Monday, July 20, 2009

News - 07/20/09...

First 4 Minutes From Green Lantern: First Flight

MTV has posted the first four minutes from the animated Green Lantern: First Flight, coming to Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, July 28th. The film features the voices of Chris Meloni as Hal Jordan, as well as Juliet Landau (Labella), Michael Madsen (Kilowog), Tricia Helfer (Boodikka) and Victor Garber (Sinestro).

Futurama voices to be recast?

No one was more thrilled than us at the news that Comedy Central was resurrecting Futurama with an order of 26 new episodes, to begin airing in 2010.

But now comes news on Forces of Geek that 20th Century Fox Television, which produces the series, may be considering recasting the voice roles. Say it ain't so!

Here's what the site reported:

According to no less than cast members John DiMaggio [Bender], Phil LaMarr [Hermes] and Maurice LaMarche on their Facebook pages, a casting notice has gone out to replace actors DiMaggio, LaMarche, Billy West [Fry] and Katy Sagal [Leela].

Recast Fry and Leela?? And Bender??

It seems clear that Fox is trying to cut costs for the show by hiring lower-paid voice talent—either that or trying to get a leg up on salary negotiations by sending out recasting notices to scare the current talent into rolling over on pay.

But fans may recall that Fox TV tried to muscle the original Simpsons voice cast in a similar fashion. That didn't go so well, so here's hoping the original Futurama cast remains intact.

Two cool new images from Mr. Fox

The French movie site FilmSactu has just posted two great hi-res pictures from The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited director Wes Anderson's stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic kids' book The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The film, adapted by Anderson in collaboration with his The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou co-writer Noah Baumbach (best known for The Squid and the Whale) concerns Mr. Fox trying outwit a cadre of three mean and nasty farmers out to wipeout Mr. Fox, his family, and the families of their woodland neighbors.

The movie stars the voices of George Clooney as Mr. Fox, Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox (replacing Cate Blanchette), Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Defoe, Adrien Brody and Michael Gambon. Anderson had originally planned to do Mr. Fox with Coraline director Henry Selick (who had done the animation for The Life Aquatic, but instead worked with a London-based crew, many of whom had worked with Tim Burton on The Corpse Bride.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox is scheduled to open in November of 2009.

Astro Boy Gets Re-imagined by Imagi

AWN gets a sneak peek at the CG challenges of bringing Astro Boy to the big screen.

Imagi has resurrected Astro Boy as a CG feature. But despite the polish and added dimensionality of the format, he's still a simple-looking heroic icon. All images copyright Imagi Crystal Ltd.

Astro Boy is back! In anticipation of Summit Ent.'s Oct. 23 theatrical release, a select group of online journos recently got a sneak peek at Imagi Animation Studios in Sherman Oaks. Not to worry: they'll be showing off some of the new CG incarnation of Astro Boy next Thursday at Comic-Con 2009 at the San Diego Convention Center (Room 6BCF at 10:45 a.m.).

Introductions were provided by Erin Corbett, president, Imagi Studios U.S./chief marketing officer worldwide; Producer Maryann Garger; Writer/Director David Bowers (Flushed Away); Character Designer Luis Grane (Ratatouille); and Animation Director Jakob Jensen (Flushed Away).

Among the clips, we witnessed the high-tech birth of Astro Boy and lots of action, including the robot trying to fend off yellow jackets and outlast a myriad of attacks. There was also some comic relief supplied by the Fagin-like Ham Egg (Nathan Lane). The animation is certainly a step up from Imagi's last effort, TMNT: it's a lot richer and more sophisticated looking while retaining the core simplicity.

Based on Osamu Tezuka's groundbreaking 1952 manga and popularized by the further groundbreaking '60s anime TV series, Astro Boy is set in the futuristic world of Metro City, a gleaming metropolis in the sky, where scientist Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage) creates Astro Boy (Freddie Highmore) to replace the son he has lost, programming his creation with the best of human characteristics and values, as well as endowing him with extraordinary super powers. Cast out when he cannot meet the grieving father's expectations, Astro Boy is dealt a cruel double blow -- he is also crushed to learn he is a robot, not even a human being.

Astro Boy, who carries within himself the Blue Core, a power source made of positive "blue" energy, is sought out by the troops of the militaristic President Stone (Donald Sutherland), obsessed with obtaining the Core for the "Peacekeeper" robot, in fact invented to be used as a weapon to dominate Earth.

Surrounded by yellow jackets, Astro Boy must save himself as well as humankind. The futuristic design, like everything else, strives to be flat and expressive at the same time.

Fleeing from the military, Astro Boy crashes to the surface of the Earth. Lost and unsure of his identity, Astro Boy simply seeks to fit in. Denying his true nature, he tries to pass himself off as a human being with a gang of child-vagabonds, including street urchin Cora (Kristen Bell). He falls naively under the sway of their leader, Ham Egg in whom he sees a father figure. To Astro Boy's horror, Ham Egg exposes him as a robot and tries to turn him into a robot-gladiator. Through his struggles and adventures, Astro Boy must learn to accept his mixed human-robot nature and his role as mankind's savior.

"It's primarily an origin story," Bowers offered. "It's hard -- it's a very emotional story. Actually, when I started, I wanted to have something to hang all the action and comedy and adventure from so I really went back to the father/son relationship between Astro and his father… This film explores all the problems that come with attempting something like that."

Meanwhile, Grane discussed what influenced his character design. "I had the opportunity to use some of my heroes that I always look at and since we had to create a lot of new characters and robots and sets and props for the CG, I used some of the basic shapes from Noguchi, the Japanese/American sculptor that I've always loved. And some classic Japanese artists like Hokusai and Kurioshi. They all have something in common -- they feature really simple shapes that are flat and expressive at the same time. Of course, we had many characters from the manga to use. And the biggest challenge was to create this super flat and 2D style into 3D, so for that, I used a lot of influences, including from Western Mexico that I really like.

