“Products For Little Black Princesses”
I’m not going to post on every oddball piece of merchandising Disney is doing these days - and this one isn’t particularly oddball - but I thought it was worth a note.
The premise of The Princess and the Frog lends itself to new merchandising opportunities within the black community and the company has now reached out to the black-owned Carol’s Daughter to create a new line of limited edition grooming merchandise aimed directly at black consumers. The Magical Beauty Collection, features Princess Tiana Hair Detangler, Bubble Bath, Shampoo and Conditioner products. For more information, the Afrobella blog has posted an interview with Carol’s Daughter president Lisa Price.
(Thanks, Tamu Townsend)
(Thanks cartoon brew)
Transformers Change Into DVD, Blu-ray Discs
Fans of the robots in disguise will be morphing into couch potatoes this week, thanks to a pair of amazing new Transformers releases.
Up first is the summer blockbuster Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (DreamWorks/Paramount, $30.99 DVD, $37.99 Special Edition DVD, $44.99 Special Edition Blu-ray). Directed by Michael Bay and starring Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox, the sequel is bigger, louder and crazier than the original.
For old school fans, there’s The Transformers: 25th Anniversary “Matrix of Leadership” Edition Collector’s Set (Shout! Factory, $169.99), which features the entire animated series on 16 discs, plus plenty of extras.
Anime fans also have plenty to watch, with the release of Bleach, Vol. 21 (VIZ, $24.92) and Blood +: Part 2 (Sony, $119.95), while those who prefer superheroes can choose between Iron Man: Armored Adventures Vol. 1 (Genius Products, $16.95) and the vintage Plastic Man: The Complete Collection (Warner Bros., $44.98).
Other animated releases on the schedule include Peanuts 1970's Collection: Volume 1 (Warner Bros. $29.98), Wow Wow Wubbzy: Wubbzy's Christmas Adventure (Anchor Bay, $14.98) and Yo Gabba Gabba: Meet My Family (Paramount, $16.99).
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
Bay Area WIA to Discuss ‘Self-Branding’
The Bay Area chapter of Women in Animation will meet to discuss “self branding” Thursday Oct. 22 at the Art Institute of California-San Francisco.
The meeting begins with a networking session at 6:30 p.m. and will feature a panel at 8 p.m. featuring Jeff Ballard, senior studio recruiter for Electronic Arts; Kim Diaz, recruiter for Lucasfilm Animation; and Alan Segal, an independent creative director, instructor at AI, and veteran of major advertising agencies from New York to New Zealand.
Admission to the event is by cash donation, and RSVP is required by emailing email@example.com no later than noon on Wednesday.
The Art Institute of California-San Francisco is located at 1130 Market St.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
SIGGRAPH Asia Names Computer Animation Fest Winners
Lindsey Olivares’ short Anchored won best of show and Digic Pictures’ Assassin’s Creed 2 won the best technical award at the SIGGRAPH Asia 2009 Computer Animation Festival.
“While working on my film I tried to push boundaries and innovate ways to use technology to create a film that felt like a moving painting,” said Olivares, who is from the Ringling College of Art and Design. “SIGGRAPH Asia exemplifies this idea of pushing the limits of technology and creativity. I’m very excited to hear my film was accepted into the Computer Animation Festival and also chosen as the Best of Show piece.”
Assassin’s Creed 2, a trailer for the game, was produced by Alex Sandor Rabb, and the clip showed the festival a mastery of 3D CG production.
“We are proud of our Assassin’s Creed 2 cinematic trailer, which reflects our relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to push all boundaries of CG animation,” said Rabb. “This award truly belongs to everyone at Digic Pictures who have contributed to the film, outdoing themselves on a daily basis.”
The SIGGRAPH Asia 2009 Computer Animation Festival is set to run Dec. 16-19 in Yokohama, Japan.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
Studio B To Make Round 2 of Kid vs. Kat
Vancouver-based Studio B Productions has been commissioned to produce a second season of Kid vs. Kat.
