Monday, April 27, 2009

News - 04/27/09...

Animation Stimulus Package Party

A mysterious flyer’s been traveling through the NY Animation community. I’m not sure who’s running this, but this is what they had to say -

“Hey Hey! This is an all point bulletin for all in the NYC animation community. Attached is a poster with the details of the animation party on May 6th. Join in on the wacky, mad-ball hi jinx. Spread the word, in case I forgotten anyone. Hope to see you all there!”

The flyer’s a little hard to decipher so here’s the details:

Wednesday, May 6th
2nd on 2nd, 2nd Street and 2nd Avenue
Food, drinks, karaoke, reminiscing, networking with the whole New York City Animation crew

(Thanks asifaeast)

April 28 – May 02 The BE Film Underground Film Festival

Tons of NY Animators will be featured in this festival, among them Elliot Cowan, Carolyn and Andy London, Signe Baumane, Bill Plympton, Adam Ansorge, Willy Hartland, Alex Budovsky, and The Rauch Brothers. Please forgive us if we left anyone out. Enjoy the festival!!

Tickets to the BE Underground Film Festival are available via the website and are beautifully priced:

(Thanks asifaeast)

Careers in Animation – Free Panel

Careers in Animation – Free Panel to be Presented
by Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting,
School of Visual Arts and Branscome International

On Tuesday, May 5, the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, in conjunction with the School of Visual Arts and Branscome International, will host Careers in Animation, an intimate look inside the world of animation, presented at the SVA Theater on West 23rd Street. The panel is free and open to the public.

Careers in Animation will offer students and interested New Yorkers the chance to hear first hand accounts from a talented selection of New York City artists working in different media (film, television, digital content) in animation. The discussion, moderated by Associate Commissioner Julianne Cho, will feature a conversation with Academy Award nominated animator Bill Plympton as well as discourse from a panel of animators and industry experts, who will talk about their specific fields and offer career advice to the audience. A Q&A session will follow.

Panelists for Careers in Animation include:

Bill Plympton – Feature Film Animator, Idiots and Angels, Hair High, Mutant Aliens, I Married A Strange Person, The Tune; two time Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Short Film, Guard Dog and Your Face

Aaron Augenblick – Animator, Wonder Showzen; Founder, Augenblick Studios; Writer and Director, Golden Age

Debra Solomon – Animator, Mrs. Matisse, Everybody’s Pregnant; Creator and Director of the animated alter ego in Disney’s Lizzie McGuire series

David Levy – Author, Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive; President, Association International du Film d’Animation (ASIFA East); Animation Director, Blues Clues and Pinky Dinky Doo

Catherine Branscome – Founder, Branscome International, a NYC-based sales agency and producers rep firm specialized in animation

Norma Toroya – Commercial Animator, Curious Pictures, clients include Nike and United Airlines

“This panel serves as the perfect opportunity for New York City to highlight an important sector in our entertainment industry,” said Katherine Oliver, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting. “Through initiatives like our career panel series and the ‘Made in NY’ Production Assistant Training Program, we are working to ensure that a diverse group of New Yorkers have access to the positions created by our thriving entertainment industry.” For more information about these programs, visit

The panel begins at 8pm. Doors open at 7:30 pm. Seating is limited and available on a first come, first served basis. RSVP to by Friday, May 1, 2009. The panel will take place at the SVA Theater, 333 West 23rd Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, Manhattan.

(Thanks asifaeast)

ASIFA-East Panel Discussion on the State of NY Animation Industry

On Wednesday April 22, ASIFA-East held a panel discussion about the current state of the New York Animation industry. Moderated by the lovely Linda Beck, the main contributors were Steven Conner, Howard Beckerman, David Levy, David Wachtenheim, and, via email, Linda Simensky. All of which are pretty heavy names in New York animation so going into this discussion I expected some deep and meaningful words of advice and perhaps some reassurance for the Big Apple. I wasn’t disappointed, though I can’t say that the main topics were surprising or new. Perhaps my own paranoia for my immediate job future has made this entire topic the forefront of too many of my own industry related conversations.

