Thursday, June 25, 2009

News - 06/25/09...

Toon Thursday : Tickets for Lasseter / Miyazaki event go on sale today at 9:01 a.m.

Jim Hill talks up this once-in-a-lifetime event. Where John Lasseter will play host to Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science

If you’re an animation fan – a SERIOUS animation fan – you’re going to want to be in Beverly Hills on Tuesday, July 28th.

Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki

Why For? Because on that night – and for that night only – two animation legends will be sharing a stage. John Lasseter will be hosting “A Tribute to Hayao Miyazaki” at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Where – in a rare stateside appearance -- this Japanese animation master will be showing clips from his films as well as answering Lasseter ‘s questions in regards to his career.

This extra-special event – which, truth be told, is the second edition of the Marc Davis Celebration of Animation for 2009 -- kind of took toon fans by surprise. No one knew that such an event was even in the works ‘til the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued a press release back on June 15th.

“So why is Hayao coming to Hollywood next month?,” you ask. Well, the folks at the Academy would like you to believe that he’s coming to town to check out their “ANIME! High Art – Pop Culture” exhibit (Which will be on display in the Grand Lobby & Fourth Floor gallery space at their Beverly Hills facility through August 23rd). But – truth be told – Miyazaki’s actually flying in to LA to do some publicity for the North American, English-speaking version of his newest film, “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.”

Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises LLC. All Rights Reserved

You see, the US version of “Ponyo” is being released by Walt Disney Pictures on August 14th. And while this traditionally animated film has already proven to be a hit in Japan (“Ponyo” grossed $160 million when it was released there during the Summer of 2008) … Well, because of John’s longstanding friendship with Hayao, Pixar’s Grand Pooh-Bah would like “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” to become as big a hit as possible during its Northern American run. Which is why this feature length cartoon will be opening on over 800 screens, which is the most ever for a Miyazaki film in this part of the world.

At Lasseter’s insistence, Disney put together a top quality team to produce the English-speaking version of “Ponyo.” Which is why the Mouse tapped Frank Marshall & Kathleen Kennedy to head up this project. And they – in turn – recruited “E.T.” screenwriter Melissa Mathison to handle the English translation of this animated feature’s screenplay.

Then Marshall & Kennedy rounded up A-listers like Matt Damon, Liam Neeson and Tina Fey to do voicework for the North American version of “Ponyo.” Then – with an eye toward making this Japanese animated feature easier to promote for the Disney Channel crowd – Frank & Kathleen recruited Noah Cyrus (i.e. Miley’s younger sister) to voice the film’s title character and Frankie Jonas (i.e. The Bonus Jonas; Joe, Nick & Kevin’s younger brother) to voice Sōsuke.

John Lasseter (L) greets Hayao Miyazaki during a 2002 visit to Pixar's Emeryville Campus

So with an increased number of theaters as well as considerable star power behind the North American, English-speaking version of “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea,” Miyazaki’s latest film seems poised for considerable box office success in the U.S. But to really seal the deal here, Lasseter insisted that the Mouse’s marketing staff pull out the big guns. Which is why Hayao will be doing several high profile interviews while he’s in town next month (Which is kind of a big deal. Given that this Japanese animation master is notorious for not liking to do press). Not to mention having “Ponyo” be the closing night film at the LA Film Festival on July 28th.

And then there’s that rather persistent rumor that Miyazaki will be making his first-ever appearance at Comic-Con International, where “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” will be screened at least once over the course of this four-day-long pop culture fest. (Mind you, Hayao isn’t the only associate-of-John-Lasseter who may be dropping by the San Diego Convention Center this year. There’s also been a lot of talk lately that Tim Burton may be coming to Comic Con. Better yet, Burton’s supposedly bringing his frequent collaborator Johnny Depp along with him. So that these two of them can then talk up Walt Disney Pictures’ big release for March of 2010, “Alice in Wonderland.” Or so say some folks who are in the know at the Mouse House ...)