Studio B, a DHX Media Co., will produce 52 11-minute episodes, which also can air as 26 22-minute episodes, for Disney XD in the United States and Europe. YTV in Canada has ordered 13 22-minute episodes. All three broadcasters also are acquiring 13 two-minute digital shorts.
“We are thrilled by the success of Kid vs. Kat,” stated Blair Peters, co-president, Studio B Productions. “Audiences worldwide have responded to the comedy and conflict between Coop and Mr. Kat and we think that they will love what’s in store for them in season two.”
Created by Rob Boutilier, Kid vs. Kat won the 2009 Leo Award for best animated program and airs in more than 100 territories.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
Addams Family theme composer Vic Mizzy dead at 93
Film and TV composer Vic Mizzy, best known for penning the theme songs for 1960s sitcoms The Addams Family and Green Acres, died Saturday at 93.
Mizzy died of heart failure at his home in Los Angeles' Bel-Air neighborhood, said friend and fellow composer Scott Harper.
His theme song for the 1964-66 TV series The Addams Family was heard again in the 1992-93 Hanna-Barbera cartoon show of the same name, which aired for 39 half-hour episodes on ABC.
And his theme for Green Acres surfaced on the soundtrack of the 1999 Simpsons episode E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt).
Author Jon Burlingame, wrote in his 1996 book TV's Biggest Hits: The Story of Television Themes From "Dragnet" to "Friends" that Mizzy's "musical conception was so specific that he became deeply involved with the filming of the main-title sequence, which involved all seven actors snapping their fingers in carefully timed rhythm to Mizzy's music."
Burlingame on Monday called the Addams Family and Green Acres themes "two of the best-remembered sitcom themes of all time."
Based on Charles Addams' morbid magazine cartoons, The Addams Family starred John Astin as Gomez Addams and Carolyn Jones as his wife Morticia.
The finger-snapping theme song featured Mizzy himself playing a harpsichord. The composer also sang the theme and overdubbed it three times, since Filmways wouldn't foot the bill for singers.
"They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're altogether ooky: the Addams family," the tune began.
Mizzy owned the publishing rights to the theme song and profited from it greatly.
"I sat down; I went 'buh-buh-buh-bump (snap snap), buh-buh-buh-bump," he recounted in a 2008 interview on CBS' Sunday Morning. "That's why I'm living in Bel-Air: two finger snaps, and you live in Bel-Air."
A year after The Addams Family hit the airwaves, Mizzy came up with the title song for 1965-71 rural comedy Green Acres, starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor as wealthy Oliver and Lisa Douglas, who move from New York to a country farm.
Mizzy "again conceived the title song as intertwined with the visuals" of the show's opening sequence, Burlingame noted in his book.
Born in Brooklyn on January 9, 1916, Mizzy attended New York University. Virtually self-taught as a composer and orchestrator, he played accordion and piano as a child.
When he began his TV career, Mizzy was already a longtime writer of such pop songs as "There's a Faraway Look in Your Eye" and "Pretty Kitty Blue Eyes." Many of his song hits were written while he was serving in the United States Navy during the Second World War.
In 1960, he was asked to compose music for the dramatic anthology series Moment of Fear. He also wrote the themes for Moment of Fear, Klondike and Kentucky Jones, along with music for episodes of Shirley Temple's Storybook.
The success of his themes for The Addams Family and Green Acres led to a run of sitcom themes in the 1960s and 1970s. These included The Pruitts of Southampton, The Double Life of Henry Phyfe, Captain Nice, The Don Rickles Show and Temperature's Rising.
He wrote underscores for the Richard Boone Show and Quincy, M.E., as well as such TV-movies as Terror on the 40th Floor.
Mizzy scored five Don Knotts films, including The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Shakiest Gun in the West, The Reluctant Astronaut, The Love God? and How to Frame a Figg. He composed scores for the William Castle films The Night Walker and The Busy Body. Other movies included The Caper of the Golden Bulls, Don't Make Waves and Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady?
His last work was for the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack.
Vic Mizzy had two children by his first wife, singer Mary Small.
He is survived by his brother Sol, daughter Lynn Mizzy Jonas, son-in-law Phil, grandson David and granddaughter Rachel. Another daughter, songwriter Patty Keeler, died in 1995.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Eden Memorial Park, Sepulveda and Rinaldi in Mission Hills, California. Afterward, there will be a nosh at Mizzy's home, catered by Junior's Deli, his favorite.
Disney TVA at Frank Wells, the Building
I whiled away a fragment of the afternoon on the third floor of the fabled Frank Wells Building, on Disney's Burbank lot. Part of Disney Television Animation resides there. (And the rest? It's over in Glendale on Sonora Street.)
Phineas and Ferb is the main production happening at FWB right now, but there is also Kid Buttowski (formerly Kid Knievel ... but the rights to the Knievel name ... so I'm told ... couldn't get cleared, so it's that other title.) And Inspector Oso is back in work, with the bulk of its crew returning mid-November.
But I got some happy infoformation from an artist on Buttowski:
"You know, they've made a real effort around here to put people on other shows when their assignments are over. When artists came off Phineas a while ago, they tried to get them work on other series, to tide them over until a new order got started ...".
I told the artist this was good news, (See? It isn't just gloom and "week to week" in teevee animation.) But it would still be nice to see more cubicles occupied up there on FWB's third floor.
(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)
Handicapping Astro Boy
The end of the week, Imagi's Astro Boy hits 1200 American movie screens, and the big question is, how will it do? The answer to that question will help determine the viability of Imagi as a force in the AnimationLand.
"Astro Boy" was completed in June. Many fans of animation around the world are eagerly waiting to see the film -- a proof that Imagi US$40 million outlay to promote the movie has not been in vain.
But some observers are wary of the company itself as it has had to climb stiff hurdles to be where it is today. In January, it conducted intense negotiations to secure a bridge loan facility of up to US$16.6 million ... [And] sources in the industry point out that the profit-sharing deal between Imagi and Warner Brothers -- the distributor of "Astro Boy" -- does not favor the Hong Kong company ...
Imagi, as indicated above, hit a rough patch early this year, but it's hung onto the large office space it leases at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. As a studio rep told me: "The company intends to press on with Gochomon whether Astro Boy turns into a mega blockbuster or not ...." (We'll see how that turns out.)
My guess is that the film will perform well domestically. Reviews have been encouraging, and high-end animated features have been on a roll of late. Plus the people I've talked to who have seen it maintain Astro Boy delivers the goods.
However, there is my definition of "performing well," and the definition that Hollywood's slide rule brigade carries around in its head. Is $120 million enough? $140 million? I have no earthly idea.
My guesstimate is that Astro Boy will collect between $60 and $85 million from the citizens of the U.S. and Canada, and another $100 to $150 million in the rest of the world. Is this enough to have the owners turning handsprings back in Hong Kong? Your guess is as good as mine. Probably better.
Come the weekend, we'll apply the Koch Box Office Calculator to AB's initial grosses, and decide if my prognostications are realistic or delusional. Up until now, its been mostly American animation studios that have raked in big bucks across the globe, but that could always change.
Nothing, after all, is forever.
(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)
New Images And Video Clips From Upcoming “Batman: The Brave And The Bold” Episode
The World’s Finest has received new clips, images and details from the upcoming Batman: The Brave and The Bold episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister!"
Cartoon Network has passed along the episode synopsis, video clips, and over forty images for the upcoming Batman: The Brave and The Bold episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister!" The episode is scheduled to air Friday, October 23rd, 2009 at 7:30pm (ET) on Cartoon Network. To get a closer look at the images, click on the thumbnails below.
Click Here For More Images, Videos & Details!
The all-new Batman: The Brave and The Bold "Mayhem of the Music Meister!" episode, scheduled to air on Friday, October 23rd 2009 at 7:30pm (ET) on Cartoon Network, is described as seen below.
