Wednesday, May 6, 2009

News - 05/07/09...

Cleveland Pick Up

Seth McFarlane's creations aren't to everyone's taste, but he knows how to attract and entertain the demographic that counts (hint: it's between 18 and 35).

And apparently he's done it again:

Fox is rewarding "The Cleveland Show" with a second season even before the first season has begun.

The spinoff from the network's hit animated series
"Family Guy" is scheduled to premiere next fall ... Fox says its boosting the initial 22-episode order by another 13 half-hours ...

The word I've received is that Fox liked the first shows that came back, made the judgment the series was going to be a winner, and acted accordingly.

I'll venture double speculations here: Not only will Fox bankroll another Simpsons movie or three when James Brooks and company finally get around to writing them, but they will front money to Mr. McFarlane to produce a Family Guy epic for the large screen.

Why? Because Fox knows the sound of gold coins showering down on its corporate roof when it hears it.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Marvel Profits Fall as Revenues Rise

Marvel Entertainment's operating income fell to $73.6 million in the first quarter of 2009, from $87.5 million in the same period a year ago, the company said today. But First quarter revenues rose smartly to $197.0 million from $112.6 million.

The jump in revenues was due to $90.4 million in revenues related to film production during the quarter, which compares to no film production revenues in the first quarter of 2008. The film production unit also swung from a $2.0 million loss to a $15.5 million profit. The improvement was due to DVD sales of The Incredible Hulk, which was released in October of 2008, and Iron Man.

Sales and income at its other units fell, however. Licensing sales slipped 5% to $80.8 million, and operating income fell to $58.9 million from $85.4 million. Publishing sales were down slightly to $25.8 million from $26.5 million and operating income fell to $7.0 million from $9.9 million.

Disney Profits Fall During Latest Fiscal Period

Net income at the Walt Disney Company fell 29% to $613 million during the quarter ended March 28, while revenues fell 7% to $8.1 billion, the company said today. For the six months ended March 28, net income fell 39% to $1.5 billion and revenues slid 8% to $17.7 billion.

Operating income fell at all units, with Studio Entertainment being particularly hard hit. Income of $13 million was down 97% during the second quarter, and six-month income of $200 million was down 78%. Second-quarter revenues fell 21% to $1.4 billion, and six-month revenues fell 24% to $3.4 billion. The decreases reflected weak slates of both DVD and theatrical releases compared to the year-ago period.

Second-quarter income at Parks and Resorts fell 50% to $171 million, and six-month income fell 34% to $553 million. Quarterly revenues fell 12% to $2.4 billion, and six-month revenues fell 8% to $5.1 billion. Disney attributed part of the decline to a shift in Easter from the second quarter period to the third quarter period. Lower income was reported from both domestic and international parks.

Against these numbers, the company's Media Networks division fared well, with second-quarter income falling only 4% and six-month income falling only 14%, to $1.3 billion and $2.0 billion, respectively. Network revenues actually rose 2% in the second quarter to $3.6 billion, but six-month revenues fell 2% to $7.5 billion. Gains in operating income at the Cable Networks unit offset a 38% fall in income at ABC.

Consumer Products also saw revenues gains—of 9% and 14$, respectively—during the second-quarter and first-half periods, but operating income fell during both periods.

9 Animated Films Nominated for Student Oscars

Nine films have been nominated for the best animated film category in the 26th annual Student Academy Awards competition.

Animation is one of four categories in the competition — the others are alternative, documentary and narrative — and members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will choose gold, silver and bronze medal winners.

The animation nominated film are:
Cadillac '59, Hamilton Lewis, Ringling College of Art and Design, Florida

Divers, Paris Mavroidis, Pratt Institute, New York
Entering the Mind through the Mouth, Jin Sung Choi, Academy of Art University, California

• I Live in the Woods, Max Winston, California Institute of the Arts 

Kites, Jud Henry, Brigham Young University

Lilium Urbanus, Joji Tsuruga and Anca Risca, School of Visual Arts

Pajama Gladiator, Glenn Harmon, Brigham Young University

Scrimshander, George Smaragdis, Pratt Institute

Sebastian's Voodoo, Joaquin Baldwin, University of California, Los Angeles
Those medalists will receive cash prizes and participate in a week of industry-related events and activities leading up to the June 13 awards ceremony, during which the gold medal winning films will be shown.

