Monday, October 5, 2009

News - 10/05/09...

Dick Cook resigns/fired from Disney

Dick Cook, Chairman of Walt Disney Studios, either resigned or was fired today depending on the source. Several box office bombs and a lack of profitability are the main reasons being given for his leaving. The New York Times has what seems to be the official version, while Nikki Finke has the behind the scenes version of the story.

Robot Chicken Crew Pitches Primetime Show to Fox

The producers of Robot Chicken and the just-premiered Titan Maximum are set to pitch an animated primetime project to Fox.

The network has ordered a presentation and script from Stoopid Monkey Productions’ Seth Green, Matthew Senreich and Tom Root, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The project reportedly uses family life and high school as a backdrop, and has an overall tone in line with Family Guy — for which Green provides voices.

The project would be done in traditional 2D animation as opposed to the stop-motion used on Robot Chicken and Titan Maximum, both of which air on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Astro Boy Breaks into China With Day and Date Opening

Imagi Entertainment’s new CG adaptation of Astro Boy is set to bow Oct. 23 in China — the same date as its U.S. release.

The move is notable for breaking into the October blackout period that China reserves for domestic films only — a move made possible by Astro Boy’s status as a Chinese-U.S. co-production, Variety reports.

Based on the classic Japanese manga by Osamu Tezuka, the new version of Astro Boy was made by Imagi at its studios in Sherman Oaks, Calif, and Hong Kong. Distributed by Summit Entertainment, the China opening should give Astro Boy an extra boost in that growing market.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

NBC Airs DreamWorks Holiday Specials

NBC is set to air a pair of new DreamWorks Animation specials based on the popular movies Monsters vs. Aliens and Madagascar.

Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space reunites the voice cast from this spring’s movie hit, including Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland and Rainn Wilson. The special, in which the monsters investigate strange Halloween goings on, is set to air Oct. 28 from 8-8:30 p.m. and repeating from 8:30-9 p.m.

The special is produced by Latifa Ouaou and directed by Peter Ramsey from a screenplay by Adam F. Goldberg.

The second special, Merry Madagascar, features the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Cedric The Entertainer and Andy Richter and is set to air on Nov. 17 from 8-8:30 p.m. and again on Nov. 28 from 8-8:30 p.m. In the special, Santa’s sleigh crash lands on Madagascar, forcing the castaway zoo animals to fill in for him.

Merry Madagascar was written by David Soren, Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath. The executive producer is Mireille Soria; Joe Aguilar is the producer and David Soren is the director.

"We are thrilled to have two new DreamWorks Animation shows on NBC this holiday season," said Ann Daly, chief operating officer of DreamWorks Animation. "The creative teams from the hit feature films were reunited to make these new specials and we hope they will become annual holiday favorites for families."

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Toy Story Movies Return in 3-D

The Toys are back in town.

The re-release of Pixar’s Toy Story and Toy Story 2 as a 3-D double feature arrives this week for its two-week limited run in 1,745 theaters. The special presentation also includes the first look at Toy Story 3, due out next summer, also in 3-D.

Other new films trying to keep the toys from the top spot are the horror comedy Zombieland, opening in slightly more than 3,000 cinemas; the Ricky Gervais comedy The Invention of Lying, which arrives in 1,707 theaters, and Drew Barrymore’s roller derby comedy Whip It, at 1,720 locations.

Also expected to stay in the box office race is Sony Pictures Animation’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs — whose 3-D version will lose some of its screens to the Toy Story films.

The Focus release 9, a stop-motion film directed by Shane Acker, also remains in release.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Cartoon Forum Showcased Strength in Europe

The animation industry in Europe is in a good position to compete on a worldwide level at this year’s Cartoon Forum Rogaland in Stavanger, Norway.

The 20th annual event, which ended Friday, drew more than 700 animation professionals from across the continent and previewed 61 new projects. According to event organizers, some 310 hours of content with a budget of 148 million euros were presented at the show.

The ten projects that garnered the most interest among broadcasters, investors, producers and distributors were:

Boo Boo Dolls (Germany)
Granny O'Grimm (Ireland)
Skybabies (UK)
Kinky & Cosy (France)
Me and my Robot (France)
The Flying Squirrels (Spain)
The Secret Life of Suckers (Spain)
Copy Cut (France)
Pigly (France)
Dustbunnies (UK).

The event takes credit for increasing the number of European co-productions, which are up from last year, as well as the growth of animation outside the established production powerhouses of Ireland, Belgium, and the Nordic countries.

Honored at the Cartoon Tributes, presented at the fest, were NRK as Best Broadcaster, Cake Entertainment as Best Investor/Distributor and Brown Bag Films as Best Producer.

As we’ve already reported, Irish director David O'Reilly took the Cartoon d'Or 2009 for his short film Please Say Something.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Toon Boom Sets Up Doggy Day School Pipeline

Brazilian studio Mixer and Canada’s Cite-Amerique’s new co-production, Doggy Day School, was made possible by Toon Boom Animation’s digital pipeline tools.

The companies used the Storyboard Pro and Harmony tools in particular to create 26 11-minute episodes of the series.

Work on the series is divided between the two studios, with Cite-Amerique doing art direction and character design, while Mixer does the rest of production.

