Wednesday, May 27, 2009

News - 05/27/09...

"Up" Wins First Award at Cannes; News Article Roundup

The BBC News reports that Disney/Pixar's Up has won its first award after its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, with Dug the dog taking home the "Palm Dog" for "the best canine performance seen at the event." The tongue-in-cheek award is an alternative to the festival's Palm d'Or and is voted on by British film critics, with Dug beating out competitors from Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds and Lars Von Trier's controversial horror film Antichrist.

Up is also beginning to appear in more mainstream news coverage, including:

* - A design gallery hosted by The New York Times, which includes audio commentary by director Pete Docter and production designer Ricky Nierva.
* - The Philadelphia Inquirer speaking with Docter about the film, its genesis, and its use of digital 3-D.
* - The Boston Globe speaking with Docter about being able to affect the price of Disney's stock, in response to earlier reports of financial analysts and retailers expressing concern that Up wouldn't be able to draw as much in licensing revenue or ticket sales as earlier Pixar movies.

Disney/Pixar's Up opens on May 29, 2009.

Aliens in the Attic

Talk about your butt-ugly martians.

I went to the movies last night (Terminator Salvation). Saw posters for what looked like a new animated film, Aliens In The Attic. But alas, as the trailer below shows, the film is actually a hybrid. The posters played up the CG aliens, not the live action cast (which includes teen queen Ashley Tisdale, comedians Kevin Nealon and Andy Richter). It looks stupid - and probably is. I thought you should be warned.

The CG characters were created at Rhythm and Hues.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Ottawa on a Budget

Among the many benefits of living on the East Coast is that it’s a fairly close haul up to the Ottawa International Animation Festival, at least relative to when I lived on the West Coast. It can be a cheap trip too if planned right. NY filmmaker Fran Krause (recently interviewed on the Brew) encourages his students to attend every year, and he thinks it’s such a professionally valuable event that he puts together a guide for his students on how to experience the festival on a budget. This year he’s decided to share his Ottawa guide with the entire world, and he has good advice for anybody who needs to travel up there frugally. (A word of caution though: I heard some folks got bedbugs at the “jail” hostel last year. Personally I’d go with the hotel-split option. Just make sure to reserve early.)

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Up's companion short films are revealed


Jonas Rivera, producer of Disney/Pixar's upcoming animated film Up, revealed to SCI FI Wire that the film—like previous Pixar movies—will be accompanied by a short film in its theatrical release, called "Partly Cloudy," and that a second short, focusing on the talking-dog character of Dug (voiced by writer Bob Peterson) and called "Dug's Special Mission," will be featured on the film's eventual DVD and Blu-ray release.

The first film will be unrelated to Up, but the second will be in the tradition of such previous Pixar short films as "Jack-Jack Attack," which accompanied the DVD release of The Incredibles, or "BURN*E" for WALL*E: a short movie featuring one of the supporting characters from the main feature film.

"You can imagine we collect so much stuff along the way that doesn't make it in," Rivera said in an exclusive telephone interview Thursday. "There's, like, volumes and volumes, and we could fill books with all of the different ideas and the artwork. We are going to do another short film, and I don't know if you've heard anything about that. There will be. There's a short film on the front of the movie that's called 'Partly Cloudy,' and it's directed by Pete Sohn, and Pete Sohn is one of the great story and animation artists at the studio. He was the voice of Emile in Ratatouille, and he was also the inspiration of the character of Russell in Up; if you found an adult version of Russell, Pete's him."

Rivera also said that the forthcoming home video releases will include behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the film and documentaries about the locations that provided the animators with visual inspiration for Up's picturesque vistas. "There's tons of documentaries and stuff like that we did, making-of stuff, a pretty cool documentary on the tepui [flat-topped South American mountains] and stuff. It's really cool. I can't wait to get it out."

