Friday, July 3, 2009

News - 07/03/09...

Ice Age, Enemies Take on Transformers

It’s old-fashioned star power taking on the latest and greatest in animation and 3-D technology, as Public Enemies squares off against Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs in the July Fourth box office battle.

Dawn of the Dinosaurs, the third film in the series, opened Wednesday at more than 3,900 theaters. The film, distributed by Fox, is Blue Sky Studio’s first 3-D animated movie, and features returning voice actors Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo and Queen Latifah. The movie will up its screen count Friday to more than 4,000 screens and will play on more than 1,600 3-D ready screens, making it the largest-ever 3-D release.

Reviews have been mixed, with the film getting only a 36 percent positive rating on But the positives have come from some of the most respected movie critics in the biz, such as Roger Ebert, who wrote: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is the best of the three films about our friends in the inter-species herd of plucky prehistoric heroes. And it involves some of the best use of 3-D I've seen in an animated feature.”

Expressing a more common sentiment in Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman writes the movie is “sweet, safe, and — sorry, I have to say it — slightly dull family fun.”

Public Enemies, which revisits the true-life legend of gangster John Dillinger, is aimed squarely at adult audiences. The film, directed by Michael Mann, stars Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard and opened in more than 3,200 theaters.

The biggest obstacle facing both films’ claim to the holiday weekend crown remains Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The film is expected to remain a top draw through its second weekend, and to add significantly to its already impressive take of more than $400 million worldwide through its first six days of release.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Ice Age Chills Transformers in Opening

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs grossed a cool $13.8 million in its Wednesday opening, edging out the juggernaut known as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

The opening — the best-ever Wednesday opening for an animated feature — was a strong one for the Fox-Blue Sky Studios film heading into the long Independence Day holiday weekend.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen remained a strong performer, taking in a strong $10.9 million on Wednesday, further padding its hefty domestic gross to $241 million.

But it remains to be seen if the 3-D toon, starring Ray Romano, Denis Leary and John Leguizamo, will sit atop the box office come Sunday night, or if the giant robots of Transformers will retain the crown.

Also opening Wednesday was Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. The film, directed by Michael Mann, also did well with a first-day gross of $8.2 million.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Aniboom, History to Let People Speak in Contest

Aniboom and History Channel have teamed up to solicit unique animated interpretations of A-list talent doing 10 readings and musical performances.

The best entries will have a chance to win $35,000 in cash prizes and the opportunity to have their animation shown on the History Channel.

The audio recordings feature talent such as Matt Damon, Marisa Tomei, Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder and Viggo Mortensen and will appear in the film The People Speak, airing later this year on History Channel. The readings celebrate democracy and convey the lives of ordinary Americans who have influenced or changed the course of history.

Animators from the around the world will be able to submit their animations based on the 10 recordings beginning July 15 through the Aniboom site at

The contest will occur in two phases, with the first involving the solicitation and submission of entries. For the second phase, five finalists will be given $5,000 each to further develop their animation and may earn the opportunity to have their work aired on History as a 30-second spot. The grand-prize winner receives $10,000 and a development deal with History Channel.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Green Lantern Premiere to Light Up Comic-Con

Green Lantern: First Flight, an original animated DVD feature movie, will have its world premiere at Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 23.

The film, the most recent in Warner Home Video’s line of original animated features, will screen in Ballroom 20 at 8 p.m. in front of an expected full house of 4,000 fans.

A panel featuring filmmakers and cast members will be held the following day, with details on attendees, time and place still to be determined.

The film stars Christopher Meloni, of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, as Hal Jordan, a test pilot who is inducted into the cosmic Green Lantern Corps. The film also stars Victor Garber as Sinestro, Tricia Helfer as Boodikka, and Michael Madsen as Kilowog.

The film is directed by Lauren Montgomery, written by Alan Burnett and produced by Bruce Timm.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

FUNimation Bags Sands From Sega

FUNimation kicked off Anime Expo 2009 by announcing Thursday the acquisition from Sega of rights to the first season of Sands of Destruction.

The series, based on the Sega video game, will launch in spring 2010 in conjunction with the release of a new RPG game of the same name.

The first season consists of 13 episodes and is Sega’s first anime, launched in partnership with Production IG and directed by Shunsuke Tada.

The deal includes home entertainment, broadcast, digital and merchandise rights to the 13-episode first season.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Poll Names PBS Kids Top Educational Brand

A national survey by GfK Roper has found PBS Kids is the top educational media brand for children.

