Friday, July 31, 2009

News - 07/31/09...

Aliens Faces Uphill Box Office Battle

The studios continue their run of releasing films either packed with animation and VFX or family fare —both elements embodied by Fox’s Aliens in the Attic.

The goofy family movie's visual effects were created by CIS Vancouver, Rhythm and Hues, Gentle Giant Studios and Soho VFX.

Attic, a mix of live-action and animated aliens directed by John Schulz and starring Robert Hoffman and Ashley Tisdale, opens in some 3,100 theater this weekend. It edges out by a mere 100 venues the R-rated Judd Apatow comedy Funny People, which stars Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen.

Aliens in the Attic enters a crowded field and will have to do strong business to take on last week’s top-grosser, G-Force, as well as holdovers Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

Also out this weekend is Freestyle Releasing’s horror film The Collector, opening in 1,500 theaters.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Jim Lee, Marv Wolfman Talk DCU Online Game

Video games and comic books have been crossing over for years — both in terms of content and via the growing gaming presence at Comic-Con — but few things are coming as close to exciting fans as the chance to play in the original comic book universe in Sony Online Entertainment’s upcoming DC Universe Online.

The MMO game was being demonstrated at the annual comic book confab and we got to take a look at both the game and talk to comic book legends Jim Lee and Marv Wolfman about making the game.

The game lets each player create his or her own hero or villain and enter the DC Universe as an auxiliary member of either the Justice League or the Legion of Doom. Players take part in missions alongside the likes of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman on the good side, and Lex Luthor, Joker, Sinestro and dozens of other baddies on the not-so-good side.

The demo level featured an extensive mission in STAR Labs, with characters able to define their own powers, power source and how they move (flight, super speed, etc.), as well as their own look. The game allows each player to pick their own color palette, with any objects or modifications they pick up automatically conforming to that color scheme to avoid the “hobo” look other games have encountered.

The players work alongside the established characters of the DC Universe and attempt to create their own legacy — earning enough credibility through completing missions and defeating enemies an invitation to the Justice League or Legion of Doom.

The game also will allow PC and PlayStation 3 players to run off the same server — and be in the same world.

What’s still a mystery is when the game, which has been in development for several years now, will be released.

Lee, the blockbuster artist who defined the X-Men, created the WildC.A.T.s and Wildstorm Studios, and of late has been defining Superman and Batman for a whole new generation of DC comic book readers, was the lead designer on the game. He likened the process — now four years of work since he started — to weight training.

“It’s hard work, but at the end of the day you come out better, stronger for it,” he said. “It’s been a real learning experience — not just learning about how to build an MMO, but also learning about the DC universe.”

Designing the characters involved breaking down all the powers in the DC universe for the players to choose from and use in the game, a process that Lee says gave him a new appreciation of DC.

“I never really thought about what kind of material these costumes are made out of, I never though about the environments, I never thought about what the neighborhoods of Gotham City and Metropolis looked like,” he said. “Having those answers, I feel much smarter as a DC fan than I ever did before.”

When it comes to animating characters that he’d previously only drawn for the comic book page, Lee says he turned, as always, to a bit of research.

“In some sense, it’s the same. When I draw certain things, I’ll actually stand up and pose it out. I’ll be looking in a mirror or having someone take a photograph,” he says. “Even standing up and posing, and feeling how your body feels at that time —it helps you convey that when you draw it.”

Lee says he designed hundreds of DC characters for the game, including “almost every major, secondary and tertiary hero and villain.” His favorite, however, was one he had a hand in creating for the comic book page.

“Hush actually looks really cool,” he says, adding the character’s facial bandages were a challenge to make good looking. “That’s the thing about DC villains, is they all have a weird element to them. Like you’ve got a big question mark on your head or bandages on your face.”

Having put so much work into the game, Lee says he thinks it will follow him for the rest of his life. He also says he’ll be playing the game and likely playing a villain first.

“I’ve almost always done everything hero-centric in terms of the stories, and it would be fun to create a villain and see the DC universe from their perspective,” he says. “That’s not something that’s been explored a lot in comics, at least for me.”

Lee says the game has afforded him the ability to make an impact on a lot of characters he likely will never get a chance to do in comic books simply because there’s not enough time.

“But now I’ve drawn characters like Egg Fu or Ambush Bug,” he says. “I drew Doomsday and the first time I drew Doomsday was for the game.”