Anyway … Long story short here: To help support the August 14th release of the North American, English-speaking version of “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea,” Miyazaki (who rarely travels outside of Japan) is coming to the United States. And for one night only, Hayao will be on stage at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Where he’ll then be interviewed by John Lasseter.

Copyright 2009 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. All Rights Reserved

Okay. Now for the bad news: The Academy’s Beverly Hills facility has very limited capacity (just ask all of the folks who got turned away from April’s “Milt Kahl: The Animation Michelangelo” event). And once 1,012 tickets for those seats in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater are gone … That’s it, folks. Game over.

So if you really, really REALLY want to attend this tribute to animation master Hayao Miyazaki … Tickets go on sale today at 9:01 a.m Pacific Time. And they’re guaranteed to go fast. So you probably want to be online at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ website right as these tickets become available. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on the chance to attend this truly once-in-a-lifetime event.

FYI: The official trailer for the North American, English-speaking version of "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" went live online yesterday. If you'd like to get some sense of how Walt Disney Pictures plans on marketing this Studio Ghibli film, you should check this trailer out.

Princess and the Frog Talk With Clements and Musker

“We’re back!” That’s Bruce Smith, creator of The Proud Family and animator on The Princess and the Frog, talking about the return of hand-drawn, 2D animation to The Walt Disney Animation Studios. In this AWN exclusive featurette below, we also hear from directors Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin), animators Andreas Deja (Gaston - Beauty and the Beast) and Mike Surrey (Timon - Lion King), and the Chief Creative Oficer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios John Lasseter. AWN’s Dr. Toon was right all along.

Academy to double Best Picture nominations

In a move that could end up benefiting animated films, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that they are doubling the number of nominations for Best Picture at the Academy Awards from five to ten. AMPAS president Sid Ganis said, “After more than six decades, the Academy is returning to some of its earlier roots, when a wider field competed for the top award of the year. The final outcome, of course, will be the same – one Best Picture winner – but the race to the finish line will feature 10, not just five, great movies from 2009… Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize.” In the past two years Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille and WALL-E were considered possible Best Picture nominees in the smaller field but came up short. With this announcement their latest film, Up, could have a better than long shot chance at a nod. So far, Disney’s 1991 film Beauty and the Beast is the only animated film to have picked up a Best Picture nomination.

Snow White: The Sequel

I don’t know how I missed this on my radar. It’s a new feature from “Picha” (Jean-Paul Walravens, of Shame of the Jungle fame) with English dialogue by Tony Hendra (National Lampoon) and narration by Stephen Fry (Harry Potter).

It was produced in 2007 and never released in the U.S. as far as I know. Some nice person posted the whole damn thing on You Tube in eight parts. It’s crude, silly, X rated, and definitely NSFW.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8

(Thanks, Jupey Krusho)

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Jaime Diaz (1937-2009)

Longtime animator and director Jaime Diaz passed away this past Saturday.

I met Jaime several times during 2005-6 when I was working at Nickelodeon on my Random Cartoon, Hornswiggle. Jaime was an amazing talent and generous with his memories of breaking into the animation scene during the 1960s. You’ll see his credit on some of the last Warner Bros. cartoons of the late 1960s. From there, he worked mainly on Saturday morning shows for Hanna Barbera and Filmation in a variety of roles, from storyboard to character designer. He became a director on Duckman and on later Frederator shows like ChalkZone and Fairly Odd Parents. I really enjoyed his designs from his Random short Dr. Froyd’s Funny Farm (Diaz, pictured below left with Froyd co-creator Bill Burnett).

