Tuesday, May 5, 2009

News - 05/05/09...

Hit Adds Three to New Toon Slate

Leading children’s entertainment producer Hit Entertainment has announced three additions to its development slate.

The three new series are:

Mike the Knight, a 52 x 10 min. CG-animated series from the creator of Lunar Jim, Alexander Bar. The series features 10-year-old Mike, whose motto is “be a knight, do it right” as he protects his kingdoms makes Mum proud. The series is for preschoolers and features magic, humor and dragons.

The Real Mees, also a 52 x 10 min. CG-animated series for preschoolers from Waybuloo creator Dan Good. The series emphasizes confidence, self-belief and citizenship as the central characters transform from cocoons into quirky personalities. Hit is working on the show with the U.K.-based production company Absolutely Cuckoo.

Kids Hate Clowns is a 2-D animated series aimed at ages 8-12 that is in early development from Firestep & Impossible Pictures. Series, set for an order of 52 x 13 min., stars prim and proper 13-year-old Chloe, who has to deal with three distant relatives who also happen to be clowns, coming to live with her.

“We have discovered some fantastic new shows that will not only perfectly complement HIT’s existing portfolio but enable us to expand our programming into a new demographic and exciting, new creative concepts,” says Chris Rose, director new content HIT Entertainment.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Dustys Open its Doors for Animation Night

The School of Visual Arts’ Dusty Film and Animation Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this week with free screenings of student films — including an entire night of new animation.

The festival, running May 4-10 at the new SVA Theater at 333 W. 23rd St. in New York City, will have free screenings each night, a screenwriters night on May 5, its animation night on May 7 and a Winner’s Circle for Dusty nominated and winning films on May 10.

The animation screenings will run from 7 to 11 p.m. on Thursday, May 7, and features 45 animated short films. The full list of animated films can be found online at http://www.sva.edu/dusty/may_7.html.

For more information on attending events – the screenwriter’s night requires an RSVP to attend — call (212) 592-2124 or visit www.sva.edu/dusty.

"Battle for Terra" loses battle for the box office

Terrible... just Terra-ble.

Animated science-fiction tale "Battle for Terra" debuted in 12th place at the North American box office this weekend, collecting less than $1.1 million.

Distributed by Lionsgate for Roadside Attractions, the 3-D story averaged only $916 per location in 1,162 theaters. That compared to $21,225 for Fox's live-action X-Men spinoff Wolverine, which took first place with a huge opening gross of $87 million.

Even DreamWorks Animation's venerable Monsters vs. Aliens was in a comfortable fifth place. First released March 27, it made $5.8 million in 2,626 locations this weekend for an average of $2,209 per screen.

Rated PG, Battle for Terra has a voice cast featuring Dennis Quaid. The target audience is mainly of young boys accompanied by their parents.

Dragging the film's box-office takings is the fact that only 460 of the theaters where it debuted are capable of handling 3-D.

"We got trounced by Wolverine, which took virtually all the family audience, even our target of 7- to 10-year-olds," said Roadside co-president Howard Cohen. "We hope to hold some matinees in the days and weeks to come."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at United States and Canadian theaters were released by Media By Numbers LLC.

Animation, comic book artist Ric Estrada dies, 81

Animation storyboard artist and story director Ric Estrada, who also worked on numerous war and romance comics for DC, died Friday morning in Utah after an eight-year battle with prostate cancer. He was 81.

Estrada died peacefully between 6 and 7 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time. "He was surrounded by his wife and children, and was at peace with his mortality," family members said.

"He was truly a giant among men, and he is already terribly missed," said colleague Adrian Ropp, story director for The Princess and the Pea (2002). "Using his ambidextrous drawing skills, he cranked out literally thousands of pages for war comics such as Sgt. Rock, romance titles, and even brief stints on Batman, Wonder Woman and the daily Spider-Man comic strip."

Born in Havana on February 26, 1928, Estrada moved to New York at age 20, encouraged by Ernest Hemingway, who befriended him through his uncle, Sergio Carbo.

In the 1980s, Estrada moved to Los Angeles and worked for Hanna-Barbera as a designer and layout artist. "He was much-loved about the building... and repeatedly flattered as younger artists sought him out to praise his comic work," cartoon and comic book history Mark Evanier said on his News From Me site. He relocated to Utah after leaving H-B, Evanier added.