“We were looking for a technology that allows us to reach a high quality level and the Toon Boom pipeline really impressed us with its agility and fluidity,” said Tiago Mello, Mixer’s executive director of infant-juvenile content.

Doggy Day School is set to premiere on Nickelodeon on Oct. 12, and will start airing in 2010 on TV Cultura (Public Broadcasting) in Brazil.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Little Airplane and HIT to Co-Produce Preschool Series

Preschool titans Little Airplane Productions and HIT Entertainment have agreed to develop original content for the worldwide market.

“I am thrilled to be working with HIT Entertainment; they are re-emerging as a real creative force in the preschool business," said Josh Selig, president of Little Airplane. "It is also very helpful that they are experts in all the areas that Little Airplane is not, including distribution, licensing and merchandising. I expect this to be a very happy marriage."

“This agreement underscores HIT’s commitment to working with the top creators in our field to make the highest quality children's programs possible," said Christopher Skala, senior VP of programming and new content development for HIT. “Little Airplane is one of the industry’s most respected and prestigious producers of pre-school television and we are very excited to be working with Josh and his teams in New York and London.”

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Classic, Timeless to Deliver Postman Pat Movie

Classic Media has teamed up with Timeless Films to make a 3-D animated Postman Pat feature film for 2011.

The film will be produced as stop-motion, with CG and 3-D effects, with Timeless set to distribute the film in the United Kingdom and Internationally.

The film’s script is by Kim Fuller, whose credits include Spice World, The Tracey Ullman Show and Red Dwarf.

The movie is set to build on the momentum the property has with the release last year on CBeebies of the series Postman Pat Special Delivery.

Postman Pat is enjoying a renaissance at present with a successful TV series, strong licensing program, promotional campaigns with leading U.K. brands and a nationwide theater tour rolling out in 2010—the announce of a theatrical film deal in 3-D is the icing on the cake,” says Andrew Kerr, executive director of consumer products and marketing for international at Classic Media.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Actor Eric Peterson gets special award at Geminis

Canadian actor Eric Peterson, the voice of Teebo in the first season of the 1985 Nelvana series Ewoks, will receive a special award at the Gemini Awards, the Canadian equivalent of the Emmys.

Peterson, 63, will be presented with the Earle Grey Award, which goes to an actor or actress for a body of work in Canadian television and/or for significant contributions to the international profile of Canadian TV.

Born in Indian Head, Saskatchewan, Peterson voiced Jess in the English-language dub of the IG Film anime series Lost Universe. He was also in the voice cast of several episodes of Nelvana's Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C3P0, as well as the studio's 2001 TV special Franklin's Magic Christmas.

He portrayed Mitch Sago in Barna-Alper Productions' animated mini-series The Dark Years, which aired on History Television in 2007.

Peterson's career has also included work in film and radio. He most recently portrayed Oscar Leroy in the hit live-action comedy series Corner Gas. His extensive credits include seven seasons as Leon Robinovitch in the series Street Legal (a role which garnered him three Gemini Awards), roles in Canadian film and television movies of the week including Trudeau and Earth, and guest appearances on countless Canadian series including This Is Wonderland, Slings and Arrows, DaVinci's Inquest and Traders.

Last year, he won the ACTRA Toronto Award of Excellence for a significant body of work and union activism.

Gemini special awards will be presented by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television at the upcoming 24th Annual Gemini Awards Industry Galas, taking place October 19 and 20 in Toronto, and the Broadcast Gala, taking place November 14 in Calgary, Alberta.

Wild Brain SF Shuts Down, Special Agent Opens for Business

Earlier this week, Wild Brain co-founder Phil Robinson and Wild Brain producer Amy Capen officially announced the launch of a boutique Bay Area-animation studio called Special Agent Productions. Details from the launch press release can be found at SHOOT. Over the past year, I’ve been hearing rumblings about turmoil at Wild Brain, but I was confused as to why the founder of the studio had left to start his own shop. It turns out that Wild Brain in San Francisco was shut down. A source who asked not to be named offered some details about what’s been going on these past few months:

Basically, Wild Brain SF closed shop end of June. It was rumored that the board of directors/new management decided that the San Francisco branch was too much of a liability. There was a lot of politics behind that decision (i.e. the success of the TV business model of Yo Gabba Gabba!; the fact that the board and most of the executives are based in LA), and it got really ugly towards the end. It seems they wanted to cut their losses and open a new Flash studio in LA (which I heard is gobbling up all the Cartoon Network artists right now for a Ricky Gervais pilot).

Everybody scattered to the wind. Scary time. Since Phil and Amy were the main commercial people, they decided to form their own boutique shop and take the strength of their commercial reputation with them (i.e. Esurance, Lamisil).

Special Agent’s first project out of the gate is a 90-second Erin Esurance Bollywood-themed spot that premiered this week on IFC, and which can be seen on Special Agent’s website.

UPDATE: I just heard from the gang at Ghostbot, and they worked with Phil to produce the new Bollywood spot. Ghostbot, for those who may be unfamiliar, has animated many of the best Esurance spots to date.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Cartoon Brew TV #22: Disney’s The Princess and the Frog

This week on Cartoon Brew TV, we offer an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip, courtesy of the Walt Disney Company, from their forthcoming hand-drawn feature, The Princess and the Frog.

