This young girl appears to be more qualified to run Cartoon Network than any of the clueless execs in charge right now.
(Thanks cartoon brew)
New Astro Boy images blast off
Summit Entertainment released two new images from the upcoming animated reboot of the venerable Japanese Astro Boy franchise, which Imagi is producing. You can view them after the jump.
The new Astro Boy features the voices of Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy, Eugene Levy, Matt Lucas and Donald Sutherland. Written by Timothy Harris and directed by David Bowers, the movie is set in futuristic Metro City and tells the origin story of the boy robot with incredible powers. It opens Oct. 23.
Click on the images below for larger versions.
Up and Star Trek still doing well at box office
The weekend's box office results made clearer the sweet reality that an animated movie about an elderly balloon salesman and the reboot of a beloved sci-fi franchise continue to have legs this summer well beyond expectations.
Disney/Pixar's Up slipped to third place at the U.S. box office for the weekend of June 19, but its $21.3 million take raised its total after 24 days to $224.1 million, surpassing the final domestic tally of Pixar's last film, WALL*E, BoxOfficeMojo.com reported.
Up joined Star Trek as the second movie of 2009 to surpass the $200 million mark domestically.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, meanwhile, held up well, dropping just 24 percent to an estimated $7.3 million for the weekend, raising its total to $156 million in 31 days.
Star Trek had the lowest decline of all nationwide releases for the weekend, dropping only 14 percent to an estimated $4.7 million; its domestica total climbed to $239.4 million after 45 days.
The new Hayao Miyazaki film Ponyo received a G rating from the MPAA
Frank Marshall discussed the adaptation with SciFi Wire
Tomomi Mochizuki directed Studio Ghibli TV special Ocean Waves (or I can Hear the Ocean) will be on DVD from Optimus Releasing in the UK on August 14th. The quiet 72 minute feature follows a love triangle as it is remember a decade after it was resolved
Manga Entertainment UK will be publishing a new release of Panda! Go Panda on July 7th. The Isao Takahata work features Hayao Miyazaki's first original screenplay
A looks at the Ghibli Museam's Ponyo Exhibit
Studio Ghibli Matchbox Collection
Nice Miyazaki fan art
Trailers for Animal Treasure Island - an early Hayao Miyazaki work
Upcoming in Japan
summer 2009 preview
Summer Wars (from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time's Mamoru Hosoda)
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
Birdy the Mighty: Decode - “Between You and Me” OVA
Tales of Symphonia: Teseara Chapter OVA - Tales of Vesperia
Umineko no Naku Koro ni - based on the game from the creators of Higurashi - When They Cry
Symphony in August
Via Anime News Network
Revolutionary Girl Utena/Sailor Moon director Kunihiko Ikuhara indicated in a series on blog posts May 29 and June 16 he's been storyboarding the opening for an upcoming anime.
Risque fantasy Queen's Blade and Production I.G's game adaptation Sengoku Basara (Devil Kings) will be getting second seasons
Girl band Stereopony will be animated in a Yatterman music video for their new single, scheduled to be used as the theme for the Yatterman film.
Following the end of the recent Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex)/Production I.G Eden of the East anime, two films are planned. Eden of The East the Movie I: The King of Eden, will open throughout Japan on November 28. , Eden of The East the Movie II: Paradise Lost, will open in January of 2010.
The fourth volume of Ajiko Kojima's yaoi fan based comedy manga Tonari no 801-chan will ship on September 10 with a "Tonari no 801-chan R" anime short on DVD. Yutaka Yamamoto (Kannagi) will direct the production of the 90-second "opening anime" at Aniplex's A-1 Pictures studio (Kannagi, Ookiku Furikabutte). Volume three had announced a full anime series, which was later cancelled for unexplained reasons.
ANN reports Nodame Cantabile is going on hold gain due to creator Tomoko Ninomiya's hospitalization for appendicitis. Ninomiya returned to the main Nodame Cantabile manga in March after taking time off to have her baby and recover from carpal tunnel syndrome.
In conjuction with the live action movie, Kozueko Morimoto will be producing two new chapters of Gokusen for You magazine, to ship July 1 and 15
A look at 2010's Kamen Rider Double
Toho Studio will be releasing The Akira Kurosawa: The Masterworks Blu-ray Disc Collection on October 23 - featuring Seven Samurai, Kagemusha, Sanshiro Sugata, Sanjuro, Men Who Tread On The Tiger’s Tail, Sanshiro Sugata Part II and The Bad Sleep Well
Worth Checking Out...