I just wanted to sum up some main points covered Wednesday that should be kept in mind here. All four main panelists made it clear that the New York animation scene has been geared towards mostly preschool/young children’s television and commercial work. Even as we dip into what could be considered a “depression”, larger productions in New York will still be working in this demographic. Beckerman made it a point to remind the audience that it is “not as bad as you think”. That in due time things will come back to New York or someone will pitch something and as the economy slowly comes back up from this ditch we will see a larger variety in the type of TV shows being produced in Gotham. Linda Simensky then adds via email that the animation industry is very cyclical and given enough time will come back to where it was say 15-20 months ago.

Going to the topic of pitching, Steven Conner and Dave Levy had a bit to touch on. Conner reminded the audience that as you are making a pitch for a new series or web project try to keep in mind the way in which the whole project will be executed. As you’re planning your strategy think to yourself “How can I keep this on budget, keep it here[new york], and how many of my friends would it take to do this?”. David Wachtenheim mentions also that there is no telling for sure what companies want or are looking for, they hear so many pitches with so many similarities that standing out in the crowd is a tiring effort. Levy then made a point that if you’re investing yourself into a project that it doesn’t hurt to do a little more to get your idea across. His example was just doing a quick walk cycle in Flash of a character he was interested in working with - the reaction he got was such overwhelming praise and positivity that it helped sell his concept or just get the job. Making yourself available to go to pitch meetings is important. Even if they say ‘thanks but not thanks’ at least you’re making a new connection and as some point someone will bite. In the very least they will keep you in mind for other projects down the line.

Howard Beckerman indulged the room with several tales of New York animated yore to make the point that animators in this city need to wear many hats. Even if you enjoy making films and want to make a living doing what you love, it occasionally doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes you have to make greeting cards (in Beckerman’s case). Beckerman also mentions that the internet is a sure thing in terms of where to look for the future of animation. I would like to add that there is a growing demand for web based work, viral advertisement, and design. The whole problem with the web is that there is no clear formula for making money creating content for the web. I can’t say the animation industry is alone on this one. The television and music industry have been searching high and low to figure this one out and when they do I’m sure we will all have some emptier pockets or perhaps better paying freelance web work.

This all can be summed up by keeping your ear to the ground and keeping an open mind in terms of where to look for the next job. Keep your skills fresh and even if you aren’t currently at work you should still keep working. There is no telling where the next big break will come from for each individual artist. Creating personal films in your own home is the best part of the digital revolution so its best to just keep swimming till the next wave gives you a little ride. - Or you can just take the advice of Howard Beckerman and..

(Thanks asifaeast)

Barker’s Runaway Pulls into Cannes

Canadian animator Cordell Barker’s latest short Runaway will make its world premiere at the 48th Intl. Critics’ Week at Cannes (May 14-22). The fast-paced offering from Barker, who is best known for his hugely popular, Oscar-nominated short The Cat Came Back (1988) and also for Strange Invaders (2001), centers on an out-of-control driverless train and the manic struggle among its passengers as they prepare for the impending disaster.

The madcap action is accompanied by the music of Benoit Charest, who also composed the Oscar-nominated music for Sylvain Chomet’s The Triplets of Belleville. Barker’s nine-minute short is produced by Derek Mazur out of the National Film Board of Canada’s Prairie Center in Winnipeg.

You can view clips and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Runaway at

"Maude," "Golden Girls" star Beatrice Arthur dies

Tall, deep-voiced actress Beatrice "Bea" Arthur, the star of hit TV sitcoms Maude and The Golden Girls, died Saturday at 86.

She died peacefully at her Los Angeles home with her family at her side, said family spokesman Dan Watt, her personal assistant for six years. Arthur had cancer, he said, declining to give further details.

"She was a brilliant and witty woman. Bea will always have a special place in my heart."

Known for her sharp-tongued delivery, Arthur guested in the 2001 Futurama episode Amazon Women In The Mood as Femputer, a female computer worshipped by the giant women of Planet Amazonia, who sentences Fry and the rest of the guys of the Planet Express ship to death.

She also appeared in Nelvana's notorious partly animated The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) as Ackmena. Animation appeared as a 12-minute sequence (produced by George Lucas as a test for a possible Star Wars animated film) during this special.

Born Bernice Frankel in New York on May 13, 1922, she first appeared on the famed comedy series All in the Family as Edith Bunker's loud and liberal cousin Maude Finley. As Archie Bunker's foil, she proved so popular that Norman Lear gave Arthur her own series.

