Wednesday, May 13, 2009

News - 05/13/09...

A Prime Time Toon Goes Down

Apparently Sony's entry into the prime time animation wars didn't work out.

Fox yanks 'Sit Down, Shut Up' a week early

Fox ... opted to yank the remaining episode of
"Sit Down, Shut Up" after the show posted a dismal 0.7 rating/3 share among adults 18-49.

... Fox will run a repeat
"King of the Hill" in that slot.

"Sit Down's" perf, the animated half-hour is not expected to return.

I always feel bad for crews that work their tails off, only to see the gig go down in flames.

Sadly, these things happen ... and will continue to happen. What gets greenlit isn't always what has a life beyond its initial order.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Chris Landreth's Spine Trailer Now Online

The NFB has posted a teaser trailer for Oscar-winner Chris Landreth's latest animated short, THE SPINE. The film is a story of redemption following the relationship between a man and a woman trapped in a spiral of mutual destruction. Dan and Mary Rutherford, married 26 years, sit unhappily in a couples’ group counseling session. Angela, another troubled participant in this group, wonders why their marriage has become so lopsided, so twisted. But when Mary leaves Dan, he undergoes a beautiful transformation. What will happen when she returns?

(Thanks AWN)

Masterclass with Pixar Artists

Masterclass with Pixar Artists
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
June 13-14, 2009

VanArts is proud to present a two-day intensive Masterclass in Montreal with Story Artist Matthew Luhn and Animator Andrew Gordon from PIXAR Animation Studios! This is a one-time special event to be held in Montreal.

This seminar is designed for animation industry professionals, students or enthusiasts. Skill sets covered are not software-specific, and all lectures are organized with visuals, live-action and animated clips. This rare opportunity gives you the tools needed to create your own stories and feature-quality animation, plus offers a great chance to network and meet others in the industry.

Saturday June 13, 2009
9:00am - 4:00pm

Animation Masterclass with Andrew Gordon

Topics will include animation principles, staging, pose design, weight, dynamics, acting for animation, gestures, scene planning, blocking, facial expressions, and high level polish techniques.

Andrew Gordon has been animating characters professionally for over 12 years. He joined Pixar Animation Studios in 1997 where he has been an animator on A BUG'S LIFE, TOY STORY 2, MONSTERS, INC., FINDING NEMO, THE INCREDIBLES and RATATOUILLE. The characters he has worked on include Mike Wazowski from MONSTERS, INC., Gill from FINDING NEMO and Edna Mode, the costume designer in THE INCREDIBLES. Andrew also worked as supervising animator on the short film Presto. His work has also included directing several promotional spots for Broadcast, Web and Blu-ray content.

Gordon studied animation in Vancouver and NY, and prior to his work at Pixar, he worked in the Looney Tunes division of Warner Brothers. He was awarded
"Outstanding Character Animation in an Animated Motion Picture" by the Visual Effects Society for his work in FINDING NEMO.

He has been teaching animation in California since 2000. He has lectured on animation around the world, including Masterclasses in China, Spain, Singapore, Australia and Italy. He is a contributing teacher to
Animation Mentor and the CSU Summer Arts program. He is one of the founders of Spline Doctors, a blog/podcast dedicated to animation education. He is currently teaching animation at California College of Art in Oakland and animating on Pixar's TOY STORY 3

Sunday June 14, 2009
9:00am - 4:00pm

Storyboarding & Story Development Masterclass with Matthew Luhn

Topics will include storyboarding, three-act story structure, sequence boards, character development, gags, boarding from scripts, board composition, line and value.

Matthew Luhn began his career at Pixar Animation Studios in 1992 as an animator on the very first CG feature TOY STORY. Since that time, Matthew has worked in the Story Development department, storyboarding on TOY STORY 2, MONSTERS INC, FINDING NEMO, CARS, RATATOUILLE, UP and TOY STORY 3.

Prior to Pixar, Luhn attended the California Institute of the Arts, and would later be hired as an animator on
and at Industrial Light & Magic. Luhn grew up in the San Francisco Bay area where his family has owned and operated Jeffrey's Toys stores for over three generations.