Past student winners have gone on to receive 37 Oscar nominations and have won or shared six awards. Among them is Pete Docter, who was nominated last year for his original screenplay for the Disney/Pixar film WALL•E.

Tickets for the award ceremony are free and available now at, in person at the Academy box office, by mail, or by calling the Student Academy Awards department at (310) 247-3000, ext. 130.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

ANN to Stream FUNimation Series

Top-rated anime news site Anime News Network began streaming episodes of more than a dozen series from FUNimation Entertainment.

The shows offered in the initial phase of the deal include Aquarion, Ga-Ra-Ku-Ta: Mr. Stain on Junk Alley, Ghost Hunt, Glass Fleet, Jyu-Oh-Sei, Kiddy Grade, MoonPhase, Mushi-Shi, Ouran High School Host Club, Rumbling Hearts, Shikabane Hime, Suzuka and XXXHOLiC.

The episodes will be streamed for free with advertisements and more shows will be added weekly.

ANN is a leading anime information website, reporting more than 3.3 million unique visitors per month.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

JAKKS Lands Master Toy Licenses From Aardman

HIT Entertainment has picked JAKKS Pacific to be the master toy licensee in North America for the Aardman Animations series Timmy Time and Shaun the Sheep.

The deal covers the United States and Canada and allows JAKKS Pacific to make and market everything from electronic learning toys, figurines and playsets to stationery activity sets and musical instruments.

Items for both preschooler series are expected to launch in 2010.

“JAKKS Pacific, like Aardman Animations, has built a reputation on innovation and originality,” said Gary Krakower, senior VP, U.S. Licensing & Live Events, HIT Entertainment. “We’re sure preschoolers will embrace Timmy, as older kids around the world will embrace Shaun, and we are excited to work with JAKKS on product development for these two unique properties.”

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Crowds Flock to FMX, Stuttgart Fest

FMX opened its doors Tuesday in Germany to a reported 8,000 registered visitors, while some 50,000 attendees showed up for the concurrent Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film.

The FMX conference, an annual conference devoted to animation, effects, video games and digital media, runs through Thursday and is seeing an impressive recruiting drive from such prominent VFX houses as Sony Pictures Imageworks, Disney Animation Studios, Disney Interactive's Brighton-based Black Rock Studios, London-based Double Negative and Stuttgart's Pixomondo. The conference runs through May 8.

The festival, now in its 16th year, is set to screen more than 600 films through May 10. Among the major releases competing in the AniMovie competition are Igor, Coraline, Niko and the Way to the Stars, Summer Days with Coo, Mary and Max and Idiots and Angels.

The festival also features an international competition, a young animation competition and a section called Tricks for Kids.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

StudioCanal Bags Worldwide Rights to "Around the World" 3D Picture

StudioCanal has picked up worldwide sales rights to Around the World in 50 years, a 3D animated movie about a sea turtle searching the oceans for his lost love, Variety reports. The film, to be produced by Belgium's nWave Pictures, features the voices of Isabelle Fuhrman, Tim Curry, Melanie Griffith, Stacy Keach, and Ed Begley Jr.

The French studio will distribute the picture in France, Germany, Benelux, and the United Kingdom, and handle sales for the rest of the world.

Nicktoons Renews "Wolverine and the X-Men"; New S1 Eps Resume May 22, 2009

Nicktoons Network has renewed Wolverine and the X-Men, acquiring the next 26 episodes of the series after it helped garner the network's highest April ratings in its history. New episodes of the first season of the show will resume on May 22, 2009, at 8:00 PM (Eastern). The second season of the show was greenlit last December.

The new series follows Marvel Comics' iconic team of super-powered mutants, now led by the enigmatic and feral Wolverine as they try to avert a catastrophe foretold by the comatose Professor Charles Xavier.

Actor Victor Garber Discusses His Role In Upcoming "Green Lantern" Animated Feature

Warner Home Video has released an all-new studio-conducted interview with Victor Garber, voice of Sinestro in the upcoming direct-to-video Green Lantern: First Flight animated feature.

Press Release:


From Academy Award blockbusters Titanic and Milk to Emmy-nominated performances in Alias and Will & Grace to Tony Award nods for a lengthy list of leading roles on Broadway, Victor Garber has achieved acting greatness regardless of the format.

Now add animation to his list of successes.

Sinestro pursues a murderer in “Green Lantern: First Flight,” the all-new DC Universe animated original movie set for distribution July 28, 2009 by Warner Home Video.

In his animation debut, Garber masterfully crafts the voice for the calculating, villainous Sinestro in Green Lantern: First Flight, the fifth in the ongoing series of DC Universe animated original PG-13 movies. Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation are set to release the all-new film – as a special edition 2-disc DVD, a Blu-Ray™ Hi-Def edition, as well as single disc DVD – on July 28, 2009, as distributed by Warner Home Video. The action-packed movie will also be available OnDemand and Pay-Per-View as well as available for download day and date, July 28, 2009.

Green Lantern: First Flight finds Hal Jordan recruited to join the Green Lantern Corps and placed under the supervision of respected senior Lantern Sinestro. The earthling soon discovers his mentor is actually the central figure in a secret conspiracy that threatens the philosophies, traditions and hierarchy of the entire Green Lantern Corps. Hal must quickly hone his newfound powers and combat the treasonous Lanterns within the ranks to maintain order in the universe.

The Canadian-born Garber first captured national attention in his 1973 big screen debut as Jesus in Godspell. Garber’s film credits include Titanic, Milk and Sleepless in Seattle, while his television career boasts six Emmy Award nominations spread over four different series, miniseries and movies. He earned a Saturn Award as Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series for his portrayal of Sydney Bristow’s mysterious father in Alias, and most recently was featured in Eli Stone and Justice.

The toast of Broadway for more than three decades, Garber has four Tony Award nominations for a career of performances that range from the Devil in Damn Yankees! to originating the role of John Wilkes Booth in Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins.

Though Garber has recorded books on tape and done some narration for television, Green Lantern: First Flight represents his first-ever voiceover performance for animation. It is an ear-catching performance that captures Sinestro’s true sinister nature. Garber stole a few moments during his New York-based Green Lantern: First Flight recording sessions to chat about his first-ever animation experience, his hero-posturing co-star, Simon Cowell’s attitude, and the directing tornado that is Andrea Romano.

Sinestro tries to get past his frustration as he trains Hal Jordan in “Green Lantern: First Flight,” the all-new DC Universe animated original movie set for distribution July 28, 2009 by Warner Home Video.

QUESTION: How did you settle on the voice of Sinestro?

The challenge of bringing this character to life was to find exactly the right tone. My tendency would be to make it a little too colorful, but Andrea (Romano) and Bruce (Timm) gave direction that was very specifically to modulate it and find the right tone. It was interesting because with animation, it’s all voice – at the recording stage of the process, you don’t even really know what it’s going to look like. But when I read the script, I had sort of an idea of the sound of Sinestro, because it was very specifically written – and very well written – so you could understand the sense of humor and irony in this character. I appreciated that.

QUESTION: How does Sinestro compare to other characters you've played before?

Having played the the ultimate villain as the Devil many years ago in Damn Yankees!, I found Sinestro was just kind of a modification of that character. The thing about villains is that they all think they're doing the right thing, and Sinestro believes that what he's doing is for the better, that it's going to improve the universe. The scariest part about a villain is that you know, at any cost, human life or super-powered life, they will do whatever it takes to achieve their goal. They believe in their cause, and Sinestro fits that mold.

QUESTION: Do you enjoy playing the villain?

I like to play any character that has dimension and complexity and if he happens to be a villain, great. If he happens to be heroic, great. I just like well-written roles.

QUESTION: What development did you put into the voice?

I actually read the script aloud a couple of times and sort of experimented with a certain qualities. In the script, it says – and maybe this was a bit misleading – but it refers to Sinestro as having a bit of a Simon Cowell attitude. I tried not to let that influence me too much, but Sinestro is sarcastic and he’s got a real edge. So I played with it, and once I got into the studio with Andrea, the voice really came out.

Sinestro and Hal Jordan assess an oncoming battle in “Green Lantern: First Flight,” the all-new DC Universe animated original movie set for distribution July 28, 2009 by Warner Home Video.

QUESTION: What was your impression of Sinestro’s dialogue?

When I first read the script, I came to these four-paragraph speeches, and that always alarms me a little bit because with anything (that long), you really have to figure out how you're going to shape the entire piece. But they're well written, and they have a definite rhythm. So I sort of read it aloud in the privacy of my own home, because I just wanted to get the sound of it – you don’t want to be tripping over your words when you get to the studio. So I had a sense of what I wanted to achieve and it worked out pretty well.

It’s important to prepare and understand the entire script, not just your lines. You don’t want to upstage the other actors. If it’s a scene with two or three or five people, you really basically need to think, “How am I communicating with all these people?” Everybody in this mix makes it whole, and I think they've assembled a really good group of people for this film.

QUESTION: Speaking of the cast, you’re playing opposite Christopher Meloni’s heroic Green Lantern, and you had the opportunity to act with each other in the booth. How was that experience?

Chris was very disappointing (LAUGHS). Christopher Meloni is a really great actor and I'm a huge fan of his -- the opportunity to work with him was really my incentive to do it. I'm on a little break, I’ve just come back from Morocco, I was jet lagged and my agent called and I thought, “Two days in the studio with Chris Meloni? I can do that.” We had a lot of fun. He really does exude the heroic quality that Green Lantern would embody. It was funny because you’re in the studio and you're focused on the microphone, reading the script – you hear each other in your headphones so you can play off each other, but you don’t really look at each other. And occasionally I would catch a glimpse of him – striking the (super hero) pose. He was definitely in character.

QUESTION: Did your previous work on the stage and screen help prepare you for this style of performance?

From my experience as an actor, every role you do helps you build a kind of a repertoire of characters that you pull things from unconsciously. This is very different from anything I've done on television or even on stage. But my job as an actor is to imbue it with some sort of authenticity and truth – to make it believable. I didn’t pull anything for Sinestro from any specific character I’ve played in the past. They're all different.

QUESTION: From Nora Ephron to Gus Van Sant to James Cameron, you’ve worked with some impressive directors. What was your impression of your first voiceover under the direction of Andrea Romano?

Andrea is a task maker. She's brilliant at her job, I have to say. You just feel confident that there's someone in the booth that's really watching out for you. She’s very specific, she knows what she wants, and she's relentless at getting it – which is a great thing because then you know that the product is going to be the best it can be. I had a great time with her.

QUESTION: Based on this first experience, are you interested in doing more voiceovers for animation?

Sinestro (center) and fellow Lanterns (from left) Boodikka, Kilowog and Tomar-Re take their first look at new recruit Hal Jordan in “Green Lantern: First Flight,” the all-new DC Universe animated original movie set for distribution July 28, 2009 by Warner Home Video.

Well, I hope that people like what we’ve done and I hope I get more work from it, but you never know. It was challenging in that it requires some very specific techniques with the microphone, things that you would do naturally that you can’t do during a voiceover. There are constraints that you're required to pay attention to. But it was completely fun to do and challenging only in the best sense. I’d like to do more.

Please visit the film’s official website at

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.

Research Shows PBS Kids' "Super WHY!" Helps Kids Learn to Read

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and PBS have released the results of a study on their show Super WHY!, stating that the show boosts pre-schooler's early literacy skills. Dr. Deborah L. Linebarger, director of the Annenberg Children's Media Lab and head of the studies, stated that, "The format of Super WHY! provides them with an engaging platform that fosters literacy skills," adding that, "An impressive indicator of the power of Super WHY! is that meaningful changes in preschoolers’ early literacy skills were found with exposure to as few as two or three episodes."

The full press release with the research study results and test methodologies can be seen here.

"Get Along Gang" producer Craig Virden dies at 56

Craig Virden, former head of children's books at Random House and associate producer of DiC Entertainment's The Get Along Gang series, died Wednesday morning of a pulmonary embolism. He was 56.

Running for 26 episodes on CBS from 1984 to 1985, The Get Along Gang was co-produced by Scholastic Productions. Virden began working at Scholastic in 1979, co-founding two mass market paperback lines at the publisher in 1981.

He was also associate producer of the 1984 CBS special The Adventures Of The Get Along Gang. A co-production between Scholastic and Nelvana Limited, it was a pilot for the Get-Along Gang series. It was subsequently included in the series, which had different voice talent.

In addition, Virden was associate producer of the half-hour 1983 Nelvana Limited special The Special Magic Of Herself The Elf, distributed by Scholastic-Lorimar. It featured the voices of Georgia Engel and Jerry Orbach, as well as music by Judy Collins.

Virden began his career in editing, publishing and marketing at Curtis Brown Ltd., a literary agency, in 1975. After his stint at Scholastic, he worked in advertising at BBDO and returned to publishing in 1988 as associate publisher of Delacorte Press.

In 1996, Virden was named president and publisher of the Random House Books for Young Readers group. Virden acquired Golden Books for Random House in 2001. He left the company in 2002, saying that he missed working directly with authors and wanted to return to the creative part of children's publishing.

Since then, he co-founded the Lookybook Web site.

Most recently, his career came full circle when he joined the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency to be a co-agent with his wife, for whom the agency is named. He also donated financially to Democratic campaigns.

He and his wife were to be special guests this July at the 10th annual Pacific Northwest Children's Book Conference, sponsored by Portland State University and held at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

Craig Virden and his wife were residents of South Orange, New Jersey. Besides his wife, he is survived by two grown children.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Bradley Cooper rumored to power up as Green Lantern

Bradley Cooper, best known for backing up Sydney Bristow as Will Tippin on Alias, is the top candidate to portray Green Lantern on the big screen, and has "either been in front of the camera already or will be this week," according to Drew McWeeny of HitFix.

McWeeny is careful to point out that Cooper has not yet been hired, and that Green Lantern director Martin Campbell likes to see many people when he's casting, and even when he's screen-testing, so until there's further verification, this information is best treated as rumor.

But with preproduction on Green Lantern set to begin in July, and filming scheduled to start in November, McWeeny states that "the process is far enough along that this is more than just a meeting or some spot on a wish list."

Fan-made Hunt for Gollum a hit: servers crash

A Lord of the Rings-themed fan-produced film called The Hunt for Gollum premiered online on Sunday, and within 24 hours it had had about 250,000 views, with nearly all fan comments on the Web site giving the film a thumbs-up.

The premiere was so successful that it brought down the film's Web servers for a few hours. Director and executive producer Chris Bouchard, speaking exclusively to SCI FI Wire by telephone from England, explains, "The Web server got completely overwhelmed by all the traffic. We got it back online quite late that night. I think everybody saw the release and went on at the same time. It was the number of requests it couldn't handle. It's quite cool! We had no idea how many people would watch it."

Bouchard adapted the script from an incident mentioned in J.R.R. Tolkien's original Rings trilogy. "All the story is in the appendices, and it's referred to by Gandalf during the first book," he said. "That's a very basic structure of the story, which says Aragorn went to look for Gollum, and he found him, so we filled in the detail."

The Hunt for Gollum also had its world theatrical premiere on Sunday at the Sci-Fi-London film festival and a U.S. premiere later in the day in Yuma, Ariz., thanks to two Yuma residents who worked on the sound and visual effects. The London event was attended by Bouchard, star Adrian Webster (Aragorn) and other members of the cast and crew, who took audience questions afterward.

According to Bouchard, neither he nor his crew had any clue what to expect in advance of the screening. "They'd been giving away tickets for free to the audience, so we didn't really know if people were signing up to it or not until we walked in, and it was all full," he said. "It was quite weird, actually, watching it with a real audience, and they were all very quiet throughout the film, so I thought they really hated it!"

As to the film's positive reception, Bouchard said, "I was shocked, actually, because I was expecting a lot of stick for interpretations. We thought maybe the actors, they've got a lot to live up against trying to play [roles played by] Ian McKellen and Viggo Mortensen. On the whole, the comments from people who've watched it so far have been really nice. We've definitely had some good nitpicks as well, but we're quite surprised they've been so nice."

The Hunt for Gollum also stars Patrick O'Connor, Rita Ramnani and Gareth Brough It streams online. Bouchard reports that the film will remain on the site indefinitely and will likely be available from a few other streaming sites as well. He would also like to bring it to other film festivals this year, though no definite plans have been made.

New Transformers 2 character onesheets!

Paramount has released three new character onesheets for Michael Bay's upcoming Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which you can view after the jump.

The onesheets, which debuted on Yahoo!, show Starscream, Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. Click on the images below for larger versions. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opens June 24.

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