Beatrice Arthur is survived by her sons and two granddaughters. No funeral services are planned.

"The Real Place" gets 6 Alberta award nominations

"The Real Place," Cam Christiansen's animated short created to honor Alberta playwright John Murrell on his lifetime achievement award from the Governor General of Canada, earned six nominations at this year's Alberta Film and Television Awards, which is hosted by the Alberta Motion Picture Industries Association.

The Alberta Film and Television Awards, also called the "Rosie Awards," is AMPIA's annual celebration that honors production excellence. It's known as "Alberta's Highest Honour."

Produced by the National Film Board of Canada, the film is up for Best Short, Best Screenwriter, Non-fiction under 30 minutes (Blake Brooker), Best Narrator (John Murrell), Best Original Musical Score, Non-fiction (Dewi Wood), Best Animator or Motion Capture Graphic Artist (Cam Christensen) and Best Director, Non-fiction under 30 (Cam Christiansen).

Also nominated for Best Animator or Motion Capture Graphic Artist are Aaron Bilawchuk, John Cameron and Kevin Dryden for Shaw Snailskis (White Iron Digital); Ken Bitz for Mobil Heartbeats (Solid Green); Bitz and Jason Lavoie for Toyota ViewMaster (Solid Green); Kim Clegg, Christine Weidlich, Jeremy Webb, Jeff LeDrew, Ryan Malmo-Harper for The Greatest Auto Race on Earth (Frame 30 Productions) and Kirk Hutton, Trevor Sieben and Joe Raffa for (Plastic Thought Studios).

The awards ceremony takes place Saturday, May 2.

Wall Street Journal on William Kentridge @ SF Museum of Modern Art

The Wall Street Journal has profiled animator William Kentridge and the exhibition of his work currently on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The profile notes Kentridge's art as a statement against the apartheid policies of his native South Africa and discusses the artwork and short films on display as part of the exhibition.

"William Kentridge: Five Themes" will be on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art until May 31, 2009. For more details, visit the SF MOMA website.

Student Beats Pros for Golden Flamingo at 2009 South Beach Int'l Animation Film Fest

The California Chronicle has profiled Lauren Kimball, a college senior whose animated short film "Perchance to Dream" beat out professionals (including a submission from Aardman Animation Studios) to win the Golden Flamingo award in the Viewer's Choice category at the 2009 South Beach International Animation Film Festival. "Perchance to Dream" is based on Kimball's memories of Lolita, a killer whale that has lived in captivity for 40 years at the Miami Seaquarium. More information about the movie can be found at Kimball's website; the trailer is embedded below.

NY Times on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' 25th Anniversary

The New York Times City Room weblog has taken note of the 25th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which will incorporate a national tour starting in New York City (including a screening of the first Turtles movie at the Tribeca Film Festival). The full article chronicles how Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird took a tiny black-and-white comic book and turned it into a massive pop culture sensation.

THE AUTHORITY's Warren Ellis Visits Grisly PG-13-ish Death Upon The Cartoon Network Via G.I. JOE: RESOLUTE!!

Somebody at Hasbro had the idea of creating of PG-13 animated “G.I. Joe” movie – and hiring to write it the brilliant funnybook writer and novelist Warren Ellis (“The Authority,” “Global Frequency,” “Planetary,” “Astonishing X-Men,” “Ignition City,” “Mek,” “Red,” “Reload,” “Iron Man: Extremis,” “newuniversal,” “Ultimate Fantastic Four,” “Ultimate Galactus,” “Ocean,” “Orbiter,” “Jack Cross,” “Ministry of Space,” “Fell,” “Gravel,” “Dark Blue,” “Scars,” “Wolfskin,” “Blackgas,” “FreakAngels,” “No Hero”).

It’s super-extra violent, with literally millions of people meeting unpleasant ends just in its first 15 minutes. Many viewers are already hailing “Resolute” as the best episode of “G.I. Joe” every concocted. Having never seen another episode, I am willing to take their word for it!

The whole thing hits the Cartoon Network at 11:59 p.m. Saturday night but chunks of it have been pouring into the Internet all week. (If the YouTube embeds below deactivate, Americans are encouraged to head over to the AdultSwim website.

In a 2006 post owned and copyrighted by Warren Ellis, the writer offers some background on the project:

Okay, I meant to get around to this several weeks ago. But, you know, working for a living, etc.

