Thursday, April 30, 2009

News - 04/30/09...

1990s TV Animation Producers - Bird, Spielberg… and Arsenio?

It seems like new primetime animated series are popping out of the woodwork. HBO bowed The Life and Times of Tim late last year, FOX has begun airing Sit Down, Shut Up and The Cleveland Show is on its way, Nick at Nite will premiere Glenn Martin DDS this summer, and ABC premieres The Goode Family on May 27th.

Back in 1990,
The Simpsons had recently begun airing and FOX knew it was gonna be a hit - and the rest of the TV industry took notice. The result was a slew of prime-time animated pilots and episode orders, most of which seem tame enough to play on today’s daytime kids networks. Let’s look at a few…

Long before Seth MacFarlane and FOX started planning the
Family Guy spin-off series The Cleveland Show, another animated Cleveland project was in development. It was Arsenio Hall’s Cleveland City Limits
, brought to life by Overton Loyd and Jerry Brice in 1990. The lead was Chunky-A, Arsenio’s alter-ego. Here’s an 8-minute pilot presentation, introduced and VO’d by Arsenio himself:

Family Dog seems to be the only quality product in the bunch. Bowing in 1993, the series was created (at CalArts) and written by Brad Bird with music from Danny Elfman. Adding to the above-the-line fire power were producers Spielberg and Tim Burton. The first TV airing was in 1987, set in an episode of Amazing Stories, so it’s actually not a reaction to The Simpsons’ success. Here’s the first few minutes of an episode, titled Show Dog:

Fish Police, a Hanna-Barbera production, aired briefly on CBS in 1992. Here’s the title sequence:

Capitol Critters was a 1992 series for ABC that was produced by Steven Bochco (fresh off of Cop Rock) and Hanna-Barbera that followed a bunch of rodents who lived in the White House. Here’s the title sequence:

Interesting note: Fish Police, Capitol Critters, Family Dog were all listed on Tombstones in The Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror III.

(Thanks lineboil)

Animating Segel’s Song - Dracula’s Lament

Remember the Dracula-inspired rock opera from 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall? It was the lead character Peter’s personal opus, and actor/writer Jason Segel performed (and wrote) the over-cooked tear-jerker Dracula’s Lament near the end of the movie (see a live peformance of the song here).

Animator Carlyle Wilson recently animated a version of the song which served as his final film for the Commercial Animation Program and Capilano University. After that, check out this version featuring The Count from Sesame Street (coincidentally, Segel has been taped to write the next Muppet movie).

Robert Zemeckis utters the "R word." Will we be seeing a Roger Rabbit sequel soon?!?

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. There has been talk of a sequel to Roger Rabbit since the first one came out and wowed the old and young alike (making hundreds of millions in the process), but nothing ever materialized.
But now MTV was able to grab Robert Zemeckis at a red carpet and he dropped this bomb:

Now, the idea of a Roger Rabbit sequel has me giddy. I was actually recently outbid on a production cell from the original film (thought what better way to spend my tax refund than on a piece of Roger Rabbit history)... Yeah, I'm a huge dork for Roger Rabbit... The only thing that I'll say is this... Please, Mr. Zemeckis... what makes Roger Rabbit work is that he's a 2-D toon in a 3-D human world. I can see you updating it with crazy awesome CGI via performance capture, but unless you have a brilliant idea that can explain why 2-D Roger is now 3-D ultra real Roger you're going to lose a lot of the magic that made the original film work.

Those are my two cents, but even that's based on a lot of assumption. We'll see what develops, if anything, on this and hopefully it's everything people like me want to see..

(Thanks Aint It Cool)

Fatkat Animation may be forced to start dieting

Troubled Miramichi, New Brunswick studio Fatkat Animation may have to slim down.

The provincial government has given the northern New Brunswick animation studio over $1 million in grants since 2005. But on Wednesday, Business New Brunswick Minister Greg Byrne suggested that he probably won't give it any more handouts.

Provincial funds -- $15,000 in 2005, $272,000 in 2006, $562,000 in 2007 and $614,280 in 2008 -- had come from Business New Brunswick, the Regional Development Corp. and Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour. The federal Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency has also given Fatkat money.

At its fattest, Fatkat had over 100 employees. Now the studio has only three staffers... and no contracts.

The province will have to look long and hard before offering any more money, Byrne told reporters Wednesday.

"Obviously, we do a complete financial overview of the company that includes, of course, an assessment of their viability and the contracts that are in place and the revenue projections," the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation quoted him as saying. "And at this stage, it would seem that Fatkat does not have the revenue stream it had anticipated."

The $15,000 grant in 2005 was Fatkat's first government funding. In 2006, it was given money for a various projects. Most of last year's provincial government assistance came in the form of a loan guarantee.

Fatkat CEO and founder Gene Fowler has blamed the recession for the problem.

The commercial animation and graphics studio made headlines last fall when it was fined $36,000 for software piracy. It was among five companies fined under the Canadian Copyright Act after a probe by the Business Software Alliance. Internal audits showed that Fatkat ran unlicensed copies of Microsoft and Autodesk programs.

At that time, Fowler blamed the copyright infringement on an oversight.

Ricky Gervais' "Flanimals" to become 3D animation

British comedian Ricky Gervais' "Flaminals" children's book series will become a 3D animated feature film, Variety reported Wednesday.

The Emmy-winning Gervais, 47, created The Office TV series in the Britain and starred in Ghost Town last year. He wrote a four-volume set of books, illustrated by Rob Steen, about a world inhabited by 50 species of ugly creatures who become cute. The first book, published in 2004, ended up on the New York Times bestseller list.

Ilumination Entertainment, an arm of Universal, is backing the movie. Gervais will voice the lead character, the chubby, perspiring (and purple) Puddy the Puddloflaj, who's on a mission to change the world.

"It will be great to play a short, fat, sweaty loser for a change. A real stretch," the rotund comedian observed.

Other odd creatures include Grundit, an obtuse blue Flanimal with a bump on its head, and the diminutive Honk, who's almost always asleep.

Matt Selman of The Simpsons is co-writing the script.

With Britain's ITV channel, Gervais had begun to develop a series based on his books that was scheduled for broadcast this year. However, that project was dropped.

Gervais says that he's interested in using the voices of Danny DeVito and Samuel L. Jackson for the movie.

Illumination founder Chris Meledandri and Courtney Pledger will produce the film, while Gervais will be the executive producer.

Formed to be Universal's provider of animated and family films, Illumination Entertainment is in production on Despicable Me, set for release on July 9, 2010. Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Danny McBride, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig and Julie Andrews are providing the lead voices.

DreamWorks Animation first-quarter profit doubles

Thanks to strong sales from the home video and international theatrical release of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, first-quarter profit at DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. more than doubled this year, the studio announced Tuesday.

Net income zoomed to $62 million (71 cents per share) from January to March this year, up from $26 million (28 cents per share) in the same quarter in 2008.

Revenue in Glendale, California-based DWA jumped 68% to $263.5 million from $157.2 million. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected earnings of 45 cents a share on revenue of $212 million.

The Madagascar sequel provided $147.5 million in revenue, including the sale of 6.7 million home video units worldwide. International global box office grosses for the sequel reached $595 million.

"This marks the company's strongest first quarter ever, attributable primarily to the blockbuster performance of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, both at the international box office and in the domestic home video market," said DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. "Adding to our recent theatrical achievements, Monsters vs. Aliens is the highest-grossing film of the year to date and DreamWorks Animation's third consecutive domestic blockbuster in 10 months."

Last June's Kung Fu Panda contributed $34.1 million in revenue during the first quarter of 2009, mainly from foreign DVD sales. The martial arts spoof has sold 14.3 million units worldwide so far.

"Having two of the top home video releases in back-to-back quarters demonstrates the continued strength of our product in the home entertainment market," said DreamWorks Animation chief operating officer Ann Daly. "Just as it does in theaters, family content -- and CG animated hits in particular -- continues to outperform the industry as a whole."

DreamWorks Animation's first 3D release, Monsters vs. Aliens, provided only $10.5 million in revenue, mostly because it didn't hit theaters until March 27 at the end of the quarter. The movie has grossed about $320 million worldwide. Most of the revenue from Monsters vs. Aliens in this quarter came from merchandise sales.

The company's 2007 and 2006 fall releases, Bee Movie and Flushed Away, delivered $21.2 million and $12.2 million of revenue to the quarter, respectively. The former was driven by international pay TV and the latter by worldwide free TV. Through the end of the first quarter, Bee Movie reached an estimated 9.1 million home entertainment units sold worldwide, net of actual and estimated future returns.

The company's 2006 and 2007 summer releases, Over The Hedge and Shrek The Third, delivered $8.8 million and $5.3 million of revenue to the quarter, respectively. Both titles were driven primarily by international free TV. Library and other revenue contributed $23.9 million of revenue to the quarter, including $9.8 million from Shrek The Musical.

Shares in DWA closed at $19.07, up 16 cents, in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. They rose another 13%, or $2.43, to $21.50 in after-hours trading. Stock had declined 25% this year.

According to DreamWorks Animation's quarterly statement, the company purchased 2.3 million of its shares in the quarter at a cost of $46 million. Its board authorized future repurchases of up to $150 million.

Studio 4C Goes To War In Russia! Brand New Trailer For Russian Anime FIRST SQUAD!

We have been tracking the progress of First Squad - the animation project created by Russian artists Misha Shprits and Aljoscha Klimov and animated in Japan by the acclaimed Studio 4C - for a good long time now and, on the eve of the film arriving at the market in Cannes we have an exclusive first look at the brand new trailer for the film. Loosely based on a series of Soviet-era propoganda adventure novels, First Squad fuses known history - the battles are accurate - with speculation about the paranormal units active within both Germany and Russia throughout WWII in a story of a young psychic girl who must enlist the spirits of her dead friends to battle the ghosts of long-dead crusaders enlisted to the Nazi cause.

It is 1942. The Red Army is putting up a violent and effective resistance against the German invaders. 14 year-old Nadya is a medium. In a deadly air raid the girl is shell-shocked. Recovering from her concussion, Nadya discovers her new gift – the ability to foresee the “Moments of Truth” - the most critical moments of future combat encounters, in which one person’s actions will decide the outcome one way or the other.

Nadya’s ability is indispensable for the classified 6th Division of the Russian Military Intelligence, which is waging a secret war against the
“Ahnenerbe” – an occult order within the SS. The Ahnenerbe summons from the realm of the dead the powerful prince of darkness, Baron von Wolff. With him on their side they hope to change the course of history and achieve world domination. To oppose the Baron Nadya decides to enlist the support of her old friends from the beyond – the Pioneers of the First Squad.

This new trailer shows off a great deal more footage than the initial teaser while also showcasing some of the music written for the film by DJ Krush. Still unseen in public are the live action moc-doc segments intercut throughout the film - interviews with soldiers, scientists and historians of the era. Check the new trailer along with the initial teaser below the break!

First Squad screens three times in the Cannes Marche Du Film: May 13th, 18:00 Palais C. May 16th, 18:00 Palais C. May 17th, 17:30 Arcades 3.



(Thanks Twitch Film)

Teaser for Production I.G’s CG Animated film OBLIVION ISLAND: HARUKA AND THE MAGIC MIRROR

The official site for Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror (original title: Hottarake no Shima - Haruka to Maho no Kagami) has been launched with a 30 second teaser trailer. We mention it before a few months back that its Production I.G‘s first foray into CG animation and taking the helm is Shinsuke Sato (Princess Blade). As usual, the innovative anime studio doesn’t fail to impress with its cutting edge visuals. Here’s the overview:

Your favourite teddy bear. That model kit that took so long to complete. The picture book you used to read over and over again. The shining stone you found that day in the park. Where do all your childhood’s treasures go when you grow up? In this story, we meet fantastic creatures that gather all these little objects that fall into oblivion as they are forgotten by their owners when they step into adulthood. These creatures sneak into our world from a different dimension, and unseen by humans, they take all the ditched and forgotten “treasures” into their world. Here, they use their booty to build their own city, a fairy tale-like place called… Oblivion Island!