Rivera added: "We're also going to do a short film on the DVD that's exclusive for the DVD and Blu-ray, sort of like 'Jack-Jack Attack.' Did you ever see that, on The Incredibles? We're doing one called 'Dug's Special Mission,' and it's a little bit of the backstory of what Dug was actually doing out there on this mysterious mission when we meet him. It's really cool, and it's directed by Ron Del Carmen, who is our head of story on the film."

Up opens May 29.

The Pixar story process: How Pete Docter's Up came together

Jonas Rivera, producer of the Disney/Pixar's upcoming 3-D animated Up, told SCI FI Wire that creating a more intense story than in past Pixar adventures was essential to connecting the audience with the characters. "We always knew we wanted to do this movie with an old guy," Rivera said in an exclusive telephone interview Thursday.

Rivera added: "It just made sense, and there's a lot of history there, and there's a lot of potential for comedy and nostalgia to it. But the only way to make that mean anything was to set it up on real emotional stakes, and so it all was about laying a solid foundation for the film emotionally so that you would care about these events, so that it would mean something."

Rivera offered SCI FI Wire a glimpse inside the walls of Pixar and the process by which a story comes together there, a process that's unique among film studios. It involves a lot of back-and-forth among the creators of such films as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc. to turn the movie into a classic.

Producer Jonas Rivera (left) and director Pete Docter at WonderCon

Up follows Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner), a septuagenarian widower who embarks on an adventure to South America by tying thousands of balloons to his house and literally lifting the building up into the sky. He is joined by an 8-year-old scout named Russell (Jordan Nagai) and a talking dog named Dug. Rivera spoke exclusively to SCI FI Wire about his work on Up. The following is an edited version of that interview. Up opens May 29. (Spoilers ahead!)

This might be a boring question, but how do you construct your stories? Because when you look at Up, there's a cohesiveness in every single scene, not only in terms of story, but also the characters and the themes. Is a script written and then rewritten scene by scene, or how does Pixar's process work?

It's not a boring question, it's a great question. It's "the" question, because it's what we put the most emphasis on throughout all of these films, and this is the 10th one. It's sort of a blessing and a curse at Pixar, to be honest, because it's never done, you know what I mean? The story is never done, and trust me, as producer I wish Pete would walk in and go, "Here's the script. Let's make it!"

The truth is he goes, "Here's the script, let's start making it." And then we make it 50 times. What we basically try to do is we try to get out a script and a story reel as fast as we can, and that way we start reacting to it as a movie as opposed to just as a screenplay. Then what we do is we get other directors together—we call them the Pixar brain trust, Andrew Stanton and Brad Bird and John Lasseter—and we throw it up in front of them every eight to 10 weeks, and they just pound on them. The directors are super-brutal honest with each another, and we kind of pick up the pieces and go from there. My job is ... over the course of the first couple of years to try to find stable footing from which we can start producing. Like, which sequence is going to hold up? Which characters do we know what we're going to build? It's constantly being rewritten and re-evaluated and then rewritten again, and then changed and altered, so it's a moving target for sure.

How difficult is it for you as a producer to facilitate a director's vision, since animation is inherently or necessarily more collaborative even than a live-action film?

I suppose it is just because we try to give ourselves enough runway before we kind of take off so that we're stable. But it's a great question again, and my job is to take that initial idea of a film that Pete puts forward and kind of protect it though all of its incarnations, through all of the technical hurdles that we have to clear, through all of the production schedules and so forth that we have to get through.

It was easy on one level, because the movie, I thought was, even before there were any visuals or storyboards, Pete sat down with me and pitched me this story. He just kind of got through the beginning where we meet Carl as a young kid, we meet Ellie and learn the whole bit about the adventure book, their life together through good times and bad times and ultimately her death. He got that far, where we see Carl walk in the house holding one blue balloon, and that's where our story begins.

I'd never heard anything like that, not in animation, not in live action, so I kind of took it from that day forward that my job is to hold on to that and help the audience feel what I just felt at this pitch. It sounds corny, but day to day that's my job. So I knew the story would change, and I knew what would happen to Carl in the second act would change, and in the third act, but I knew that emotional core would be there. So no matter what, I just had to kind of hold on to that, and if I felt us straying from it, I'd say, "Hey, Pete, I've got to tell you, when you first told me this, I went out and called my wife," in the hopes to kind of pull him back to the center line.

Are there specific examples of ideas that you had to change, rein in or sculpt into the story?

I can tell you this: One of the early story notes that we got from Andrew Stanton or from Brad Bird, early on, we had that beginning, and it was always working. But once we got to the tupuis [flat-topped mountains in South America], there's a lot of crazy stuff that we're introducing. I was glad to hear you say that it all felt organic and not stitched together, but for a long time it didn't, and to be totally honest with you, these movies—and this one is no different—often go through rough spots, and we have screenings where it just doesn't work.

You don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, so the biggest note we got was "This feels like a collection of things you guys like, and it's not making any sense after they arrive, so make it make sense." Or we'd get "This is all cool, but we don't get why Carl is doing this." So we'd need re-engineer the setup.

But one of the toughest things was actually setting up Muntz [Christopher Plummer] as a character. Andrew Stanton always talks about invisible setups; you're watching this newsreel and seeing Carl's introduction to adventure, but really what we're doing is we're setting up Muntz's motivation and why he's up there. For a long time that wasn't clear, and that was the big note from Disney. Bob Iger loved it but told us at one of the screenings, "Yeah, I just don't quite get why he'd be up there that long." He wasn't saying it like, "Change it because I'm the executive." That was an honest reaction that we could get from the head of Disney or my mother.

So we kind of took that note and said, "Let's fix it so it's clear why he's up there." In the course of that exercise, we took it way too far; we made it maybe way too extreme, and it's a big balancing act. If you do that narratively, you pull the focus from your main character, and at one point we had it so far that Muntz had found the fountain of youth, and that's why he was up there, and that was how he stayed young. But that started becoming the biggest thing in the movie, so you'd do that and all of a sudden, who cares about Carl and his house? That guy found the fountain of youth! So then you'd go, "OK, now we're a little out of balance." And my job as producer, sitting on the sidelines sometimes nervous when this happens, because I know it's part of the process, was to be the vote of confidence: "Hey, Pete, I liked it better that way, and here's why." Or "Pete, bad news. Whatever you think, we've got to be done next week, because we've got to get it into production."

Work For Free?

This happy notice showed up on Cartoon Brew the end of last week:

Deferred payment 1st episode (no-pay), action/adventure series, Cartoon Network, paid assignments and/or production contract after 1st episode.

Quick update from Your Truly: We have contacted Cartoon Network about this Craig's List love letter. A CN exec told us he had no clue to what this was about. (They don't communicate real well over there, do they?)

Any company that has employees working for free is breaking the law. Forget about "union contracts," how about Federal (and state) statute?

To cut to the chase: CN employees who are not being paid should contact TAG immediately, and we will file grievances like yesterday.

And we'll do it with gusto and enthusiasm.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Goodman On "The Zeta Project: Season One" Sales, Future "The Zeta Project" Releases

The Zeta Project creator Bob Goodman updates The World's Finest on the reception of the The Zeta Project: Season One DVD release and if we'll be seeing The Zeta Project: Season Two in the future.

While reception to the release was high among both fans and critics for
The Zeta Project: Season One on DVD, it appears as though that did not translate to solid sales numbers for Warner Home Video. The World's Finest was able to catch up with The Zeta Project creator Bob Goodman to discuss what this means for future home video releases of the cult-favorite animated series.

"I don't have specific numbers," says Goodman, "Word I'm getting is that sales [for The Zeta Project: Season One] weren't great and as of right now they're not planning to release season two."

With Warner Home Video unlikely to produce a The
Zeta Project: Season Two DVD release, Goodman notes that fans will miss out on some of the best episodes of the series.

"To me this is a huge bummer," he continues, "I think we all did our best work in season two, and it would be a shame for those episodes - including 'Absolute Zero,' which was intended as the season one finale - to not get their day in the sun."

Goodman also adds that bonus material slated for the
The Zeta Project: Season Two DVD release has already been shot, but that will currently stay tucked away for the foreseeable future.

"All I can do now is hope sales pick up, or for some other reason they change their minds,"
he concludes.

Bob Goodman would like to send his appreciation to
The Zeta Project fans who have supported both the series and the The Zeta Project: Season One
DVD release.

Scottish Cities Fight Over Simpsons Character

Groundskeeper Willie, who’s been cleaning up after students at Springfield Elementary on Fox’s The Simpsons for 20 years, is caught in the middle of a real-life spat in his native Scotland.

Officials in Glasgow and Aberdeen are both claiming to be the hometown of the character.

Glasgow officials cite a 1997 episode in which Willie describes himself as “the ugliest man in Glasgow,” while Aberdeen officials cite a 2003 episode in which Willie cheers on the Aberdeen soccer team.

Dave McDermid, spokesman for the Aberdeen sports team, told The Sun newspaper in Britain “We are in no doubt that Willie is a proud Aberdonian."

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Runaway Takes Petit Rail d’Or at Cannes

Canadian short film Runaway, directed by Cordell Barker, won the Petit Rail d’Or for best short film at the Cannes Film Festival.

The award is presented each year by a group of cinephile railwaymen attending the festival.

The film, Barker’s third for Canada’s National Film Board, portrays the world as a driverless train on a reckless course over bumpy tracks.

Barker is the director of the 1988 Oscar-nominated animated film The Cat Came Back, one of the most popular films in the NFB catalog. He also directed the 2002 short Strange Invaders, which also was nominated for an Oscar.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Elton John Brings Gnomeo and Juliet to Starz

Pop star Elton John is teaming up with Starz Animation Toronto to make a 3-D animated feature titled Gnomeo and Juliet.

John appeared along with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty at the Starz offices in Toronto to announce the deal, which was made possible thanks to a $22.975 million in funding under the Government of Ontario’s Next Generation of Jobs Fund.

With animated features such as Miramax Films’ Gnomeo & Juliet and the recent completion of Universal/Focus Features’ 9, Starz Animation Toronto, under the direction of Head of Studio David Steinberg, now employs 220 people, up substantially from when the studio opened in 2007.

Gnomeo & Juliet is a special project for us, so we’re happy that it’s being animated under the auspices of David Steinberg and his team at Starz Animation Toronto,” Sir Elton John said. “Toronto is a dynamic city with a great pool of talented animators, and the best of them are at work on Gnomeo & Juliet right now.”

The features is described as an irreverent comedy set in the back-drop of suburban English gardens and inspired by Shakespeare’s renowned love story. It centers on two young garden gnomes from feuding families of lawn ornaments, who are blissfully unaware their story is destined for a tragic ending... unless they can change their fate. The film, directed by Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2), features classic and new music from the Elton John and Bernie Taupin. James McAvoy (Atonement) and Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada) will voice Gnomeo and Juliet. The project has long been a passion project for John, who has been working on the idea for 11 years with his partner, Toronto-born David Furnish.

The project is not the first animation outing for John, who co-wrote the music for the 1994 Disney feature The Lion King with Tim Rice.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Winx Creator Offers Darker Teen Property

Italian creator of the popular animated Winx series and Rainbow CEO Iginio Straffi has created a new girl-skewing franchise called Maya Fox, featuring a 17-year-old girl character who speaks with the dead. Co-created by Silvia Brena, former director of Cosmopolitan, Italy, Maya Fox began its life as a full-length novel published by Mondodari in 2008 and soon branched out as a monthly fashion/comic magazine and a much-visited web blog.

Targeting 13 to 17-year-old girls, Maya Fox is also marketed as new fashion property geared towards young women. “Love, friendship, fashion and thrills are the keywords of this property, all set in lively and mysterious contemporary London,” notes the official press release.

The first novel in the four-part series launched in Italy in October 2008 with a print run of 40,000 copies. In 2009 the book will be launched in Latin America (including Brazil), Spain and Portugal by Grupo Planeta, in France by Univers Poche, and in Germany by Carlsen. The other three novels will be published in Italy between 2009 and 2010. The Maya Fox magazine launched in Italy in April 2009 with a print run of 150,000 copies. The magazine will soon be presented to international publishers.

The publishing launch in Italy will be promoted with the help well-known Italian TV personality, Melita, who will play Maya at all promotional events. The comprehensive launch will feature TV, press, and web advertising, buzz marketing and social networks. You can learn more about the fearless teen at

Goode Family Debuts on ABC

We’ve all been there: Paper or plastic? Organic or local? Hybrid or diesel? In these confusing times, Joe Everyman is caught in the crosshairs of consumer responsibility. It’s not enough to be good, you have to decide which good is best! Such is the premise behind ABC’s new toon sitcom from John Altschuler, Dave Krinsky and Mike Judge about a family of wannabe world changers, The Goode Family.

The show’s titular characters, the Goodes, are a middle class family trying to stay ahead of constantly shifting politically correct tides—and not quite succeeding. They’re all vegan—including their dog, who resorts to chowing on suburban fauna—and though they adopted an African orphan, turns out little Ubuntu is a white-as-snow Afrikaaner with apartheid running through his veins.

Premiering Wednesday, May 27th at 9 p.m., The Goode Family offers fans familiary Judge-style comedy with an interesting look: “One thing that was important to us was the animation… We were all fans of ’70s underground comics … they’re very colorful, very cheerful, yet there’s this shading that makes you feel like there’s something else going on,” explains Altschuler. However, this complex, hippie-era style was full of complicated lines and proved a challenge. Luckily the talented team at Starz’s Film Roman studio was available to churn out the digital hand-drawn animation for 13 hilarious episodes!

Despite what Krinsky describes as “the day to day hardness of animation,” both producers feel that it’s been worth the struggle. And rest assured, granola munchers, they’re not just taking the mick: “One of the important aspects is that we’re not trying to make fun of people who are trying to do good,” Altschuler explains, “We’re making fun of the opportunists who are doing things like selling an ‘eco watch’ that’s just a 100-year-old self-winding watch.”

Left to right: Dave Krinsky, John Altschuler, Mike Judge

Be sure to pick up the June/July issue of Animation Magazine for more of John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky’s thoughts on their latest project, The Goode Family, and catch a glimpse of the show below:

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

"Thieving Magpie" director Giulio Gianini dies, 82

Giulio Gianini, the Italian director of the Oscar-nominated 1964 cartoon short La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie), died May 16 in his native Rome. He was 82.

He was in poor health for several years and, said animator Michael Sporn, "in particularly bad condition."

La Gazza Ladra is a Rossini opera about a young maidservant who, accused of stealing a silver spoon, is sentenced to death for her crime. At the eleventh hour, the real culprit is found to be a magpie.

Born on February 9, 1927, Gianini partnered with producer Emanuele Luzzati to form Luzzati-Gianini Productions. They created 1973's Pulcinella, nominated for an Oscar the following year for best animated short subject.

"The use of cut-out animation wasn't mainstream at the time," Sporn said of Gianini's style. "Gianini's animation was as dreamlike as Luzzati's exciting designs. The films look to be designed somewhere between Chagall, Kirchner and stained-glass windows; the sensibilities are all Luzzati and Gianini."

Fan-Made ‘Green Lantern’ Trailer Receives Nathan Fillion’s Endorsement

A disclaimer before we begin: This is not an official “Green Lantern” trailer. We repeat, this is not an official “Green Lantern” trailer. But lord knows we wish it was.

Given the absence of much official info regarding the much-anticipated DC here’s live-action debut, Jaron Pitts, a young video editor from Dallas, fabricated a trailer for his own vision of “Green Lantern” by splicing together clips from a multitude of other film projects. The trailer features fan-favorite actor Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan, utilizing clips from Fillion’s work on “Firefly” and “Serenity” in the trailer. The actor himself loved the fan trailer so much that he even endorsed it on Twitter.

“I LOVE THIS!” Fillion proclaimed. “This guy rocks!”

In addition to the aforementioned Fillion films, the trailer features retooled clips from superhero films “Superman Returns” and “Iron Man.” Pitts even makes use of “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” in the trailer by putting the titular Surfer in the role of Abin Sur and awesomely reframing the widely-reviled Galactus-as-a-cloud scene to feature Green Lantern booming into a batch of mysterious space substance.

The voiceover work is taken from a variety of previous DC Comics properties, including
“Justice League: The New Frontier,” “Justice League: The Animated Series” and the recent “The Batman” series. One particular audio clip seems to feature Hugo Weaving’s voice as Elrond from “Lord of the Rings,” re-contextualized in a villainous tone akin to Sinestro.

Indeed, if the actual
“Green Lantern”
is even half as impressive as this trailer, we’re in for a fantastic movie.

If you haven't seen the new TRANSFORMERS trailer yet...

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I saw this on my second viewing of TERMINATOR: SALVATION this weekend... don't judge me... I went for that D-Box experience with a couple of friends that hadn't seen the movie yet. They made me do it! And yes, the movie was even worse on the second viewing.

The D-Box thing was kinda cool, but the shine wore off rather quickly.

Anyway, the TRANSFORMERS trailer premiered onscreen over the weekend and I have a copy here... it's odd, I didn't expect the cameos that pop up. I can't believe they kept all this stuff a secret...

Oh, wait. That's not the new TRANSFORMERS trailer. That's TRANSFORMINATORS, which I wish to God was a real movie... Now, where is the new trailer... hrmm... no, that's not it... Oh, hey. Found it! Here it be:

Not too different, but a few new scenes. The rusted Megatron looming up behind Megan Fox and looking pissed off is pretty neat... More goofy-ass robots that, apparently, can't read... maybe not so much.

(Thanks Aint It Cool)

Buffy Relaunching Without Whedon, Gellar...Regard for Fans?

Blame Robert Pattinson. And, for that matter, Captain Kirk.

What with vampires and franchise relaunches suddenly all the rage, plans for a new Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie have inevitably come to pass, with the rights holders of the franchise announcing plans for a new Sunnydale-set film.

But there is a catch.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film, which will neither be a sequel nor prequel but a relaunch, is moving ahead with absolutely no involvement from film and series mastermind Joss Whedon. It will also fail to feature TV's Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and will in fact have no connection to the long-running series—meaning Angel, Willow, Xander and Spike will also be MIA.

That sound you just heard was the Whedonverse imploding.

The brain boxes behind the already fan-angering remake are Fran Rubel Kuzui, the director of the 1992 box-office bomb (which starred Kristy Swanson as the titular slayer abetted by Luke Perry), and her husband, Kaz Kuzui. Kuzui Enterprises has retained the rights to the franchise since their ill-fated film outing.

The idea behind the new reboot is to maintain the show's mythology while introducing a new slayer and Hellmouth-threatened group of pals, building on the idea that each generation has its own vampire slayer.
If all goes according to plan—and it's shaping up to be a rather large if—Kuzui is looking to franchise the film.

As for Whedon, he has yet to comment on the film's development. While Kuzui said they have not ruled out inviting cult king Whedon—still very much active in the Buffyverse, having shepherded several Buffy comic books to best-seller status in recent years—to take part in the film, they have not yet spoken to him about their plans.

[Updated: Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon reacted to the news that a new Buffy movie is in the works, sans him and many of the characters he created for the cult-hit TV series,'s Michael Ausiello reported:

"I hope it's cool," Whedon wrote the columnist.

OK, so maybe he'll have more to say later; he's currently making the horror movie Cabin in the Woods.]

No comments: