Thursday, April 2, 2009

News - 04/02/09...

Kevin Migrates Into Disney/Pixar’s Up

A snipe is a type of wading bird, and in this clip from Disney/Pixar’s Up Russell discovers something entirely different - a Kevin bird. Up hits theaters on May 29th, 2009.

“The Art of Monsters Vs Aliens” takes an in-depth look at this Intru 3D production

Jim Hill reviews Linda Sunshine's latest making-of book, which uses concept art & character designs to illustrate how DreamWorks Animation’s latest came together

In spite of some pretty middling reviews, “Monsters Vs Aliens” made a ton of money this past weekend. This new DreamWorks Animation production was actually the No. 1 movie in the country, grossing $59.3 million domestically. With more than $33 million of that gross coming from theaters where “MVA” was being shown in Intru 3D and 3D IMAX.

So when a movie racks up those sorts of numbers, breaking three box office records along the way …

Biggest weekend debut (to date) for 2009
Best Opening for a 3D Film
Biggest Spring Opening for a non-sequel Animated Film

… attention must be paid.

Which is why I picked up a copy of Linda Sunshine’s latest making-of book, “The Art of Monsters vs. Aliens” (Newmarket Press, February 2009) today. To try and get a handle on why this particular Dreamworks Animation production (which was the first to be “ … wholly conceived, developed and authored in 3D”) did so well with domestic audiences.

Copyright 2009 Newmarket Press. All Rights Reserved

Sunshine does a good job of walking you through this project’s production history. Which basically got started when DreamWorks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg suggested that Conrad Vernon (i.e. the co-director of “Shrek 2.” Who – at that time – was developing an animated feature that spoofed monster movies of the 1950s) and Rob Letterman (i.e. the co-director of “Shark Tale.” Who – at the time – was trying to develop a feature length cartoon that took its inspiration from “The Dirty Dozen”) put their heads together and see what sort of film develops.

What Conrad & Letterman eventually came up with was an animated feature that actually straddled both of their original concepts. “Monsters Vs Aliens” (SLIGHT SPOILERS FOLLOW) deals with what happens to poor Susan Murphy. Who – on her wedding day – gets struck by a glowing green meteor. And – as a direct result – winds up growing to a height of 49-feet and 11-inches.

Copyright 2009 Newmarket Press. All Rights Reserved

Immediately identified by the military as a monster, Susan is locked away in a super-secret facility where she’s then given the name Ginormica. Here she meets some of the other creatures that our government has hidden away over the past 50 years:

* - Dr. Cockroach, a brilliant scientist who – due to an experiment that went wrong – now has the head of (what else) a cockroach
* - The Missing Link, a half-ape / half-fish creature who’s all man … At least when it comes to the ladies

Copyright 2009 Newmarket Press. All Rights Reserved

* - B.O.B. , the jolly gelatinous blob that was created when a genetically-altered tomato was injected with a chemically-altered ranch dressing
* - Insectosaurus, a previously- one-inch-long grub that – thanks to being exposed to radiation – is now a 350 foot-tall behemoth that gets easily distracted by bright lights

Susan thinks that – just like the other members of this monster squad – she’s doomed to be locked away forever inside of this unnamed government facility. But all of that changes when a massive alien robot crash-lands in Northern California and then begins lumbering toward San Francisco.

Copyright 2009 Newmarket Press. All Rights Reserved

When it becomes apparent that the military won’t be able to stop this enormous machine, General W.R. Monger (i.e. the official in charge of the facility where Susan is being held) then goes to President Hathaway with a bold plan. He suggests turning America’s monsters loose to do battle with this alien robot. See if they can stop the thing before it levels the city.

Which is how Susan … er … Ginormica and her misunderstood monster friends wind up in the Bay Area. Going toe-to-toe with that 350 foot-tall alien probe.

Copyright 2009 Newmarket Press. All Rights Reserved

Loaded with more than 400 pieces of concept art & character design, “The Art of Monsters Vs Aliens” does a great job of pointing out all of those little things that you might miss during your initial view of this DreamWorks Animation production. Take – for example – that Shrek-shaped medal that General W.R. Monger wears on his uniform.

Copyright 2009 Newmarket Press. All Rights Reserved

Better than that, it also reveals some of the roads that Vernon & Letterman didn’t take. Like having the film’s villain, Gallaxahar, be a woman …

Copyright 2009 Newmarket Press. All Rights Reserved

… who (in this early version of “Monsters Vs Aliens” storyline) then used giant mosquito-shaped probes to suck up all of the Earth’s oil, water and natural gas.

