Thursday, May 28, 2009

News - 05/29/09...

Up Looks to Soar at the Box Office

Animation fans can rejoice this weekend with the release of Pixar’s 10th feature film, Up.

The studio’s first 3-D film, directed by Pete Docter and rated PG, is expected to run away with the box office crown. It opens at more than 3,700 theaters. After dazzling the opening night audiences at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this month, the beautifully animated pic has been receiving spectacular reviews all over the world--it's current score is a an almost perfect 97% on Here is just a sampling of what some of the top critics are saying about the movie:

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times writes, "Rarely has any film, let alone an animated one powered by the logic of dream and fantasy, been able to move so successfully -- and so effortlessly -- through so many different kinds of cinematic territory." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly agrees, "As buoyant and richly tinted as the balloons that figure so prominently in its story, Up is also thoroughly grounded in real emotion and ideas of substance."

Unfortunately, Manohla Dargis, the curmudgeon in residence at The New York Times manages to inject some negative comments in her review. After counting all the visual and emotional virtues of the film and comparing its first 15 minutes of the film to the great classics of the silent era, she whines, "But much like Russell, the little boy with father problems, and much like Dug, the dog with master issues, the story starts to feel ingratiating enough to warrant a kick. O.K., O.K., not a kick, just some gently expressed regret."

A nice bit of counter-programming is the Sam Raimi-directed horror film Drag Me to Hell. Opening in just over 2,500 theaters, the PG-13-rated film has been getting solid reviews from critics who normally despise the genre. The film boasts great Boo! moments and a sly, humorous tone that balances the shock tactics quite well. Tippett Studio, ReThink VFX, i.e. Effects and Michael Kaelin & Assoc. are responsible for the pic's clever special effects.

Things get a bit crowded in holdover land, with last weekend’s victor, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian likely to feel Up’s bite the most. Terminator Salvation, Angels & Demons, Star Trek and X-Men Origins: Wolverine will likely fill out most of the top 10 slots.

Up may also signal the de facto end of the line for Monsters vs. Aliens. The DreamWorks Animation CG-animated film will likely lose most of its 3-D outlets to Up and finally get knocked out of the top ten after nine weeks in release.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Schoemann, Habibipour Join Titmouse

Animation and game studio Titmouse has added two executives to its roster.

Sam Schoemann joins the company as VP of sales and marketing. Schoemann brings more than two experience to the job, with his previous experience including stints with PBS, broadcast design and production company FUEL, Columbia TriStar International TV, Razorfish and Klasky Csupo,

Joining the company as creative director and head of Titmouse Games is Aaron Habibipour. During a decade in the gaming business, he has worked as a concept artist, storyboard artist, writer and producer. His games include Darkwatch, Gun, and the Guitar Hero series. He is also a published author and illustrator, working on trading card and board games and writing and editing the book The Art of Darkwatch and the Darkwatch graphic novel, which appeared in the May 2005 issue of Heavy Metal magazine.

Titmouse, founded by husband and wife team Shannon and Chris Prynoski, produces shorts, commercials, cartoons, and other animated works, while Titmouse Games primarily creates and produces video games and related media. Titmouse is currently producing its third season of Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

AT&T U-Verse Premiere New Wallace & Gromit in U.S.

The award-winning Aardman Animations short film Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death will premiere in the United States June 5 on the AT&T U-Verse TV service.

The short film will debut as a free video on demand until June 7, after which it can be rented for $4.

The release will be promoted with a series of free clips available starting June 1 on AT&T wireless devices through the CV-Video section and at the U-Verse customer web site.

The full lineup of Wallace & Gromit content available through U-Verse includes:

A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave short films. Available in the Wallace and Gromit Fun Pack (includes all three short films plus A Matter of Loaf and Death) for $7 in the U-verse TV On Demand library beginning June 8.

A Matter of Loaf and Death making-of documentary. A 22-minute documentary on the making of the latest Wallace and Gromit short film. Available for free in the U-verse TV On Demand library and on

Cracking Contraptions. A series of 10 two-minute short films featuring some of Wallace and Gromit’s most outrageous inventions. Available for free in the U-verse TV On Demand library, online at and on mobile handsets via CV.

A Matter of Loaf and Death trailer and clips from all the short films in the series will be available in the U-verse TV On Demand library, online at and on mobile handsets via CV.

“Aardman continues to embrace new and innovative ways for consumers to enjoy our work,” said Robin Gladman, Digital Content Manager at Aardman Animations. “Digital platforms are now an integral part of getting Aardman productions to audiences worldwide. AT&T is a fantastic example of this and sets a new standard with the U.S premiere of the critically acclaimed A Matter of Loaf and Death on a digital platform."

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Up’s Del Carmen to Appear at Gallery Nucleus

Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, Calif., will host a special appearance Saturday, May 30, by Ronnie del Carmen, who was story supervisor and lead story artist on the new Pixar movie Up.