"You have these really elongated shapes -- almost like caricatures -- that I used for robots and different characters. If I had to do a robot or a building or a tree for this movie, I went for basic shapes inspired by some of these artists, and also inspired by Tezuka's work. And then I created shapes within the shapes. We had 30 robots that are everywhere, so it was fun to explore different shapes. I didn't want to just use anthropomorphic robots but also very abstract shapes."

They found a new costume for Astro Boy so it didn't appear like he was flying around in his underwear.

Of course, the biggest challenge was the iconic Astro Boy himself -- and the Argentinean admitted that he was afraid of ruining it. "At the beginning, they wanted to make him a little older than the original one to appeal to a broader audience, so we tried different things. One of the big issues was having him with the classic costume, so they were concerned about seeing a boy flying in underwear, so we put clothes on, but which clothes? So we came up with different costumes. "

They were also concerned about his appearance. One early model had him as a 12-year-old, but he looked 30, so they changed the proportions while retaining the essence of the character. And the final version displays some of the original powers, but with a more modern high-tech sensibility, including the somewhat controversial "butt cannon."

"One of other characters, Dr. Tenma, has the Jacometti influence: he looks like a stick from the front but in profile takes on more dimensionality. A big problem was with Dr. Elefun [Bill Nighy]. He has a balloon nose that you can cheat in 2D by moving it around, but, in 3D, it stays in the same place and you can't see the eyes. So we had to work on it."

We were shown a series of walk cycles and rigging and blocking tests by Jensen. "The main challenge was to maintain the simplicity so inherent in the original. We very quickly figured that this trash can character [a robotic dog] was going to be golden for us because he's limited in his movement and we had to figure out the [balance between the mechanical and the organic and keeping him cute]. When we decided to approach Freddy Highmore for the voice, I decided to put together a little test from August Rush to see how it would feel with his voice coming out of our character."

From what we glimpsed, it proved to be a good match.

(Thanks AWN)

Chick Picks Up Annecy Award

Written, animated and directed by Michal Socha, Chick is a short film about relationships - all based on a true story. The film picked up the Sacem Award at this year’s Annecy festival, which recognizes the best in original music. Here’s a clip:

Cartoon Saloon Urges You To Go For It

The gang at Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon have added their animation chops to a new Invest Northern Ireland campaign. The Go For It program promoted in this spot encourages individuals and small teams to start their own business, and offers advice on how to kick it off.

A Peek at Inventorium of Traces by Brothers Quay

Timothy and Stephen Quay, the identical Brother Quay, have produced a number of award-winning stop-motion films in their now careers, which span 4 decades. Their most recent stop-motion project is titled Inventorium of Traces, and it’s billed as a documentary; an homage to Jan Potocki’s novel The Manuscript Found in Saragossa. Here’s a segment from the 23 minute project:

Derriman Teams Up With Reg Reagan

Bernard Derriman has been on an uploading tear these days. He shared handfuls of Kenny’s World clips, and he also unleashed this cricket short, titled The Adventures of Reg Reagan. Reg Reagan is a character played by former former rugby league star Mattew Johns, whose tag line was Bring Back the Biff. Aside from an alleged group sex scandal, it appears that Johns has become quite the popular comedy star in Australia, and Derriman has teamed up with Johns on this animated short below. The two also teamed up for this animated beer advert.

New '9' Clip Means More Post-Apocalyptic Ragdoll Fun!

FROM MOVIES BLOG: The computer animated fantasy "9," from Oscar-nominated short director Shane Acker, has me pretty excited. For starters, the art style is wild. There's also the not-insignificant fact that Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov (director of "Wanted") produced the thing. Have you seen anything from it yet? No? Check this craziness out:


This is the grave marker for Alfred Harvey (1913-1994), founder of Harvey Comics, who is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Westchester County in New York. (Click on image to see larger picture).

I’m tempted to make some bad taste wisecracks about friendly ghosts, or how this headstone replaced an earlier one marked “Noveltoons”… but I gotta admit, that’s a really cool tombstone.

(Thanks, Mark Arnold)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Warren Ellis Has Something To Do With Four (!) New Marvel Anime TV Series, Including An IRON MAN And A WOLVERINE!!

The brilliant funnybook writer and novelist Warren Ellis (“The Authority,” “Global Frequency,” “Planetary,” “Astonishing X-Men,” “Ignition City,” “Mek,” “Red,” “Reload,” “Iron Man: Extremis,” “newuniversal,” “Ultimate Fantastic Four,” “Ultimate Galactus,” “Ocean,” “Orbiter,” “Jack Cross,” “Ministry of Space,” “Fell,” “Gravel,” “Dark Blue,” “Scars,” “Wolfskin,” “Blackgas,” “FreakAngels,” “No Hero”), appears to be involved in scripting four (!) new Marvel Anime series, one of which deals with Iron Man and another that follows around Wolverine.

These are apparently being made for Japanese TV, but I can’t imagine they won’t find their ways to English-speaking territories if Ellis is scripting them.

Ellis’ involvement may have something to do with the success of his recent and acclaimed PG-13 animated movie “G.I. Joe: Resolute.”

Look! Press release!