The Japanese theatrical release date is August 22nd. You’ll find the teaser after the break.

(Thanks Twitch Film) Announces Streaming of 1990s "X-Men" Series has begun streaming the 1992 X-Men animated series. Episode 1 is available now, with new episodes streaming every Tuesday.

Cartoon Network Announces the Final Episodes of "Foster's"

Cartoon Network has announced that on May 3rd, at 1 PM EST/PCT, it will begin airing a special Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends marathon to commemorate the final five episodes of the series. The episodes to air will include:

4:30 p.m.: "The Bloo Superdude & The Great Creator of Everything's Awesome Ceremony of Fun That He's Not Invited To"
Bloo imagines he is engaged in another hair-raising adventure as the Bloo Superdude, but in reality, he is just deliriously sick and trying to attend Mac's birthday party.

5:00 p.m.: "Bad Dare Day"
What starts as an innocent dare turns into a house-wide competition that pits the friends against each other in a bid to win the title of Dare Champion!

5:30 p.m.: "Read 'Em and Weep"
Several recently adopted Imaginary Friends start to paint a less-than-rosy picture of life outside the house through a series of letters sent to Foster's.

6:00 p.m.: "Fools And Regulations"
Bloo and the Friends are forced to choose between staying upstairs and staying outside while Frankie and Mr. Herriman host an important party at Foster's.

6:30 p.m.: "Goodbye to Bloo"
Bloo and the Friends think Mac is moving away forever, so they set out to make his last day at Foster's the greatest he's ever had.

Central Park Media Shuts Down

Central Park Media, an anime and manga distributor based in New York, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and closed its doors on Monday. It owes $1.2 million to its creditors, and will face liquidation. The last DVD to be released by CPM was in June 2007.

Working Overtime

So in the recent by and by, I had a meeting with the crew of a successful animated series at one of our signator studios. I advised them that it was a good idea to not do uncompensated overtime. (There's a surprise.)

My talking points:

Employee Practices

1. Work a full eight hours. If you take a long lunch, stay over at the end of your normal eight-hour day. If you go to the dentist for an hour or two, make up the time.

2. When you work a ninth or tenth hour, put it down on the time card as the ninth or tenth hour.

3. If you come to work on Saturday, understand that it's your sith day of work and paid at time and a half.

4. If you work on Sunday, know that it's paid at double time (this assumes you've worked Monday through Saturday.)

5. Encourage others not to work uncompensated overtime.

6. Fill out your time card accurately, (It's a legal document).

7. If you are asked to "put down eight hours" on your time card when you've worked nine, ask (politely) if the person is saying you are t0 falisfy the timee card.

8. Being honest about how long it takes for you to complete a job helps the employer accurately track how long production work actually takes. (You're really not doing the company favors by lying about it).

Overall, I thought it was a good meeting. Everybody understood the usefulness of declining to work extra hours for no pay. I said I understood that there's a lot of pressure on artists to "meet the schedule" even as management shortens it. But I pointed out (as I always do), that the more they work free overtime to meet the schedule, the more the bar gets raised and the more they're cutting their own throats.

As the meeting broke up, an artist came up and said: "You know, they've cut next season's schedule and the board people on staff are already pulling all nighters to keep up with the work."

I replied that it's important for them to work an honest forty hours and do as much as they can, but not knuckle under to an unreasonable schedule by cheating. (Which, of course, is easy for me to say since I'm not the employee who's under the gun.)

As the artist left, I said that I knew it was tough for board artists to hang together and not work unpaid overtime, but if they didn't, they faced a pretty lousy reality.

I guess we'll see what happens. In the meantime, I hope to have meetings at other studios.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)


Some end-of-April news bites about Cartoonland, beginning with out Culver City friends.

Sony is like a motivated football player that gets knocked down. It just gets up and keeps going:

Sony Pictures and stop-frame animation house Aardman Animations are moving forward with two animated features, "Arthur Christmas" and "Pirates!"

sees Aardman co-founder Peter Lord back behind the camera for a movie done in hand-crafted stop-motion animation, the company's signature style seen in films such as "Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of Were-Rabbit"
and "Chicken Run," while "Christmas" will be produced wholly in CGI.

Aardman signed a three-year, first-look deal with Sony in 2007, though no projects had been announced. The company, which had parted ways with DreamWorks Animation in the wake of the disappointing performance of
"Flushed Away," has spent the past two years hunkered down in deep development, honing several scripts. "Pirates!" and "Christmas"
are the first two to land on the production runway.

Clone Wars is going to get explanatory text. I can't wait.

The network is replaying the entire first season, but has adopted a pop-up video-style presentation for what it is calling Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Decoded ...

... [E]pisodes ... feature text windows providing insight into various aspects of the galactic conflict. These pop-ups may include trivia, and background on characters and storylines ...

Pixar rolls out a chunk of its latest short subject:

Their new short takes place in the world of baby-delivering storks, and it’s called Partly Cloudy. ... “Everyone knows that the stork delivers babies, but where do the storks get the babies from?"

I was told babies are found by the storks beneath cabbage leaves. I might be misinformed, since my wife often stretches the truth.

On the other side of the globe, Thailand has been in the news lately with riots and demonstration against the central government, but at the same time its 'toon industry is going through growing pains:

... "Thai animation quality is high, but we can't compete with China, which quotes lower prices," said Monk Studio managing director Nitipat Somsaman. The company is a major subcontractor for Asian and Western markets.

He said subcontracting demand from Hollywood and Europe is huge, as the foreign producers want to cut costs. Boosting the subcontracting business is the fact that Thailand can offer high-quality products at reasonable prices, compared to China's cheaper prices and lower quality ...