Larry Huber has posted a wonderful heartfelt remembrance of Jaime on his website.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics by Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle easily ranks among my favorite cartoon/comic-related books of the past few years, if not all-time. How good is it? I was so anxious to get my hands on this book that I ended up buying a copy at the bookstore instead of ordering it from Amazon. The selection of artwork, the design of the book, and the print quality are all jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The text, which I’ve only begun to read, also appears to be top-notch. Kurtzman was the rare individual who was equally gifted as both an artist (Hey Look!, Two-Fisted Tales, Frontline Combat) and editor (Mad, Help, Trump, and this volume lovingly acknowledges both sides of the man. The book was published by Abrams’ promising new ComicArts imprint and is an incredible value at $26.40 on Amazon.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Alfred Hedgehog Video Game Detected

Young video game players soon will join TV viewers in exploring The Mysteries of Alfred Hedgehog.

A video game based on the animated series will launch in January for the PC and the Nintendo Wii platforms. The game is a joint production of Gaumont-Alphanim, Muse Entertainment and Tribal Nova.

Based on the popular series about a hedgehog detective, broadcasters TVO, TFO, Radio-Canada and France 5 are all investors in the game, helping acquire support from the Bell Fund.

The broadcasters also will make a Flash version of the game available on their respective web sites.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Starz Starts Up ABE Toons With Talent Search

Starz Digital Media has launched its new animation site ABE Toons, marking the debut of the site with a talent search contest seeking out the next great animator.

The site,, will feature top independent animators and aims to be a top destination for consumers looking for animated short films. Among the animators whose work is appearing on the side is Tad Stone, director of two Hellboy animated DVDs, Jennifer Shiman, creator of Starz's 30-Second Bunny Theater, and Sweeney and Laney, head writers on Tripping the Rift.

The contest will award a grand prize of $4,000 in cash and the opportunity to turn the animated entry into a series with a production value of $25,000. Runners up will receive cash prizes of $1,000 and $500 each, with the most popular video in the contest receiving $500.

Entries should consist of an animated video running between two to six minutes and following the guidelines found on the website. The deadline to enter is Aug. 31.

Contest judges include Marc DeBevoise, senior VP digital media, business development and strategy for Starz Media; Film Roman head of studio Jay Fukuto; Starz Animation Toronto head of studio David Steinberg; and animation producer (9, Finding Nemo) Jinko Gotoh.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Archaia, Henson Team Up for Comics

The Jim Henson Co. is teaming up with Archaia Comics to publish graphic novels based on the studio’s numerous franchises.

The deal includes such classic Henson properties as Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Mirrormask and The Storyteller. The companies also have agreed to collaborate on creating new comic book properties with top talent in comics, TV and film.

“Some of the best storytellers in the world are flocking to comic books and graphic novels, making them the foremost platform for innovative and imaginative storytelling,” said Joe LeFavi, Director of Publishing and Development at The Jim Henson Company and who will serve as story editor on all the books.

“Creating comics that become a part of the incredibly rich Jim Henson Company legacy is an exciting challenge, and I think fans will share our excitement when they see the talent we’re bringing in to help make these comics a reality,” said Stephen Christy, Archaia’s Director of Development.

The companies plan to announce their initial slate, creative teams and publishing schedule at Comic-Con International in San Diego next month.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Brazilian Series Ride Pitch Program to Success

Two animated series pitched by graduates of the Brazilian TV Producers’ International Training Program in Animation have scored production deals through a special pitching session at the annual Forum Brasil.

Captain Constantine and the Salty Pudding Island, from Split Film, was nominated as best program at the event by a jury of executives from such outlets as Cartoon Network, Discovery Kids, MTV Brasil and Nick.

Mirabolica, producer of the second series, Jorel’s Brother, won a $20,000 award to develop the project and it is likely to appear next year on Cartoon Network Latin America as a 52 x 11 min. series.

The pitch session was the second part of the International Training Program in Animation, which was hosted by BTVP in May and was attended by more than two-dozen Brazilian production companies. The top five Brazilian projects in the program were given the chance to pitch to the panel of U.S. and international broadcasters.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Nickelodeon Celebrates 10 Years of SpongeBob

Nickelodeon is commemorating SpongeBob SquarePants’ 10th anniversary with the "Ultimate SpongeBob SpongeBash Weekend", featuring 50 hours of SpongeBob SquarePants Friday, July 17, through Sunday, July 19. Kicking off this exciting anniversary weekend will be VH1’s premiere of the original hour-long documentary, “Square Roots: The SpongeBob SquarePants Story,” on Tuesday, July 14.