So I wrote what we call a "micro-series" called
GI JOE: RESOLUTE. (This has been misreported elsewhere as GI JOE ABSOLUTE, which may give aid and comfort to the people at Hasbro who weren’t wild about the title!) It’s an hour long, broken into ten 5-minute episodes and one 10-minute final episode.

It went like this. Sam Register phoned me up and said, we’d really like you to write a GI JOE animation, at a PG-13 rating, aimed at an older viewer. I said, I’ve never seen a
GI JOE cartoon in my life. The closest I got to a GI JOE comic was drinking with Larry Hama. I’ve never even seen a GI JOE. Couldn’t tell you what they look like if you paid me. I know nothing about GI JOE. It is meaningless in my world.

Excellent, Sam said. Just the guy we need.

It was hard not to notice, at this point, that Sam Register is crazier than a shithouse rat. Therefore I decided to take the job.

I was told, some time after I finished the job, that GI JOE is actually kind of similar to Action Man. "Why didn’t they SAY so?" I yelled. Eagle Eyes! Gripping Hands! The Red Devil Action Man who had a hideous accident in a tree during a parachute op in my back garden when I was three years old. The mutilated Action Man whom my grandad found in a lay-by and thereby became default Torture Sequence Action Man for several years. Ah, the 1970s, where setting action figures on fire in the woods was considered part of a healthy childhood.

"Ask them if GI JOE and Barbie can have a really disturbing sex scene where they get naked and then realise they don’t have any genitalia," said my girlfriend.

Everyone was so helpful during this project.


So my brief was to produce a non-tiny-child-oriented
GI JOE. Which necessitated reading just a toxic amount of research, leading me to birth an odd, lumpy, normal-for-Norfolk-looking hybrid of the comic and the cartoon. The idea was, as I understand it, that bringing in a writer with absolutely no nostalgia for the property would give them the tone they were looking for. I think they were happy when I presented them with the initial list of characters I was going to just kill. And then the list of things I was going to blow up.

The people at Hasbro were actually remarkably supportive. And I did apologise after shouting at them those times. And they did give me one of those conversations that you never really expect to have when growing up:

HASBRO: No, Warren, you cannot wipe Beijing from the face of the earth.

S**t. (pause) What about Moscow?

HASBRO: Wiping Moscow from the face of the earth would be fine.

The point was to write an hour-long story that really put the property and the characters through some s**t changes: as if this were the
GI JOE film (at the time of my writing RESOLUTE, there still wasn’t a locked script on the live-action film) and I was rebooting and re-grounding the property on my own. These sort of gigs are immense technical challenges, and really sharpen up some skills I wouldn’t ordinarily use.

One other error in the reportage I’ve seen: someone mentioned Lady Jaye in connection with
RESOLUTE. Lady Jaye is not actually in RESOLUTE. Scarlett is the female lead on the Joe side of the story, I guess, although there is another female character on the new Joe team with a significant role. Two probably-beloved characters die in the first five minutes. Snake-Eyes gets to impale someone while travelling at a hundred miles an hour. Cobra Commander isn’t very funny any more. Although, really, given that his uniform includes wearing a bag over his head, there are limits to how unfunny he can be at any given time.

RESOLUTE will be screened on the web first, I believe, sometime in 2009.

Hasbro, as I say, were pretty easy to work with, especially given the things I was doing to their toys. The animation team were lovely people, and I’m hoping I get to work with crazy Sam Register again in the future.

I asked Ellis if there was any talk of a sequel or a series. “Not to me,” was his disappointing reply.

11:59 p.m. Saturday. Cartoon Network.

(Thanks Aint It Cool)

Like Jeffrey K. Cares

One of the dumber recent articles.

... [D]espite the life lessons kids have learned from Shrek and Kung Fu Panda over the years, people have come to think of Pixar as the "good for you" studio, despite the fact that there is still a fair amount of moral and educational value in many of Dreamworks' "for a good time" movies ...

The frustrating thing is that the Dreamworks movies share many of these elements. But they also have fart jokes and pop culture references, and that seems to prevent them from getting the respect they deserve ...

I'm sure Mr. Katzenberg is devastated. I'm sure Mr. Katzenberg weeps bitter tears ...

