Tuesday, June 30, 2009

News - 06/30/09...

El Superbeasto on DVD

Anchor Bay Entertainment will be releasing Rob Zombie’s The Haunted World of El SuperBeasto direct-to-video on September 22nd.

The film stars Paul Giamatti, Rosario Dawson and comedian Tom Papa (as El Superbeasto himself). The IMDB plot synopsis says, “The story follows the adventures of El Superbeasto, a washed-up Mexican luchador, and his sultry sidekick and sister Suzi-X (Dawson) as they confront an evil villain by the name of Dr. Satan (Giamatti). The adventure, set in the mythic world of Monsterland, also has a character named Murray the robot (Brian Posehn).” I saw an early rough cut over a year ago and it is a pretty wild ride - one I highly recommend. There are two short clips on Amazon.com which do not do the film justice - in fact, I think these are the only two G-rated scenes in the entire film! It’s R-rated for extreme violence and cartoon nudity. You can pre-order it at Amazon.com now.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Pitch Party ’09: Meet the Winners!

It was a tough job, but someone had to do it! Our animation industry judges spent the last week reviewing the eclectic and colorful pitches submitted by this year’s clever contestants. That’s why we are now ready to announce the winners of the Eighth Annual Animation Magazine Pitch Party. We also received a record number of online votes from our daily site visitors (6,322, to be exact!). Our grand prize winner will be given the chance to pitch to the judge of her choice and perhaps become the next big thing in animation. Additional prizes include a copy of the software suite Toon Boom Animate (a value of $999.99), a selection of animation books from The Animated Cartoon Factory, copies of Chronicle Books’ The Art of Up by Tim Hauser, and a copy of the 2D software title Digicel Flipbook Studio (for Mac or PC). In addition, second or third place winners, staff picks and online voters favorites will get coverage in our August edition

We’d like to thank everyone who voted for their part in making Pitch Party ’09 our magazine’s most popular contest of the past 20 years.

First Place: Clerence
by Chelsea Gordon-Ratzlaff, Capilano College

Sometimes, a clean, imaginative drawing and a simple concept are all that you need to really make a big impact. That’s certainly the case with Chelsea Gordon-Ratzlaff’s pitch, which centers on a cute little dragon that’s descending to our world tied to a balloon. The talented 18-year-old animation student at Capilano College tells us that the idea for the toon just came to her one day.

“The book I was reading at the time had these little tiny dragons and described this one that I thought was just adorable! So I started doodling him—as I do with most characters in books that I read—OK, all characters in books that I read! And I ended up drawing him tied to a balloon. I thought it would be cute seeing as how I kept drawing him with tiny wings so that he couldn’t fly.”

Chelsea says she’s using her time off during the summer to make a short animated project in Flash. Yes, she’s designing, directing, organizing and animating everything—and even held auditions over the Internet for voice actors! When asked about the future, she says she’ll be happy as long as she gets to continue drawing. She has also spent several years developing her own animated series titled Not Quite Normal (www.notquitenormal.ca) and hopes she gets to see it come to fruition in the years ahead. “Maybe I’ll give 3D animation a try now that Pixar is in Vancouver,” she adds. “Working at Disney is another dream of mine—nudge, nudge, hint, hint!” One thing’s for sure: this impressive young talent is going to have an amazing career ahead of her, with or without the cute dragon!

Second Place: Jolly & Roger’s Misguided Adventures
by Stephen Silver and Frank Rocco

As a ridiculously gifted character designer and well-respected CalArts teacher and author, Stephen Silver has inspired numerous audiences and students through the years. Not only has he worked on acclaimed shows such as Kim Possible and Danny Phantom, he’s produced several insightful books about the art of cartooning and character design. So we were totally thrilled to see his latest creation, Jolly & Roger’s Misguided Adventures on the judges’ list.

“The drawing was simply inspired by my four-year-old son, Caiden,” says the London-born artist. “He never had a cursed pirate hat, but he knew how to wear his pirate costume everywhere, months after Halloween. Early into it I approached my extremely talented friend,Frank Rocco, and asked if he would like to help me co-create the property. From that point on, I believe we came up with a great show concept that we hope everyone else will enjoy as much as we do.”

Silver is working on numerous personal projects, book publishing and teaching an online character design course on www.schoolism.com as well as returning to teach at CalArts in the fall. Rocco is also illustrating children’s books, comics and designs on upcoming Nickelodeon shows. Frank was also creative director for Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! where he was a lead designer, writer and story artist. You can learn more about these two amazing guys at www.silvertoons.com and gorocco.com.

Third Place: Monkey and Robot’s Flying Circus
Kenneth Gray and Mars Elliot, Academy of Arts

Monkeys and robots have always had a special place in our hearts, so it’s not surprising that Academy of Arts students Ken Gray and Mars Elliot decided to put the two enigmatic players in their meticulously drawn pitch.

“I’ve had the idea for an uptight monkey and a goofball robot hanging out and having wacky adventures in the vein of Ren & Stimpy for quite a while,” explains Ken. “I teamed up with Mars and the initial idea morphed a few times ... The 19th century is an interesting time to me—it’s when the corners of the map were still unexplored and the line between magic and science was blurry.”

The creative and very articulate San Francisco-based duo will be going back to the Academy in the fall, but hope to see themselves working on a “wildly successful cartoon series” in the near future. “As long as the world doesn’t come to a screeching halt in 2012, the last year of the Mayan calendar,” muses Ken. Mars adds, “I’m not as optimistic as Ken: I think by 2019, moving pictures will be a commodity few could afford and even fewer will want as they remain a bitter remnant of our lost humanity. Myself? I’ll be busy with the rest of the survivors reinforcing the perimeter fences to keep the insectoid-men at bay!”

Animation Magazine Staff Picks:
First Place: Monkey & Robot’s Flying Circus

(by Gray and Elliot)

Second Place: Jolly & Roger’s Misguided Adventures (by Silver and Rocco)

Third Place: Duck and Cover (by Oryan Ventura and Maya Arad)

Online Voters’ Picks:
First Place: Monkey & Robot’s Flying Circus (by Gray and Elliot)

Second Place: The Do-Good Gang! (by Ainsley Waller)

Third Place: Harold & the Walrus (by Daniel Contois)

The Pitch Party is an extremely targeted advertising campaign designed to help indie producers and up-and-coming talents present their ideas to influential people who currently hold key positions in the development and production of animated television. Contestants who purchased a 1/6th–page ad at a discounted rate in this issue were able to get their ideas off of their computers and draft tables, and in front of these execs and the animation industry at large.

We wish our grand prize winner, Chelsea Gordon-Ratzlaff, the best of luck with Clerence and all her other projects and hope all of this year’s contestants take advantage of the exposure their ideas will receive in the magazine. Next year’s Pitch Party will be here before you know it (deadline is June 15, 2010), so start getting those pitches together now!

Be sure to check out all of this year's Pitch Party ads in the August (Comic-Con) issue of Animation Magazine!

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Nick’s AddictingGames Honors Online Favorites

Nickelodeon’s AddictingGames Showdown honored Saturday night online video games chosen by the public in 10 cool and oddball categories ranching from Greatest Escape Game to Best Performance by a Robot.

The winners were announced on a Nick TV special hosted by Jerry Trainor, who plays Spencer Shay on the net’s hit series iCarly, as well as on the AddictingGames Showdown microsite.

The site, which hosts some 3,500 online games, marked some 16 million game plays and 26.5 million page views since it was launched in June 2008.

The winners were:

World's Hardest Game
Developer: Snubbyland

Developer: Ninja Kiwi

Electric Man 2
Developer: DX Interactive

Escape the Car
Developer: Afro-Ninja Productions

Tattoo Artist
Developer: Gamepill Inc.

Let's Get Cookin'
Developer: The Article 19 Group

Magic Pen
Developer: Alejandro Guillen

Build a Robot 3
Developer: JackSmack

Redline Rumble
Developer: Shockwave

Baseball Juiced
Developer: Odd1 Inc.

AddictingGames is part of the Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group portfolio of digital sites, which serves kids, tweens and teens, and parents, and focuses on the pre-eminent activities that its audiences participate in online: games, social networks and community, and video.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Goode Season Finale Set for July 24

The Goode Family will try to bring public radio to their hometown of Greenville in the last first-run episode of its debut season, set to air Friday, July 24, at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.

In the episode, Gerald, voiced by series creator Mike Judge, rallies the town to bring Public Broadcast Radio to town, but encounters a moral dilemma when a little old lady may lose her house after donating $100,000 to the cause.

This episode, titled “Public Disturbance,” features guest voice actors Gary Anthony Williams, Andy Richter, Kevin Nealon and Julia Sweeney.

The episode will be available for online viewing at abc.com the day after the episode airs.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Is a Merger in the DreamWorks?

Chatter about deals is heating up, with speculation growing that DreamWorks Animation may be the target of a possible merger or acquisition.

Among the parties interested in the publicly held company is Time Warner, writes Peter Bart in Variety. Though currently in a distribution deal with Paramount, DreamWorks Animation does have an escape clause coming with a price tag reportedly as high as $150 million.

But Bart says any attempt by Time Warner to buy DreamWorks Animation might trigger a counter-offer from Disney, which recently struck a deal to distribute the output of the live-action DreamWorks studio.

And that’s assuming Paramount would let the company and its upcoming major animated features go without a fight.

This and other acquisitions are likely to become more common in upcoming months in what’s expected to be a new period of consolidation in the motion picture business, Bart writes.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

ASIFA Screenings Promote Pop Cultural Literacy

Picture: Spike Jones and Doodles Weaver

ASIFA-Hollywood has set a series of free screenings aimed at familiarizing animation students, the animation community and the general public with some of the entertainers who had a huge impact on the golden age of animation.

Among the entertainers getting their due in the screening series at Woodbury University are Spike Jones, Doodles Weaver, Maria Callas, Buck Owens, Cab Calloway, Muddy Waters and Dave Brubeck.

“It always surprises me when I meet a college student who is studying animation who doesn't know anything about the music that came before the Beatles or movies before Star Wars,” writes Stephen Worth, director of the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive. “This summer, thanks to Woodbury University and the Walter Lantz Foundation, I have a chance to share the work of some of the most amazing entertainers who ever lived with a new generation of artists.”

The first two screenings in the series, titled Pop Cultural Literacy 101, will take place Friday, July 10, and Friday, Aug. 14, with a short subject starting at 7 p.m. and the feature film at 8:30 p.m. Further dates will be announced soon.

Admission is free to members of the animation community. Further screenings dates will be announced.

All screenings are to be held at the Woodbury University School of Business’ Fletcher Jones Foundation Theater, located at 7500 Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank, CA 91510.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

New Zealanders warm up to latest "Ice Age" movie

Tickets were snapped up in record time for Saturday's New Zealand premiere of "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," selling out within 24 hours.

The screening at Skycity Newmarket was a charity event. Organized by Variety - The Children's Charity, all proceeds went to providing specialized tricycles for children with debilitating diseases.

Among the 250 guests were television celebrities Jayne Kiely and Karen Olsen with their children.

"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" had a sneak preview June 21 in 330 theaters throughout the United States. The general release date is this coming Wednesday, July 1.

Variety, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in New Zealand this year, is dedicated to helping the country's sick, disabled and disadvantaged children. More than $11 million has been returned to the community, funding everything from toy libraries to specialist medical equipment -- helping Kiwi kids reach their full potential.

Iranian "Solitude" gets special mention in Bosnia

"Solitude," an animated film from troubled Iran, received a special mention at the 3rd Kratkofil International Short Film Festival.

"This film has a strong vision and a technical excellence, both visually and in its use of sound," jury members said of Merhdan Sheikhan's work.

The festival ran from June 16 to 20 in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Solitude” is about a stone colossus that has lived alone for thousands of years on a barren planet for thousands of years. Tired of solitude, it decides to change its fate.

Hossein Alizadeh composed the music and Behruz Shahamat made the sound effects for the animation, which has won several awards at Iranian and foreign festivals.

The prize for best animation went to Argentina's "The Employment," by Santiago Bou Grasso.

"Some manmade phenomena in our surroundings are so established that they at last seem natural, and we stop wondering why they are there. This filmmaker has an original personal perspective on such a well-known phenomenon in society, and he makes us follow him in his vision," jury members commented.

"Also, he manages in a wonderful way to make what we usually see as the ordinary dull everyday life of persons interesting to us."

Though grouped among animated films for screening purposes, Italy's "Muto,“ by Blu, received the prize for best experimental film.

"We choose to consider it in every respect a filmatic experiment in combining the animated and the natural in very creative and original way," jurors explained.

Though consisting of traditional drawn animation film, "it tells an interesting story," they added. Blu "explores it in every detail, and with a metaphorical edge to it that never gets easily made. It is a strong vision that we will remember long after."

Canadian actress, director Lorena Gale dead at 51

Diminutive Canadian actress, director and writer Lorena Gale, who starred as Priestess Elosha in TV's Battlestar Galactica from 2004 to August 2005, died June 21 at Vancouver General Hospital. She was 51.

Gale died following a battle with abdominal cancer. She had spent months in palliative care.

Part of many Vancouver TV and film productions, she was in the voice cast of DiC Entertainment's 1993 soccer cartoon series Hurricanes, which ran for 65 episodes in syndication. Each episode also featured live-action sequences with soccer stars.

Gale voiced Rollerbear in 1992's Bitsy Bears, a half-hour animated TV special co-produced by Steven Hahn Productions and Tyco.

She also guest-starred in The X-Files, The Outer Limits, Smallville and Kingdom Hospital. She appeared in dozens of movies of the week, and was in such feature films as The Butterfly Effect, The Chronicles of Riddick, Things We Lost in the Fire, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Fantastic Four.

Born on May 9, 1958, the 5'1" Gale was a third-generation Canadian who wrote award-winning plays Angélique and Je me souviens. Both born and raised in Montrealer, she had lived in Vancouver for the past 20 years.

This spring, the Union of BC Performers established the Lorena Gale Woman of Distinction Award, citing "her enduring commitment to power, dignity, intelligence and truth."

A third-generation Canadian born and raised in Montreal, Gale moved to Vancouver in 1988.

Je me souviens, her autobiographical solo play subtitled "Memories of an expatriate Anglophone Montréalaise Québecoise exiled in Canada," examined the cultural and linguistic tensions of both cities. It was nominated for the Governor General's Award for Drama in 2002.

Before becoming an actress, Gale studied at Concordia University and the National Theatre School in the late 1970s. Following her Vancouver move, she worked in most major theatres in British Columbia. She graduated from the Simon Fraser University Master of Arts program in 2005.

Je me souviens earned her three nominations -- including best actress -- for the Jessie Richardson Award, which honors Vancouver theatrical productions. She won the Jessie for best supporting actress Jessie for her role in The Coloured Museum.

Her play Angélique, the story of executed slave Marie-Joseph Angelique, was the winner of the 1995 duMaurier National Playwriting Competition in Canada.

In 1991, Gale married her frequent Vancouver collaborator, director John Cooper. Their son Clayton was born the following year.

A week before she died, she was able to attend her son's high school graduation.

Lorena Gale is survived by her husband and son. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Vancouver General Hospital's Palliative Care Unit.

A celebration of Gale's life is planned for sometime in July.

The Society for Animation Studies

The 21st Annual Society for Animation Studies Conference, subtitled The Persistence of Animation, will be held July 10-12, 2009, at the Atlanta campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Held under the auspices of SCAD-Atlanta’s Animation Department, the conference features over 50 scholars and filmmakers from around the world who will present papers on a wide range of topics relating to animation history and theory; in addition, there will be workshops on teaching animation history and animation production. The conference itself will kick off with a keynote address Andrew Darley, a renown British media theorist.