Del Carmen will appear to present images from and answer questions about his work on Up. He also will talk about directing the animated short film, Dug’s Special Mission, which will appear on the Up DVD release. He also illustrated the new book, My Name is Dug.

After the panel discussion, Del Carmen will sign copies of
My Name is Dug as well as the new book The Art of Up

The event is free to the public and runs from 2 to 5 p.m. Gallery Nucleus is located at 201 E. Main St., Alhambra, Calif., 91801. For more information, see

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Pitch Party Winners’ Updates!

It’s always interesting to find out what’s been happening to the projects and talented artists who submitted the winning entries in previous years’ Pitch Party contests. So we contacted some of the top winners of the past couple of years to find out what they’re up to in 2009. Here is what they told us:

Brian Smith of Eggplant Collective in Toronto has been a regular favorite of both our judges and staff picks in the past few years. His creative and cleverly drawn pitches for Lerning is Fub, King of the Universe and Monster in a Box grabbed everyone’s attention three years in a row. As a result of last years’ win, he landed an in-person meeting with the top development execs at DreamWorks where he presented them with two of his awesome movie ideas, one of which is called Toon Boy, a family feature about an animated boy who lives in a real-life universe.

Brian Smith, Lerning is Fub, King of the Universe, Monster in a Box

“I realized that their next big feature was Monsters vs. Aliens, so they really didn’t need another monster concept,” he adds. “So I spent the night before the meeting in my hotel room, typing up an entire treatment for a brand new concept that I pitched to them! I guess you could say that I used my Pitch Party success into getting several industry pitches of the concept.” Today, Brian is directing a campaign of live-action TV commercials. We hope one of the smart studios out there will greenlight one of his cool movie ideas real soon.

Mike Jones also nabbed the first-prize last year with his clever pitch about a Goth girl in a small town called RIP Alice. Having just graduated from the commercial animation program at Capilano University, he’s now enrolled in the computer animation program for the fall. “The contest really did wonders for me,” he notes. “I was an intern in a studio last summer; shortly after I won the contest, the Director of development approached me and said ‘You're that Mike Jones, aren't you!?’” Jones has also been working on illustrations and developing more ideas with his brother, who is also an animator. He adds, “I've had the fortune of speaking to a few different directors and producers about my work. It's something I never would have expected, having just recently finished my program. To have some recognition so early in my career has been a real blessing!”

Mike Jones, RIP Alice

Colleen Thomas dazzled our judges last year with her House of Wooo concept. “I’ve graduated from Capilano University and I’m continuing to work on my pitch. I received a lot of feedback because of the contest, and I’d still love to do something with the story.” She says she found the whole contest a great experience and points out that she’ll be trying to enter the contest again this year!

Colleen Thomas, House of Wooo

Jonathan Reid Sevigny who came up with a knock-your-socks-off concept about the relationship between a fairy tale princess and a mermaid wrote to tell us that he’s being developing new ideas and sharing them with his fans on his blog He writes, “Since you guys published my pitch in your magazine I did an art show around the theme of fairy-tales gone gay. I've also participated in art and zine fairs here in Montreal. I'm selling my prints all around the city. Just recently I self-published a small book The Reckless Youth Odyssey and I’m currently working on second book Lycanthropy. I'm also currently working on two huge set designs for a baroque orchestra. I haven't done anything to this great scale before so I’m a little nervous. I'm a perfectionist though, so I hope that it turns out as amazing as I’m picturing it in my head!”

Jo Reid Sevigny, The Princess and the Mermaid

Natasha Parish, who impressed us with her idea for a show called Deidra Daydreamer in 2007 told us that she pitched her new show The Jr. Dynamos to Rick Clodfelter at Cartoon Network. She also got some interest from Neo Network from the Magnolia Group. She adds, “I'm jazzed about my newest baby, Magic Mix-Up, it's about a witch and magician constantly competing to prove who's the best at magic in their town.” Natasha pointed out that the contest opened some doors for her along the way. “People from the industry are willing to check my stuff out, where as before no one would call me back. Now they call me back at least once then disappear for a pack of cigarettes I think the Pitch Party Contest is great if you win or not, because you get such a good and varied amount of responses that allows you to look at your idea with new eyes.”

Natasha Paris, Deidra Daydreamer

U.K.-based artist Christopher Wilson made a lot of new fans with his beautifully drawn concept Night Mia last year. He says when his pitch took the third spot last year, he tried to get in touch with the judges who had listed his entry as their favorites. “This led to me getting in touch with Betsy McGowen and Ian Richter at Kids’ WB! on the CW. They liked my pitch enough to introduce me to a French producer name Sidonie Herman.” WIilso had already written the first script and outlined a further 13 episodes for the series. After McGowan and Richter left Kids’ WB!, Alison Acton of Doomcat Studios turned the first episode of Night Mia into a graphic novel. “It’s an idea that just won’t go away, so I’ll continue plugging away with it, but I do have a lot of other ideas that I’d still like to get on screen!”