In the video, supervising animator Bruce Smith (Bebe’s Kids, The Proud Family) discusses the character of Dr. Facilier, the villain of the film, and how voice actor Keith David influences the animators work and the character’s performance. David is shown performing and being directed by John Musker and Ron Clements. There are also some brief bits of pencil tests and color footage that hasn’t appeared anywhere else on the web.

After witnessing Disney abandon their hand-drawn films several years ago, and watching the rest of Hollywood consumed by CG, it’s incredibly exciting seeing classical character animation being produced on this scale. Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. The Princess and the Frog marks the return of a beloved moviegoing tradition: the classic Disney fairy tale, and no one is rooting harder for this film to be a success than I. Based on this preview, and clips screened at Comic-Con, I’m convinced the studio is on the right track.

We thank the Walt Disney Company for allowing Brew readers this early peak at their film. The Princess and The Frog opens in LA and NY on November 25, 2009, and nationwide on December 11, 2009.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Nickelodeon Celebrates "King Julien Day" on October 12, 2009

Nickelodeon will be celebrating King Julien Day for this year's Columbus Day, October 12, 2009, with a marathon of The Penguins of Madagascar from 5:00 - 8:00 PM (Eastern/Pacific), culminating in a new episode premiering at 8:00.

The description of the event and episode summaries follow:

Celebrate “King Julien Day” on Nickelodeon on Columbus Day – Monday, October 12!

On Columbus Day, October 12, Nickelodeon pays tribute to everyone's favorite lemur, King Julien with a special marathon of its top-rated series The Penguins of Madagascar from 5-8pm ET/PT with a new episode premiering at 8pm. Last quarter, an average of 3.2 million people watch The Penguins of Madagascar every weekend.

In this new episode, Julien loses his "groove" after a dancing rivalry with Darla the baboon gets out of control. Without his ability to shake his booty, King Julien is inconsolable, but after some intense begging, he convinces the penguins to help him get his groove back.

Also in this episode, a citywide blackout hits the zoo, and the animals begin to panic. Instead of listening to the penguins' rational plan, they turn to King Julien, who institutes "jungle law." The entire zoo is then thrown into chaos and the penguins attempt to gain control over the rioting masses before the entire zoo is destroyed.

NY Times on Development of 3-D Versions of "Toy Story"

The New York Times has taken a look at the development of the 3-D versions of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 (free registration required). Disney Chief Creative Officer and director of both movies John Lasseter again described the process as "digital archaeology" to get the older movies running on the studio's current hardware. The article also quotes lead stereographer Bob Whitehill, who describes how he used 3-D strategically to advance story points rather than just use it as a gimmick, such as how he "blew out the 3-D to make (the human world) feel dangerous and deep and overwhelming."

EA and Fox to Produce "Spore" Movie

Variety reports that Electronic Arts and Twentieth Century Fox will be producing an animated feature film adaptation of the video game Spore, in which players create organisms that must adapt and evolve in a larger, multi-player universe. Greg Erb and Jason Oremland (The Princess and the Frog) are writing the script, with Ice Age director Chris Wedge named as the director and Blue Sky Studios set to do the CGI animation.

"Batman: The Brave and the Bold" Returns to Cartoon Network on October 16, 2009

Cartoon Network has announced that new episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold will begin airing on Friday, October 16, 2009, at 7:30 PM (6:30 Central). It will join Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Ben 10: Alien Force in a Friday-night action-oriented programming block.

Interview with Dean Kalman Lennert

Back in February, Lineboil highlighted this traditionally animated short currently in production by Dean Kalman Lennert. I loved the little bit that I saw online, and because Dean is a fellow NY’er, as well as that fact that I have a soft spot for almost anything traditionally animated, I thought it would be great to interview him about the film and share it with all of you.

Also, recently, I had the unique opportunity to see a full WIP of the film without sound, and with some rough animation, and it’s all coming together very nicely and on it’s way to becoming a beautiful film.

As a bonus, Dean was kind enough to share 2 exclusive clips from the film including a completed rough shot that was done by Stewart Shaw. So check them out and then continue on to read more about Dean’s film, Dear Anna Olson.

Shot 15

Shot 28
The second clip I couldn't grab. Go HERE to see it.

DAN FORGIONE: First off, tell us a little about yourself, and how you originally got into animation.

I started working professionally in 1986 when a fellow stop-motion animator recommended me as a model fabricator for a Diet Slice commercial. By the end of that project, I had moved onto the animation team doing both stop-motion and 2-D effects. But I first got bitten by the animation bug at the age of 9 when I watched a segment on the PBS show Zoom about how to create your own cartoons using paper cut-outs and the family home-movie camera. I substituted some model dinosaurs for the cut-outs, made that first film and have been hooked ever since.

DAN: Can you give us a brief synopsis of the film, Dear Anna Olson?

DEAN: Dear Anna Olson
is a parable of how small, positive actions can have profound impact on peoples’ well-being. In this film, Anna Olson is living in a nursing home. Lonely, she sends out notes tied to balloons. One of these notes travels from person to person, each of who are moved to share their stories. When the note returns to Anna her world is positively changed.

