Friday, June 19, 2009

News - 06/19/09...

$9.99 Begins Limited Run

Tatia Rosenthal’s thought-provoking stop-motion feature $9.99 begins its limited run in Los Angeles and New York this Friday. The Israeli-Australian co-production is based on short stories by Etgar Keret and centers on the lives of a group of oddball characters who live in an apartment complex. The assorted players include an unemployed 28-year-old who lives with his dad, a disgruntled guardian angel, a magician in debt, a seductive woman who has a thing for very smooth men, and young boy who sets his piggy bank free in the park. The title of the movie refers to the price of a mail-order pamphlet that explains the meaning of life. (You can check out Animation Magazine's interview with the talented filmmaker here

The summer movie season continues to roll out the strong releases, with this week bringing a pair of very different comedies—Year One and The Proposal—into the mix. The romantic comedy The Proposal, starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, is set to open on 2,950 theaters, just barely ahead of Year One, which has geek cred with stars Jack Black and Michael Cera and is opening at 2,900 theaters.

The summer’s next big animated entry, Fox-Blue Sky’s Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, is also playing some 300 3-D sneak previews on Sunday night. The film does not open wide until July 1.

Looking to linger at the top a third weekend in a row is The Hangover, arguably the sleeper hit of the summer. Disney-Pixars’ Up continues to do strong business heading into its fourth weekend of release.

Also still in release and staking a claim to the top ten are The Taking of Pelham 123, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Land of the Lost, Imagine That, Angels and Demons, Terminator Salvation and this year’s box office champ so far, Star Trek.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Acker’s 9 Scores a New Website

Focus Features has launched a brand new website for Shane Acker’s upcoming release, 9. Produced by Tim Burton, the CG-animated feature is based on the Oscar-winning student short by Acker.

The new site ( is dubbed The 9 Scientist’s Lab and allows visitors to explore and discover the Scientist’s inner most thoughts, ideas and inventions through his personal journal, videos, clippings, sketches, and more. You can explore his archives, and actively participate in the development of the story leading up to the opening scene of the film.

Slated for a 9/9/09 release date, 9 is voiced by Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Martin Landau, Christopher Plummer and Crispin Glover and features the music of Danny Elfman.
The plot centers on a freedom fighting character (9, voiced by Wood) who inspires others to join him in a fight against fearsome machines that rule a post-apocalyptic world. The film’s animation is handled by Starz Animation in Toronto, which is also handling Miramax’s upcoming Gnomeo and Juliet feature.

You can watch Acker’s original short which inspired the movie here:

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Annecy Winner Pat & Stan Picks Up Licensees

TV-Loonland’s Pat & Stan, fresh from winning a jury special prize at the Annecy Animation Festival, is secured a licensing deals in advance of its fall launch in more than 170 territories.

Bandai Europe picked up a pan-Europe deal to make capsule toys sold in vending machines based on Pat & Stan, and on another TV-Loonland series, The Owl.

Other deals include plush figureheads from German toy maker Schmidt Spiele, due to debut at the Nuremberg Toy Fair in February and to hit store shelves shortly thereafter.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Aardman Scores Ratings, Deals for Timmy Time

Aardman Animation’s first preschool TV series, Timmy Time, has debuted to strong ratings in the United Kingdom and has secured new broadcast and licensing deals.

The series, which airs three times a day on CBeebis, has been seen by an estimated 4.8 million people since its debut in April. The show has scored above-average ratings for key demographics, including children 0-3 and 4-6.

Timmy Time has quickly established a huge fanbase on CBeebies, in particular with housewives with kids which is at the core of any successful preschool licensing program,” says Sean Clarke, head of Aardman Rights. “We aim to capitalize on this, and will be announcing some fantastic new partnerships over the next few weeks following a very successful licensing show.”

Among new deals Aardman has cut for the show, Trade Mark Collections has signed on to launch bags and accessories in U.K. grocery stores this fall.

That comes in addition to Vivid Imaginations signing on as U.K. master toy partner and U.K. publishing deals with Egmont and Titan Magazines.The series has international licensing agents lined up around the world, including HIT Entertainment in North America, Super RTL in Germany, Kidz Entertainment in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, Haven in Australia, TF1 in France and Pro Entertainment in Argentina.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Nick Revamps Grizzly for U.K.

A new series of 26 x 11 min. episodes of the award-winning animated series Grizzly Tales will be produced for the U.K. market and air on Nickelodeon UK.