A character designer, layout artist and story director for Challenge of the GoBots (1984)

As well, Estrada was a character designer and story director for Samson and Delilah, Noah's Ark, Moses, Joshua and the Battle of Jericho and David and Goliath (all 1986), The Nativity (1987) and The Miracles of Jesus (1991), from the direct-to-video series The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible.

He was a layout artist and story director for
Galtar and the Golden Lance (1985)

Estrada was a layout artist for
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983). He storyboarded Tiny Toon Adventures and Tom & Jerry Kids Show (both 1990), along with The Pirates of Dark Water and Droopy: Master Detective (both 1993).

He was a story director for
Smurfs (1983) and Pound Puppies, Jonny Quest and Wildfire (all 1986). For the 1990 series The Adventures of Don Coyote and Sancho Panda, he was a layout artist and provided titles as well.

TV specials included
Puff and the Incredible Mr. Nobody (1982, as an assistant animator), Star Fairies (1985, as a layout artist) and The Little Troll Prince
(1987, as a story director).

In theatrical cartoon features, he was a storyboard aritst for GoBots: War of the Rock Lords (1986) and pre-production designer for Jetsons: The Movie (1990).

An Ink-Pot Award winner, Estrada worked on such comics as Amethyst: Prince of Gemworld and Karate Kid.

At age 13, he began selling his work to a popular Cuban magazine called Bohemia. He went to the University of Havana, where, he always claimed, was Fidel Castro was a student as well.

Although Estrada was a world traveler who lived in dozens of cities, he worked in comic books whenever he returned to Manhattan. His proudest work included stories for EC war comics edited and written by Harvey Kurtzman. Other publishers that hired him included Hillman, Western Publishing, St. John and Ziff-Davis.

Occasionally, he assisted on Flash Gordon newspaper strips, drawing some of the superhero's comic books, although he reportedly didn't like superhero projects. He was also a "rough penciller" for the likes of All-Star Comics and Freedom Fighters.

Estrada was married three times. He married his first wife, Vera, in Cuba in 1950; they later had one child. In West Berlin in 1966, he married his second wife, Sigrid, now a famous photographer. His third wife, Loretta, whom he married in New York City in 1970, survives him.

Ric Estrada had eight children. One son, Seth, is producing a feature-length documentary on his father.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 9 at 1390 N. 2876 W. in Provo, Utah. Interment will take place in Provo Cemetery immediately following the service. There will also be viewings at 1390 N. 2876 W. from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 8 and 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. May 9.

Which old friends and new characters appear in Nicktoons' CG Iron Man?

Cort Lane, Marvel's director of animation development, told SCI FI Wire that the new Iron Man Armored Adventures—which just launched on the Nicktoons Network—will feature new and old characters from the comics, but with a teen twist.

The show is one of several upcoming animated series in the pipeline, including Black Panther (voiced by Djimon Hounsou) for BET Network and Super Hero Squad for the Cartoon Network, featuring Captain America, Silver Surfer, Hulk, Wolverine and Iron Man.

Iron Man Armored Adventures depicts the life and times of a teenage Tony Stark, who balances the life of a typical teen with the responsibilities of a superhero in the familiar red and yellow battle armor. James Rhodes is a classmate and his best friend and the only one who knows about Tony's double life. Pepper Potts, another classmate, is an energetic and loyal friend. And Obadiah Stane, Stark International's chief executive, is Tony's nemesis.

In an exclusive interview, Lane (who also serves as a producer) reveals just how Iron Man blasted his way into the small screen from the four-color pages for a 26-episode presentation. Iron Man Armored Adventures airs on Friday nights at 7 p.m. Following is an edited version of our interview.

Can you discuss the decision-making that Tony Stark is a teenager with an Iron Man suit?

It starts with "How can we tell the most awesome, engaging Iron Man stories for boys 6 to 14 years old?" Then you quickly realize that boys today like their heroes to be relatable—and a womanizing, alcoholic industrialist was just not the best place to start. Hasn't Tony been a genius all his life? Wouldn't he have had the brainpower to create the armor at a younger age? Fortunately, there have been a few teen interpretations of the character in the comics to be inspired by. We are lucky that adult fans can get their fill with a more traditional version in live-action and animated movies. But I think the show is too good and too full of fanboy nuggets to keep those adult eyeballs away.

What kinds of heroes and villains should we expect to see? Will there be a distinct story arc for Tony?

Classic and new Iron Man characters are in the series. Their looks have been amped up to work within our beautifully designed CG world. One of the coolest elements of the series is how some of Tony's less-than-cool comic villains (like Unicorn and Killer Shrike) have been transformed into really awesome bad guys.

Living Laser is another great example—and he gets a really complex and tragic arc. The Mandarin is naturally the Big Bad, and the quest for the Makluan rings is a central plot point. But Christopher Yost [the series' story editor] has brilliantly interwoven the various characters and plot lines. For instance, the Mandarin is also in a gang war with the Maggia; the Maggia is connected to the Living Laser; the Laser takes on S.H.I.E.L.D., but A.I.M. battles S.H.I.E.L.D. for ... I need to keep some surprises!

But Black Panther and Nick Fury appear. A Marvel legend at least as big as Iron Man appears, with his sidekick along for the ride. There are two-parters to start and end the series—but each stand-alone episode links to ongoing storylines and advances a different aspect of Tony's arc. It's a coming-of-age story.

Why was CG chosen for the show, and can you contrast the CG and non-CG animation styles as a form of storytelling?

France's Method Films was our partner on this from day one, and they have a world-class reputation in CG storytelling. CG was always in the plan. I'm also working on The Super Hero Squad Show [in traditional 2-D] and Black Panther [in digital 2-D]. I just think CG delivers better visuals for technology-based characters/powers, virtual environments and kick-butt armors. These are central elements to the show. Our [S.H.I.E.L.D.] Helicarrier totally rocks in a way it couldn't in 2-D.

VFX Winner Button Comes of Age on DVD

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which counts the Oscar for best visual effects among its many kudos, leads this week’s pack of DVD releases.

The Paramount release is available as a single-disc DVD ($30.99), a two-disc Criterion Collection DVD ($37.99) and a Criterion Collection Blu-ray ($39.99).

Animated releases on tap this week include Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! Vol. 2 (Warner Home Video, $14.97), Gigantor: The Collection (E1 Entertainment, $39.98), Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: Sonic the Hero (NCircle Entertainment, $6.99), Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3: Koopas Rock (NCircle Entertainment, $6.99), Elmo's World Collection: Best of Elmo's World 2 (Genius Products, $29.93), Super Mario Bros. Super Show: Showdown In Brooklyn (NCircle Entertainment, $6.99), HIT Favorites: Playtime Pals (HIT Entertainment, $14.98) and Heathcliff: Very Best of Heathcliff (NCircle Entertainment, $9.99).

New to high-def is the Batman 20th Anniversary Blu-ray (Warner Home Video, $34.99)

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Toon Boom Announces Studio 5

Toon Boom Animation has announced the release this month of Studio 5, its multi-technique animation software package.

The new version of Studio includes the ability to create stop-motion animation, time-lapse imagery, a live view/image capture feature that lets user see how images will appear in the finished movie, the ability to remove bluescreen or greenscreen backgrounds, rotoscoping, optimized playback, exporting to YouTube or Facebook, and an enhanced user interface.

The software is available at a pre-launch price of $329.99 until May 14, with upgrades starting at $79.99.

More information, including technical specs, can be found at: www.toonboom.com/products/toonBoomStudio/

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Cuppa Coffee Signs with Gotham Group

Stop-motion animation studio Cuppa Coffee has signed up for exclusive representation from The Gotham Group.

Cuppa Coffee, based in Toronto, claims to be the largest stop-motion animation studio in the world and is best known for its work on such TV projects as Celebrity Death Match, JoJo’s Circus, Starveillance and A Miser Brother’s Christmas Special.

The studio is in production on 20 episodes of Glenn Martin, D.D.S. with Michael Eisner’s Tomante Co. for Nick at Nite.

Gotham Group, a Los Angeles-based management and production company, will represent the company for feature projects, emphasizing stop-motion animation.

"Cuppa Coffee Studios has an excellent pedigree and reputation as a stop-motion studio and is uniquely placed to optimize its location within Canada to further appeal to the U.S. studios,” said Julie Kane-Ritsch, head of animation at The Gotham Group.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Cleveland Set for Second Season

In a rarity for the TV business, Fox has ordered a second season of the upcoming Family Guy spinoff The Cleveland Show months before the first episode has even aired.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the order for 13 second-season episodes brings the total order for the series to 35 episodes.

The series is set to debut this fall — a date pushed back from the original spring launch date. The second-season episodes will start airing in fall 2010.

The series is created by Seth MacFarlane, Rich Appel and Mike Henry, who voices the lead character on Family Guy. The show also will feature voices from MacFarlane, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long and Arianna Huffington.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

ASIFA-East Animation Festival Winners

The winners were announced last night at the 40th annual ASIFA-East Animation Festival. The top Best in Show prize was awarded to the short film Q&A by the Rauch Brothers, comprised of brothers Tim and Mike. The film, which also competes in Annecy next month, is a gentle, funny and touching real-life conversation between a child with Asperger’s Syndrome and his mother. The other prize-winning film that really stood out for me was the Nullsleep music video “Dirty Rom Dance” created by Plasticflesh (aka Stieg Retlin). The 8-bit artwork style is dime-a-dozen nowadays which makes it all the more rare to see somebody take that visual approach and do something truly original and inventive with it. The video won for Excellence in Soundtrack, a dubious compliment in my opinion; the video game-y music is fine but it was the filmmaker’s pitch-perfect melding of hyperkinetic imagery with sound that truly made this film stand out, not to mention the incredible design and storytelling delivered via a limited palette. Neither Q&A nor “Dirty Rom Dance” are available on-line but keep an eye out for both of them.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Marc Davis Art Show

Beginning this Friday, the Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale will present The Art of Marc Davis. The exhibit will feature non-studio drawings and paintings by Disney animator Davis, one of the “Nine Old Men”. Alice Davis discusses the art show in Glendale Press.

The exhibit runs from May 8th through July 26th, 10:00am–5:00pm everyday except Mondays when the museum is closed. For more information, check the Forest Lawn website.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Free screening of Up


Shhhh… don’t tell anyone, but you can see Pete Docter’s latest film, Up, this Saturday, May 9th for free. If you can get to Connecticut, that is.

There is sneak peek of Pixar’s new feature at the Wadworth Atheneum Museum of Art (600 Main St. in Hartford), at the Wadsworth’s Aetna Theater at 2:00 pm. Admission to the film is on a first come, first served basis, so early arrival is recommended. Doors open at 1:00 pm and visitors are asked to enter through the Avery Lobby. The film will be introduced by Donald Evans, Senior Vice President of Animation Marketing for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and former West Hartford native. For more information click here.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Hugh Jackman to Star in Ghostopolis

X-Men Origins: Wolverine star Hugh Jackman is attached to Ghostopolis, an upcoming graphic novel from Doug TenNapel that the author recently set up at Disney. Jackman will produce through his Seed Productions, as will the Gotham Group.

The Hollywood Reporter says the story centers on a man who works for the government's Supernatural Immigration Task Force. His job is to send ghosts who have escaped into our world back to Ghostopolis. When a living boy accidentally is sent to the other side, the agent must team with a female ghost (and former flame) to bring him back.

No director or writer has been attached to the project.

Wolverine Adds Another $73M Internationally

In addition to making $87 million domestically, X-Men Origins: Wolverine earned another $73 million overseas this weekend from 9,234 theaters in 101 markets. The film has already reached $160 million worldwide. Variety reports:

With Fox culminating a massive worldwide promo push, the U.K. led the way with $9.8 million in the best Brit launch this year, followed by $7.4 million in France, $5.7 million in Australia, $5.5 million in Spain, $4.8 million in Brazil, $4 million in Germany, $3.7 million in Russia and $3.5 million in Italy. Fox has postponed the launch of "Wolverine" in Mexico because of the flu outbreak.

Fox said the fourth
"X-Men" pic generated the top launch numbers among the franchise entries in many markets. Three years ago, "X-Men: The Last Stand" opened day and date with $76.3 million on its way to cuming $225 million overseas -- the seventh highest foreign grosser that year.

Stay tuned for more on the film's box office in the days to come.

Animation, Europe -- Animation, Japan

Where does the time go? Annecy is again upon us.

Gaul's Intl. Animation Film Festival has unveiled an eclectic lineup for its 33rd edition, set to take place June 8-13 in Annecy ...

The U.S. will be well-represented in the official selection with four out of 10 competition titles produced in the U.S., including
"Coraline," helmed by Henry Selick, "Battle for Terra" directed by Aristomenis Tsirbas and Paul and Sandra Fierlinger's "My Dog Tulip." ...

Work-in-progress screenings will spotlight Joann Sfar's 2-D toon
"Rabbi's Cat," Antoine Charreyron's futuristic thriller "Prodigies" and U.S.' "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," helmed by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord.

Don't know about the other "works in progress," but Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs from Sony in Culver City, CA., is pretty much done.

... And on the other side of the planet, Britain's The Independent profiles Hayao Miyazaki, serving to remind us that, if Disney's later hand-drawn 'toons had come close to the level of business (or artistry?) of the Miyazaki features, the Mouse's animation staff in Burbank likely wouldn't have had ... ah ... gaps in their employment these past few years.

... [L]ike the legendary directors of Hollywood's Golden Age, Hayao Miyazaki's intimidating reputation is almost as famous as his movies ...

Miyazaki's films are increasingly greeted with the hoopla reserved for major Disney releases ... Miyazaki's 10th movie, the story of a young goldfish that longs to become human, is another chapter in his lifelong struggle to interpret the world of children...
Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, which has taken $160m (£107m) in ticket sales and been seen by 12 million people in Japan alone since last summer ... is now set for release this summer in the United States and Europe ...

Unsurprisingly, Ponyo is hand-drawn. For some reason, Japanese audiences don't appear to be repelled by technology that isn't cutting edge. Weird.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Gulliver’s Travels release reviewed

After “horror stories” spread around the internet about the state of the images reproduced in a new Blu-ray edition of Max Fleischer’s 1939 animated feature Gulliver’s Travels, Animated Views takes a look at the disc itself, and finds that it does indeed present the film in questionable form and not at all as originally intended. If you have tried to access this review previously, please note that the picture formatting issues have now been fixed.

Elsewhere on the site, the Fleischer theme continues with a full review of Warner Home Video’s recent Superman collection, and there are more superheroics with comments on X-Men: The Animated Series - Volume 1 and comics derived shenanigans in the latest of the Peanuts releases, Snoopy’s Reunion: Deluxe Edition.

Darth Vader battles Gandalf in new series from Heroes star Milo Ventimiglia

Heroes star Milo Ventimiglia is set to appear in and co-produce Ultradome, a new scripted Web series in which warriors from sci-fi's most popular franchises settle hypothetical disputes in a special effects showdown.

"My whole life has been spent engaged with friends in intellectual debate ... like whether Captain Kirk is tougher than Spock or if Middle-earth is a more difficult place to live than Tatooine," Ventimiglia said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "With Ultradome, we can bring these debates to the public and settle them in the most logical way possible: through armed combat."

In each three- to five-minute episode, two characters engage in a heated debate—"Who's tougher, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, or Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones?"—then are transported to a stadium where the duo engage in single combat using all the weaponry, skills and pop culture touchstones from their respective hero's creative arsenal.

The concept is similar to Spike TV's new series Deadliest Warrior, which reconstructs hypothetical matchups between, for instance, a Samurai and a Viking. Only Ultradome is played for laughs with pop culture-driven battles, and shows fans fighting instead of trying to re-create the iconic warriors themselves.

Advertisement For Upcoming Direct-To-Video "Green Lantern: First Flight" Animated Feature

The World's Finest has a look at a new advertisement for the upcoming Green Lantern: First Flight direct-to-video animated feature appearing in comic books.

To get a closer look at the ad which appeared in the recently released Blackest Night #0 Free Comic Book Day One-Shot, among other recent releases, click on the thumbnail below. The ad for the upcoming Green Lantern: First Flight direct-to-video animated feature will be primarily featured in comics published by DC Comics, but is also expected to be featured in comic books released by other publishers.

A co-production of Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation, the direct-to-video Green Lantern: First Flight animated feature will debut Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 on DVD and Blu-ray disc. Stay tuned for further Green Lantern: First Flight updates.

No comments: