize the locals don't welcome their help. The series is produced by Warner Bros. Animation.

Animated Original Movies
Cartoon Network's first all-CG animation adventure presents Duncan Rosenblatt, a rather typical, awkward high school kid, except that his dad is a fire-breathing dragon and he is destined to protect the Earth. Created and executive-produced by Phil Hester (The Wretch)
, Firebreather is executive-produced by Julia Pistor (Lemony Snicket) and co-executive produced by Andy Kuhn (Freedom Ring) -- Jim Kreig (Ben 10: Alien Force) joins as writer. Peter Chung (Aeon Flux)
is attached to direct.

The Sym-Bionic Titan unit fights one of General Modula’s horrific space monsters in Sym-Bionic Titan.

The Manus and Corus armor systems protect Lance and Ilana and are components of the Sym-Bionic Titan in Sym-Bionic Titan.

Sym-Bionic Titan
From creator Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack) comes an exciting hybrid of high school drama and giant robot battles. Sym-Bionic Titan follows the adventures of three beings from planet Galauna who crash-land on Earth while attempting to escape their war-torn world.

Rex gets ready for battle as Bobo Haha and Agent Six back him up in Generator Rex.

Generator Rex
Infected by microscopic molecular-altering nanites, 15-year-old Rex has the ability to grow incredible machines out of his body. Recruited by an organization called Providence, Rex travels the world investigating a host of biological mutations that were created by the same nanites that gave Rex his powers. Generator Rex is from Man of Action, creators of Ben 10. John Fang of Cartoon Network Studios serves a supervising director.

More Generator Rex images below:

Rex rides the lightrider, a motorcycle with laser-light tires as other members of Providence, Bobo Haha, Agent Six and Noah go after the evil Evos in Generator Rex.

Rex uses his “smackhands” to battle a mutant created by nanites with the help of his sidekick Bobo Haha in Generator Rex.

Total Drama Action premiering 2009 on Cartoon Network.

Total Drama Action

Showcasing all of the elements of favorite reality TV shows -- romances and friendships; scheming and sabotage; death-defying stunts and stomach curdling challenges within larger-than-life elimination competition. Total Drama Action succeeds Cartoon Network's #1 show of 2008, Total Drama Island, from Cake Distribution and Fresh Animation. Fourteen contestants face thrilling challenges on an abandoned film studio back-lot, all inspired by the movies.

Ben 10: Alien Force - New season
Ben 10: Evolutions (working title - new series commissioned)
An all-new animated series follows 16-year-old Ben Tennyson as his secret identity has been revealed to the world and now he's an international mega-star super hero, loved by kids the world over but distrusted by many adults. Armed with a mysterious new Omnitrix, Ben will see action in places he's never been. From Cartoon Network Studios, Glen Murakami (Teen Titans) serves as Supervising Producer and Dwayne McDuffie serves as Story Editor.

New comedy and action-adventure animated series launching across 2009-2010 season

Finn and Jake share a laugh as Princess Bubblegum and Lady the Rainicorn smile in the background and the evil Ice King looks on.

Adventure Time with Finn and Jake
Finn, the human boy with the awesome hat, and Jake, the wise dog, are close friends and partners in strange adventures in the land of Ooo. The 30-minute series is from Cartoon Network Studios, created by Pendleton Ward and executive produced by Fred Seibert and Derek Drymon.

Six teenaged groms (young surfers) come together for 12 weeks over the summer to work and surf at the world renowned Surfer's Paradise Resort on the legendary Sunset Island, home of the most epic surf break in the country. From Cake Distribution and Fresh Animation, Stoked is created by Jennifer Pertsch and Tom McGillis (Total Drama Island).

Ristorante Paradiso Toon Opens for Business

A new anime series based on Natsume Ono’s popular manga Ristorante Paradiso is set to launch on Japan’s Fuji TV Fuji next month. Animated by David Production, the 11-part series is directed by Mitsuko Kase (Mobile Suit Gundam 0083, Glass Maiden) and co-produced by Fuji TV, Kansai TV and Takai TV. Itsuko Takeda (Boys Be …) is adapting Ono’s characters for animation.

The charming manga follows the adventures of a young country girl named Nicoletta who ends up getting a job at her new stepfather’s restaurant in Rome. As expected from the genre, the colorful kitchen staff provide the heroine with hours of intrigue and romantic possibilities.

You can catch a 30-second promo video and TV commercial for the new show on the official website, (Click on the speciale/special button on the bottom of the page and then choose TV).

Wacom Unveils the New Intuos4

Wacom fans can welcome a new addition to the family as the company unveils its new professional pen table, the Intuos 4. The new Intuos Grip Pen features Wacom’s latest proprietary Tip Sensor technology, which offers users near-zero (one gram) starting pressure of a ultra-sensitive pen table performance. Other enhancements include 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, a refined industrial design and specific workflow and productivity tools such as costumizable shortcut and modifier keys with accompanying Organic Light Emitting Diodes displays, which let users see what the keys are currently set to.

“Now, pressure-sensitive support can start with an incredibly light touch, emulating the same feel, response and result derived from working with traditional creative tools such as brushes, markers and pens,” says Don Varga, Wacom’s senior product manager. “Delivering a consistently responsive and fruitful pen tablet experience starts with the pen and the Intuos4 Grip Pen provides a broader range of input options that will delight even the most discriminating professional. In addition, our latest pen technology should encourage Wacom’s software partners to continue to expand pen-related features and functionality.”

The Intuos4 Grip Pen also features a pressure-sensitive eraser and two customizable side switches that can be customized for commands such as double-click and right-click. In addition, Wacom has introduced a line of accessories that includes several types of pens. For example, the Art Pen supports the barrel rotation feature within such applications as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Corel Painter 11 allowing users to create natural brush effects by rotating the pen, much like a calligraphy pen.

The Intuos4, available today, comes in four size—small ($229), medium ($369), large ($499) and extra large ($789).You can learn more about the new release and its accessories at

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