The poll asked more than 1,000 randomly chosen adults in the United States to compare such top brands as Leapfrog, Nick, Playhouse Disney, Noggin, Discovery Kids, National Geographic Kids, YahooKids and others, finding the highest level of confidence in PBS.

Among the results, 73% agreed that PBS serves all children, regardless of their circumstances; 73% indicated that the network provides “a trusted and safe place for children to watch television”; and 70% say that PBS serves as a “safe haven for children.” Overall, Americans noted they are much more satisfied with programming for children ages 2-8 on PBS compared with offerings on commercial broadcast and cable television.

"The American public has spoken and declared PBS the best choice in children's media," said Lesli Rotenberg, SVP Children’s Media, PBS.

“The results of this study confirm the success of our approach — using media to open new worlds for all children, regardless of their family's income or background, and help them realize their potential,” said Lesli Rotenberg, SVP Children’s Media, PBS.

PBS Kids’ lineup of programs includes Super WHY!, Sid the Science Kid, Martha Speaks, Curious George, Between the Lions, WordWorld, Cyberchase and Maya & Miguel.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

D'oh!: Agents seize Homer Simpson ecstasy pills

United States Customs officers seized over 100,000 ecstasy pills shaped like Homer Simpson and the Transformers' Megatron from a British Columbia resident's vehicle Friday morning.

Authorities say that they seized 107,734 tablets -- with a street value of over $1 million -- from the vehicle, which was searched at the Pacific Highway border crossing near Blaine, Washington.

Krysta Edwards, 23, of North Vancouver was arrested and faces up to 20 years in a U.S. prison.

Weighing about 60 pounds, the pills were found in a hidden compartment that was built into the vehicle's cargo area and opened by a hidden electrical switch, according to Customs and Border Protection.

"This is the second major ecstasy seizure at the Pacific Highway Port of Entry this month, and signals the intensity of the illicit narcotic trade," said port director Greg Alvarez.

Edwards was taken into custody by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement pending further investigation and possible prosecution.

The pills contained BZP, the street name for the synthetic drug N-benzylpiperazine, which is a strong stimulant with effects like those of ecstasy. Often, it is pressed into colored tablets and embossed with logos.

The tablets tested positive for the synthetic drug N-benzylpiperazine, a stimulant with effects similar to ecstasy, according to Customs and Border Protection.

"It's a club drug like ecstasy," said Customs and Border Protection spokesman Tom Schreiber. "It uses a synthetic drug, benzylpiperazine, which was originally developed as a worming treatment for internal parasites in cattle."

Although the ingredients used in BZP are illegal in the U.S., they are available over the counter in Canada, he said.

After the drugs were found, inspectors let Edwards return to her car and enter the U.S. She was later arrested at a storage facility.

Seized drugs shaped like cartoon characters Homer Simpson and Megatron have a total street value of over $1 million. (Photo: U.S. Customs)

“Phineas & Ferb” creators say that art & creativity hold the key to kids making the most of their summer vacations

Jim Hill shares the wisdom of Dan Povenmire & Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, who use examples from their own childhood to show today's children how to have an enjoyable June, July & August

Are you looking to get the most out of the upcoming Fourth of July weekend? Well, then maybe it’s time that you heeded the advice of those two great Americans, Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh.

(L to R) Jeff “Swampy” Marsh and Dan Povenmire. Photo by Claudio Asquini.
Copyright 2009 Disney Channel. All Rights Reserved

(There will now be a short pause here for those of you who need to ask: “Who the hell are Dan Povenmire and Jeff ‘Swampy’ Marsh?”)

Dan & Swampy are the very talented guys behind “Phineas & Ferb,” that hit animated series which airs on the Disney Channel at 9 p.m. on Friday nights and Monday nights at 8 p.m. on Disney XD.

And given that “Phineas and Ferb” is a TV show about two step brothers who are determined to make the most of their summer vacation … Well, it shouldn’t really surprise you that Povenmire & Marsh have some distinct thoughts when it comes to how kids should spend the months of June, July & August.

Copyright 2009 Disney Channel. All Rights Reserved

As Dan explains:

"You’re never going to remember your (summer vacation) in years to come if you spend the entire time playing video games and watching TV. But if you do something fun, inventive and unusual with your time, you’ll remember it for the rest of your life – and all of your friends will, too.

"(So you should) do something fun during (June, July & August), like borrow a video camera and make a mini movie. When I was a kid, I wrote a science fiction comedy that we recorded throughout my neighborhood on an old video camera. My mom helped sew costumes for my friends and everyone got involved. It was really cool – and something I could keep for years."