Batman: The Brave and The Bold "Mayhem of the Music Meister!"
Batman and Black Canary are pitted against Music Meister, who is able to exert powerful mind control through song. When he hijacks a communications satellite, the entire world becomes subject to his musical bidding.
Two clips from the episode, provided by Cartoon Network, are available to view here at our Batman: The Brave and The Bold subsite. Other details for Batman: The Brave and The Bold "Mayhem of the Music Meister!", including cast and crew credits, are also available at our Batman: The Brave and The Bold subsite.
In further Batman: The Brave and The Bold news, The World's Finest and New Line Records have teamed up to give fans the opportunity to recieve a free copy of the upcoming Batman: The Brave and the Bold - Mayhem of the Music Meister Soundtrack CD release from New Line Records, due for release October 24th, 2009. For a full week, from Monday, October 26th, 2009 to Friday, October 30th, 2009, The World's Finest will be giving away ten copies of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold - Mayhem of the Music Meister Soundtrack CD release to ten lucky recipients at the rate of two copies a day, courtesy of New Line Records.
To enter, simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, including your name, mailing address and phone number by Friday, October 30th, 2009. Please label the email "Batman: The Brave and The Bold CD Contest." Only one entry can be sent per person. From there, two entries will be chosen at random each day, from October 26th, 2009 to October 30th, 2009, to receive a free copy of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold - Mayhem of the Music Meister Soundtrack CD release from New Line Records. Please note this special giveaway is only available to residents of the United States.
Only those randomly chosen to receive a copy of the CD release will be notified via email. Please note the terms and conditions of this special giveaway are subject to change without notice.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold - Mayhem of the Music Meister soundtrack available on iTunes, Amazon and other Digital Music Outlets beginning October 24th, 2009. Official press details for the Batman: The Brave and the Bold - Mayhem of the Music Meister Soundtrack CD release from New Line Records are available here.
Cast in Plastic: Toon Zone Interviews Michael Bell on Being "Plastic Man"
Michael Bell is one of the most prominent actors and voice-over actors working today, with hundreds of roles in films and television that literally far outweighs the careers of his compatriots on the Screen Actors Guild board (as you will understand in a moment). He also lent (okay, sold) his voice to numerous video games, as well as oodles of commercials, with one of the most memorable roles being the talking Parkay margarine tub (“Butter”).
Today, Xum Yukinori cares about only one of Bell’s voice-over roles in particular: the stretchable sleuth, the pliable policeman, the straight-laced (in the chest) superhero, Plastic Man. In this historic and hysterical interview, Bell talks about his work on the Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show, and bounces around a myriad of other subjects, including his rise in the voice field, the problem with using big-name stars for animation, the lengths he went through to not see his finished work, and keeping cats in the closet.
XUM YUKINORI/TOON ZONE NEWS: Let’s begin with your “secret origin,” so to speak. How did you get your start as a voice actor?
MICHAEL BELL: Well, actually, I knew nothing about voice animation. I started out as an on-camera actor since I was a movie baby, and it had been my long-time dream [to become a film star], from the time I was five years old and sang for pennies in the local fish market. Movies defined my life.
I was determined to be an actor. I came from a poor family in Brooklyn, but that was not going to hamper me. I was that “little train that could.” After graduating junior high, I auditioned for and was accepted at the High School Performing Arts in New York. After high school, I was California bound.
This was at a time when the heyday of the big studios (MGM, Warners, etc.) were winding down. The major stars at that time were names like Tyrone Power, Lana Turner, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, and so forth. I didn’t get my first professional [acting] job until I was in my thirties since I came out to California pretty much as a teen, but sadly didn’t look like one — especially Hollywood's version of one. I was six-foot-one and the largest thing on my body was my ears.
TZN: Was that because you towered over everybody?