Kung Fu Panda
Production cost: $130 million
Worldwide gross: $631,908,951

Production cost: $180 million
Worldwide Gross: $534,767.889

...all the way to Fort Knox.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

While We're On The Subject ...

... of various animated product, Box Office Mojo does some dandy comparsons with dandy interactive charts between the 'Toon empires.

DreamWorks Animation vs. DreamWorks Animation

Monsters Vs. Aliens -- production budget: $175 million -- domestic gross: $166.3 million ...
Madagascar 2 -- production budget: $150 million -- domestic gross: $180 million

March Animation Madness

Horton Hears a Who -- domestic gross: $154.5 million
Meet the Robinsons -- domestic gross: $97.8 million ...

Animation Action

Star Wars: The Clone Wars -- domestic gross: $35.1 million
TMNT -- domestic gross: $54.1 million ...

Sure, it's comparing pictures by box office, but it's the only sane way to do it.

Otherwise, you have nerds, professionals and general-interest fans yelling at each other about which movie is best. And as the Romans tell us: De gustibus non est disputandum.

That's why horrid, disgusting moolah is the only concrete scorecard. All else is disputable opinion.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Obsessive Box Office

A new contingent of moving pictures occupies the upper reaches of Friday's box office.

Critics defecate on it, but Obsessed claws its way through the guano to land at Numero Uno, courtesy of a big female demographic. Meantime, Fighting slugs away at #2 ...

Monsters Vs. Aliens glides down to #7, where it's collected another two million dollars for a new running total of $168.2 million domestic ...

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

My Favorite “Hurt” Gag

It’s been acknowledged by the creators of The Simpsons that the blood-thirsty antics of Itchy and Scratchy were inspired less by Tom & Jerry and more by the violent situations of Herman and Katnip. By the 1950s, the writers at Paramount’s Famous Studios were suffering from cartoon fatigue — endlessly rewriting and redrawing the same tired stories for Popeye, Casper, Baby Huey et al. for years on end. The Herman and Katnip pictures were pure cat-chasing-mice opuses, which were by now running on auto-pilot, and got progressively more and more violent as the years went by.

The cartoons have what I call “Shemp syndrome” - it’s the same problem the Three Stooges shorts of the 50s had - they forgot what was funny about slapstick in the first place. The filmmakers just knew that “hurt gags” worked, so they upped the “hurt”, figuring it’ll be funnier. The results were less funny and more painful, and often in horrible taste.

Embedded below is the last 90 seconds from Mouseum (1956) which features my all-time favorite bad-taste ending. I love it. It makes me laugh because of how wrong it is. By this time, the animators had really lost all perspective.

Here’s the set-up: Katnip is chasing Herman and his cousins through a natural history museum.

What follows next is pure genius: The cat chases the mouse into a stuffed elephant’s head. Katnip sticks a rifle into the elephant’s trunk and Herman, using super-human strength, bends the rifle to aim it back towards Katnip. His gunshot blast blows the elephant’s glass eyes into Katnip’s head! The eyes fall from his head and the cat thinks the eyeballs are his! He shoves them into his eye sockets making himself blind… he goes running into the street blindly, as Herman and the mice laugh at his handicap. Iris out.

Quentin Tarantino would be proud.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Pixar's Partly Cloudy

First clip from Pixar's short, Partly Cloudy, that will premiere with Up.

Peter Sohn talks Partly Cloudy

AWNtv has an exclusive interview with Peter Sohn, director of the latest Pixar short Partly Cloudy wherein he talks about the importance of Dumbo, his mother and animating clouds. The article includes illustrations and stills from the short along with an exclusive 30 second video preview. Be warned of the possible spoilers. Partly Cloudy will be presented in digital 3D in front of Pixar’s Up starting May 29.

Terrence Howard to Iron Man 2: Karma's a Bitch!

Safe to say Terrence Howard is still pissed about being bounced from Iron Man 2.

The Oscar-nominated star played superhero sidekick Lt. Col. James Rhodes opposite Robert Downey Jr. in the original blockbuster. But then his Marvel bosses replaced Howard with Don Cheadle after a salary dispute.

"Marvel made a choice, and it was a very, very bad choice. They didn't keep their word. They didn't honor my contract," Howard tells Parade magazine. "They produced a great bounty with the first one but they put it all in the storehouse and you were not allowed in.