Oscar-nominated animator Cordell Barker drops into Cannes with a new creation:

The nine-minute piece is about a driverless train that careens over bumpy tracks, its passengers oblivious to impending disaster. When the train breaks down, a class struggle ensues.

Barker says he's amazed the short was accepted at Cannes, noting it was far from finished when
"a really hideous rough assembly" was sent in for consideration roughly three weeks ago.

"And amazingly enough, they accepted it," Barker exclaimed ...

And to remind us that hand-drawn animation is happening at other places besides the hat building in Burbank, there's this:

[Isle of Black Mor is set] in the year 1803, on the Cornish coast where a 15-year-old Kid escapes from the orphanage and lived the life of a hard-labour prisoner. His only possession is the map of a treasure island that fell from the book of Black Mor and with two wreck looters, MacGregor and Beanpole, Kid goes off in search of the famous island way across the Atlantic Ocean ...

“I could not help comparing this project to a boat which never manages to get out to sea: the script was turned down by French broadcasters, there was no producer, the development budget was pared down to a minimum. In the meantime we continued to believe in the project" ...

Thank God nothing like that ever happens around here, eh?

Here's how American animated features get made:

“You constantly want to think about how to get away from it all, and one day I had the mental image of a house flying through the air, and from there I developed the idea for the film,” [Pixar director Pete] Docter said ...

Simple, no?

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Fox Execs Say No Gambit In ‘X-Men: First Class,’ Invite Bryan Singer To Direct Spin-Offs

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a comics fan out there who isn’t looking forward to the inevitable throw-down between Wolverine and Sabretooth in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” but what many fans seem really excited about are the big-screen debuts of longtime Marvel favorites like Gambit and Deadpool. Even more anticipated than their debuts, however, is their potential for solo spin-off movies or cameos in future ‘X-Men‘ films.

Recently, IESB spoke with longtime “X”-Producer Lauren Shuler Donner about this very topic — and while she hinted that the studio is definitely thinking along those lines, IESB claims that the producer told fans not to expect any of the new mutants from “Wolverine” (especially Gambit) to show up in the recently-announced X-Men prequel, “X-Men: First Class.” (Cue the sigh of relief from the comics continuity community.)

According to the report, Donner also said “nothing would please me more than to bring Bryan [Singer] on for another movie. And, if it’s like the first Deadpool or the first Gambit, I think, I mean, I hope he would be interested…”

So, while the future of Marvel’s mutant card-tosser may be hazy for now, what’s up with the film’s other, highly-anticipated debut player, Deadpool? By now, fans of Marvel films know to stick around through the credits to see hints regarding future sequels (a la Samuel L. Jackson’s surprise appearance as Nick Fury in “Iron Man“), and Fox chairman Tom Rotherman says “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is no different.

“If it works out well, and we think it will, than we’ll be hard at work on ‘em,” said Rotherman.

It’s Wolverine Vs. Blob In New ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ Clip

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” premiered Monday night in Tempe, but if you couldn’t make the trip to Arizona (don’t worry, I couldn’t make it, either), you don’t have long to wait for the much-anticipated movie to get its official, nationwide release. And even though this is supposed to be Logan’s solo project, it’s no secret that quite a few comics fans are looking at the film as a method for getting their other favorite mutants on the big screen.

Yes, for some of us, the slug-fest between Wolverine and Sabretooth is just the precursor to seeing Gambit, Deadpool and, well… even the mutant known as “Blob,” I guess. Check out the clip below for a scene from “Wolverine” in which Logan takes on one of Marvel’s most popular immovable forces:

The ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ Premiere Report!

Wolverine is a rage-fueled, cranky mutant who prefers to work alone; Hugh Jackman couldn’t possibly be more the opposite. On Monday, however, both could be found in Arizona riding a motorcycle into an action-packed “X-Men” moment.

“I’ve played this character for about nine years; I love the character,” said Jackman, who arrived to the “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” world premiere with great fanfare while riding a motorcycle into action, just like his claw-bearing mutant does in the flick. “[I] wanted to show the movie first to the most passionate X-Men and Wolverine fans, so we put a competition out online, and Tempe, Arizona, won. And I’ll tell you: These guys are passionate — they slept out two nights in a row [to get tickets]. Isn’t it the coolest thing?”

To celebrate this weekend’s opening of “Origins,” Jackman devised a contest that had cities all across America creating Web sites and posting videos on YouTube. Tempe narrowly defeated Davis, California, and the festivities swept into a massive local shopping mall. A marching band kicked off the confetti-heavy event, the jovial mayor handed Jackman a placard that gave him lifetime parking privileges anywhere in the city, and a gaggle of giggling high school cheerleaders swarmed Ryan Reynolds for a photo.

Check Out Dominic Monaghan As The Mutant ‘Bolt’ In New ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ Scene!

First, actor Dominic Monaghan was Beak, and now he’s Bolt — and finally, we get a good look at him in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”

20th Century Fox raised some eyebrows when Monaghan was first announced in the role of Barnell “Beak” Bohusk in this week’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” A mutant who developed feathers and various other avian characteristics at an early age, Bohusk was criticized for his lack of heroic abilities — and was a strange addition to the film’s combat-minded cast of mutants. At some point in production, however, Monaghan’s role was changed to that of Chris Bradley, the electrical-powered mutant known as “Bolt.”

We haven’t seen much of his character thus far, though — and in the clip below (SPOILER ALERT), we could be seeing the last of him in the “X-Men” franchise. But that’s what happens when you get on the bad side of Sabretooth, eh?

Don't blink! We unearth a few Star Trek easter eggs

J.J. Abrams, the director of Star Trek, is well known for burying easter eggs in his various productions. (Anyone remember the "Hanso Foundation" credit at the end of Mission: Impossible III?) His upcoming reboot of the sci-fi franchise is no exception.

Our first viewing of the film last week revealed a few Trek easter eggs and a few more Abrams-universe ones, which we've tried to catalog (with help from and Slashfilm, who noticed them first). Once you see the movie, please post yours! Star Trek opens May 8. (Spoilers ahead!)