BELL: Yeah. I was taller than most of the actors of that time, other than John Wayne and a few other stars. And [Hollywood] didn’t make the kinds of film and television shows that provide [opportunities] for young actors that they have now, so there wasn’t much work for a tall skinny kid with big ears and feet to match.
So I just got jobs to survive. I knew nothing about the business. I didn’t know anybody in the business. I finally got a job as an usher at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, hoping to get discovered. (Laughter.) Talk about innocent. God, I couldn’t have been more naive!
TZN: And so you were discovered…
BELL: Well, I got discovered telling people where they could find empty seats. (Laughter.) Those were the days ushers had power... and a flashlight. I did manage, however, to meet Marlon Brando one evening during the run of Giant. That was a gas. I was so-o-o-o excited. That high kept me going for a couple of weeks.
I took any job I could find. Short-order cook dodging ketchup bottles and drunks at the now defunct Hollywood Ranch Market. Car hop, in a clothing store, cleaning toilets, a soda jerk — I did it all.
And I kept reading for plays at most of the off-off-Hollywood theatres. I finally caught a play called A Hat Full of Rain in a tiny rehearsal studio called the Rainbow Studio (no longer in existence). I played the role of Polo. However, it happened that a producer had come to the show to see someone else, and he cornered me after the show, introduced himself as Burt Topper, and said, “I’m gonna put you in a film.” A year later, sure enough, he put me in my first film, War Is Hell. It was that independent film that got me my SAG [(Screen Actors Guild)] union card and was the beginning for me.
Then things slowed down after that. I went to work in an answering service, and after a few months the owner, who was an actor himself, told me he wanted me to meet Sally Brady, a good friend of his and a TV casting director. During the interview, she asked if I was able to improvise. And I told her, “I studied improvisation at the High School of Performing Arts. Sure, I can improvise.” So she auditioned me and I was cast. The show was called The Verdict Is Yours, and it was live! We’re talking very early television here. I made more money than I had ever seen. I think it was a couple of hundred dollars, and I was, for the moment, a star.
After that I starred for three and a half years in the United States Army. When I was finally released, I did a few little things in TV, here and there. No real major stuff, until I started to connect a little bit. I wound up doing a lot of on-camera commercials. I was going with a girl at that time who had a wonderful career doing voice overs and animation. She had me make a tape of some characters I was working on, and then introduced me and the tape to her agent, Bud Davis, who said, “You’ve got a great voice. Let’s get you started in voice overs.”
She took me to several of her sessions, so I could familiarize myself with the technique, and at one of the sessions was Mel Blanc! “Mel, this is Michael Bell", she said… and I suddenly felt at home.
Suddenly I was getting hot. A wonderful man who became my manager by the name of Vic Sutton thought I had something. He arranged for me to read for a role in a new series The Bold Ones starring Leslie Nielsen. That led to a contract at Universal Studios.
Ultimately I wound up guesting on a lot of shows besides The Bold Ones. After a while, however, all of the roles that kept coming my way seemed to be the same. I felt I was getting stale. If you look at my IMDB page you will see I did a lot of mysteries, played mucho heavies, but no comedies. I wanted to do a comedy but it wasn’t happening, since Universal didn't produce comedies at that time. So I asked the executives at Universal to let me out of my contract when the year was up. Now I was clear to carve out my career in the voice-over world.
TZN: But you continued to do some live-action roles for television…
BELL: Oh, yeah. I went back and forth. I remember being on the set and saying, “Can I get out between 12 and 1 ‘cause I have a VO to do?” And I’d rush down to the recording session, do the gig, and then I’d rush back to the set. And that was a period of time when I would just get TV scripts in the mail. It wasn’t even a matter of, “Michael, we want you to read for this.” It was, “Okay, you’re doing a Mannix, or “You’re doing an Ironside.” Or, “you’re doing M*A*S*H. M*A*S*H was a crowning moment for me. The great radio and TV actor, and friend, Herb Ellis, mentioned my name to his friend, the executive producer of the show, Gene Reynolds, during a baseball game when Reynolds complained that they couldn't find a really good actor to guest on the next show who hadn't already been on it. Reynolds agreed to cast me since he was familiar with my work, and that was that. That was near the end of the M*A*S*H series.