Christopher Wilson, Night Mia

Daniel Contois was one of the clear front-runners in 2007 with his idea for a show called Ghengis Conroy. He tells us that since then, he’s been polishing his Toon Boom and Flash skills and learning more about animation. He adds, “I received great publicity from the Pitch Party…I’m currently under contract with a production company out in California to animated eight two-minute animations for a wesbite. The company saw my work in your magazine and really liked what they saw!” Contois also confirms that Ghengis Conroy will back for more adventures. “After a little refinement I will be putting him out there in front of industry professionals. As I work on a new concept to submit for this year's Pitch Party, I have a better appreciation for Ghengis Conroy. I think there is a future for him!”

Daniel Contois, Ghengis Conroy

Best of luck to all of the talented and creative folks who entered our Pitch Party over the past seven years. We are all proud of your achievements and salute your great attitude and spirit. If you’d like to learn more about this year’s event, click here:

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

ASIFA-East Presents – The State of Israeli Animation

June 16th, Tuesday, 7pm

Presented by Lisa LaBracio, the program will include Gilat Parag’s documentary, The State of Israeli Animation. Along with this, we will be screening selected shorts from graduates of Minshar for Art (school of art in Tel Aviv), from the more famous Bezal’el Academy of Art, and other various Israeli independents.

Admission: FREE!

School Of Visual Arts
209 East 23rd Street
(Bet. 2nd & 3rd Ave)
5th Fl, Rm 502

(Thanks asifaeast)

Goode Family Pilot Available at

Miss the premiere of The Goode Family Wednesday night? Never fear - it’s already available at (only for those in the USA - or try Hotspot Shield). There’s a good discussion going on over at about this first episode. What did you think? Does it fill that empty hole in your heart left by KOTH?

Also, here’s a 2-minute clip:

Black Belt Club Series in Development

Author Dawn Barnes’ popular book series The Black Belt Club is being developed into an animated series by producer John Drdek.

The illustrated book series, about four young martial artists who are transported to a land of ancient myths, has sold more than 250,000 copies to date. A fourth book in the series is due to be published next year, alongside the airing of the series.

Drdek is a former writer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and produced the series Johnny Lightning for Starz/Film Roman. Curious Pictures has begun working on conceptual art for the series, which will be aimed at boys ages 6-11 and expected to air in 2010.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of the books. Working with Dawn and exploring the fantasy world she’s created is a dream come true,” said Drdek.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

UNESCO Taps Olly for Educational Campaign

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has picked the Moonscoop animated preschool series Dive Olly Dive! to part of its new educational campaign.

UNESCO will use characters from the show in its campaign to teach the world’s children about the world’s underwater heritage. The organization also will serve as a consultant on the second season of the show.

Dive Olly Dive! airs on PBS KIDS Sprout in the United States, and on dozens of channels around the world. It’s won a Parents’ Choice Award, a Hugo Television Award, an Emmy Award and the Best Animated Series honor at the 2008 Annecy festival.

Dive Olly Dive! has done a wonderful job introducing children to the importance of caring for the environment and submerged archaeological sites and we look forward to working with them on interesting stories about shipwrecks and the ancient ruins that make up our underwater cultural heritage,” said Ulrike Guérin, UNESCO’s representative for the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

Dive Olly Dive! was created by Andrew and Ian Ross and is a co-production of Mike Young Productions, Flying Bark Productions of Australia, KI.KA, ARD of Germany, Telegael Teo of Ireland, Atlantyca Entertainment of Italy and GDC in China.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Warner Bros. Wants to be King of iPhone Apps

Warner Bros. is jumping into the business of creating apps for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch with both feet.

The studio is working with developers on a wide variety of applications related to the studio’s movies. TV, videogame, comic book and other entertainment properties, according to Variety.

The studio has so far developed about 15 apps and plans to have 40 out by the end of the year.

"We've established ourselves in the physical world; now we're trying to do the same in the digital world," said Stephanie Bohn, director of worldwide marketing for Warner Digital Distribution.

Other studios also are picking up their development of iPhone apps, with Sony releasing one for Angels & Demons and Paramount supporting its property Star Trek and creating a game for classic franchise Top Gun.

Bohn says Warner Bros. intends to become a leader in the iPhone app market, doing everything from developing apps, working with Apple on approval and distribution and marketing.

Warner Bros. most recently released a number of apps related to Terminator Salvation, including a graphic novel app that sold for $3.99.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Rogen to Voice Alien in Pegg’s Paul

Actor Seth Rogen has been cast as the voice of the titular alien character in the road trip comedy Paul.

The film was written by and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as a pair of sci-fi fans who trek across Area 51 and find Rogen’s escaped alien, which will be a digital effect, according to Variety.

The film is directed by Greg Mottola (Adventureland, Superbad) and also stars Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader and Jane Lynch.

Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan of Working Title Films will produce, along with Nira Park of Big Talk Pictures. Shooting on the movie, which will be released by Universal, begins next month.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

SIGGRAPH Sets Animation Festival Award Nominees

The nominees have been announced for the 2009 SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival.