"They did the same thing with Gwyneth Paltrow, from what I've been told. They did with almost everyone except Robert Downey. One of the things that actors need to learn to do is always stick together, one for all and all for one."

But he's not bitter or anything...

The 40-year-old Hustle & Flow star has a good reason to be angry, given that his character's role in the sequel is expected to expand, getting his own tricked-out suit to become the hero War Machine.

"I've seen the [Iron Man 2] script, I know what's going to happen, but I'm not revealing anything. I believe in karma. When someone does something wrong, you don't have to get them back. Everything right will return the favor for you."

Still, Howard harbors no ill will for Cheadle, who gave Howard one of the biggest breaks of his career by helping him land a part in 2004's Best Picture winner Crash.

"I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the movie," says Howard. "I want to see Don Cheadle become me. No, I want him to do better than me. That's what I really want to see. Don Cheadle was the reason I got Crash, so I have a lot of love for him."

Downey, Cheadle, Paltrow and the rest of the Iron Man 2 crew began shooting earlier this month. Howard is currently making the rounds promoting his new film, Fighting, which opened Friday.

Wolverine director Gavin Hood hints at easter eggs

Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool

Gavin Hood, director of the upcoming X-Men Origins: Wolverine, told reporters on Friday that the film would feature not one but two different easter eggs at the end of the film's credits. (Spoilers ahead!)

Introducing the film at a press screening in Los Angeles, Hood talked briefly about the differences between the finished version and the workprint that was leaked onto the Internet several weeks ago, and then revealed that different prints of Wolverine would feature different easter eggs hinting at possible future films and plot lines.

Marvel adaptations have established a tradition of including easter eggs, or small scenes or references to other characters within the comic-book universe. The end of X-Men: The Last Stand featured scenes hinting at the future of Professor X and Magneto. More recently, Iron Man prints were released that included scenes after the end credits featuring Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and The Incredible Hulk added a scene in which Robert Downey Jr. appears as Tony Stark.

In addition to announcing the easter eggs, Hood explained that the differences between the final version and the pirated workprint are significant: There were some 400 unfinished effects shots that are now completed, Harry Gregson-Williams' score is now in place, and the entire film is properly color-timed.

Hood did not, however, indicate whether there were differences in the story. That said, while he did not disclose what would be included in the easter eggs, the print of the film that reporters were shown featured a scene focused on Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and his possible fate. X-Men Origins: Wolverine opens May 1.

New Wolverine clip: 'I think we're gonna need new sheets'

Empire has posted a new clip from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which you can watch after the jump.

Hyper-real and very cool Star Wars art can be yours—for a price

Atlanta artist Christian Waggoner has created fine-art Star Wars paintings in a photo-realistic style that explore scenes from the movies in extreme close-ups of characters and the reflections in their helmets.

Waggoner is also known for his high-profile commissions of athletes from the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. More images are planned from
Star Wars
, and they are available in limited-edition prints for a price at ACME Archives Direct.

(Thanks to SlashFilm for the heads-up.)

5 things Heroes must do to deliver a killer season finale

Can Heroes redeem itself with Monday's season finale?

We all remember great season finales, such "Graduation Day," which ended the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with our heroes defeating the evil mayor of Sunnydale and blowing up the school. But also recall the unfortunate finales that were reviled, such as Star Trek: The Next Generation's second-season closer, "Shades of Gray," in which a lame plot about Riker being deathly ill became an excuse for a clip show.

Can the third season finale of
walk the fine line between these two extremes and deliver a conclusion that will satisfy viewers?

[Warning: Spoilers ahead.]

It can be difficult to pull off a great season finale. Current Heroes show runner Bryan Fuller would seem to agree. When he returned to the show in the middle of this season, he told SCI FI Wire that after he watched the end of the first arc of the season, "I didn't recognize the show anymore. It had become something else entirely." Fuller was viewing the show through the eyes of a viewer, and obviously feels that the show needs a good season finale to keep its audience.

Fuller did a good job in moving the rest of the season toward a satisfying finale. As Jason Hughes said at, "The stage is getting set for a climactic season finale." His point is well taken when we look at the many intriguing plot points that last week's episode, "I Am Sylar," left to be resolved.