In conjunction with the conference, the SCAD Library will be presenting a special exhibition, Behind the Cels: Selections from SCAD’s Don Bluth Collection, featuring art work donated to the school by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman; Goldman will introduce the exhibit during the conference on Saturday, July 11th, and will also be present at a free reception, which is open to the public, Thursday evening, July 9th, from 6:00-8:00 pm.

Finally, ASIFA-Atlanta, in conjunction with the High Museum of Art, is organizing Georgia Animation on Our Mind: A Retrospective of Peachtree State Animation, which will screen at the nearby Woodruff Arts Center’s Rich Auditorium. The program features short animations, including experimental shorts, TV commercials and Avery Matthews, a never-aired Cartoon Network pilot.

For details on the SAS conference, including registration fees, check out the conference blog. You can also sign up for free tickets to the Friday night screenings at the ASIFA-Atlanta website.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Fred Travalena 1942-2009

The Associated Press reports that comedian and impressionist Fred Travalena died Sunday at his home in Encino from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at the age of 66.

Travalena was known for imitating countless celebrities in his comedy act, but was best known as the voice of Bogey, the Orangutan who sounds like Humphrey Bogart on the 1982 NBC cartoon Shirt Tales. He also did voice work on shows like The Jetsons, Dragon's Lair, Dinosaurs, and The Smurfs among others.

DreamWorks chief on why Shrek 4 will work; plus, 3-D!

DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg has been pushing 3-D—this year's hit Monsters vs. Aliens was the company's first such movie—but he says the upcoming fourth Shrek movie, Forever After, would work even without it: The movie's characters provide the extra dimension.

"For him, it's really appreciating the life that he now has, which is very, very different," Katzenberg said in an exclusive interview last week at the Saturn Awards in Burbank, Calif. "He is no longer an ogre in a swamp. He now has a family and children and a home. In the next movie, he has a midlife crisis."

The fairy tale series has fun with familiar storybook characters such as the Gingerbread Man and Pinocchio. Shrek 2 introduced Puss in Boots and the Land of Far Far Away. In Shrek the Third, a young King Arthur joined the clan.

"It's great," Katzenberg said. "People love these characters, and I think it's an opportunity for us to really continue to tell the story of Shrek and his life and how he's growing. I think the fourth chapter is pretty spectacular."

Katzenberg also confirmed that both a feature film sequel and a TV series based on the studio's hit Kung Fu Panda are in the works. The feature sequel is called The Kaboom of Doom. Katzenberg was confident the two media could exist side by side.

Jeffrey Katzenberg

"Different stories," Katzenberg said of the sequel film and the TV series. "I think we've managed to sort of send them on unique paths so they complement each other."

With the success of Monsters vs. Aliens, Katzenberg is considering a rematch there, too. "Oh, maybe," he said. "We're waiting for it to finish its run internationally, and then we'll kind of sit down and figure that out. But it's been a great success so far."

At the Saturn Awards, Katzenberg received the very first Visionary award for his contributions to the growth of 3-D film technology. "I just think it's a wonderful acknowledgment of some amazing work that's being done in our industry and at our studio in this amazing new cinematic platform called 3-D," he said. "So I don't think it's really so much about me as it is about what is now sort of exploding, this new just amazing way to make and present movies."

The Goode Family is Bombing

ABC’s new animated-series The Goode Family is tanking. According to Wikipedia, the show, which has moved from Wednesdays to Fridays 8:30/7:30c, is posting below a 1 rating (it’s actually putting up a 0.5 rating). I find the show somewhat amusing, if a bit gimmicky. I think it’s far better than sitcoms like Two and Half Men, but apparently the audience doesn’t. What’s your take?

Here’s a clip from last Friday’s episode, Freeganomics.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs: Why filmmakers don't care if it's wrong

It doesn't take a paleontologist to know that there were no dinosaurs in the ice age. Yet Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs introduces said reptiles into the timeline in the third film.

But director Carlos Saldanha was ready to defend the historical accuracy of his family fantasy film. "Bring it on, bring it on," Saldanha joked in a press conference this month in Marina Del Rey, Calif.

In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) and Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) discover an underground world where dinosaurs still live. The character of Ellie (Queen Latifah) even acknowledges that she thought dinosaurs had been extinct by the time of the ice age. So even the ice age characters knew there shouldn't be dinosaurs around.

"It's not so much that dinosaurs lived in the ice age," Saldanha said. "The concept was more [that] they discovered this world of dinosaurs that nobody knew existed. So we tapped into that. We weren't going for the Discovery Channel kind of accuracy. We were going for the fun of 'What if these two worlds lived in the same spot?' and how much fun we can have with that."

Romano offered another explanation of dinosaurs existing in the ice age. "Also, in your defense, when you say dinosaurs weren't in the ice age, well, animals don't really talk, either," Romano said during the same press conference.

The Ice Age filmmakers say they pay respect to real science in other ways. As co-director of the first film, Saldanha recalls checking in with paleontologists from the Museum in Natural History in New York, who OK'd everything about the first movie. That is, as long as the filmmakers assured him there would be no dinosaurs in it. Perhaps Saldanha had his fingers crossed when he made that promise.

"We knew it," Saldanha said. "When the third one came, when the concept came through, discovering this world of dinosaurs, we took creative liberty to make something that was entertaining, fun and not trying to go for the scientific accuracy. We just created this parallel world that never collided until this movie."

Romano chimed in again. "By the way, 90 percent of the population doesn't know that dinosaurs didn't exist during the ice age, so don't tell anybody."

The filmmakers did make one artistic decision based on evolutionary science. Their dinosaurs do not speak English like the rest of their prehistoric cast. "Well, the concept behind it was that dinosaurs were creatures from a long time ago, so that's why they don't talk," Saldanha said. "They didn't evolve as much as our guys."

To Romano, this part was realistic. "Now, come on, dinosaurs don't talk," Romano deadpanned. "That's ridiculous."

Romano should be happy about the addition of dinosaurs to the story: They define his entire character motivation for the third film.

"Manny as a character was always the biggest thing on Earth," Saldanha said. "On the third one, we said, 'OK, let's play with that.' Part of the character story of Manny in this movie was about him overcoming his own fears and him also thinking he could control the world. He could have the baby and make the world perfect for the baby. So the dinosaurs created this ginormous obstacle that, in a way, made him realize that he needs much more than just his ego that is there to have this life with the baby and have a life with the friends."

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs opens July 1.

Still care about ABC's Lost? Here's 'Ben' on what's coming in the final season

Michael Emerson as Ben Linus

As usual, all things about ABC's Lost are hush-hush, lest any posters on the Fuselage message boards get wind of spoilers, but rumors persist that long-departed cast members such as Maggie Grace may return for at least one appearance in the show's sixth and final season.

First things first, though: Are the regulars still coming back? Season five ended with a bomb exploding in the past, possibly erasing the entire present of the show.

Emerson at the Saturn Awards

Michael Emerson, who plays Ben Linus, confirmed that at least he is still an active part of the show. "My understanding is that I am," Emerson said in an exclusive interview last week at the Saturn Awards in Burbank, Calif. "For how much of season six, that's a good question."

Yes, more cryptic answers from the actor who plays the most cryptic character on the show. He even kiboshed my theory about erasing the present timeline. If the bomb prevented the crash of Oceanic Flight 815, seeing everybody live happily ever after wouldn't earn high ratings for the finale.

"I could see why you might think that, but from my perspective as playing that character who arrived late on that show, it doesn't sound terribly dramatic unless there's something in that equation that I don't quite get," Emerson said. "I'm just curious about what dramatic paths we'll follow."

One dramatic path might be further explorations of the mysterious Jacob. The fifth-season finale revealed Jacob as a corporal presence, but still not quite human. Ben stabbed him, intending to kill Jacob. "I'm still not sure that he's a person like you and [me]," Emerson said. "I'm still not sure he's a person like Ben. Is he killable? I don't know. We haven't been to his funeral yet, so I don't know. I don't know where all that's going."

