Wednesday, June 17, 2009

News - 06/17/09...

The Cleveland Show Premieres Sept. 27

The Seth MacFarlane animation empire will officially expand yet again on Sept. 27, when Fox will air the premiere episode of The Cleveland Show.

Spun off from MacFarlane’s flagship series, Family Guy, Cleveland Show will air Sundays from 8:30 to 9 p.m. as part of the network’s Animation Domination block.

Sept. 27 also will see the season premieres of the rest of the block, including the start of The Simpsons’ 20th season at 8 p.m.

Family Guy will air in the 9 p.m. slot, followed by American Dad! at 9:30.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Family Guy, Garfield Laugh It Up on DVD

Get ready, the Griffins are coming home yet again.

Family Guy Vol. 7 (Fox, $39.98) comes to DVD this week, featuring 13 episodes from seasons six and seven of the popular animated TV series. The set includes episodes guest starring Johnny Knoxville, Bob Barker, Andy Dick, Seth Rogen, Frank Sinatra Jr. and Barry Manilow, as well as uncensored commentary on every episode, 29 deleted scenes, three animatic episodes with optional commentary and several featurettes.

Also coming to DVD this week is Garfield’s Pet Force (Fox, $19.98), a new CG-animated feature starring Jim Davis’ iconic comic strip cat. The new feature finds Garfield, Odie, Nermal and Arlene meeting their counterparts from a universe where they fight crime as superheroes. This is the third original CGI feature starring Garfield, after Garfield Gets Real and Garfield’s Fun Fest.

Additional animation releases this week include Bleach Vol. 17 (VIZ Media, $24.92), Tom and Jerry’s Greatest Chases Vol. 2 (Warner Bros., $14.97), Transformers: The Complete First Season ($29.99) and Thomas & Friends: Hop On Board Songs & Stories (HIT Entertainment, $14.98).

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Total Drama Action Powers CN Ratings

The June 11 premiere of Cartoon Network’s Total Drama Action was a smash hit with the kid set, marking double and triple-digit gains in ratings and delivery across all kid demographics.

The show was the network’s highest-rated year-to-date telecast among kids 9-14 and was the most-watched show of the day on broadcast or cable among kids 6-11, kids 9-14 and boys 2-11, 6-11 and 9-14.

The animated reality-style show, a spin-off from last year’s hit Total Drama Island, aired with new episodes of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack and 6Teen as the Har Har Tharsdays block.

The block was the net’s most-watched Thursday primetime lineup and its second-best primetime performance this year.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Academy Sets Miyazaki Screening, Talk

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will host a special screening of Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning feature Spirited Away and a tribute to the animation master himself.

The famed anime director will appear for “A Tribute to Animation Master Hayao Miyazaki” on July 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Oscar-winning animator and Academy governor John Lasseter will host the event, which will feature clips from Miyazaki’s films and a conversation with the director.

The screening of Spirited Away is set for July 17 at 7:30 p.m., also at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Both events are held in conjunction with the Academy’s ongoing Anime! High Art - Pop Culture exhibition, which runs through Aug. 23.

Tickets for both events go on sale June 25 at the Academy box office or online at, and cost $3 for Academy members and $5 for the general public.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Hidden Oswald in UP Little Golden Book

This has to be the most trivial post I’ve ever written - and I’ve written some pretty trivial posts - but at least it gives me the chance to once again plug the latest Pixar Little Golden Book tie-in.

Animator Ken Priebe discovered on the first page (center image, click thumbnails below to enlarge) of the Golden Book adaptation of UP, if you look carefully at Carl’s scrapbook, spin it upside down (below right), you can see a microscopic image of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit! Those sly devils at Disney Publishing. Tried to pull a fast one on us, aye? Last year we found an Oswald “cameo” in the Wall-E Little Golden Book. Perhaps this is the beginning of a trend?

Kudos to designer Stuart Smith and illustrators Jean-Paul Orpinas and Scott Tilley. You keep making these books look cool, and I’ll keep buying ‘em!