Copyright 2009 Disney Channel. All Rights Reserved

Swampy also has fond memories of fun times with his family, when Marsh’s parents encouraged him to try new things:

"I grew up in a very musical family and we always had tons of instruments around the house. Over the years, I’ve played the banjo, trombone, trumpet and guitar. I’d sing into fake microphones and create full rock bands with my friends and family. (So) why not learn a new musical instrument during the holidays? You might find you’re more musical than you imagined!"

But given that Povenmire & Marsh are the creators of an Emmy-nominated animated series, does it really surprise you to learn that Dan & Swampy strongly encourage kids to spend their summer vacation learning how to draw?

Copyright 2009 Disney Channel. All Rights Reserved

Now before all you parents out there start carping about the cost of pens, paper, etc. Marsh wants to remind you that learning how to draw shouldn’t really involve a whole lot of dough.

"When it comes to art, you don’t need special equipment. You can draw on anything and use anything to draw with, so it shouldn’t cost too much to get into it. Whether it’s a pen, pencil, crayon or even a piece of chalk you find in the park, you can use whatever you want. And who says you need a blank piece of paper to draw on? Use scraps or anything you find that might work!"

So how do you actually learn how to draw? Well, according to Dan, the real key to getting started is copying.

Copyright 2009 Disney Channel. All Rights Reserved

"One of the things that helped me (learn how to draw was) copying. If I saw a drawing I really liked in a magazine or comic book, I would copy that drawing line-for-line and it showed me a lot of shortcuts. It taught me a kind of cartooning shorthand. I don’t mean trace these pictures. I’d just look at a drawing, analyze it and copy it line-for-line to see how the artist drew the picture in the first place. I’d then incorporate the techniques into my own art."

Now some folks might discourage kids to learn how to draw via copying. But as Swampy explains …

“ … there is no right or wrong way to draw. Draw what makes you happy and never worry about somebody saying, "Oh, that isn’t a good drawing." There are so many, infinite drawing styles out there. Your work doesn’t have to look like it’s straight out of a comic book or straight out of an art book. As long as you’re expressing yourself and you’re getting a reaction, then that’s good."

Copyright 2009 Disney Channel. All Rights Reserved

More importantly, don’t just think of art as something that you have to do with paints & an easel. If you really to learn how to draw, Povenmire suggests that you …

"Take a doodle pad with you wherever you go so that you can practice drawing anywhere in the world. I used to draw flipbooks in the corner of my schoolbooks, which were a fun way to learn simple animation. I’d draw a bouncing ball and when you flipped through the book, the ball would bounce away. There are loads of animated scenes you could come up with. Be creative and go for it!"

Marsh is also a big fan of always carrying a notebook / sketch pad with you because …

Copyright 2009 Disney Channel. All Rights Reserved

" … you never know when a creative idea might pop into your head. Write down all of your ideas: doodles, pictures, diagrams, mini stories and funny names for characters – everything!"

But that said, Swampy wants to remind everyone that you don’t really need a notebook and/or a sketch pad in order to create art:

"Some of my favorite drawings were created by a guy who used to draw caricatures on his newspaper every morning of people sitting near him on the train. He would draw these caricatures in ink pen on the newspaper’s print. It wasn’t a clean, white sheet of paper, but he had reams of these drawings and they were the coolest pictures I’ve ever seen."

Copyright 2009 Disney Channel. All Rights Reserved

In fact, sometimes when you use an unconventional piece of paper, you can wind up with a really remarkable work of art. As Dan recalls:

"I used to really enjoy creating posters for my favorite films when I was younger. When the shark movie, Jaws, came out, I got a big sheet of fluorescent green paper and colored in the entire page with a big, black marker – apart from the outline of a shark. After it was finished, all you could see was this shark in fluorescent green against a black background. The shark glowed in the dark and looked really cool!"

Swampy agrees that kids should spend their summer tackling all sorts of art projects, be they posters or comic books.

Copyright 2009 Disney Channel. All Rights Reserved

"I was always creating my own comics when I was a kid. I’d make up loads of different characters and write a story around them. You don’t have to be brilliant at art to make a comic book. Stick figures will do. All you need is a fun story and a lot of imagination."

Of course, what also helps in this situation is to have supportive parents. People who’ll really get behind their kids as they attempt to spread their wings artistically. As Povenmire says:

"Phineas And Ferb is loosely inspired by when Swampy and I were kids. We had very creative parents who pushed our creativity. They would always be getting us to do interesting, creative things including building and creating. We always think it’s a good thing to use your imagination and make it come to life, whether you want to build a fort or create art of some description or invent your own game or even take a video camera out to make a movie. Do something fun to get your creativity flowing."