DAN: With over 20 years in animation working in a variety of styles and mediums (stop motion, traditional, CG), what challenges have you faced in adapting from one medium to the next?

Aside from getting used to the different tools and work practices that each medium requires, there really weren’t too many immediate challenges in moving from one technique to another. The challenges usually occurred after I was acclimated to the new working environment and, as Murphy’s Law dictates, popped-up in the midst of a production. But I feel, that for any animator, this is where the real learning begins.

I remember during my time at J.J. Sedelmaier Productions having to adapt to the wide variety of drawing styles and techniques of some very well known illustrators doing design work for the studio. Whether it’s the intricate cross-hatching techniques of David Levine, the bold graphic line of Douglas Frazer, or even the looser style of Gary Baseman, you had to be able to place your work next to theirs and have J.J. not be able to tell the difference. And I’m not talking about just copying each illustrator’s work. You had to understand how they thought about and approached their art. And usually had about a half a day to master each style and then the animation would begin. It was one of the most valuable learning experiences of my career and helped to make me a very flexible animator very quickly.

DAN: With a wide variety of animation experiences under your belt, what experience most influenced your production process for this short?

While this doesn’t actually come under the heading of production process, per se, I would have to say that, stop-motion’s ability to move in and around a space inspired how I thought about and designed many of the shots in this film. I really like to explore the z-axis in my hand-drawn work. And while this can be easily achieved with a variety of computer software, I feel that doing the work by hand brings a little something extra to these shots. Maybe the imperfection makes it more human?

DAN: When you first started the film, did you have any idea it would lead to asking for donations and financial support?

It had always been my intension to seek outside funding to cover the production costs for the film and expected this money would come from arts grants. And while the production has received some support from this quarter, the vast majority of our funding, thus far, has come from many very generous individual donors.

DAN FORGIONE: How and when did you finally realize you would need to take this route?

About four years ago I decided that, if I was ever going to finish this film in any reasonable amount of time, I would need to have a proper budget in order to hire extra help, pay for the supplies and professional services and, perhaps most importantly, free up my own time. At that point I had a pretty regular stream of freelance coming in and that left very little time for the film.

DAN: Despite higher costs and delays in production, you have stuck to your guns with more traditional methods of production. What is your approach to creating an animation budget?

Start by generating a list of everything you think you’ll need for the production: crew, equipment, supplies, services, studio space, travel, insurance, legal fees, etc. Then begin contacting vendors and getting price quotes. I would typically call several vendors offering the same service to get a price range and average these to get my final figures. I would also use these opportunities to discuss the project and find out how to best prepare my work prior to delivery so that things will go as smoothly as possible on their end. These conversations often yield information about items and/or services that may have been overlooked in the initial budget outline.

The crew salaries were based on what I was getting paid as a freelancer. I chose to go with a footage-rate (X number of dollars for every 16 frames) for the animation and a per-piece-rate for the final production art rather than with a day or hourly rate. This helps to control overages, especially when your crew is working off-site, as all of mine are.

Very important: don’t be afraid to pay yourself a living wage! In my case I just needed enough to supplement my pay from teaching. However, I get the impression that many independent artists feel a little guilty when it comes to paying themselves a reasonable rate for doing their own work. To that I ask this question, would you work at a studio that wasn’t paying you enough to at least cover your basic living expenses? Probably not as that kind of distraction, and the imminent need to take on a second job (if you had any extra time to do so), would be completely counterproductive. Then why should you have that stress when working on your own production? Your salary must be included in the budget.

Dear Anna Olson’s budget has the start-up costs for the distribution launch figured in. This includes prints, screeners, festival fees, postage, publicity materials, travel expenses, etc. I also added in a 5% contingency fee to the total, because you never know… And finally, on top of all that, the 6% fiscal sponsor’s administrative fee to maintain our not-for-profit status. And that’s the whole budget “soup to nuts!”

DAN: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in raising the money and justifying the budget to potential donors, other than the troubled economy?

I’d have to say that the first big challenge I faced was just to keep myself from throwing-up at the idea of directly approaching people for money. When I decided to pursue this film as a full-time endeavor my producer, Jennifer Kirby, and I sat down to discuss how to best go about raising the cash for the budget. She pointed out that I would be more effective than she at raising the funds simply because potential donors want to meet directly with the artist instead of the perceived businessperson on the production. It took a little time (I almost blacked-out in the middle of Broadway & 26th Street in NYC on my way to asking for my first major donation) but I eventually got used to (I won’t say comfortable with) this new title of ‘fund-raiser’.

As for the budget, I have never had to justify that to potential donors. If they ever had any questions about it I would simply let them see the complete itemized budget and that seemed to put the issue to rest. The main thing is selling them on the idea of the film and why it should be made. The story-reel and my natural enthusiasm for this project usually helped in this regard.

But, without a doubt, the biggest challenge currently hampering our fund-raising efforts is the troubled economy. And while we’re always keeping an eye out for those larger contributions, the new strategy is securing a lot of smaller donations. When my first television interview promoting the film cleared 1,000 views on YouTube I couldn’t help but post “If each of those people (watching the clip) just made a $40 donation I’d have the rest of the animation budget taken care of! Perhaps one of the toughest challenges I face as a fund-raiser isn’t so much trying to secure that large individual contribution but convincing the vast majority of people, whose gifts may be more modest, that their support is just as important.”