TZN: Just like that. Wow.
BELL: That was the way we used to work. I would just get a call from my agent who would say that they want me to do the role. They trusted that an actor who was working regularly would be able to deliver without having to read. It’s not like that now though. Now they have you read for one-liners and the occasional one word.
TZN: And they audition like 500 people for some of these roles?
BELL: Well I’m not certain if it’s 500, but they certainly audition a lot. In terms of voice over, in my case, my agent sends me the copy. I send the audition back to them in an MP3 file, and hope there aren't 300 other people reading for it. Sometimes, the producers like a particular agent, so they audition all of their talent first. And if they don’t find anybody in that group, then they’ll move to the next agent. So your chances of getting work these days is a lot smaller. There are so many skilled people out there; it’s just a matter of who they hear first.
TZN: But surely all of your experience would count for something.
BELL: It doesn’t make any difference at this point. I went out [to audition] for the [latest] Transformers television series [a few years ago]. And the producers and everybody fell over themselves because they grew up with me [in my 1980s Transformers series]. They were like, “Oh my god, it’s you! Blah blah blah.” So I read for the role of Prowl, which was my original character, and read for one or two other characters — and I didn’t get it. I had finally been subjected to reading for my old career!
I’ve been around for a long time. I’ve been in this industry for close to 40 years. I mean, you talk about longevity, how many on-camera actors can you point to that can say that they’ve been successful in this business for over 35 or 40 years?
Not too long ago we were at the Screen Actors Guild. I was on the board, and we were in contention with the board from New York and the board from the outlying districts in terms of voting power. They wanted equal voting power. One of our people got up and said, “Okay, I’ve just IMDB’ed everybody on the Screen Actors Guild board, every single board member. Here’s your list,” she said to the district reps, and she held up this tiny little packet. “And here’s your list,” she said to the New York board, and produced another small packet. “Here’s the Hollywood list.” and flashed a very large packet of credits.
Then she said, “And here’s Michael Bell.” And trying to lift it up, she said “Can someone help me with this?”
BELL: It took two people to hold up the printed copy of my IMDB credits. She said, “Look at this list. Can you believe this list? And you in the districts and New York want equal voting power?” It was really very, very funny.
TZN: You sure showed them.
BELL: Well, she showed them really. I was as surprised as everyone else. I never bothered to look at [my IMDB]. I mean I look at it, but I’m certainly not gonna download it. Imagine if they also listed my radio and TV commercials.
TZN: Right. I recognize your voice from the Parkay and Zales commercials especially.
BELL: Yeah. I’m not doing Zales any longer, but I do Peoples [Jewelers], which is Zales out of Canada.
TZN: And it’s pretty much the same job?
BELL: Same company, different country, yeah.
TZN: Let’s get right to your work on the Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show.
BELL: Sure. First of all, he was one of my favorite characters in comic books.
TZN: You read the Plastic Man comics?
BELL: Absolutely! I was a “comic book creepo.” I loved comic books. There was Plastic Man, the Sub-Mariner, and young Billy Batson who became… “Holy Moley!” Captain Marvel. Those were my faves. But I loved Plastic Man. I just thought he was so great. It was so amazing all the stuff he did. Really imaginative. So when I got cast in the series, I said, “This is fabulous! I’m playing my childhood hero.”
TZN: What was the first Plastic Man comic you have read? Do you remember?
BELL: I don’t recall. I used to imagine being Plas and doing all kinds of great stuff. Next to being invisible it was my favorite [super-power]: to be able to change my shape and stretch around and be paper thin, because that was like being invisible. And the stuff you could do. I could latch onto a plane and go wherever I wanted to go… stretch my head into someone else’s house and watch a girl get undressed…
TZN: (Laughter.) And the world is safe to know that you are not Plastic Man in real life…
BELL: Oh, the world is real safe. Let me tell you. (Laughter.) You know, I gotta tell you: I’ll never forgive my mother for throwing away my comics. All moms [at that time] would go, “Okay, that’s enough of this crap, time for homework!” As I got older, she eventually tossed them along with my Eisenhower jacket. So every now and then I had to *****-slap her (when she was sleeping).