Marvel Entertainment Inc. and Madhouse Present an Exclusive Sneak Peek at the Re-imagining of Marvel’s Legendary Super Heroes


Get an Exciting First-Look at the All New Anime Iron Man and Wolverine At the Marvel Animation Panel on Friday, July 24 at 4:30 PM

CULVER CITY, CA (7/15/09) - Marvel Entertainment Inc., has partnered with renowned Japanese animation studio Madhouse (
Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers) to create four all new anime versions of classic Marvel Super Heroes. Get an exciting first glimpse of two of the planned four series at this year’s Comic-Con International, the country's leading comics and popular arts convention. The Marvel Animation Panel will be held on Friday, July 24, and will include an exclusive first look at official teaser trailers for two of these new series, hosted by writer and multiple-Eagle Award winner Warren Ellis, who will appear to discuss writing the all new adventures of these re-imagined Super Heroes.

These Marvel Anime TV series are being created as a way of merging the beloved Marvel Super Heroes of western culture with the bold animation tradition of Japan. The resulting product will be four visually groundbreaking anime series featuring popular Super Heroes redesigned and repurposed as emerging from the fabric of Japanese culture. The series is expected to begin appearing on the Animax channel in Japan in spring of 2010.

The Marvel Animation Panel with run from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on
Friday, July 24, at the San Diego Convention Center. An autograph signing with Ellis will follow the panel at Marvel’s Comic-Con booth #2429.

Madhouse, Inc., established in 1972 with offices in Tokyo, Los Angeles and Beijing, is one of the top animation studios in the world working exclusively with some of Japan’s top anime directors. They have created many well-known titles such as worldwide hits
Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D, Trigun, Tokyo Godfathers, and Metropolis, Japanese successful TV series such as “Death Note” and “Nana”, as well as Paprika (an Official Selection at the 2006 Venice Film Festival) and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2007 Japanese Academy Award for Best Film – Animation) Marvel Entertainment, Inc. is one of the world's most prominent character-based entertainment companies, built on a proven library of over 5,000 characters featured in a variety of media over seventy years. Marvel utilizes its character franchises in licensing, entertainment (via Marvel Studios and Marvel Animation) and publishing (via Marvel Comics). Marvel's strategy is to leverage its franchises in a growing array of opportunities around the world, including feature films, consumer products, toys, video games, animated television, direct-to-DVD and online.

No word yet on how many episodes will comprise each series, nor how many episodes, if any, Ellis will be scripting.

Ellis’s panel, which frustratingly runs opposite the LucasFilm and Whedon panels, will be held in Room 6BCF.

(Thanks Aint It Cool)

Walter Cronkite Dead at 92

Pioneering newsman and managing editor of the CBS Evening News for nearly twenty years, and the most trusted man in America, Walter Cronkite has passed away at 92 years of age. Walter Cronkite's voice provided the backdrop for many of America's best, brightest, saddest and most trying moments, and the bonds of trust he forged across three decades with millions of CBS News viewers remain the unattainable gold standard of his profession.

When Cronkite replaced Douglas Edwards as anchor of the CBS Evening News on April 16, 1962, that he began the role for which he will be most remembered.

An early defining moment came Nov. 22, 1963, with the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas. Cronkite, in shirt sleeves with his tie loosened, announced word of the president's death.

“From Dallas, Texas, the flash — apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2 o'clock Eastern Standard Time, a half hour ago,” he said.

He removed his glasses as he spoke, and he later wrote, “The words stuck in my throat. A sob wanted to replace them. A gulp or two quashed the sob, which metamorphosed into tears forming at the corners of my eyes. I fought back the emotion and regained my professionalism, but it was touch and go there for a few seconds before I could continue.”

Five years later, his observations about the United States' military efforts in Vietnam, as delivered in a CBS special report on Feb. 27, 1968, after a visit to South Vietnam during the Tet offensive, was seen as a turning point in American public opinion.

“To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past,” he said. “To suggest that we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.

“It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out, then, will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.”

As President Lyndon Johnson listened to the broadcast, according to aide Bill Moyers, he said, “If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America.”

In 1979, he informed CBS management that he intended to retire in November 1981, when he turned 65. He restated those plans in 1981 and agreed to step down in March, rather than November, to ensure that CBS could keep his successor, Dan Rather, from jumping to another network.

He delivered his trademark sign off, “And that's the way it is,” for the last time on March 6, 1981.

Cronkite voiced Ben Franklin in the DIC Entertainment series Liberty's Kids in 2002. He also paid tribute to Charlie Brown in 2000's Here's To You, Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years.

Marty Sklar honored with Window on Main Street

On the occasion of this Disney Legend’s retirement, Jim Hill uses a Newsreel from 1983 to reflect on the Company’s past, present and future

Early this morning, Martin A. Sklar’s friends & family gathered at Disneyland. Where this Disney Legend was then honored with his very own Window on Main Street.

And it was kind of appropriate that Marty spent his last official day as a Disney employee at the very place where his career with the Company began back in the Summer of 1955. Just a few doors down from where – as a 21-year-old recruited straight out of UCLA – Sklar used to churn out copy for the Disneyland News.

Walt Disney Imagineering Ambassador Martin A. Sklar.
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Now you have to understand that – by staying with The Walt Disney Company for 53 years – Marty was a member of a pretty exclusive club. By that I mean: Only a handful of employees managed to stay on at the Mouse House for 50+ years.

“And just who was the first to achieve this milestone?,” you ask. Well, I had to dig through a pile of old Disney Newsreels (i.e. the official in-house newsletter for Walt Disney Studios employees) before I finally uncovered the answer to that question in the June 10, 1983 issue.

And – as it turns – Disney Legend Eric Larson (who – at that time – was Animation Training Director at the Studios) was the first person to work for the Company for five decades plus. In recognition of this achievement, studio employees on June 1st, 1983 all wore buttons featuring Larsen’s caricature.

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There was also a special luncheon held in Eric’s honor in the Studio’s Gold Room. Where then-Walt Disney Productions president Ron Miller presented Larson with the Company’s first-ever 50-year service award.

Eric Larson (L) is presented with a 50-year service award by Ron Miller.
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

But you know what else was interesting about this particular issue of the Disney Newsreel? Check out the cover story:

Experimenting with Computer Generated Graphics

Disney’s animated cartoons have been extremely popular in the past, focusing strictly on drawn animation in a carefully realistic style. The release of “TRON” last summer has indicated that Disney artists are beginning to experiment with new animation technologies and techniques.

“TRON” was the first motion picture to incorporate an extensive use of computer-generated graphics. At the time of the production of the film, the state-of-the-art images that the computer produced were too metallic and precise. Because of these characteristics, the computer’s application was ideally suited for the “environment” of “TRON,” but totally inappropriate for the organic and “dreary” look of “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

One of the challenges presented to Disney animators today is to create computer-generated images with a human or animated element. It is the challenge Glen Keane and John Lasseter are accepting.

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Based on Maurice Sendak’s award-winning children's book, “Where the Wild Things Are,” Glen and John are combining drawn animation and computer images in a series of film tests.

The “Wild Things” test is done by encoding characters’ and background perspectives and the changing position of the camera into the computer. MAGI Sythavision Inc. (Mathematical Applications Group Inc.) artists and technicians create simple groups of geometric shapes that represent the basic form of the characters and put them in a computer-generated model of the set. This is all done according to the position of the camera as it follows the action in the film, and these resulting images are photographed. Drawings are electronically encoded back into the computer which places them in the correct positions within the set in each frame. The computer will also color the animated drawings, adding shadows and highlights according to the animator’s instructions. This entire image is photographed on film by the computer for the final product.

The entire process gives the perspective of a three-dimensional cartoon, with the camera moving in and around obstacles in the environment.

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

The “Wild Things” test is being done to determine the success of both animator and computer interacting with one another. Disney animators want to see if this technology can be incorporated to enhance or even re-design the traditional “animated cartoon.”

According to the head of Disney’s Special Visual Effects, Lee Dyer, “[Motion Picture Production Vice President] Tom Wilhite is encouraging us to try different things.”

John, Joe Ranft and Brian McEntee are developing “The Brave Little Toaster,” which in its final form could become a 70-minute full-length feature film. “Basically, ‘Wild Things’ is a test piece, “ explains John, “ but we would like to use this technique for ‘The Brave Little Toaster.’ “

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Part of the problem with expediting the film’s production is the limited ability Disney has to create computer-generate images. All work in the past has been done by outside computer imagery firms.

The combination of computer-generated graphics and Disney animation is in its very basic stages of what it could eventually become. John reports that, “In five years these tests will seem so primitive, they’ll look like ‘Steamboat Willie’ does today.” But just as “Steamboat Willie” gave Disney the recognition as a forerunner in animation technology some 50 years ago, “The Wild Things” test and “The Brave Little Toaster” have the potential to give Disney similar recognition in the future.

Now I have to admit that I find it a trifle bizarre to come across this particular story just a week before Comic-Con. Where Warner Bros. will be hyping Spike Jonze’s live-action version of “Where the Wild Things Are.” More importantly, where Walt Disney Pictures will be talking up its sequel to “TRON.”

(L to R) John Lasseter & Glen Keane at Walt Disney Animation Studios in the Summer of 1983.
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

But you know what really gets to me? How young John & Glen look in the above picture. Here’s hoping that some enterprising animation fan is able to print out this image and then persuade Lasseter & Keane to sign a copy of this picture at their respective panels in San Diego next Thursday.

Oops … Sorry … I guess I got distracted there for a moment. Today’s story is supposed to honor Marty Sklar. Who – during his last official day as Walt Disney Imagineering Ambassador – definitely deserves some pomp and circumstances. A little song and dance.

And speaking of dance … I wonder if – as Marty thinks back on what Disneyland was like on Opening Day – he ever recalls the work that Miriam Nelson did.

The Mouseketeers perform at Disneyland's opening day.
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Miriam (for those of you who don’t know) was the official choreographer for the “Dateline: Disneyland” TV special that aired on ABC on July 17, 1955. And in the years that followed, Ms. Nelson choreographed a lot of shows & ceremonies for “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Most noticeably the Golden Horseshoe Revue. (To learn more about Miriam Nelson’s career with the Company, I suggest that you swing on by today. Where Scott Wolf has just posted a terrific interview with this show business veteran.)

Getting back to Marty now … Here’s hoping that Mr. Sklar enjoyed that ceremony earlier this morning. Given that – for years now – Marty was the guy who decided which longtime employees would receive a Window on Main Street … Well, it’s only appropriate that Sklar now be singled out for this honor.

Anyway … Happy trails, Marty. Thanks for all those years you put in at the Company. Here’s hoping that – when you finally get around to writing that book of yours – you can look back fondly at all the time you spent in the Mouse House.

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

SpongeBob SquarePants 10th Anniversary Coverage Around the News

Several different media outlets are covering the 10th anniversary SpongeBob SquarePants festivities, which began July 17, 2009:

* - The Mercury News follows many news outlets and provides an extended recap of the Square Roots documentary, chronicling SpongeBob's rise to fame.
* - The Boston Globe speaks with SpongeBob creator Steve Hillenburg about how he went from a marine biologist to creator of one of the most popular cartoons in Nickelodeon's history.
* - Elsewhere, the Boston Herald speaks quickly with Tom Kenny on being the voice of the famous sponge.

Alan Burnett Discusses "Green Lantern: First Flight" With The World's Finest In New Interview

The World's Finest has conducted an all-new interview with writer Alan Burnett for the upcoming Green Lantern: First Flight animated feature.