Ars Technica on how Jail sentence for hentai owner raises First Amendment issues
Man of Manga: Fred Schodt’s Indispensible Contributions to the Art of Manga
ANN spoke to Gundam creator Yoshiyuku Tomino
Ten anime series you should see before you die
Twitch on Studio 4C's Genius Party Beyond
Colony Drop's excellent Area '88 series continues with
Grave of the Fireflies
My Neighbor Totoro
Demon City Shinjuku
Business promo for Imagi's Astro Boy
The English dub trailer for FUNimation's Evangelion 1.0 release
Remastered Daicon IV Opening - produced by the folk from Gainax in their ameutur days for the 1983 Daicon convention
Marko Djurdjevic - Masters Of The Universe Character Re-Designs - also Beastman Reflect on His Life
Anime Vice collected the Japanese reaction to the apparent cancellation of live action Akira from 2ch - “Are they still doing Jim Carrey as Lupin?”
10 anime Heroine whom Japanese Geeks wants to marry
Smoke & Mirrors Resurrects Dinosaurs in Denver
New York-based Smoke & Mirrors produced this new TV spot for the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The playful :30 CG ad is promoting the museum’s upcoming Dinosaur exhibit. Sean Broughton directed while the agency Carmichael Lynch led the creative effort.
Judd Creates Bruce
Tom Judd, a recent graduate of the Royal College of Art, digitally directed and animated a 3:30 minute film titled Bruce using Photoshop. Here’s a :30 trailer that hints at the storyline, which follows a young man in his quest to create his own action hero.
Over at Cartoon Network
I spent a part of my morning at Cartoon Network, where Chowder and Flapjack to hear staffers tell it, are soon to be part of CN's history:
"They're writing some scripts and doing some boards for new episodes, but right now it looks like Flap and Chowder aren't being picked up. I'm getting laid off next week, know of any new shows happening other places?" ...
Over in the skyscraper next to CN's Burbank studio, Generator Rex is staffed up and in production, as is Adventure Time in the main building. (There's also Ben 10 and Sym-Bionic Titans moving along.
And CN is moving in bold new directions, like blowing rent-a-wrecks up in the mountains and putting the results on the teevee:
Andrew W.K., the rocker-turned-TV personality has signed on to host “Destroy Build Destroy,” a new Cartoon Network game show predicated entirely on explosions. In the show, he guides two teams of teenagers through a competition on an empty lot in the mountains outside of Los Angeles as they destroy vehicles and then use the wreckage to create new machines. “We can reclaim explosions and find joy in it, even celebration,” he says.
Being a joyful guy always in search of new joy, I can't freaking wait.
(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)
Disney Walk Through
Over at the hat building, the Princess and the Frog cleanup crew is in the last couple of months of work. As a couple of crew-members said to me:
"We're hearing that management wants to keep us together, have us come back to work on Winnie the Pooh. That would be fine with us ... It wasn't easy when we got let go the last time, but this time has been better. We''ve got lower expectations about job security..."
Work continues apace on Beauty and the Beast - 3-D. Having only seen still frames of the new format, I've got no idea how it plays in three dimensions, but I was told it looks good.
I suppose the world will know how true this is when the refurbished tune is rolled out on Valentine's Day, 2010.
(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)
Mill Creek Aquires "Dungeons & Dragons" and 2002 "He-Man" for DVD
Tvshowsondvd.com reports that Mill Creek Entertainment has now acquired the rights to the cartoons Dungeons & Dragons and the 2002 version of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
Mill Creek will release Dungeons & Dragons: The Beginning which will feature the first 9 episodes of the show as well as the complete series featuring all 27 episodes produced by Marvel Productions which originally aired on CBS in 1983.
Both versions will hit stores on August 25, 2009.
Also, Mill Creek will release the 2002 version of the Cartoon Network series, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, both in a complete series set containing all 39 episodes on 4 DVDs, and as a single disc called Origins.
Both versions of He-Man will hit stores on September 29, 2009.
VIZ Announces "Naruto," Bleach", "Pokemon" and "Hunter X Hunter" Titles for August
VIZ Media will release box sets of Naruto, Hunter X Hunter, the latest Bleach volume, and four new Pokémon DVDs in August.
Naruto Uncut Box Set Vol. 15 Special Edition will include a collectible Mininja Gaara Figurine (5 of 6) and playing cards 37-45 ($69.97). It will be released on August 25. Hunter X Hunter Box Set Vol. 3 will be released on August 11 ($49.95). Bleach Vol. 19, will be released on August 18 and will collect episodes 76-79 ($24.93).
Pokémon: DP Battle Dimension Box Set 2 ($24.92), Pokémon: All Stars Box Set 2 ($39.97) and Pokémon: DP Battle Dimension Vol. 3-4 ($14.98) will all be released on August 25. Pokémon: All Stars Box Set 2 will include over 11 hours of episodes featuring Meowth, Treecko, Psyduck, Wobbuffet, Lapras, Totodile, Skitty, Chikorita, Torchic, and Onix.
"X-Men" Vols. 3 and 4 Coming to DVD
Walt Disney Home Entertainment plans to continue the 1992 animated series X-Men with vols. 3 (featuring "The Dark Phoenix") and 4 (featuring "Beyond Good and Evil"). The 2-disc DVD sets will be released on 9/15/09 for $23.99 each.