Along with working at Pixar, Luhn teaches seminars all over the world on how to create great stories and characters.

Cinematheque Quebecoise
Claude-Jutra Theater
335 Boulevard De Maisonneuve East
Montreal, Quebec

Course Fee: $450 CDN for both days, no taxes
Registration -- Register online now.

Alpha 9! Leads Toon Honors at Dusty Awards

Jake Armstrong won the top prize for traditional animation for his film The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9! Saturday night at the 20th annual Dusty Film and Animation Festival and Award.

Showbiz luminaries including Kevin Kline, John Patrick Shanley and animator Tom Sito helped present the honors, which were held at the new SVA Theatre, located at 333 W. 23rd St. in New York City.

The festival featured more than 100 films from graduation film, video and animation students at the School of Visual Arts.

The full list of winners follows:

Outstanding Achievement in Film: Ana Maria Hermida for El Elefante Rojo – The Red Elephant.

Outstanding Achievement in Directing: Ana Maria Hermida for El Elefante Rojo – The Red Elephant.

Outstanding Achievement in Traditional Animation: Jake Armstrong for The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9!

Outstanding Achievement in Screenwriting: Justin Rice for Quince.

Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography: Steven Gatti for The Wounded and the Slain and Brian Gonzalez for Wishing, Well.

Outstanding Achievement in Editing: Arys Subiadur and Nicholas Chakwin for Lion Bold.

Outstanding Achievement in Animation Design: Alexander Wager for Juxtaposed.

Outstanding Achievement in Documentary (Film): Ian Phillips and Victoria Rondon for Tumi - The Life and Death of Boitumelo McCallum.

The Human Spirit Award (Film): Ian Phillps for Tumi – The Life and Death of Boitumelo McCallum.

The Human Spirit Award (Animation): Elyssa Digiovanni for Trade Winds.

Women in Film Award: Katie-Madonna Lee for Women’s Prison.

National Board of Review Scholarship Awards: Ross Bollinger for Reward and Lindsay Woods for Pencilmation – both for Animation.

The 2009 Dusty Film and Animation Festival and Awards sponsors included Nice Shoes, National Board of Review, New York Women in Film and Television, CAVA – SVA Computer Store, Avid, Colliers ABR, Eastman Kodak, Future Media Concepts, SCS Agency and Animation Magazine.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

PBS KIDS Gets Cat in the Hat TV Series

Dr. Seuss’s classic character The Cat in the Hat is finally getting his own series on PBS KIDS.

Production has begun on 40 animated half-hour episodes of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!, with actor Martin Short voicing the lead character.

The preschooler series is the first to star the iconic children’s book character, who has also appeared in animated specials and feature films.

The show is set to premiere in fall 2010 and is being developed by Portfolio Entertainment and Collingwood O’Hare Productions. The series will be specifically based on The Cat in the Hat Learning Library books published by Random House.

The series will follow 6-year-old friends Sally and Nick who explore natural science discoveries around the world with the Cat in the Hat as their guide.

To further extend the TV series learning, an activity-filled Web site for kids will exist on, with additional parent and teacher resources available on PBS Parents ( and PBS Teachers (

Random House Children’s Books will publish a full line of original books to support the television series launch and Random House Children’s Entertainment will oversee all licensing and merchandising.

Additionally, a deal has been made for Canadian broadcast rights with Treehouse, which will be premiering the show concurrently with PBS.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Stuttgart Crowns Mary and Max

Mary and Max added to an already impressive list of festival prizes by taking home this weekend the AniMovi prize at the 16th Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film in Germany.

The film, directed by Australian animator Adam Elliott, previously opened this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Bill Plympton’s most-recent feature,
Idiots and Angels, won special mention in the AniMovi category, which is an international competition for animated feature films.

, a short film by Italian animator Blu, won the Grand Prix in the International Competition section.

The six-day fest, run in conjunction with the FMX visual effects conference, concluded Sunday having drawn in a record-breaking estimated crowd of some 50,000 festival goers.