DAN: How has the above influenced the production in terms of getting animators to help out on the film?

Having a budget and being able to pay people is a good incentive for getting them interested in the project. And now, with the economy so bad, I have more artists who are available and willing to work than the budget can handle.

DAN: In regards to the film’s style and design, what was your biggest source of inspiration when you started?

When I started the project animators like Paul Driessen, Caroline Leaf, the Hubleys, Bill Plympton, Richard Condie, John Canemaker, were all influencing the look of the film in one way or another. But it wasn’t until I saw Frederic Back’s film CRAC! that it all started to gel. Then I saw a bootleg copy Richard Williams’ The Thief and the Cobbler and really went nuts over how far the principles of hand-drawn animation could be pushed.

DAN: Has it changed or evolved since starting it?

Some of the color design has changed but the overall look of the piece has remained pretty much the same. To insure this, I’m constantly referring back to the earlier animation so that the work doesn’t become slick all of a sudden.

DAN: In an interview, you mentioned you wrote back to Anna Olson. Have you met her in person, or continued any correspondence? If so, has she had any influence on the look and feel of the film, either directly or indirectly?

I did write to her initially but have never received a reply.
Early on in the production I had arranged to spend a day in a nursing home recording ambient sound and some of the residence. In speaking with one of the facility’s administrators about the film, and how it was inspired by my actually finding the note from Anna Olson, I was told that it is a fairly common practice at nursing homes to send notes out via balloons so residents, who may not have many visitors, will (hopefully) receive some mail from the outside world.

DAN: As far as getting animators to help, do they need to meet certain requirements?

In general, they need to be familiar with hand-drawn animation techniques, have solid drafting skills and a strong understanding of the principles of animation, as well as a willingness to fully explore the performance potential within their assigned shots.

DAN: And what can they expect in return if brought on board production?

Well, they’ll be getting paid a reasonable footage rate for one thing. But aside from that, what sort of experience will they come away with? I think that I’d rather have one of the animators from the project, Stewart Shaw, answer that question:

For me, it was a tremendous growing experience as an aspiring animator as far as working under a director for the first time, and the challenges of creating a performance that fits within a larger whole as seamlessly as possible. I was tested in my willingness to “fully explore the performance potential” in a shot, but my labors were understood, appreciated, and my work respected in whole.

It was a chance to be part of a unique personal statement, something beautiful and poignant, and in this digital age, incredibly rare. As a lover of animation, the opportunity to participate in a labor of love, even one other than my own is rewarding in and of itself.
(Stewart is now an animator working at Blue Sky Studios.)

DAN: If you were to start from scratch, what would you do differently in terms of production, if anything?

During the many years that Dear Anna Olson existed as a side project I was learning so much at the studios about how a professional production is run. Having that information from the start would have saved me a lot of grief and wasted time.

But, if I had to choose one thing I’d do differently it would be to draw smaller. This is a lesson I learned when I had a chance to meet Frederic Back and see some of his production art for The Mighty River. The first thing that struck me was how small the drawings were. Much of the artwork for that film was drawn within a 6 field. I asked him about this and he replied, “If I drew any bigger I would never finish my films.” This rationale was echoed a couple of years later by Richard Williams when he was lecturing about a Shell Oil commercial he had done. In this case they had a very short schedule for completing the job so the decision was made to speed up the production by working within a 6 field. The epilogue to this latter story is they were awarded a second commercial in the same style with a more reasonable schedule. They decided to work in an 8 field and it wound up taking twice as long.

DAN: With the recent delay in production, what is the new goal for completing the film, and what will it take to reach that goal?

The new goal is to raise the full balance of the budget. After that has been attained I will be able to hire back some artists and animators and have the film wrapped-up in ten months. For the immediate future, however, I’m looking at becoming a crew-of-one to make the remaining funds last as long as possible and keep the production moving forward as best I can. While I still intend to spend as much time as possible at the animation table, fund-raising will be taking up a greater share of my time.

So, if anyone reading this would like to make a tax-deductible contribution remember, no amount is too small! During our 2006/2007 Challenge Grant Campaign individuals, not unlike like yourself, helped to raise a total of $5,125 above our $25,000 target with gifts ranging from $25 to $4,986. So each and every donation counts!

Dear Anna Olson speaks to how small, positive actions can have great impact on the lives of others. Now it’s your chance. Take your own action to make a difference, and consider a tax-deductible gift in support of Dear Anna Olson today:

There you have it, and I hope you enjoyed it. Dean is currently the Acting Executive Director of Animation at the Maurice Kanbar Institute for Film and Television, and teaches Advanced Animation Production and Stop-Motion Animation at NYU. To read more about the film, donate time or funds, or to just check in on the film’s progress, visit the website or the Facebook page. I wish the best to Dean, and can’t wait to see what I’m sure will turn out to be a great looking film.

(Thanks Lineboil)

Upcoming in North America

4Kids' 25th anniversary, feature length TMNT project "Turtles Forever" will screen in theatres across the US as part of a one night Fathom event October 29th at 7:00pm, ahead of its upcoming DVD release.

During a fight on the Technodrome and accident occurs that sends the Technodrome and everyone aboard (The 80's TMNT, Shredder, Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady) into the current TMNT cartoon universe.

