Monday, May 25, 2009

News - 05/25/09...

Classic Crawlers - John Lasseter Discusses the New Bug’s Life Blu-ray

Fans of Pixar’s 1998 holiday movie A Bug’s Life had reason to rejoice this week as Disney released a new Blu-ray High-Def edition of the movie on Tuesday. Directed by John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, Pixar’s second feature was a follow-up to the hugely popular Toy Story and was often considered to be far superior to DreamWorks CG-animated insect movie, Antz, which was released in October of the same year.

We are so proud of what we were able to achieve with A Bug’s Life,” says John Lasseter during an early morning phone interview from his car as he drove to Pixar. “It was such a big advance from Toy Story—the wide screen, the depiction of the crowds, the animation of the organic insect world was quite challenging. I think we all felt that the movie was kind of treated as the child that people had forgotten about, with other movies like Toy Story, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Cars being more in the limelight. In fact at the studio there’s this impromptu thing that we call the Bug’s Life Appreciation Week.”

Lasseter, who attended the special opening night screening of Pixar’s 10th feature Up at the Cannes Film Festival last week, says he and his team knew that the technology they were working with on A Bug’s Life was advancing at a tremendous pace. “We didn’t worry about whether the film was going to look dated, because what was important to us was the story and the characters. That’s the lesson I learned from my mentors Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston at Disney. What makes the movie succeed is the story and the characters that entertain an audience. Looking back, I think it’s one of the most beautiful movies we’ve made, despite the fact that animating organic shapes and nature was such a challenge after the simpler toys in Toy Story.”

The new Blu-ray release offers a high-definition, newly re-mastered version of the feature, which takes the ants vs. grasshoppers story to new comedic and adventure territories. Some have even suggested that the storyline pays homage to the Akira Kurosowa’s masterpiece The Seven Samurai. As expected, the team at Disney/Pixar has packed the release with numerous extras and fun features.

“All the extras included in the previous DVD release are on the Blu-ray, but we also like to offer new material,” notes Lasseter. “There’s a filmmakers forum/roundtable where you’ll find the film’s co-director Andrew [Stanton] and producer Darla Anderson, Kevin Reher and I reminisce about the making of the film…it’s funny and entertaining. When we first began working on the story, the main character Flick was actually part of the circus troop—in the final version, he is part of the ant colony and he hires the circus performers to fight the grasshoppers. So we went back to the original storyboard and made a little movie based on the original premise, and Dave Foley (who placed Flick in the movie) has done a great job of narrating it. I think it’s interesting to sit back and watch it as the camera moves between the drawings.”

The Blu-ray disc (retail price: $39.99) also includes a story treatment intro by Lasseter, the Oscar-winning Pixar short Geri’s Game, Disney’s Silly Symphony short The Grasshopper and the Ants (1934), storyboard-to-film comparisons, outtakes, character interviews and a DisneyFilm Digital Copy of the movie (iTunes and Windows Media formats)

Although our brief interview time was drawing to a close, we were lucky to get Lasseter’s take on Disney’s exciting new year. “I think it’s pretty evident that there’s a lot of animation out there and lots of techniques and so on,” he adds. “We’re really excited about pushing the barrier in 3-D films—we made Knick Knack in 3-D back in 1989, but there were no theaters that we could show it in. We are really happy with the reception Up has been getting—which is Pixar’s first 3-D movie.”

Disney’s chief creative officer is also looking forward to November when the studio releases The Princess and the Frog, a return to traditional animation from since 2005’s less-than-stellar Home on the Range. “It’s a musical fairy tale by the team of Ron Clements and John Musker who did The Little Mermaid, and I have to tell you it feels great. I love it…I’ve always loved it…and the feeling was why aren’t we making these films? What’s old is new again. The music is by the amazing Randy Newman….it’s going to be unlike anything you’ve ever seen!”

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Fishtronaut Makes Huge Splash in Latin America

The Brazilian animated series Fishtronaut was the most-watched kids TV show (age group four to 11) in its broadcasting time (7:30 p.m.-8 p.m.) during its first week of broadcast on Discovery Kids Channel Latin America.

Created by TV PinGuim’s talented founders, Kiko Mistrorigo and Celia Catunda, the charming 52 X 11 show follows the adventures of a secret agent fish and his best friends, a young girl and a cute monkey as they unravel mysteries and find solutions to environmental dilemmas.

