Thursday, July 23, 2009

News - 07/23/09...

The Prodigy

No, it’s not Kung Fu Panda… it’s SO not Kung Fu Panda. Yeah, once again it’s time to take note a knock-off DVD, but this one - The Prodigy - was not created by anonymous drones in some third world country, but by former Disney and Dreamworks artists.

Here’s the synopsis:

KG - the ‘Kung Fu Girl’ with a big heart - is an underdog. When the odds are against her, she discovers that there is no limit to what she can accomplish when she believes in herself. With the help of her brave yet zany Master Panda, KG sets off on a journey to restore justice to her beautiful kingdom and rescue her beloved prince. “A hilarious side-splitting animated feature, THE PRODIGY delivers Non-Stop Kung Fu Fun!”

Yeah, right.

According to a press release they foolishly sent me:

The film represents a milestone for Writer/Director Robert D. Hanna, who created Prevalent Entertainment as an independent animation house that has employed an American team without outsourcing to foreign animators, and performs outside of the big studio system.

Some top CG Animators, Production Designers, and Artists from DreamWorks, Sony, and Disney studios all contributed. An integral part of the team is David Colman of Disney Feature Animation; he’s an Emmy Award winning artist who generated character designs for The Prodigy. David Lowery (Head of story on Shrek) was producer and supervisor of the story department, and Craig Elliott (Shark Tale, Bee Movie) was the inventive production designer. Steve Gordon (Shrek II, Anastasia, Over The Hedge) created essential story boards to flesh out the meaningful romantic storyline. Instructive Bonus Featurettes on the DVD illustrate a primer for future animators on “Animated Character Creation” and bringing the “Story To Life”; they document the pre-production work of the talented artists and animators who worked tirelessly on the film.

You be the judge. The trailer is embedded below.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Initial Details, Cover Art For "Batman: The Brave And The Bold - Volume Two" DVD Release

Warner Home Video has provided initial details and cover art on the upcoming DVD release Batman: The Brave and the Bold - Volume Two.

The initial details for the upcoming Batman: The Brave and the Bold - Volume Two DVD release, slated to hit shelves November 10th, 2009, are available below. Information provided by Warner Home Video.

Synopsis: Batman isn't going at it alone this time! From Warner Bros. Animation comes the latest interpretation of the classic Batman franchise. Our caped crusader is teamed up with heroes from across the DC Universe, delivering nonstop action and adventure with a touch of comic relief. Blue Beetle, Green Arrow, Aquaman and countless others will get a chance to uphold justice alongside Batman. Though still based in Gotham, Batman will frequently find himself outside city limits, facing situations that are both unfamiliar and exhilarating. With formidable foes around every corner, Batman will still rely on his stealth, resourcefulness and limitless supply of cool gadgets to bring justice home.

Day of the Dark Knight!
Enter the Outsiders!
Dawn of the Dead Man!
Fall of the Blue Beetle!

Announce Date: 7/22/09
Order Date: 10/6/09
Street Date: 11/10/09
Media Quantity: 1
Disc Configuration: DVD 9
Packaging Type: Amaray Case
Run Time: 88 minutes
MSRP: $14.98
Product Language: English
Original Soundtrack Language: English

Warner Home Video also has plans to release Batman: The Brave and the Bold - Volume Three DVDs, currently in the works. Stay tuned for further updates, including the official press release, video clips, and detailed information on this DVD title.

The first volume, Batman: The Brave and the Bold - Volume One is slated to hit shelves August 25th, 2009. Click here to read the press release for this DVD title.

Filmation’s Marx Brothers?

Thank God for small favors… As far as I know this show doesn’t exist. Fred Grandinetti sent me this trade ad from Broadcasting Magazine (February, 1966) offering a Marx Bros. cartoon package from Filmation. Was there be a pilot? The ad offers a screening, so… could be? This was in the era when Hanna Barbera was producing Abbott and Costello, and Laurel and Hardy cartoons. Considering what Filmation would later do to Jerry Lewis a few years later, let’s consider ourselves lucky the brothers Marx weren’t subjected to their cheapjack production methods.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

U2 Music Video by David OReilly

David OReilly is a name that requires little introduction on the Brew. His new video for U2’s “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” is a visual stunner. It was created in collaboration with designer Jon Klassen.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

5 Superheroes That Deserve an Animated Series
Comicscape: Superheroes who need some TV love.

While some fans are too stubborn to accept the notion that Batman can be anything other than a brooding loner, the fact remains that Batman: The Brave and the Bold is no less valid a version of the Dark Knight than any other of the countless interpretations of the caped crusader.