Fanboy Review reports that Jeff Nimoy (Digimon, Bobobo, Zatch Bell, Naruto, GTO) will be writing the English language dub script for Madhouse (Ninja Scroll, Paprika) produced Lilo and Stitch spin-off anime Stick!

Halo Legends - The Babysitter (Preview) (Spike TV)

The Business

Laika (Coraline) laid off 63 computer graphics employees to narrow focus to stop motion animation.

Studio publicist Maggie Begley wrote in to clarify: “It’s not accurate to say that the studio is abandoning CG altogether. They will continue to use CG opportunistically in stop motion films and will continue to develop CG projects in house for further down the road.”

AniPlex, the anime production arm of Sony Music Entertainment will be increasing there output from the current level of one or two works a year.

From the Trading Markets report

A 13-episode story about a military girl will be aired starting in January, followed by another in April and two more in July.

Producing an anime program costs 14-15 million yen (US$153,538-164,505), several million yen more than making animation based on comics.

Sony Music Entertainment will also bring its original anime film to theaters next year, with showings planned in more than 10 cities.

The company sees new anime works as
"a perfect opportunity" to create breaks for up-and-coming musicians under its label, says an official.

Did you know that Troma (the Toxic Avengers people) distributed My Neighbor Totoro in North American theatres?
UK's tabloid The Mirror offers a history of Troma's business with an overstated look at the Totoro bits.

Canned Dogs offers an early obituary for Gonzo

New Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama wants a full review of the more than 100 billion euros stimulus spending

When Hatoyama’s new cabinet took office this week he repeated his election pledges to focus spending on consumers.

Former PM Taro Aso's planned manga museam was named as one initiative that's likely on the chopping block

And, the cancellation of the new facility for exhibiting and preserving Japanese pop culture, including animation and manga, was announced by Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Tatsuo Kawabata.

"We would rather focus on fostering human resources, including creators, who will contribute to promoting media arts," said Kawabata.

"It is indispensable that we make our utmost efforts to develop and promote Japan's world-leading media arts. In this respect, we and bureaucrats have a shared understanding," Kawabata told reporters after conducting hearings with all the departments of the ministry.

Kawabata also said that he has requested the Cultural Affairs Agency to propose alternative promotion measures apart from building a new facility. Diverting the construction cost to human resources development, as well as including it in future budget discussions from fiscal 2010, will also be considered.

"While companies are willing to pay tens of millions of yen to sponsor a cartoon show, those who actually create animation on the ground only get a few million yen. I am also aware that there are many young people who are forced to give up animation jobs because they cannot make a living," Kawabata said.

Gainax co-founder and otaku scholar Toshio Okada is being sued by the operator of a defunct mobile phone-based Internet site related to his book. (Sayonara Mr Fatty, released in North America by Vertical Inc).

T2 Mediapal, the company that developed the software for the site, filed suit against Okada, at the Tokyo District Court demanding some 22 million yen in damages in connection with the closure of the site due to a rights dispute regarding royalties and rights between mobile phone Internet sites.

Okada has stated that he had "informed the mobile carriers about the situation with the other site, which was operating without a copyright agreement.

"The complaint is a false accusation, and very regrettable," the writer concluded.

Imagi International announced that Ting Chuk-kwan has assumed the role of Acting CEO and has been re-designated as an executive director. William Courtauld will cease to act as the Acting CEO due to health reasons. Imagi International is the parent company of Astro Boy producer Imagi Animation Studios.

Anime News Network reports that Anime Expo organizers, the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), has ended their six year relationship with Chase Wang's BAM! Marketing, Publicity & Promotions

Crayon Shinchan Creator Dies in Hiking Accident

Missing Crayon Chinchan creator Yoshito Usui has been confirmed dead following a mountain hiking accident in Gunma Prefecture . Police announced that Usui was found with a digital camera containing a photo point down a steep cliff.

"Usui apparently took that one last shot and then slipped and fell," an official from Futabasha Publishing said. "We are completely shocked with this consequence."

The comedy manga followed the adventures of a precociously vulgar kindergarten student. The mischievous character was long a target of parent groups, who blame the manga and its anime adaptation for disrespectable behavior.

For fans - a melancholy Yuichiro Sueyoshi MAD video colllecting Shinchan animation

Worth Checking Out...

The Automobiles of Anime and Manga: Exhibit to Open in October at the The Toyota Automobile Museum - featuring Initial D, Detective Conan, Speed Racer and the Lupin III film Castle of Cagliostro


A transcript of Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino's comments at New York Anime Festival

Let's Anime on anime based on western lit

New York Times on Evangelion 1.0

Colony Drop - Boring-As-Hell Robots And The Mecha They Pilot: Good Morning Althea

Ren and Stimpy's John K rhetorically asks What Are The 2 Most Prominent Features Of Anime characters? - some visual impression here

Artist Takashi Murakami on how he paints

Firm Uses Gundam Model-Making to Test Job Applicants

manga Hulks out

Stop motions of

Lupin III goes high tech in 1989

Toonage in Foreign Lands

The congloms are well pleased with animation. And why not?

Disney scored a one-two punch at the foreign box office with "Up" and "Surrogates" combining for over $24 million during a typically moderate autumn session on Sept. 25-27.