A co-production between TV PinGuim and Discovery Channel, Fishtronaut is the channel's first venture in animation in partnership with a Brazilian production company. Breakthrough and Millimages are the show’s distribution partners.

An animated feature based on the property is being planned for 2010.

For more info, visit

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Bakugan Back in Business on Cartoon Network

Dan, Marucho, Drago and the rest of the gang from Bakugan have kicked off their new season of adventures on Cartoon Network Saturdays at 9 a.m. in grand style.

The second season, which contains 26 half-hour episodes is titled
Bakugan Battle Brawlers: New Vestoria and follows the team as they join forces with the Bakugan Resistance to restore peace and freedom to their enslaved planet and to free their planet from the dark Vestral forces. Three new brawlers named Mira, Ace and Baron join the battle against the Vexos Organization. A new Bakugan called Bakuneon is also introduced in the show.

Bakugan Battle Brawlers: New Vestroia
is a co-production of Nelvana Enterprises, Spin Master, Sega Toys and TMS Entertainment, with animation by TMS Entertainment in association with Sega Toys. The second season of the popular show already debuted in Canada on Teletoon last month.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Galactik Football to Score on GMTV

Alphanim’s popular animated series Galactik Football will begin airing on U.K.’s free-to-air GMTV block on CITV Channel and ITV4 simultanously. The half-hour toon, which originally premiered on Jetix in the U.K. in 2006, follows the story of a futuristic soccer team (The Snow Kids) as they try to win the Galactik Football Cup for their home planet Akillian, with the help of The Flux—a mystical energy, specific for every planet.

Galactik Football has been one of the most popular shows in Jetix Europe, consistently attracting a strong share of audience and regularly entering the Top 10 programs on the channel. The series is devised and produced by French animation studio Alphanim and France Televisions in assoc. with Jetix Europe. The series mixes 2D and toon-shaded 3D and is currently on air in over 100 countries. Alphanim’s other popular titles include Robotboy, Zombie Hotel and Santappprentice

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Hank Hill wannabe pleads guilty to brokerage fraud

A Northern California man who opened phony brokerage accounts under the names of King of the Hill patriarch Hank Hill and other cartoon characters pleaded guilty to fraud Thursday in United States District Court in Sacramento.

Michael Largent, 23, also used such names as Speed Apex, Johnny Blaze (of Marvel Comics' Ghost Rider) and Rusty Shackelford (the alias often used by paranoid exterminator Dale Gribble on King of the Hill), according to the Department of Justice.

Largent, of Plumas Lake, about 35 miles north of Sacramento, was charged last May on 13 counts of computer, mail and wire fraud. He faces as much as 20 years in prison for mail and wire fraud and five years for computer fraud, Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence G. Brown told the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.

Largent opened (or tried to open) over 58,000 brokerage accounts intending to steal "micro-deposits" made by firms to test whether the accounts function. He then transferred the deposits -- ranging from 1 cent to $2 -- to his own bank account or prepaid debit card, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew D. Segal, the prosecutor in the case.

"Largent used false names, addresses, driver's license numbers and Social Security numbers, including the names of known cartoon and comic book characters, to open the accounts," Segal said.

He either obtained or attempted to obtain over $50,000 that he used for personal expenses between November 2007 and May 2008, said Segal. He added that brokerage firms E*TRADE and Charles Schwab & Co. notified authorities after spotting the fraud and notified authorities.

Largent also allegedly received over $8,000 in micro-deposits from Google. However, his indictment last May 22, did not charge him with this.

The U.S. Secret Service was joined by the FBI and the San Jose division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in conducting the investigation.

Sentencing is scheduled for August 13.

Awesomely Bad Misuse of Classic Animation

Brew reader Roy Miles writes, “I saw a commercial for this while watching Spider-Man cartoons with my daughter. I thought you would get equally creeped out as I did. The commercial was on Disney XD.”

The company takes Golden Age animation that has entered the public domain and adds “hip-hop” nursery rhymes over them. There are samples on the company’s website. The product’s highlights, according to them, are:

* 100% Profanity Free
* Perfect for those long road trips
* No derogatory themes or message
* Can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere and around anyone
* Introduce your kids to hip-hop the right way
* Will make you regret ever having kids

(OK, I made the last one up.)

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

WSJ says Donald Duck is the “Jerry Lewis” of Germany!