The new series, based on a recent series of books by Jamie Rix, will reinvent the series for the British outlet and air in 2011, following a run of the original series’ 79 episodes next year.

The original six seasons of the show ran from 2000 to 2006 on ITV1 and was consistently one of the highest-rated children’s animation shows on the channel.

The BAFTA nominated show picked up many awards including Animated Series and Children’s Choice at the British Animation Awards, and Children’s Animated series at Cartoons on the Bay. The original book, Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids, was a Smarties prize winner.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Family Guy App Set for iPhone

Family Guy is coming to the iPhone in a new app featuring games and clips from the popular Fox series.

Created by Fox Mobile Entertainment and Rhythm NewMedia, the $1.99 app allows users to create video mixes, toss Peter Griffin around various backgrounds and swap out body parts on baby Stewie to create new characters, reports Variety.

The aptly titled Freakin’ Sweet Family Guy App also features four channels of clips, and links that allow users to buy full episodes of the series from the iTunes Store.

The app is the first commercial release from Fox Mobile Entertainment and runs on Apple’s iPhone 3.0 OS.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Unique Plans McCartney Tale as Toon

Unique Pictures, the new production company formed by former New Line chiefs Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, is developing an animated feature based on a children’s book by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney.

The film, titled High in the Clouds, will feature a score of songs from McCartney, who co-wrote the book with Geoff Dunbar and Philip Ardagh, Variety reports.

Part of an 11-picture slate announced by Unique, Clouds tells the tale of a squirrel’s search for an animal sanctuary.

Rob Minkoff, who co-directed The Lion King, will direct the film from a script by Caroline Thompson.

The film has not yet been set up at a studio, though Warner Bros. has a first-look deal with Unique.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Imageworks Ups Bredow to CTO

Sony Pictures Imageworks has promoted Rob Bredow to the job of chief technical officer, effective July 1.

Bredow, currently visual effects supervisor, will replace George Joblove as the company continues to restructure its management in search of stability and profitability during an extremely competitive market for VFX, reports Variety.

Executives at the company told the trade paper that their job remains to provide top-notch visual effects for Sony franchises like Spider-Man and animation production for Sony Pictures Animation — all while containing costs.

"We've always been known as one of the very few studios who can do the impossible in vfx," Bredow said. "We're not changing our agenda there."

However, as competition from smaller effects companies with lower overhead for fewer jobs heats up, keeping costs under control has become increasingly important.

One significant change is the company’s move away from a full-time production crew to hiring artists on a project-by-project basis.

Bredow says that while reining in costs has become more important, quality remains top priority.

"Our mission is not to be a huge moneymaker; our mission is to make it possible to make the best pictures possible," Bredow said.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Cartoon Forum Offers 63 Productions

Cartoon Forum, the European co-production event, will present 63 animation projects with a combined budget of $215 million at its 20th-annual event set for Sept. 22-25.

The lineup includes 28 European co-productions, including 17 from France, 12 from Spain, seven from the United Kingdom and 11 from Scandinavia, according to Variety.

Held this year in Stavanger and Sandnes, Norway, Cartoon Forum has helped more than 300 animated TV series secure financing in its 20-year history.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Titmouse Seeks Animators for Reality Series

Hollywood-based animation studio Titmouse is seeking animators with ideas for short films to take part in a reality-style competition TV series titled 7200 Frames.

The series, which takes its title from the number of frames needed to make five minutes of animation, will fully fund and document the creation of three animated short films.

Candidates must be able to draw, animate and direct a five-minute animated film and be able to commit to a production schedule of four to six weeks.

Interviews for the show will be held this summer in Los Angeles and at Comic-Con International in San Diego, where artists will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges aboard a yacht docked near the convention center.

To apply, animators should upload a video no longer than five minutes of them pitching their idea to YouTube and then email a link to the video to

Twelve animators will be selected for the series, with three films going into production.

Full details can be found at and the deadline to submit is July 3.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Mickey Mammaries

Combining two iconic Hollywood stars, pop artist Ron English has created a limited edition “bust” of Marilyn Monroe (click here to see full sculpture of image above). For more info on these works of art, see the Toys R Evil blog.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Around Disney TVA

These days, there's not a lot of point for an animation union rep to go to Disney's Sonora building to see Disney Television Animation employees, because there aren't a lot of them there. The Tigger and Pooh crew is long gone; Mickey's Clubhouse is history, so it's now a big, empty first-floor space in search of artists.