... With domestic cume having hit $292 million, the worldwide total for
"Up" has gone to $507 million, moving it into the company of 66 other pics that have topped half a billion dollars in combined international and domestic grosses ...

Fox reached the [one billion] mark first in early July in the wake of opening
"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" and had hit $1.69 billion as of the end of the third quarter -- having already exceeded its 2008 total of $1.6 billion -- with the third "Ice Age" contributing a stunning $682 million.

"Ice Age 3" was still generating biz in the final fall frame with $2.4 million, mostly from its fifth Italian session of $1.4 million for an Italo cume of $41 million ...

The conglomerates are going to be pursuing the animation gambit for the foreseeable future. When you get a string of animated movies collecting $500 .... $600 ... $700+ billion in box office receipts, you know you're onto something. And want to keep doing it.

Even Bolt, hardly a barn burner, has sniffed up $314 million around the world. So yeah, a lot more toonage will be getting produced.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Armenia Celebrates 70 Years Of Frame By Frame With Its First Animation Festival

The first Yerevan international animation film festival, ReAnimania ’09, kicked off today in Armenia’s capital. The fest began with the screening of Animal Crisis, a Spanish comedy competing in the feature category. While this film’s drawbacks come from the limitations of Flash animation (i.e.. crappy front view walk cycles), it does take the medium away from the cinematically flat and minimal to the world of Warner hurt gags and Ren and Stimpyesque dirtyness. It does so with an Orwellian script and a pleasure in mutilating Disney archetypes: the heroic stallion, the seedy lion and the treacherous Hyena. Think of this film as South Park with animation principals applied throughout. My favorite instant of the film: watching a Flash hippo clap. A never before seen motion; at least by me.

Other highlights from the first day included an intimate interview with Michel Ocelot of Kirikou and Azur et Asmar fame. The conversations with the director set the tone of the festival. When Ocelot was asked why he is interested in making films for children, he replied that he does not think about his audience when starting to work on a film. He only strives to do a good job. Ocelot believes that animation should go in the direction that graphic novels have taken a while back: dealing with issues in a way that audiences from any age group can appreciate. In the mind of the French animation author, "Animation is never just for children."

This statement was concurred by Vrej Kassouny, the interviewer and director of the festival. Kassouny stated one of the main goals of Reanimania is to make its audiences aware that animation does not equal to films for children. Animation is an art form, and like any art form you can work with it in different ways.

With retrospectives on Armenian animation, Bruno Bozzetto and Alexander Shiryaev; the Pitching & Producing for animation and 2D workshops, competitions in feature, short, graduation, TV an educational films; forums and studio showcases, Re-Animania is surely to shed some new light on animation during the next three days. It runs until Oct 6th at Kino Moscow in Yerevan, Armenia.

Find the festival schedule and read about the history of Armenian animation on ReAnimania's site.

True story: Darth Vader breaks down while driving R2-D2's car

David "Darth Vader" Prowse was driving down the M1 highway in Northamptonshire, England, when his car broke down earlier this week. But the officers who showed up to assist him learned this wasn't just any old Mercedes the Sith lord was driving. It was previously owned by Prowse's fellow Star Wars actor Kenny Baker, the man inside R2-D2.

According to the BBC:

"The car was previously owned by my good friend Kenny Baker who was R2D2," said Prowse.

"He used to keep a little ladder inside the boot so he could climb up and put his suitcases inside.

"When he had finished, he'd put the ladder back and used a cord to shut the boot. "I decided to leave the cord there as a reminder of the car's previous owner."

Okay then.

Prowse eventually made it to his destination, a reunion of the 501st UK Garrison, which is a charitable group of people who like to dress up in Star Wars costumes.

"I'm the Commander in Chief Worldwide so it was really important that I was there, and when I broke down my boot was full of memorabilia and photos," Prowse explained.

The picture is of an unrelated car, but it seemed fitting.

Hobbit money problems resolved. What's next?

Another hurdle to Guillermo del Toro's The Hobbit has fallen: MGM, one of the studios producing the movies, has reportedly come up with enough cash to move forward with the production, which was in jeopardy as late as last week.

According to The Hollywood Reporter:

A recent proposal by MGM's new CEO Steve Cooper to defer interest payments on its debt load for the next three months on Thursday won a crucial endorsement from J.P. Morgan.

The investment firm leads a lenders steering committee that has been agitating for a dramatic restructuring of the Lion's operations and its ownership structure. In exchange for an agreement to limited interest forbearance, J.P. Morgan secured a few changes in existing debt terms.

Concern over MGM's hold on Hobbit is at the heart of the activity. In a 50-50 rights partnership with Warner Bros.' New Line unit, two Hobbit pics are being developed.

The first Hobbit movie is eyeing a 2011 release date.

Kevin Smith On Disney Buying Marvel: 'It's Just Smart Business'

When Kevin Smith dropped by Splash Page HQ recently to chat about his new book, "Shootin' The Sh*t With Kevin Smith: The Best Of The SModcast" (on shelves now), our conversation covered a pretty impressive number of topics. Along with telling us some of the things he's learned not to talk about on the air (and in the book), he told us about the new character he invented for his DC series "Batman: The Widening Gyre."