He also says he’ll be getting back to comics soon, having two scripts ready to go from Frank Miller for All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder. “It’s been absolutely my fault why the book’s late and I’ve obviously been working hard on the game,” he says. “Right now, the plan is to have several issues in the drawer, come back out with the second half of it, the back half of it, and get it wrapped up soon so I can do something besides just draw Batman. But it’s good stuff and it will hopefully be worth the wait.”

To say Marv Wolfman is an accomplished writer is to say nothing new. But while fans may know Wolfman’s credits on such hit comics as Tomb of Dracula for Marvel and The New Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths for DC, the process of writing video games is a harder concept to grasp.

Wolfman has worked as a writer on many games and says each experience has been different. “I’ve been brought into games very late, where what you’re doing is essentially just organizing the game they’ve set up and writing dialog, and I’ve been brought into games before the first thinking process is done,” he says. “I’m not writing the game, per se, the playing part. I’ll lead up to it. I’ll come up with the basic stories that you are playing.”

That means coming up with material that the game designers can then run with to break down into missions for players to work through. “It might be something that’s a paragraph long or a page long, and they’ll spin out endless variations that accomplish that goal.”

Wolfman says he is definitely a gamer and has been so from the days of Pong through the Atari and Coleco Vision days through to computer games like Wolfenstein, Doom, Myst and current games on PCs, PS2, PS3 and Wii.

He says Sony Online Entertainment is committed to making the game as true to the DC Universe as possible — and hiring folks like himself, Lee and Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns only proves it. “The characters will act in character, the little things that make the DC Universe will be there, almost everything is absolutely DC,” he says. “This isn’t a game — and I’ve written some — that sort of just touches on the characters. This is, pure and simple, DC Online.”

The amount of work required to pull all this off is far from minimal. “This is comparable to writing 150 novels all the size of Lord of the Rings,” he says. “Fortunately, I’m not writing thousands of pages. I’m writing: here’s the concept for this mission or this story and here are a few twists and turns. And they’ll turn it into 40 missions. And that’s the best way to do it because I’ll come up with the DC stuff, I’ll come up with the stuff that can only be done with those kinds of characters. Then they will turn it into great video game stuff because that’s what they know best.”

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Fox Drops Abortion Episode of Family Guy

The Fox television network has announced it will not air a planned Family Guy episode that deals with abortion.

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane mentioned the episode — titled “Partial Terms of Endearment” — Saturday at a Comic-Con panel devoted to the show, saying it was unlikely the episode would air on Fox but would appear on the DVD release, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Fox released a statement stating: “Fox will not air the ‘Partial Terms of Endearment’ episode of Family Guy, but we fully support the producers' right to make the episode and distribute it in whatever way they want."

This would be the second episode of the long-running series rejected by Fox for a network airing, the first being “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein,” which later appeared on both DVD and in syndication.

Family Guy, which Fox has canceled on two occasions only to revive it based on strong DVD sales and cable ratings, has been nominated for a best comedy series Emmy Award.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Monsters vs. Aliens on Sequel Bubble

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg says it’s a tossup right now over whether there will be a sequel to its 3-D animated feature film Monsters vs. Aliens.

Katzenberg addressed analysts and journalists Tuesday about the film, which grossed an impress $197 million domestically, but fell short overseas with receipts of $177 million.

"This is the first movie we've had that's right on the bubble," Katzenberg told The Hollywood Reporter. The film did well in some territories, and flopped in others.

DreamWorks plans to discuss the possibility of a sequel on its worldwide marketing tour before coming to a decision. In the meanwhile, the studio is proceeding with a holiday special for the franchise, titled Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins From Outer Space. The special is scheduled to air on NBC.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Four Pics on Tap From American Original, Titmouse

American Original — the new production company formed by producer, comic book writer and former studio executive Jeff Katz — has signed a deal with Titmouse Animation to produce four original animated feature films.

Up first is the horror film Special Dead, based on a 2006 horror-comedy short film by Jared Tweedie and Thomas Phillips. The short tells the story of Camp Special, a ranch for the mentally and physically handicapped whose campers and counselors fight back against a zombie horde.

Katz, whose credits include X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Freddy vs. Jason, Snakes on a Plane and the DC Comics series Booster Gold, formed American Original earlier this year to develop content across multiple platforms.

American Original will produce the films in the agreement, with Titmouse president and co-founder Chris Prynoski serving as executive producer.

“I'm a longtime fan of alternative animation and am honored to be working with Titmouse, who are really in a class by themselves in this field,” says Katz. “I greatly look forward to working with Chris Prynoski, Keith Fay and company to make some eclectic, commercial and - most of all - original material.”

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Dead Space Features Targets Caruso

EA’s Dead Space is most recent video game to score a deal for a motion picture.

The sci-fi and horror project has D.J. Caruso of Eagle Eye attached to direct. The game recently spawned a direct-to-DVD anime-style feature titled Dead Space: Downfall.

Caruso and EA, which is producing the movie with Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey of Temple Hill, are listening to pitches from screenwriters and plan to take the project out to the studios once they find a take they like, reports Variety.

The game is set in deep space during the 26th century, following an engineer who must fight off corpses reanimated by an alien virus.

The game launched last year and EA is working on making it a trilogy.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Why is Foghorn Leghorn Racist?

How did we ever manage to answer these burning animation history questions before the existence of Yahoo! Answers?

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Composer John Ottman keyed in for "Astro Boy" film

Imagi Studios has signed composer John Ottman and sound designer Richard Anderson for the studio's animated feature film Astro Boy scheduled for domestic release via Summit Entertainment on October 23.

The announcement was made Thursday by Astro Boy producer Maryann Garger.

This will be Ottman's debut working on an animated film. He has received numerous awards throughout his career, including a BAFTA Award for The Usual Suspects. Most recently, he received a Saturn Award for his work on Superman Returns.

Ottman's credits include a variety of motion picture and television projects, including Valkyrie and films in the Superman Returns, X-Men and Fantastic Four comics-genre franchises.

Anderson's work has been nominated for two Oscars, including winning a Special Achievement Award for his work on Raiders of the Lost Ark. Anderson has worked on numerous blockbusters, including Shrek the Third, The Lion King, Star Trek and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

His other animation credits as a supervising sound or sound effects editor include The Nightmare Before Christmas, Anastasia, Antz, Brother Bear, Shark Tale, Madagascar, The Madagascar Penguins in a Christmas Caper, Over the Hedge, Flushed AItalicway and Shrek the Halls.

Imagi Studios is currently in post-production on Astro Boy, produced by Garger and directed by David Bowers (Flushed Away). Set in the future, the CG-animated feature film is about a young robot with incredible powers and is based on the iconic character which has enjoyed great acclaim and success around the world for over 50 years.

Astro Boy features the voices of Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell, Samuel L. Jackson, Nathan Lane, Eugene Levy, Matt Lucas, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland and Nicolas Cage as "Dr. Tenma." Summit Entertainment will distribute Astro Boy worldwide except for Imagi's reserved territories of Japan, Hong Kong and China.

Fantastic Mr. Fox Trailer

Trailer is out today for Wes Anderson’s first animated feature Fantastic Mr. Fox. Maybe it’s just me, but the dialogue delivery sounds stilted and leadfooted throughout the trailer. On the other hand, the production design looks fantastic indeed. Like Coraline, we’re seeing another stop-motion feature that is pushing the boundaries of mainstream feature animation design and searching for an original look. That’s never a bad thing.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

New Disney Strike footage

The folks at the John Basmajian Collection have just unearthed - and posted - a reel of rare 8mm film footage of the infamous 1941 Disney animators strike. This is new stuff and incredibly rare. They even did a nice job of adding sound effects to bring it to life. Tom Sito points out, when watching the footage, to look for these highlights:

• The first man shown speaking on a microphone is Animator Art Babbitt.

•We see a shot of Walt Disney standing in the guard shack, hat on head and white shirt open at the neck, watching the strikers outside his gate.

• The second closeup of a man using a microphone is actor John Garfield, a matinee idol of the 1940s.

• The next shot is Walt Disney going through the picketline in his fashionable Packard.

• The next person driving his car through the disapproving pickets is director Ham Luske.

• The group carrying the Guillotine is the Warner Bros unit, led by picket captain Chuck Jones- the young man to the left in the black shirt. The effigy in the Guillotine was supposed to be of Disney’s attorney Gunther Lessing.

The footage is posted here.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Florida Linkorama

No, these are not Ub Iwerks' old roughs.

A monster thunderstorm rattled and boomed through Diz World a little while ago; a good time to huddle in the hotel room and throw a festival of links.

Chris Meladandri, late of Fox-Blue Sky Animation, is teeing up a second animated feature for Universal (Despicable Me being the first):

“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” will be co-directed by Chris Renaud and Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio, with Paul & Daurio writing the script

A breathless article about the 3-D version of the Mouse's oncoming Beauty and the Beast reveals the secrets! ...

Creating a Disney Digital 3-D version of "Beauty and the Beast," ... will be handled entirely in-house at Walt Disney Animation Studios, and will utilize innovative proprietary software, along with the latest techniques and advances in 3-D technology.Overseeing the project from the creative end will be the film's original team of acclaimed filmmakers

Kind of true. Except that the work has been ongoing for the better part of a year. The 3-D (what I've seen of it) looks pretty good.

And DreamWorks Animation is still ... according to the New York Times ... is still puzzling out the reasons for Monsters Vs. Aliens foreign underperformance. (But didn't we answer this question already?):

(And it didn't stop the company from doing pretty well on Wall Street ...)

... Mr. Katzenberg had hoped the movie would spawn the company’s fourth franchise behind “Shrek,” “Madagascar” and “Kung-Fu Panda.” But the movie’s soft performance in certain overseas markets (like Germany and France) has given the studio pause. Some international markets were “very big misses for the film and we don’t fully understand why,” he said. Will there be a sequel? “We don’t have all the information in hand to come to that decision,” he said ...

Science Magazine profiles a French exhibit on the prehistory of cartoons ... back around half a kazillion years ago:

... [A] special exhibit in the south of France claims that the origins of the cartoon can be traced back much further, to the earliest known cave art more than 30,000 years ago. The exhibit, at the prehistory center of the Pech-Merle Cave in the Lot Valley, is titled “Préhistoire de la Bande Dessinée et du Dessin Animé” ("Prehistory of the Cartoon Strip and the Motion Picture Cartoon"). It was mounted by prehistorian and filmmaker Marc Azéma of the University of Toulouse in France. Azéma argues in nearly 30 beautifully illustrated panels that early cave artists used some of the same animation techniques that cartoonists use today ...

(Truth to tell, this was touched on in an old Disneyland episode from the 1950s.)

Variety projects that Up will soon be going like gangbusters in foreign lands:

Two months after its domestic launch, Disney's finally launching "Up" in several major overseas markets this weekend including France, South Korea, Spain and Taiwan with an additional 1,200 locations. Demand's likely to be particularly strong in France, where the Pixar toon received an enthusiastic response at Cannes ...

Lastly, top-drawer story artist Ed Gombert blogs about top-drawer story artist Vance Gerry. Ed has already had everybody and his brother link to his tribute, so I'm being redundant here, but since I worked with Vance and knew him to be one of the world's great human beings, I also link up. (Call me a sheep, I don't care.)

Mr. Gerry (on right) with unidentified geek -- circa 1982.

Have yourself a weekend you can be proud of.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Make Contact With Clausen’s Alien

Danish director Henrik Bjerregaard Clausen borrows a famous space alien for a few shots in his 2008 CG short, simply titled [ALIEN] - but the concept is 100% original. Modelling and animation were handled by Søren Andersen and Michael la-Cour.

Pardee Prepares an Unreal Chadam

As I watched this new trailer for Alex Pardee’s upcoming, short-form, animated series Chadam, I thought to myself, “this looks a bit like a video game.” Now I know why - it was created with Unreal Engine 3, a game engine. The series was produced by HDFilms for distribution by Warner Bros. 2.0.

Quantum Quest Details Revealed

Although some of the more over-hyped animated features and vfx projects were hogging the spotlight at Comic-Con last week, a smaller indie 3-D, CG-animated large-format feature also revealed some interesting details during an entertaining panel. The underdog feature was Quantum Quest, an action-adventure film which uses actual space imagery from seven ongoing NASA and NASA/ESA space missions to tell its sci-fi/fantasy story.

Directed by Dan St. Pierre and Dr. Harry Kloor and written and conceived by Kloor, the feature also has the distinction of featuring the two actors who’ve played Captain Kirk in Star Trek—William Shatner and Chris Pine—as well as the two Darth Vader’s (James Earl Jones and Hayden Christianson) from the Star Wars Saga on the voice cast list! The top-notch cast also includes Tom Kenny, Doug Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Picardo, Sandra Oh, Jason Alexander, Brent Spiner, Neil Armstrong, Abigail Breslin, Garay Graham and Janina Gavankar.

Quantum Quest is described as a “simulated solar safari,” a sci-fi action film which offers a scientifically accurate rendering of the solar system in 3-D stereoscopic. The project blends computer animation with the images captured during recent NASA space explorations including the international Cassini Huygens mission. Slated to debut in February 2010, the feature is animated by Taiwan’s Digimax and produced by Kloor's Jupiter 9 Productions. NASA's JPL has cooperated with the producers to ensure the scientific accuracy of the physics concepts, the correct engineering depiction of the Cassini spacecarft and Huygens probe, and the representation of NASA images.

The central character Dave (Chris Pine), is a photon who lives in the sun and is drawn into a galactic battle between The Core (William Shatner, the embodiment of the Sun, representing life and knowledge) and The Voice (Mark Hamill, the embodiment of Nothingness, who wishes for total destruction of the universe).

During the Comic-Con panel, Kloor and actors Doug Jones, Robert Picardo, Janina Gavankar and the film's composer Shawn Clement (Open Season, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) talked about the project, showed a clip from the movie and offered a pre-taped interview with Armstrong. The crowd went absolutely wild when Chris Pine called the director’s iPhone to greet the fans. He talked about the joys of doing voice-over work for an animated feature and the importance of introducing young audiences to science in an entertaining way.

Kloor, who began on the project about 12 years ago, said that he had actually come up with the idea that photos “surf” the solar winds two years before NASA proved it as a scientific fact. “Our purpose was to advance science and space literacy in a way that would appeal to kids and adults who have little interest in such subjects.” Kloor’’s previous sci-fi writing credits include Star Trek: Voyager and Earth: Final Conflict.

For more info, visit

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Nickelodeon To Unveil New Logo in Fall

Children’s network Nickelodeon has announced it will celebrate its 30th anniversary and fall rebranding of its networks with a new logo.

The current orange splatter logo, which the company has used since 1984, will be replaced with a new visual identity that will connect all the company’s networks, according to Variety.

The rebranding of the Nickelodeon family of channels includes changing in September its Noggin channel to Nick Jr. and The N to TeenNick in order to get the word “Nick” in the name of each channel.

Each channel — including NickToons and Nick at Nite — will be connected by the new branding, according to execs at the company.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Glenn Martin DDS To Premiere Aug. 17 on Nick

Glenn Martin DDS —the first TV series from former Disney chief Michael Eisner’s new Tornante Animation company –will premiere Aug. 17 at 8 p.m. on Nick at Nite.

The stop-motion animated comedy about a dentist and his family who ditch life in the suburbs to live life on the road will follow up its premiere with new episodes airing Aug. 18-20 at 8 p.m. It will move into its regular time slot of Mondays at 8 p.m. starting Aug. 24.

In the premiere episode, titled “Amish Anguish,” Glenn decides to stop for a few days in an Amish village after his family is too absorbed in their cell phones and iPods to appreciate Niagara Falls. His plan backfires when the family enjoys life in the village more than Glenn does.

More information is available on the show prior to its launch at the series website,

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Venice to Screen 3-D Toy Story, Rintaro’s Penguin

Attendees at the 66th annual Venice Film Festival will get the first chance to see the 3-D versions of Toy Story and Toy Story 2.

The Pixar films, due for general release from Disney as a double feature in October, will be screened as part of a lifetime achievement honor the festival is bestowing on John Lasseter and the Disney/Pixar directors.

Lasseter, currently chief creative officer of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, directed the first Toy Story and co-directed the second. Toy Story, released in 1995, was the first feature-length CG-animated feature and Pixar’s motion-picture debut.

The festival also will screen out of competition the new 3D anime feature film from Japanese director Rintaro, titled Yona Yona Penguin.Produced by Japanese anime studio Madhouse and French company Denis Friedman Productions, Yona Yona Penguin is billed as Madhouse's first CG-animated anime film. The bulk of the actual 3D animation is done by the French animation studio Def2shoot, the Thai studio Imagimax, and the Japanese studio Dynamo Pictures, with Madhouse providing direction and storyboards.

Yona Yona Penguin

The film's storyline revolves around a brave little girl who gets sucked into a fantasy world populated by goblins who believe that their savior will be a penguin.

The Venice Film Festival which announced its lineup today, is one of the most prestigious in the world and will run its 66th edition from Sept. 2-12.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Autodesk Plans Full Slate of SIGGRAPH Events

Autodesk will be demonstrating its latest creative technologies via a number of live events at the SIGGRAPH 2009 conference, set for Aug. 3-7 in New Orleans.

Among the company’s planned events:

1. Computer Animation Festival: Urban Planning Talks is a daylong event Aug. 4 featuring four presentations from urban planning professionals. More info can be found at

2. "Fun with Maya" Tech Talk, an exploration of some of the more surprising behaviors of the industry standard animation software. The panel, set for Aug. 5, will be hosted by one of Maya’s creators, Oscar-winning scientist Duncan Brinsmead.

3. Project Showcase, a series of daily presentations at the Autodesk booth highlighting the use of the company’s tools in such projects as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 9, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, and various commertials. More info can be found at

4. Autodesk also is supporting several SIGGRAPH events, including FJORG!, GameJam!, The Studio activities and the SIGGRAPH Student Volunteer session.

5. Autodesk Professional Excellence Program: Instructor Training and Certification Workshop will be held in advance of the conference, from July 31-Aug. 2. It is a three-day workshop to train and certify candidates seeking Autodesk Certified Evaluator and Autodesk Certified Instructor status for Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Softimage software.

6. Autodesk MasterClasses also will be held online, offering tips and tricks for using the software. For more information, go to

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

WALL-E cited as laid-off Pixar janitors protest

A group of laid-off janitors and their supporters adopted the title robot from WALL-E as their poster child as they protested Thursday in front of Pixar Animation Studios headquarters in Emeryville, California.

In January, nine out of a staff of 21 janitors were let go when Pixar entered into a contract with a new janitorial firm, Preferred Building Services Inc., which has offices in San Francisco.

"As soon as they switched, they laid off the workers, took away health care benefits for the remaining ones, and left them making $9.25 an hour," said Sylvia Ruiz, political director for Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West, which represents the janitors. "It's pretty ironic that WALL-E was a janitor, and they can profit by a cartoon janitor, but they can treat human janitors like trash."

For months, said union officials, SEIU has sent petitions and launched letter-writing campaigns to Pixar, demanding that the studio work with the union and rehire the laid-off employees.

Pixar said that it declined to comment, as the dispute is between the other two parties. Calls to Preferred Building Services from area news media were not returned Thursday.

MoMA unveils 'Tim Burton' exhibit plans, and Burton is there

Ron Magliozzi, the MoMA film department curator (left), with director Tim Burton at MoMA

It's been said that Tim Burton's films—OK, maybe not Planet of the Apes—are like pieces of art, and Burton is also known for his colorful doodles, so it's perfectly appropriate that he'll be celebrated with an upcoming exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Set to run from Nov. 22 through April 26, 2010, "Tim Burton" will span the filmmaker's life, from his youth in Burbank, Calif., to his early work at Disney to the upcoming feature film Alice in Wonderland. Attendees can expect to see 700-plus pieces on display, including maquettes, storyboards, previously unseen drawings, scripts, costumes and puppets, as well as retrospective screenings of Burton's shorts and films and also showings of films that inspired Burton. The exhibition is sponsored by Syfy.

Burton—clearly humbled and jazzed—attended a press briefing yesterday at MoMA. Those on hand watched a slideshow of pieces to be included in the exhibit and clips from several films, among them Mars Attacks!; Doctor of Doom, a 1980 black-and-white short starring, written and directed by Burton; and Hansel and Gretel, the filmmaker's long-lost live-action adaptation of the Grimm story, which originally aired as a Disney Channel special.

"Dating back now, really, to the beginnings of the museum, to 1929, when we opened 'Georges Melies: A Film Pioneer,' MoMA has had distinguished gallery installations on the art and artists of the cinema," Glenn Lowry, director of MoMA, said during his opening remarks. "In the years following our first retrospective of a filmmaker, the museum has been the site of over 80 exhibitions of works of film studios and filmmakers, such as D.W. Griffith, Alfred Hitchcock, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Roberto Rossellini, Ernie Gehr, John and Faith Hubley and David O. Zelznick, among many others.

Alice in Wonderland

"And with 'Tim Burton,' we put on our largest-yet, most comprehensive monographic show to date on a filmmaker who has distinguished himself internationally as among the foremost auteur voices of his time," Lowry continued, adding: "The gallery exhibition will provide access to personal, virtually unknown work that Burton has kept to himself until now. We are extremely fortunate that in addition to being a director, producer, artist, photographer, author, collector and pop-culture enthusiast, Tim Burton is also a remarkable archivist and has held onto virtually everything from his career. We are honored to be the first institution to introduce the majority of these works to the public."

Following his remarks, Lowry introduced Ron Magliozzi, the MoMA film department curator who led the team that worked with Burton on the exhibition. Lowry introduced the clips from Doctor of Doom and Hansel and Gretel, and then introduced Burton, who spoke briefly before answering questions from the audience.

"It's hard to imagine that on the Disney Channel," Burton joked of Hansel and Gretel upon stepping up to the microphone. "I think they showed it once at 3 a.m. on Halloween night. I just want to say thank you and thank Ron and everybody here for making it such an amazing experience for me. It's such a surreal thing to me. A lot of this stuff was just for projects and [part of] the thought process. I hadn't really gone back and looked at all this stuff [until] Ron came, so it was a really interesting thing for me to go back. I thought I'd left certain images [behind] a long time ago, but then you realize that you're still obsessed by certain things. It's just been a real re-energizing thing for me and I'm very honored and appreciative to have this ... whatever you want to call it. Thank you."

During the Q&A, Burton noted that he could see bits of Sweeney Todd in Doctor of Doom and nuggets of Batman imagery in Hansel and Gretel. Sharing one particularly amusing anecdote, he joked that he wasn't exactly immersed in a museum culture as a kid, that his first museum experience was the Hollywood Wax Museum and that he "probably got more out of The Beverly Hillbillies than Monet."

Jon Favreau Wants To Go 3-D For 'Iron Man 3' Or 'The Avengers'

At the recently concluded Comic-Con, there seemed to be one number and one letter on everyone's lips: 3-D. Directors like Tim Burton and Robert Zemeckis unveiled new footage flaunting it, James Cameron and Peter Jackson held panels praising it, and Hall H was equipped to show it for the first time. Now, filmmaker Jon Favreau is eager to bring it into his hugely successful "Iron Man" series.

"I really love the 3-D," the "Iron Man 2" director told us at Comic-Con, echoing the recent sentiments of Marvel Studios honcho Kevin Feige. "I think 'Up' was probably my favorite movie I've seen this year."

As fans of the franchise know, Marvel has plans to make at least one more "Iron Man" film, as well as an "Avengers" flick in 2012 that will feature Tony Stark. If Favreau has his way, he'd like at least one of those films to be three-dimensional.

Jon Favreau Exploring IMAX for 'Iron Man 2'

Jon Favreau wants to make either “Iron Man 3” and/or “The Avengers” in 3D. What could be cooler than that? What could be even bigger than the notion of seeing Tony Stark and his supersuit flying off the screen, launching repulsor beams at your face?

Well, nothing’s bigger than IMAX, right?

“IMAX is also very compelling,” Favreau revealed to us over the weekend at Comic-Con, saying there’s a good chance that “Iron Man 2” will be released on IMAX screens much like “The Dark Knight” before it. “[I like the idea of] either shooting in the IMAX format, or blowing it up to IMAX.

As Favreau explained it, James Cameron himself met up with the actor-turned-filmmaker months ago and dazzled him with advance footage of “Avatar.” He was so impressed, in fact, that Favreau went back to Marvel and attempted to talk them into letting him shoot “Iron Man 2” in 3D. Obviously, those plans never panned out, and Favreau wasn’t able to shoot the “Iron Man” sequel with IMAX cameras, either.

Nevertheless, he’s making plans to blow-up some (if not all) of “Iron Man 2,” and release it on IMAX screens.

“Both of those are looking really good right now,” he said of IMAX and 3D. “And we’re looking into doing an IMAX release as well.”

The move would make sense for the “Iron Man” sequel, which will undoubtedly be an event flick as huge as “Dark Knight,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” and other films like them which have had lucrative IMAX releases. The movie is due in theaters May 7, 2010, which gives Favreau and friends plenty of time to adapt “Iron Man 2” for the bigger screens. Stay tuned, as we’ll have further details on both the IMAX and the 3D details, as the future of Iron Man becomes bigger, better, and more dimensional.

Producers tease Smallville season nine

Way back in 2001, when the creators of The CW's Smallville, Al Gough and Miles Millar, first introduced their take on Clark Kent's origin story before he turned into Superman, the pair laid out a very stringent mandate—"no tights, no flights." They held fast to that edict until they left the show in 2008, and now, two seasons later, there's going to be a bit of a crack in that hard-and-fast rule. (Major spoilers ahead!)

Yes, Clark Kent (Tom Welling) is finally donning a super suit, though it's not the iconic yellow, blue and red suit the world has come to recognize. Rather, it will be more of a snazzy black and silver number. But according to season nine show runners Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson, it's a step closer.

Promoting the upcoming season at San Diego Comic-Con last week, the pair told a small group of reporters, including SCI FI Wire, that the time was right to see Clark slowly inch closer toward his superhero identity this year.

"He isn't a guy who is going to put the tights and the boots on yet," Souders said. "He hasn't gone as far as Green Arrow or Black Canary. He's still on his path to becoming that man. But he is definitely recognizing that there is a second identity for him. As much as he knows what Clark Kent looks like, he needs to figure out what the Superman part looks like. So it might not be the costume everybody is used to seeing, but it is one step closer to that."

The suit represents just one part of Clark's acceptance of his otherworldly origins this year. "Up until now Clark has seen himself as human, and he's seen his Kryptonian identity as something to hide," this year. Peterson said. "This year he's embracing his Kryptonian identity and seeing himself solely as a hero, almost to the detriment of living as a human. It's really the pendulum swinging a little too far in the other direction as he finds his ground and balance between the two identities. He's really going to be pulled back into being Clark Kent by the realization that he loves Lois Lane. It's the crux of the year, his burgeoning love for Lois and the love triangle of Clark loves Lois, but Lois loves Superman."

There's also the Zod factor, with the full-on integration of the Kryptonian villain into the seasonal arc. Played by actor Callum Blue, "Zod brings a new dynamic into the show, because we are introducing him as Major Zod before he ever turns into General Zod," Peterson said. "We get to see his trajectory. We have never had a Kryptonian living on Earth with Clark for an entire season, and we'll see how that affects his journey."

Yet they are quick to point out that this Major Zod will not be the authoritative and dominant character that actor Terence Stamp played in two Superman films. Blue's Zod will be less in command and more uncertain about his purpose on Earth. "There is a reason he doesn't know much, and when people tune in to the first episode, they will be surprised at the situation that he finds himself in," Souders hinted. "So along with the fans, he will be unraveling what the overarching mystery is."

Could that mystery involve Clark's dad, and Zod's archenemy, Jor-El?

The producers just smiled at that query. "Without trying to do too much time-jumping and alternate universes [in the first six episodes], we are going to try and explore the relationship between Zod and Clark, and what if that were different, and what if Zod and Jor-El had been different in the past," Peterson said. "And the great thing is that we do have Terence Stamp back as the voice of Jor-El."

When asked if perhaps Jor-El could also make a visit in the flesh this season, their smiles only got broader. "You might have to just tune in for that one," Souder teased. Smallville returns to The CW on Sept. 25.

HBO announces early renewal of hit True Blood

True Blood season two returned less than a year after season one began and has only been airing for a little more than a month, but it's doing so well that HBO executives announced today that they have already picked up season three and that the plan is to return again in June 2010.

"I think one of the reasons we brought it back as soon as we did is we always felt it felt like a summer show," said Michael Lombardo, president, programming group and west coast operations, in a press conference today in Pasadena, Calif., at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. "So the hope is to bring it back next summer."

The third-season pickup comes as a batch of renewals for HBO Sunday night, including the new series Hung and the showbiz comedy Entourage. "We have picked up all three shows that are on Sunday night," Lombardo said. "True Blood ... will be coming back next summer. We're very excited about it, so stay tuned for next June."

HBO co-president Richard Plepler added that high ratings gave them the confidence to renew the show again. "The size of these shows has really broken through into the popular culture in a way we haven't seen before," Plepler said.

The executives were cagier about specific details on upcoming episodes. As fans await Evan Rachel Wood's debut as the lesbian Vampire Queen of Louisiana, Lombardo only confirmed his own satisfaction with her footage.

"It totally delivers," Lombardo said.

As for the extent of Wood's involvement in the newly ordered third season, Lombardo honestly could not specify. "We actually haven't sat down with [series creator] Alan [Ball] and heard his plans for season three yet," Lombardo said. "I'm sure we're going to be surprised and excited about it."

Plepler felt confident that series creator Ball would reveal more new casting surprises when he begins constructing season three. "Knowing Alan, probably yeah," Plepler said.

True Blood airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on HBO.

Check out Alice's 'Tea Room' at Comic-Con

Disney turned a warehouse into a "Tea Party" at this year's Comic-Con in San Diego, where people could see some of the props, costumes and sets used in Tim Burton's upcoming 3-D Alice in Wonderland film, and we have a bunch of images from that exhibit, after the jump.

Among the images: The Mad Hatter's (Johnny Depp) Tea Party, the Hatter's hat, costumes for the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), White Queen (Anne Hathaway), the throne room for the Red Queen.

Alice in Wonderland opens March 5, 2010. Click on the images to enlarge. (All photos by Enzo Giobbe).

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