Dying Girl’s Last Wish: To See UP
More heart-breaking than the first ten minutes of Up: this story from the Orange County Register.
A dying 10 year old with a rare form of cancer wanted to see Up. Her mother cold called Pixar and got through to the right person. The next day “a Pixar employee” came to the girl’s house with the DVD and a bag of stuffed animals of characters in the movie. “He shared some quirky background details of the movie and the group settled in to watch Up.”
There’s a lot of speculation as to who the “Pixar employee” is, but more important is that the act happened at all. Read the full story here.
"Amazing Animation" making its way to Palm Springs
A spectacular array of animated treats, utilizing mainly the techniques of cel and CG animation, will be seen in the "Amazing Animation" program at the Palm Springs International ShortFest, now in its 15th year.
Included in the 84-minute package are films from France, Spain, Mexico, Germany, Switzerland and the United States. They're among the festival's 315 films, selected from more than 2,500 worldwide entries.
"Amazing Animation" can be seen at Camelot Theatres, 2300 East Baristo Road, at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 24 and 4 p.m. Sunday, June 28. Here's what's scheduled:
Alma (Spain, 2009, 6 min.)
Attracted to the life-like dolls in a doll shop window, a young boy finds himself drawn in to the shop like a moth to a flame.
Apple of My Eyes (Mexico, 2009, 11 min.)
A beautiful young woman finds herself the object of desire for a tiny man who appears in her apartment one day and encourages his devotion to her -- until a hunky new neighbor moves into the apartment upstairs, and things begin to change in not-so-subtle ways.
Cages (Mexico, 2009, 10 min.)
As an old man collects his traps in the desert, hunting for any new game he might have caught, an unearthly spirit is stalking his own prey.
Eyelash (Switzerland, 2008, 8 min.)
A wry and inventive animated walk through a man's day as he details his life and his philosophy with delicious irony.
French Roast (France, 2008, 9 min.)
A small café, a missing wallet, a street beggar and a little old lady who may not be quite as simple as she seems.
The Incident at Tower 37 (U.S.A., 2008, 11 min.)
This dazzling CG-animated story follows a pair of unorthodox saboteurs as they attempt to blow up a water processing plant in the middle of a dry, desolate wasteland, once the site of a lake teeming with life.
The Incredible Story of My Great Grandmother Olive (United Kingdom, 2009, 12 min.)
This hugely entertaining short tells the story of a determined old lady and the alien who arrives at her house when his spaceship malfunctions, crashing into her patch of paradise.
Juiced and Jazzed (U.S.A., 2009, 3 min.)
A toe-tapping, jim-jam-jumping, animated treat about a good girl gone bad who fools around with demon rum during the Prohibition era and ends up paying the price for her fall from grace.
Trickster (Germany, 2008, 16 min.)
A ravishing animated fable about a malevolent clown and the arena where he pursues his alchemy with headlong abandon.
During the "Best of the Fest," audience favorites from ShortFest 2009 and a selection of award-winning shorts from around the world will be screening in six special packages on the final day of the festival, Monday, June 29. The films for each package will be announced and available for purchase the evening of June 28.
The 90-minute "Audience Favorites - Animation" will consist of the best animated films of ShortFest as voted by the audience. It'll screen at Camelot Theatres. For ticket availability, call the box office at (760) 778-8979.
The Palm Springs International ShortFest opens Tuesday, June 23. For more information on films, visit www.psfilmfest.org.
Moscow court overturns warning about "South Park"
Infamous comedy "South Park" does not promote extremism, a Moscow court has ruled, canceling a warning issued last year to Russia's 2x2 cartoon channel.
The Russian capital's Basmanny District Court ruled June 2 that South Park does not promote religious hatred, a court spokeswoman said by telephone Monday, speaking -- as is customary -- on condition of anonymity.
"We are happy with the court ruling," Kommersant quoted 2x2 head Roman Sarkisov as saying Monday.
The district's prosecutor's office warned September 8 that a commission of experts had decided Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics was extremist in nature because it promoted "hatred between religions." First broadcast in the United States by Comedy Central in 1999, the episode offered naughty parodies of Christmas carols performed by the characters... and hosted by Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo.
The warning came after the Union of Evangelical Christians, a group of Protestant churches, asked the Prosecutor General's Office in March 2008 to close the TV channel for "promoting numerous sins," Kommersant noted.
Also last September, prosecutors stated that numerous cartoon shows broadcast by 2x2, including The Simpsons and Family Guy, were unsuitable for children. As a result, the channel withdrew 118 of the episodes cited by prosecutors, but continued airing the series.
The cartoon channel appealed the warning in December. Prosecutors can attempt to close a media outlet if it receives several warnings.