Why did Sylar let Micah go? What will Micah do next as Rebel? What will be the fallout of the press conference Sylar staged as Nathan Petrelli? Why did the agents grab Mohinder? Why was Hiro unable to stop time at the end, and do his headache and nosebleed mean his powers are too dangerous for him to use? Will Matt Parkman escape with his ex-wife and baby son? Where were Noah Bennet, Claire Bennet and Angela Petrelli going when they got captured? What were they planning to do? What's going to happen to Denko, after he failed to kill Sylar? And, finally, does this mean that Sylar is now unstoppable?

For Heroes to deliver a kicker of a season finale, not only do all these questions need to be answered, but they need to be answered in a way that makes the audience want to come back in the fall. Bob Greenberger, ComicMix news editor and author of The Essential Batman Encyclopedia, feels that the writers may have written themselves into a corner: "There are so many threads this volume that wrapping them all in a tidy 60-minute package is nigh unto impossible."

It may not be impossible, provided the finale manages to do five things to convince viewers to come back:

The show needs to give Claire Bennet a happy ending.

Right now, rumors abound regarding which characters may die in the finale. But there are some characters whose deaths would probably alienate the audience beyond the point of recovery, and Claire's would be one of those. From the first season, viewers have just wanted to see Claire come to accept her abilities and be happy with them. Let's see a season finale where Claire finds herself in the warm embrace of her supportive adopted family.

The show needs to reduce Hiro's power levels.

Not everyone agrees. SF writer Paul Levinson, author of The Plot to Save Socrates, who routinely blogs about television and other media at Infinite Regress, says, "The time travel and teleportation of Hiro and now Ando, could use more emphasis—it has always been the single most exciting part of the show for me." As exciting as Hiro's powers are, however, making him the ultimate master of space and time was something of a mistake. It is difficult to create an equal challenge for a too-powerful hero without going overboard. Powering him down in the middle of the season worked well to show us that Hiro is a hero even without his abilities. So let's leave him with some time-manipulation abilities but kill the time travel. Otherwise, we might end up with another digression like the second-season visit to feudal Japan, which most viewers felt weakened the show.

As long as we're on the topic of characters being too powerful: Kill Sylar.

Yes, a show like Heroes needs a villain who can challenge the good guys, but Sylar's become too powerful. So how do we off him once and for all?

Have a big battle.

Miranda Thomas, one of the hosts of the popular Heroes podcast The Ninth, makes the point well when she says, "For the finale to be a success, I think it's time to give the viewers the big battle payoff that they have been craving. As fans we have seen the confrontations between 'good' and 'evil' in the prior seasons leave us wanting more. Season one had a great buildup, complete with a tease of a really knock-down-drag-out fight in 'Five Years Gone,' and I think the final episode gave us just a hint of how an epic battle between Sylar and the heroes could top off a season. Season two sort of gave us a whimper and a moan as it ended. This season we need the final battle to be gritty and bloody, where only the strong survive, in order to give it the comic-book feel that marked the first season and set us up for a clean slate come season four."

A clean slate is vital.

The fifth and final thing the finale needs to do is set up a new direction. For three seasons we've been told that people with abilities such as Hiro and Peter are heroes, but we haven't seen a lot of traditional heroics. Although earlier this season the show shied away from the idea that the heroes should come out publicly, there's only so much they can do with concealment and conspiracies. If the heroes reveal themselves to the world, we'll get a chance to see real heroics, the kind that Hiro would be proud of. And this wouldn't preclude some other evil conspiracy, with brand-new villains that our heroes could start to find out about over the next season.

Paul Levinson agrees with the need for a clean slate: "What Heroes needs for a satisfying ending is something which lifts the show out of the Feds hunting the heroes, which has been the theme most of this season—a leap that rekindles some of the magic which animated the show the first season. There was a sense of wonder that first year, which has been largely missing ever since."

Bob Greenberger puts it best: "To be satisfying, they really need to wrap this up tight, kill off some of the things that have dragged the series down and reset the status quo. They will need to end Sylar as being the one true threat and make certain we the audience know where each of the regulars are as we prepare for volume five."

So—will Heroes follow this formula for a successful season finale? We'll be watching along with you Monday night to find out the answer.

1 comment:

Coffee Maker said...

Thank goodness for Bea Arthur and the Golden Girls, if not for shows like that and the People's Court, etc. my summer's as a junior higher would have been even more dismally dull