More than 140 films will be shown at the festival, chosen from some 770 submissions from all over the globe. The SIGGRAPH conference is set for Aug. 3-7 in New Orleans.

Award winners will be announced at the festival.

The nominees are:

Best of Show Nominees
Engel zu Fust (Angel Afoot),
 Studio Soi GmbH & Co; Germany
(Narrative Animation)
French Roast, 
The Pumpkin Factory; France
(Narrative Animation)
Silhouettes of Jazz,
 Dominik Käser, Martin-Sebastian Senn, Mario Deuss, Mark Pauly, Niloy J. Mitra; Switzerland
(Experimental Animation)

Jury Award Nominees
The Mill, United States
 (Live Action with CG Effects)
Love Child,
 National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Taiwan
(Animation Visualization)
Supinfocom Valenciennes, France
 (Animation Visualization)

Student Prize Nominees
Dim Sum,
 Ringling College of Art and Design, United States
(Narrative Animation)
Incident at Tower 37,
 Hampshire College, United States
(Narrative Animation)
Project: Alpha, 
The Animation Workshop, Denmark
(Narrative Animation)

WTF (Well Told Fable) Award
 Sveinbjörn J. Tryggvason, Iceland
(Narrative Animation)
Unbelievable Four,
Sukwon Shin, United States
(Music Visualization)
Fernet 1882: Mini Cab Company,
 Pickle Visual Effects & Animation, Argentina
(Visual Effects Driven Commercial)

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Bruckheimer and Hoytman Talk Guinea Pig VFX

Uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Oscar-winning vfx supervisor-turned-director Hoyt Yeatman (The Abyss) led an informative behind-the-scenes press session about the making of Disney’s upcoming guinea-pigs-as-secret-agents movie G-Force today. Held at Sony’s Imageworks facility in Culver City, where the bulk of the vfx work is done, the panel also included animation director Troy Saliba, vfx supervisor Scott Stodyk and 3-D vfx supervisor Rob Engle.

Bruckheimer opened the session by talking about how Yeatman first came to him with the idea for the movie. “This is an idea that his six-year-old son pitched to him four years ago,” he said. “He said wouldn’t it be cool if our guinea pig was a special forces agent, and that’s how we got the idea for the film.”

The ever-enthusiastic Hoytman said he was very excited to lead the team on realizing the concept, noting that the film offered numerous challenges on the technical front, but also allowed him to create a movie that featured soft and cuddly characters that were also cool, had amazing design potential and told a fun thrill ride of a story. The director noted that in addition to the task of bringing to life the film’s main operatives—Darwin (voiced by Sam Rockwell), Blaster (Tracy Morgan), Juarez (Penelope Cruz) and Speckles (Nicolas Cage), the vfx team had a plethora of gizmos and gadgets to re-create as well as animating a Lassie-like fly named Mooch and a clever cockroach. He added, “It’s really an animated movie that co-exists with a live-action adventure—it’s a very mixed hybrid.”

Hybrid Worlds for Nine-Inch Critters

“Our main goal was to bring audiences to this world with a new perspective—which is that of a nine-inch-tall guinea pig,” said Stodyk, adding that a team of over 500 artists (drawn from talent that had worked on both strictly CG-animated movies and visual effects artist) worked on delivering the film’s state-of-the-art effects. “We created hybrid worlds and fully synthetic environments and paid a lot of attention to details like wind blowing through the characters’ fur or Mooch’s [the fly] flight sequences.”

Animation director Saliba spoke about how the team dealt with the inherent tendency to make the characters look more athletic because they’re action stars. “But we wanted to make sure that they looked like guinea pigs—their eyes are on the side of their heads like prey. But we used a more stylized approach…Guinea pigs have three toes and four fingers, but our characters needed to hold their tools, so we made one look more like a thumb ... and they are able to stand on two legs…and we lightened up their irises to be able to read the subtlety of feelings in their eyes.’

Leaping Out of the Big Screen

Rob Engle, who has played a big role in the re-emergence of stereoscopic 3-D in the past and supervised the 3D releases of Sony’s Beowulf, Monster House, Open Season and The Polar Express, spoke about how the film offered a new way to use the technology to connect to audiences. “Because in 3-D every shot is really a special effects shot, we took the 2D plate photography after the film was shot and created the 3-D experience in post,” he noted. “You can use any camera rig you want in 2D. Then you leave room for the wow moments, such as the big battle sequence towards the end of the movie to really play out the depth in the audience space.”

Yeatman pointed out that using the current technology available, it’s much more cost effective to shoot the film in 2D and then make the transformation to stereoscopic 3-D. “You have so much more control, and it would be so much more costly to shoot everything in 3-D. You need a quantum leap..a shift in technology because it’s difficult to shoot in 3-D right now, that’s why there have been so few live-action 3-D movies out.”

The panelists agreed that we were going to see some unification of standards for home entertainment 3-D delivery in the next three years, but didn’t think that home systems were ever going to replace the theatrical experience. “After all, 3-D works best when it’s on a big screen,” concluded Yeatman.

