Wednesday, May 6, 2009

News - 05/06/09...

The Tigger Movie: 2-Disc 10th Anniversary Edition DVD in August

Ultimate Disney reports that Disney has set August 4th as the street date for The Tigger Movie: 2-Disc 10th Anniversary Edition. The DVD will include 2 new-to-DVD episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, extras from the original DVD like Kenny Loggins music video “Your Heart Will Lead You Home” and a “Round My Family Tree” sing-along. Second disc will contain a digital copy of the film.

Actor and comedian Dom DeLuise dead at 75

Golden Globe-nominated comic actor Dom DeLuise, the voice of Jeremy the crow in The Secret of NIMH and Itchy Itchiford in All Dogs Go To Heaven and Tiger in An American Tail (1986), died Monday at 75.

Born in Brooklyn, DeLuise peacefully in his sleep at about 6 p.m. at a Los Angeles hospital.

DeLuise appeared in such Mel Brooks films as Blazing Saddles, Silent Movie, History Of The World Part One, Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. He was a frequent co-star with Burt Reynolds in films like Cannonball Run, Smokey and The Bandit 2 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. As well, he hosted TV's Candid Camera from 1991 to 1992.

He repeated the role of Itchy -- the old partner of Charlie B. Barkin (Reynolds) -- in All Dogs Go To Heaven 2 (1996) and that year's All Dogs Go To Heaven TV series, which aired in syndication. For his work on the series, DeLuise was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program in 1996 for "All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series" (1996)

He was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1974 for Best TV Actor - Musical/Comedy in connection with his work on Lotsa Luck, where he played Stanley Belmont.

Born on August 1, 1933, DeLouise also was a director, producer and writer. He enjoyed cooking and writing, and was the author of his own cookbook series, as well as several children's books.

Dom DeLuise is survived by his wife since 1965, actress Carol Arthur, as well as his sons, actor, writer, director Peter DeLuise, and actors David DeLuise and Michael DeLuise.

Nascar Going Into the Toon Business

Toy Story will meet Cars in Nascar: The Secret Life of Cars, a direct-to-DVD animated film from Nascar and Tinseltown Toons, Variety reports.

The story focuses on what happens in a Nascar garage when humans have left and the cars come to life. Tom Rogers will write the script from an idea by Tinseltown's Joshua Wexler.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment will distribute the 2011 release.

Dear Anna Olson

Dean Kalman Lennert, animator/director of the short Dear Anna Olson, is seemingly one of the few animators left that see hand-drawn animation as a valid and still viable art form.

Here's some quotes and clips....

"It is truly inspiring these days to see animation that is this beautiful and is drawn by hand. Dean is clearly dedicated to this inspiring film. I am delighted and amazed by the clips I have seen so far and I look forward to seeing the finished film in the near future."
Linda Simensky
Senior Director, Kids Programming, PBS

"Dean Lennert's subtle animation and narrative skills are on full display in "Dear Anna Olson". This sensitive and emotional story, skillfully told through detailed and expressive drawings is a work-in-progress deserving of your support."
John Canemaker
2006 Academy Award winner
Director/Animator, "The Moon and the Sun"

"It's rare to find a filmmaker exhibit as much passion and dedication for their work for as long as Dean Lennert has. Projects tend to come and go, but "Dear Anna Olson" is a wonderful film that showcases Dean's amazing talents and I hope to see it completed soon."
Bryan Singer
Director,"The Usual Suspects, "X-Men"



Here's Dean's first interview on the film, an appearance on WFSB’s Better Connecticut, which has since had over 1000 views on youtube (Nice going, Dean!). This led to a rather lively discussion held HERE on on the film's budget, its merits and Dean's abilities as an animator/filmmaker, which he enjoyed hearing both pros and cons about himself and the film.

To find out more about the film, latest news and how to make a donation to support this fine work, check out Dean's website at

Howard Stern and Seth MacFarlane Trash Flash

Alright - here we go again.

Last week, Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy and American Dad, was on The Howard Stern Show on Sirius Satellite Radio to promote The Cleveland Show. The conversation eventually steered towards Stern’s own latent cartoon ambitions. You see, back about 5 years ago, Stern was cooking up a series for Spike titled Howard Stern: The High School Years. Well into development, Howard ran into some budget problems. Spike reportedly wasn’t interested in paying $800,000 or a million per episode for traditional animation - ala Family Guy - so they started down the Flash route, or what Stern calls “cheap shit animation.” In last week’s interview, MacFarlane remarked on this production choice and subsequently pissed all over Flash (listen here - around 8:00):

There’s something so sanitized when they do it with Flash. There’s still no machine that can substitute for hand drawn. Some people like it. I have the same visceral reaction that you do. It just feels very cold.