Copyright 2009 Disney Channel. All Rights Reserved

With the hope that this might help kickstart your kids’ creativity, Dan & Swampy provided the drawings that I used to illustrate today’s article. Which will then walk you through how to draw the title characters from “Phineas & Ferb.”

Mind you, if you’d like to hear more of Povenmire & Marsh’s advice when it comes to creativity (or you’d just like to hear some great behind-the-scenes stories about “Phineas and Ferb”), you should probably check out their panel at this year’s Comic-Con. Which will be held on Sunday, July 26th starting at 10 a.m.

Anyway, that’s Dan & Swampy’s advice when it comes to making the most of your summer. So go Fourth … and have fun.

Copyright 2009 Disney Channel. All Rights Reserved

The Simpsons: The Twelfth Season DVD in August

DVDTimes reports that Fox Home Entertainment has announced the release of 12th season of The Simpsons DVD on August 18. Extras on this four disc set will include commentaries featuring Executives Producers and more, Illustrated Commentary, deleted scenes, Animation Showcases, a “Comic Book Guy: Best. Moments. Ever” featurette, a Global Fanfest feature, a Sketch Gallery, and commercials.

Interview with Pixar’s Angus MacLane

Collider has an exclusive video interview with Pixar’s Angus MacLane, taken during the recently held Saturn Awards where WALL-E won the Best Animated Film award. MacLane, who has worked as an animator on eight of Pixar films, talks about WALL-E, Toy Story 3, why Pixar makes such great films, and more.

Movie characters get Simpsonized

What would iconic movie characters look like in Springfield? Virgin Media has the answers as they give those famous movie characters The Simpsons treatment.

Robot Chicken Supports DVD with Roller Rink Tour

The creators of Robot Chicken are going to party like it’s 1980 to support the DVD release Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II, hitting the road for two weeks with a touring roller skating party.

The show’s executive producers, Matthew Senreich and Seth Green, will hit the road starting in late August to travel the country in a bus and bring the celebration to roller rinks in nine cities. The pair will host each celebration, which will include performances by the musical group Gym Class Heroes, appearances by special guests, Robot Chicken-themed games and activities, and special merchandise.

The tour will kick off with a preview party in San Diego during Comic-Con.

“When Seth first pitched the idea of throwing roller skating parties around the country, I rolled my eyes and laughed at him,” says Senreich. “I said, ‘That’s crazy talk.’ Now that we’re actually going to do it, I’m in awe of its absurdity and can’t wait to attend. It fits with the randomness of our Robot Chicken show. Why not throw roller skating parties across the U.S.?”

The tour itinerary is as follows and subject to change:

• July 25, San Diego, Calif.: Skate San Diego—Preview party minus the band but with a guest DJ and extra Comic-Con awesomeness
• August 1, Los Angeles, Calif.: Venue TBA
• August 2, Las Vegas, Nev.: Rancho Crystal Palace Skating Center
• August 4, Denver, Colo.: Skate City Westminster
• August 6, Kansas City, Mo.: River Roll Skate Center
• August 8, Indianapolis, Ind.: Skateland
• August 10, Richmond, Va.: Roller Dome Skating
• August 12, Philadelphia, Pa.: Jamz Roller Skating Center
• August 14, New York: Venue TBA

The DVD edition of Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II arrives in stores July 21 and will feature 22 minutes of never-before-seen footage not included in the show’s broadcast version, as well as 90 minutes of bonus features and a voucher for early entry into one of the roller skating parties.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Nick Animation Fest Seeks Short Entries

Revamped and renamed, the sixth annual Nickelodeon Animation Festival has put out a call for entries for great animated films anywhere from 15 seconds to 10 minutes in length.

Formerly known as the Nicktoons Network Animation Festival, the event will present six awards this year, including the first ever “15 Seconds to Fame” award, which asks animators to submit 15 seconds of a funny character. The winner, chosen by the Nickelodeon television development team, will receive $5,000 to be applied to the creation of an original two-minute animated short that will be made in conjunction with and commissioned by the Nickelodeon development team.

General entries using any style of animation and running 10 minutes or less also are being solicited and will be judged by a jury of celebrities and animation experts. The jury will determine the winners of the Grand Jury Award of $10,000; the Student Award, given in partnership with mtvU, of $2,000; a $5,000 Producer’s Choice Award; and a $5,000 Viewer’s Choice Award determined by online votes. An additional award will be given in the “I Got Game” contest, held in conjunction with AddictingGames, with winner’s original game idea and character being made into a free online game for

Select short films will be shown at an exclusive two-day event in October at the Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, and will be shown on air and online at in November.

The deadline for submission is Sept. 8. Entry forms and details on entering are available at

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Focus Features Unveils 9 Stitchpunk Images

The movie is named 9 — and now Focus Features has unveiled the characters behind the title of the upcoming animated film directed by Shane Acker.

Based on Acker’s short film and produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted), the images reveal the identities and voices behind the 9 stitchpunk beings from the movie, which is due to be released in theaters on Sept. 9.

1 -Voiced by one of the world’s most respected actors, Christopher Plummer, 1 is the Scientist's first creation. As the elder, he is the self-declared leader of the group. He is clever and sly, but also domineering, quick-tempered, and threatened by the new arrival of 9, whose higher intellect leads him to question authority.

2 -Voiced by Academy Award Winner Martin Landau, 2 is a kindly but now frail inventor and explorer who embodies the Scientist’s strong creative spirit. An inquisitive personality, 2 is fearless. Director Shane Acker affectionately describes him as a “salty old dog.”

3 and 4 -Communicating visually, not verbally, 3 and 4 are the scholarly twins who voraciously catalogue everything they can see and find, recording and building a massive database for the group of the world that surrounds them and the history that led up to their creation.

5 - Voiced by Academy Award nominee John C. Reilly, 5 is a caring, nuturing engineer – the loyal, big-hearted “common man” who always tries to play the peacemaker. He is also an apprentice of 2, with whom he shares a special bond.

6 – The group’s visionary is voiced by Crispin Glover. Although reclusive and eccentric, his bursts of artistic inspiration through drawings made from his pen nib hands may be keys to help his fellow stitchpunk beings navigate their darkest hours.

7 - A brave and self-sufficient warrior, 7, voiced by Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly, is the group's sole female. A fiercely independent adventuress she has been out patrolling the wasteland. To survive, she has adapted, finding the bones of a deceased bird and crafting her signature skull helmet.

8 - Armed with a giant kitchen cleaver and half a scissor blade, the none-too-bright muscle and enforcer of the group, 8, is created to help the others physically survive the dangerous post-apocalyptic world.

9 - To voice the lead role of the newly born – and aborning hero -- 9, Acker couldn’t help but have in mind an actor who was so central to the film set he had worked on years earlier in New Zealand – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King star Elijah Wood.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

FHM Interviews Seth MacFarlane

FHM has interviewed Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane at his offices in Los Angeles. Topics discussed include his many links to pop culture icons like George Lucas, plans/targets for other projects similar to the Star Wars-themed Blue Harvest episode, and the supposed feuds Family Guy has with The Simpsons and South Park.

Briefly: CT Computers Courtesy of "Ice Age"; Palestinian Animation with "Fatenah"

* Blue Sky Studios, creators of the Ice Age series of movies, will be donating computers for use at the University of Connecticut in Storrs and Wesleyan University in Middletown. [Republican American]

* The AP looks at Fatenah, a 30-minute film described as "the first serious Palestinian attempt at animation," based on the life of a Palestinian woman whose battle against breast cancer led to conflicts with Palestinian doctors and Israeli soldiers. [Associated Press]

Nancy Cartwright Speaks with Brad Bird

In her latest column at AWN, actor Nancy Cartwright speaks with Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) in a career-spanning interview starting with a tour of the Disney animation studios as a boy and moving on to making his first animated short at 14, his time at Cal Arts, working for Disney, Steven Spielberg, and The Simpsons, making The Iron Giant at Warner Bros., and joining up with Pixar.

The Unending Question: Is It All Going to India?

This inquiry comes up with metronomic regularity. This article from the Sub-Continent Down Under highlights it:

...When [the animated feature] Alpha and Omega hits the screens in April 2010, it will be a turning point not only for Crest Animation, but for the entire Indian animation industry as well. The box-office fate of the first animated Hollywood film to be produced by an Indian company could well define how the world looks at Indian animators.

The movie, with a budget of US$25 million, is being co-produced by the U.S.-based distributor Lionsgate. It is the first production in a three-film contract between the two ...

Now, I'm not a person who never says "Never!" But here's the working reality as I see it.

The momentum is on the side of domestically-produced theatrical animated features because domestically-produced cartoons are the epics that have performed at the box office in a major way. Ice Age. Up. Kung-Fu Panda. Shrek. All these products were created in some part of the U.S.A., and all of them made their mother companies oodles of money.

Foreign-produced animated features (with the exception of Australia's Happy Feet)?

Not so much.

Now. The day may come when some Mumbai-based Pixar produces ninety minutes of animated splendor that makes a half-billion dollars in the world marketplace, but that hasn't happened yet, not in the twenty years that I've been thinking about it and anticipating it.