Gundam Director Yoshiyuki Tomino to Appear at New York Anime Fest 2009

The New York Anime Festival has announced that Yoshiyuki Tomino, legendary anime director of Mobile Suit Gundam, will be a guest of honor at this year's convention. Mr. Tomino will host a panel about the 30-year history of Gundam and also hold autograph sessions for his fans.

The New York Anime Festival will be held between September 27-29, 2009, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The full press release follows:

Director Of Gundam Celebrates Saga's 30th Anniversary In NYC

Norwalk, CT, June 22, 2009: The New York Anime Festival (NYAF) today announced that legendary Japanese director Yoshiyuki Tomino will attend its 2009 event as a Guest of Honor. The 2009 New York Anime Festival, an anime, manga, and Japanese pop culture convention from the creators of New York Comic Con, will take place September 25-27, 2009 at the Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan. Mr. Tomino's most prolific work, Mobile Suit Gundam, premiered in 1979, and he will appear at the New York Anime Festival to sign autographs and speak about his history, philosophy, and experiences connected with Gundam's 30-year history.

Yoshiyuki Tomino, born November 5, 1941 in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan, began his animation career at Mushi Productions where he scripted and storyboarded the classic anime series Astro Boy. Going on to direct, Mr. Tomino has overseen numerous series including Aura Battler Dunbine, Brain Powerd, Overman King Gainer, and The Wings of Rean. His longest-lasting legacy is Mobile Suit Gundam, a genre-breaking series first broadcast in 1979, which is noted for defining the current realistic portrayal of robots in Japanese animation. The original Mobile Suit Gundam series has been followed by numerous sequels and spin-offs, and the saga continues today with its latest entry -- Mobile Suit Gundam UC (Unicorn) -- debuting this winter in Japan.

"The New York Anime Festival is honored to welcome one of the legends of Japanese animation," NYAF Show Manager Lance Fensterman said. "There is now a generation that's been born and raised with Gundam, and we very much want to bring Mr. Tomino and these American fans together to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of his iconic series."

To join in Gundam's 30th Anniversary celebration, Anime News Network -- the largest anime news website in the world -- has published a new interview with Mr. Tomino simultaneously with this announcement. When asked by Anime News Network if he had a message for his American fans, Mr. Tomino said, "I only have feelings of gratitude in my heart towards fans that have taken an interest in my works, even if just for a moment. I am truly grateful. So, as long as I can create works, I hope to invoke that sense of realism through anime and similar visual and expressive media. I believe that the symbolic expressive abilities of anime will always present new opportunities, so I look forward to what the younger generation will produce."

The full interview is now online at

For more information about the New York Anime Festival and Mr. Tomino's roll in it, visit NYAF's official website ( and blog ( The New York Anime Festival will announce additional guests, screenings, concerts, and special events throughout the summer and fall. Tickets are on sale now.

MTV to Roll Out "DJ and the Fro" for Summer 2009

AWN is reporting that MTV will be debuting a new animated comedy this summer, titled DJ and the Fro. The series will center on "two twenty-something slackers who spend most of their days avoiding work and watching viral videos," and will be part of a new weeknight comedy block of programming.

(Ed. note - doesn't sound too much like Beavis and Butt-Head, does it?)

Briefly: Farewell to Yankee Stadium; Walt Disney Museum; Landreth@SIGGRAPH

* Several athletes and celebrities will lend their voices for Henry and Me, an animated film based on a children's book that will say farewell to Yankee Stadium. Among those participating are Richard Gere, Reggie Jackson, Chazz Palminteri, Luci Arnaz, Luis Guzman, Yogi Berra, Rich "Goose" Gossage, and Hideki Matsui. [AWN]

* The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the upcoming opening of the Walt Disney Family Museum, with more quotes from Diane Disney Miller and John Lasseter.