Disney’s G-Force will open in theaters nationwide on July 24, 2009.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

"Cow and Chicken" producer Vince Davis dies

Animation director and cartoonist Vincent "Vince" Davis, the winner of an Annie for producing Hanna-Barbera's Cow and Chicken TV series, died May 6 in Los Angeles of kidney failure.

After removing himself from dialysis, he died at home under the care of his wife Hiroko.

Born in Brisbane, Australia in 1944, Davis won the Annie in 1998 for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Producing in an Animated Television Production. That same year, the series earned him a shared Emmy nomination for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or Less) in connection with the episode "Free Inside, Journey to the Center of Cow."

Davis "was practically a second father to me, who made me take down endless lists of my faults over the telephone and made me laugh about them, consoled and counseled me through many hard times and bleak patches," said animator Mark Kausler. "He was generally 'there' for me in a friendship that lasted for 38 years!"

"He produced the last few seasons of [Film Roman's] Garfield and Friends, which was the first time we worked together after several decades of friendship," observed cartoon and comic strip historian Mark Evanier.

"Vince, I should mention, was not related to Garfield creator Jim Davis. This did not stop someone on an animation website from claiming he got his job through nepotism. No... he got it because he was good."

According to Kausler, Davis belittled his Annie, stating sarcastically, "I've had so many offers and my prices have gone up since I won this award."

Originally a cartoonist, Davis moved from being a freelance animator to a producer in the 1990s.

He directed the 1996 series C-Bear and Jamal for Film Roman, and produced The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy for Cartoon Network in 2005.

In feature films, he was an animator, character designer and production designer for
The Mouse and His Child (1977), and animation supervisor for Gallavants (1984).

Davis went to Tokyo to work with the Toei company in the early 1980s. There he met his second wife, Hiroko, while animation director on the TV series
The Gallavants, which Toei was subcontracting for Murakami-Wolf. (His first wife was Teresa "Pot" Davis, who gained her nickname as a ceramicist and potter.)

Producer of at least one episode of 2003's
Evil Con Carne, he directed the 1989 series California Raisins, as well as episodes of the early 1990s shows Captain Planet and the Planeteers and Mother Goose and Grimm.

He was an animator and graphic designer for the Emmy-winning 1974 children's special
Free to Be... You & Me, produced by Marlo Thomas for Murakami-Wolf.

In other TV specials, Davis was additional animator for
The Point (1971); animator for Clerow Wilson and the Miracle of P.S. 14 (1972) and Peter and the Magic Egg (1983); animation director for The World of Strawberry Shortcake (1980); animation supervisor for My Little Pony: Escape from Catrina (1985); and timing director for Fluppy Dogs (1986).

He was a storyboard slugger for the 2002 TV specials
Madeline: My Fair Madeline and Inspector Gadget's Last Case: Claw's Revenge (2002); the direct-to-video Mummies Alive! The Legend Begins (1998); and the 1993 series Sonic the Hedgehog.

Animation supervisor for
The Wuzzles (1985) and animation director of episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987), Davis was a storyboard timer for eight episodes of the 1991 series Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures.

In addition, he was a timing director for
DuckTales, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Life with Louie and The Batman (one of his last TV projects), as well as the videos Holly Hobbie and Friends: Christmas Wishes (2006) and Holly Hobbie and Friends: Best Friends Forever (2007). He was sheet director for the 1996 direct-to-video Siegfried & Roy: Masters of the Impossible

In-office photo of Vince Davis by artist Norman Quebedeau, who worked with him on the TV series Garfield and Friends. (Picture from Mark Evanier's "News From Me" site.)

Dreamworks' Future Animation Lineup. Yay! More Sequels!!

The trades has the lowdown on Dreamworks Animation's upcoming lineup that focuses on sequels and original content.

One big tidbit is the renaming of Shrek Goes Fourth (I think that's what it was originally called) to Shrek Forever After. Man, you guys really thought long and hard on that one! Also, I can't wait for a third Madagascar, where you continue to run those jokes into the ground, bury them, dig them up, then run them into the ground some more. Crack-a-lackin'!!

Here's the whole kit n kaboodle:

"Kung Fu Panda" sequels and "Shrek" spinoffs will be joined by original pics on DreamWorks Animation’s sked as the toon studio ups its output to five features every two years.

CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose contract was recently extended to 2013, will unveil DWA’s slate through late 2012 for the investment community in Gotham today, revealing five original projects and a handful of franchise follow-ups.

Per Katzenberg’s mandate, all pics will be produced in 3-D.

Among the highlights of today’s presentation is the casting of Robert Downey Jr. and Tina Fey in "Oobermind."

Downey will voice a supervillain who finds life a little dull after vanquishing good-guy rival Metro Man. The superhero-themed pic, based on a spec script (previously called "Master Mind") from Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Films, will open Nov. 5, 2010.

Pic is produced by Lara Breay and Denise Nolan Cascino and exec produced by Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld.