Copyright 2009 Newmarket Press. All Rights Reserved

So if you’d like to learn more about this 3D box office sensation, you should probably scare up some dough and then go purchase a copy of “The Art of Monsters Vs Aliens.”

Nickelodeon Orders Third Season of "Yo Gabba Gabba!"

The Hollywood Reporter is stating that Nickelodeon has signed up for a third season of Yo Gabba Gabba! No word was given on how many episodes will be included in the order or when they will come on the air.

"Monsters vs. Aliens" Impact on 3-D; Fox Balks at Covering Glasses

Reuters has taken a look at what the success of Monsters vs. Aliens will have on 3-D in movie theaters, considering how much of the movie's box office take came from 3-D screenings. Out of the movie's final $59.3m take, $33m came from 3-D screenings.

Elsewhere, however, Fox told exhibitors that it will not assist in paying for the 3-D glasses for the new projection systems, according to a report in the Hollywood Reporter.

Michael Caine calls Christian Bale's Terminator meltdown 'out of character'

Michael Caine, who co-starred in three movies with Christian Bale, told a group of reporters that Bale's highly publicized outburst on the set of Terminator Salvation was unlike the Bale he knows. Bale shouted obscenities at a cinematographer who walked through the shot during a take.

"That stunned me, that did, because he's not like that at all," Caine said in a group interview on Tuesday in Beverly Hills, Calif., where he was promoting the drama Is Anybody There? "I mean, I'm more like that than he is. You're liable to get [worse] off of me if you walk around screwing up my takes, but I would never imagine Christian doing that. It's completely out of character. I was stunned when I saw it on the news."

Indeed, Caine remembers a far worse outburst of his own, which was not leaked in the media back in 1970. "I lost my temper on a movie years ago," he said. "I was doing a movie called The Last Valley, and James Clavell was the director. I'm not a very good horseman, and I told them, and they put me on this horse that they knew was a killer. It ran away with me for two miles, and I brought it back at a slow pace. Then I got off, and all the unit were laughing. Then I started, and I outdid Christian by about 30 minutes with more language than he knew."

Director Clavell then taught Caine a lesson he implements some 30 years later. "James Clavell broke the crew for an hour and said, 'Let's have a cup of tea,'" Caine said. "So we went and had a cup of tea. James Clavell was captured in Hong Kong when he was 14 by Japanese and spent the first part of his life in a Japanese prison camp. He said to me, 'The way I survived is I became Japanese in mentality. So I knew where they were coming from in their treatment of us, and I knew where I should be. The one thing the Japanese never do is they never lose their temper, because anger is an emotion that you should never show to strangers because you expose too much of yourself. You must never expose yourself like that to strangers.' He gave me this long lecture on the Japanese and anger, and I have never lost my temper on a set since. I go home and scream at the kids, but I've never lost my temper on a set since."

With that in mind, Caine has not yet had a chance to reach out to his Batman and Prestige co-star. Bale should expect an earful next time they meet. "I haven't seen him since," Caine said. "No. When I meet him, I'm going to say, 'What the f--k are you doing?'"

Michael Caine, who plays Alfred the Butler in the current Batman series, told a group of reporters that he expects to be called for a third film, but not for a while. Director Christopher Nolan has expressed doubts about completing his trilogy ever since The Dark Knight broke box office records and won awards unheard of for genre films.

The following Q&A features edited excerpts of a group interview on Tuesday in Beverly Hills, Calif., where Caine was promoting the drama
Is Anybody There?

Do you expect there to be a third Batman?

Well, Christopher is doing a picture called Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio, which I saw on the Internet. So I imagine another Batman is quite a long way away.

Aren't you signed for three?

Oh, yeah. If they do another, I'll probably be the butler. I hope I'm still alive. Michael Gough, who played Alfred before me, the last time he played Alfred he was 84.

Didn't Nolan do a movie in between Batman films last time?

He did. I was in that, too, The Prestige. Christopher doesn't make pictures without me.

So do you think he'll come around to doing another Batman this time?

I would imagine so, and that would probably be The Riddler.

That'll be a tough act to follow after Heath Ledger's Joker.

Yeah, I thought it would be a tough act to follow anybody who did Joker after Jack Nicholson. Now Heath is the Joker. We'll see. We'll see.