Heck, we even talked about one of the biggest stories of the year thus far: The Walt Disney Company buying Marvel Entertainment. Check it out:

"I saw a lot of cats who were like, 'Oh, this is the end, they're raping my childhood again,'" said Smith of the online uproar when the deal went public.

"No, they're not," he said. "[DC]'s been owned by Time Warner...for many years now. ... If you like DC's output, why the f--- is Marvel being owned by a corporate entity going to be any different?"

Elaborating on a sentiment he expressed online many times regarding the deal, Smith told MTV News, "Disney isn't dumb."

"They're not buying Marvel so they can say, 'Now put everyone in f---ing mouse ears and s---," he explained. "Disney was here long before us and they'll be here long after us. They'll be here when it's just the cockroaches and radiation."

"The Disney company looked at a hole and said, 'We don't have boys. Right now we have girls. We've done that princess thing to death. We have every f---ing girl. There's not a girl in America of middle-class family and above who doesn't have a f---ing Disney princess costume somewhere in her closet," he said. "They don't have that with boys. You can't say the same thing: 'Ain't a boy in America that doesn't have a Peter Pan costume.'"

"They identified that boys loves comics...and this Spider-Man and this Iron Man seem to be doing things," continued Smith. "They're like, 'Let's buy it. We don't have to develop a boy brand. We'll buy a boy brand, plug it into Disney and then go on. Now we're sated. We've now got this part of the market."

Smith reiterated that fans shouldn't be worried about seeing Punisher and Goofy team up any time soon.

"That's just smart business, and smart business dictates that they're not going to change the way they've done business," he explained. "They're going to let them keep doing what Marvel does. That's why they bought them."

"They said, 'You guys are obviously successful at reaching a demographic we can't—[so] continue to do so!'" he laughed. "We just want to make the money from it. We're Disney!"

'The Phantom' TV Trailer Arrives Online

Way back in April, we got our first glimpse at concept art from "The Phantom," SyFy's television miniseries based on the classic purple-suited hero created by Lee Falk. Now, the first trailer for the project has popped up on the 'Webs, giving us a better idea of the series' premise and a look at how that concept art was translated into an actual costume.

Originally posted on YouTube, the "Phantom" trailer features a significantly younger take on the masked crimefighter, and even offers a nod to the different look he'll be sporting in the series.

"The Phantom" debuts in 2010 on SyFy.

First look at Robert Rodriguez's bloody, violent Predators

We're as interested as you are in any info about the plot of next summer's Robert Rodriguez-scripted Predators reboot. Today we got some tidbits from our friends at the Latino Review, who got a chance to read a 90-page script dated July 12, 2009 and shared some of that insider info with the rest of us.

The draft is a "bloody, violent, Hard-R script" that pits a team of seven kidnapped humans against Predators on the aliens' home planet. Reportedly, the team of seven are:

Royce, a Steve McQueen type
Cuchillo, a Mexican enforcer for a drug cartel who has twin uzis strapped to his back
Nikolai, a bear of a Russian armed with a four-barrel gas-powered rotary machine gun
Isabelle, a French woman armed with a sniper rifle
Stans, a San Quentin prisoner with a shaved head, armed with a prison-made knife
Mombasa, an African member of the Sierra Leone death squad
Hanzo, a Yakuza enforcer
Edwin, an unassuming man who was formerly on the FBI's most-wanted list.

We can't want to see them in action on the screen next year, but until then, check out Latino Review for more details.

Watch the new trailer for A Nightmare on Elm Street

A new trailer has gone live for Warner Bros.' contemporary re-imagining of the horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, starring Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger.

The film is being directed by award-winning music video and commercial director Samuel Bayer (Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"), marking his feature film debut.

A Nightmare on Elm Street opens April 30, 2010.

Bay updates Transformers 3 and calls Megan Fox on her BS

Michael Bay

Great news for you fans of idiotic noisy giant-robot movies starring pickup-truck-rolling, left-hand-crushing young men and trash-talking, raven-haired gum-popping starlets: Director Michael Bay has said the third installment of Transformers is coming out in 2011, not 2012, and is already gearing up for production.

Writing on his official blog page, the Bayster makes the announcement himself:

Megan Fox in Transformers

Well its official: We have a great Transformers 3 story. The release date is now July 1st 2011. Not 2012.

Today is Day One. This morning started with an ILM meeting for five hours in San Francisco. Currently I'm flying with writer Ehren Kruger to Rhode Island to talk to Hasbro about new characters.

P.S. Megan Fox, welcome back. I promise no alien robots will harm you in any way during the production of this motion picture. Please consult your Physician when working under my direction because some side effects can occur, such as mild dizziness, intense nausea, suicidal tendencies, depression, minor chest hair growth, random internal hemorrhaging and inability to sleep. As some directors may be hazardous to your health, please consult your Doctor to determine if this is right for you.

Reading between the lines it feels to us like Bay is trying to publicly let Fox know he's read her BS statements about him in the news, isn't amused and wants her to shut up and get back to work. You may recall Fox was quoted comparing the auteur to Hitler, leading some anonymous "crew members" to accuse her of being a rude diva, leading Bay to say, no, really, she's great, I love her. Whatever.

When does District 10 begin?

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