Let's kick things off with the easiest of questions - how did you get this gig? Was it fresh off your work on The Batman?

There was development on Green Lantern that was coming to end. They were looking for a new “take,” and I was driving my car to lunch, thinking about it, and a simple notion struck me. I sent off a two-sentence email to the powers-that-be, and suddenly I was writing it. Simple ideas are always the best.

It's been cited that Green Lantern: First Flight isn't the standard origin story movie (Like Wonder Woman). When writing this story, how did you avoid the trappings of presenting a standard origin story but also making sure that those new to the properties would be able to get an understanding of who Hal Jordan is as he takes off into space?

The nuts and bolts of the origin are over before the credits (which, by the way, look pretty nifty - Peter Girardi designed them). I had written a more involved origin, which had to be cut for time, but what’s there should suffice for the uninitiated.

Since Green Lantern may not be as familiar as Batman to the casual buyer, does that make the job of writing a story harder, knowing that this is something that needs to pop out and grab the attention of those who have never heard of Green Lantern?

I wrote this thinking people really want to see Green Lantern. They’re ready for something new.

Now, in previous interviews, it's been stated that Green Lantern: First Flight starts on Earth, stays there for about ten minutes, and there we're off on this intergalactic space journey. What kind of visuals (and even audio cues) can we expect to see as we head into the universe with these characters? Will we be seeing and hearing things we've never seen before in a DC Comics animated program?

Yes, many new things. But don’t you want to be surprised? I haven’t read every Green Lantern comic book, but there are some scenes where I thought, “They’ve never done this before.”

The Green Lantern mythos are full of countless characters, including Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kilowog, the Guardians, and countless others. Can we expect to see the vast mythos, and massive amount of characters that come with it, given their due?

You won’t see any other human Lanterns besides Hal, because this is his story. You will see a lot of aliens – Kilowog, Ch’p, Arisia, and other fan favorites. We’ll save Guy for “Second Flight.”

As a semi-follow-up to the previous question, Sinestro is seen wearing his "Sinestro Corp" uniform. Is it safe to say this film pays homage to that spectacular comic storyline? Can we expect other such homages to Green Lantern's history?

The Sinestro uniform is less an homage, I think, than a nod. I’d love for Warners to do “Sinestro Corp” some day. It should be a DTV mini-series. You know, there are many DC graphic novels one would love to make, but are too complicated to translate into one 75-minute DVD. Some day I hope we’ll be able to play them out over several DVD’s. (If that sounds like I’m instigating a letter-writing campaign, so be it.)

Some viewers have noted that Green Lantern was already given a hefty storyline in the recent Justice League: The New Frontier DTV (Of course, the same could be said of Wonder Woman). What was the reason behind given Green Lantern his own animated movie?

He’s never had one!

You've worked on nearly every DC Comics-related animation project since the end days of Superfriends in the 1980s. What has the evolution of these series been like, comparing the shows then to the shows and DTVs of today? What's improved? What hasn't?

Well, it’s like an evolution from pre-school to adulthood. The ‘70’s and ‘80’s were a different time, a different planet. I, by the way, think there should always be room for super hero animation for pre-schoolers and grade schoolers, and that DC characters should be part of that. I cannot tell you the pleasure I got out of producing “Krypto, the Superdog.” I hadn’t played to 5-year-olds for a long time, and it was very liberating knowing that a lot of super hero conventions would be new to them. I can still remember at age 5 loving “Tom Terrific.” It was the only reason besides “Clutch Cargo” to watch that kangaroo guy and his lame-o bear.

These DTVs have become a great avenue for creators to work on stories they've always wanted to, whether adapting comic stories or creating original work. Is there any story you've been aching to tell, either one of your own or a story adapted from a comic?

This is a hard question, because I don’t want to give away stories we are developing here at Warner Bros., which are adaptations, and a lot of plots and scenes that I love from comics have already found their way into our shows. Probably my favorite comic book story is “The Death of Superman” – an imaginary story from the ‘60’s, which still holds up today. (I don’t think Luthor’s ever been more vicious.) And I re-tooled that early on in the last season of “Superfriends.”

In previous interviews, we've discussed writing more adult-themed stories and writing all-ages friendly tales. For you, when it comes to writing, do you find yourself writing a script and then including more adult-themes after the thought, or do you find yourself toning your work down to make it more all-ages friendly?

You know what audience you’re writing for at the get-go, and my philosophy is to push the envelope for them as you’re writing, not after the fact. You can always pull back later.

Now, as we slowly bring this Q & A to an end, is there one thing you can tease us about for Green Lantern: First Flight that we haven't yet heard of? Any surprises or shocking twists to tease? Another reason for us to charge into the streets on July 28th to get this animated feature first thing?

I’ll tell you this, though there are laughs, the story gets quite dark, and the action bigger and bigger. The final fight stretches across an entire solar system.

And for those who haven’t been reading press releases, Christopher Meloni is Green Lantern and Victor Garber is Sinestro. Bruce Timm produces and Lauren Montgomery directs. Need I say more?

To wrap up, care to spill details on any upcoming projects you currently have in the works?

I’m overseeing DVD script development right now at Warner Bros. Animation, and having a great time working with notable comic book writers. When I’m not doing that, I’m reading graphic novels. Nice work if you can get it, eh?

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet

I love Michel Gagne’s work - either as still drawings or animated. Here’s his latest animated piece:

Gagne writes more about this forthcoming video game project on his blog.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Updated: "Futurama" Voice Cast May Not Return for New Episodes in 2010

The Hollywood Reporter is stating that new actors are being auditioned for the Futurama cast for the return of the show on Comedy Central in 2010. 20th Century Fox TV issued a statement saying that they could not meet the salary demands of the original cast members John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Billy West, Tress MacNeille and Katey Sagal, with unnamed sources claiming that a deal may yet be made and that the actors were "seeking at least a tenfold increase of what they made when the animated series ran on Fox from 1999-2003."

Elsewhere, Forces of Geek has reposted FOX's full "call sheet" for the auditions, and Voice Actors in the News has a response from voice actor Bob Bergen.

Update: 7.18.2009 -- Variety has an article published prior to The Hollywood Reporter's which contradicts THR's claim that the actors were "seeking...a tenfold increase":

The stars had all expressed interest in returning. But with the budget for "Futurama" dramatically slashed, the salary offers came in well below what the thesps were asking.

As a result, 20th has put out a casting call to find replacement voice actors for the show.

The situation is unusual this time around in that 20th and Comedy Central have been kicking around ways to make
"Futurama," originally produced for a broadcast network (Fox), make financial sense for a cable run. Yet there's also still a possibility -- and a window built in -- for "Futurama" to run on a broadcast network first.

It's believed that the
"Futurama" cast members were asking for around $75,000 per episode; it was not clear what 20th was offering. Calls to the voice stars' reps were not immediately returned.

Furthermore, Mark Evanier ( has a well-written article on the subject which also disputes The Hollywood Reporter's claim:

You may have heard that the popular animated series Futurama is going back into production for new episodes. This is so. You may also have heard that the entire voice act is being replaced. This is almost certainly not so, though the production company has announced that they'd welcome submissions of voice demos by folks who think they can do the characters. Allow me to explain...

What this all means is that members of the voice cast (Billy West, Maurice LaMarche and others) are asking for certain amounts of money higher than Fox wishes to pay. Fox no doubt thinks (or for the purposes of negotiation, is taking the position) that the amounts are insane and astronomical. This is unlikely. All these actors have wise and experienced agents who know how profitable
Futurama has been in the past and how much loot it will likely gross in the future, and what would be a fair price for its vocal stars.

The company does not want to replace those actors. Those actors helped make the show popular enough that it's still a viable commodity, [but] they'd like those actors for less money because that will mean more money for the company. That is why they're soliciting replacements, not because they want replacements but because they want to plant the seed of fret; to make the actors and their reps wonder if maybe, just maybe, Fox is crazy enough to actually replace the whole cast with cheaper folks so they'd better grab the latest of what have probably been several final offers.

The Lion of Judah

Variety is reporting on an animation boom in South Africa, focusing its article around the country’s first CGI feature, The Lion of Judah. The “faith-based” film is being readied for a U.S. release in November, through a new company called Animated Family Films headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida.

The movie stars the voice of Ernest Borgnine (Spongebob’s own Mermaid Man) and is being produced at Cape Town’s Character Matters studio. According to the Variety article, the studio is desperate for qualified animators to join their team. One look at the trailer will demonstrate how desperate. The one sheet poster is also pretty bad.

Which reminds me - my Worst Cartoons Ever! screening is Friday night, 9pm at the San Diego Comic Con. Don’t miss it!

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Half-Blood Prince smashes records as number one

The sixth Harry Potter movie, The Half-Blood Prince, lived up to expectation by taking in an estimated $159.7 million at the domestic box office since opening on Wednesday, the second-highest start ever for a movie premiering midweek (after Transformers: The Revenge of the Fallen).

That included $79.5 million for the three-day July 17 weekend, the Associated Press reported:

The movie also took in $237 million overseas since Wednesday in 54 countries, bringing its worldwide total to $396.7 million.

With some of the best reviews of any Harry Potter movie, Half-Blood Prince was off to the fastest overall start in franchise history.

The sixth movie about the young wizard came in $20 million ahead of the last movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which grossed $139.7 million domestically in its first five days two years ago. ...

By the end of its seventh day Tuesday, Half-Blood Prince will be in the $180 million range on its way to becoming the franchise's first $300 million domestic smash since the original movie, 2001's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, said Dan Fellman, Warner head of distribution.

Abrams Star Trek DVD/Blu-Ray Is Packed With Features

While not the most sophisticated science fiction movie ever made, it was a lot of fun to watch. Paramount Home Entertainment has announced all of the features that will be included in the DVD and 2 or 3 disc Blu-Ray edition of Star Trek on November 17th.

Here the press release!

$375 Million Worldwide Sensation Beams Up to a Single and Two-Disc DVD and Three-Disc Blu-ray November 17, 2009

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – This year audiences thrilled at the triumphant voyage of the Starship Enterprise and her young and vibrant crew in movie theaters across the planet—and on November 17, 2009, the world will go where no one has gone before when STAR TREK debuts as a three-disc Blu-ray with digital copy, two-disc DVD with digital copy and a single-disc DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment. Bursting with “spectacular action” (Hollywood Reporter) and “pure filmmaking exhilaration” (Rolling Stone) director J.J. Abrams’ sensational reinvention of the “Star Trek” franchise was hailed by critics and embraced by long-time and new fans alike, earning over $375 million at the worldwide box office. Starring a hot young cast including Chris Pine (Carriers), Zachary Quinto (”Heroes”), Zoe Saldana (Avatar), Karl Urban (The Bourne Supremacy), John Cho (Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle), Anton Yelchin (Terminator Salvation) and Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead), the global smash hit also features seasoned actors such as Eric Bana (Munich), Bruce Greenwood (National Treasure: Book of Secrets), Winona Ryder (Girl, Interrupted) and the original Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy.

“I cannot wait for fans of Star Trek to check out the home entertainment release of the film. The behind-the-scenes features on the DVD -- and especially the Blu-ray -- give a wonderful look at the crazy hard work and incredible fun that went into making this movie,” said J.J. Abrams. “The cast and crew were truly extraordinary to work with -- watching these special features, you'll see why. And for people who didn't catch Star Trek in the theater, I hope they do now, as Paramount has done an exceptional job with this release; the picture and sound quality are both excellent.”

The STAR TREK DVD and Blu-ray will boast out-of-this-world special features to take viewers even further into the new universe of the rousing space adventure. The two-disc DVD and three-disc Blu-ray include in-depth explorations of the reimagining of the franchise, the phenomenal cast, the spectacularly real action sequences, the powerful score and the captivating aliens, commentary by J.J. Abrams, the writers and producers, a gag reel and a digital copy of the film. Additionally, the discs feature compelling deleted scenes that reveal a side story involving Nero with a first-ever look at Abrams’ version of the infamous warrior Klingons.

The STAR TREK Blu-ray boldly ventures beyond the final frontier with over three hours of sensational bonus footage including branching pods that allow for enhanced exploration, more fascinating features on the starships, planets, props, costumes and sound of STAR TREK, as well as a Starfleet Vessel Simulator and access to the latest NASA news about real-life space exploration via BD-Live.

The two-disc DVD and three-disc Blu-ray will also offer a home entertainment first: groundbreaking augmented reality technology. Using a webcam, a Star Trek visual cue will morph into a 3D holographic tour of the U.S.S. Enterprise on the screen, providing a unique immersive and interactive experience.

The STAR TREK two-disc DVD is presented in widescreen enhanced for 16:9 televisions with Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround, French 5.1 Surround and Spanish 5.1 Surround with English, French and Spanish subtitles. Special features are as follows:

Disc 1:
• Commentary
—By director J.J. Abrams, writers Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, producer Damon Lindelof and executive producer Bryan Burk.
• A New Vision— J.J. Abrams’ vision was not only to create a Star Trek that was a bigger, more action-packed spectacle, but also to make the spectacle feel real. Every aspect of production—from unique locations to the use of classic Hollywood camera tricks—was guided by this overall objective.
• Gag Reel—Bloopers featuring the entire principal cast.

Disc 2:
• Digital Copy
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary

o Spock Birth
o Klingons Take Over Narada
o Young Kirk, Johnny and Uncle Frank
o Amanda and Sarek Argue After Spock Fights
o Prison Interrogation and Breakout
o Sarek Gets Amanda
o Dorm Room and Kobayashi Maru (original version)
o Kirk Apologizes to the Green Girl
o Sarek Sees Spock
• To Boldly Go— Taking on the world’s most beloved science fiction franchise was no small mission. Director J.J. Abrams, writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, producer Damon Lindelof, and executive producer Bryan Burk talk about the many challenges they faced and their strategy for success.
• Casting— The producers knew their greatest task was finding the right cast to reprise these epic roles. The cast, for their part, talk about the experience of trying to capture the essence of these mythic characters. The piece concludes with a moving tribute to Leonard Nimoy.
• Aliens— Designers Neville Page and Joel Harlow talk about the hurdles they faced creating new alien species, recreating the Romulans and Vulcans, and designing the terrifying creatures on Delta Vega for the new Star Trek.
• Score— As a fan of the original series, composer Michael Giacchino embraced the challenge of creating new music for Star Trek while preserving the spirit of Alexander Courage’s celebrated theme.
• DVD-Rom:
o STAR TREK® D-A-C Free Trial Game for XBOX 360®
o Weblink to the STAR TREK® D-A-C Free Trial Game for PC
o Weblink to the STAR TREK® D-A-C Free Trial Game for PlayStation® Network

Disc 1:
• Commentary—By director J.J. Abrams, writers Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, producer Damon Lindelof and executive producer Bryan Burk.
• NASA News— This BD-Live feature gives viewers access to the latest NASA news about real space exploration. Learn about new mission developments and check out featured imagery from around the universe.

Disc 2: • To Boldly Go—See description above.
o Branching Pods:
• The Shatner Conundrum
• Red Shirt Guy
• The Green Girl
• Trekker Alert!
• Casting
—See description above.
• A New Vision—See description above.
o Branching Pods:
• Savage Pressure
• Starships
—Abrams and production designer Scott Chambliss were careful to pay tribute to the design of the original Enterprise, but they also wanted to make it futuristic and cool for a modern audience. This chapter focuses on the unique stories behind the creation of the film’s starships.
o Branching Pods:
• Warp Explained
• Paint Job
• Bridge Construction Accelerated
• The Captain’s Chair • Button Acting 101
• Shuttle Shuffle
• Narada Construction Accelerated
• Aliens
—See description above.
o Branching Pods:
• The Alien Paradox
• Big-Eyed Girl
• Big Bro Quinto
• Klingons
• Drakoulias Anatomy 101
• Planets
— >From the frozen landscape of Delta Vega to the desert plains of Vulcan, Scott Chambliss and the art department had a number of radically different planets to create. Abrams’ desire to shoot on real locations whenever possible led the production team to a number of strange and surprising locations.
o Branching Pods:
• Extra Business
• Confidentiality
• Props and Costumes
— Property master Russell Bobbitt had the unique challenge of designing props that were both true to the original series and pertinent to today’s technology. Likewise, costume designer Michael Kaplan talks about how he designed costumes that paid homage to what came before yet were relevant and timeless.
o Branching Pods:
• Klingon Wardrobe
• Ben Burtt and the Sounds of Star Trek— When famed sound designer Ben Burtt was hired to create sounds for the first Star Wars film, he took his inspiration from the original “Star Trek” series. Burtt jumped at the opportunity to pay tribute to the sounds that sparked his career with the sounds he created for the new Star Trek.
• Score—See description above.
• Gene Roddenberry’s Vision— J.J. Abrams, Leonard Nimoy, previous Star Trek writers and producers, and scientific consultant Carolyn Porco describe and commend the optimistic and enduring vision of Gene Roddenberry.
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary—See details above.
• Starfleet Vessel Simulator—Explore extensive data on the U.S.S. Enterprise and the Romulan ship, the Narada. Submerse yourself in breathtaking 360° views and close-ups and review detailed tech information.
• Gag Reel—See description above.

Disc 3:
• Digital Copy
• STAR TREK® D-A-C Free Trial Game for XBOX 360®
• Weblink to the STAR TREK® D-A-C Free Trial Game for PC
• Weblink to the STAR TREK® D-A-C Free Trial Game for PlayStation® Network

The STAR TREK single-disc DVD is presented in widescreen enhanced for 16:9 televisions with Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround, French 5.1 Surround and Spanish 5.1 Surround with English, French and Spanish subtitles. The single-disc DVD includes the commentary, “A New Vision” and the gag reel.

Battlestar: The Plan Blu-ray drops Oct. 27

Universal Studios Home Entertainment announced that it will release a Blu-ray version of Battlestar Galactica: The Plan on Oct. 27, the same day the one-off telefilm drops on DVD.

The Plan is directed by and stars Edward James Olmos. Jane Espenson wrote the screenplay. It recaps the story of the destruction of the human Colonies from the point of view of the Cylons. The new discs will include the uncensored 90-minute feature film.

The cast also includes Michael Trucco, Aaron Douglas, Dean Stockwell, Tricia Helfer, Grace Park, Rick Worthy, Matthew Bennett, Callum Keith Rennie, Michael Hogan and Rekha Sharma.

Extras include:

My Scenes: Bookmark your favorite scenes from the movie.
Battlestar Galactica trivia game.
♦Deleted scenes .
"From Admiral to Director: Edward James Olmos and the Plan": A day in the life with Olmos as he tackles the most ambitious Battlestar production to date.
"The Cylons of the Plan": Features interviews with the actors who play the film's key Cylons, including Stockwell, Helfer, Park, Trucco, Worthy and Bennett.
"The Cylon Attack": This featurette takes viewers behind the scenes for the planning and execution of one of Battlestar Galactica: The Plan's major action sequences.
"Behind the Plan": An in-depth look at some stunning visual effects and the role post-production plays in bringing the world of Battlestar Galactica to life.
♦Filmmaker commentary.

Lawsuit Might Stop The Hobbit

The Tolkien Heirs want their damn money, and they are ready to pull the plug on both Hobbit films if that's what it takes...

If there's one thing I learned from the way Lord Of The Rings was released by New Line, it's that New Line's accountant were either incredibly dumb or some of the most evil people on the planet.

Peter Jackson himself sued New Line in 2005 for under-paying him on The Fellowship of The Ring. In 2007, Jackson settled for an undisclosed amount. Saul Zaentz, a producer who once owned film rights to the LOTR story also sued New Line over his share of the receipts and settled in 2005 for $168 million.

And this was all before Warner Bros. sucked up the studio.

Once again it's legal mumbo-jumbo time on Latino Review. Let's begin!

- In 1969 J.R.R. Tolkien sold the film rights to his work to United Artists for $250,000 and 7.5% of the gross after a studio recoups their expense. That much is known. The Tolkien Heirs and their charity group The Tolkien Trust also insist that the original contract let Tolkien revoke the rights to additional films in the event of a breach of contract.

- MGM bought out United Artists, absorbing the rights and keeping international distribution rights on the film while selling production rights to New Line, who hired Peter Jackson, etc.

- The Lord Of The Rings films gross an estimated $6 billion dollars (to date). New Line gets sucked up into Warner Bros. The Tolkien Heirs know that after the studio re-couped 2.6x their production budget, the estate is entitled to 7.5%.

- Time Warner doesn't pay out, so the Tolkien estate sues for $220 million dollars. The studio says the original contract is vague, so they're only going to hand over 20% of home video sales (because home video wasn't invented) instead of the 100% the Tolkiens are seeking. Studio lawyers also say that for some lawyer-ish reason, the Tolkiens are only entitled to 2.5%, not 7.5% of revenues from The Two Towers and The Return Of The King.

- The Tolkiens are pissed, settlement talks go south and the suit will go in front of a jury in October of this year in the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Got it? Sort of?

Here's the nitty gritty: Time Warner thinks that with some "Hollywood accounting" and a few pithy legal fees, they can avoid paying out $220 million dollars. It's unlikely that this case will cost that much in man-power. Warners is a big studio and is good with the lawyering.

The Tolkiens, on the other hand, are pissed. So pissed, in fact, that if the original contract is upheld, they will halt the production and/or release of Guillermo Del Toro's two Hobbit films by pulling the rights all-together.

Warners obviously doesn't want that to happen, because they are looking at a pay day estimated around $4 billion if those two films are made.

Interestingly enough, if the Tolkiens do win and pull the rights from Warners, they would be free to sell those rights under a more modern contract. And get this: You know who owns the publishing rights to Tolkien's work?


Damn... 20th Century Fox has an in.

Stay tuned, entertainment law fans.

(Thanks Latino Review)

We got a new White Queen image from Alice

Empire has just published an picture of everyone's favorite live-action-princess diarist turned Brokebackspouse Anne Hathaway as the White Queen in Tim Burton's upcoming Alice in Wonderland flick.

The movie, based on Lewis Carrol's classic, features other inspired bits of casting like Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Christopher Lee as the Jabberwock, Underworld's Michael Sheen as the White Rabbit and Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat.

Alice in Wonderland is scheduled for a March 2010 release.

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