What did Ledger's Oscar victory mean to you?

Oh, I thought it was very important for his family as well. I was a big fan of his from the first time I met him. I had never met him before, and I met him on the set where he invades our party we're having, and I'm standing by the lift. I expect to greet people, and then all his gang's behind him. He came in, but before that, I'd met obviously on the set, and we were chatting. He had this makeup on, and I was saying how fantastic I thought it was. We were just chatting quietly, and then they said, "We're ready to shoot." I had never seen the performance. We were just talking. Then he came out of the elevator, and I was absolutely stunned by that, the way he did it, and the energy that went into it. Then when I saw the movie, there's an opening monologue and a closing monologue that he does. I thought if anybody's going to better that and get an Academy Award above him, I will pay good money to see that. And nobody did beat him. I'm so pleased.

Bryan Fuller is honest about why Heroes sucked and why it won't

That seemed to be the general consensus when Fuller's colorful fantasy opus, ABC's Pushing Daisies, was canceled and he moved back to NBC's superhero series, on which he had previously worked on season one (he was credited with one of the season's best episodes, "Company Man").

NBC quickly snatched him up. Now, in an exclusive interview, the creative producer/writer speaks to SCI FI Wire about returning to the fold, why he thought the show lost its way and where Heroes is heading. The following Q&A features edited excerpts of our interview. Heroes airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

When it was announced you were returning to Heroes, a lot of headlines boasted you would be saving the series. Did you feel that pressure? aAnd how's that going for you?

I didn't really feel any pressure, because I love this show, cast and crew. As an audience member, I could see the issues and why people were frustrated with it. At least I felt I was jumping on the pendulum when it was back on the upswing. To be honest, I was absolutely "I'll be right over," and they sent me the episodes that completed the "Villains" arc. After I finished watching them, I wasn't sure I could do this. I didn't recognize the show anymore. It had become something else entirely. My favorite characters had become my least favorite, and there was a second I thought I had to get out of this. Then I started reading the "Fugitives" scripts, and I thought it was picking up again. There were some stumbles along the way, where it started to get muddy, but I was more inspired.

So coming back in, what did you want to accomplish?

I just really wanted to get everything back to a character base. I think character was shoved aside for plot. The second year with the virus was interesting, but then it got complicated and techno-babbly. With "Villains," it started out interesting and then became about formula. When they started talking about how we were injected with our powers and it became sci-fi ghetto storytelling, I became disconnected. Mohinder went from a noble scientist to being a mad scientist with Jeff Goldblum hair and wardrobe. Claire became so strident and unlikable because she was just whining, bitching and holding a gun. I was just concerned the wheel had been jerked so sharply in the wrong direction with what had worked about the first season, which was ordinary people with extraordinary powers. Everything ordinary about their lives went out the window, and everything was extraordinary. That was my frustration.

In season one, you really found Claire and HRG's voices, but recently in "Cold Snap," Tracy Strauss seemed to be your new muse, except you shattered her into little fragments. Is that the last we've seen of her?

Oh, no. There was a lot of debate over whether she's winking, but no, she's not winking. She's blinking, and a tear comes down. There was miscommunication with the visual effects, where you were only supposed to see one of her eyes. It was definitely a blink and a shedding of a tear. Tracy comes back in a really big way later on in the season. That was one of the things where it was like "Is she going to come back as Barbara now?" I was thinking "Can we please not do Barbara because that's another sci-fi ghetto storytelling element with clones. How many Ali Larters are there?" I wish there were dozens, because I'm a fan of hers, but watching Ali in the first season, you know what she's really capable of.

Where would you like to see Tracy go in the future then?

The journey is about getting Tracy's humanity back. What she learned from her encounter with Micah/Rebel made a huge impact on her. She is going to be following that through-line the next season. There is that realization she has been approaching politics from the wrong angle. In the fourth year, Tracy will have a new perspective that may not be right, but it's more understandable than before.

Can you tease viewers about the remaining episodes this season?

There's actually a lot of really fun character work happening in the last four episodes that the writing staff is proud of. We'll see Matt retaliate against Danko in a very interesting way. We'll also see Sylar strike at the heart of HRG's life in a way that causes things for him to unravel. The episode after that is essentially "Company Man" for Angela Petrelli, where we'll be doing a flashback to her life in 1961 and the events that happened there, which really motivates who she is now. In episode 24, we get to the heart of Sylar's identity crisis, and we clearly understand what his agenda is, what he's after and who the people in his life are that made the biggest impact. Episode 25 is our big finale.