Happily, the Frank Wells Building on the Burbank lot is a different story ...

When I sauntered in this afternoon, I ran across a group of Phineas and Ferb artists who were happy to have a long stretch of work ahead of them (many new episodes), but had other good news:

"Inspector Oso got picked up for new episodes on Friday. I think it's 33 new half-hours. The producers told the staff the good news on Monday, and people will start coming back in the next few weeks. The word around here is that the show will be moving over to the Sonora building ..."

(Moving to Sonora makes sense, because the Mouse has a lot of empty square footage over there and it would be good if somebody on the TVA floor was drawing inside its walls.)

A number of artists asked me about retiree health benefits, what's up with the pension plan, how early can somebody access benefits? (Times being what they are, people like to know where the escape hatches are.) I told them:

1)) The Pension Trust Funds are solid, but down 17-18% due to an unfortunate economic melt down.

2) Retiree Health benefits are available to participants in the Motion Picture Industry Health and Pension Plan who have a minimum of fifteen qualified pension years (three after the age of 40) and twenty thousand contribution hours.

3) If a participant has thirty qualified pension years and sixty thousand contribution hours, they can retire wilth 100% of their monthly pension and 100% of their lump-sum Individual Account Plan at the ago of sixty ...

There's gotta be a reason people keep asking me about pension and health care, and also keep saying: "I'm really happy to be working ..."

Wonder what it could be?

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Executive Producer Bruce Timm Discusses "Green Lantern: First Flight" Animated Feature

Warner Bros. has released a new studio-conducted interview with Bruce Timm, executive producer for the upcoming direct-to-video Green Lantern: First Flight animated feature.


Bruce Timm is the executive producer on Green Lantern: First Flight, an all-new DC Universe animated original movie slated for distribution July 28, 2009 by Warner Home Video. (Photo courtesy of Gary Miereanu)

Animation legend Bruce Timm puts the spotlight on character designer Jose Lopez and screenwriter Alan Burnett for their other-worldly creations on Green Lantern: First Flight, the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe animated original PG-13 movies from Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation.

Warner Home Video will distribute the all-new film – as a special edition 2-disc DVD, a Blu-Ray™ Hi-Def edition, as well as single disc DVD – on July 28, 2009. The action-packed movie will also be available OnDemand and Pay-Per-View as well as available for download day and date, July 28, 2009.

Timm, the executive producer on Green Lantern: First Flight, has been the driving creative force behind many of Warner Bros. Animation’s modern-day successes, elevating DC Comics’ canon of super heroes to new heights of animated popularity and introducing generations of new fans to the characters via landmark television series and made-for-DVD films. The latter task includes the creation of the current series of DC Universe animated original movies, which have drawn critical acclaim and further whetted the public’s appetite for comic book entertainment with the release of Superman Doomsday, Justice League: The New Frontier, Batman Gotham Knight and Wonder Woman.

In the midst of producing several more films for the DC Universe series, Timm paused briefly to offer praise for two of the key players in the production of Green Lantern: First Flight – character designer Jose Lopez and screenwriter Alan Burnett.

The aliens are packing heat – and aiming at Hal Jordan – in an action-packed scene from Green Lantern: First Flight, an all-new DC Universe animated original movie set for distribution July 28, 2009 by Warner Home Video.

QUESTION: There was no downtime for you and director Lauren Montgomery between Wonder Woman and Green Lantern: First Flight. How did you two make that quick transition, and what kept it fresh for you?

Lauren did such a great job on Wonder Woman, she was immediately my first choice for Green Lantern. I thought she might be a little burned out after the massive Wonder Woman project, but to my immense relief and gratefulness, she was eager to do it.

All that said, Lauren definitely needed to take a little bit of a break in terms of character design and I wasn’t about to step up to that role, either. The tricky thing about Green Lantern is that we wanted to have a unique style sensibility. We've done quite a bit with the Green Lantern and characters on the Justice League, including the entire Green Lantern Corps, and we certainly didn’t want to go back and reuse any of those designs. Another really talented young artist named Jose Lopez, who had worked with Mike Goguen and Jeff Matsuda on the recent The Batman series, was brought to our attention. I looked at his portfolio and I thought, “Wow, this guy is really cool.”

Jose has a completely different design sensibility than I'm accustomed to working with. He's a little bit anime-flavored, but not specifically anime. We brought him in to do some designs on Green Lantern, and he ended up being pretty much our entire character design department. He designed not just Green Lantern and most of the major characters but zillions of background aliens. Jose brought a really unique visual sensibility to the movie.

Jose Lopez took character design to the outer edges of the universe with the creation of hundreds of aliens in the next DC Universe animated original movie, Green Lantern: First Flight, which is set for distribution July 28, 2009 by Warner Home Video.

QUESTION: Did you need to restrain Jose Lopez in any way, or did you just let him run wild with the character design?

This is a total science fiction film – we spend maybe 10 minutes on Earth at the beginning of the movie and then the rest of it all takes place in outer space and in several different alien environments. So while we did base the initial, broad strokes design on pre-existing comics characters, we still needed armies of Green Lanterns and tons of aliens. Jose designed virtually all of them – literally hundreds of unique alien species for all of these different polyglot worlds. And they are all really cool. I mean, some of the designs are really out there. Sometimes they’d hand me his designs and I’d say, “Wow, what am I even looking at? That’s a sentient being? You’ve got to be kidding me.” It’s funny because both Lauren and I encouraged him to think way outside the box. And he did – maybe further than we even imagined. Jose came up with some really weird, bizarre life forms and they’re all good.

QUESTION: You’ve always been the driving, controlling influence on your projects in terms of all aspects of the production, and especially design. Are you enjoying letting go of the reins slightly and allowing other artists to explore new directions with these films?

: The nature of these projects, and the sheer volume of films we’re working on now, means that my involvement must be in an overseeing capacity – guiding and supervising, but not leading the way design-wise. That’s both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it's really great to let somebody else come in and drive the boat. On the other hand, my instincts are to step in and say, “No, do it this way.” So it’s tough to just limit myself to giving notes purely on a technical level, to only say “Okay, I know that’s not going to animate that well.” Otherwise, whether it's Lauren or Jose, other artists will do things in a way that’s completely different from what my natural instinct would be. It may be valid in its own right to say “No, let's do it the Bruce Timm way,” but I literally have to stop and think “Okay, forget about the way I would do it. Does this work on its own?” I just have to be practical about it and not aesthetic. It's ultimately really rewarding and fun for me to look at these movies because it's interesting to see other people's design approach. I've been working with these familiar characters for so many years – it’s nice to see them interpreted differently.

Green Lanterns come in all shapes and sizes – from Arisia (center-left) and Ch’p (center-right) to the unique species flanking the key characters. Green Lantern: First Flight, an all-new DC Universe animated original movie, is set for distribution July 28, 2009 by Warner Home Video.

QUESTION: You and Alan Burnett have been working together for a long, long time. What's that relationship like, and what does he bring that makes these projects so special?

Alan is the quiet man of Warner Brothers Animation and, to a degree, I feel bad because he doesn’t really get enough credit for all that he has done over the years – going all the way to Batman: The Animated Series and all these shows he's worked on since. He actually kind of prefers to stay in the background and just do his job and not get in front of the cameras and go to conventions and speak in front of crowds. He doesn't enjoy that aspect of it. He’s never been about tooting his own horn, but he’s always been the rock on our projects. Alan is the stabilizer. I think it was Glen Murakami who referred to Alan as the glue that binds everything together. And it's true. He’s a really solid professional. He knows all the ins and outs of story construction and character dynamics and then all of the extras that a good writer knows to plus out a story. At the same time, he likes to push himself to do things that he hasn’t done before and explore different avenues of story lines. He's got a sense of humor that sometimes comes out in really odd, unique ways. On BTAS, he would go down story lines and even I would be saying, “Wow, you really want to do THAT in a children's cartoon?” He’s funny that way – he likes to upset the apple cart and take chances. So Alan is really solid and dependable and at the same time he’s also very experimental. It’s like the best of both worlds. That makes him the perfect collaborator on these films.

The Green Lantern Corps is an equal opportunity employer – as evidenced by the diverse species representing the 3,600 precincts across the universe. Green Lantern: First Flight, an all-new DC Universe animated original movie, is set for distribution July 28, 2009 by Warner Home Video.

For more information, images and updates, please visit the film’s official website at

Reuters on Walt Disney Family Museum

An article at Reuters takes a look at the Walt Disney Family Museum, scheduled to open on October 1, 2009, in San Francisco, CA, and supported by the Walt Disney Family Foundation. The article examines the museum's origins in the surviving members of Disney's family seeking an avenue to re-kindle interest in Walt Disney as an individual and an artist rather than a global brand name, and will trace his life from his birth in Chicago, childhood in Missouri, and career in California.

Nickelodeon Launches "ChinaToon" Block on Nick Asia

Variety is reporting that Nickelodeon will be launching an hour-long "ChinaToon" programming block on Nickelodeon Asia, which will be dedicated to the animation of the People's Republic of China. The block is intended to assist in stimulating China's indigenous animation industry, and will begin with the kids' comedy series Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf and the pre-teen adventure series Magic Wonderland.

A treasure trove of movie props may disappear, and here's why

At the prop house, a model of Air Force One from Independence Day (New York Times photo)

It may be just a pile of useless junk to the untrained eye, but to the film fanatic, it's a treasure trove.

It is the warehouse full of movie props, furniture and other memorabilia that constitutes 20th Century Props in North Hollywood, Calif. And it's going out of business next month, The New York Times reported.

A prop of Arnold Schwarzenegger's chest from Terminator 3 (New York Times photo)

The prop shop—the victim of the economic downturn, the demise of scripted programming on TV and the move of TV and film production out of Los Angeles—will have to dump or sell off such props as the futuristic shower Tom Cruise used in Minority Report, the Air Force One model from Independence Day and a piece of Arnold Schwarzenegger's chest from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

Harvey Schwartz, the owner of 20th Century Props, told the Times:

"I ran out of money three months ago, and I don't know what else to do," he said softly. "It's terrifying. I've devoted my entire life to something that is over."

The prop shop's inventory of more than 93,000 items includes the former holdings of 20th Century Fox.

More images from James Cameron's Avatar make us want to see this film NOW

More images from James Cameron's top-secret 3-D sci-fi epic Avatar are seeping out, and they're doing nothing but getting us even more worked up to see this movie already, which promises a look and immersive feel unlike anything we've seen before.

The images are mainly from the movie's companion video game, which is also in production. See the latest after the jump.

These new images from the upcoming game version come from the Australian Daily Telegraph newspaper, which calls them the "first look" at the movie. Not entirely true, if you saw anything out of the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, but whatever. (Click the link to see more.)

In addition to the previously seen giant mecha-like armor suit, we get a better look at a rotor-powered flying craft of some kind, as well as a better look at some of Pandora's odd creatures.

Here's how the newspaper describes the images:

Using the same designers and artists on both projects, the landscapes feature lush rainforests with 300m-tall trees, floating mountain ranges and massive stone arches, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Avatar is set in the 22nd century on a moon called Pandora, which orbits a giant gas planet and where humans can't breathe the air.

A paralysed marine played by Australian actor Sam Worthington agrees to exist as an Avatar, a genetically engineered hybrid controlled with a mental link.

Oscar-winning producer Jon Landau, who worked with Cameron on Titanic, said making the Avatar game at the same time as the movie was a huge advantage.

"We felt the video game needed to be an extension of the world of Avatar," he said. "There are things we wanted to show in the movie that we didn't have time to show and the video game gives us that opportunity."

Avatar takes place on a world with creatures both beautiful and terrifying, as well as the Na'vi, a primitive humanoid race: 10 feet tall, blue-skinned and striped like tigers. They are wise and fierce warriors who live harmoniously in their forest environment.

Cameron also describes massive battles featuring flying creatures called "Banshees" by the humans. Avatar also stars Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Peter Mensah, Laz Alonso, Wes Studi, Stephen Lang and Matt Gerald. It opens Dec. 18.

Olivia Munn Lands Iron Man 2 Role

Variety reports that Olivia Munn, host of G4's daily "Attack of the Show" has landed a role in Marvel Studios' Iron Man 2. Who she will play was not revealed.

New full trailer for 2012 shows that director Roland Emmerich really hates New York

How do you top yourself after you've frozen New York and had aliens blow up the White House?

How about pick New York up and smash it into the White House? That's not really what director Roland Emmerich has done, but he's come close in this new full trailer for his upcoming apocalyptic sci-fi disaster movie 2012, which you can view after the jump.

The trailer, which debuted on Yahoo!, raises the game for the maker of The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day with a scenario in which the entire world ends.

And is that a fleet of ark-like starships ready to take off from some top secret underground bunker? Say it ain't so ...

2012 opens Nov. 13.

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