It’s rare when Disney comics get a write-up in The Wall Street Journal, so today’s piece on the popularity of The Donald (Duck, that is) is long overdue. Disney’s comics are indeed more popular in Europe, and the standard characters (aka Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy and Pluto) are more well known today to children internationally than they are here in the USA. Susan Bernofsky does a good job explaining why Deutschland digs the Duck.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

A Little Love: The Art of Bill Melendez

Check out this self-produced mini-doc by film writer Matt Zoller Seitz about Peanuts director Bill Melendez — covering his artistic roots, his directorial style, and his influence on the films of Wes Anderson. The juxtaposition of Melendez’s art between Hitchcock’s and Kubrick’s presents a fresh and exciting way of looking at animation in a filmic context. Bonus points to Matt who writes in the YouTube comments that he used my book Cartoon Modern as a resource when preparing this film.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Wall Street Journal on Mike Judge and "The Goode Family"

The Wall Street Journal has taken a look at the upcoming animated sitcom The Goode Family and its creator Mike Judge (King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead). The article begins by looking at the origins of the series, which lampoons the foibles of an overzealously environmentalist family in the Midwest, and moves on to discuss Judge's career arc from unloading chain-link fence for the Whataburger chain to producing hit sitcoms like King of the Hill.

The Goode Family will premiere on Wednesday, May 27, 2009, at 9:00 Eastern/8:00 Central on ABC.

Wall Street Journal Looks at "Terminator Salvation" "Machinima" Animation

The Wall Street Journal has taken a look at the "machinima" animation created to promote the upcoming live-action movie Terminator Salvation. Machinima is animation created using videogame engines and technology, and the article details how plans to create a direct-to-video prequel evolved into the machinima project and the challenges that the filmmakers faced in the new medium.

Terminator Salvation premiered in theaters on May 21, 2009. The Terminator Salvation machinima is available on Xbox Live, Apple's iTunes (standard definition and high-definition), and Amazon Unbox (standard definition and high-definition).

AWN Speaks with McCorkle and Schooley on "Penguins of Madagascar"

AWN has posted a lengthy article speaking with Robert Schooley and Mark McCorkle, the co-creators of Kim Possible who are currently executive producers for the Penguins of Madagascar series on Nickelodeon. The article discusses how the pair wrapped up Kim Possible on a Friday and were working on Penguins by the following Monday, the changes that were required for the series, how replacement voice actors were found for characters originally voiced by Cedric the Entertainer and Sacha Baron Cohen, the technical compromises made to produce animation on a TV budget, and the connections between the Madagascar movies and the TV series.

ABC to Air Disney Christmas CGI Cartoon "Prep and Landing"

Variety is reporting that ABC will be airing Prep and Landing this holiday season, which will be the first program the network has acquired from its corporate cousins at Walt Disney Animation Studios. The special is about an elite team of elves tasked with prepping homes for Santa's arrival on Christmas Eve. Dave Foley will voice one elf paired with a new recruit, voiced by Derek Richardson. The special is based on an idea by Chris Williams (Bolt), who pitched it as part of Disney's revived short films program but was too busy to work on the special when it was greenlit.

Lois Lane Voice Artist Passed Away

Joan Alexander, radio and film voice of Superman's Lois Lane, passed away May 21 at the age of 94. Reports are that her death was from complications to an intestinal blockage.

Alexander was born Louise Abrass in St. Paul, Minnesota on April 16, 1915. She and her family moved to New York City when she was about three, following the death of her father. There she became a model and actress. She studied acting with Benno Schneider, a director in the Yiddish theater. Though Abrass later took the first name Joan after the actress Joan Crawford, the origin of the name Alexander is unknown.

Joan Alexander portrayed newspaper reporter Lois Lane in the superhero radio program The Adventures of Superman for more than 1,600 episodes. The radio series began in 1940, two years after DC Comics premiered Superman in Action Comics #1.

Alexander also provided Lois Lane's voice in the 1940s Fleischer Studios (and, later, Famous Studios) animated Superman shorts. She reprised the role of Lois Lane for one season of the 1966 Filmation animated series The New Adventures of Superman.

Ms. Alexander was survived by her sons, Jonathan and Timothy Stanton, and her daughter, Jane Stanton Hitchcock.

Cartoon Network Reviewing Portfolios at Anime Expo

Cartoon Network has signed on to host portfolio reviews at the upcoming Anime Expo, which runs July 2-5 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Reviews will be done on a first-come, first-served basis at the Cartoon Network section of the Anime Expo Artist Alley. Artists need to be registered attendees of the convention to be eligible to sign up for a review Friday or Saturday between 10 a.m. and noon, and again from 2 to 4 p.m.

“To have Cartoon Network review your portfolio is a dream to many U.S. artists in the anime and manga genre,” says Jennifer Bennett, manager of the Artist Alley.

Details on attending the convention can be found at

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

DVD Brings Back Saturday Morning Cartoons

Get on your slippers, grab a bowl of cereal and revisit the Saturday mornings of decades past with the release this week on DVD of two volumes of Saturday Morning Cartoons.

The first release, Saturday Morning Cartoons 1960’s Volume 1 (Warner Bros, $26.99) features 14 episodes from 12 popular cartoon series on two discs. The lineup includes episodes of Top Cat, The Atom Ant Show, The Peter Potamus Show, The Secret Squirrel Show, The Flintstones, The Porky Pig Show and The Quick Draw McGraw Show, The Jetsons, Marine Boy, Space Ghost & Dino Boy, Herculoids, Frankenstein Jr. & the Impossibles, The Magilla Gorilla Show and The Quick Draw McGraw Show.

The second release, Saturday Morning Cartoons 1970’s Volume 1 (Warner Bros., $26.99) features episodes from 12 different cartoons. The lineup includes The Jetsons, The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour, Hong Kong Phooey, Goober and the Ghost Chasers, Speed Buggy, and Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, Yogi’s Gang, Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, Roman Holidays, Josie and the Pussycats, The New Scooby-Doo Movies and Funky Phantom.

Here’s an advance look at these nostalgic DVD releases:

Also new this week is The Sky Crawlers (Sony, $27.96 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray), the anime feature film from Ghost in the Shell director Mamoru Oshii. The film is a tale of epic war and astounding air battles. This release includes bonus features on animation and sound design, and the Blu-ray version includes and exclusive interview with Oshii.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Toon Boom Unveils Animate Pro

Toon Boom has released the software application Toon Boom Animate Pro, a high-performance package for professional animators.

Among the program’s highlights are the ability to animate in any style, from traditional to 3-D; advanced lip-sync tools; full control on all three axes; easily perform tweening using the timeline; an adaptable user interface; smooth pipeline and workflow integration; and much more.

The program also includes more than four hours of video training and ready-to-uyse templates.

To promote the release of Toon Boom Animate Pro, Toon Boom is touring the nation to host presentations on the software. Tour stops include Boston; Columbus, Ohio; New York; Chicago; Orlando, Fla.; Denver; San Francisco; Seattle; and Portland, Ore. Details on time, place and registration, plus a full list of events, can be found at

The program is available on both Mac OSX Intel, Windows XP and Windows Vista platforms. The price is $1,999.99.

For more detailed information, including tours of the software, please visit

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Brave Little Remake?

There's talk on the intertubes of remaking The Brave Little Toaster as a Pixarian Extravaganza:

... My own suspicion ... is that Brave [referenced by Pete Docter in an interviews about Pixar's projects in development] is a new adaptation of Thomas M. Disch’s The Brave Little Toaster.

Already adapted into an animated film - and two sequels - the original novel was billed by the author as “a bedtime story for small appliances” ....

The Brave Little Toaster is a terrific property and Pixar could do way worse than making a spiffy, c.g.i. feature out of it.

In case you don't know much about the original Toaster feature, it was bought by Disney, and preliminary story development was done by a small, young group of animation artists (Joe Ranft and John Lasseter among them.)

But The Brave Little Toaster fell victim to a turf war between the Old Guard of the Disney Animation department, and younger artists championed by then production head Tom Wilhite. Long story short: Development on the project halted, Wilhite departed taking TBLT with him, ultimately setting up the feature as a Disney Channel project.

The final budget was miniscule ($2.5 million), the animation was done in Taiwan with a core American crew (Joe Ranft doing story, Jerry Rees directing, and Brian McEntee working as art director.)

The feature never had much of a theatrical release, but has enjoyed a robust life in a variety of home video formats. I was always sorry the picture didn't get a bigger budget and full-bore roll out in multi-plexes coast to coast, but such is life.

So is Pixar going to redo this animated diamond-in-the-rough? Damned if I know.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Museum 2 bests Terminator 4, which debuts disappointingly

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian sold an estimated $53.5 million worth of tickets during the three-day Memorial Day weekend, which began Friday, far exceeding the $30.4 million debut of its 2006 predecessor for the top spot, defeating Terminator Salvation, the Reuters news service reported.

The fourth
Terminator Salvation took in a disappointing $43.0 million, short of the $44 million start for the previous entry in the series, 2003's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

But the race between the two new sequels was closer than it appeared because Warner Brothers got a head start on the Memorial Day holiday weekend by opening
Terminator on Thursday, when it earned about $13.4 million. That takes the film's four-day total to $56.4 million.

Time Warner-owned Warner said
Terminator was likely more affected by competition for older men from the National Basketball Association playoffs, which hurt business in cities such as Los Angeles.

Night at the Museum opening set a new live-action record for Stiller. The film also opened in most international markets, earning $50.5 million.

Last weekend's North American champion,
Angels & Demons, slipped to fourth place with $21.4 million, taking the 10-day total for Columbia Pictures' Tom Hanks religious thriller to $81.5 million, BoxOfficeMojo reported.

Star Trek
came in third place, with an estimated $21.9 million, for a total so far of $183.6 million.

M. Night's THE LAST AIRBENDER releases its first pics! Plus a spy shot of one of the sets!'

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Yahoo has scored an exclusive pair of pics from M. Night Shyamalan's adaptation of the popular anime AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, retitled The Last Airbender for some odd reason that I'm sure has nothing to do with with James Cameron.

On top of the pics from Yahoo I've also included one of our own, sent from a spy who infiltrated the shooting.

I only have a base idea of what this show is, having seen a few episodes courtesy of my buddy Kraken who is falling in love with the series. In the few episodes, following a little kung fu master who supposedly is the only being that can master all the different types of mystical kung fuey magic in this world, I can certainly see a real big, fun movie adapted out of the material. I'll probably sit down and blow through these over a weekend.

Anyway, here are the pics. The two of the cast are the official releases and the last, obviously, is our spy pic of a set.

Noah Ringer as Aang in Paramount Pictures' The Last Airbender - 2010

Dev Patel as Prince Zuko in Paramount Pictures' The Last Airbender - 2010

Other than Dev Patel not having the right haircut or being nearly scarred up enough (although it is supposed to be the other side of the face, right?), I think it looks pretty dead on to the toon. What do you folks think?

(Thanks Aint It Cool)

Exclusive video interview with Land of the Lost's Sid & Marty Krofft

Sid and Marty Krofft, creators of the original Land of the Lost TV show, discuss the upcoming big-screen movie adaptation in this SCI FI Wire exclusive video.

The Kroffts are producers of the new live-action film, which is directed by Brad Silberling.

In the film, not-so-bright scientist Dr. Rick Marshall (Ferrell) winds up in an alternate universe with his adoring assistant Holly (Friel) and a redneck souvenirist named Will (Danny McBride), where they encounter dinosaurs, the infamous Sleestaks and a friendly primate named Chaka (Jorma Taccone).

Land of the Lost opens June 5.

Chart: Every sci-fi show on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox & The CW

The networks have spoken, revealing which of our favorite sci-fi shows survived, which got canceled, and what new series have been picked up for next season. We've kept you up to date on the latest news out of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW, but since it can be difficult to keep 31 series straight, we've also put together a handy sci-fi scorecard that collects all the details in one place.

Check out the fall season at a glance after the jump.

Is Fox Rebooting Daredevil?

These days, there are a lot of new sources for news and scoops and one of the oddest ones might be the local comic shop who have become the go-to place for actors hoping to get coveted roles in the latest superhero movie.

The blog for the Los Angeles-based store Golden Apple Comics spotted one such actor when "Battlestar Galactica" star Katee Sackhoff went there to buy every single comic featuring Typhoid Mary she could get her hands on with "hopes to get a part for a Marvel movie."

Comic fans will realize right away that Typhoid Mary is the longtime foe (and lover) of Marvel's Daredevil, a mutant with a multiple personality who develops various powers depending on which personality inhabits her at the time. She was created by Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr., first appearing in their run with Daredevil #254.

That makes one wonder whether 20th Century Fox and Marvel Studios are already looking into possibly relaunching Daredevil on the big screen, following the Mark Steven Johnson version starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, which came out in 2003. Natassia Malthe played Typhoid in the 2005 spin-off Elektra with Garner. Typhoid also appeared in the early "Deadpool" comics, so this might be for the Deadpool spin-off with Ryan Reynolds.

Check out Golden Apple's blog post here and decide for yourself whether a relaunch of Daredevil is happening much like The Incredible Hulk last year.

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