Trek eggs

♦When we first encounter Scotty in his remote station on Delta Vega, we hear the unmistakable cooing of a Tribble. Don't blink or you'll miss it, sitting in a small cage on Scotty's desk.

♦Paul McGillion, the Scottish-accented doctor from Stargate Atlantis who tried out for the role of Scotty, makes a brief appearance in the film.

♦As first pointed out, James Kirk (Chris Pine) grabs a flagon of Saurian brandy to smash over the head of a Starfleet cadet in the Iowa bar-fight scene. The brandy bottle is associated with mirror-universe evil Kirk from the TOS episode "The Enemy Within."

 also pointed out that the writing on Kirk's evac kit features the letters and numbers "NCC-1701-D": a nod to the registry number of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation? (Click the images for larger versions.)

♦Chris Doohan, son of Trek's original Scotty, the late James Doohan, has a small cameo as a transporter tech. Fans recall that Chris and his twin brother, Montgomery, also cameo'd in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Abrams universe eggs

♦Uhura (Zoe Saldana) orders a Slusho mix in the Shipyard Bar, a reference to the mysterious drink from Abrams' Cloverfield. (You can see the Slusho logo on the menu for the "Shipyard Bar," above; click on the image for a larger version.)

Slashfilm first noticed a second fleeting wink at Cloverfield: the blurry logo of the nefarious Tagruato corporation, manufacturers of Slusho and the possible force behind the monster that destroys Manhattan, on a building in future San Francisco. (Click the image for a larger version.)

♦Greg Grunberg— Matt Parkman on NBC's Heroes, and Abrams' longtime friend, who has had some kind of cameo in almost all of Abrams' projects—voices Kirk's uncle, yelling from the dashboard cell phone in the '60 Corvette in an early scene.

♦Amanda Foreman, who played the Wiccan college roommate on Abrams' Felicity, plays a bridge officer with a few lines. Foreman also appeared in Abrams' Alias and What About Brian.

♦Not exactly an easter egg, but the plot of Star Trek turns in part on a giant red ball. Scott Chamblis, Abrams' longtime production designer, has said the filmmaker tries to get one in almost every project he does, notably in Alias (pictured above; click for larger version).

EXCLUSIVE: Hugh Jackman ‘Talking To Writers’ About ‘Wolverine’ Sequel Set In Japan

Sure, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” doesn’t hit the multiplex circuit until this Friday (unless of course you’re one of the lucky fans that live in Tempe, AZ), but that certainly isn’t stopping the actor who’s become synonymous with Marvel’s franchise hero, Hugh Jackman, from dishing on where he’d like to take Wolvie on his next epic adventure — both in terms of story and location.

“I won’t lie to you, I have been talking to writers,” Jackman told MTV News. “I’m a big fan of the Japanese saga in the comic book.”

“However, it was also another one of my goals that you could see the end of this movie parlaying straight into ['X-Men'], finding that guy in the bar, fighting, drinking, with not much recollection of what’s going on,” added Jackman. “I thought that was important. However, we’ll find out beginning of May if there’s still an audience for it, if people still like the character. There’s no point in telling the story if no one wants to hear it.”

Clearly, Jackman’s not one to change his mind, as this isn’t the first time he’s mentioned to MTV his desire to take Wolverine to Japan. However, for those fans out there who think he’s simply parlaying his successful run as Wolverine into an extended vacation to the Japanese countryside, the actor makes it quite apparent that he definitely knows his Wolverine.

“There are so many areas of that Japanese story,” Jackman explained. “I love the idea of this kind of anarchic character, the outsider, being in this world — I can see it aesthetically, too — full of honor and tradition and customs and someone who’s really anti-all of that, and trying to negotiate his way. The idea of the samurai, too — and the tradition there. It’s really great. In the comic book he gets his ass kicked by a couple of samurai — not even mutants. He’s shocked by that at first.”

But it ain’t all cool samurai fights that have Jackman interested.

“There’s also a great, very intricate story there with Mariko,” hinted Jackman in reference to one of Wolverine’s lost loves. “And so many cool ways we could go.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

News - 04/29/09...

Freelancers Union

Animation Nation will be hosting an informational meeting in Burbank tonight. The main topic: setting up an organization for freelance artists, writers, and graphics designers.

People have asked me about the idea, and I think it's a fine one. And I encourage people to go and find out what AN has to say about the deal.

I've also been asked, "Is something like this, like, a union?" My answer is "no, not really" ... but Kevin explains it well, so let me turn the floor over to him:

...[T]he Freelancers Union in New York isn't a union in the same way TAG is a union.

A trade union (like the Animation Guild) functions to collectively bargain for a group of employees. There are a few key words in there -- 'collectively' and 'employees' in particular. If the goal is to get some kind of benefits for people who are NOT employees (i.e., independent contractors, people working on their own projects, students), then a trade union isn't part of the equation.

By statute, those groups cannot join or form a trade union. So I don't think you're talking about forming a 'second union', but instead a completely different kind of organization that would be useful in obtaining decent health benefits and perhaps more retirement benefits than one can achieve as an individual. What you're proposing isn't an alternative to TAG, but an alternative to independent contractors being completely on their own ...

Let me chime in here about the term "freelancer."

The way many people use the term today they mean "freelancer"/subcontractor. You can recognize one of these folks by the kind of check stubs they receive and the compensation forms they get at the end of the year. The checks have no taxes taken out; the form is a 1099.

But some artists and writers sling the term "freelancer" around when what they mean is: "Employee working out of studio on a daily, weekly, or unit rate basis."

In this case, the "freelancer" is paid with taxes deducted from his pay check -- income taxes, payroll taxes, the whole nine yards. And they get W-2 at the end of the year, not the 1099 document.

As you can see, "freelancer"/employee is a different category from subcontractor. And as Kevin says, he or she can be part of a union or guild, while the subcontractor cannot.

In any event, if you fall into the subcontractor category, or just want to know about the "Freelancer Union" concept, hop over to Burbank tonight and partake.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

The Milt Kahl event

Last night’s Milt Kahl tribute at the Motion Picture Academy was a huge (though a bit long) success - if you got into the theater.

Those inside were treated to a wonderful art exhibit of Kahl drawings, model sheets and cels from scenes he’d animated. Everyone got a commemorative poster and program brochure. The screening included Kahl’s finest animation on the big screen, everything from his first Mickey’s Circus (1936) to his last, Medusa in The Rescuers (1977). Andreas Deja and Charles Solomon did the hosting chores, and special guests Brad Bird, John Musker, Ron Clements, Floyd Norman, John Pomereoy, Kathryn Beaumont, Alice Davis and Sybil Barnes (Kahl’s daughter) told great stories about the man and his influences. Clips of Kahl from amateur video interviews were a highlight, as was the excerpt from the Disneyland TV show “The Story of Dogs” with Kahl himself - and Andreas, once again doing an amazing job of analyzing Kahl’s drawings, using an overhead projector to display rare examples of his work.

However, all was not well outside the Academy building. Brian Johnson, posting on my Facebook page reported:

“I have been looking forward to that once in a life time event and was pissed that (along with 150 angry people) were not allowed in even though we bought our tickets months ago!! They simply oversold hundreds of tickets and ruined a lot of people nights!”

Darrell Van Citters wrote me as well:

“It seems that the Academy deliberately oversold the event, leaving a large number of ticket holders with no recourse. They did issue refunds but you had to stand in line all over again to get your money back. When they told the crowd they wouldn’t be allowed in, they brought out two ineffective-looking security guards in case things turned ugly. The whole thing was shameful and as my Disney friend said on our way back to our cars, “I’ve never gone to one of these Academy things before and I don’t think I will again.”

On future Brew postings for the Academy, you might want to include a disclaimer to the effect that “buying a ticket does not guarantee a seat”. I know I won’t waste my time on another event there.”

I’ve rarely seen any Academy event sold out like this… and the animation events are less likely to do so. I had heard the event was sold out shortly after we announced it on Cartoon Brew last month. A huge story on Kahl in last Wednesday’s LA Times probably caused the overflow of attendees. I can only hope the Academy will continue its animation programs with a better grasp on ticket allotment and crowd control.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Aardman Starts on Pirates!, Arthur Christmas

Aardman Animation is going full speed ahead with production starting on two new feature-length animated feature films for Sony Pictures.

The two films are Pirates!, which will be a stop-motion film using the studio’s traditional hand-modeled clay figures, and Arthur Christmas, a CG-animated film.

The announcement was made Monday by Aardman co-founders David Sproxton and Peter Lord, and Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Michael Lynton and studio co-chairman Amy Pascal.

Pirates! is based upon The Pirates (in an Adventure with Scientists), one entry in the bestselling series of books by Gideon Defoe. Lord and Jeff Newitt are directing the film from a script by Defoe. Julie Lockhart is producing the movie, with Carla Shelly, Lord and Sproxton serving as executive producers.

Arthur Christmas, which promises to answer the question of exactly how Santa Claus delivers all those presents in a single night, is directed by Sarah Smith and Barry Cook from a scrip by Peter Baynham and Smith. The film is produced by Cheryl Abood, with Steve Pegram as co-producer and Shelley, Lord and Sproxton on board as executive producers.

Aardman is working with Sony Pictures Imageworks on the animation for the film.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Mutants and Bugs Make for Looney Week of DVD Releases

Classic animation gets its due this week, with the DVD releases of the full-length feature film The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie and the classic 1990s superhero series X-Men.

Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie
(Warner Home Video, $14.98) is part of the Looney Tunes Movie Collection and compiles a number of classic shorts directed by Friz Freleng connected by new animated material. The feature film was released to theaters in 1981. The DVD also features a trio of bonus cartoons: Box-Office Bunny, From Hare to Eternity and Pullet Surprise.

Also due out this week are X-Men Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
(Buena Vista Home Entertainment, $23.99 each), collecting the first 33 episodes of the classic TV series.

Other animated releases include
Cartoon Galaxy Vol. 1 (Indican, $14.99), American Dad Vol. 4 (Fox, $39.98), Jetsons: The Movie (Turner, $14.98), The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 4 (Sony, $19.94) and Inuyasha Season 7 ($119.98 Deluxe Edition, $99.99 Standard Edition),

Major live-action studio releases for the week include
Hotel for Dogs (DreamWorks, $30.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray), Bride Wars (Fox, $29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray) and The Uninvited
(DreamWorks, $29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray).

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Euro Markets Snap Up New Noddy Series

Noddy sure isn’t showing his age as he celebrates his 60th anniversary by landing sales in several international markets.

Distributor Chorion has sold the new series Noddy in Toyland and Make Way for Noddy, the previous series based on the classic British children’s books, into markets across Europe.

RTP Portugal, TV2 Norway and MTV Oy in Finland have picked up Toyland (52 x 11), which has already been pre-bought by Five in the UK and by France 5. MTV Oy Finland has also acquired Make Way For Noddy, along with Spanish broadcaster TVE, which has taken the free TV rights to all 100 x 10 episodes of the show for broadcast on La 2 and Clan TV.

Based on the book by Enid Blyton which has continuously been in print since 1949, Noddy in Toyland debuted on Five’s preschool brand Milkshake! on April 20 and will air on France 5’s les Zouzous in the summer.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Toho Chairman Matsuoka Resigns

Isao Matsuoka is stepping down as chairman of Japanese film studio Toho after more than 50 years with the company.

Matsuoka became president of the company in 1977 and successfully restructured the company to minimize the financial risks of producing movies, Variety reports. During his reign as chairman, Toho produced many monster films starring Godzilla and Mothra, and distributed films like Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro, the Akira Kurosawa film Ran, and horror films including The Ring.

The son of a former president of the studio and grandson of the studio’s founder, Matsuoka will continue to serve as honorary chairman of Toho and chairman of the Federation of the Japanese Films Industry.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Aardman and @Bristol Team Up for New Exhibition

Aardman Animation stars Wallace & Gromit are the main attractions in a new exhibit due to open this summer at Explore @Bristol in the United Kingdom.

The interactive exhibition, titled Animate It, is being installed and tested to open this summer. It will allow visitors to create their own animations and broadcast them on an interactive website.

The exhibition — with a budget of £400,000 ($586,000), according to the website — also will include artifacts and props from the Aardman vaults.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

"Shrek"-loving couple has big fat Green wedding

It's easy being green... if you happen to be Mr. and Mrs. Green.

After three hours in makeup, Keith Green and Christine England walked down the aisle in Barnstaple, England in full costume as Shrek and Princess Fiona of the DreamWorks feature films.

The groom, a 44-year-old builder, married England, a 40-year-old hospice nurse, before 100 guests who were also dressed as characters from the animated films, including Donkey and the Gingerbread Man.

"Every girl wants a fairytale wedding and I got one -- with a bit of a twist. It was a great laugh," said England. "The idea just came to me. I knew what we would go as because Keith looks just like Shrek.

"It was funny because when we said our vows, Keith had these green ears sprouting from the top of his head."

However, England couldn't persuade her 18-year-old son (from a previous relationship) to don Donkey gear. He said "he wasn't having any of it," she said.

Apparently, Green doesn't seem to mind being compared to an ogre.

"It was a very strange experience, to say the least, but a thoroughly enjoyable one. We love the films."

The Green pair hired a makeup artist to make them resemble the characters voiced by Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz in the blockbusters.

"It's not necessarily how you imagine seeing your daughter get married, but it was great fun," Thursday's Telegraph quoted the bride's mother, Annette England, 66, as saying.

Quipped the groom, a father of two: "It may look odd -- but we're ogre the moon."

Here comes the bride, all dressed in... green.

Fox Bumps Sit Down, Shut Up!

After airing only two episodes, Fox has moved its new animated comedy series Sit Down, Shut Up! from its 8:30 p.m., post-Simpsons position to 7 p.m. Sundays.

The move comes after disappointing ratings and poor reviews for the new show, which was created by
Arrested Development's Mitch Hurwitz, based on an Australian live-action comedy series. The series earned a 1.9 rating and 5 share for its second episode, down from 2.3 and a 6 share for the premiere.

Sit Down
will now be followed at 7:30 p.m. by repeats of American Dad, while the final episodes of the long-running King of the Hill
will now air at 8:30.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Zeke’s Pad Top Toon at Elan Awards

TV series Zeke’s Pad took home top animation prizes at the third annual Elan Awards, which honor achievements in video games, animation and visual effects.

Tom Kenny, who hosted the awards ceremony in Vancouver, Canada, also was honored with an award for best voice over performance for his work on
SpongeBob SquarePants, while Disney/Pixar’s WALL•E
won the best animated feature honor.

The full list of winners follows.


Best Feature Length Animated Production

Disney / Pixar

Best Animated Television Production
Zeke's Pad

My Pad Prod's / Avrill Stark Entertainment; Bardel Entertainment Inc. / Flying Bark Productions
Delna Bhesania, Producer; Liz Scully, Producer; Leonard Terhoch, Producer; Avrill Stark, Producer

Best Animated Short Subject
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
(intro cinematic)
Blizzard Entertainment
Jeff Chamberlain, Director; Phillip Hillenbrand, Producer

Best Director for an Animated Production
Wapos Bay: The Series

Wapos Bay Studio National Film Board of Canada
Dennis Jackson,Director; Melanie Jackson, Director; Cam Lizotte, Director

Best Voice Over in an Animated Production (All genres)
Tom Kenny
Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants

Best Character Animation
Toot & Puddle

Mercury Filmworks / National Geographic Kids Entertainment
Graham MacDonald, Animation Director; Emma Gignac, Animation Director; Kim Buck, Animation Supervisor; Justin Sels, Animation Supervisor

Best Art Direction
Zeke's Pad

My Pad Prod's / Avrill Stark Entertainment; Bardel Entertainment Inc. / Flying Bark Productions
Zoe Evamy, Senior Art Director; Patricia Atchison, Art Director


Best Student Video Game

Bryant DJ Davey, Xbox Director; Su Yon Sohn, Web Presence Director; Liam Kelly, Support
Masters of Digital Media, Centre for Digital Media, Vancouver BC.

Best Student Animated Production

Shane Plante, Algonquin College Animation Program, Ottawa ON

Best Visual Effects in a Student Project
Space Bar

George Kyparissous, Lost Boys Learning, Comox BC


Best Visual Effects in a Visual Effect Driven Feature Film

The Embassy VFX, Inc. / Ironworks Prod's; Marvel Studios / Paramount Pictures
Iron Man
The Embassy's Winston Helgason, Visual Effects Supervisor; Charlie Bradbury, Visual Effects Producer; Stephen Pepper, Compositing Supervisor; Michael Blackbourn, CG Lead

Best Visual Effects in a Broadcast Series, Miniseries or MOW
Bartleby Co. and The Halcyon Co. in assoc. with Warner Bros. Televisions
Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Jim Lima, VFX Supervisor; Steve Galich, SFX Coordinator

Best Visual Effects in an Independent/Short Film
Pix Ray VFX / Gloryous Production, 2.8 Pictures
Rock Garden: The Love Story
Andrew Szerszen, VFX Supervisor; Guy Gatenby, Lead Matte-Painter; Michael MacInnis, Lead Composer

Best Visual Effects Shot
Spin VFX / 20th Century Fox
Max Payne
Jeff Campbell, VFX Supervisor; Eric Doiron, Compositing Supervisor; Mark Schreiber, Lead Animator; Tim Sibley, Lead FX TD

Best Digital Environment
Spin VFX / 20th Century Fox
Max Payne
Jeff Campbell, VFX Supervisor; Eric Doiron, Compositing Supervisor; Mark Schreiber, Lead Animator; Tim Sibley, Lead FX TD 

Best Animated Character
MPC / Walt Disney and Walden Media
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Greg Fisher, Animation Supervisor; Peta Bayley, Lead Animator; Julio del Rio Hernandez, Lead Animator; Tom Reed, Head of Rigging


Video Game of the Year 

Left 4 Dead


Best Console Game 

Fallout 3

Bethesda Softworks
Todd Howard, Game Director; Emil Pagliarulo, Lead Designer & Writer; Gavin Carter, Lead Producer 

Best PC Game
Left 4 Dead

Best Casual/Arcade Game
Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst

Big Fish Games
Pat Wylie, Adrian Woods, Chris Campbell, Producer

Best Mobile/Handheld Game
Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force
1st Playable Productios/Disney Interactive
Tobi Saulnier, Founder & CEO, 1st Playable Productions; Zhenelle Falk, Producer/ Designer; Andrew Carroll, Lead Programmer; Ian McConahey Stead, Lead Artist 

Best Sound in a Video Game Prod'n
Mike Larson, Audio Director; Steve Jablonsky, Composer; Jamey Scott, Sound Designer; Joey Kuras, Sound Designer
Epic Games, Microsoft
Gears of War 2

Best Art Direction 

Istvan Pely, Lead Artist
Bethesda Softworks
Fallout 3 

Best Game Design
Gabe Newell
Left 4 Dead 

Outstanding Technical Innovation

Gabe Newell
Left 4 Dead

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Obama Stars in Toon Spoofs

Having already risen to superstar status in the political world, President Barack Obama is now coming to animation.

Ukraine-based CFC Consulting will unveil Thursday Barack Obama Superstar: The Untold Story, a series of humorous animated cartoons celebrating Obama’s first 100 days in office. The series offers a satirical look at Obama’s worldwide popularity and features parodies of American political figures and world leaders.

The cartoons will be presented at a press conference in New York that also marks the launch of CFC’s new MuPoTOONs — an initiative to produce cartoons that combine music and politics into a new form of news analysis.

CFC made the film in partnership with Future Media Arts, and a preview of the series can be seen at

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Iron Man Debuts to Strong Ratings

The Friday night premiere of Iron Man: Armored Adventures scored strong ratings for Nickelodeon, becoming the network’s highest-rated original series premiere ever with boys ages 6-11.

The two-episode, one-hour premiere averaged a rating of 2.0/125,000 in the demographic, a more than 100 percent increase in all kid demos.

The episode helped the network post its best ever ratings in all core demographics and in total viewers for the month of April. It also drove traffic to, which reported 239,000 visitors, an increase of 389 percent over last year) and 1.9 million page views (up more than 1,000 percent) during the week of April 20.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

ANIME! High Art - Pop Culture

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in association with Deutsches Filmmuseum in Franfurt Germany, will be presenting an exhibit of original anime art in their Beverly Hills HQ lobby and 4th Floor Gallery.

From May 15th through August 23th, the Academy will present ANIME! High Art - Pop Culture featuring collectors items and rare animation artwork seldom seen outside Japan. A portion of the exhibition is devoted to manga and its relationship to anime; the whole exhibit will provide a historical overview of the development of Japanese comic book and animation genres. Public viewing hours are Tuesday – Friday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday – Sunday: Noon to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays and May 23–24. Admission: Free. For more info, visit the Academy website.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

"Superfriends: The Lost Episodes" Coming to DVD reports that Warner Brothers will release Superfriends: The Lost Episodes on DVD August 11th.

The 2 disc set includes 24 short cartoons that never aired in the United States until the 90s when it aired in The Superman/Batman Adventures. Also included are 2 downloadable Superfriends comics in PDF Format.

"Wonder Pets" Season 3 Begins May 18 with One of Eartha Kitt's Final Performances is reporting that the third season of Nickelodeon's Wonder Pets! will begin on May 18, 2009, and that one of the episodes will contain one of performer Eartha Kitt's final performances before her passing last year from colon cancer. Kitt will voice Cool Cat who wants to scat, alongside Hip Hippo (voiced by jazz singer Jon Hendricks). Other guest stars this season will include Lauren Bacall and Ben Vereen.

"SpongeBob SquarePants: First 100 Episodes" DVD Set Coming September 22, 2009

USA Today is reporting that SpongeBob SquarePants: The First 100 Episodes DVD set will be released on September 22, 2009, with a suggested retail price of $99.98. The set will contain more than 36 hours of episodes and bonus features, which will include commentary tracks by Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob.

Christian Bale on the Third Batman Movie

Total Film talked to Christian Bale about the follow-up to The Dark Knight. Here's an excerpt:

"Will we do a third movie? It's got to be the right story. You can't make something like 'The Dark Knight' and then come out with something disappointing.

"I would like it if people say, 'You'll never make a good third movie.' I say, 'OK, let's make a third movie in that case, let's prove them wrong. But that's just me. The fact is, I have to! I've signed up! Chris doesn't. So I'm in a bit of a fix if he says he doesn't want to!"

For more quotes, go here. Before he can start on a third movie, director Chris Nolan is first making the sci-fi action film Inception for Warner Bros.

Roberto Orci confirms Frank Welker will voice Soundwave in Transformers 2

As SCI FI Wire reported last month, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen director Michael Bay went public with the news that he was going after original Transformers voice actor Frank Welker to play the role of Soundwave in his upcoming film.

UGO Movie Blog has gotten the first "official" confirmation of Welker's casting during an exclusive interview with screenwriter Robert Orci:

Jordan Hoffman: Who's voicing Soundwave in Transformers?
Roberto Orci:
Jordan Hoffman: That's official?
Roberto Orci:
I think so.
Jordan Hoffman: Uh oh.
Roberto Orci: Might be something I just told you for the first time, but I think so.
Jordan Hoffman:
Good to know.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen stars Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, John Benjamin Hickey, Ramon Rodriguez, Isabel Lucas and John Turturro. It opens in conventional and IMAX theaters on June 24.