Season six might finally give us more Ben flashbacks. We've seen Ben in flash-forwards, sending Sayid on assassination missions and trying to shoot Desmond. We've met Young Ben in the past, but we have yet to see much of Ben as an adult.

"What constitutes a proper Ben flashback?" Emerson said. "There are some gaps in Ben's bio, and I think we may look backward a couple of times this season. I'm just guessing."

Don't expect any big changes for Ben, though. While audiences have seen him go from Henry Gale to the evil leader of the Others to a sympathetic young boy, Emerson has always acted as Ben and will continue to do so. "Ben has always seemed straightforward to me, and I don't think Ben has changed much over time," he said. "I think audience perceptions of Ben [have] changed."

In a separate interview at the Saturns, Lost executive producer Carlton Cuse told a group of reporters that he would not answer any questions about the coming season, not even with vague, dodgy answers. But he promised that he and fellow executive producer Damon Lindelof will be ready to answer questions for fans attending the Lost panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego next month.

"I hope you're coming to Comic-Con," Cuse said in a group interview. "Traditionally, Damon and I go into radio silence this time of year, and then at Comic-Con, we will answer questions. We want to give the fans a chance to speculate and theorize about what they saw in the finale, so we don't want to kind of be interpreting the finale at this point. Come Comic-Con, we'll have a few more things to say about what's going to happen in season six."

Somebody please ask whether we're going to see what happened if the plane never crashed, so Cuse will give us an answer. "Perhaps, or it will be evaded in more elaborate detail," he said.

Lost returns in January 2010 on ABC.

Rumor mill: Is Iron Man 2's Downey a real hero? What's Stan Lee's cameo?

The Web rumor mill centers on Iron Man 2 today, with reports of star Robert Downey Jr.'s reported real-life heroism and comic legend Stan Lee's rumored cameo role. (Spoilers ahead!)

First, the Irish IOL Entertainment site reports that Downey rescued an injured extra during the shooting of a scene:

The 44-year-old actor halted shooting on Iron Man 2 and rushed to help the man, who had been injured during a scene. A source said: "Robert charged into a live scene yelling, Cut! Cut! The extra was writhing on the ground in agony after a rampaging evil robot smashed him flat". The extra had been involved in a sequence which saw a group of people running away from a group of robotic villains. ... Robert called for paramedics and comforted the man until they arrived. The injured extra was taken to hospital, where he was diagnosed with a broken hip.

Now we're big fans of Downey and believe this is just the kind of thing he would do, but given our experience with U.K. Web sites reporting all kinds of outlandish things, not to mention its dubious anonymous "sourcing," we're going to hold off believing this until Paramount or someone else confirms it.

In the meantime, our pals at Collider.com report a rumor about the cameo casting of Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee. Fans know he's had a walk-on in virtually all Marvel-themed movies. Here's what an anonymous source told Collider:

"Since I hadn't read this news anywhere, I wanted to let you know Stan Lee filmed his cameo for Iron Man 2. I was told Stan filmed earlier this week, and he was dressed as Larry King. The scene has Stan asking Tony Stark when he's going to be on his show."

Iron Man 2 is still in production with an eye to a May 7, 2010, release.

Horrors! Director John Landis presses Thriller lawsuit; also, Werewolf remake?

With Michael Jackson tributes flooding the airwaves, it's at least nice to recall the original 1983 video for Thriller, an homage to B horror movies directed by John Landis.

It marked a turning point for the genre, showing that a simple promotional tool could be an artistic entertainment in its own right, and it spawned a dance routine that has been the grist for parodies and homages in everything from YouTube wedding videos to 13 Going on 30 to a Philippine prison yard.

In the wake of Jackson's abrupt death last week comes news that Landis will pursue his lawsuit seeking unpaid profits from the video and a making-of documentary, Variety reported.

Bloody-Disgusting asked Landis about the status of the suit, and here's what he told the site:

"Despite Michael's tragic death, the Thriller lawsuit continues."

Landis added in a statement:

"I was lucky enough to know and work with Michael Jackson in his prime. Michael was an extraordinary talent and a truly great international star. He had a troubled and complicated life and, despite his gifts, remains a tragic figure. My wife Deborah and I will always have great affection for him. John Landis"

Landis also confirmed to the site earlier news that Dimension Films has acquired the remake rights to Landis' landmark 1981 horror comedy film An American Werewolf in London. Landis told the site that it's still in negotiations.

"Yes, Dimension is now in negotiation for the An American Werewolf in London remake rights. Perhaps someone will make a brilliant movie out of it. ... Regardless, my film comes out on Blu-ray this summer and looks amazing. I was afraid the digital cleaning of the negative would result in too clear a picture and hurt Rick Baker's makeup, when in fact the incredibly crisp detail actually makes Rick stuff look even better!"

UPDATE: On AICN, Quint has an update on the An American Werewolf in London remake:

"I had a source give me a few more details... and it might not be as bad as we think. The source says that there might not be any interest in doing a remake because of a rights issue, something about Universal's ownership of DVD, TV and online rights. What this source hears is Dimension is talking about franchising it. My guess is it wouldn't be a direct sequel like An American Werewolf in Paris, but rather keeping the werewolves and horror/comedy tone, but moving it around the world."

Who might be the new nemesis for Heroes' cheerleader: A college roommate?

When NBC's Heroes returns for its fourth season this September, it will be back-to-school time for Hayden Panettiere's indestructible cheerleader Claire Bennet: After three years (in TV time), the blond superhero will finally graduate high school and head to college, the actress told reporters.

"She's in college, and she's got a great roommate," Panettiere said in a group interview over the weekend in Santa Monica, Calif., where she was promoting the film I Love You, Beth Cooper. "You kind of don't know about [the roommate] in the beginning."

Claire won't be left alone at school, though. The Company may be out of the picture, but there's always someone butting in with people's special abilities. "So there's this new group of people called the Carnival," Panettiere said. "They're kind of the opposite of the Company."

The Heroes writers' room is still smarting from the recent abrupt departure of original writer Bryan Fuller, who had returned to the show briefly following the demise of his ABC series Pushing Daisies. Panettiere said she has been less personally affected by the change.

"You know, since I haven't read all the scripts and haven't been involved in the writing process the way, obviously, the writers are," Panettiere said. "We work hard. We work hard, but everyone's great, and we have a blast together. He's going off, and he's doing some great stuff, so we're all just really proud of him."

Fans have been complaining about character arcs since season two. I mean, Hiro as a 10-year-old, honestly? Panettiere doesn't know what everyone's looking for, but she said she still has faith in the show.

"I think it set a very high bar for itself, and I think it's very scrutinized now because of just the demand," Panettiere said. "You know, it's not an easy crowd to please all the time, but I still enjoy watching the show."

Heroes returns Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

Monday, June 29, 2009

News - 06/29/09...

Transformers 2 kills in its opening five days with $200M

Alien robots have transformed into box-office superstars with $200 million in ticket sales domestically in just five days.

There's apparently no stopping those giant freaking robots: Michael Bay's much-hyped sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen raked in an estimated $200 million in ticket sales domestically in just five days, the Associated Press reported.

That includes $112 million domestically in the sequel's first weekend and $201.2 million since opening Wednesday. For its first five days, that puts the Transformers sequel second only to last summer's The Dark Knight, with $203.8 million.

This was the biggest opening weekend of the year, surpassing the $85.1 million debut of X-Men Origins: Wolverine in early May.

The sequel began with $60.6 million in its opening day Wednesday.

Disney's Floyd E. Norman speaks in San Bernardino

Pioneer African-American cartoonist and animator Floyd E. Norman, who worked on projects at Disney when Walt Disney was head of the studio, will speak next Wednesday, July 1 at The Art Institute of California-Inland Empire in San Bernardino.

At 12 noon, Norman will talk about his work as a story artist and animator at Disney and Pixar, as well as many other studios where he has worked.

Born in 1936, Norman worked as an in-betweener and animator on Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone and The Jungle Book, along with various animated short projects at Disney in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

After Walt Disney's death in 1966, he left Disney to co-found the AfroKids animation studio with animator-director Leo Sullivan. Norman and Sullivan worked together on various projects, including the original Hey! Hey! Hey! It's Fat Albert television special, which aired in 1969 on NBC.

Norman returned to Disney in the early 1970s to work on Robin Hood (1973). He was a layout artist on Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch (1974), an animator on Jabberjaw (1976), character designer and key layout artist on The New Fred and Barney Show (1979), and key layout artist on The Kwicky Koala Show (1981).

More recently, he has worked on Toy Story 2 (1999) and Monsters, Inc. (2001) for Pixar and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) and Mulan (1998) for Disney. He continues to work for the Walt Disney Company as a consultant on various projects.

Norman has also published several books of cartoons inspired by his lifetime of experiences in the animation industry: Faster! Cheaper!, Son of Faster, Cheaper! and How The Grinch Stole Disney.

A columnist for JimHillMedia.com and AfroKids.com, he was named a Disney Legend in 2007.

The event will be in Rooms 161 and 162 of 630 East Brier Drive in San Bernardino. Admission is free.

Cartoon Network/Adult Swim Announce Comic-Con Schedule

Cartoon Network and Adult Swim will be having a strong presence at this year’s Comic-Con. The cabler announced its healthy slate of panels, fan events and special signings at the event (July 23-July 27) today. Included in the festivities are Robot Chicken/Titan Maximum panels, a sneak peak of Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time with Finn and Jake, and programs devoted to Chowder, The Misadentures of Flapjack, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ben 10, The Venture Bros. and the new movie, Scooby-Doo: The Mystery Begins.

Adventure Time with Finn and Jake

Here is the complete schedule of events (all subject to change):


ADULT SWIM: Robot Chicken w/ Titan Maximum
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Location: 6A

Moderator: Keith Crofford, vice president of production Adult Swim
Seth Green (co-creator, Robot Chicken and Titan Maximum), Matthew Senreich (co-creator, Robot Chicken and Titan Maximum), Tom Root (head writer, Robot Chicken/co-creator, Titan Maximum) and Doug Goldstein (head writer, Robot Chicken) with Chris McKay, Breckin Meyer, Kevin Shinick, Mike Fasolo and Dan Milano discuss the popular Adult Swim series Robot Chicken. They also discuss the upcoming new stop-motion animated series Titan Maximum, slated to premiere on Adult Swim this fall.

Robot Chicken

4:15 – 5:15 p.m.
Location: Room 6A

Moderator: Brian Miller, senior vice president and general manager Cartoon Network Studios
Come join us for a panel celebrating three of the best comedies from Cartoon Network Studios. First up is a sweet treat with Chowder, including special guests C.H. Greenblatt (creator), Tara Strong (voice of Truffles), Dwight Schultz (voice of Mung Daal), and Dana Snyder (voice of Gazpacho). Then set sail with The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack and creator Thurop Van Orman (voice of Flapjack) and Steve Little (writer, voice of fan favorite Dr. Barber). Finally, hold on to your seats for a sneak peak of the new series, Adventure Time with Finn and Jake, with creator Pendelton Ward.


10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Location: 6B

Moderator: Sam Register, executive producer
Gotham takes over San Diego as Diedrich Bader (Surf's Up), the voice of Batman, returns to headline a panel alongside executive producer Sam Register (Teen Titans), producer James Tucker (Justice League Unlimited), producer and story editor Michael Jelenic (The Batman) and voice director Andrea Romano (Superman Doomsday). Fans will enjoy a discussion and lively Q&A as this dynamic and creative team look back upon the show's incredible first season and provide an exclusive look at what season two holds for the Caped Crusader.

LUCAS PANEL: Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Building the Universe
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Location: 7 AB

The Clone Wars expanded the scope of Star Wars beyond anything seen in the feature films—but Season One was just the beginning. Get a rare glimpse into the epic scale of the ongoing galactic conflict with supervising director Dave Filoni and key production staff from the series. Find out insider secrets about building the Star Wars galaxy, making the first season of the groundbreaking series and what’s to come in Season 2!

LUCAS PANEL: Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Behind the mic
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Location: 7 AB

Season Two of Star Wars: The Clone Wars is coming in hot, and you can believe that the talented voice cast has something to say about it! Join supervising director Dave Filoni as he talks with the actors behind your favorite Clone Wars characters, and get an intimate look at the animated antics inside the recording studio and what’s ahead in Season 2.

4:45 – 5:45 p.m.
Location: Room 6A

Cult comedy favorite and BAFTA-nominated, The Mighty Boosh, comes to Comic-Con for the first time to celebrate the airing of all three seasons on Adult Swim, and the BBC’s DVD release, just two days before the convention begins. Inspired by the Perrier Comedy Award-winning live comedy show, creators-stars Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, along with actors Michael Fielding, Rich Fulcher and Dave Brown, will be on stage to discuss the world of The Boosh.

LUCAS PANEL: The Star Wars Spectacular
5:15 – 6:15 p.m.
Location: Hall H

Get all the latest news from the Star Wars universe, including some of Lucasfilm’s most tightly-guarded secrets! Join our galaxy of guests from The Clone Wars and beyond, including supervising director Dave Filoni, voice talent from the show and more!


11:45 a.m. - 12:45 p.m.
Location: ROOM 6DE

Moderator: Tramm Wigzell director of development, original series Cartoon Network
It’s all about Ben 10 at this panel featuring director Alex Winter and cast members from the live-action movie Ben 10: Alien Swarm coming this fall on Cartoon Network. Also appearing are Ben 10 Alien Force producer Glenn Murakami, story editor Dwayne McDuffie and Yuri Lowenthal (voice of Ben). Make sure not to miss an exclusive look at what’s coming next with a sneak peak of Generator Rex and the first images from the upcoming series, Sym-Bionic Titan, by creator Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory).

ADULT SWIM: Series Development and The Venture Bros.
6:00 – 7:15 p.m.
Location: 6DE

Moderator: Keith Crofford, vice president of production Adult Swim
Fans will get the chance to hear from the Adult Swim development team and get a first look at upcoming Adult Swim programming. Nick Weidenfeld, director of development for Adult Swim and Matt Harrigan, executive producer/series writer for Adult Swim will give highlights of what’s in the tube for fall 2009. Then, Jackson Publick (co-creator), Doc Hammer (co-creator), Jon Schnepp (co-director), James Urbaniak (voice of Dr. Venture) and Mike Sinterniklaas (voice of Dean Venture) discuss the hit animated Adult Swim series The Venture Bros. and give fans insight into the future of the series.

The Venture Bros.

WB PANEL: Zoinks! Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins
12:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Location: 6DE

Come join everyone’s favorite Great Dane as Warner Premiere & Cartoon Network present Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins. The all-new, live-action/CGI film reveals the origins of the Mystery Inc. gang on their first mission together. Be the first to witness the film, then stay for a fun-filled panel featuring director Brian Levant (Beethoven, Snow Dogs), producer Brian Gilbert (Wrong Turn, Skinwalkers) and introducing the all-new live-action cast: Robbie Amell (Life With Derek, True Jackson VP) as Fred, Kate Melton as Daphne, Hayley Kiyoko as Velma and Nick Palatas as Shaggy. Also expected to attend is Frank Welker, a member of the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! voice-cast, who provides the voice of Scooby-Doo for Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins, which will premiere on Cartoon Network and be distributed by Warner Home Video in Fall 2009.

Adult Swim Booth: 3351

Friday, July 24
4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Robot Chicken Signing
With Seth Green, Matt Senreich, Breckin Meyer, Chris McKay

Saturday, July 25
12:30 – 1:30 p.m.
Robot Chicken Signing
With Seth Green, Matt Senreich, Doug Goldstein and Tom Root

3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
The Venture Bros. Singing
Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer

Saturday, July 25, 8 – 11p.m.
Location: Skate San Diego


Thursday, July 23, 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Chowder & The Misadventures of Flapjack Signing - Autograph Alley
C.H. Greenblatt, Tara Strong, Dana Snyder, Thurop Van Orman, Steve Little

Saturday, July 25, 3:00-4:30 p.m.
Ben 10 Alien Force Signing - Autograph Alley
Glen Murakami, Yuri Lowenthal, Dwight McDuffie

Sunday, July 26, 10:00-11:00 a.m.
Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins Signing - WB Booth
Robbie Amell, Kate Melton, Hayley Kiyoko, Nick Palatas

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Thomas Hauls £1 Million for Autism

The U.K.’s National Autistic Society has announced that its partnership with HIT Entertainment’s Thomas & Friends brand has helped raise over a million pounds (approx. 1.65 million USD)¬. The collaboration began in 2001 when HIT granted Thomas’ image rights to the NAS, and the two organizations have since orchestrated numerous fundraising initiatives involving the brand. Early this month, NAS launched the first Train Walk—a series of sponsored walks themed on the Thomas & Friends property which took place across the country, attracting over 4,500 supporters, parents and children and raising funds and awareness for the cause.

Thomas the Tank Engine and his trainyard friends seem to have a special appeal to autistic children: A 2007 study conducted by NAS and HIT reveled that 98.8% of parents of these children consider their kids fans of the brand. As Victoria Bushell, brand manager for Thomas at HIT Ent. says, Thomas & Friends holds a very special place in the hearts of young children and their families. We are delighted to be working with the NAS who continue amazing work in reaching out and supporting families of children with autism.”

As for the amazing million-pound mark Thomas has helped achieve, NAS chief executive Mark Lever hopes it’s just the beginning: “We are delighted that the support of Thomas & Friends continues to help us make a difference to the over half a million people affected by autism in the U.K. today.”

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Top 10 Anime Properties of Spring 2009

According to iItalicnterviews with retailers, distributors, and manufacturers, here are the top ten Region 1 anime properties for spring 2009, through all channels:

1) Afro Samurai Resurrection
2) Naruto
3) Dragon Ball Z
4) Ouran High School Host Club
5) Cowboy Bebop Remix
6) Yu Yu Hakusho
7) Fullmetal Alchemist
8) Pokemon
9) Bleach
10) Code Geass

Details Announced for 13th and Final "Gathering of the Gargoyles" Convention

Details have been released for the 13th Annual "Gathering of the Gargoyles" convention, which will also be the last gathering of fans and creators of the Gargoyles TV series. This year's convention will be held between August 21-24, 2009, at the Hilton in Universal City in California. Special guests this year will include show creator Greg Weisman and actors Marina Sirtis (Demona), Keith David (Goliath), Bill Fagerbakke (Broadway), Thom Adcox (Lexington), and Elisa Gabrielli (Obsidiana). Registration is currently open now at the Gathering of the Gargoyles website.

The full announcement follows:

Gathering 2009 Newsletter #8 – June 23, 2009

In this issue: Marina Sirtis! Guest Update! Hotel Reminder! Dates to Remember!

All good things…

From 1997 to 2009, the fans of Gargoyles have pulled together to celebrate the show we love so much. Our camaraderie has been a joy and an inspiration. In the twelve years since that first small convention in New York City, many of us have forged lifelong friendships, grown both personally and professionally, and taken away unique experiences from the phenomenon that is Gargoyles fandom.

But, just as a gargoyle can no more stop protecting the castle than breathing the air, eventually all good things must come to an end.

We, the fans, have all taken Gargoyles full circle. It is with bittersweet regret that the staff of The Gathering of the Gargoyles announces that this year's convention will be the last. Thirteen conventions have made for a run lasting longer than many of us ever imagined when we gathered for the first time in 1997, and for that we should all be very proud. But do not despair, as we are most certainly going out with a bang!

We are very happy – no, we are ecstatic – to announce that joining us for our final outing will be none other than the voice of Demona herself, Marina Sirtis! She joins an all-star guest list that already includes Gargoyles voice actors Keith David (Goliath), Bill Fagerbakke (Broadway), Thom Adcox (Lexington), and Elisa Gabrielli (Obsidiana). And lest we forget, Greg Weisman, the creator of the show, will be joining us, as well, along with at least a dozen other guests from the Gargoyles writing and production team.

So please join us in our last hurrah, our shout in the night, our 13th Annual and final Gathering of the Gargoyles. This will be the one to remember. This will be your last chance to experience The Gathering before it's all over for good. It's not too late to grab it. Let's make this a party to remember!

To register, visit: http://www.gatheringofthegargoyles.c...istration.html

Convention Guest Update:

As revealed above, The Gathering of the Gargoyles is delighted to announce that Marina Sirtis, voice of Demona on Gargoyles and Star Trek: The Next Generation's Counselor Deanna Troi, will be one of our many special guests!

Newly confirmed special guests from Gargoyles and The Spectacular Spider-Man also include:

Bill Fagerbakke - Voice of Broadway (G)
Vanessa Marshall - Voice of Mary Jane Watson (S)
Joey Mason - Color Supervisor / Background Painter (G)
Doug Murphy - Storyboard Artist (G)
Daran Norris - Voice of J. Jonah Jameson (S)

Our complete guest list now features over 30 industry professionals, with even more to be announced in the coming weeks! As always, for complete details, please visit:


Hotel Information:

The Gathering 2009 will take place August 21-24, 2009 at the fabulous Hilton in Universal City, located at the main entrance to Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal CityWalk!

Hilton Los Angeles / Universal City
555 Universal Hollywood Drive
Universal City, California, 91608
Telephone: 1-818-506-2500
Toll free: 1-800-HILTONS

The Hilton is offering a block rate of $159 per night (double occupancy) to Gathering attendees who call for reservations by July 23, 2009. Please mention that you are with "The Gathering of the Gargoyles" when calling to receive this special rate. For more information and a link for online reservations, please visit:


The Hilton has informed us that our room block is filling up fast, so please don't delay in making your plans to join us!

Dates to Remember:

July 23, 2009 – Deadline for hotel reservations at the Hilton Los Angeles / Universal City to receive the Gathering's discounted block rate.
July 31, 2009 – Final day of pre-registration.
August 7, 2009 – Deadline for Music Video Contest submissions.
August 21 – 24, 2009 – The 13th Annual Gathering of the Gargoyles.

Questions? Comments? Contact us at: staff@gatheringofthegargoyles.com

- The Gathering 2009 Staff

Briefly: New "Guardians of Luna" Site; "Animation in Process"; "Get Stoked" Tour

* A new pre-launch site for the revamped Guardians of Luna is now open at guardiansofluna.com. A mailing list is available on the site for those interested in ongoing updates.

* Andrew Selby will be publishing a new book in September 2009 titled Animation in Process, which will show "how artists, designers, filmmakers, programmers, directors, writers, and producers have seized the chance to entertain using a versatile and compelling medium." [AWN]

* TELETOON has announced their plans for the Get Stoked Tour, which will be traveling throughout Canada from June 25 - Aug 7, 2009 to promote the debut of the new animated series Stoked. [Press Release]

Stanchfield "Drawn to Life" Panel at San Diego Comic Con '09

AnimationMentor.com and Don Hahn will be hosting a special panel at this year's San Diego Comic Con International dedicated to the recently published Drawn to Life two-volume set, edited by Hahn and publishing the animation lectures of master animator Walt Stanchfield. The panel will be held on July 23, 2009, from 12:00 - 1:00 PM at Room 32AB in the San Diego Convention Center. Hahn will moderate the panel, which will also host panelists Glen Keane, Eric Goldberg, Tom Sito, and Ruben Procopio.

Michael Jackson Animation on South Park

Thriller and Off the Wall are undoubtedly some of the best albums of all-time (Rolling Stone puts them at #20 and #68), but I’ll never forget South Park’s ruthless 2004 Michael Jackson episode, The Jeffersons. Here’s a clip that features Cartman and Jackson singing on a miniature train. We’ll miss you Mr. Jackson… I mean Jefferson. Watch the full episode at southparkstudios.com.

Pixar’s Helm Undertook Flight Lessons at SCAD

Some strong character animation in Pixar Animator Neil Helm’s CG short Flight Lessons, which he produced at SCAD in 2008. It’s been accepted to numerous festivals, including the 2009 Bitfilm event.

Simon Pegg is an Ice Age Weasel

This is our first look at Simon Pegg’s character in Blue Sky Studios’ upcoming Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which is in theaters July 1st. Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Star Trek) plays a one-eyed weasel named Buck.

Cartoon Conglomerates and the Wider World

It's good to remember that no matter how much we think that the U.S. of A. is the center of the 'toon universe, it's really not. There's a big, multi-colored tapestry out there.

Nickelodeon announced on June 17 that it will launch ChinaToon, a 1-hour branded block dedicated to showcasing original Chinese animation ...

As the premier original Chinese animation block created by an international broadcaster, ChinaToon becomes the first region-wide platform for Chinese animators to showcase their programming to vast audiences across the region.

“Chinese animation is gaining immense popularity and critical recognition internationally. ChinaToon will be the vehicle to bring this unique animation genre to a wider audience,” said Indra Suharjono, Executive Vice President and Managing Director for MTV Networks South East Asia and Greater China. “We are proud to introduce ChinaToon and its exciting lineup of Chinese animation programs as new members to Nickelodeon’s family of top-rated programs that kids of all ages in Asia love,” she added.

What's striking is how good old American mega-companies are right in there partnering with the locals, subsidizing regional cartoons in various markets. Job number one, after all, is getting eyeballs to look at your product, and putting home-grown stuff into the mix seems like a good way to increase viewership.

It's pretty to think that everybody everywhere wants Cars or Bugs or Huckleberry Hound 24/7, but such is not always the case.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

What to expect in Toy Story 3 (hints: new characters, adult themes!)

You know animator Angus MacLane's work even though he's not one of the Pixar marquee stars like John Lasseter or Brad Bird: MacLane lent his talents to WALL-E, for which he accepted the film's Saturn Award on Wednesday. He also directed the short BURN-E, which appears on the DVD. He got his start at Pixar while Toy Story 2 was in the pipeline, and he's currently working on Toy Story 3 animation. Since he and Pixar got their start with the franchise, he says the third film represents their adulthood.

"I feel like we've grown up making these movies, and each of the films represents where the filmmakers were at the time of making the films," MacLane said in an exclusive interview in Burbank, Calif. "Certainly we're approaching this film 10 years later, so I think we're sort of coming at it from the standpoint of [Andy] has grown up, and we've grown up with these toys, and we have a reverence for them, but we also have different things as a priority."

Lee Unkrich takes the directing lead on a story dealing with Andy's going off to college. The prospect of Andy's outgrowing Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody was first raised in Toy Story 2. So what is a Toy Story with Andy basically grown up?

"I think that's a question we've tried to figure out ourselves," MacLane said. "I can tell you Andy's room is in the movie. That's about all I can say." Whether it's the Andy's room we know or Andy's teenage room, MacLane would not tell.

With a specialty in character movement and motion, which brought many of WALL-E's silent sequences to life, MacLane has had a chance to introduce new toys into the Toy Story world. "Oh, I've had a lot of fun with new characters," he said. "I've spent a lot of the time on the show on new characters. That's one of the things I did work on on this film, was a lot of preproduction and developing on the new characters, just help out getting them ready to go for the film." On Toy Story 2, MacLane was in charge of the "crazy" Buzz Lightyear, fresh out of the box at the toy store, still thinking he's a real space ranger.

MacLane assured fans that he and his Pixar colleagues take Toy Story 3 seriously. They would not make a cheap knock-off sequel (ahem, Disney). And he said the new installment will mark the true conclusion of a trilogy.

"Toy Story 2 was one of the first films I did starting at Pixar, so I feel a real kinship with the characters, specifically Buzz Lightyear," MacLane said. "So I really wanted to get back in there and animate. To give you a sense of the responsibility they feel, there was a T-shirt made in the story department. The back of the T-shirt said, 'Franchise Guardian.' It's not something we do lightly. We go back into that mythology with the intent to continue a story that needs to be told, a story that we believe in and a story that, to be really honest, having seen the movie, is amazing. I'm not worried about it, but in finishing it, we want to make sure it's the best film it can be, and it's fit to stand alongside the other films on the shelf."

Toy Story 3 is due in theaters in 2010.

Video Games -- Non-Union Frontier

Over the years we've gotten calls from disgruntled animators, technical directors and designers at video games studios. For some reason, these folks have been disgruntled by the long hours that chop the dollars of their weekly paychecks into small pieces when tabulated on an hourly basis.

But the game industry, even though it uses a lot of the same skill-sets and technologies as the cartoon biz, has been a tough nut for union organizers to crack -- not just for TAG but other unions as well. Our experience has been meetings followed by management getting wind of the discontent, and then ... no more meetings or rep cards. Even SAG hasn't achieved much leverage over the games industry. The actors have some contracts, but they are paltry.

Aside from that, it turns out that the video games industry is a lot like the movie business. Big cash flow overall, but a lot of misses along with the game console blockbusters:

The phrase "hits driven business" gets thrown around a lot these days, but in the case of video games it really is true ... [A]ccording to Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR) – as reported by Forbes – roughly 20 percent of video games that make it to market are actually profitable. To think that 80 percent of video games only break even or lose money for publishers is somewhat alarming ...

Games are pretty much like movies in the ratio of successes to failures, kissing cousins in fact. Which maybe explains why movie companies buy them. .

Warner Bros. has emerged as the only bidder for Midway Games, all but assuring that it will take control of the bankrupt publisher previously owned by Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone and become a major force in the video game industry

... Redstone, who took control of Midway in 2004, was never able to bring the troubled company to profitability. He sold it at a huge loss to a private investor last November in exchange for a $700-million tax write-off that has since led to a lawsuit from the publisher's creditors ...

Cynics might say: "Of course games are tough to organize now. The business isn't as healthy as it was a couple of years ago ..." but in my experience, the health of a company isn't what gets it to sign a union contract. Leverage is.

Movie and cartoon studios signed union contracts in the late thirties and early forties when the depression was still dragging pocketbooks down and corporate profit margins were minimal. But union-friendly labor laws had recently been passed in Washington and film workers were motivated. to change the status quo.

When games employees get to a place where they desire to organize their workplace ... and corporations' power is trimmed back (like, people don't fear for their jobs when the sign a union representation card) ... we might see more Midways and Electronic Arts coming under labor agreements.

In the meantime, the Warners, News Corps and Viacoms will go on pursuing game companies, becuasethe possibility of finding a rich vein of gold among all the pyrite is simply too tempting to pass up.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Save Taz!

And now, no joke, is a Public Service Announcement:

Apparently Warner Bros. is supporting the effort to Save the Tasmanian Devil by donating the character (and a bit of animation) to the cause.

(Thanks, Dave Carter)

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Toy Movies

Where Dan Meth sees Hollywood updates of classic toy and cartoon properties going. He’s not far off:

(Thanks, Sterling Sheehy)

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

How will the Avengers movie succeed in bringing Iron Man, Cap and Thor together?

Marvel Studios executives are so busy producing Iron Man 2, prepping Thor and coordinating everything with The Avengers that the only person available to accept the studio's Saturn Award was head of marketing Doug Finberg. (Finberg accepted the Saturn Award on behalf of Iron Man on Wednesday in Burbank, Calif.)

He updated us on Marvel projects: Finberg confirmed that the working title of the Captain America film is The First Avenger: Captain America. That would both introduce Cap and lead into the concept of The Avengers, which would follow. "It's something we're considering, and really at the end of the day, everyone is going to know that he is Captain America," Finberg said in an exclusive interview.

Earlier in the week, Avengers screenwriter Zak Penn told an audience at the L.A. Film Festival that he is running around between Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America production offices to make sure his script coordinates with the introduction of key superheroes, and, of course, his script has to be done before the other films are. Finberg was confident that all teams could unite for a solid Avengers film. "Having everybody on board and really being able to actually work as a team together and develop the Marvel cinematic universe is what's most important to us," Finberg said.

The long-term plan is to introduce Thor and Captain America, then combine them with Iron Man to form the Avengers. But that still only accounts for three members of the famed superhero team, four if they throw in the Hulk. Could Penn introduce any new supporting superheroes in the Avengers film itself? That's not off the table, according to Finberg. "I think that really remains to be seen," he said.

After some contractual hiccups, Samuel L. Jackson signed on to continue playing Nick Fury, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., in the Marvel universe films. Expect him to play a major role in the upcoming films, with the possibility of his own film down the road, Finberg said. "Well, we have a multi-picture deal with him, so obviously we're in business with him for a while to come, and we really enjoy working with Sam," he said.

Thor will be another case of Marvel's trusting a director to bring a unique vision to their property, as Sam Raimi did for Spider-Man, Bryan Singer did for X-Men and Jon Favreau did for Iron Man. "Kenneth Branagh at the head of it all is really the critical thing to us, to really create his vision" of Thor, Finberg said. "He and [Marvel honcho] Kevin [Feige] are working really closely together."

As for Iron Man 2, which is currently in production, Finberg assured fans they can expect more of the same action and improvisational drama courtesy of star Robert Downey Jr. There may be no way to manage fan expectations for the sequel to a $300-plus-million-grossing film, but Marvel is committed to pleasing them.

"It really is more to come," Finberg said. "Ultimately, the final expectation, the final verdict, is with the fans, and that's something that the team of Marvel does a phenomenal job at, actually making the best movie from the material they can."

Iron Man 2 is due out May 7, 2010. Thor is next, on May 20, 2011. Then Captain America on July 22, 2011, and The Avengers on May 4, 2012.

The stars say: Think it's hard to figure out Heroes now? Wait until next season

Adrian Pasdar at the Saturn Awards

As always, the season finale of NBC's Heroes teased the next one: Sylar shape-shifted into Nathan's body, and Adrian Pasdar played a bewildered "Nathan" who started to show signs of Sylar's old watchmaking skills. This bothered Angela Petrelli (Cristine Rose), who just wanted to take her son out to lunch.

At the Saturn Awards on Wednesday, Pasdar said that he's not going to play Sylar so much as play somebody trying to imitate Nathan. (Pasdar took home a Saturn Award for best supporting actor on a television series.)
"That's the irony," Pasdar said. "I don't feel like I'm playing Sylar. I feel like I'm playing a guy who's playing Nathan. You see what I'm saying? I'm not trying to act like Sylar. Sylar's trying to act like Nathan. A little tic ... here, a little compulsive, obsessive behavior somewhere else."


In a separate interview at the awards ceremony, Rose suggested that it might only get harder to follow who is playing whom on Heroes: The upcoming "volume five" has Sylar and Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) morphing into a variety of of co-stars and day players. "I just read episode 403 yesterday," Rose said. "What happens then, my mind has been so baffled, but it's a lot of fun. Yet another huge change comes for me in episode 403."

Nathan Petrelli began as a corrupt politician who was willing to let New York explode. He ultimately sacrificed himself to stop his brother, Peter, from blowing up, but later worked with the government to capture people with abilities. Pasdar suggested that his journey in the next season will finally redeem Nathan.

"I think there's going to be a good redemptive nature to his behavior this year," Pasdar said. "Somehow we're going to try to get out from underneath the dark cloud that surrounded the first couple years of his perception of what his power might be, his ability. It's nice to think it might end a little lighter. It might end with a martyrdom kind of behavior thing in order to sacrifice [himself] to serve the world."

As for that crazy episode 403 Rose mentioned, it includes the usual Petrelli parental issues. Nathan will be managing his shape-shifting, and their interaction will revolve more around Rose's Angela. "It's classic Mama Petrelli," Pasdar said. "It's more on her consistent behavior than it is on mine. I have a little bit of a shift going through my character, so she's more solid. It more resonates around her gravity pull than mine."

Rose added that the new season will spend comparatively less time with all characters. "All the stories are much smaller than they were, so each episode will be fewer people," Rose said. "So it'll be smaller stories for everyone, but I'm happy that they write my name in the script."

Both actors defended the changes in the writing staff, most notably the abrupt departure of Bryan Fuller for a second time. "Actually, there haven't been that many changes," Pasdar said. "People come and go. The core of the writing group has been there from day one. The show will end up being remembered for what it is, not for what people thought it might become or wished it had. The show is the show. You have to work with the mechanics that you're given, and we have some tremendously talented writers that work very hard every day to sculpt and craft the show. So it's my job to say what they interpret as the character. The arrivals and departures, I love Bryan Fuller. He's a good friend."

Rose confirmed that she is still working with writers who have written Angela since the beginning, with only one new addition she has yet to meet. "Well, Adam [Armus], Nora Kay [Forster], Aron [Eli Coleite] and Joe [Pokaski] are still there, and Michael [Green]. A new gentleman, I think his first name is Carlos, is coming in, but I have not met him yet."

Heroes returns Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT non NBC.

Is Iran using Lord of the Rings to quell protests?

As security forces and protesters continue to clash in Iran, the government has begun using propaganda and entertainment in an attempt to quiet the populace, TIME magazine has reported—and it turns out that a Lord of the Rings marathon on Tehran 's Channel Two is part of that plan.

The newsweekly was contacted by a resident of the capital, who asked for anonymity. He or she reported that "Iranian television usually treats its viewers to one or two Hollywood or European movie nights a week. But these are not normal times, so it's been two or three such movies a day. It's part of the push to keep people at home and off the streets, to keep us busy, to get us out of the regime's hair. ... Channel Two is putting on a Lord of the Rings marathon as part of the government's efforts to restore peace."

The writer shared that many viewers are finding a political subtext to Peter Jackson's trilogy:

"I wonder which official picked this film, starting to suspect, even hope, that there is a subversive soul manning the controls at seda va sima, central broadcasting," wrote the anonymous Iranian. "It is way too easy to find political meaning in the film, to draw comparisons to what is happening in real life. There are themes that seem to allude to Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the candidate President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims to have defeated: the unwanted quest and the risking of life in pursuit of an unanticipated destiny. Could he be Boromir, the imperfect warrior who is heroic at the end, dying to defend humanity? Didn't Mousavi talk about being ready for martyrdom?"

Visit TIME magazine for further analysis.

Scarlett Poster for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra!

Paramount Pictures has provided us with the new poster of Rachel Nichols as Scarlett in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, opening in theaters on August 7th. Directed by Stephen Sommers, the big screen adaptation also stars Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Byung Hun Lee, Sienna Miller, Ray Park, Said Taghmaoui, Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans and Dennis Quaid.


According to AICN, a hush-hush “Smallville” telefilm could be in the works – it’d follow the events of the show’s upcoming ninth-and-final season, and offer audiences a glimpse at something they were certain (because originally said it’d never happen, since this show is supposed to be all about Clark Kent) they’d never see…. Tom Welling in the Superman suit.

An untried scooper (like how we’re not judging?) told the site that he’s gotten a hold of some signage being prepared for next months’ Comic Con.

Here’s what said scooper says :

On black, with crimson/red text in the same font lettering that Smallville uses, and a transparent grey Superman "S" watermark behind the text: METROPOLIS CHRISTMAS 2010 Then at the bottom is a banner advertising the Smallville presentation.

This could be nonsense… but if not, it could be a great send-off for “Smallville”. Wonder if Michael Rosenbaum will reprise his role as Lex Luthor for it?