So in keeping with the spirit of this fantastic animated series (and last week’s No-Fly Zone topic), we at Mania would like to offer up a few suggestions for heroes we’d like to see grace the small screen in animated form. We’re going with the same basic notion as The Brave and the Bold: family friendly and most importantly, fun!

1. Kamandi

Anybody who caught the episodes of The Brave and the Bold that featured Kamandi knows what we’re talking about. For those that don’t, the basic gist of the series goes like this: The Great Disaster has forever altered life as we know it. Humans are a persecuted minority while highly evolved animals rule the earth. It’s like Planet of the Apes… and Tigers and Monkeys and Bats and Rats and Dogs and … well, you get the picture. If you liked Thundarr the Barbarian, you’ll like Kamandi.

Bipedal animals waging war in a post-apocalyptic setting? It’s genetically impossible for young boys to dislike this Jack Kirby-created concept. And the toy line would be amazing. Action figures and plush dolls? It’s a marketing bonanza waiting to happen. It’s nearly impossible to believe that this wouldn’t be a monster hit.

2. Captain Marvel

No, not the one Marvel Comics created to secure the copyright and cash in on the name--we’re talking about the real Captain Marvel, the one that says “Shazam!”

Much like Kamandi, this is a concept that kids simply can not dislike and one of its big selling points is that it appeals to both boys and girls. A young boy (and his sister, because the cartoon has to include Mary Marvel) says a magic word and turns into a super-powered adult. That should be enough to sell any kid on the concept, but there’s also a talking tiger who wears suits and one of the main villains is a little worm with glasses who uses a 1930’s-style radio to communicate. And we haven’t even mentioned Captain Marvel Jr.

To get an idea of the tone of the series, look no further than Jeff Smith’s 2007 Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil mini-series or Mike Kunkel’s current Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!, published under the Johnny DC imprint. They’re both Golden Age-influenced, whimsical and loads of fun for adults and kids.

3. Plastic Man

He’s been around since 1941, guest starred on The Brave and the Bold, been a member of the Justice League--he even had his own cartoon series in ’79. We’re talking about a hero that can alter his shape to become nearly anything you can imagine. There’s no doubt that Plastic Man deserves another animated go-round.

Blending action and comedy, Plastic Man would be a huge hit with kids. It’s established he’s in the same universe as Batman, so the occasional team-up could be arranged. And of course, a Johnny DC tie-in would help bring in a whole new generation of readers to the DCU proper.

4. Power Man and Iron Fist

Fans of current Marvel Comics probably think we’re crazy for suggesting this one as a kids’ show. Luke Cage is a pull-no-punches member of the New Avengers and Danny Rand is always involved in some crazy, mystical otherworldly stuff. To make this one work, you take the same route as The Brave and the Bold, get the heroes out of New York and send them on a series of globe-trotting adventures that don’t involve the rest of the Marvel U.

They’re heroes for hire, right? So every week they accept a job that takes them to an exotic locale where they fight a villain or perhaps a local monster (Nessie in Scotland or the Chupacabra in Puerto Rico). It’s a buddy show that focuses on teamwork and could even be a little bit educational if you’re sneaky about it.

5. Devil Dinosaur

It should come as no surprise that another Jack Kirby creation made it on the list, especially since the character was created in the hopes that it would be picked up as an animated series way back in the ‘70s.

Here’s the deal: Devil Dinosaur and his companion Moon Boy live in prehistoric times where they do battle with primitive humans, dinosaurs and beings from other worlds. Once again, it’s a concept that is impossible for children to dislike. It’s got dinosaurs for God’s sake! Every male human on the planet likes dinosaurs, no matter what their age and everyone can enjoy a story about a young boy (or ape) who befriends a dinosaur.