* Chris Landreth will be addressing this year's SIGGRAPH conference, focusing on the "Uncanny Valley" effect and how he attempts to avoid it in his latest short film "THE SPINE." Landreth won the SIGGRAPH Best in Show Award in 2004 for his short film "Ryan," which later won the Best Animated Short Subject Academy Award. [AWN]

The Toon Disney Experience

Today was my Disney Toon day, and the artistic staff is busy with various Tinkerbell features in different stages of production (Numbers Three, Four and Five are in work; number Two is ready for launch. As one of the Tink artists related:

"It's been great having so many projects coming through, because it's really helped a lot of us have longer employment. And management is lining up more projects beyond Tinkerbell, so that's good.

The way things work here is that John Lasseter sits down with the story crew and looks at the story reels for one of the pictures, then we go into another room and go over his notes. I've been here off and on for years, and before John it wasn't this way. The old set of execs didn't want story artists around and didn't want input, so this is a good change. And John brings in folks from Pixar who also look at what we've done and also give notes. He's got a group of Pixar women development people who give notes..."

I was able to get a look at some of the visual development for the next group of Toon Disney features (waay different than Tinkerbell) and my first reaction was: "That's going to make the Mouse a lot of money!"

Because it is a real commercial property.

(And no, I'm not going to say anything about what it is, since the company hasn't announced much about it yet.)

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Viz Effx Business Model

Here's the way the visual effects industry goes:

1) Big Fat Conglomerate puts most of the work on its new, $200 million effects-laden blockbuster out for bid.

2) Effects houses from far and wide bid on the project, busily low-balling one another.

3) BFC picks the cheapest price among the houses, gives a few high-end "money shots" to a prestigious effects studio in San Francisco, and hands off wire removal and other mundane chores to Mumbai, India (which is even

4) Management of Low-Ball Effx House discovers that it is seriously in the red doing the work and will have to look for suitors with money if it wants to keep its doors open. (As an interim measure, it cuts staff salaries and benefits) ...

Versions of this scenario have been happening with metronomic regularity for years. Variety had the basic storyline just yesterday:

Digital Domain, the Venice, Calif.-based visual effects shop ... is scheduled to be in court Wednesday for opening arguments in a wrongful termination suit by the company's former prexy, Christian Bradley "Brad" Call.

Call alleges the company pressured him to falsify the company's financials to attract investors ...

...[D]documents reveal that the company, founded in 1993 by Scott Ross, helmer James Cameron and creature wiz Stan Winston,
has never turned a profit despite having a thriving commercials division for much of its existence to supplement its feature work ...

But weep not for Digital Domain. Per the article, current management strongly implies that everything is really good now. (And if you believe that, then call me quick, because I've got some prime real estate out in Lancaster I'm willing to sell you.)

There's a reason that the major entertainment companies got into the effects business and then (except for Sony) quickly got out again. The profit margins just weren't there.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Portland hosts third Floating World Animation Fest

On Thursday night, June 25, the folks from Floating World, one of Portland, Oregon's finest comics shops, will present their third annual festival of animation at Holocene, 1001 S.E. Morrison.

Floating World Animation Fest has a long evening on tap, starting at 8 p.m.: literally dozens of films, including an entire sub-program compiled by Los Angeles' Show Cave Night Gallery and some live musical entertainment.

The festival offers three-plus hours of mind-melting, soul-loving psychedelic animation… this summer's ultimate videocation!

A special bonus program is curated by Show Cave Gallery in Los Angeles. Artists include Mato Atom, Bruno Dicolla, Barry Doupe, Eve Duhamel, Peter Glantz, Kristen Lepore, Carolina Melis, David O'Reilly, Tasman Richardson and Yoshi Sodeoka. Plus live music from Deelay Ceelay and Flaspar!