To illustrate how ridiculous this comment is, I direct your attention to a Flash-animated project - one that MacFarlane may recognize:

Up Late

How cold! How sanitized! The animators must have been replaced by robots! That was Up Late With Stewie & Brian, which was produced in Flash by Flinch, Zeek and Fatkat back in 2007.

There’s not accounting for taste, as it’s a personal thing, but Seth has bumbled into the same old mistake so many others have made - he blamed bad painting on the brush. It’s quite apparent that Seth hasn’t seen the volumes of excellent work produced with the Flash thoughtout the years. Go watch Superjail! or some of the work we highlighted in the Flash Animation 10, and you’ll agree it’s not the tool that’s sanitizing anything.

You can actually see the test Stern is referring to. In November of 2003, Mark Marek met with Stern and subsequently produced some animated tests, hoping to land the directing gig. He posted the results on his site, which don’t look all that bad to me.

Big thanks to Dave Redl (Family Pants) for the story tip.

(Thanks Cold Hard Flash)

Archive Chuck Jones Interview Now Available

The Archive of American Television has made available via YouTube their complete 3-hour with animation legend Chuck Jones, hosted by animator/author Tom Sito.

This previously unaired "longform oral history" of the late director was originally recorded in June 1998 and is presented by The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation (the Primetime Emmy Awards people).

The Archive has disabled embedding videos for their YouTube Channel, so here are direct links in sequential order:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Tom Jones' New Music Video Comes in Classic Animated Flavor

The music video for Tom Jones' single Give a Little Love is out and available for viewing. In it, we follow an animated Jones as he makes his way from his home to the big show. All the while, while the city comes to life around him as an homage to the shorts of the 1930s. According to WalesOnline, Director Ian Bonhote had the idea come to him after watching his childhood cartoons after the birth of his son.

Happy Birthday, ASIFA!

Forty years of creativity, imagination and animation. It’s quite an accomplishment, and on May 3rd, ASIFA East threw itself quite a party, to celebrate the fortieth running of its’ annual festival.

Over five hundred fans, filmmakers, and industry professional - a record number of guests for an ASIFA function, attended Sunday’s event. The screening was held in the Tishman Auditorium at Parsons/The New School. Our thanks to Anezka Sebek, whose cooperation and appreciation for animation have made us feel welcome in this impressive venue.

Anezka opened the festival with a warm speech in which she expressed her affection for ASIFA, her passion for animation and her respect for those who labor to create it. At one point, Anezka called animators “magicians” - and she must have been precognitive, because later on we made eight tons of donated food and fifty bottles of wine disappear within ten minutes.

ASIFA East president David Levy served as facilitator and shared a laugh with guest host Linda Simensky, who suggested the most important skill set of an ASIFA president (a post she has held as well) was the ability to overcome the reaction to a bad joke. Some people might claim the state of modern animation is a bad joke: studios are closing and despite advances in technology which make films easier to create, it’s still hard to turn animation into a viable living. One producer at the event lamented that although their winning film was created for an airline, that organization wouldn’t spring for a free ticket, to allow the filmmaker to accept her award in person. Others thanked their interns, without whose unpaid contributions their films could not have been finished. So yes, a free meal may have been an incentive many struggling artists found impossible to ignore.

All kidding aside, this year’s festival was notable for several reasons: ASIFA East is not only celebrating its’ fortieth annual festival screening, we are in our ninth year of partnership with Parsons/The New School, a relationship that has been mutually beneficial, since, as Anezka says, “I’ve often raided the ranks of ASIFA for teachers.”

It’s wonderful to share an evening of quality work with like-minded artists and technicians. Sunday night’s event offered an opportunity to spend time with participants from every strata of the industry, from students to established leaders in the field. But central to the evening’s agenda were the winning films, and this year’s entries were particularly sharp. Several of the artists I spoke with commented on how many of the screened cartoons were psychologically complex and thought-provoking, not merely well-drawn.

In the student film category, Paris Maroidis’ “Divers” displayed an impressive sophistication in rendering, design, and technical skill. Katherine Morris’ “The Story of One-eyed Ophelia Jackson” got laughs in all the right places, and was an example of clever storytelling supported by an edgy visual style.

I was engaged to create the introductory sequences for the festival, and I experienced a moment of surreal discomfort when my spoof of a smoking commercial (“Bob the Turtle, from the Happy Zoo”) ran right before a sponsored film for St. Joseph’s Hospital for Cancer Care. Did the juxtaposition enhance the impact of each film, or did their contradictory messages cause tension? Hmmmm…. Such moments of serendipity (or of conflict) are not possible on venues like Youtube, and are a primary reason such festival screenings should thrive and continue, even in the internet age.

