Friday, October 30, 2009

News - 10/30/09...

Carnaval No Inferno

Brazilian artist Helder Santos drew, animated and directed this video for the local band Eddie and singer Karina Buhr. Santos writes:

The video is a protest against the violence and social problems in Brazil. Everybody thinks of Brazil as the fun, carnaval country. We tried to put what really happens here though the vision of a masked ball carnaval of horror. Hope you like it.

Santos produced it along with his wife Camilla and friends at production house CherryPlus.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Chuck Jones’s Opinion of Working at Disney

I’ve praised this blog before, but the Chuck Jones blog, run by Chuck’s grandson Craig, continues to be a treasure trove of artwork and new information about the director.

My favorite recent post is this letter that Chuck wrote to his daughter Linda following his brief stint working at the Disney studio in 1953. In it, Jones gives his perspective of working at the studio, and it sounds not so different from a lot of contemporary feature animation studios:

At Disney’s it was always necessary to be certain places at certain times. God knows why, nothing ever happened, so it was nearly impossible to work there without a timepiece. You could get along without talent, but not a watch…. Ah..I think this was a good mood—I mean move to return here [to Warner Bros.], I had not realized how much I missed the sweetness of my own solitude. At Disney’s aloneness or desire to be alone generates suspicion, you are always surrounded by people, drifting in and out, exchanging hackneyed pleasantries or just sitting, staring with baleful intensity at one’s own navel. What a waste! What a waste of wonderful talent!

Jones also offered an unflattering opinion of Disney director Ham Luske:

I went to Disney’s with respect for H… L…., I could not fathom him but I felt that there must be some pretty strong talent there, not evident on the surface perhaps but still waters run deep etc. etc. If I still think this then I am the only one who has recently worked there who does. Walt adjudges him a work horse, stolid, unimaginative, but able to get things done if someone else has injected the life and the spark into the material. Many others think of him as simply and purely a dolt and a dull dolt at that. I saw too little of him to make any judgment, but I can no longer assume that he has talent. Isn’t that a pity?

It’s particularly interesting to read this letter in context of Chuck’s later opinions of working at Disney, which can be found in this terrific article by Wade Sampson.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Color design in It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Just in time for Halloween, artist Justin Hilden examines the color choices in Bill Melendez’s It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Read his illustrated essay here.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Two Guys Named Joe by John Canemaker

John Canemaker’s next book is available for pre-order on Amazon. Two Guys Named Joe: Master Animation Storytellers Joe Grant and Joe Ranft will be released in August 2010. John gave me a preview of the book a couple months back. It is an intimate look at the accomplishments and struggles (both personal and professional) of two animation giants. If you think you already know these guys, you’re going to be in for a surprise. Needless to say, it’s guaranteed to be one of the must-haves of next year.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

CBS to Produce "Yes, Virginia" Animated Christmas Special

CBS has announced Yes, Virginia, a new animated Christmas special based on the true story of 8-year old Virginia O'Hanlon, who inspired one of the most famous newspaper editorials of all time in 1897 by asking, "Is there a Santa Claus?" The special will debut on December 11, 2009, at 8:00 PM (Eastern/Pacific).

Astro Boy Watch

Astro Boy might be rocking in China, but in the land of his birth, there's a different and sadder story.

Imagi Entertainment's "Astro Boy" bombed in Japan ....

After opening on more than 200 screens on the weekend of Oct. 10-12,
"Astro Boy" pulled in a disappointing $328,457 in its first week, an average of just over $1,500 per screen, to put it at the bottom of the week's rankings. For comparison, the same week's top film, NTV's "Kaiji," took over $4 million from just over 300 screens at an average of over $13,200.

If distributor Kadokawa was hoping for a slow burner, it was to be disappointed as
"Atom," as it was titled locally, dropped out of the top 10 and out of sight the following week ... [I]t looks to have gone the way of other recent attempts such as the live-action versions of "Speed Racer" and "Dragonball Evolution," which both failed to ignite the boxoffice in the land of their origin.

I hadn't seen the box office results for AB in Japan until now, although I knew it had been out for a few weeks. Apparently the reception given the picture by the Japanese mirrors the stateside reaction, which is a shame.

This probably doesn't bode well for Imagi's future plans.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Suspended Animation Gallery Opens to Showcase Disney Artists' Personal Works

The Suspended Animation Gallery has opened its virtual doors at The gallery was founded by Tenny Chonin, former Director of Artist Development at Walt Disney Animation Studios, and is dedicated to showcasing the personal artwork of artists and animators from Disney. The gallery is also searching for a live gallery space to open in 2010.

The full press release follows:

Gallery Showing Disney Artists’ Personal Works Opens

LOS ANGELES, CA – The virtual red ribbon has been cut on a new website: is now online for art fans to tour Suspended Animation Gallery, which exclusively carries personal art pieces created by the renowned artists of Walt Disney Animation Studios. While Suspended Animation Gallery has launched its collection in cyberspace, it is currently scouting locations to establish a live gallery space in 2010. is currently exhibiting original works by ten artists and expects to represent more than twenty within the year. These works include paintings, drawings and sculptures created by the artists who the world knows through the famous movies and characters they have helped bring to life, such as Mike Gabriel (eight films, including Oliver & Company and Pocahontas) and Lisa Keene (twelve films, including The Lion King and The Little Mermaid). Now working in a mainly digital medium at Disney, director Mike Gabriel says, “I haven't been inspired to get back onto the canvas for a long time, but now that I have a home gallery at, I am enjoying the complete freedom of expression: that’s what makes this new endeavor so intoxicating, or it may just be the turpentine.”

Suspended Animation Gallery was founded by Tenny Chonin, former Director of Artist Development at Walt Disney Animation Studios. While working at the Disney Studios in Burbank over the course of twelve years, Chonin met many talented men and women, and she was always curious about the art they created on their own time. Chonin began amassing a personal collection of these artists’ private works in the late 1990s, displaying them in her home and office. “Time and again, I’d see that friends and visitors were as captivated by these works as I,” says Chonin. This audience would first be attracted to the art for its own qualities, but then was quickly fascinated by the backgrounds of the creators, inquiring what movies a painter had worked on, or which Disney characters a sculptor helped create. “I just knew that one day I would find a way to present these wonderful artists and their personal work to the world,” says Chonin. Mike Gabriel explains, “as Disney cartoonists, we collaborate with the some of the best artists in the industry, but we rarely get the chance to show who we are as artists individually. With Tenny Chonin's gallery I hope people enjoy getting to see our unadulterated, pure artistic "voices" without anyone to blame but our own two little hands.”

Suspended Animation Gallery will present a revolving series of works and artists, posting samples of the available pieces to its website. Photographs of the available art can be viewed online and the original pieces can be viewed in-person by appointment.

For more information on Suspended Animation Gallery, or to view the collection of artwork available for sale, please visit

Fox Sets World Record for Tallest Ice Sculpture with "Ice Age 3" Scrat

A new world record has been set for the tallest ice sculpture by a 48-foot 8-inch sculpture of Scrat the squirrel from the Ice Age movies, in an event held in conjunction with the release of Ice Age 3 on DVD and Blu-ray disc. The new record is nearly 8 feet higher than the previous one set by Michael Amman in 2006.

Time-lapse videos have been released of the event:

Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is available now on DVD and Blu-ray disc.

ToonBoom and Animazing Gallery…Two Snaps Up!!!

For those of you young’ins who don’t get the Two Snaps Up reference, please see Men On Film.

The makers of ToonBoom spoke to a packed house Tuesday night at the Animazing Gallery in Soho, New York. They were in town to promote their slate of animation programs, specifically ToonBoom’s Animate. I can’t possibly go into all the details on why this program looks so awesome, but it may have a lot to do with the fact that it’s the only comprehensive animation program completely dedicated to meeting the needs of animation professionals in the best ways possible. The seminar was very informative – a brief overview of the company’s history was offered, followed by coverage of ToonBoom’s product line, with the most in-depth attention given to Animate, and Animate Pro. ToonBoom’s reps tried to answer as many questions as possible, and were very engaged with the audience. ToonBoom is widely used overseas and up North in Canada, and they are looking to expand into the US market. Almost 100% of Disney’s Princess and the Frog was done using ToonBoom’s software, and it’s truly amazing what this software package can do. It would be great to see this program used more here in the US, but I’d say the major drawback may be the expense involved. Correct me if I’m wrong, but key programs are sold separately and the programs themselves are kind of expensive for even the ordinary independent animator. The discount offered at the event for Animate was decent though, and I would suggest looking into the program to see if it’s right for you. It definitely blows Flash away, which was certainly not made with animators in mind. I could see how the program could speed up a workflow immensely.

A quick note about the venue – The event was held at Animazing Gallery, which is a really great art gallery featuring animation art. The current exhibit is focused on the art of Maurice Sendak, creator of Where the Wild Things Are. The exhibit is wonderful and you should really go check it out before it finishes on November 8th. The event was originally supposed to be at a bar that holds regular animation events, but since this event was more of an informational seminar, the bar atmosphere would not have been ideal. The wine and hors d’oeuvres were a nice touch as well.

Animazing Gallery


(Thanks asifa east)

South Park’s Cartman Goes Gaga for Poker Face

Wednesday night’s new South Park episode, Whale Whores, featured a hysterical cover of Lady Gaga’s track Poker Face, sung by none other than Cartman.

Fantastic Reviews For Fantastic Mr. Fox

We’re a month away from the theatrical release of Wes Anderson’s stop-motion feature Fantastic Mr. Fox, and if the reviews at are any indication, it’s headed for success. And success for this film doesn’t have to be a $100 million domestic gross. The budget was reportedly “$20 to $30 million,” so a $15 opening weekend would likely thrill the 20th Century Fox execs. Here’s a recently released clip featuring voice-work by Jason Schwartzman.

Animated Trailer For Joey Fly, Private Eye Book

A new graphic novel for kids recently got some animated promotion. This 1-minute short brings Aaron Reynolds' latest creation (which was published by Henry Holt), Joey Fly, Private Eye – Creepy Crawly Crime, to life. The piece was directed by Neil Numberman, who also illustrated the graphic novel, and animation was handled by Chadwick Whitehead and Filipe Topa.

Taiwanese Student’s Animated Elevator Fart

Wei Xiu Wang’s altogether silly animated short, Fart in Elevator, takes workplace flatulence humor to the next level. It was created as part of Wang’s studies at The Taiwan University of Arts. He also created a making-of segment that’s worth a look.

Yowp, the Early Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Blog

Yowp: Stuff about Early Hanna-Barbera Cartoons is a blog that’ll tell you more about Hanna-Barbera cartoons than you probably cared to know. The blog creator, who is anonymous, knows his stuff, and gives us insidery opinions of this sort: “Here’s where you wish someone like Foster or Maltese was guiding the dialogue because Shows’ lines come off as trite and obvious.” His obsessiveness (I can only assume a guy does this blog because no girl would ever obsess over early H-B like this) is not entirely without merit. He also highlights pieces of animation that serve as fine lessons for anybody creating limited animation, such as this lovely two-drawing cycle of Doggie Daddy driving a car.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Canemaker talks McCay at Ohio State

More John Canemaker news! John will present his do-not-miss lecture/screening on the art and life of animation pioneer Winsor McCay (1867–1934) at the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, next Tuesday November 3rd.

As part of the lecture, Canemaker presents Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) it the way it was meant to be shown – as a vaudeville act with live musical accompaniment (photo above is from Canemaker’s recent screening in Annecy). The program starts at 7:00 pm at the Wexner Center Film/Video Theater, 1871 North High Street in Columbus, Ohio. The event is part of the current Winsor McCay: Legendary Cartoonist exhibit at the OSU Cartoon Library and Museum. For tickets and information, please visit the Cartoon Museum website.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Disney Development

I zipped around a couple of floors of the hat building today. And artists related:

"A few of us are still doing story work on Rapunzel, but the feature's really made a big jump in coming together. The screening last month was way better ..." [I've heard this before. -SH] "A couple of sequences are going into production, and they're still hiring people to work on it ..."

"..."We're retooling
King of the Elves ..."
Joe Jump is back in work ..."

I hadn't heard that Mr. Jump had returned to the boards, but it isn't surprising; what I saw of the piece when it was in development looked pretty good. (We mentioned it way back when (I think), Variety listed JJ as a project here, and Animated News has a one-sentence synopsis for the feature here.)

A while ago, Disney artists had clued me that development on Joe Jump had stopped, but nothing ever completely dies in Animationland. Peter Pan was in development thirteen years prior to its successful appearance in theaters, Beauty and the Beast was briefly considered for development in the early 1980s, and Treasure Island/Planet got pitched in 1985.

Like I say. Nothing ever dies; it just goes into a suspended half-life until bobbing back to the surface once more. (This book has been in and out of development at the House of Mouse for well over twenty years ... part of the "development graveyard" that is part of every studio's production operation.)

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Briefly: 1st China Cartoon & Animation Art Expo in Beijing; NPR on "Brave & the Bold"

* The 1st China Cartoon and Animation Art Exhibition opened in Beijing on Monday. The exhibition showcases the advancement of Chinese animation in the past 60 years. [CCTV English]

* National Public Radio has posted an extended appreciation of the "Mayhem of the Music Meister" episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

NY Times on Disney's Marketing Blitz for "A Christmas Carol"

The New York Times has taken a look at the massive marketing blitz the Walt Disney Company is putting behind Robert Zemeckis' motion-capture CGI animated adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Among other factors, the Disney studio is in need of a hit after losing money in the most recent quarter and successful holiday movies can be re-released once a year, as Zemeckis' The Polar Express and Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas have. However, among the obstacles facing the new movie are the story's many adaptations in a variety of media, recent softness in the box office power of star Jim Carrey, and the poor reception of Zemeckis' Beowulf.

Jonathan Demme Planning Animated Adaptation of "Zeitoun"

The New York Times reports that director Jonathan Demme will be adapting the book Zeitoun as an animated feature film. The best-selling novel by Dave Eggers follows Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-American man who stayed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and gave aid to anyone he could as he paddled through the flooded streets in a canoe, only to disappear in 2005. Demme is reportedly "'deep, deep, deep into researching' how he would produce the animation for his film, but that he favored a hand-drawn style."

And an addition via cartoon brew -

And now a personal note to Jonathan Demme: Mr. Demme, if you’re reading this, I beg you not to use cheap Flash/AfterEffects-style animation. Don’t Waltz with Bashir this film, and compromise the personal impact of the story with mechanical movement. Maintain the integrity and vitality of the graphic illustration that initially drew you to the project, and bring it to life with the nuance and lushness that only traditional hand-drawn animation can provide. Look at the works of Koji Yamamura, Frédéric Back, and Sylvain Chomet to understand the unique storytelling possibilities of the animation medium. Prove to the world that not every live-action director has a clumsy, heavy-footed, Bob Zemeckis-like approach to the art form.

The Cartoonist

Tell Your Local Public TV Station You Want to See "The Cartoonist"

On November 8 and 9, a new documentary, "The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, BONE and the Changing Face of Comics" will be fed via satellite to public television stations around the country as a special for the November/December pledge drive period.

When we were first discussed this project with public television, several in the industry didn't think that "comic book people" were necessarily public TV watchers. They questioned whether there would be an interest in this program among their core audience.

We think they're wrong, and that's where we need your help. The decision regarding whether or not to air this program is determined by each individual station. When stations hear from their viewers, they tend to respond. That's why a call from you can make a big difference.

We think this program will create greater awareness of the comic book industry and cause more people to appreciate and understand the cultural impact of comics and graphic novels. The special also touches on the importance of comics to those young people known as "reluctant readers" and how comics provide a gateway to art and literature for many who might otherwise be lost.

Debuting at the Wexner Center for the Arts, with additional screenings at Comic-Con and Heroes-Con this summer, "The Cartoonist" has been getting excellent reviews. The film tells the inspiring story of Jeff Smith's creation of the epic comic book, BONE, hailed by critics as one of the greatest graphic novels of all time.

Fellow cartoonists SCOTT McCLOUD, COLLEEN DORAN, HARVEY PEKAR, PAUL POPE and TERRY MOORE, as well as friends, associates, experts and Jeff himself, share their stories of this worldwide phenomenon that began in small comics hobby shops and is now found in bookstores, schools, libraries and the homes of millions of adults and children in 25 countries. In addition to discussing Jeff's early years, influences and philosophies, the film provides a look at a unique industry and art form that continues to evolve as its audience expands.

Here's the trailer for the film:

If public TV stations show "The Cartoonist" during the November/December holiday period, we think the program will create a new demand for comics and graphic novels as gifts.

We hope you can take the time to call your local public TV station and express your interest. It does make a difference.

To find the public TV station nearest you, click on the link below:
PBS Station Finder

Here Comes AVATAR! Hard Sell Begins With New, Action-Filled Theatrical Trailer!

To hell with the muted, awestruck tone of the teaser. Fox is preparing to go live with a new theatrical trailer for AVATAR, and it is all about the sound and fury. This is the spot that's supposed to sell the uninitiated on James Cameron's IMAX 3D "game-changer". It's also the one you either saw in theaters this week or via an unwatchable bootleg on YouTube.

It will debut on Yahoo! Movies - in glorious Quicktime HD - tomorrow. For now, it is available in serviceable TrailerAddict HD. Have at.

Love that shot of badass Stephen Lang (as Colonel Quaritch) calmly knocking back a cup of joe as all hell breaks loose around him. I have a feeling he's going to be my favorite thing in this movie.

As for the storytelling, it looks like Cameron is going to be as direct with his message as he was in T2. I wasn't expecting a s***load of nuance from this film anyway, so as long as the characters are engaging and the action is ferocious, I'm okay with J.C.'s Stanley Kramer touch.

Overall, this is a very impressive trailer. My only caveat would be that, for all of its world-creating brio, the film feels kinda small in a weird way, like it's confined to about six or seven locations. Then again, the film is also close to three-hours long, so it's possible that Cameron is only sticking the tip in right now.

December 18, 2009, folks. Is this the AVATAR you've been dreaming of for the last decade?

The Dark Knight's Disappearing Act Goes Poorly In 'Batman Vanishing'

Okay, so you've seen The Joker Blogs and "The Dark Knight Kills Christmas"—but now it's time to make room for yet another Batman parody.

The folks at College Humor have combined the sheer comedy of "The Dark Knight Kills Christmas" with the spot-on accuracy of The Joker Blogs in "Batman Vanishing," a short film that shines the Bat-Signal on one of the Caped Crusader's trickiest elements—namely, his ability to vanish from sight at a moment's notice.

"Batman Vanishing" recreates a scene from "The Dark Knight" between Batman and Commissioner Gordon as they determine whether Harvey Dent is trustworthy enough to bring into their fold—except this time, the scene takes place on the Gotham Police Department's rooftop, and Batman's "vanishing trick" doesn't go quite as planned.

Aside from being absolutely hilarious and yielding yet another spot-on Christian Bale impersonation, "Batman Vanishing" calls out Batman's propensity for disappearing without a trace. In reality, as seen in the video, that trick doesn't work quite as well as it does in the comic books — and even when Batman does vanish from sight, it's likely that he's just hiding around the corner waiting for a good opportunity to use the front door.

If nothing else, it proves just how rude Batman can be. I know he's a crime-fighter and all, but seriously—how hard is it to say goodbye before you leave?

See 4 new making-of videos from Battlestar's The Plan

Why does Michael Truco calls Edward James Olmos "the best director I've ever worked with"? What does Olmos plan to do on the set that he calls "one of the most expensive pieces of rubble that's ever been created"? And what are the rules to the famous Battlestar sport Pyramid?

All this and more is revealed in four new making-of videos from Battlestar Galactica: The Plan.

Learn Who Plays The Title Character’s Daddy, The God Odin, In Kenneth Branagh’s THOR!!

The great Anthony Hopkins, who played Nordic King Hrothgar in 2007's Beowulf, will embody Odin, Nordic King of Asgard, in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Marvel Comics’ “Thor.”

Hopkins joins Natalie Portman ("V For Vendetta"), who plays Thor’s girl Jane Foster, Tom Hiddelston ("Cranford"), who plays Thor’s ne’er-do-well brother Loki, and Chris Hemsworth (George Kirk in the last "Star Trek"), who plays the wielder of the giant hammer Mjöllnir.

Sam Jackson may be back as Nick Fury too.

Branagh directs from a screenplay by Mark Protosevich (“Poseidon,” “I Am Legend”) and Zack Stentz & Ashley Miller (“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” “Fringe”).

Filming gets underway in January.

Find all of Variety’s story on the matter here.

(Thanks Aint It Cool)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

News - 10/29/09...

MightyMoney Team Deposits Octokids Short

If you’re easily offended, then boy do I have the show for you. Actually, please power down your computer and do the laundry. Your gentele sensibilities are no longer needed at this website. The rest of us are about to watch the first episode of Octokids, a re-enactment of the actual, fabricated events surrounding Nadya Suleman’s birth to octuplets. The series is the creation of Steven Chunn, Abed Gheith and Sevan Najarian, who were all part of the House of Cosbys team. Since then, they’ve formed

Wizz Folds Up Origami Spot For Orange

For a recent French Orange campaign, Thomas Tyman and his team at Wizz merged new technology with time-honored techniques. They produced traditional and CG animation, and then project it, frame-by-frame, onto actual paper origami. The agency on the job was Publicis Conseil Paris and Emmanuelle Walker also worked on the project as a 2D animator.

Ice Age 3 DVD Animatic Clip

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a worldwide box office phenomenon. By the end of the year, it will likely be the highest-grossing animated film of all time, eclipsing Shrek 2. It’s already the 3rd highest grossing film in the international market, only exceeded by Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. So it’s safe to assume this 3rd Ice Age film will sell like gangbusters on DVD. It hit the shelves yesterday, and here’s a clip from the animatic:

Monsters Floats DreamWorks Profits

An unexpectedly strong performance from Monsters vs. Aliens brightened up the third quarter results for DreamWorks Animation.

DVD sales of the film helped the company post a $19.6 million profit on revenues of $135 million.

That’s a 48 percent drop in profits and 11 percent in revenues from the third quarter of 2008, though this year Monsters vs. Aliens is the studio’s only release this year while last year the company was riding income from hits Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar: Escape to Africa.

The company has overall done well in the down economy, its stock gaining 85% since February’s all-time low.

The studio’s lineup for next year will be more robust, with How to Train Your Dragon due in March, followed by Shrek Forever After in May and Oobermind in November.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Foothill Signs Gododo Partners at MIPCOM

Foothill Entertainment teamed up with Neptuno Films and Title Entertainment to co-produce the original animated series Gododo.

The companies reached the agreement at MIPCOM 2009.

Gododo is a series about the last surviving dodo, who along with his friend Ducky, follow the arrows through a series of funny adventures. Ian Ellery and Guy Hallifax of the U.K.-Canadian team Phew!! created the series.

“We are enormously happy to have signed our deal with Neptuno and Title at MIPCOM for Gododo,” says Jo Kavanagh-Payne, president of Foothill. “Both companies are extremely talented and we know they will be ideal partners for us on this unique series.”

Neptuno Films was established in 1991 and is one of the largest and most prolific animation studios in Europe, chosen by Animation Magazine as one of the top 10 international animation studios outside of the United States.

Title was founded in 2004 by Canadian industry veterans Frank Taylor and Dulcie Clark and produces a wide array of programming across several genres.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Tinker Bell Named U.N. Ambassador of Green

Tinker Bell, the beloved pixie from Walt Disney’s Peter Pan and her own line of animated DVD movies, has received a unique honor for a cartoon by becoming a United Nations Honorary Ambassador of Green.

The honor was bestowed on the character, who stars in the just-released DVD and Blu-ray feature Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, at a ceremony Sunday at the United Nations building in New York by Kiyo Akasaka, the U.N. under-secretary-general for communications and public information.

Also attending were Lost Treasure director Klay Hall, producer Sean Lurie, and voice actors Mae Whitman (Tinker Bell) and Raven Symone (Iridessa).

Disney’s Tinker Bell was named Honorary Ambassador of Green by the U.N. Under-Secretary-General Kiyo Akasaka (r.), with Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure director Klay Hall (l.), and producer Sean Lurie (far l.) on Oct. 25.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Comedy Central Takes White’s Hounds

Comedian Ron White’s animated project Hounds has found a home at Comedy Central.

Described in The Hollywood Reporter as a “blue-collar Southern neo-gothic comedy,” White will serve as co-executive producer and will voice a character named Chicken who mentors relatives and friends in a small town.

Chris Thompson is on board to write the project.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Magoo’s Christmas Carol panel in NYC

The Paley Center for Media on 52nd Street will be hosting a screening and panel discussion celebrating The First Christmas Special: Revisiting Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 6:00 pm. Following a screening of the show, a panel including animator/author Darrell Van Citters; Judy Levitow, daughter of Magoo’s director Abe Levitow; and Marie Matthews, Voice of “Young Scrooge”, will examine the making of the program and its place in television history. Reserve tickets here.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Mighty Mouse - the New Adventures on DVD

Here it comes to save your day.

This past year I’ve been working with CBS Video and Paramount Home Entertainment on compiling the Ralph Bakshi/John Kricfalusi Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures complete series DVD set — and now you can pre-order it on It’ll be released on January 5th 2010 and bonus materials include commentary by John Kricfalusi, Tom Minton, Mike Kazaleh and Kent Butterworth; three original Terry Toons cartoons (1943’s He Dood It Again with original “Super Mouse” titles, the 1945 Oscar nominated Gypsy Life, and one of the first cartoons Bakshi ever animated on, from 1961, Mysterious Package); and a bonus behind the scenes documentary, Breaking the Mold: the Re-Making of Mighty Mouse with Ralph, John K., Bruce Timm, Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Vicki Jenson, Libby Simon, Mike Kazaleh, Kent Butterworth, Tom Minton, etc.

The 1987-88 series has been beautifully restored and will be released uncut, and the documentary contains much rare behind-the-scenes footage and commentary. Take it from me - this is a must-have. Mike Kazaleh designed the wrap around cover (above, click image to see it larger).

(Thanks cartoon brew)

End of Days

I went to Universal Animation Studios (formerly Universal Cartoon Studios) today. Boxes were stacked in the hallways. Most of the offices were empty. One of the remaining staffers said to me:

"We're finishing the last episodes of Curious George. All the shows have been shipped now, and the last designer is finishing up this week or next. We'll be in post on the show until next March, but we'll be moving to a corner of the black tower's twenty-fifth floor in the next few weeks. Universal will be renting out most of the floor to somebody else."

"... I don't think Universal is making any announcements about closing Universal Animation Studio. They're just not going to have any shows, or do any productions, or have any executives. Recently they haven't had much interest in doing animation. They want to pick up produced projects, but they aren't going to be creating anything here ..."

Which is a shame, since UAS has done some pretty good work over the years.

The studio came into existence in the early nineties, a couple of years after Warner Bros. Animation sprang back to life with Tiny Toons, and Disney TVA was moving into high gear. The last of the slower-witted congloms realized there were tidy sums to be made in television animation. Universal set up its own studio, followed by Viacom with Nick a couple of years later.

Universal, back in the day, proclaimed that it wanted to be a major television producer, and it recruited artists and directors from Warners and Disney. But outside of the perennial money spinner Land Before Time, nothing really took off. U never achieved its own Pinky and the Brain or Duck Tales, never became a major teevee animation producer.

And it's always seemed a little sad to me, because the potential was there. The place just never got running on all eight cylinders.

Adios, Universal Cartoon/Animation Studios. It was fun while it lasted.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

No Monsters V. Aliens II

Today DreamWorks Animation reported that less money was rolling in. No big surprise there, since no newer features have been released in recent months.

No big surprise there. This also wasn't a huge surprise:

... [Chief Executive Jeffrey] Katzenberg also disclosed that the studio did not plan to produce a sequel to "Monsters vs. Aliens," which generated $380 million at the box office but did not fare well in some key international markets. Asked why, he said: "I'd like to tell you there's a perfectly rational, clear and easy answer as to why not, but there isn't."

“There was enough of a consensus from our distribution and marketing folks in certain parts of the world that we would be pushing a boulder up a hill ...”

I've got an explanation: The Three Dee was first rate, but the characters, gags and story didn't gel and catch fire the way Kung Fu Panda did. Mostly, however, MvA was America-centric. How many people in Asia or Europe know what the hell Area Fifty-one is? Or care? And American troops and American Presidents aren't quite the ... uh ... crowd pleasers in other countries that they used to be. And Monsters had plenty of all those things.

(You'll note that the picture did fine in the U.S. of A. But not so fine everywhere else.)

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Comedy Central Does Goode, Circles Sit Down

Cable network Comedy Central has picked up rerun rights to all 13 episodes of Mike Judge’s animated series The Goode Family.

The network also is in talks with Fox for the same rights to another short-lived broadcast series, Sit Down, Shut Up!

Goode Family, which aired over the summer on ABC, will appear on Comedy Central in January. Variety reports Comedy Central picked up the show because it was not widely seen during it network run and to get into business with Judge, creator of Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill.

Sit Down, Shut Up! was developed by Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz from a live-action Australian TV series set in a high school.

Variety also reports that Comedy Central has no plans to produce more episodes of either series. The channel recently commissioned new episodes of the hit animated series Futurama due to strong ratings for repeats of the former Fox show.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

VES Awards Seek Student Submissions

Submissions are now open for the Visual Effects Society’s second annual Student Award, which is sponsored by Autodesk.

The award is open to visual effects created for a student project at an accredited school. Winners receive a free license to Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max or Autodesk Softimage, as well as airfare and two nights’ accommodations to attend the eighth annual VES Awards ceremony, set for Feb. 28 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Beverly Hills.

“The Visual Effects Society’s second annual student award is a platform for students to showcase their work, and for the community to celebrate the next generation of visual effects heroes,” said Stig Gruman, vice president of the Autodesk Digital Entertainment Group. “I encourage students to submit for the award – in addition to publicizing their talent, it could open doors to new opportunities,”

Deadline for students to submit their work is Nov. 30. Rules and procedures can be found at

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

9 Story’s Almost Naked Animals, Wibbly Pig Land Abroad

Toronto-based studio 9 Story Entertainment has secured broadcast deals with top global broadcasters for its animated series Almost Naked Animals and Wibbly Pig.

Almost Naked Animals (52 x 11 min.) has sold to Canal+ (France), ABC (Australia) and Noga (Israel Based on the popular website of the same name created by Noah Z. Jones, the animated series has been commissioned by Canada’s YTV and is scheduled for a fall 2010 premiere.

Meanwhile, Wibbly Pig, a new 52 x 10 min. animated series based on Mick Inkpen’s books, has been sold to CBeebies (BBC Worldwide) Latin America. Targeting 2-5 year-olds, the series has commissions from the BBC for CBeebies, in addition to both TVO and Knowledge Network in Canada.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Rare Walt Disney Letter Up for Auction

A rare 1935 letter Walt Disney wrote on studio letterhead to a man in Minnesota is up for auction and expected to sell for between $3,500 and $5,000.

The letter, in which Disney informs the recipient his submission of musical comedy material does not fit in with the company’s plans, is typed on a paper with the orange and black Mickey Mouse Productions-Silly Symphony logos. It is signed by Disney in ink using what is likely a cartoonist’s pen. The lot also includes a carbon of the letter Disney is responding to and the original envelope with stamp attached.

The rare example of this letterhead is part of an auction that includes 600 lots being presented by Cohasco of Yonkers, N.Y. and closing Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. EST.

The full catalog of the auction, including a full description of the Disney letter and an image, can be seen at

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Briefly: 2009 EFA Awards; ATHF Holiday Album; West & Plympton Together Again

* The Europe Film Academy has announced the nominees for the best animated feature film for the 2009 European Film Awards: Finland's Niko & The Way To The Stars, Ireland's The Secret of Kells, and France's Mia And The Migoo. [Hollywood Reporter]

* Aqua Teen Hunger Force will release their first holiday album Have Yourself a Meaty Little Christmas on November 3, 2009. [Boise Weekly]

* Kanye West and Bill Plympton will collaborate again on an illustrated book of West's lyrics titled Through the Wire: The Words and Lyrics of Kanye West. The book is due out in November; Plympton had previously done the animated music video for West's "Heard 'Em Say." [Publishers Weekly]

Does Nickelodeon's 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Deal Mean The End of Mirage?

Ever since the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” debuted in 1984, their original adventures have always had a home at Mirage Studios. However, with the recent sale of the “Turtles” rights to Nickelodeon, the future of Mirage Studios is no longer clear.

In a post on Newsarama, Tristan Jones—the current writer of the “Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” comics—revealed that Mirage Studios, Inc. will close on December 31, 2009.

“The current crew will become independent contractors on January 1 to get the final issues out,” Jones said. “Mirage will continue to publish ‘Tales’ until the May, 2010 issue - but as of now - that’s the end of the line. Peter [Laird] did keep rights for Mirage to publish 18 ‘TMNT’ comic books per year through the direct market, which would only be based on the current Mirage Universe stuff (eg: a continuation/conclusion to Volume 4).”

Jones also stated that under the terms of last week's $60 million deal with Nickelodeon, Laird can still publish “Turtles” comics “between 32 and 48 pages.” However, Mirage can no longer publish any trade paperbacks.

“What could possibly happen is that say Nickelodeon/Viacom/Paramount/whoever decided to pick up the ball and run in a completely new direction with the Turtles,” Jones elaborated. “They’d be able to license that out to another company, and that company could potentially do anything they like, except publish anything that continues the currently established Mirage Universe, so any comics that would come from another company would be something completely new (what IDW is doing with ‘Transformers’ and ‘GI Joe’ is a pretty good example of the sort of thing that could be done).”

“Peter still owns Mirage,” Jones continued. “So there’s a chance that Mirage could continue publishing but there aren’t any solid plans for anything Turtle related yet (outside of what I just mentioned) or any new IP’s that I’m aware of.”

We've got 6 secrets from the set of V for you

We spent the day on the set of ABC's upcoming alien-invasion series V and learned a few spoilers for the show's debut next week. We also spoke with the show's stars and will be posting what they had to say later this week, but first a few surprises.

♦Alan Tudyk (Firefly's Wash and Dollhouse's Alpha) guest-stars in the pilot as the partner of FBI counter-terrorist agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell); we were told he will now be a recurring character.

♦ The final fight scene in the pilot was reshot and re-edited and now features a sci-fi element: A floating alien device called a "seeker." There is also a machine gun wielded by a major character.

♦ Anyone who has seen the original miniseries on which the new show is based knows that the "Visitors" are actually reptilian creatures disguised as humans. Will we see a full reveal of the aliens in the first four episodes? Producers won't say, but they told us that there will be an off-screen "skinning" of an alien at some point in the initial episodes.

♦ The mothership over New York will feature a mysterious room called a "bliss chamber" designed for the alien Visitors. Its function is unclear.

♦ The Visitors in the new show makes use of an alien alphabet that is identical to the one used in Kenneth Johnson's original miniseries as an homage to that show.

♦ The first four episodes of the show, which will air in November and December before the show takes a hiatus until spring, will end with a series of cliffhangers.

Executive producer Steve Pearlman, meanwhile, explained why ABC will air only four episodes before taking a long break and return to air the balance of the first season's 13 episodes in March.

"From the very beginning, there was going to be a break," Pearlman said on the show's set in Vancouver, Canada. "We were planned originally to be on starting in November, and then we were going to be off the air for about six or seven weeks and then come back on the air in January. And I think ... everybody kind of realized that that would put us up against American Idol ... plus the Olympics."

To avoid competition from those two shows, ABC opted instead to keep the show off the air until March. The show will play out in four-episode chapters, Pearlman added. "These [first] four episodes now have been designed very carefully [that this is] basically the first three weeks of the Visitors being here. ... Episodes one, two and three following the pilot, the story ... becomes much more about: There is no normal anymore, which is the title of the [second] episode."

The fourth episode is slated to air on Nov. 24, Pearlman said. "There are quite a few cliffhanger moments for many of our characters in that episode, and things that hopefully will be big enough events and the viewers will be hooked into these characters enough that the viewers will want to come back and see what happens to them in March." V kicks off on Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Frank Miller's HARD BOILED Waits For SIN CITY

Comics2Film at spoke exclusively to producer Stephen L'Heureux of Solipsist Film who gave us the scoop on his slate of many comic-based films. Among them are two projects in orbit around comics creator and filmmaker Frank Miller: the 'Sin City' franchise and an adaptation of Miller's 'Hard Boiled'.

L'Heureux confirmed for us that the long-awaited sequel 'Sin City 2' will go into production in the second half of 2010. Unlike the first movie, which used the graphic novels as both screenplay and story boards, the sequel will be based on an original script by Miller. As with the original, Miller will co-direct with Robert Rodriguez.

The producer also told us that Miller is hard at work on the screenplay for 'Hard Boiled', based on his comic series from Dark Horse from the early 1990s. Miller is attached to direct that feature.

The ultra-violent comic featured a troubled tax collector named Nixon who slowly begins to realize that his life is nothing like what it seems and he is some kind of robot doing the bidding of a shadowy organization. The book was printed in an oversize format to accommodate the intricately detailed artwork of co-creator Geoff Darrow.

However, L'Heureux told us 'Hard Boiled' is still in the early stages.

"We're still developing it. We got the project in turnaround from Warner Bros and Frank. It's such a pleasure to work with someone like Frank Miller. He's so smart and passionate about story at all levels from 1940s noir pulp to modern film," L'Heureux said.

So when can fans expect to see the movie? The producer said it all comes down to scheduling Miller's time.

"With 'Sin City' just on the horizon I don't think we'd be able to do it with Frank right away. As simple as 'Sin City' seems, it's a very complex scheduling with all these actors and it's a very demanding shoot to be on a sound stage all day long," L'Heureux told us. "We have to space it for Frank. There's also talk, of course, of 'Sin City 3'."

Someone translated that kooky Klingon propaganda video

Two days ago we reported about a viral Klingon video that was creeping around the Web. Today it appears that the Klingons are on the move again. Though their ultimate objectives are uncertain, this new development makes clear some of their immediate intentions.

A new live-action video, posted by the same YouTube account user, "Tanastvar," shows a little girl watching the aforementioned viral video on TV while happily singing along as if she were watching Elmo on Sesame Street. At the end, the camera spins to reveal only the cameraman's goateed mouth. He growls an ominous, "It's working!"

But what exactly is this viral video trying to tell us?

The crew over at had fan Chris Lipscombe (a member of the Klingon Language Institute) do some translating for those of us who only took Klingon 101 in college and never learned more than "Where is the library?"

Although Chris goes back and forth with some of the grammar, below is what he calls a "liberal translation":

We are members of the Klingon Empire!

We have argued with many dozen planets

and we expand to many more every day

Do you want to influence the planet?

But how?

Let's go, we are coming, join us!

Contribute to the enjoyment of Klingon planets

The Empire is good for everyone

The Civilization brings wealth, competitions and good food.

Our Klingon "yeni cheri" are brave, many and fair.

Take spoils from the invasions, and many solders join the Empire

The Empire powerfully protects the important planet from the influence and possible decaying that the dictator (brings ... does something with ....)

Put down your small weapons

Open your hearts

and join the Klingon Empire.

Get ready but conquer

Get justice now!

But that's not all. TrekMovie community member Artun Özsemerciyan connected the background music in the Klingon video as coming from a Turkish children's choir, specifically a song about birds. See the video below for the damning evidence.

It appears that the Klingons are trying to make human children sympathetic to the their cause. But to what end? Indoctrination? Perhaps to make future generations more easily manipulated?

Stay tuned, as we're positive this is not the last we've heard from them.

J.R.R. Tolkien earns $50 million a year while still dead

J.R.R. Tolkien showed up at No. 5 on the annual Forbes list of top-earning dead celebrities this year after raking in $50 million between October 2008-2009. A lot of that money apparently came from a settlement between the Tolkien estate, publisher HarperCollins and New Line Cinema over the Lord of the Rings movies.

Forbes said Tolkien's earnings potential looks pretty good in the future too since a movie version of The Hobbit is due out in the next few years. Pretty good for a guy who died of a bleeding ulcer back in 1973.

V now has a music video. Does ABC understand this show?

Just after we found out ABC wasn't going to paint big scary red letters in the sky over major cities to promote V, they released a somewhat bizarre music video over on EW to help push the series.

This seems to be par for the course with ABC and V: They're still planning to air it (sort of), but they can't seem to make up their minds about what the show is. It's already been moved around on their schedule a few times, and recently we found out only four episodes will air in November before the series takes an indefinite break.

The concept of a music-video-style promo is a great one, but the tone of the song -- Muse's "Uprising" -- doesn't feel like it matches the pilot of V we saw a while ago. Or maybe we're overthinking it and this is really a brilliant idea?

Finally, we see the Klingons from J.J. Abrams' Star Trek

The Klingons never made it onto the big screen in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot movie, but they do make an appearance on the DVD extras, and Spike has some footage of them below.

If your first thought is that they seem like well-spoken masked Uruk-hai from Lord of the Rings, that's kind of what we thought too. Love the ridged helmets though.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

News 2 - 10/28/09...

Mr. Beaks Attends The 10th Anniversary Celebration Of THE IRON GIANT! Calls For A Theatrical Re-Release!

"What if a gun had a soul and didn't want to be a gun?"

Stirring in its simplicity, bold in its depiction of humanity's capacity for violence, ruthless in its ability to make grown men cry, THE IRON GIANT endures because, once upon a time, its visionary director Brad Bird refused to treat his audience like imbeciles. He had no interest in mindlessly emulating the popular movie-musical formula of Katzenberg-era Disney or incorporating a hip-hop soundtrack to broaden the film's demographic appeal; he just wanted to tell a timeless story about a kid who befriends a giant, non-singing, potentially-lethal robot from another planet.

This, unbelievably, was a revolutionary idea back in the 1990s. And while Warner Bros. Feature Animation was eager to bring a talented filmmaker like Bird into the fold, they were baffled by (if not outright hostile to) the director's stubborn insistence on jettisoning the musical elements, setting the film in 1957 (at the height of Sputnik paranoia), and stranding viewers with a protagonist named Hogarth, the only child of a single mother. "How depressing," thought the studio! "Would it kill Bird to give young Hogarth a kid sister or a talking dog to liven things up a little? Could he possibly bring the film into the present day? And, seriously, he's just kidding about going the non-musical route, right? 'Cuz no one makes cartoons without musical numbers anymore. It just isn't done. Perhaps he'd change his mind if he heard the demos for those fabulous Carole Bayer Sager/David Foster tunes from QUEST FOR CAMELOT!"

Though Bird was pressured to make such changes throughout development, he never capitulated to the studio's demands. According to the director at last Friday's ASIFA-sponsored 10th Anniversary celebration for THE IRON GIANT (held at the Stephen J. Ross Theatre on the Warner Bros. lot), this earned him a reputation for being "difficult" - which, evidently, is studio-speak for "having an opinion". Whether or not Bird was unduly combative, it turns out he had a right to be recalcitrant: though the film bombed theatrically (for reasons that aren't as clear-cut as you might think), it was still a massive hit with critics and championed by upstart websites like AICN*; within a year of its release, the picture was already being referred to as a new family classic by the thousands of discriminating individuals who took a chance on it.

For those of us who were enchanted by THE IRON GIANT from day one, it's been incredibly gratifying to see Bird go on to make two of the best animated films of the last decade in THE INCREDIBLES and RATATOUILLE. But it's still mildly annoying to know that Bird's debut feature was never fully appreciated in the cinema as the 'scope masterpiece that it so clearly is. It's one thing to watch THE IRON GIANT at home on DVD, but quite another to get lost in its anamorphic splendor in a darkened theater. This is where the film comes alive. The rich autumnal colors of the picture's Maine setting (inspired by the regionalistic art of Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood) are much more lush when projected, while the lumbering lug-ishness of the titular character is even more charming when he's bumbling about on a thirty-foot-tall movie screen. THE IRON GIANT may be a small film in terms of character and narrative, but it actually has immense visual scale. Just look at the above image of the Giant soaring into the heavens to save Hogarth and the townspeople from nuclear annihilation. Wouldn't you love to see that on the big screen?

Of course you would. So here's my pitch to Warner Bros.: Obviously, you're going to release THE IRON GIANT on Blu-ray at some point - and I'm sure it's going to be a snazzy, visually-immaculate, extras-packed upgrade of the five-year-old "Special Edition" DVD. I can't wait to own it and share it with my imaginary children. But you know what would be really wonderful - and, I think, a lovely gesture to a film you couldn't quite figure out the first time around?

A theatrical re-release.

I can only go on anecdotal evidence here, but, as far as I know, THE IRON GIANT is more beloved by thirtysomething geeks like me than the audience for which it was largely intended: i.e. children. And while I made damn sure my nephew got the DVD several years ago (well before he was ready for it), the film just can't compete with the aggressively-marketed likes of ICE AGE, CARS and STAR WARS. These are the films kids want on a loop while they're building Lego spaceships or smashing Transformers into each other with Bay-like zeal. A less visually frantic movie like THE IRON GIANT - for which there are no tie-in toys currently available - just doesn't stand a chance.

But if you plop these kids down in a theater for ninety minutes, they'll be laughing and cheering and crying and - here's the part you'll like, WB - clamoring for their own Iron Giant. It's an experience they'll cherish forever - one they'll want to share with their own kids thirty years down the line. Suddenly, this is no longer an animated film parents love more than their children; it's a family classic for the ages ala THE WIZARD OF OZ or PINOCCHIO.

I know there's precious little incentive to follow through on this: your feature animation division has been shuttered for years, and you've probably barely recouped on THE IRON GIANT's $48 million production budget as a catalogue title (if you've recouped at all). Also, you've traditionally got the most packed release schedule of any studio in town. Why take a risk redistributing a ten-year-old, hand-drawn cult item when you've got twenty brand new movies to market?

Because THE IRON GIANT should be one of your studio's crown jewels. It's as close to perfect as a film can be. In many ways, I think it's more engaging for younger viewers than E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (which Bird's film is clearly patterned after). I mean, E.T.'s neat and all, but can he chow down on scrap metal like it's candy or hurl a junky Oldsmobile into the next county? I don't think so. And does E.T. ever compel Elliot to explain death and the possibility of an afterlife in a manner as eloquent as this:

Hogarth: I know you feel bad about the deer, but it's not your fault. Things die. That's part of life. It's bad to kill, but it's not bad to die.

Iron Giant: You die?

Hogarth: Well, yes, someday.

Iron Giant: I die?

Hogarth: I don't know. You're made of metal, but you have feelings, and you think about things, and that means you have a soul. And souls don't die.

Iron Giant: Soul?

Hogarth: Mom says it's something inside of all good things, and that it goes on forever and ever.

Iron Giant: Souls don't die.

*Sniffle*. Even if you're an atheist, is that such a horrible notion to impart to children? Replace Bibles and Torahs and Qur'ans with this simple exchange, and the world would be a much better place.

There are millions of moviegoers out there who don't realize how special THE IRON GIANT is. For most, it's just another babysitter on the DVD shelf. Hell, for many critics, it's just that little movie that got Brad Bird gainful employment up in Emeryville, CA. But here's the thing: I think it's a better overall film than THE INCREDIBLES or RATATOUILLE. Frankly, it's one of the few modern animated films worthy of Disney's golden age. And you know how Disney mines those classics with rereleases and merchandising and insultingly inferior direct-to-DVD sequels? You should be doing that with THE IRON GIANT (though feel free to skip the insultingly inferior direct-to-DVD sequels).

Basically, you've got a WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY on your hands, but you're treating it like... well, QUEST FOR CAMELOT. Our Iron Giant deserves better. He's Superman.

Here endeth the harangue.

While I had hoped there was going to be a screening to go along with the big 10th Anniversary celebration last Friday, Bird and his erstwhile creative team more than held the audience's attention with a detailed, respectfully dishy Q&A that genuinely enhanced my knowledge of the film's development, production and botched release. Here are the highlights from the nearly two-hour chat. Joining Bird were Scott F. Johnston (artistic coordinator), Alan Bodner (art director), Tad A. Gielow (computer graphics), Brian Gardner (technical director), Jeff Lynch (story department head), and Eddie Rosas (animator):

*Bird became involved with THE IRON GIANT after an animated sci-fi project he was developing with Turner Entertainment, called RAY GUNN, died. You can get a taste for what we missed out on here.

*Bird recounting a typical conversation with Ted Turner: "You're the hot shit guy, right? Am I supposed to kiss your ass or something? Hold on! I gotta talk to Michael Milken!"

THE IRON GIANT, derived from the novel by Ted Hughes, was initially intended to be a big-screen rendition of Pete Townsend's concept LP, THE IRON MAN, which The Who guitarist had developed with Des McAnuff (who directed the stage musical of TOMMY - and the not-as-bad-as-its-reputation THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY & BULLWINKLE). Bird had to personally inform Townsend that he would not be using his material for his version of the film. This was apparently very difficult. But Bird says Townsend was very gracious in walking away from the project. Many years later, Townsend sent the director a letter of congratulations after the opening of THE INCREDIBLES.

*The studio was unrelenting in its attempts to get Bird to contemporize the setting. Finally, he blew up at the execs, stating (with no shortage of profanity) that the Giant couldn't hide anywhere given today's satellite technology. This was the end of that discussion.

*Bird on the pitfalls of working within the studio system:
"If you show you care, they have you." Even after WB had agreed to Bird's take on the material, they continued to lobby his agent to get him to make changes. But Bird had signed a six-month-or-out contract to develop the film, which gave him a great deal of leeway to tailor the film to his sensibilities. Finally, at what Bird remembers as "six months and one day", Warner Bros. greenlit THE IRON GIANT. Fortunately for their production budget (which Bird places at $48 million), they got the go-ahead before QUEST FOR CAMELOT bombed.

*We were shown the work-reel version of Hogarth's initial search for the Giant in the forest. It was mostly temp-scored to Jerry Goldsmith's "Hyper Sleep" cue from
ALIEN. The studio didn't like this sequence. They found it boring.

*Conceived, but never animated (due to expense): a protracted, chaotic battle between the military and the Iron Giant. There was a scene where the Giant dives into the ocean and dodges a torpedo fired from a submarine - which then hits the face of a cliff, bringing an avalanche of rocks down on the Giant and Hogarth. When the Giant submerges with Hogarth, he realizes the boy cannot breathe underwater, so he frantically retrieves an air bubble from the surface to save his friend's life.

*Animated, but cut from the film: a bit of comedic business involving
"Tutti Frutti". Harry Connick Jr.'s beatnik character, Dean, gives Hogarth a .45 of Little Richard's original recording of the song. Later in the film, Kent Mansley tries to win the young boy over by giving him a copy of Pat Boone's version. In trying to sell a skeptical Hogarth on Boone's travestying of the rock-and-roll classic, Kent exclaims, "It's got that jungle rhythm, but you can understand the words!" Bird fought to keep the scene in the film, but ultimately conceded that it just didn't fit.

*Chloroforming Hogarth was fine with the studio. Chloroforming and tying him up? Not okay.

*Along with the Regionalist artwork of Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, they also patterned the nostalgic look of the film after
THE BLACK STALLION and TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM (which were shot by, respectively, Caleb Deschanel and Vittorio Storaro).

*Bird was adamant about seamlessly incorporating the CG elements into the hand-drawn look of the film. He wanted to stay away from any hint of CG perfection.

*The Giant had eyebrows and a conveyer-belt tongue at one point.

*The production gag reel includes an outtake of the Iron Giant as a cigarette-smoking private detective in the mold of Philip Marlowe. Sadly, the audio was too muddy to make out what he was saying, but it was still very funny.

*When the Giant's disembodied hand switches on the television during dinner at Hogarth's home, Bird wanted him/it to see the opening from a 1957 episode of the DISNEYLAND show that has something to do with Tinkerbell creating an atom and a rocket blasting off. They never got permission to use this footage.

*Bird likes to be in the recording studio directing his voice actors, and he'll go to great lengths to get the performances he wants out of them. On
THE IRON GIANT, to achieve the proper teeth-chattering effect from Hogarth, he had Eli Marienthal soak his feet in ice water for a while. On THE INCREDIBLES, he ran around the block several times with Craig T. Nelson to get the actor out of breath.

*Bird credits the artistic success of the film to the high morale amongst the crew. Everyone involved loved the project and wanted to make the best film possible. Many times, people were working off the clock.

*Bird partially blames his cockiness for the commercial failure of
THE IRON GIANT. When the film posted remarkably high test screening numbers, a surprised Warner Bros. wanted to delay the release so that they could figure out a better marketing strategy. Bird was indignant. How could they not have a decent marketing strategy when the film had been in production for over a year? So he pressed them to release the film in the summer of 1999 as originally planned - which they did. THE IRON GIANT opened on the weekend of August 6th, and grossed $5.7 milliion on 2,179 screens. Final domestic tally: $23.2 million.

*Bird thinks that
THE IRON GIANT crew was rounding into form by the end of production. He believes their second film together would've blown everyone away, and seems to regret that that film - RAY GUNN? - never got made.

For those of you who wish you could've been there, here's some very good news: the event was videotaped by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The fact that this reunion was moved from an auditorium at Woodbury University to the studio's signature screening room suggests that WB has something special in store for THE IRON GIANT. When and if you decide to reintroduce the film to moviegoers, WB, I can promise you that AICN - and fans of classic animation everywhere - will be there to back the picture every step of the way.

Faithfully submitted,

Mr. Beaks

*That's Harry's post-release review. Moriarty was on the case well before that with this review and, a few months later, this interview with Brad Bird. Apologies for the goofy second link, but it appears the original piece was lost to a server move.

(Thanks Ain't It Cool)