The full list of winners follows:

Mary and Max, by Adam Elliot, Australia (2008)
Special Mention: Idiots and Angels, by Bill Plympton, USA (2008)

International Competition
Grand Prix: Muto, by Blu, Italy (2008)
International Promotion Award: Rabbit Punch, by Kristian Andrews, Great Britain (2008)
Special Award — Music for Animation: Der DaVinci Timecode – Ein Bewegtes Bild (DaVinci’s Timecode – A Moving Picture) by Gil Alkabetz, Germany (2009)
Special Mention: Skhizein, by Jeremy Clapin, France (2008)
SWR Audience Award: Skhizein, by Jeremy Clapin, France (2008)

Young Animation
O Ponožkách A Láske (About Socks And Love), by Michaela Čopíková, Slovakia (2008)
Special Mention: Never Drive A Car When You’re Dead, by Gregor Dashuber,
Germany (2009)

Tricks for Kids
The Happy Duckling, by Gili Dolev, Germany-Great Britain (2008)

Animated Series
Histoires Comme Ça – L’Enfant D’Elephant (Just So Stories – The Elephant’s Child), by Jean-Jacques Prunes, France (2008)
Special Mention: Moot Moot: L’Enfer De La Mode, by François Reczulski,
France (2007)

Under Commission
Audi — “Unboxed,” by Aaron Duffy and Russell Brooke, Great Britain (2009)

German Language Screenplay Award
Konferenz Der Tiere (Animal’s Conference), by Oliver Huzly, Reinhard Klooss

Speaker Award For Best Voice Actor in a Feature Animated Film
Benno Fürmann, the German voice of “Puss-in-Boots” in the sequels Shrek 2 (2004) and Shrek the Third (2007)

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Henson to Shop Fraggle Rock at Licensing Show

Rights to the classic TV show Fraggle Rock have reverted to The Jim Henson Co., which will handle the property through its new licensing division and will entertain new opportunities at the upcoming Licensing Show.

Henson plans to present
Fraggle Rock for potential licensees in the toy, apparel, accessories, stationery, home furnishings and publishing categories at the Licensing Show in Las Vegas June 2-4.

The rights to the show were previously handled by HIT Entertainment under a five-year agreement that expired recently.

The company also will present at the show its properties
Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Farscape and Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Former M*A*S*H star makes major move out of closet

Formerly Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III on "M*A*S*H," David Ogden Stiers -- a voice in many a Disney animated movie -- has come out of the closet at last.

"I am [gay]. Very proud to be so," the 66-year-old Ogden Stiers, whose voice roles include Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast, Fenton Q. Harcourt in Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Governor Ratcliffe in Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World and the Archdeacon in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, told the Oklahoma City blog in a recent interview.

The Emmy-nominated actor was Dr. Jumba Jookiba in Lilo & Stitch (2002), his 25th theatrically released Disney film. He repeated the role in TV's Lilo & Stitch: The Series.

He's reprising his Nicky Flippers character in the cartoon sequel Hoodwinked 2: Hood vs. Evil, set for release next January.

Though never married, he reportedly has a son from a relationship in the 1960s.

Ogden Stiers, who joined the M*A*S*H cast in 1977, said that he didn't dare talk about his orientation out of fear that he'd lose some of his assignments. However, since it's been a long time since he's run into anti-gay discrimination in the film industry, he's wondering why he stayed so long in the closet.

"I haven't witnessed such things occurring in a long, long time," he said, referring to anti-gay discrimination.

"What they might allow in a more known actor, they prefer not having to deal with in minor players," said Stiers, who's guested on three Justice League episodes as Solivar.

"I should say in regards to this that many of my fears were in modern times self-invented. I've been working internally on whether they were the problem, or if I just continued using them as an excuse long after the call for conservative private lives passed."

Ogden Stiers also said that the flamboyant nature of some of his voice roles in animation helped him decide to hide his orientation.

"Cogsworth, the character I did on Beauty and the Beast, could be a bit flamboyant onscreen, because basically, he is a cartoon," he said. "But they didn't want Cogsworth to become Disney's gay character, because it got around a gay man was playing him."

He added that he thought remaining closeted would ensure his income.

"I enjoy working, and even though many have this idealistic belief that the entertainment industry and studios like Walt Disney are gay friendly," they weren't always, he said. "For the most part they are, but that doesn't mean for them that business does not come first. It's a matter of economics.... A lot of my income has been derived from voicing Disney and family programming."

Asked to respond to the actor's comments, a Disney Studio spokesperson said: "Casting decisions are made solely on the basis of who is the best actor or actress for any given role."

Toon Tuesday: Funky Warehouse Syndrome

Disney Legend Floyd Norman via JHM, points out an interesting paradox of the animation industry. In that artists deserve the finest facilities, but it's sometimes better if they don't actually get them

Some years ago, I watched helplessly as Walt Disney's animation department was moved out of their old building on the Burbank lot. You see, the new management needed room to expand, and animators took up space. So clearly somebody had to go.

The Animation Building on Disney's Burbank Lot. You can wait around and hope. But they'll never build anything this perfect again.

As you probably already know, Disney's animation department was moved into a "dump" over in Glendale.The animators made do with their new digs. But it was hardly comparable to the "Animation Paradise" Walt Disney had constructed for his Burbank staff. Naturally, there was a lot of grumbling early on, and many were indignant about this new facility being more suited to factory workers than Disney artists. But eventually they settled down and made the best of it.

Looking back on that dumpy Glendale facility, I came up with something I call Funky Warehouse Syndrome. That is, when artists are forced to work in a less-than-desirable location, they sometimes come up with some very good stuff. Consider what came out of that dumpy Glendale studio back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Productions that were not too shabby, if you ask me.

Walt Disney Animation Studios was booted off the lot back in 1985 and forced to set up shop in this warehouse in Glendale. In spite of everything, this is where Disney Feature Animation would have its creative rebirth.

In the late 1990s, I moved north to Pixar Animation Studios to begin development on Toy Story 2. I remember that the Point Richmond studio reminded me of 1970s Hanna-Barbera where artists were allowed to create their own personal workspaces. The Pixar facility was this mishmash of funky rooms and cubicles that seem to be the perfect environment to incubate ideas and come up with creative solutions. Disney's Burbank story rooms were neat as a pin, while our Pixar story room was a chaotic mess of toys, paper and pushpins strewn everywhere. The furniture in the studio screening room looked like cast-offs from a garage sale, and some staffers even brought their dogs to work. Yet this organized mess appeared to work for Pixar's technical geniuses and creative storytellers.

This was our main story room while we were developing "Toy Story 2" at Pixar. While not as elegant as Disney's tidy facilities back in Burbank, we still managed to do some great work there.

Of course, there's always the freaky studio that defies description. I labored in a Newport Beach facility that boasted plush carpeting, custom drapery and fine woods. The studio had a well-appointed kitchen that could have come out of a Martha Stewart episode, and the amenities included a Jacuzzi where one could relax after a long day. However, as nice as it was, this studio never produced a damn thing.

Animation artists have always had the ability to do their best work in the worst of places. I remember a Hollywood studio where artists worked in hallways and basements. One artist moved into a closet for some peace and quiet. In another case (and I swear that this is true), a designer actually moved his desk into the studio Men's Room because the company would not provide him with a private office.

That hat over the entrance of this building was almost big enough to hold the egos of the executives who used to work here... Almost.

And speaking of funky warehouses ... Walt Disney Animation Studios eventually moved out of that warehouse in Glendale into a brand-new production facility along Riverside Drive in Burbank. In time, this horrid facility became known as "The Hat Building." But it was no animation paradise. Animators worked in closet-sized offices while there was enough space in the hallways to drive a Hummer. On moving day, we discovered our storyboards would not fit on the walls, and the broken front door was an ongoing project. The reception desk took the glare of the afternoon sun until the carpenters jerry-rigged a makeshift solution. So much for the forward thinking of high priced architects. The building's open design with elevated walkways suggested a prison. Which is why this cartoon studio felt more like Alcatraz than Hyperion. If this building was designed for animators, I'll take a warehouse any day.

Animation artists continue to amaze me. Heap abuse upon them, and they continue to give their best. Relegate them to a hovel, and they'll still work their hearts out. I've sketched storyboards in drafty trailers, and animated in kitchens. I've had the luxury of a spacious office in the old Disney Animation Building, and I've worked in cubicles that wouldn't even contain my storyboards. In any case, the work goes on.

Disney's animation artists never did move back into that old building on the lot that used to be their home. They continue to make do with a less-than-perfect production facility because that's what animators do. Perhaps the Walt Disney Company will build a real building for its artists one day. But please don't give us another "Hat Building." I'd much prefer a warehouse instead.

Something like this might be nice

Blue Sky Flies to "Rio"

Blue Sky Studios will produce Rio, a 3-D digital animated picture about a nerdy macaw who leaves Minnesota for Rio de Janeiro, Variety reports.

Carlos Saldanha (Ice Age: The Meltdown) will direct. The Brazilian-born helmer, who has been nurturing Rio for years, is putting the finishing touches on Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, the third installment in the blockbuster Ice Age franchise, which opens on July 1.

Chris Jenkins (Surf's Up) and Bruce Anderson (Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!) will produce the movie, which will be released by 20th Century Fox on April 8, 2011.

Mark Osborne joins HEAVY METAL update

Comics2Film at chatted exclusively with Kevin Eastman, owner and publisher of 'Heavy Metal' magazine, about plans for a new movie based on the sci fi franchise.

"It's really getting to be quite an exciting beast," Eastman told us. "We've done 99% of our development and are just waiting for the final stamp of approval. I expect in the next 30 days we'll have a nice big announcement."

The film, produced by Eastman and David Fincher, would be the third to bear the name of the long-running sci fi and fantasy magazine. Eastman and Fincher plan to go back to what made the the magazine, and the 1981 film, great: and adopt an anthology format. The movie will be comprised of all-new stories, although it may draw from concepts seen in the book.

Further, each segment of the movie will be directed by a top-tier director, the list of which already includes Fincher, Gore Verbinski ('Pirates of the Carribean'), Zack Snyder ('Watchmen') and more.

"Creatively we've had Gore Verbinski, Zack Snyder and other people have joined the roster of people directing some of the shorts," Eastman told us.

One new name he added to the list is that of 'Kung Fu Panda' co-director Mark Osborne. Eastman also promises there'll be more names coming.

"We have a number of others who are not 100% committed," Eastman teased. "The names I can't tell you are just going to make people who are geeks like me go 'Whoa!'".

Eastman says many big names are attracted to the project not only because of the 'Heavy Metal' name, but also because the work will be done in Los Angeles at Blur Animation Studios, and the time commitment to doing a short film is managable.

MetroCAF 2009 wants you!

Our friends from Siggraph passed this along.


DEADLINE: June 1st, 2009 (postmarked)

MetroCAF is the annual NYC Metropolitan Area College Computer Animation Festival organized by the New York City chapter of ACM SIGGRAPH. Started in 2003, MetroCAF has grown into the most important local festival of its kind. It provides an exciting opportunity for all students in the NYC metropolitan area to show their work to not only their fellow students, but also to professionals in the field of computer graphics. Plans are under way for the festival to tour the network of ACM SIGGRAPH Professional and Student Chapters so this could mean international exposure for your digital animations.

This seventh edition of the festival is open to all students who attend college in the NYC metropolitan area, and who have produced computer animation, visualization or visual effects within the course of your studies (in other words, you haven’t been paid for it). Schools are considered to be within the NYC metropolitan area if they are located within a 75-mile radius of Times Square in Manhattan.

SHOWTIME: October 1st, 2009
7PM – FIT Haft Theater – NYC

(Thanks asifaeast)

Blu-ray Artwork For Upcoming Direct-To-Video "Green Lantern: First Flight" Animated Feature

Warner Home Video has released the artwork for the Blu-ray release of the upcoming Green Lantern: First Flight direct-to-video animated feature.

The World's Finest brings you a first look at the Blu-ray cover art for the upcoming Green Lantern: First Flight direct-to-video animated feature. Click on the thumbnail below to view the hi-res artwork.

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. Green Lantern: First Flight will be available as a Two-Disc Special Edition on both DVD and Blu-Ray for $24.98 and $29.99, respectively, as well as single-disc DVD for $19.98.

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