As a general rule, Hollywood producers are reluctant to take unconventional chances, because that can get their expensive derrieres fired. And the conventional Hollywood wisdom is that television animation, direct-to-video animated features and some digital visual effects can be outsourced with success, but the bigger budget theatrical stuff cannot. (Success is here defined as one hundred million or more dollars at the world box office.) Many point to Hoodwinked as the big indie c.g.i. hit from the Philippines, but the Red Riding Hood comedy, though profitable, was hardly a money-spinner on the level of Shrek or Ice Age.

My thinking on all this is that some theatrical animation work will probably find its way to the world's lower-cost neighborhoods over the next few years, but until an Asian studio hits a major home-run with one of its productions, the floodgates will not open.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

If It Were Simple ...

The Weinstein brothers had a nice profit with Hoodwinked, but it seems this cartoon thing isn't as easy as it looks:

[The animated feature Escape from Planet Earth] is not expected to resume until August or early fall, [and] was halted because of script issues, said several people involved in the production. The film is being written by Tony Leech and Cory Edwards, the writing team behind "Hoodwinked!," The Weinstein Co.'s 2006 hit release that took in $110 million worldwide. Leech is also directing the movie.

But Leech has not been satisfied with his script and has worked through several rewrites. Most of the movie's 150 animators were sent packing from the Vancouver production facility until the creative issues could be resolved ...

There aren't a lot of memorable animated features that haven't been reworked like pretzel dough during the course of production. Snow White had half-finished sequences cut. Aladdin had its whole second act thrown out and redone ("Jeffrey gave us three and a half weeks to reboard it," an artist moaned to me at the time). Toy Story was hanging by a thread when the world's first cgi feature went through a major overhaul. Lion King and Shrek changed directors, and the crews wondered if the pictures would ever come together.

Face it. Creating ninety minutes of animated entertainment that audiences will flock to see is tough under the best of circumstances, which is why so many companies flame out trying to make an entertaining and profitable cartoon. Lasseter, like Disney before him, figured out that having good creative minds focus on story problems and offer solutions was useful, but the landscape is littered with production houses that haven't absorbed the lesson.

Best of luck to the Weinstein Co. It's been a long time since Hoodwinked.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Planet 51 Trailer 2

Ilion Studios’ Planet 51 is still on track for a November 20, 2009 release, and a second trailer has been revealed. This $60 million CG feature about a reverse alien invasion is being released by TriStar Pictures.

LAIKA/house Delivers Spam Ads

Mike Wellins, a director at LAIKA/house in Portland helmed these three stop-motion spots for Hormel Foods canned precooked meat product Spam. The agency leading the effort was BBDO Minneapolis.




11 most patriotic sci-fi movie and TV moments

The long July 4th holiday weekend kicks off tomorrow, which for many of us means trips to the beach, burgers on the grill and fireworks (only where legal, of course). But it should also mean some time spent remembering those patriots who defended our liberty—both the real ones who fought for our freedoms and those fictional ones who on television and at the movies reminded us what that liberty was all about.

With that in mind, let's take a look back at our 10 favorite sci-fi examples of patriotic film and TV.

Superman returns the American flag to White House

After Kryptonian criminals General Zod, Ursa and Non escaped from the Phantom Zone in 1980's Superman II, the trio traveled to the White House and forced the president to surrender. The Man of Steel was nowhere to be found, as he'd stripped himself of his powers in order to lead a normal life with Lois.

But he eventually rededicated himself to Truth, Justice and the American Way, and in this stirring clip at the film's finale, he restores the American flag to the White House, where he promises us all that "I won't let you down again."

The President rallies the troops in Independence Day

With humanity on the ropes after an alien invasion in Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich's 1996 film, Bill Pullman gets a chance to offer one of cinema's most rousing speeches.

Portraying a president who'd been a former Persian Gulf War fighter pilot himself, he launches "the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind" and promises that future generations will agree "today we celebrate our independence day."

Capt. Kirk teaches the Constitution

In the episode "Omega Glory" from the original Star Trek, William Shatner puts his passionate acting style to good use with a speech worthy of his unique delivery. When the U.S.S. Enterprise responds to a distress call, its crew finds warring tribes whose behaviors have evolved to parallel the Cold War that once existed between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

And how does Kirk bring peace to the Kohms ("Communists") and Yangs ("Yankees")? Why, by reciting the preamble to the U.S. Constitution—which is known on this planet only in a highly distorted form—so that even they may "form a more perfect union."

World War III's fallen soldiers are remembered in Red Dawn

In the final moments of 1984's Red Dawn, after a Russian invasion is put down in part due to a band of teens gone guerrilla, we are told, "We're free now."

In a voice-over, one of the survivors, Erica (Lea Thompson), shows us a memorial plaque and asks that we remember those who "gave up their lives so that this nation shall not perish from the earth."

Tony Stark celebrates America with fireworks in Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr., who stars as a Tony Stark updated from his original Marvel Comics Vietnam roots to a more contemporary Afghanistan, has no problem with being called both "the Da Vinci of our time" and the "merchant of death." All that matters to him, as the film begins, is blowing things up real good.

As as he demonstrates his latest weaponry, demolishing a mountain, he announces that "They say the best weapon is one you never have to fire. I prefer the weapon you only need to fire once." Then he delivers the line that ties it all together and gets him on this list: "That's how America does it."

Adama holds out hope

At the funeral service after the battle at Ragnor, Adm. William Adama of the Battlestar Galactica promises to lead the survivors to Earth. "I know where it is!" says Edward James Olmos in one of the many moving speeches he gave on the series. "Earth—the most guarded secret we have. The location was only known by the senior commanders of the fleet, and we dared not share it with the public."

He wasn't being truthful, but that doesn't matter. By leading the assembled mourners in a repetition of "So say we all," he rededicated them to fighting for all we hold dear.

Babylon 5 declares independence

With a corrupt President Clark transforming the Earth Alliance into a dictatorship, it's up to Babylon 5's Cmdr. John Sheridan, portrayed by Bruce Boxleitner, to take a stand.

As with the Battlestar Galactica clip above, while this might not reflect patriotism on behalf of the U.S. alone, Sheridan's declaration of the right of all people to be free certainly belongs here due to its defense of the values on which this nation was founded.

Zoidberg eats an American flag to prove his love of freedom

In the Futurama episode "A Taste of Freedom," RIchard Nixon's head (you'll see) declares it to be Freedom Day, and the lobster-like alien Zoidberg takes that opportunity to celebrate in his own special way—by eating an American flag! "To express oneself by doing a thing," he declares, "is the very essence of Freedom Day!"

We can't find an embeddable version of the clip, but you can check out the scene here.

A band of brothers prepares to prevent Armageddon

As a team of 14 astronauts launches a mission to destroy an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, the president tells the world that "I address you tonight not as the president of the United States, not as the leader of the country, but as a citizen of humanity."

And yet—it is the president of the United States speaking, after all. And though we see the entire world listening to his inspiring speech, translated into multiple languages, there are those NASA patches, and the lovely Liv Tyler at first worried and then smiling in front of a massive American flag ...

Wonder Woman wins World War II

The pilot to the '70s TV series Wonder Woman began with an old-time newsreel showing Hitler and Mussolini ready to conquer the world, plus footage of Nazi soldiers desecrating an American flag. Witnessing all of this, the narrator exclaims that "the only hope for freedom and democracy is—Wonder Woman!"

As we're introduced to star Lynda Carter in her red, gold and blue outfit, the theme song tells us that she can "stop a bullet cold—make the Axis fold!" And that's exactly what she did, helping to end the Good War. Check out that debut episode here.

Skeet Ulrich channels a famed World War II general's reply in Jericho

Jericho followed the inhabitants of a small town as they dealt with the aftermath of a nuclear war that might have been set off deliberately as part of a government conspiracy. In "Why We Fight," the final episode of the first season, Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) finds himself facing a near-certain defeat against those who would invade his town.

With his father dead, Green replies using the same retort issued by Gen. Anthony Clement McAuliffe when given a German surrender ultimatum during the Battle of the Bulge:

Rumor mill: Live-action Star Wars TV series in preproduction in Australia?

SCI FI Wire's Australian sister site SCI FI TV reports a rumor that preproduction is gearing up for George Lucas' proposed live-action Star Wars series, which is to be shot Down Under.

The site, citing anonymous sources, adds that the show is assembling high-quality writers from the Aussie TV industry, including writers from Love My Way and Secret Life of Us, who have been approached by Lucas' longtime producer Rick McCallum.

The as-yet-untitled series is supposedly set to debut in 2010, though there has been no word of a distributor yet. The series will reportedly be set between the eras of Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope and will not feature any major characters from the film series.

11 hot things you MUST see at Comic-Con in San Diego this month

It won't get any hotter at Comic-Con than Ninja Assassin

Comic-Con can be an overwhelming four days of multimedia spectacle, and unless you can clone yourself or you have access to time travel, there's no way to attend every cool event. That's where we can help.

The schedule's not even out yet, but we've already gotten wind of dozens of must-see happenings. For those of you corporeal beings traveling to San Diego July 22-26, here are SCI FI Wire's recommendations for 11 Comic-Con events not to miss. (The movies, panelists, days and times are all tentative; check Comic-Con's official Web site closer to the convention for the full schedule.)

1) James Cameron and Avatar. Director Cameron will reportedly return to Comic-Con for the first time since some dude handed him a VHS tape when he was promoting Steven Soderbergh's Solaris. This time he has footage of his upcoming 3-D sci-fi epic to show. So far, only a few folk have been privy to this hot property, and Comic-Con is rumored to be trying to equip the San Diego Convention Center's 6,500-seat Hall H with 3-D projectors to accommodate the footage.↓

James Cameron on the set of Avatar

2) Peter Jackson's first-ever appearance. This year marks the director/producer's first physical manifestation in San Diego. He's bringing District 9, the sci-fi allegory he produced and which is directed by Neill Blomkamp (it was teased last year with those cryptic signs saying "Humans only" all over the convention center). Something tells us Jackson will have to field a lot of fanboy questions about the Hobbit movies and maybe even The Lovely Bones.

3) Ninja Assassin. Of all the studios coming to Comic-Con, Warner Brothers will have the most varied and plentiful slate that appeals to the sci-fi fan (Jonah Hex, The Book of Eli, The Box), but the real movie to watch for is Ninja Assassin, the Wachowski brothers' and James McTeigue's martial-arts opus, which takes the well-worn genre and amps it up to a new level of bloody action.

↑ 4) ABC's Lost. Saturday is your last chance to ask executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse questions they won't answer about the final season of the maddeningly elliptical sci-fi series. They're also promising surprise guests. Could it be Maggie Grace, Ian Somerhalder, Dominic Monaghan?

5) V pilot screening. TV fans will face a Sophie's Choice among the new and returning genre shows on display, but the real one to camp out for is the pilot screening of V in Ballroom 20 on Saturday, a first look at ABC's re-imagining of the classic 1980s sci-fi series, featuring Firefly/Serenity's Morena Baccarin as Anna, the alien lizard queen; the show doesn't hit the airwaves until January.↓

6) Doctor Who, David Tennant, in person. In his first appearance, Tennant will co-host a panel with writer/executive producer Russell T. Davies to talk about four Doctor Who specials. (If you're a Torchwood fan, catch star John Barrowman and behind-the-scenes crew later that day in Room 6BCF, just two days after the last episode airs.)

7) Caprica/Battlestar Galactica: The Plan. There will be a panel for SCI FI's upcoming Caprica prequel series, and as well as a trailer for the upcoming prequel movie The Plan, the Edward James Olmos-directed story told from the Cylons' perspective, the first time you'll likely get a glimpse at the film, which doesn't have a firm release date yet.↓

From left: Ron Moore, David Eick, Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos of Battlestar Galactica

8) Tron. Disney will reportedly bring several films to the con, but the must-see event would be a 3-D screening of footage from the new Tron sequel/reboot. (Remember that sneak footage of a light-cycle race last year? That was simply demonstration footage, so you ain't seen nothing yet.)

9) True Blood. The fans will get more access to the cast of this HBO vampire series than the press will, so don't count on us to report any potential season-three scoops from behind the scenes. Season two will be halfway finished by then, so start taking notes now and have something really juicy prepared for your turn at the mic.↓

True Blood

10) Zack Snyder's live Watchmen commentary. If you loved Watchmen, you can view Snyder's full three-hour director's cut for the first time, with the director himself answering questions live at a San Diego theater. The event will also be made accessible remotely through BD Live. Stay up late on Saturday for the midnight screening, which could go until at least 4 a.m.

11) ABC's FlashForward. This highly anticipated fall series, from The Dark Knight writer David Goyer and Star Trek veteran Brannon Braga—the duo behind CBS' Threshold—won't screen at the con, but you'll get a first look at clips from it and get to query members of the all-star cast, which includes Joseph Fiennes, Star Trek's John Cho, Jack Davenport and Sonya Walger, as well as Goyer and show runner Marc Guggenheim.

Bonus item: At 4 p.m. on Friday in Ballroom 20 you can catch a screening of "Epitaph One," the bonus episode of Fox's Dollhouse that was produced for the upcoming DVD but never aired and doesn't fall within the present-day continuity of the show. It's set in the future and features an appearance by Felicia Day, a favorite of show runner Joss Whedon (she is one of the stars of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog).

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