Tuesday, June 30, 2009

News - 06/30/09...

El Superbeasto on DVD

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

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

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Pitch Party ’09: Meet the Winners!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(by Gray and Elliot)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Nick’s AddictingGames Honors Online Favorites

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

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

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

The winners were:

World's Hardest Game
Developer: Snubbyland

Developer: Ninja Kiwi

Electric Man 2
Developer: DX Interactive

Escape the Car
Developer: Afro-Ninja Productions

Tattoo Artist
Developer: Gamepill Inc.

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

Magic Pen
Developer: Alejandro Guillen

Build a Robot 3
Developer: JackSmack

Redline Rumble
Developer: Shockwave

Baseball Juiced
Developer: Odd1 Inc.

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

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Goode Season Finale Set for July 24

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

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

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

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

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Is a Merger in the DreamWorks?

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

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

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

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

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

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

ASIFA Screenings Promote Pop Cultural Literacy

Picture: Spike Jones and Doodles Weaver

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

New Zealanders warm up to latest "Ice Age" movie

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

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

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

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

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

Iranian "Solitude" gets special mention in Bosnia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canadian actress, director Lorena Gale dead at 51

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Society for Animation Studies

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

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

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

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

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

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Fred Travalena 1942-2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeffrey Katzenberg

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

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

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

The Goode Family is Bombing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs opens July 1.

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

Michael Emerson as Ben Linus

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

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

Emerson at the Saturn Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost returns in January 2010 on ABC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landis added in a statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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