The mixture of narrative and non-narrative films played well, and the audience seemed genuinely supportive of films whose visual aspects were often quite elegant and opulent, even when those visuals weren’t always executed in support of a laugh or simple story. David Ehrlich’s lyrical, non-narrative “Line Dance” offered a calming, meditative moment of respite between films like Elliot Cowan’s intense, starkly designed “Boxhead and Roundhead” anti-war film, and Bill Plympton’s very funny “Santa, the Fascist Years,” which perhaps intentionally recalled Leni Riefenstahl’s troubling propaganda masterpieces of the thirties.

This year’s screening was unusually brief, with less than ninety minutes of films. This kept the energy in the room from lagging, and the program played briskly, with something for nearly every taste and sensibility–from the childlike (and unexpectedly hilarious) “My Sister’s Butt,” created by PilarToons to the sensual elegance of Acme Filmworks’ “Butterfly” piece.

This year’s “Best in Show” was a deserving entry by the Rauch Brothers called “Q & A,” in which a child with Asperger’s Syndrome converses with his sometimes baffled, sometimes bemused, but always unconditionally loving Mom. This reminded me of the kind of films Michael Sporn became known for, and it was refreshing to see animation designed and executed in a subtle, whimsical style that wisely took a back seat to the more powerful writing and voice performances.

As Linda Simensky said, ASIFA’s festival is one of the only annual Animation Events in the United States. It’s not always easy to coordinate such high-profile extravaganzas, and in these tough times, ASIFA, like similar organizations of volunteers, has had to make some sacrifices (our newsletter is now an online publication most of the time) and has had to find ways to survive and thrive in the face of unexpected sociological and financial challenges. That’s why it’s so invigorating to see hundreds of people come together (in the rain, and under the threat of Swine Flu, no less) to support their fellow artists and to celebrate the love of this vital art form. During the evening, I had the chance to speak with several attendees, winners and fans, all of whom expressed their delight at the huge turnout and the quality of the animation on display during the screening. In fact, the crowd was so sizable it threatened to overflow the banquet room at The New School: my three tours of the packed room took over an hour to complete, during which time I encountered several old friends and made several new ones. After the cocktail hour at the New School, several dozen animators took the party to a local watering hole, and celebrated to the wee hours.

Attached are some of the photographs Tom Mehrtens took during the screening and the party afterwards: enjoy these memories from a very memorable night! We invite anyone who attended to comment on the event and to offer insights, opinions and stories about the evening. I congratulate ASIFA on forty magnificent annual screenings, and wish it endless success in the coming years.

Janet Perlman (Hot Seat) and Jen Oxley (Wonder Pets! Save the Kangaroo)

Candy Kugel and Howard Beckerman

Elliot Cowen (Brothers in Arms)

Our new certificate designer, Will Krause (Dog in a Burning Building)

David Wachtenheim, Richard Gorey (opening films), Linda Simensky (festival co-chair)

The Rauch Brothers: Tim and Mike (Q and A)

Franklin Zitter and Zartosht Soltaniv, of Flickerlab (St. Joseph's Medical Center: "Many Roads")

Editor’s note: A collection of many more pictures from the 2009 ASIFA East Animation Festival can be found here:

And we’ve also started a Flickr group for current ASIFA-East members:

(Thanks asifaeast)

Playboy's 2009 Animation Contest

A little LATE, but...

Playboy promises a tasty $10,000 to someone who blows them away with an animation that out-entertains the competition. Now it's your chance to animate your way into history by proving to them that you have created the next South Park, Family Guy or Robot Chicken. One grand prize winner grabs the cash. The deadline for submissions is May 31, 2009, so get to work and come up with something brilliant! Get your foot in the door. Join the Play-Mation Nation!

Get more about the contest HERE and HERE

Supinfocom Students Reel In Oceansize

My school projects were usually slapped together a few nights before they were due. These four French studens from Supinfocom Arles obviously took more than few nights crafting this 7-minute, elaborate action story on the high seas. It’s titled Oceansize, and it was directed by Romain Jouandeau, Adrien Chartie, Gilles Mazières and Fabien Thareau.

Oceansize from Oceansize Team on Vimeo.

Beneduci’s Popped is Sharp

I’d forgotten how this graduation season is - so many new films, week after week. Here’s Bianca Beneduci’s traditionally-animated film - titled Popped. It’s a surrealist, dream-like world featuring a protective boy shielding his balloons from destruction. Beneduci is a student at Vancouver Film School’s classical animation program. Have a great summer, Bianca!

Lots of It Going Around

Over the years, I've gotten my share of gripes regarding company transgressions, along with questions about why TAG isn't doing more to stop them.

Occasionally the complaints descend into diatribes on the order of "You're weak!" ... "You suck!" when the the problem -- whatever it happens to be -- isn't solved. (It's at that point I start thinking, Why was I born? Why am I living?)

But then I read a piece in the local newspaper, and realize it's not such a big, empty universe after all, and I am not alone ...

Freelance writers send in jokes, hoping to hear them on TV. The pay? $75 to $100. It may violate the WGA's contract, but enforcement is tough ...

... [The WGA] says the practice violates its contract, [but] the guild has never made the issue a high priority, even as it has worked to organize unaffiliated reality show writers. That's in part because it receives few complaints from freelancers happy to get on the air, regardless of the low pay and the difficulty of policing what is a clandestine activity.

... [Lowell Peterson, exec director of the WGA, East] said he believed none of the New York-based shows employ freelance writers. When informed that The Times had spoken to writers who freelance for several, including
"Late Show" and "SNL," he was taken aback. "Wow, that's disturbing," he said, vowing to "follow up on the matter."

"Any time someone has made an allegation, we've tried to investigate it," added Patric Verrone, president of the WGA, West, an ex-writer for Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show." "The problem we run up against is that the show denies it happens, and the writer who did it won't come forward to provide us with concrete evidence." ...

Patric? I know exactly the problem you are going through. Let's do lunch some time, okay? And we can wring our hands together.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

WOLVERINE 2 Development Underway

Variety confirms recent rumors that Hugh Jackman is now in development on a sequel to the weekend hit 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine'.

Jackman would produce and, of course, star in the film which will make use of the Marvel mutant's Samurai period, in which he travels to Japan and becomes involved with Markio Yashida, the Yakuza and the Silver Samurai. Some fans who watched the current movie past the credits saw a teaser for this storyline, one of several post-credit scenes that were attached to various prints of the film.

Prior rumors had placed 'Slumdog Millionaire' scribe Simon Beaufoy as the screenwriter for the film, but the Variety article refutes this, stating that a writer has yet to be hired.

Jackman's Seed Productions partner John Palermo would also produce.

Thor, Captain America and Avengers Updates

Marvel Entertainment reported its First Quarter earnings today and gave a few updates on its upcoming movies during the company's quarterly conference call.

Iron Man 2 is, of course, already filming for a May 7, 2010 release, but Marvel said this morning that the Kenneth Branagh-directed Thor is scheduled to start filming in the First Quarter of 2010. No formal offers have been made to actors, though they said that casting announcements are likely the next few months. Thor is targeted for a May 20, 2011 release.

Marvel added that The First Avenger: Captain America, to be directed by Joe Johnston, is scheduled to start filming in the summer of 2010 for a July 22, 2011 release.

In an interview with Empire magazine, Marvel's President of Production Kevin Feige talked about The Avengers as well:

"Zak Penn is already on board The Avengers [as writer] and he's spending a lot of his time looking into what we're doing with Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, seeing how we're tying it all together. And he's beginning to outline the script now – he'll be doing that over the summer."

The Avengers is coming to theaters on May 4, 2012.

Alan Tudyk says the pilot for ABC's V has a Firefly link

Alan Tudyk, who stars in ABC's sci-fi pilot for a remake of V, told a group of reporters that the new version is what you remember the original was. V is based on the 1980s series about lizard-like aliens taking human form to invade Earth.

"If you are a fan, which I was, of the first one, this is kind of everything that you remember, without going back and watching," Tudyk said in a conference call on Monday to promote Fox's Dollhouse. "If you go back and watch the original V, you're like, 'Oh, I thought this was great. It kind of looks really cheesy.' It fills in your memory as it should be."

One of the major factors in this update, Tudyk added, is the top-notch visual effects. "It's really awesome effects," he said. "The effects are done by Zoic, who did Firefly [in which Tudyk starred]. Zoic does all the spacecrafts. Anything requiring digital enhancement is Zoic, and they do a great job. Then, of course, Morena Baccarin is in it, and she's the leader of the aliens, so you can't get any better than that." Baccarin co-starred with Tudyk in Firefly and its movie spinoff, Serenity.

Unfortunately, there is no Firefly reunion. At least in the pilot, Tudyk has no scenes with Baccarin. "No, but we got to hang out, and that was cool," he said.

Tudyk did not wish to discuss the plot of the new V. "I can say this," he said. "It's really good. I hope that they pick it up."

V awaits pickup from ABC.

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