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Spongebob Squarepants Designs by Robert Ryan Cory

These Spongebob character expression and pose designs by Robert Ryan Cory raise TV animation to the level of art. The creativity and design in these drawings is invigorating and inspiring.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Salaff’s Evolution Animation

This short is simple and kinda funny, sorta like the human race. This is Andres Salaff’s brief glimpse at the evolution of man. Salaff is a recent grad from CalArts, and he produced this in Corny Cole’s class.

Kerity - Alphanim’s Animated Feature

Here’s the latest trailer for the upcoming French 2D feature, titled Kerity. It’s being directed by Dominique Monféry at Alphanim, and it centers on a young boy who discovers a hidden world inside a library. It’s due out in French theaters in December.

Pixar Equals Motown Records?

Gamasutra draws a comparison I'd never considered before:

The challenge facing all creative media businesses today is to establish a system that balances their creativity alongside productivity ...

What I went looking for were companies that sustained commercial success over a long period using different teams and entirely new concepts – not just more of the same – and yet still managed to create works of long-term artistic merit. There are two absolute crackers: Motown Records and Pixar Animation Studios.

[Motown] delivered over 110 top tens in a ten year period - that's almost one a month: for an entire decade!

Berry Gordy, Motown's founder, applied the same principle of quality to every aspect of the production process. He used dedicated songwriters. He brought in the best local musicians for recordings rather than the artists themselves. He created ‘artist development’ to coach his young stars on how to act, behave and present themselves.

Better yet, he held regular weekly meetings to review all of the tracks being worked on and to assess them against the current top five. Any song which he felt wasn’t up to scratch, or wouldn’t be received well in the charts, was sent back for more work ...

And how does Pixar compare to this? I think we can see the similarities, can't we?

Ten movies in just over a decade, grossing more than $2.5 billion, giving them the industry’s highest average.

Pixar’s approach highlights another key aspect of a successful ‘creative assembly line’: it’s not about the original idea - it’s all about the people and the process. Ed Catmull, who’s now the president of Disney-Pixar, encapsulates it very neatly:
"If you give a good idea to a mediocre team they will screw it up; if you give a mediocre idea to a great team they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something that works." ...

The thing of it is, there are no original ideas, only old stories told in new and audience-grabbing ways. Is WALL-E something nobody has never seen before? Uh, no. Not if you've watched various space operas that have been produced for the silver screen over the last .... oh ... seventy years. The Wallster draws bits and pieces from a lot of them. But the little robot's creators hammer together something fresh and zestful in the process.

Shakespeare didn't concoct his plays out of whole cloth, he rewrote old plots that had been lying around in other people's manuscripts and made them his own. It was the music he put into his new works that made them endure. The storylines had mold on them when he used them back in the sixteenth century, he just spiffed them up.

In the 20th Century, the iconic Casablanca was constructed from a rickety, unproduced play entitled Everybody Comes to Rick's. Some Warner Bros. writers, in fact, thought it was downright sucky, and said so:

Dear Hal:

I do not like the play at all, Hal. I don't believe the story or the characters. Its main situation and the basic relations of the principals are completely censorable, and messy, its big moment is sheer hokum melodrama of the J. Phillips Oppenheim variety, and this guy Rick is two-parts Hemingway, one-par Scott Fitzgerald, and a dash of cafe Christ ...

Bob [Buckner]

Despite this internal studio pan, Hal Wallis, Michael Curtiz, Howard Koch and the Epstein brothers used movie alchemy to turn copper into gold, and the rest is Turner Classic Movies.

But I think the examples and lessons above are reasonably clear: It isn't the subject matter; it isn't even the "originality." It's the talent of the crew in place to turn steel wool into spun silver, of making the dialogue crackle and the plot make interesting, unexpected twists. It's the ability to make characters -- even slighty cliched one -- connect with five and fifteen and fifty-year-olds.

Pixar, and once upon a time Motown, had the game plan and game players to accomplish these things. No doubt there will be others that will, sooner or later, come trundling down the pike.

But originality has little to do with it. Execution, as Gamasutra points out, is far more important.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

DC Direct To Release Maquettes Based On "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies" Feature

DC Comics has provided official details on upcoming DC Direct maquettes based on the upcoming Superman/Batman: Public Enemies animated feature.

Official details on the upcoming Superman/Batman: Public Enemies maquettes, based on the art from the highly anticipated direct-to-video animated feature scheduled for a Fall 2009 release, have been made available by DC Comics.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies DVD Superman Maquette

Sculpted by: Derek Miller

This hand-painted cold-cast porcelain maquette of Superman is based on the art from the highly anticipated Warner Home Video made-for-DVD animated original movie,
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies! Based on the DC Comics graphic novel from Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. Measuring approximately 9.75” tall x 7” wide x 5” deep, the maquette includes a 4-color Certificate of Authenticity and is packaged in a 4-color box. Limited edition of 4000! *Quantities may be allocated.

On sale
September 23rd, 2009. Price is $99.99 US.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies DVD Batman Maquette

Sculpted by: Derek Miller

This hand-painted cold-cast porcelain maquette of Batman is based on the art from the highly anticipated Warner Home Video made-for-DVD animated original movie,
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies! Based on the DC Comics graphic novel from Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. Measuring approximately 9.75” tall x 7” wide x 5” deep, the maquette includes a 4-color Certificate of Authenticity and is packaged in a 4-color box. Limited edition of 4000! *Quantities may be allocated.

On sale
September 23rd, 2009. Price is $99.99 US

A co-production of Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation, the direct-to-video Superman/Batman: Public Enemies animated feature will debut fall 2009 on DVD and Blu-ray disc. Stay tuned for further Superman/Batman: Public Enemies updates.

Balaam’s Ass

Catholic school would have been so much more fun if religious lessons had been delivered via CG animation, like this film about Balaam’s Ass.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Russian "South Park" Lawsuit Dropped

A religious group's lawsuit against Russian channel 2X2 for airing South Park was dropped yesterday. The Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith objected to the series' portrayal of religious subjects.

Central Moscow Basmanny district court ruled in favour of 2X2.

"The Alvin Show" Coming to DVD

Paramount plans to release The Alvin Show's first episode, as well as two more recent specials, "Rockin' Through the Decades" (1990) and "A Chipmunk Reunion" (1985), on 9/8/09. The DVD will run 74 minutes.

Up Rises in Pixar B.O. Rankings

Up is rising quickly through the ranks of Pixar releases with strong box office results that could turn it into the studio’s second-highest grossing film to date.

So far, the film has grossed $191 million at the domestic box office in 2½ weeks of release. It’s on track to pass Ratatouille, which grossed $206 million, and last year’s WALL•E, which came in with $223 million.

It remains to be seen if it can edge past the $261 million The Incredibles took in to reach second place, though box office experts told Variety that it was likely.

Pixar’s top-grossing film is Finding Nemo, which took in $339 domestically.

Up has yet to premiere in more than a handful of international markets, but its foreign box office performance is likely to be as significant as it has been for other Pixar films.

Up’s receipts have been boosted by being the studio’s first 3-D release, as most exhibitors charge a few dollars more per ticket for the experience. The effect may be short-lived, however, as most 3-D screens will likely drop the film to show Fox’s upcoming Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3-D on July 1.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Miyamoto Tops Gamemakers’ Hero Poll

Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of such classic games as Mario, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, Pikmin and F-Zero, has topped a survey of game developers’ industry hero.

The survey, commissioned by the Develop Conference in Brighton, England, polled 9,000 game developers across the globe. The results were compiled into a top ten list of game development heroes:

1. Shigeru Miyamoto, often referred to as “the father of modern video games.”
2. John Carmack, co-founder of id Software and lead programmer on Doom and Quake.
3. Will Wright, co-founder of Maxis and the brains behind SimCity and The Sims franchise and, more recently, Spore.
4. Dave Jones, founder of Realtime Worlds and co-founder of Rockstar North, Jones created Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto.
5. Sid Meier, founder of MicroProse and developer of Civilization.
6. Peter Molyneux, creator of God games Dungeon Keeper, Populous and Black & White, as well as Theme Park, Fable and Fable 2.
7. David Braben, founder of Frontier, Braben is best known for co-writing the hugely popular Elite.
8. Masaya Matsuura, who took the games industry by storm with the release of PaRappa The Rapper.
9. Michael Morhaime, president and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment, the legendary creator of Warcraft, StarCraft, the Diablo series and the world’s biggest MMORPG World of Warcraft.
10. Jonathan Blow, developer of award-winning title Braid.

This year’s Develop Conference is set for July 14-16, and will feature addresses from Jones, Braben and Matsuura.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Lunar Jim, Dragon Booster Sold to Avalon Arabia

Avalon Arabia has finalized a deal to distribute in the Middle East the majority of titles from the catalog of Canadian producer-distributor Alliance Atlantis International.

The deal includes 46 episodes of the preschool animated series Lunar Jim, a stop-motion series set in a village on the moon.

Thirty-nine episodes of Dragon Booster, a CG-animated series, also are part of the deal.

The deal also includes numerous live-action series, including Degrassi: The Next Generation, Instant Star, Da Vinci’s Inquest, Due South, Total Recall 2070 and Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Up Color Keys

The infamous Lou Romano has been posting much inspirational art from Up on his blog. I don’t know if this is material featured in Chronicle’s Art of UP book, but no matter - here it is posted much larger, for closer study. Yesterday Lou posted his color script for the film. It’s absolutely gorgeous stuff.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Transformers 2 producer on why you should see the sequel

Don Murphy, who produced Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, told SCI FI Wire that director Michael Bay deserves the credit for getting the film made amid the writers' strike and for keeping the original team in place. The sequel was in development when the Writers Guild went on strike on Oct. 31, 2007, and a potential actors' strike also loomed.

"Michael was really amazing," Murphy said in an exclusive phone interview Monday. "He sat down with the screenwriters. He knew that there was a possible strike. He had his ideas, which are always very exciting, and he managed to get the script done and get the film done, strike be damned. For that, we end up with a really cool movie."

Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson return on screen, as do the voices of Hugo Weaving and Peter Cullen, for the continuing battle between Autobots and Decepticons. Revenge features set pieces on the Brooklyn Bridge and the great pyramids of Egypt. The following Q&A features edited excerpts of Murphy's interview. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opens June 24.

IMAX did so much for The Dark Knight. Now that audiences have seen that effect once, what can it do for Transformers?

The best thing about the IMAX version is that when you get to the sequence that were specially shot in IMAX and you get a 30-foot-tall Optimus Prime, you've got a 30-foot-tall screen to see him on. That's probably the coolest. ...

How hard was it to maintain the original team for the sequel?

Well, Michael's the captain. If Michael hadn't done the second one, I don't know how much of the original team would have come back. Even now the screenwriters [Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Ehren Kruger] are saying they won't come back, but hopefully they will.

So you're holding out hope to get Orci and Kurtzman back?

Hopefully they will. They're really talented.

What can you tell us about that Brooklyn Bridge set piece?

The movie's coming out in nine days. I've even been taking down spoiler reviews from my Web site, so let's not spoil it for people.

How about the difficulties of wrangling the Brooklyn Bridge?

I didn't wrangle it, but I think it was much harder to wrangle the pyramids, which was, I think, the first time somebody had shot there in one or two decades.

How did you get the pyramids?

You'll be amazed. Michael's movies tend to appeal to a certain aesthetic, and those people—be it the military or the Egyptians—bend over and say, "How can I help you?"

Is the second one an easier sell?

Yes. [You don't have to] convince a bunch of studio executives that this is a good idea.

How about convincing the audience?

I think Michael is very careful in his trailers to make sure that they saw cool things so they knew they weren't just going to get a retread, like you sometimes get in sequels.

How gratifying has it been watching Megan Fox take off from the first film?

She's a sweet girl and very beautiful, very lovely, and it's amazing how quickly she's risen to stardom. At the same time, again, it's Michael. She'd come in and been turned down for a role in the Chainsaw remake, but he remembered her and called her in for the first movie. So you've got to give credit where credit's due.

How will the writers of Star Trek approach the sequel film?

J.J. Abrams' newly rebooted Star Trek is still in theaters, but writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman tell SCI FI Wire that they're already thinking about the sequel, and they know their dilemma: whether to come up with an original story or go back into Trek lore to retell a story that's been dealt with before.

In either case, the writers say they learned a few lessons from the first movie, which has become an international hit.

"I think the major lesson we learned is that fans were willing to accept differences and surprises, provided that they were somehow echoes or inspired by canon," Orci said in an exclusive interview earlier this month. He added: "We still have to be true to Star Trek the next time around, but we've also been blessed with being able to be unpredictable. And that doesn't mean we can just be shocking for no good reason and just throw everything away. ... It still has to echo everything that Star Trek has been."

At this point, the writers don't have a story or even a premise. "We have agreed to write another one," Orci said. "We're going to start thinking about it any second now. But we're still just having a mental sorbet before we jump back in. And, you know, just seeing all the reactions to the movie. We want to make sure we take it all in and really figure out what worked and what didn't and proceed from there. But now that we have ... an open canvas, ... anything can happen."

Following is an edited version of our exclusive interview. Orci and Kurtzman also wrote the upcoming sequel film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (with Ehren Kruger); it opens June 24.

Tell me about your reactions to the reactions to Star Trek. What surprised you, what were you pleased with, what were you disappointed with?

Well, you know, it was sort of stunning for us, actually, because ... we did not know how people were going to react to the movie in general. ... The last version of Trek was fairly unsuccessful at the box office, and, ... in talking to people, there was such a stigma against Star Trek [and] sci-fi: how polarizing it was, it wasn't accessible to women, it was too cold, any number of things that people have to say about it.

So in aiming to make a movie that both reached a broad base and ... satisfied the fans, ... A, we weren't sure we were going to be able to accomplish both, and, B, we just didn't know if people were going to show up. And the tracking for the movie, which we all watch religiously right before the movie comes out, was telling us that the movie was going to do fine but not great.

And usually, in our experience, tracking has been extremely accurate. You know? Like within a margin of, like, a couple of million bucks. It's pretty close. So we were told that we were probably going to be on track for, like, a $50 million weekend, which frankly was going to be a disappointment to the studio. And, you know, we were bummed. The movie was a labor of love for us, and we tried very hard to make it work.

The night before the movie came out, literally hours before, there was a 36 percent spike in tracking.

It was, like, shocking. And all of a sudden, ... everyone went, "Wow. Now we have no idea what kind of a number we're going to have this weekend." So by Friday night everyone kind of knew where we were going.

Orci: And they attributed that to word of mouth, right?

Kurtzman: Yeah.

Orci: It was the fact that people were reacting well, and it was impossible to [predict]. It was the first time we had seen word of mouth in action, so that was fascinating. And we're so grateful that most of the fan base was open about it, and that new people were willing to risk being in a room with people who speak Klingon. ...

I think people were willing to go with you with the time incursion to reboot everything, and they're willing to give you the benefit of the doubt now if you change things. Do you think that's true?

Yes. But ... [you] just can't use old things willy-nilly, you know. There's still an internal logic that has to be followed. ... We could still cross some lines [if] we think, "Oh, we can do anything now." And a savvy fan will go, "Well, technically, [you can't]." ...

In thinking of a story, the inclination for a fan would be to see a new version of a story that's been told in some fashion. Or to pick up tropes from one of the TV episodes or the films and maybe combine them. Or is your inclination to do a completely original story this time?

Well, that is the debate, literally. And that is going to be one of the first conversations that we have. But that's exactly the question.

Because it's such a rich mythology. I mean, you could pick any villain or situation or whatever and exploit that. But, again, the risk is that you're going to be compared to what came before.

Exactly. That's right. That is the question.

I don't envy your job, I'll tell you that.


Anything else about Star Trek that you want to say about how the first film was received or how it's affected how you think about Star Trek?

We just want to say thank you.

Check out this comprehensive timeline chart of sci-fi movies put together this awesome chart detailing the actual timeline of sci-fi movies, from A Clockwork Orange to Dune. See the full version after the jump.

Here's how the site describes its efforts:

No one really pays much attention to what year sci-fi movies take place. I thought it would be interesting to arrange some classic films about the future into chronological order and see what we'd find. I've also charted the years in which they were released as well as the current year. This is by far the geekiest thing I've ever done.

We'd tend to agree, but we love it anyway. (Click on the image below for a full-sized version.)

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