With impressive first-quarter gains — but only "Monsters vs. Aliens" on the calendar for 2009 (down from DWA’s usual two-toon-a-year model) — studio brass stressed that their pipeline can now support an additional pic every other year.

"We now have three very successful franchises, but we also want to tell new stories. Now, in addition to one or two sequels a year, we’ll have a new original as well," DWA co-prexy of production Bill Damaschke told Daily Variety.

"Some people wonder if the market can sustain three animated movies from DreamWorks, and I feel there seems to be room in the marketplace for big event movies the entire family can go to," Damaschke said. "Now that people haBoldve grown up on animation, there’s an adult audience for animation."

He pointed to a crowded 2010, which will bring a fourth installment in the "Shrek" series (now titled "Shrek Forever After") flanked by two new properties, "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Oobermind."

"Shrek Forever After" is directed by Mike Mitchell, produced by Teresa Cheng and Gina Shay and exec produced by Aron Warner and Andrew Adamson.

"Dragon" will be written and directed by Chris Sanders and Den DeBlois and produced by Bonnie Arnold. It stars Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera and Johan Hill. Set in the world of Vikings and dragons, it centers on an awkward teen who befriends an injured dragon.

The following year brings two projects. For the first, the company confirmed signing Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman for "Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom," due out June 3, 2011. Longtime story exec Jennifer Yuh Nelson makes her feature directorial debut. Melissa Cobb produces.

In its Nov. 4 slot, DWA has "The Guardians," turning to a not-yet-published book series from kidlit-to-toon titan William Joyce, whose work has previously inspired Disney’s "Meet the Robinsons" and "Rolie Polie Olie."

With animation and vfx vet Jeff Lynch attached to direct, "The Guardians" unites characters every child knows — Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost and the Sandman — to defend the world from a Bogeyman-like villain.

According to Damaschke, the figures have been "somewhat renamed and massively reimagined" by Joyce, who has supplied each of the figures with a fresh backstory and is collaborating closely on the film. The first of the books should be released around Christmas 2010.

Christina Steinberg and Nancy Bernstein produce.

The following year gets crowded once again, as DWA returns to the well for a prequel of sorts. "Puss in Boots" imagines events before the popular character’s appearance in "Shrek 2," while introducing all-new characters. Antonio Banderas returns, and Salma Hayek will lend her voice to love interest Kitty. "Shrek the Third" helmer Chris Miller is onboard to direct, with the film slated for March 30, 2012.

Joe Aguilar and Michelle Raimo produce. Adamson exec produces.

Just two months later, "Madagascar" helmer Eric Darnell offers up a third installment in the zoo-break series, which would relocate the critters from Africa to Europe via a traveling circus. Mireille Soria and Mark Swift produce.

Katzenberg has staked out a third date that fall, Nov. 12, for an original feature, to be chosen from a trio of projects currently in development.

The first option, caveman comedy "The Croods," from directors Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco, was once intended to be an Aardman collaboration. It’s produced by Kristine Belson and Jane Hartwell. Another, "Truckers," is derived from Terry Pratchett’s "The Bromeliad Trilogy," with Simon Beaufoy adapting a story of miniature creatures stuck living in a department store.

Damaschke also cited a third option, tentatively titled "Super Secret Ghost Project," that asks what ghosts think about humans.

All three projects are currently under way in some form, with the decision on which one lands the late-2012 slot to be determined down the road.

"These projects are such a huge time commitment, so we develop every film as if we’re going to make it," said Damaschke, who also serves as president of DWA’s theatrical division.
Per Katzenberg’s mandate, all pics will be produced in 3-D.

Slate news follows Katzenberg’s announcement last week of plans to adapt two of the company’s pics, "Kung Fu Panda" and "How to Train Your Dragon," into traveling, Cirque du Soleil-style arena shows.

"I’ve learned from putting ‘Shrek’ on Broadway what works onscreen doesn’t necessarily work onstage," Damaschke told Daily Variety.

(Thanks Latino Review)

I’m Just a Jitterbug (1939)

I always love an excuse to post an obscure Walter Lantz cartoon from the 1930s featuring swing music, rotoscoped dancers and un-P.C. stereotypes, set against the backdrop of an animation studio. The excuse this time is a Lantz in-house memo (below left - click thumbnail to enlarge) that collector Eric Calande just sent me. Lantz asks the staff (”Dear Gang”) to contribute gags to this cartoon, with prizes ranging from $2 to $10 for the best ideas. Note that the memo is dated September 26th 1938 and the cartoon was released January 23rd 1939. From board to screen in four months!? Perhaps the rush to cash in on “a fad” necessitated a production crunch. Also note the set up to this premise pre-dates Friz Freleng’s Looney Tune You Ought To Be In Pictures by a year.

Though the Jitterbug character never reappeared, the concept of this cartoon was the basis for several other swing music cartoons, and the forerunner of the Swing Symphonies series Lantz initiated in 1941. Despite the title card, this was not an Oswald Rabbit cartoon - it was actually one of Lantz’s miscellaneous Cartune series (it was released to TV in the 1950s in the Oswald television package). Frame grabs from the original titles are posted below (click thumbnails to enlarge)

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Hollywood Reporter Posts Q&A with "King of the Hill" Mike Judge

The Hollywood Reporter has posted a Q&A session with Mike Judge, where he discusses the end of the Fox animated sitcom King of the Hill, his bachelor's degree in physics and how it affected his animation, his "everyman" characters in his live-action and animated projects, and whether he sees his 2006 movie Idiocracy coming true.

Media Round-"Up" on Pixar's Latest Feature Film

Several new articles about Disney/Pixar's Up have been published in advance of the movie's premiere on May 29, 2009:

* speaks with Ed Asner, the voice of 78-year old Carl Fredricksen in the movie. Asner discusses how "it was an honour because, at my age, you aren't likely to be cast as a lead in much of anything," and also reflects on his career ranging from Lou Grant to a CGI cartoon character. Up director Pete Docter also discusses Asner's performance.

*The Houston Chronicle has a feature article about the movie, focusing on the character development of Carl Fredricksen throughout the development process and the movie itself. Docter and producer Jonas Rivera supply commentary throughout.

*The article in the Dallas Morning News looks at the creative environment at Pixar, with Docter and Rivera discussing the days after the Disney/Pixar merger ("if you want to extend the Star Wars scenario, they ended up giving Princess Leia Darth Vader's job") and following the tough sell the movie had from the pitch process up to its release. Announces "The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D." Animated Web Series has announced that it will host a new web series based on Dash Shaw's latest graphic novel The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D., with the premiere episode scheduled to debut in mid-November 2009. The series will focus on Rebel X-6, "a man who works for a well-funded anti-droid organization."

The Global Workroom

The subject of Indian and Chinese computer animation continually comes up, but the centers of animated creativity are really everywhere:

... What started as a cottage industry in Sydney has become a hub for animation around the world. The city has six major animation and visual effects studios, including Animal Logic ( Babe , The Matrix and Happy Feet ), Omnilab (Spike Jonze's upcoming Where The Wild Things Are ) and Rising Sun Pictures ( Wolverine ) ...

The lesson that I glean from stories of burgeoning animation industries on different continents is this:

It isn't, strictly speaking, about "cost." It's also about creativity and the depth of local talent; it's about animators, story artists and writers, designers and technicians having the chops to turn out world-class work.

This isn't to say that small and medium-sized job shops in low-cost parts of the world aren't going to pick off wire-removal contracts and win bids for low-end DVD features, but if you don't have trained employees capable of turning out higher end product that is salable in the global marketplace, having folks that will work for two dollars per hour isn't really going to help you very much.

Which explains why Australia is now cooking as an animation production center. The country sure as hell isn't a low-wage destination, so maybe it's the infrastructure and the talent pool.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Plugging Charged

This third year film might just as well as be a master’s thesis. Wrapping up their penultimate term at Algonquin College, Trent Correy, Collin Tsandilis and Mayrhosby Yeoshen have produced an engaging, lavish and rather clever 3-minute film, titled Charged. After drawing and cleaning everything up on paper, the project was animated in Toon Boom Harmony. If you feel like you don’t know exactly what’s happening with the storyline, make sure you watch to the end. It’s a great reveal

CHARGED - Animated Short Film from Collin T on Vimeo.

Is the original Alien the latest movie to get the reboot?

Sigourney Weaver originally played Ellen Ripley

Bloody-Disgusting, citing an anonymous source, reports the rumor that director Ridley Scott's classic 1979 sci-fi horror movie Alien is being remade at 20th Century Fox.

The source, the same one that told the site correctly that Robert Rodriguez would reboot the Predator series, adds that Scott, his brother Tony and Michael Costigan will produce through their Scott Free Productions company, and that commercial/video director Carl Rinsch will direct the remake.

The movie, like the original, will focus on the threat posed by a hostile alien on a ship in space, with a new Ripley (originally played by Sigourney Weaver).

Cameron's Avatar will get a three-month run in IMAX

IMAX is committing nearly three full months of its schedule to James Cameron's upcoming 3-D CG/live-action sci-fi epic Avatar, The New York Times reported.

The company's ultra-big-screen theaters so far aren't slated for any movies other than Avatar between that movie's Dec. 18 debut and the arrival of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland on March 5, the newspaper reported.

By contrast, Star Trek got only two weeks on the IMAX circuit.

The 3-D Avatar centers on ex-marine Jake Sully (Terminator Salvation's Sam Worthington), who is torn between duty and honor when he finds himself caught in a battle between the heavily armed forces of Earth's most powerful star-faring consortium and an exotic, noble alien race whose entire world is threatened by the human invaders.

Avatar also stars Star Trek's Zoe Saldana and Cameron's Aliens star Sigourney Weaver.

‘Army Of Darkness: Ash Saves Obama’ Artist Todd Nauck On Spider-Man, Barack & Celebrity Team-Ups

Mark my words: This is so crazy, it is absolutely, positively going to work. The latest comic to feature U.S. President Barack Obama will team him up with S-Mart Employee of the Month Ashley J. Williams — the character better known as “Ash” to fans of the “Evil Dead” and “Army of Darkness” franchise.

Published by Dynamite Entertainment, “Army of Darkness: Ash Saves Obama” will feature Bruce Campbell’s boomstick-toting alter ego teaming up with the new, comics-friendly Commander-in-Chief to thwart the Deadites’ latest invasion of the mortal plane. Featuring a story by Elliot Serrano (”Xena/Army of Darkness”), interior art by Ariel Padilla and covers by “Spider-Man/Obama” artist Todd Nauck, the four-issue series unfolds at one of the scariest places on Earth: a crowded comic convention.

I spoke to Nauck about his latest foray into the world of Obama comics, and received a peek at his preliminary, penciled cover to “Ash Saves Obama” — which I’m passing along to Splash Page readers here.

While Dynamite has been publishing “Army of Darkness” comics for several years now, “Ash Saves Obama” will be Nauck’s first work in the cult-favorite horror universe, which has seen its hero match up with such properties as H.P. Lovecraft’s “ReAnimator,” “Darkman,” “Xena” and a three-way brawl with both “Nightmare on Elm Street” villain Freddy Krueger and “Friday the 13th” brute Jason Voorhees. However, Nauck has had plenty of experience drawing the new President, thanks to the massive success of his “Amazing Spider-Man” story with writer Zeb Wells that featured the U.S. President.

“I’d seen ‘Army of Darkness’ way back in the day, but I just went online to grab some screencaps of Ash and Deadites and stuff, and dropped them into more of a present-day world,” Nauck told MTV News. As for Obama, the artist said he simply “pulled up the photo reference I’d saved when I did the Spider-Man comic.”

In “Ash Saves Obama,” the “Evil Dead” hero finds himself at a comic convention with the new U.S. President, once again saving the world from the Necronomicon — the book that turns people into undead demons looking to “swallow the souls” of anyone in their immediate vicinity.

“They let me have fun coming up with each issue’s cover to reflect that chapter of the story,” explained Nauck of the four covers he’ll be providing for the series.

While he couldn’t say much about the plot of the series, I did get Nauck to reveal the celebrity/superhero team-up he’s dying to draw — but only if Wells writes it.

“Conan O’Brien pretty much meeting anyone from the Marvel Universe,” laughed Nauck. “Conan meeting Hulk might be fun — something so completely opposite ends of the spectrum that you wouldn’t expect it. Where could this story go if Conan O’Brien teamed up with the Hulk?”

You listening, Marvel? Get the newly minted “Tonight Show” host on the phone!

“Army of Darkness: Ash Saves Obama” #1 hits shelves in August. Check out the full cover below, as well as an exclusive Splash Page peek at Nauck’s final, pencil design for the cover. You can click on each thumbnail for a larger version of the image.

Favreau and Rourke on Iron Man 2

With the filming of Iron Man 2 reaching the halfway point, director Jon Favreau and star Mickey Rourke talked to Empire about the title character, Jim Rhodes/War Machine and villain Whiplash. Here's a bit from Rourke on the latter:

Meanwhile, Mickey Rourke, who appears as new Iron Man nemesis Whiplash, was back on set last week after a stint with Sly, Li, Lundgren, Statham et al on The Expendables. "I'm having the time of my life!" he enthused about joining the Iron Man franchise. "It's been really brutal, because my Iron Man suit weighs 23lb. It's sort of a half-suit, with half my skin showing, with lots of Russian tattoos, because [Whiplash is just] out of a Russian-zone prison."

You can check out the full article here!

Cool! Cool! Cool! AVATAR production art!!!

Update: Quint here again. The MarketSaw guys do have a story on these pieces (and apparently got a confirmation from Fox), but didn't get the scoop. The scoop came from a French site called DVDvision. I'll leave the MarketSaw links because I think they have higher res versions, but wanted to give credit where credit was due. Good work dvdvision!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I have to run out for a little presentation, but right before I freshened up I saw these come in! Had to share! So cool! Me want Power Suit! As usual, MarketSaw is on top of Avatar stuff, getting official art from Fox. Click through each to get high res versions! Now I just want clean versions for wallpaper!

(Thanks Aint It Cool)

Arnold speaks: What does the Governator really think of Terminator Salvation?

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose face appears briefly in McG's current Terminator Salvation, proclaimed the movie "pretty good," but told CNN that James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day is still his favorite film. (You can watch the video of his interview after the jump.)

"I think that Terminator 2 was my favorite," he said, adding that his second-favorite film was Cameron's True Lies. He also spoke fondly of Conan the Barbarian, but called Hercules in New York and Red Sonja "bad and ... torturous to watch" and finished up by saying: "They're pitiful."

When asked if he'd seen his cameo appearance in Terminator Salvation, he said he'd seen it, but added, "I didn't need to do the cameo; that was all done through special effects. But I've seen the movie, and I think it was pretty good."