Here's a complete listing:

Director: Robert Seidel
Music: Heiko Tippelt, Philipp Hirsch
Germany (2004), 10:01

At the Heart of a Sparrow
Director: Barry Doupe
Canada (2006), 14:50 (excerpt)

Battle of the Album Covers
Director: Rohitash Rao
U.S.A. (2006), 2:33

Blue Coldesack
Director: Tomin Vladimir
Music: Blindone
Serbia (2009), 2:11

Broken Memories 2
Director: Qian Qian
Sound: N. Nolan Cook
U.S.A. (2007), 1:56

Director: Mato Atom
Music: Henning Lohner
U.S.A. (2008), 4:15

E.L.A. "Love at First Byte"
Director: Fernando Sarmiento
Argentina (2008), 10:40

Je Fais De L'Art Det J'Ecris Mon Nom Dessus Apres
Director: Eve Duhamel
Music: Noia
Germany (2007), 1:02

Tar Heart
Directors: Eve Duhamel and Julien Vallee
Germany (2008), 4:00

Evil Rector
Director: Yoshi Sodeoka
U.S.A. (2009), 2:53

Director: Miguel Rodrigues
U.S.A. (2008), 8:17

Kiipeilypuu "The Climbing Tree"
Director: Jenni Rope
Music: Paavoharju
Finland (2008), 2:24

Future Sex/Love Sounds
Director: Nicolas Djandji
U.S.A. (2006), 3:16

Please Say Something
Director: David O'Reilly
United Kingdom (2009), 10:00

Story From North America
Director: Kirsten Lepore
Music: Garrett Davis
U.S.A. (2007), 4:29

Guess Who
Director: Kirsten Lepore
U.S.A. (2006), 0:54

Director: Justine Ashbee
Music: Le Systeme Solaire
U.S.A. (2007), 3:17

The Game
Director: Tasman Richardson
Canada (2007), 3:52

Zombie Rave
Director: Nofun Grafix
Music: Glaznost
Spain (2008), 0:17

Bush Plane Timmy
Director: Seth Scriver
Canada (1999), 0:47

Crawling Colors
Director: Dave Fischer
Soundtrack: United Space Rock Coalition
U.S.A. (2008), 4:59

Director: Carolina Melis
Music: Colleen
United Kingdom (2005), 2:49

Return As An Animal
Director: Bruno Dicolla
Brazil (2008), 1:31

Roy G Biv
Director: Dale Hayward
Canada (2007), 1:23

The Children of the Clone
Director: Craig Adams
Music: Jim Guthrie
U.S.A. (2005), 4:20

Show Cave Best of... Videocation

1. Future Cooking (1:54), Ashley Huizenga
2. Repossessed (1:28), Tommy Blackburn
3. Devil's Warlocks (1:11), Shane McDonell
4. Use Your Moon Illusion I & II (2:04), Eric Nordhauser and Santi Vernetti
5. I Touch You With My Mind - State I (0:38), Hazel Hill
6. Space Invader (0:59), Steven Read
7. Edge T.V. (3:39), Animal Charm
8. 2012 Shaman (5:25), Nic Chancellor
9. I Touch You With My Mind - State II (0:53), Hazel Hill
10. 22 Video Sketches (6:23), Drone Dungeon
11. Future Heat (4:27), Jon Clark
12. Sports Drinks (3:03), Doug Lussenhop
13. Latter-Day Future (3:30), Mikianaface
14. Freq Heat (5:26), Mark Brown
15. Light is Waiting (11:19), Michael Robinson
16. Die 2 Live (1:48), Ben Aqua
17. Spiritual People (3:24), Kathleen Daniel
18. Forever (1:16), Aids 3-D
19. I Touch You With My Mind - State III (0:48), Hazel Hill

For more information, call Floating World Comics at (503) 241-0227 or Holocene at (503) 239-7639,

Developments on Live Action Robotech - Peter Craig Talks Live Action Cowboy Bebop reports that novelist and UK TV writer Tom Rob Smith is the new writer on live action Robotech being developed by Tobey Maguire, Akiva Goldsman, Charles Rovenand Jason Netter. Other writers who had been attached to the Robotech script include Lawrence Kasdan and Alfred Gough & Miles Millar.

From the Mania report

Smith is best known for his 2008 breakout novel "Child 44", about a series of child murders in Russia circa 1950. The book won several awards and the film rights were quickly snapped up as a vehicle for Ridley Scott to direct. His follow-up book, "The Secret Speech" was released last month.

Although he's a relative newcomer to Hollywood, our sources tell us that Smith's previous writing impressed the
'Robotech' filmmakers. "He had a very clear vision for the material that seemed to fit the collective group's vision for the property," a source close to the project said.

Robotech is an English localized animated series constructed by concatenating Tatsunoko's sci-fi mecha series The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada. The Macross series, featuring young pilot's Rick Hunter involvement in a war between humanity and the giant alien Zentraedi, is Robotech most popular chapter, but also the most legally contentious. Disputes between sponsor Big West, producer Tatsunoko Pro and logalizer Harmony Gold have prevented Macross entries such as the animated movie Do You Remember Love? from being released in North America.


Anime Vice has posted an interview with Peter Craig, the writer on the live action Cowboy Bebop.

AV: It's been reported that the staff who made the anime-- the studio Sunrise --is going to remain involved in the film. Do you know at this point if this will include significant involvement in the script?

PC: Yes, they're very much involved. I met with all of them in Tokyo in December - at a long meeting with Keanu in the room. I thought there was an immediate rapport between all of us, particularly Shinchiro Watanabe and Keanu. I asked questions, presented scenarios, and they were very specific about their vision for the series, and how it might convert to a live-action film. They've continued to be in touch since then; and last month I received a very detailed letter, which I've consulted regularly. I'm close to finishing an early draft, and I believe they'll be very happy with it. Not only does the script stay extremely true to the show -- I also know that Erwin and Fox are already discussing production designers that can reproduce the "look" of Cowboy Bebop as closely as possible. They'll be reading the script soon... so my fingers are crossed.

The 26 episode Sunrise tv series and BONES movie followed a hard luck cadre of bounty hunters in the waning days of wild west period of solar system wide colonization: haunted but slick ex-gangster Spike Spiegel, grizzled veteran ex-cop Jet Black, gambler/femme fatale Faye Valentine, incorrigible hacker Ed, and data dog Ein.

Combining artful homages to Western media, inventive direction from Shinichiro Watanabe and eclectic music from Yoko Kanno, Cowboy Bebop won over many fans when it was released on DVD by Bandai Entertainment and aired on Adult Swim.

James Cameron's Avatar suddenly not so secret: Footage screens at Cinema Expo

An image from the Avatar video game

James Cameron's top-secret 3-D epic sci-fi movie Avatar is suddenly not so secret: On Tuesday, he screened about 24 minutes of it at the Cinema Expo in Amsterdam.

You can read a blow-by-blow description of the footage over at, and The Hollywood Reporter also has an account of the presentation:

The fittingly epic film promo literally added an extra dimension to Fox's presentation at the ongoing Cinema Expo.

Avatar actors Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana and Stephen Lang, pic producer Jon Landau, and Fox film chairman Jim Gianopulos also greeted the clearly wowed exhibs at the RAI convention center auditorium.

"Three years ago, I stood up here and said the 3-D renaissance is coming," Cameron said. "And from what we've seen in the business, we can now say it has arrived."

In introducing the 24-minute assemblage, Cameron said much of it came from the first third of the film but that there were also glimpses from unfinished portions of later battle scenes involving warring sides clashing over control of the fantasy world Pandora.

We're eager to see the movie, which rumor says will be featured in a panel and possible screening of some of the footage at Comic-Con next month. We're told that Cameron's even trying to get Hall H at the San Diego Convention Center tricked out for 3-D projection, but we'll see about that.

Avatar opens Dec. 18.

X-Men writer Zak Penn breaks his silence about adapting The Avengers

Screenwriter Zak Penn is already scratching his head about how to piece together and overlap stories from three, maybe four or more movies as he sits down to write The Avengers this summer, based on the Marvel Comics superheroes.

Penn was on a panel Tuesday night called "Graphic Explosion" at the Los Angeles Film Festival in the Westwood Village area of Los Angeles, along with History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson and Radical Publishing co-founder Barry Levine. During the question-and-answer segment, Penn answered some questions he said "I might get in trouble for."

Penn said he ran into frustration while writing the last two X-Men movies because he wanted to include a few of the other characters—the Fantastic Four, for instance—but was prevented by studio executives. That, perhaps, led to the ho-hum response to his Incredible Hulk movie.

But Penn is aware that Marvel movies coming up—with Iron Man, Thor and Captain America—will precede his Avengers film (slated for 2012), so he has to figure out how all the movies fit together. Now that Marvel is itself producing movies as a company, Penn said, "It is a world of difference; it is a lot easier to do things like that, and they encourage it."

Penn said he is meeting this coming week with the team writing the other movies so they can piece together storylines and overlap some of the film plots.

"They're doing Captain America and Thor first, and then Avengers is coming out," Penn said. "They want to see that they're all connected, not like the Fantastic Four can't come into the X-Men world, like I was told. I'm taking a meeting next week with the Thor and Captain America people, and we are all going to get together, and I will see what is going to happen. I'll see where they are leaving the characters; it's pretty complicated. ... There's a board that is tracking what is happening. [We'll see] how this movie overlaps in that movie. ... Marvel is autonomous now. It is night and day: Everyone has read every comic. They know how to make a cool movie."

And although Penn holds the responsibility for bringing all the characters of the other films together, he remains insecure. "It's hard to make a good movie," he said. "We all have the best intentions, and it still might suck."

Death Row Records: Back From The Dead And… Making Comics?

Tupac Shakur lived on in the hearts of many after he was shot dead in 1996. Now, the roads might be paved for him to live on in new graphic novels as well. Eminem and Public Enemy are appearing in comics these days, and 50 Cent is looking to them for inspiration, so it might not be so surprising that Death Row Records, bought during bankruptcy in January for $18 million, could become a comics publisher as part of its new multimedia ambitions.

“Our goal is to continually breathe new life into Death Row,” WIDEawake Entertainment Group founder Lara Lavi told

WIDEawake, who now owns Death Row, plans to launch a new brand extension called Hustle City that will produce books, animated webisodes, games, and even a feature film using the legendary hip-hop label’s properties. At the top of their list is a graphic novel that will include a CD insert of story-related music.

Death Row’s catalog contains more than 10,000 tracks by recording mega-stars including Tupac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound, and Warren G. Just what kind of story material Hustle City will mash up with those tunes remains to be seen, but anything from an “Adventures of the Dogg Pound” comic to a graphic novel history of Dre and Suge Knight’s violence-plagued business venture that changed the face of rap and hip-hop seems like it could be a candidate for comics.

Transformers 2's $55 million breaks Wednesday opening record

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has already grossed more than $55 million, the best domestic box office opening day ever for a Wednesday release, topping the previous record holder, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which grossed $44.2 million in its first day, Variety reported.

Transformers 2, which is playing in more than 4,200 theaters in the U.S., has a strong shot at eclipsing the $152.4 million earned by Spider-Man 2 in its first five days. That film opened on the same Wednesday in 2004. Estimates have the film grossing $150 million to $170 million domestically over its five-day debut.

The opening-day haul in the U.S. included $16 million in midnight runs, the best run ever for a film released on a Wednesday. It's also the third-best of all time after The Dark Knight ($18.5 million) and Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith ($16.9 million).

No comments: