Wednesday, April 1, 2009

News - 04/01/09...

Longtime television commercial icon dead at 71

A veteran star of more than 600 television commercials since 1965 has died at 71.

Pillsbury spokesman The Pillsbury Doughboy died of a severe yeast infection and complications from repeated pokes to the belly.

Doughboy was buried in a slightly greased coffin in one of the largest funeral ceremonies in recent years. Dozens of celebrities turned out, including Mrs. Butterworth, The California Raisins, Hungry Jack, Betty Crocker, The Hostess Twinkies, Captain Crunch and many others.

The graveside was piled high with flours as longtime friend Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy, describing Doughboy as a man who "never knew how much he was kneaded." Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with many turnovers.

He was not considered a very smart cookie, wasting much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, he was still, as a crusty old man, considered a roll model for millions.

Toward the end it was thought he'd rise once again, but he was no tart.

Doughboy is survived by his second wife, Play Dough. They have two children and one in the oven.

The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.

Hood Unites Canuck Producers

Animation and sales company Portfolio is keeping production of its new animated series Hood in Canada.

The Toronto-based firm and animation cable channel Teletoon will produce the series, taking advantage of government and tax-credit money that will cover between 50 and 70 percent of the show’s budget, Variety reports.

The tween series follows a secret group of teens who defend the earth from supernatural enemies by wearing super-charged hoodies. Creating the series is Howie Shia, who won the Grand Prix at the 2007 Tokyo Anime Fair. He’ll work on the series bible and early scripts with story editor Mark Leiren-Young.

3-D Talk of the Town at ShoWest

The talk is all about 3-D at ShoWest, the annual confab for film exhibitors going on currently in Las Vegas.

Driving the discussion is the success of DreamWorks Animation’s Monsters vs. Aliens, which in the final tally took in $59.3 million in its opening weekend. Variety reports praise for the format from Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman Jim Gianopulos, who urged theater owners not to delay the installation of 3-D ready screens.

DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, the most prominent proponent of 3-D, said the demand was there for more 3-D screens. He cited reports from the past weekend saying some 38 percent of people who saw Monsters vs. Aliens in 2D would have preferred to see it in 3-D but could not due to sellouts.

While the success of Monsters—and moviegoers’ apparent willingness to pay extra for 3-D films—gives the format momentum, who will pay for it remains an issue for both studios and exhibitors.

The Hollywood Reporter relays that Fox is notifying exhibitors not to expect payment for the costs associated with the use of special 3-D glasses.

Several more highly anticipated 3-D releases—most of them animated—are due out this year, including Fox’s Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Disney/Pixar’s Up and James Cameron’s virtual reality saga Avatar.

MIPTV Wrap: Day Two

Perhaps it was the sunshine finally making an appearance on the Croisette or everyone adjusting to the fact that according to Reed Midem, there has been a 10 percent drop in attendance at MIPTV this year. Either way, most of the execs we ran into today were reporting a better climate than they expected. As one very busy vp of development described it, “It’s a case of last men standing…Those of us who managed to survive and are actually here, there still is a lot of business out there. TV programmers still need to fill their children’s programming hours with new content after all.”

Dr. Christopher Chia, Singapore’s Media Authority exec officer started the day on a very upbeat note, pointing out to the many top-quality animated and vfx-driven projects being produced in his country. MDA recently announced that it plans to spend $250 million to sustain the growth momentum of the region’s media sector during the economic downturn. Among the projects he mentioned in his brief presentation were Shape, a 39 x 5 High Def toon produced by Peach Blossom Media, BIG Communications’ Zigby and Dinosaur Train, Spark Animation’s 3D toon Jack and Character Farm’s Katakune.”

Chia also noted that the Singapore is moving ahead with plans to produce 20 movies in stereoscopic 3-D in the near future. Brian Yuzna of Komodo Films will produce three 3-D features—the first is titled Amphibious and will be post-produced by Singapore’s Infinite Frameworks, which also produced the feature Sing to the Dawn last year. Virtuosity director Brett Leonard has been tapped to direct the second movie and to oversee the production of the country’s top-of-the-line stereoscopic 3D movie production facility.

Class Acts
Debora Forte, president of Scholastic Media was also in town to promote the second season of the company’s highly acclaimed animated series WorldGirl and the CCI co-production Turbo Dogs, With a stellar track record that includes global TV hits such as The Magic School Bus, Goosebumps, Animorphs and successful features such as Tuck Everlasting and The Golden Compass, Forte knows a few things about creating quality projects regardless of passing fads and trends du jour. “When we launched The Magic School Bus, everyone told us that this idea wouldn’t work in territories outside the U.S., but we had to assure them that this was a special vehicle that could transform young viewers and teach them about the world,” she says. “We had the same experience with Goosebumps and WordGirl. Our key to success has been about not paying attention to the side-view mirror and the back mirror and staying focused on our vision and our goals.”

In addition to developing several new children’s titles at Scholastic, Forte is also producing feature adaptations of the best-selling book The 39 Clues with Steven Spielberg and a movie version of R.L. Stines’ young adult series Goosebumps with Neil Moritz.

Everyone Loves a Bad Boy
Also riding the successful books-to-toons express is the always Mike Watts, managing director of U.K.-based Novel Entertainment, who co-produces the hugely successful Horrid Henry animated series with his wife Lucinda Whitely. Based on the books created by Francesca Simon and Tony Ross, the 2D-animated series has made a big splash on Children’s ITV.

“We had 4.14 million viewers in the second week of March, which is quite amazing,” says Watts. “The Henry books are finally launching in the U.S. this month, so we’re hoping that American children can also get to know and enjoy the world of Henry.” Chicago-based Source Books will publish ten Horrid Henry books by the end of 2010. Watts and company are currently producing a new version of the Horrid Henry stage show in Sheffield as well as fine-tuning a tie-in Wii game produced by Asylum for a November release. Watts says his nine- and 11-year-old kids have seen the show so many times that they say things like, “Oh, we think the Bradford production was better than the Sheffield one,etc.!”

Novel Entertainment is currently in production on 52 new episodes of the toon , which will be delivered this spring. The show is currently airing in 27 countries around the world and has a massive licensing program and has quickly become the most successful series for U.K.’s ITV. It’s all proof that everyone can appreciate a strong-willed boy who is mad as hell and won’t take the tyranny of the grown-ups in his life (not the mention his horrible brother Peter Perfect and that rotten Moody Margaret next door!).

Among the companies having celebratory drinks today were TV-Loonland, which is launching My Life Me (a hip-looking 52 x 11 toon co-produced by Canada’s Carpe Diem) and unveiling the first five episodes of Mister Otter (52 x 1.3), and Toon Boom which is presenting two new amazing releases—Animate Pro (which builds on the software’s feature set and delivers 2D-3D integrations as well as scanning options and compositing capabilities with 50 built-in special effects) and Toon Boom Manager (which delivers full tracking capabilities to monitor the production progress in real time).

We would have gladly stopped by to raise a toast, but the old meeting schedule had us running all over the Riviera building as well as various hotel lobbies spread out on the Croisette to take a wine break! Note to self: Next year, you’re wearing comfy running shoes to all your appointments—regardless of how many nasty stares you get from the fashionable Europeans.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Public Enemy Toon Feature Rumored

MTV’s Movie Blog is reporting that the popular rap group Public Enemy may be coming to the big screen in animated form.

The post, which cites anonymous sources, says the group’s top names such as Chuck D and Flavor Flav are in talks with a major animation studio to produce the film and base it on a recent comic book series featuring the group.

The site quotes a second source that confirms the tip, saying with the Public Enemy graphic novel and a new album due out that there is a lot of interest in the group and that a script is in the works.

See you in hell: Dante's Inferno becomes animated

Electronic Arts Inc. and Starz Media's Film Roman announced Monday the start of production on an animated movie based on the immortal epic Dante's Inferno.

The feature-length project will expand on the story in EA's new game coming out for the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system and Playstation 3 computer entertainment system in 2010.

Just as the poem and game take players on a journey through the nine circles of Hell, the Dante's Inferno animated feature will also follow Dante as he travels through limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud and treachery in search of his true love, Beatrice. Both are based on part one of Dante Alighieri's classic poem The Divine Comedy, better known as Dante's Inferno.

To give added distinction among each of the nine circles, EA and Film Roman (co-producers on the Dante's Inferno project) are commissioning unique visions from multiple studios with experience creating some of the top anime in the industry to tell this classic story. Film Roman's Joe Goyette (Dead Space: Downfall) is the producer on the project, Victor Cook (The Spectacular Spider-Man, Hellboy Animated: Blood & Iron) is directing, and Brandon Auman (Iron Man: Armored Adventures) is writing.

"This is like nothing else out in the marketplace right now -- a visually stunning project based on one of the most powerful stories ever told," said Jay Fukuto, head of studio for Film Roman. "It could only happen with a partner with the vision and creativity of EA. They were great collaborators on Dead Space: Downfall, and we expect another very rewarding experience with this new feature."

"The animated feature will be a great companion piece to the game," said Jonathan Knight, executive producer and creative director for Dante's Inferno. "The feature will explore aspects of the poem that the game does not, and will provide more insight into the characters and the unique story adaptation that the game has established. It's a very cool project, and we are having a blast collaborating with the talented team that Starz has assembled."

Dante's Inferno marks the second such collaboration between the leading video game company and the traditional animation studio. In 2008, Film Roman produced Dead Space: Downfall, an animated feature prequel to EA's award-winning video game Dead Space, both of which were both worldwide successes.

Starz Media will introduce the Dante's Inferno animated feature to the international television community as it continues global sales of Dead Space: Downfall at the MIPTV market, which runs until Friday in Cannes, France. Anchor Bay Entertainment will hold exclusive worldwide home entertainment distribution rights to Dante's Inferno, while Starz Media's Worldwide Distribution group will handle international TV and domestic syndication sales, and Starz Digital Media will be responsible for all digital distribution globally.

The Dante's Inferno game is being developed at EA Redwood Shores. Visit and go straight to hell.

Levesque's "Necktie" wins at Quebec's Jutra Awards

Jean-François Lévesque's "The Necktie" ("Le noeud cravate") was named best animated film Sunday night at the 11th annual Jutra Awards, which honor French-Canadian movies.

Held in Montreal, the Jutras were aired nationally on Radio-Canada. Actress Karine Vanasse hosted the gala.

Released by the National Film Board of Canada, the 12-minute The Necktie uses puppets and animated drawings to expose the dehumanizing effects of futile work and the fading of youthful aspirations. The wordless film mixes traditional and digital techniques.

The Necktie is 15 years in the life of Valentin, a faithful employee working a useless task in a dead-end job, deceived by a two-dimensional boss. He nonetheless struggles against absurdity with humanity and hope. On his 40th birthday, he rediscovers an old accordion hidden in a closet and regains the joy of life.

Earlier this month, The Necktie won the NFB Youth Jury Award for Best Animated Short at the Freeze Frame International Children Film Festival in Winnipeg.

Other Jutra nominees for best animated film were Theodore Ushev's Drux Flux, also an NFB release; Felix Dufour-Laperriere's Rosa Rosa, co-produced by the NFB and France's Folimage, ARTE France and Noir sur Blanc Animation studios; and Les Anges Dechets, directed by Pierre M. Trudeau and produced by Élaine Dallaire.

Benoît Pilon's Ce Qu'il Faut pour Vivre (The Necessities of Life), about an Inuit hunter confined to a Quebec sanatorium during the 1950s tuberculosis outbreak of the 1950s, was named best film at the Jutra Awards. Its star, Natar Ungalaaq, was named best actor, while writer Bernard Émond won the Jutra for best screenplay.

Family drama Borderline won Lyne Charlesbois the honor for best director. Quebec's Isabelle Blais received the award for best actress, and Angele Coutu won the supporting actress Jutra.

"Penguins of Madagascar" Becomes Nick's Most-Watched Season Premiere

The debut episode of The Penguins of Madagascar on Nickelodeon this past weekend drew 6.1 million viewers, making it the most-watched season premiere in the network's history. The show, spotlighting the misadventures of the supporting characters of the Madagascar franchise, will be running new episodes at 8:00 PM (Eastern/Pacific) on weeknights until April 10, 2009.

Bandai Delays "Gurren Lagann," "Ghost Slayers Ayashi," "Freedom" DVDs

New information from a variety of vendors reveal that Bandai Entertainment has pushed back the release dates of several DVDs:

Gurren Lagann Part 3 (original release date March 17, 2009, new release date May 5, 2009)
Ghost Slayers Ayashi Part 2 (original release date April 7, 2009, new release date May 5, 2009)
Freedom DVD Boxed Set (original release date April 7, 2009, new release date July 7, 2009)

Star Trek sequel already in the works

Paramount Pictures is moving forward with a sequel to its Star Trek franchise relaunch, and has hired Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof to pen the screenplay, Variety reported.

J.J. Abrams, who directed and produced the latest chapter, is onboard to produce the follow-up alongside his Bad Robot partner Bryan Burk. No decision has been made yet on whether Abrams will return behind the camera for the sequel.

"There's obviously a lot of hubris involved in signing on to write a sequel of a movie that hasn't even come out yet," said Lindelof, co-creator with Abrams of ABC's Lost who produced the upcoming Trek but did not contribute to Orci and Kurtzman's screenplay. "But we're so excited about the first one that we wanted to proceed."

The story is still in the embryonic stage, but the trio are aiming to deliver their script to the studio by Christmas for what would likely be a summer 2011 release. As for potential storylines, Kurtzman stressed that the writing team will wait to take a cue from fan reaction about which direction to go.

Chaotic Tom & Jerry commercial

Tom and Jerry have always represented chaos — but this Indian commercial is mind-numbing in its confusion. Here, Tom & Jerry join forces with Bollywood mega-star Kajol and Alpenliebe candy mascot, the crocodile Mr. Mach. The animation was produced by Black Magic Motion Pictures and directed by Abhijit Chaudhuri. The 3D crocodile animation was produced by R&H India.

(Thanks, Karl Cohen and Animation Express)

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

3-D Versions of "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" Get Double Feature Limited Engagement

The Disney Digital 3D versions of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 will debut together as a limited engagement starting on October 2 2009.

Iron Man 2 Starts Shooting on Monday!

Director Jon Favreau has revealed on his Twitter page that Iron Man 2 will start filming on Monday and that the "last cast has arrived in LA."

The cast includes Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson.

Iron Man 2 is scheduled for a May 7, 2010 release.


A few mid-week piffles for your linky pleasure.

Man, this 3-D thing appears to be catching on. Something to do with the $59 million weekend a certain studio had? Naaah..

Walt Disney is going 3-D on a lot of future films — and some from its past.

The studio says 3-D versions of the computer-animated tales
"Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" will be released Oct. 2 for a two-week run as a double feature. Disney also is preparing a 3-D version of its hand-drawn animated musical "Beauty and the Beast" for release Feb. 12, 2010.

No doubt this announcement was coming anyway. Still, the time and place for making it is ... ah ... interesting.

[John] Lasseter said, "The 'Toy Story' films and characters will always hold a very special place in our hearts and we're so excited to be bringing these first two films back for audiences to enjoy in a whole new way thanks to the latest in 3D technology ..."
For immediate release, wouldn't you say?

A fine exhibition of Japanese comics and animation is unspooling in New York City:

... [A] couple of teenage girls crouched down to get inside a small tea house-like enclosure lined with hundreds of manga, some the size of telephone books.

Elsewhere, six anime were being simultaneously projected along a long wall in a room with cubicles where visitors could sit comfortably and watch the same excerpts on smaller screens ...

The exhibition,
"Krazy! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games," has been drawing large and diverse crowds — young, old and in-between — since it opened March 13.

Reese Witherspoon on cartoon voice acting:

... The hardest part of the movie, for me, was to get the voice right for an action hero. They (the filmmakers) kept saying to me ‘say this line like Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger’, that big action movie tag line - ‘I-AM-GINORMICA!’ (laughs) and I just couldn’t do it! They kept saying ‘no, that just sounds like a robot’.’ ...

The Wrap, in an over-heated commentary, examines the business side of Stereo Viewing:

... There are 40 3D features scheduled for the next three years, including 17 from Disney -- which, through Roy Disney's Shamrock Holdings, has invested $50 million in RealD, the company that pioneered the new process -- and every release from DreamWorks Animation. And though the credit crunch has slowed the installation of 3D projection systems in theaters, RealD's revenue nearly doubled in 2008 ...

Theaters that lease the RealD process (for about $5,000-$10,000) have to pay the company 50 cents for every ticket sold. But even allowing for that and, it's fair to guess, allowing for the manufacturing cost of a pair of plastic glasses, the studios are obviously making money off the surcharge.

Katzenberg, John Lassetter at Pixar, and the other studio heads who will release movies in RealD are simply indulging in the carny barker tradition of squeezing whatever money they can out of the public who flocks to their attractions.

(Hey, you don't like the price of the 3-D version, don't go to the 3-D version. It won't be the end of civilization as we know it. And here's a report on the Show West reaction to DWA's 3-D epic.)

British comic thesp Simon Pegg discusses his character in Ice Age 3:

"[He's] a slightly unhinged, swashbuckling weasel ..."

You can never get enough swashbucking weasles.

Lastly, the Animation Archive has a nice sampling of caricatures by Miguel Cavarrubias.

Al Hirschfeld studied under Covarrubias and shared a studio with him in 1924. He spoke of Covarrubias' talent in the same breath as Daumier and Hogarth ...

Clark Gable and Prince Edward ... by Miguel C.

Have a fine, midweek work experience ... if you can.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Sam Raimi says Spider-Man 4 script due by summer

Sam Raimi, who will direct Spider-Man 4, told SCI FI Wire that the film's script, by David Lindsay-Abaire (Inkheart), should be ready by summer. "Right now, David Lindsay-Abaire is working on a draft of the new picture," Raimi said in an exclusive telephone interview on Monday. "And he's hard at work, and hopefully we'll see something in about three months."

Raimi said that the film has to make its previously announced May 6, 2011, release date. "We have to make the release date, and on all of these pictures, the Spider-Man films—and I'm sure it's the same as with many of the other bigger-budgeted films—they have release dates far in advance of a screenplay," he said. "So it's about getting it ready the best you can in time for the first day of production. That's what we've always done, and that's what we'll try to do again."

Tobey Maguire has reportedly signed on to reprise the title role. Raimi added that it's a bit early to discuss other casting, though he does plan to reassemble the core cast, which includes Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane. "At this point I do, but it's really ... all going to be dependent upon the script, and I'll just have to wait and see," Raimi said. "I don't want to put the cart before the horse, but hopefully we can service the story in the screenplay, and whatever it demands, hopefully we'll be its eager servants."

Raimi also declined to discuss possible villains for the fourth installment in the Marvel Comics franchise, though early speculation has centered on everyone from Dylan Baker's Curt Connors/Lizard to Carnage and Electro and other bad guys drawn from Stan Lee's original comics.

"I'm not at liberty to discuss the villains yet," Raimi said. "I think I have to wait till the finished screenplay, and then it'd really be up to Sony Pictures and the producers to determine when they want to release that information. To them, it's usually a big, a big, big thing, a big moment where they want to present the villain with the proper respect or fear that he or she deserves."

Pixar vs. DreamWorks

I’m still confused. Which studio’s films does this guy like more?

(Thanks, Karim)

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Disney Seals Deal with YouTube

The Triangle Business Journal reports:


The Walt Disney Co. and Google Inc.'s YouTube have reached a deal that will see some short-form Disney content appear on the popular Web video site.

YouTube has received the rights to distribute content from several of Disney's brands, including ABC and ESPN, according to a Tuesday press release.

New "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" Soundtrack CD Release Officially Shipped Yesterday

Fans who pre-ordered the new complete CD soundtrack for Batman: Mask of the Phantasm can officially expect it be sent out as of yesterday. Exclusive images are included below.

Yesterday, March 31st, 2009, is the official shipping date for the La-La Land Records soundtrack release of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm - Expanded Archival Collection, collecting the entire score of the animated feature in one release for the first time. While multiple customers who pre-ordered the title have already reported receiving the soundtrack release, today is the day the title officially ships out. Copies of this limited edition collector's release are still available through the La-La Land Records website and other online supporting soundtrack specialty stores. The release, with a press run of 3000 copies, also includes a detailed insert booklet. Click here for a complete rundown of the tracklist new soundtrack release, and click on the thumbnails above for a closer look at the packaging for the release.

Details on how to order are available at La-La Land

‘Barack The Barbarian’? More Obama Comics Announced

The love affair between U.S. President Barack Obama and the comic book is still going strong, and it looks like we’ll see the comics-friendly Commander-in-Chief making a cameo on a few more covers in the coming months. Chicago-based comics publisher Devil’s Due announced a pair of projects today that will involve Obama-related storylines, and released promotional images for the comics featuring the US President and a very, well… unique take on former Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Like the massively popular issue of “Amazing Spider-Man” #583 that hit its fifth printing last month, the comics feature Obama prominently on the cover — but Devil’s Due president Josh Blaylock said they’d offer a very unexpected take on the fist-bumping president. After the jump, check out all three images released for the new Obama comics, as well as details about the projects.

According to the official DDP announcement, the first project will be titled “Drafted: 100 Days,” and will be a “double-sized one-shot featuring the President who could have been.”

“Mark Powers offers a poignant look at a man the world never got to see achieve his true greatness when a race from beyond the stars drafted our planet into intergalactic war. See how he struggles, just as every other man, woman and child on Earth does in this truly inspiring story,” reads the synopsis. “As can be expected from Powers, there’s one other difference about our hero in this story in that due to an injury… he is MUTE.”

The other, even more impressively titled series will be… (wait for it)… “Barack the Barbarian: Quest for the Treasure of Stimuli.”

An ongoing series, the political satire “Barack the Barbarian” will be written by Larry Hama (”G.I. Joe,” “Wolverine”) and “will take a look at the current state of politics both past and present and isn’t afraid to point fun at Washinton’s sacred cows.”

“In the distant future the story of Barack Obama has become a little… distorted. According to ‘The Maddowian Chronicles’ he was the one destined to save the great republic of America and dethrone the overpaid despots of the time. Join Barack, Sorceress Hilaria, her demi-god trickster husband Biil, Overlord Boosh and Chainknee of the Elephant Kingdom. Who can the lone barbarian trust, if anyone?”

Both projects ship in June, but DDP teased that variant covers of both series will be available at San Diego Comic-Con.

There’s really not much to say that can follow all of that up, is there?

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