In the original comics, Devil Dinosaur was depicted as being intelligent though still being a savage animal. A simple twist on the basic premise could have Moon Boy as a rambunctious kid with Devil being the wiser voice of reason (for the purposes of this cartoon, we’ll give him the ability to speak). Once again, valuable lessons are being learned throughout the carnage and everyone is happy: parents and kids. Who wouldn’t take advice from a dinosaur?

There are loads of other comic properties that could fit the bill for this type of family friendly entertainment. These are but five. Batman: The Brave and the Bold has proven that “family friendly” and “all ages” doesn’t have to mean “dumbed down.” We’re hoping that Marvel and DC will continue this trend of awesome animation into the future (and maybe even take our advice!).

(Thanks mania)

Complete Voice-Cast List For "Green Lantern: First Flight" Direct-To-Video Animated Feature

The World's Finest has a look at the full cast list for the upcoming direct-to-video Green Lantern: First Flight animated feature.

The complete voice-cast rundown for the Green Lantern: First Flight direct-to-video animated feature, as listed in the official credits for the feature, are as follows below.

Hal Jordan / Green Lantern - Christopher Meloni
Sinestro - Victor Garber
Boodikka - Tricia Helfer
Kilowog - Michael Madsen
Tomar Re - John Larroquette
Kanjar Ro - Kurtwood Smith
Ganthet - Larry Drake
Appa Ali Apsa - William Schallert
Ranakar - Malachi Throne
Carol Ferris - Oliva d'Abo
Cuch - Richard Green
Labella - Juliet Landau
Ch'p - David L. Lander
Abin Sur - Richard McGonagle
Weaponers - Rob Paulson
Arisia - Kath Soucie
Lieutenant - Jim Wise
Bug Boy - Bruce Timm

A co-production of Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation, the direct-to-video Green Lantern: First Flight animated feature will debut Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 on DVD and Blu-ray disc.

Selling Ponyo

Hayao Miyazaki's animated features have made scads of money worldwide, but never set American turnstiles whirling. Maybe that's about to change.

... Kennedy-Marshall set about bringing both A-list acting and writing talent to the English-language version of "Ponyo," including Oscar-nominated "E.T." screenwriter Melissa Mathison. "We felt a responsibility to subtly reinterpret Miyazaki's storytelling," Kennedy recalls. "Miyazaki-san was quite intrigued with Melissa getting involved, and she found a subtle adjustment to the language so that you understand you're watching a Japanese movie but, at the same time, you're not getting confused by a literal translation."

No cuts were made to Miyazaki's animation, so the challenge in directing the voice actors was to make their English dialogue fit the existing picture.
"It's different than the way we usually work, where we animate after recording the voices," explains Brad Lewis, who, like fellow Pixar directors Lasseter and Peter Sohn, helmed individual recording sessions for "Ponyo." "With this, the actors watched the animation, and then we'd record several versions and see what worked. The only liberties we could take were a few words of pre-lapping dialogue." ...

The eighteen-year-old Hulett has always been keen on Japanese animation. Since he's dead-center in the target demographic, I've always been a little mystified why Japanese features haven't performed more robustly in the States, instead of being just a niche sideshow.

I mean, live-action and animated features from the U.S. perform like gangbusters in Japan. For some reason (maybe cultural, maybe promotional) the reverse has never been true.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Comic-Con Preview: Stan Lee & Disney Team Up For 'Time Jumper' Motion Comic!

Listen up, true believers! Stan Lee has announced a team-up with Walt Disney Studios today for a new "digital motion comic" debuting at Comic-Con (and online) this week.

"Time Jumper" will feature the voice of Lee himself, as well as "Species" star Natasha Henstridge, and will tell the tale of a reluctant, time-traveling hero pressed into service by a secret agency. The first 8-10 minute episode of the 10-part series will be released on iTunes this Friday, July 24, but Lee himself will host a screening of the episode and series trailer during Comic-Con. For those who can't make the show, we have an exclusive preview of "Time Jumper" for Splash Page readers:

After the jump, get the full lowdown on the "Time Jumper" motion comic. Pay special attention to the "Voice Talents" synopsis, folks -- there's some vintage Stan Lee in there. EXCELSIOR!

About Time Jumper:
Twenty-year-old college student Terry Dixon has the most unique mobile device on Earth -- the Articulus, a time travel device developed by Terry’s genius father, Arthur Dixon. To prevent the Articulus from falling into the wrong hands, Arthur coded it to work only with his DNA. After a laboratory experiment claims Arthur’s life, Terry and his older brother Sam become the only people capable of using it. Recruited into the secret crime fighting organization H.U.N.T. (Heroes United, Noble and True) after the mysterious disappearance of golden boy Sam, Terry becomes a reluctant hero living in his brother’s shadow. As he struggles to fill his new role, unnatural shifts in the course of history send Terry hurtling through time to capture Charity Vyle, the diabolical leader of criminal cartel C.U.L.T. (Council of Unstoppable, Lethal Terrorists). But something more than just Terry’s molecules are being reconfigured as he leaps across time, and it threatens to corrupt everything he understands about who he is, and whether the world is actually worth saving after all.

Two Special Guest Voice Talents:
Fans can look forward to two special voice talent cameos as part of this new, original digital motion comic series. One is Stan Lee himself, playing the voice of Lee Excelsior, CEO of H.U.N.T. Headquarters, and the other is actress Natasha Henstridge (Species, Eli Stone, The Whole Nine Yards) who plays the voice of Charity Vyle, the evil, smart and seductive female villain.

Very Impressive Teaser For CG Animated Short Film ALMA

Just announced as screening at the 2009 edition of Fantastic Fest, Alma is the debut animated short from Rodrigo Blaas, a transplanted Spaniard who now works in the US and has spent better than a decade working in animation in both countries. Very little is given up in terms of story line but a brief teaser for the film has arrived online and is very impressive. Blaas clearly know what he’s doing. And, as an added little quirk, one Gabe Ibanez is credited for camera work and I can only assume this is the same Ibanez who just made his feature debut with Hierro, the trailer for which appears just a couple posts below this one.

Check the teaser below the break!

(Thanks Twitch)

New Footage for ASTRO BOY

If there is any place in the world that has the strongest sentimental attachment towards Imagi Studios’ Astro Boy, it would undoubtedly be Japan. After all, its where the flying robot kid was originated so you know the Japanese media will have a field day on this animated film. In a local TV program, some previously unseen footage has been revealed and it was also announced that actress Aya Ueto (Azumi and Azumi 2) will provide the voice for the title character. For those attending the San Diego Comic-Con this year, you can check out more footage and the final trailer at the Astro Boy panel.

It hits the theaters on October 23rd. You’ll find the new footage after the jump.

Sheriff Woody named "Best Animated Character"

Two heroes from the "Toy Story" films were named Monday by film web site's editors to top a list of "25 Best Animated Characters."

Sheriff Woody from the 1995 and 1995 films was placed in the #1 spot, while second place went to Buzz Lightyear.

Third through fifth place went to characters from three Disney feature films: Mickey Mouse from Fantasia, Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians, and the Genie from Aladdin, respectively.

Many other Disney characters were in the top 25: Thumper (Bambi; #8), Dumbo (Dumbo; #9), the Queen (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; #10), Baloo (The Jungle Book; #11), Sebastian (The Little Mermaid; #15), Tinker Bell Italic(Peter Pan; #16), Jiminy Cricket (Pinocchio; #17), Timon and Pumbaa (The Lion King; #19), Lumiere (Beauty and the Beast; #22) and the Cheshire Cat (Alice in Wonderland; #24).

Pixar characters making the cut were Nemo (Finding Nemo; #6), WALL-E (WALL-E; #14), Remy (Ratatouille; #18), Mike Wazowski (Monsters, Inc.; #21) and Carl Fredricksen (Up; #23).

Rounding off the top-25 list were Donkey (Shrek films; #7), Wilbur (Charlotte's Web; #12); the Penguins (Madagascar films; #13), Scrat (Ice Age films; #20) and Jessica Rabbit (Who Framed Roger Rabbit; #25).

Mon Chinois by Cédric Villain

I’m having an unforgettably fantastic time at Anima Mundi in Brazil. One of the films that picked up an award at the festival is Mon Chinois (2008) by Cédric Villain, which looks at how the Western world stereotypes Chinese people. The film does a good job of evoking both laughter and unease from the viewer. It’s in French, but I think you’ll be able to figure it out.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Gungrave and Lone Wolf to go live-action

Yasuhiro Nightow's Gungrave manga

Convergence Entertainment has locked down the rights to develop two fantasy properties as live-action films, the Japanese manga Gungrave, created by Yasuhiro Nightow (who also created the popular outer space western Trigun) and British author Joe Dever's Lone Wolf series of game books (in the vein of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books popular in the 1980s), according to Variety.

Yasuhiro Nightow's Gungrave is about Brandon "Beyond the Grave" Heat, a member of a crime syndicate who rises from the grave to seek revenge against Millenion, an outfit run by Heat's former best friend that uses undead monsters as enforcers. Gungrave began as a third-person shooter created by Red Entertainment for PlayStation 2. It was later developed as a manga comic book published in the US by Dark Horse and an anime series.

The Lone Wolf series of game books began publication in 1984, and takes place in an alternate medieval world called Magnamund. The plot concerns the last member of a warrior caste who seeks revenge against the evil forces that destroyed his order. There are 28 books in the series, so far.

Both features will have budgets in the range of $30 million to $35 million.

News Briefs: Iron Man 2 game peak, Miyazaki's backup

Miyazaki's Ponyo

/Film reports that the Iron Man 2 videogame will veer in greatly in plot from the movie. The game, scripted by Invincible Iron Man comic book writer Matt Fraction, will feature villains that won't appear in the film like the Crimson Dynamo.


On the Iron Man 2 movie front, USAToday has posted a gallery of new images from the upcoming film, including one of Don Cheadle as Col. James 'Rhodey' Rhodes and another of Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff without her Black Widow gear.


Hollywood heavy hitters are getting behind Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki's new feature Ponyo , about a small boy and his friendship with a goldfish princess who wants to be human. According to Variety, Pixar's John Lasseter and the multi-billion-dollar producing team of Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall are trying to extend Miyazaki's appeal beyond the so-called "art-house" crowd. The team have recruited the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of ET Melissa Mathison to write the English language version script, and have tapped Liam Neeson, Tina Fey, and Matt Damon to lend their vocal talents dubbing the movie into English. Ponyo is slated to open in North America August 14 on more than 800 screens.

Behind the scenes of the new Nightmare on Elm Street

The first image of the new Freddy Krueger

During production, movies are often shrouded in secrecy; filmmakers and studios spare no effort and, especially, no expense making sure that audiences are surprised by the twists and turns in their work, if not their by very existence.

But the makers of the newly reborn A Nightmare on Elm Street are eager to share the movie with fans and invited a small group of reporters, including SCI FI Wire, to the film's Chicago set last month, where director Samuel Bayer is mounting his remake of the iconic horror film.

Imagine the shock of seeing a lit marquee directing passersby into Chicago Studio City with the words "Now Filming A Nightmare on Elm Street" beneath it as SCI FI Wire and a small coterie of journalists arrive at the soundstages.

A first look at the new film's logo

The film's producers, Platinum Dunes' Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, have earned the right to champion their work: they not only successfully relaunched the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, but also gave momentum to the trend of remaking classic horror films, culminating in their blockbuster version of Friday the 13th this year, which itself is scheduled for a sequel.

Once we arrived at the set, there were few other indicators that the filmmakers were interested in broadcasting the existence of A Nightmare on Elm Street; notwithstanding the sign outside, building entries were either locked or carefully guarded, and it took some navigating to find the actual sets once we were granted access. That said, anyone within 50 miles of our group could have probably detected our collective trembles of excitement at the prospect of being in close proximity to the creators of one of the most highly anticipated horror films of 2010.

We viewed Chicago soundstages housing Nightmare's sets, some of which had already been broken down while others were yet to be built, including key destinations for the film's doomed characters: a linoleum-floored classroom straight out of a 1970s high school, directly adjacent to a replica of the same set that was dressed in dirt and debris for a scene in Freddy's dream world. (We were informed that the duplicate set was designed to be flooded for one of the dream sequences and were encouraged to investigate the space for ourselves.)

We also saw a cavern that more closely resembled the interior of Freddy's charred skull than any sort of serious geological space; and a narrow tunnel through which Freddy was scheduled to chase one of his victims later that evening (more on that later).

We spoke with Fuller and Form for almost an hour about reinventing Freddy Krueger and the franchise as a whole for a new generation of fans. The duo was quick to point out that this would be a re-imagining that will remain more faithful to the series' dark origins than the wisecracking Freddy that people have come to expect based on the franchise's sequels.

"We've never been attracted to a jokey antagonist because it feels less scary and less real," Fuller said. "As you guys will see tonight, Freddie Krueger looks very different. He looks like a real burn victim, and that's what's important to us. And he's not witty. He's a f--ked-up guy."

Comparing the rebooted Nightmare to the producers rebooted Friday the 13th, Form added: "The tone of this film is so different from Friday. Like Brad was saying, it's darker. I think a Friday the 13th movie like we made was really fun. You know, sex, drugs and rock and roll, and I think a Nightmare movie is not that. So, I think, we knew going in that the tone for this film would be much different than a Friday the 13th film."

Robert Englund as the original Freddy Krueger

Later, we visit the makeup truck where star Jackie Earle Haley is being transformed into a new version of Freddy. Haley was about 45 minutes into the two- to three-hour process of getting into Freddy Krueger's charred countenance, and because of the constraints of his latex prosthetics, he had less to say about the character at the time than makeup artist Andrew Clement. Seeing Haley in the intermediate stages of being transformed into Freddy was itself a fairly euphoric experience. And we got to hold Freddy's infamous razor glove, a highlight of the visit.

In another part of the studio, property master Billy Dambra sat down with us for 30 minutes or so, answering questions about the construction and design of the glove. We got to examine the camera-ready gauntlet, passing it around from one journalist to the next, hoping it would fit our hand the best.

We watched a bit of filming, in which star Katie Cassidy (Taken and TV's Harper's Island) crawls through a small tunnel as crew members pour dirt and muck on top of her head. After several takes, Bayer was satisfied. Fuller apologized to Cassidy, thanking her for being such a trouper as she left the set to clean herself up.

In the scene, Freddy is supposed to chase her, but Haley proved to be slightly too big to actually follow her down the tunnel. After a few takes during which his signature fedora kept getting knocked off, the filmmakers regrouped to determine the best way to stage and shoot the scene. Thankfully, this provided enough time for Haley to speak to us for a few minutes.

Unlike many men who play monsters in masks, Haley is a trained actor first and an Oscar nominee (for 2006's Little Children) to boot. Playing Freddy enabled him to sympathize with his Watchmen co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who similarly had to play a cold-blooded killer. "You know nobody really warned me about what to expect," Haley said. "I mean, my biggest experience with this is just sympathizing more and more with Jeffrey Dean. He says it's like, 'No, I'm living it.' He said he'd come out of that trailer as the Comedian, just ready to f--king kill somebody."

The extreme discomfort of the Freddy makeup proved to be an unexpected benefit in playing the role. "It's like the best Freddy research and motivation s--t I could do," Haley said. "Sit in that torturous chair for 3-1/2 hours. [After that,] I'm pretty ready to throw the glove on and start slicing just about anybody."

At the end, the tunnel problems notwithstanding, what we'd seen was amazing. By all accounts, Fuller, Form and Bayer are bringing Freddy back to life in brilliant form. A Nightmare on Elm Street will be previewed at Comic-Con International in San Diego this week. The movie is slated to open April 16, 2010.

Producers Brad Fuller (left) and Andrew Form on the set of A Nightmare on Elm Street

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