Full Animated Short for OCEANSIZE
Out of the many CG animated short films from students I seen plugged on CG-related sites, I have to say Oceansize is one of the most technically ambitious of the bunch. The sci-fi thriller was created by Romain Jouandeau, Adrien Chartie, Gilles Mazières and Fabien Thareau, four French students from Supinfocom Arles in 2008. The team took ten months to complete it but it was only till a month ago that they uploaded it on Vimeo for everybody to see. For a CG short of such grand scope, I find it hard to believe that only four people was involve in the production. The future of French animation seems very bright with talented students like these.
Watch the full 8 minute short film after the break and also check out the official site for some cool artwork and the making-of video (English subtitles included).
Kung Fu + Animation = Awesomeness
Those who’s been around me or familiar with my previous post would know the two type of films I geek over the most is Kung Fu and animation. Put the two together and I’ll become giddy like a kid on Christmas morning so you can imagine my joy when animator Mike Rodriguez who share my taste in films has given me the heads up of his CG short film/demo reel that contains exactly just that. The project took him a little less than four months to complete himself, from concept to final product except for the music and the sound samples. If any of the folks at Dreamworks Animation is reading this, you might wanna hire this guy for the Kung Fu Panda sequel. As Po would say, its awesomeness.
You’ll find the minute long short film embedded below after the break. Also check out his blog site to see his work-in-progress diary of the animation.
Production Art for Steampunk Animated film WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH
A different take on H.G. Wells’ sci-fi classic War of the Worlds but with a steampunk edge? Yes please! I’ll let the production site do all the talking for this animated film:
In 1900, the Earth was attacked by ruthless invaders from the planet Mars. The Martian’s 80 ft tall, heat-ray spewing, Tripod battle machines laid waste to the planet, but the invaders ultimately fell prey to Earth’s tiny bacteria.
Fourteen years later, Man has rebuilt his shattered world, in large part by utilizing captured Martian technology. Equipped with giant, steam-powered Tripod battle machines, the international rapid reaction force, A.R.E.S., is Mankind’s first line of defense against the return of the rapacious Martian invaders. Based in a massive fortress complex at the south end of Manhattan Island, the young warriors of A.R.E.S. train under the leadership of Secretary of War, Theodore Roosevelt, and the grim General Kushnirov.
And return the Martians do. The rematch finds the multinational squad of the A.R.E.S. battle Tripod “Goliath” on the front-lines of a vicious interplanetary offensive when the Martian invaders launch their second invasion using even more advanced alien technology. In the crucible of combat, this young team helming the mighty Goliath will be tested to the limits of their endurance and courage as they fight for Mankind’s very survival under the onslaught of an implacable enemy.
This is the saga of “War of the Worlds: Goliath”, a 90-minute, animated, steampunk epic of war, comradeship and courage under fire.
Goliath Squad’s fight will take them from the misty woods of upstate New York and their first encounter with the alien invaders, to the open skies and canyon lands of the New Mexican desert and ultimately, to a battle for Manhattan itself as the enemy attempts to destroy A.R.E.S. at its very heart. Combat will rage on the ground as the steam-powered battle Tripods of A.R.E.S. square off against their lethal Martian counterparts. The skies above the battlefields will be filled with the dying as the advanced fighter planes of A.R.E.S., under the command of Manfred Van Richthofen, battle against the agile Martian Flying Wings. Goliath Squad will even find themselves locked in hand-to-hand with the tentacled aliens as they confront the invaders in the steamy depths of a vast power plant turned Martian Hive.
“War of the Worlds: Goliath” will feature selfless heroism, alien cruelty, base betrayal and passionate lovemaking framed by the life and death paradigm of total interstellar war.
Heat rays, steam-powered battle Tripods, souped up biplane and triplane fighters, a 1,500-foot long, armored battle Zeppelin and a re-imagined steampunk New York City are some of the striking visuals that are being brought to life in this epic production.
Produced by Tripod Entertainment, “War of the Worlds: Goliath” is being directed by animation veteran Joe Pearson (Epoch Ink Animation), and written by accomplished wordsmith, David Abramowitz (Highlander). Featuring the voice talents of Adrian Paul, Peter Wingfield, Adam Baldwin, Elizabeth Gracen, Jim Byrnes and many others, the movie is being storyboarded and designed by an international team of top artists and designers, and is being animated in a state-of-the art combination of CG and traditional cel animation in Seoul, South Korea. Audio and video post-production including music score, sound design, voice direction, mixing, visual effects and editing will be done by the best studios in Southeast Asia, Imaginex Studios and BaseCamp Films.
The film is currently in mid-production and is scheduled for release to DVD in February of 2010.
Producer Kevin Geiger Talks ROAD TO HOME
In the world of animation, China may not exactly be the first place that enters your mind. Ask a local over there on their favorite animation and they may give the same response too. Beijing-based animation studio Magic Dumpling is on a mission to change this snub attitude and show the glory of Chinese animation, not just in its own country but to the world as well. On the forefront of this movement is Kevin Geiger, a former CG supervisor of Walt Disney and co-founder of Magic Dumpling & producer of the studios’ debut animated feature film Road to Home. Kevin was kind enough to send us the developmental teaser our way and also take part in an interview on Twitch. From reading his blog site, it became immediately apparent to me that he process a strong understanding on the business side of animation and with this extensive experience, I’m sure it will prove very handy in guiding the studios’ first film on the right track. His thorough article entries on marketing and on the current state of Chinese animation are a fascinating read so its evident that we’re instore for some lively insightful discussion. The topics covered as I pick his brain ranges from his animation background, details on Road to Home, the status of the Chinese animation industry and his future plans.
In a world of conflict between humans and wolves, a young girl named Vivi, desperate for the approval of her village chief father, ultimately earns it through a friendship with the “enemy” – a wolf cub named Dumpling. Vivi’s ill-conceived mission to return the lost cub to its home of Snow Wolf Mountain places her in the midst of stunning landscapes and dangerous opponents. Together with a band of fellow misfits including Gugu & Lulu - a delusional pair of kung fu fighting sheep, a shy beast of burden named Yaki, and his hedgehog “girlfriend” Cottonball, Vivi finds something much more important than the approval of others. Vivi finds herself… on the “Road to Home”.
You’ll find the complete interview and developmental teaser below after the break.
AY: Let me start off with the cliché introductory question. Can you give me a little summary about your past experience in the animation industry and how a westerner like yourself started Magic Dumpling from Beijing, China?
KG: I’ve worked in the animation and special effects industry in Los Angeles for 14 years, including 12 years with Walt Disney Feature Animation. In addition to my work for the majors, I’ve also produced my own independent work. My experience on both fronts led to speaking engagements overseas. These trips intensified when I left Disney in 2007 to work as an independent animation consultant. I’ve traveled to over 12 countries. Some, like mainland China, I’ve visited numerous times. My offsite consultation on “Road to Home” from Los Angeles led to an offer to work as an onsite consultant to the project in Beijing, and ultimately as its producer. Magic Dumpling is being incorporated as a domestic legal entity in China to cover the creative content that we develop, including “Road to Home”.
AY: Can you talk about “Road to Home”? What is your role on “Road to Home” exactly?
KG: “Road to Home” is a wonderful original animated feature film being developed in China by a talented young creative team. Most of what I can say publicly about the project is already in your post, so I won’t repeat it here. In addition to being the president of Magic Dumpling, I am the producer of “Road to Home”. As an independent producer, I am responsible for shepherding creative development, devising the business plan, acquiring funding and resources and talent, handling promotion, pursuing distribution, and pretty much everything else you can imagine. In short, my job is to support the creative team and make their film possible.
AY: I imagine your experience supervising at Walt Disney for high profile production like “Chicken Little” must have given you a solid know-how in animation on a technical and artistic level. What are the important experiences, skills or understanding you gained at Disney that you transfer and apply to this production?
KG: I came up through the ranks at Disney, starting as a junior artist and leaving as a supervisor. Two years prior to my departure, I began inviting every producer and executive I could think of to lunch. The cumulative animation business education that I obtained in the course of those conversations was priceless. On “Chicken Little”, my team devised a complete CG animation pipeline from the ground up, and implemented production efficiencies that fully leveraged the talents of our artistic crew. So I know something about how to maximize available resources. I also had the experience of working at Disney during some fairly interesting times. 1995 to 2007 saw (in no particular order) four different Feature Animation presidents, two company CEOs, Katzenberg’s departure and lawsuit, the competition of Dreamworks, a shareholder revolt, the opening and closure of The Secret Lab, the opening and closure of Circle 7, the shuttering of Disney Animation studios in Paris, Florida and Australia, the “death” of 2D, the “rebirth” of 2D, the partnership with Pixar, the near loss of Pixar, the acquisition of Pixar, and the gradual reduction in Feature Animation staff from over 2000 to under 600. I’ve not only seen it all, but I’ve had to keep my eye on the ball in the midst of it all. That, more than anything else, is the “trial by fire” that serves me well as I now attempt to produce an independent animated film here in mainland China.
AY: What kind of animations or movies do you like? Is there any particular animated film that influenced you?
KG: “Luxo Jr.” is what got me into the business. I had never seen anything like it. At the time I couldn’t even wrap my head around how it was created. It seemed like rocket science to me. Subsequent investigation showed that it was indeed akin to rocket science in certain respects, but that it was also something that I could do. My taste in movies, both animated and live-action, is pretty eclectic. I like art films, I like blockbusters, I like brain food, and I like eye candy. I think that good films cross these boundaries, and speak to the head and the heart. This past week, a director at the Shanghai International Film Festival said that a successful film must be entertaining, but it must also be resonant – meaning that it stays with you and hopefully inspires you to see it again, and to tell others about it. My favorite animated film of all time, which only grows richer with repeat viewings, is Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away”. Truly a masterpiece!
AY: As you are probably aware, imported animation is dominating the market in China. A prime example is Dreamworks’ “Kung Fu Panda” becoming the highest grossing animated film in China. The positive reception has led people within China to question the quality of their own animation. For an outsider to produce a film based heavily on Chinese culture and “steal the show”, it must’ve been a slap to the face to the local animators. Can I get your take on this? What do you think the Chinese animation industry must do to win over its own audience and avoid getting overshadow?
KG: That’s a great question… and a BIG question. I certainly can’t speak for all of China, and opinions vary in a nation of 1.3 billion, as you can imagine. But I can touch upon some of the conversations I’ve been party to. “Kung Fu Panda” certainly has caused a lot of soul-searching within the animation community in China. Many ask, “Why didn’t we do this here?” or “Why can’t we do this here?” I don’t just mean technically and artistically, but conceptually and culturally. Most of the animators with whom I’ve spoken see “Kung Fu Panda” as more of a motivation than a “slap in the face”, as you put it. They enjoy the film, and have the lines memorized. The dean of the Animation School of the Beijing Film Academy even made it recommended viewing for his faculty. Sometimes, the outsider sees and appreciates things in a way that the native doesn’t, and at other times the native has an understanding that the outsider can never hope to achieve. To my mind, the best results come from a marriage of the two. I’ve lectured and blogged extensively on the direction of Chinese animation, and it’s far too complex of an issue to do justice to here. In short (and in my opinion), Chinese animators must move past the didactic and derivative qualities that have characterized much of their recent animation, and return to the heritage of innovation that saw Chinese animators like the Wan brothers on a pace with Walt Disney in the early part of the last century. Those remarkable accomplishments were handicapped by the Cultural Revolution and then flattened by the regional dominance of Japanese anime. China’s State Administration for Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) is attempting to support the domestic industry in part by imposing quotas on foreign animation imports, but it’s debatable whether this ultimately helps or hurts Chinese animators. To draw an analogy, boxers improve themselves through competition, but if you take on the champ before you’re ready, you could be hurt or killed. I think the key to success for Chinese animators is really the same as for any animator: to create heartfelt, entertaining stories centered around compelling characters who audiences can relate to.
AY: What is it about your film that uniquely set it apart from other animation produced in the US and Japan? Is there a distinct style or quality to call your own?
KG: “Road to Home” seeks to define a style of animation that is to China what anime is to Japan – that is to say, an approach to style and story that is representative of the native country, but also appealing to international audiences. This may sound presumptuous, but it’s our goal – and we’re not alone. Many other Chinese animation companies currently aspire to the same thing. The next five years will be very interesting ones in the Chinese animation industry. Time will tell who rises and shines, and who crashes and burns.
AY: Why did you choose to do this film in CG rather than traditional animation? Or is it a mixture of both? It seems like your using a hybrid of 2D painted background and 3D characters. The background looks gorgeous by the way.
KG: Thank you, we are fortunate to have some very talented young visual development artists. “Road to Home” is being planned as a CG film primarily for the cinematic possibilities, but also in order to take advantage of the stereoscopic market and to leverage 3D production assets directly into associated game development and ancillary product design. The painterly look is certainly something that we aspire to. That doesn’t mean that the characters have to be covered in brush strokes, but if audiences can accept the conceit of flat 2D characters against painterly backgrounds, we should not be afraid to attempt inventive visual approaches in 3D, provided they are compatible with the story and budget-friendly. In fact, a simple background painting is often faster, cheaper and better looking than a simulated 3D render. It’s remarkable how often on CG films that we forget the fundamental moviemaking principle: if it looks right, it IS right.
AY: How much does the developmental teaser visually represent what it will be like? How far along in production is it right now?
KG: The development teaser is our first attempt at representing the look of “Road to Home” in 3D. It was created in a very short period of time by our friends at Xing Xing Digital under challenging circumstances, and we’re happy with it as a starting point. But given that it’s quite early, you can expect the final result in theaters to be an order of magnitude improvement over what you see before you. Regarding our production cycle, “Road to Home” is still in development. We hope to start pre-production soon and begin full production this fall. It all hinges on the completion of our funding.
AY: What is the tone you’re aiming to achieve in this film? Who is the target audience? If I’m not mistaken, you’re making this not just for the locals but also the international audience in mind.
KG: “Road to Home” is an action/adventure/comedy. Based upon the tone of the development teaser, you might think the film to be overly dramatic, but it’s actually quite funny. Much of the humor springs from characters who we have intentionally chosen not to reveal publicly at this early stage. Our target is the family audience, and we’re hoping that families in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa enjoy the film just as much as families in China and the rest of Asia. On this note, we’re very encouraged. The original Mandarin script has had early Chinese readers laughing and crying, and the English translation has drawn similar reactions from our Western advisors. One potential distribution partner called the English version “wonderful”, and was impressed to learn that it was from a Mandarin original. These are good signs, in my book.
AY: Do you plan to release the film internationally? Are you planning to take the film on a worldwide festival tour?
KG: Our business plan calls for international distribution through a strategic co-production partnership.
Do you have any other projects line-up after this film? (Question from Twitch reader Cpa314)
KG: Magic Dumpling has various projects in development, ranging from animated feature films to television shows and internet content. Our company’s business plan outlines an initial slate of properties extending through 2015.
Do you have any plans to collaborate with Shanghai Animation Film Studios? (Question from Twitch reader Cfensi)
KG: I understand that this question came from one of your readers. Magic Dumpling is a development company. Our business model is to create original animation content and then partner with various studios to produce the final work. For example, we have an agreement with Xing Xing Digital for “Road to Home”, and are currently discussing a couple of our other projects with various parties. Creative focus, diversity and low overhead are the hallmarks of Magic Dumpling. It goes without saying that Shanghai Animation Film Studios has a remarkable past and formidable present in the Chinese animation industry, and we would certainly be honored by the opportunity to work with them at some time in the future.
AY: Thank you for answering our questions. Any final words?
KG: It’s an exciting time for the Chinese animation industry, and the results should be quite entertaining to watch. Thank you for the attention you’ve paid so far, and stay tuned!
Marvel Animation Age Talks with Greg Weisman on "Spectacular Spider-Man" Season 2
In advance of its season 2 premiere, the Marvel Animation Age has posted two interviews with Greg Weisman, supervising producer and story editor for The Spectacular Spider-Man. In the first interview, Weisman discusses what to expect in season 2, his feelings about the show airing outside US markets and the potential for video piracy, the wait for approval for a third season of the show, and about upcoming projects relating to Gargoyles.
The second interview consists of questions from fans, including how thoroughly the show is planned in advance, what he'd redo from season 1 or season 2, uncensored content and the differences between Broadcast Standards & Practices from KidsWB to Disney XD, and how they decided on making changes from other Spider-Man stories.
The Spectacular Spider-Man Season 2 premieres on Disney XD on Monday, June 22, 2009, at 7:00 PM (Eastern/Pacific).
Chip Hand, 55, was star of H-B's " Butch Cassidy"
Composer, musician and teacher Lloyd N. "Chip" Hand II, the leader of Hanna-Barbera's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids, died June 8 at 55.
A resident of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, California, Hand was an award-winning vocalist who taught voice technique for over 30 years.
His was the voice of Butch in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids, which ran for 13 episodes on NBC in 1973.
In the show, Butch was one of four teenage undercover agents posing as a rock group. Butch would get information about his missions from Mr. Socrates, a computer voice who was the boss of the World-Wide Talent Agency. Mr. Socrates would contact the bell-bottomed boys and go-go outfitted girls via a beeper on Butch's ring.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids bore no relation to the similarly titled 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which starred Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Lawsuits were avoided simply by adding the "s" to the end of the title. The animated Butch Cassidy actually resembled David Cassidy of The Partridge Family, and was the lead singer and guitarist of the band.
He was born on April 5, 1954. His father, Lloyd N. Hand (now a Washington, D.C. lawyer), began his government career in 1957 as assistant to Lyndon B. Johnson, then the Majority Leader of the United States Senate. When Johnson became President, the elder Hand served as the U.S. Chief of Protocol with the rank of ambassador.
Hand spent his early childhood in Los Angeles and Texas. He began working as a professional demo singer when he was 15.
At 16, he won the Battle of the Bands for best male vocalist. He signed with RCA Records at 16 and appeared on such shows as Lawrence Welk, Merv Griffin, The Tonight Show, Larry Kane, Room 222 and Hollywood KCET Theater.
Hand received a Bachelor of Science degree from UCLA in history and political science, with a minor in psychology. While at UCLA, he won the Frank Sinatra Award and the Gladys Turk Award, both for best male vocalist.
Besides animation, Hand also worked in film, live-action TV, stage, radio and records. He worked with artists from A&M, MCA, Motown, Capitol, CBS, MGM, Warner Brothers, RCA, Sparrow, Word, Curb and Concord. "My students have sold millions of records and starred in TV, film, Broadway and nightclubs," he said.
In addition, he wrote for several film companies, including MGM, Tristar, Miramax, ABC, October Films and August Films. In 1999, he wrote the libretto for the $9.5 million production of Ben-Hur, The Musical.
He performed on national and local commercials, on camera and/or voiceover, for such famed products and services as Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Dentyne, Sure, Jack In The Box, Snicker's, Epson Guitars, Taco Bell and Mutual of Omaha.
As a voiceover talent and voice and speech teacher, Hand boasted of doing "a host of dialects," including mid-Atlantic, American, American Southern, British, Irish, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, Australian, French, Mandarin, Arabic, Italian, Swedish and German. He also did impressions of singers, actors and celebrities from the 1930s to today.
Hand studied lyric writing privately with Sammy Cahn, and voice with Seth Riggs. He taught a masters class with Riggs at UCLA, and studied entertainment business with David Geffen at UCLA's Graduate School of Business.
He studied musical composition privately with Dominic Frontiere, and was a staff composer for Mike Curb Productions and Kenny Rogers Productions. As well, he studied commercial acting with Maxine Anderson and voiceover technique with Kat Lehman.
Hand was completing his MFA degree at UCLA at the time of his death. He had just recently recorded an original song, "Easy to Be Green," for the 2009 First Ladies Luncheon in Washington, D.C.
"A truer and dearer friend I doubt I will ever know again," said Jeff Harlan, a voice actor in four episodes of Batman Beyond.
"What a gift Chip was to so many people. His wry wit and intellectual curiosity always kept me amused," said Mary Beth Felker, founder and executive director of The Voice Project, a Seattle-based vocal development workshop.
"Most importantly, he was an immense encouragement and support to me as a professional colleague, and also as a friend."
Chip Hand is survived by his wife Catherine; parents Lloyd and Ann Hand; sisters Bridget Hand Taylor, Susan Hand Burch and Catherine Hand O'Dell; aunts Bethlyn Hand and June Jones; uncles David and Michael Donoghue; sister-in-law Karen Gardela Treverton; and nine nieces and nephews.
His funeral service was held June 13 in Los Angeles. A fund has been established in his memory with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org).
From the August 1972 issue of Fave! magazine.
DreamWorks Animation Goes for Ghosts with 3 Movies
The Hollywood Reporter states that DreamWorks Animation Studios is "pushing forward" with an untitled ghost project known internally as Boo U., aiming for release in the fourth quarter of 2012. The movie will be written by Jon Vitti (The Simpsons Movie) and directed by Tony Leondis (Igor). In addition, another ghost-centric film is in progress as well, internally titled Freakers and written by Joe Syracuse & Lisa Addario, and "a third ghost-related story idea is in the pitch stage."
Which X-Men Movie is Next?
With X-Men Origins: Wolverine having already pulled in $356.2 million worldwide, and both a sequel and Deadpool spin-off in the works, we were wondering what the status of the other "X-Men" spin-offs was.
Today, we got a chance to talk to David Goyer, who's executive producing ABC's upcoming "Flash Forward" and whose The Unborn hits DVD and Blu-ray on July 7. Goyer has been attached to write and direct Magneto, but he's not sure if that will move forward before X-Men: First Class.
"There have been some preliminary discussions," he told us about Magneto, adding, "I think, at Fox, they're trying to decide if making a young X-Men film makes the most sense next, does making a 'Magneto' make the most sense next. They're just trying to decide internally who's next up."
So it sounds like there's a face-off between Wolverine, Deadpool, Magneto and First Class at Fox right now. Who do you think will win and get the green light first?
Obama strokes Michael Bay's ego, so the director puts the prez in Transformers 2
Director Michael Bay on the set of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Would you believe President Obama called Michael Bay, director of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, "a big-ass director"?
Neither would we, but the director insists it happened. And to return the favor, Bay put the new prez in his upcoming giant-robot movie.
OK, not exactly: He put in references to the real-life president into the story, including images on a few background TV monitors. But the message is clear: If giant robots fight on Earth, Bay wants Obama in the Oval Office.
In a press conference Friday in Beverly Hills, Calif., Bay explained that he was inspired to put Obama in the movie instead of some fictional president because the two have met in passing. During an airport layover in Las Vegas, Bay ended up walking side by side with Obama, who was without bodyguards, let alone secret service protection, carrying his own bags. (This was before Obama won election last November.)
Bay introduced himself to Obama and complimented a recent speech. When Obama asked him what Bay has directed, the president-to-be recognized names such as The Rock, Armageddon and Transformers. "Oh, you're a big-ass director," Obama said, according to Bay.
Obama may not even know that he landed himself a role in Bay's latest film in news footage featured in the movie. When he finds out, the president may have concerns about the film's depiction of his foreign policy: The National Security Advisor in the film carries the president's orders to shut down the NEST program, in which Autobots cooperate with the military to round up rogue Decepticons around the world. Would the "Yes we can!" president really have a problem trusting the good robots to help us fight the bad robots?
Bay did not know if Obama has seen the film, but suspects one of the film's producers might arrange a screening for the First Family. "Steven [Spielberg] might show [Obama's] daughters the movie," Bay said.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opens June 24.
Michael Papajohn Returning for Spider-Man 4?
Scooper 'Cassassin' sent us the following note today about Spider-Man actor Michael Papajohn:
During a Q&A with Ted Raimi and Michael Papajohn at Wizard World Philadelphia today, Papajohn (aka the carjacker/original killer of Uncle Ben from the Spider-Man films) said that he would be reprising his role for Spider-Man 4. He then proceeded to say if he told us what his role entailed, he'd have to kill us.
If this will indeed happen, it will be interesting to see why they still need to show the character in another film considering what happened in the third installment.
Spider-Man 4 is scheduled for a May 6, 2011 release.