Bay Pushing the Limits of VFX for Transformers 2

Variety has published a new article talking about how director Michael Bay is demanding things to be "awesome" for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Here's a clip:

"Michael took the production value up many, many notches," he says. "Just the backgrounds alone are huge. It's a combination of 'Apocalypse Now' and 'Ben-Hur,' in regards to fantastic backgrounds and the unbelievable sets we worked at around the world."

Everyone involved in
"Revenge of the Fallen" is keeping the details under wraps, but Farrar says there are some 60 robot characters, and they play in settings around the world. Some, like refineries at night, were chosen to boost the visual drama and show off the scale of the giant 'bots.

What's more, this time the Transformers will interact much more with the world around them. Farrar highlights "the splashes and the hits and the fighting on dirt or moving, banging into trees," explaining, "Things splinter and break, they spit, they outgas, they sweat, they snort."

Check out the full article here!

Titmouse Games Sets Sail on the Seven Haunted Seas

Titmouse Inc, the Hollywood-based animation studio that produces Metalocalypse, has officially ventured into the gaming world. With Titmouse Games, the studio continues down the path set in motion with their eye-popping work on the in-game cinematics for the Guitar Hero games. The first game you’ll see is Seven Haunted Seas, which they describe as “a dark comedic tale about an undead pirate.” Check out the teaser below, which was animated in Flash at the hands of Allison Craig. So avast what ye are doing, and point yer eyes below:

Artists and the Law

At last night's TAG General Membership meeting, attorney Tifanie Jodeh of California Lawyers for the Arts held forth about things artists should know when they put their creations out into the marketplace.

(What follows are Hulett's notes from the talk. So let's not anybody think they're verbatim.)

A copyright is legal protection for written work, and covers books, scripts, treatments, or even a paragraph, anything written. A copyright generally takes a year to obtain from the government copyright office.

It generally takes a year to obtain copyright.

The minimum you should do to obtain protection for a written work is:

* - If it's screenplay-related material, register the work with the WGAw.

* - Complete and mail an application for copyright to the U.S. Copyright Office, sent by certified mail to the copyright office.

* - You can also send a copy of the work by certified mail to the Library of Congress or yourself.

A patent is legal protection for an invention or software code that must be specific and unique in character. To qualify for a patent the developer would need to create something new and different from what's come before. (If it were a new program code, for instance, it would need to be significantly different from the program it was attached to.) The U.S. Patent Office requires that new programs pass the "original and different" test to earn a patent.

A trademark is legal protection for a logo, and generally takes 1 1/2 to 2 years to obtain from the government.

Copyright can be owned by individuals or multiple people. If their are multiple owners, the best way to accomplish joint ownership is to set upa company that owns the copright, and then have two or more people own the company.

If you own the copyright of a work and pitch it to a production company, the company respects that because they like to know who owns the chain of copyright. It makes the purchase of a project cleaner and simpler for them, because they will probably be purchasing copyright when they buy the property. (They could also license the property. When that's the case, at some point the rights would revert to the copyright owner[s].)

When someone is optioning a book to develop a property, contact the author's agent or publishing company. It will usually mean paying money for an option. Many times, a person can do a Google search to find out who owns the rights, and if the work has been optioned already.

When rights haven't been cleared, the person developing the property walks a gray line, using something that hasn't been licensed.

To find out if an older work has fallen into the Public Domain (which makes it available for anyone to use), check with the copyright office.

Companies generally shy away from works or projects for which the rights haven't been cleared.

When an artist creates an image from another image, and it's recognizable that the latter image is derived from the earlier one, then it's good to perform due diligence and locate the rights holder -- check web sites, attempt to track and contact the original creator or owner -- and be ready to show that you've made a serious attempt to discover the ownership of the rights. (The Obama "Hope" poster was cited as an example of this.)

When you're employed by a studio, anything that you create for a studio that they've paid for, belongs to that studio. When you work for a studio under a Personal Service Contract, and that contract stipulates that any work you do is owned by the company, it's a good idea to negotiate "carve outs" for projects that you are creating during non-working hours. ("Carve outs" are projects excluded from studio ownership.)

When copyrighting fine art, put a © and your name after everything. When art is being posted on-line, embed a copyright notice in the image. It's good to do as much as possible to protect yourself as much as possible. Once the copyright is officially registered, if it's practical to do so change the © to an ®.

If you believe that a company has taken your image or idea (script, treatment, etc.) without paying for the rights, send a copy of the work to the company along with a letter stating "If you don't want to use this, send it back," so that there is a record. Be a squeaky wheel.

(A few months ago, Facebook tried to change their terms of service to say that anything a Facebook participant uploads onto the Facebook site is owned by Facebook. After a huge outcry, they rescinded the rules. It's doubtful that Facebook could have gotten away with it if they'd made an effort.)

If an idea is developed by an artist that uses a company's copyrighted character, the creator would need to secure permission in writing from the company, or buy rights for the use of that character.

There's usually no need to put dates on the copyright notice for artwork, but dates would be needed for scripts, and treatments for reality shows.

When a studio employee is making a presentation at a studio pitch session, they should ask the producer or executive about who owns the idea pitched, who the rights belong to, etc. (Be clear before going in.)

It's always good to do everything you can do to protect your ideas. When dealing with companies, you'll be able to keep more rights and percentages if you have more leverage.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Burton’s Alice Getting IMAX 3-D Release

Disney’s upcoming live-action Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton, will be released in IMAX 3-D simultaneously with its standard release on March 5, 2010.

The IMAX 3-D version will be digitally re-mastered and will be the third in a five-film release agreement signed by IMAX and Disney in November. The remastering process will use the IMAX Digital Re-Mastering Technology to achieve the highest quality image and sound quality.

The movie stars Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen and Mia Wasikowska as Alice. It also stars Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover and Alan Rickman.

Homer licked into shape as Simpsons stamped out

The Fox hit series "The Simpsons" will be commemorated on 44-cent first-class mail stamps this year, the United States Postal Service and Twentieth Century Fox Licensing and Merchandising announced Wednesday.

Featuring the iconic Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson, the stamps have been personally designed by Simpsons creator and executive producer Matt Groening.

A sneak peek of the stamps will be made available at 8 a.m. ET on Thursday, April 9 on At that time, the Postal Service will announce the date the stamps go on sale and how to pre-order stamps.

The Postal Service receives about 50,000 stamp suggestions per year, yet only about 20 topics make the cut for circulation.

"This has been a dream for Fox and The Simpsons creative teams for some time, and we are very proud to have been granted this honor. The timing couldn't be better as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the show," said Elie Dekel, executive vice-president of Fox Licensing and Merchandising.

Winner of 24 Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and a multitude of other accolades, this historic series featuring the five family members is currently the longest-running primetime comedy in television history. It's celebrating its 20th anniversary, culminating on January 14, 2010.

Stamp collector Homer Simpson soon will appear on stamps himself.

FX Gets TV Rights for Animated DreamWorks Films

The Associated Press reports that that FX Networks has struck a licensing agreement with DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures to air animated films that are released from 2008 to 2012 including the hit films Kung Fu Panda, and Monsters Vs. Aliens.

Also included in the package is the upcoming Kung Fu Panda sequel and Shrek Goes Fourth, the fourth film featuring the green ogre.

Near-finished X-Men Origins: Wolverine print leaked online

X-Men Origins: Wolverine, one of this summer's most highly anticipated films, was leaked online today in what appears to be a near-finished DVD-quality rip, marred only by a few unfinished effects shots, HitFix reported today.

According to Drew McWeeny, "I looked at a random three minute segment from the middle of the film this afternoon when first told it was online, and there's no timecode, no watermark ... nothing. It's a clean, perfect copy. Someone did that on purpose."

X-Men Origins: Wolverine, directed by by Gavin Hood, stars Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Kitsch,, Danny Huston, Dominic Monaghan, Daniel Henney and Lynn Collins.

Assuming that 20th Century Fox is successful in its attempts to have the print removed from file-sharing sites, you'll have to wait until the film's official May 1 opening to see it.

[UPDATE: Fox said Wednesday that it had the copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine removed, but copies quickly propagated and continue to appear on several file-sharing Web sites. Fox vowed in a statement that the source of the "stolen, incomplete and early version" of the movie would be prosecuted and said the FBI and MPAA are investigating. The studio also insisted that the version of the film posted online was "was without many effects, had missing and unedited scenes and temporary sound and music," according to the Associated Press.]

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