TZN: (Laughter.) I can’t believe I’m laughing at that. Back to the Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show, I know it’s been 30 years since the show was on the air.
TZN: So I realize it’s a long time to think back, but do you recall how the role of Plastic Man came to you?
BELL: Yeah. I think Joe Ruby and Ken Spears approached me on it, because I worked with them before on another show, The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy. [Ruby and Spears are] good guys. Really great guys. They said, “We think you’d be right for Plastic Man.”
TZN: So you didn’t have to audition for the role?
BELL: I don’t recall auditioning for it, but I may have. I think it was my ears that convinced them.
TZN: (Laughter.) How did you approach playing the character?
BELL: I tried several different approaches. At that time, Don Adams was very successful with Get Smart — so [the director] said, “Can you do the Get Smart character [Agent 86]?” And that’s what I ended up doing. It was that kind of clipped phrasing.
TZN: I know you’ve done a variety of different voices over the years. I find it interesting that Plastic Man’s voice sounds like you in “real life.”
BELL: Yeah. There are [other] characters that sound most like me. They are the easiest to do. [Playing Plas] was just a matter of adding a little bit of a squeeze here and there and phrasing [your lines].
TZN: Of course, you had also done a multitude of voices on the show.
BELL: Right. [The producers] said, “Okay, this is going to be a show with ‘visiting guests’, but we don’t have major bucks. Can you do other characters? Bystanders? Bad guys? Occasional dogs, etc.?“ And I said, “Sure.” So I wound up doing all those guest characters, and Ruby Spears really let me play! Unlike [animated shows] today, they let me go the distance. I had the most fun because I had so many heavies to do that I had to keep changing [my voice]. I did some lame impressions, i.e. [Jack] Palance, [Rod] Steiger, etc., and all the other big heavies I could muster up in that period. It was really great fun and a chance to stretch (no pun intended).
TZN: When I watched the show when it first aired, I couldn’t tell that you — as well as your co-stars Melendy Britt (Penny, The Chief) and Joe Baker (Bad Luck Hula) — had been playing double, triple, and quadruple duty on the show.
BELL: Well, that’s great! That’s the best thing I can hear. I love it.
TZN: Well, I managed to see the show again in the 1990s when Cartoon Network reran the Plastic Man adventures. I’d listen to a bystander voice and say to myself, “Well, maybe Michael Bell did that role.” Or, “That guy sounded like Duke from G.I. Joe, so he definitely voiced him…”
BELL: Well, you know, you run into yourself. You literally do. I mean, the way I did shows at that time, one show after another. It was kind of like old radio. Olan Soule and Herb Ellis, who were famous even when I was a kid listening to radio, would run from one radio studio to another. NBC to CBS and back. I mean, no one was under contract [with a station], so they did many shows often in the same day — from The Green Hornet to Nero Wolfe to Dragnet to Batman to Superman to Archie Andrews. All those different shows, and they played many different characters. So eventually you would see yourself coming and going.
BELL: So when I wound up doing G.I. Joe and Transformers and The Inhumanoids and Thundarr the Barbarian and The Smurfs… Oh, boy! I was creating [voices] on the run. I was driving in my car creating totally different voices so somebody wouldn’t say, (mimicking) “Wait a minute! That sounded an awful lot like…” You really had to reach.
TZN: You literally had to stretch yourself for the role (my pun was most likely intended).
BELL: Constantly. With voices, you were always imposed to create approaches to similar characters. You pulled from your family, from regions, character actors, etc. Example: If you had a rural character to portray, you might figure, “Who would do this? Chill Wills? Walter Brennan?” You would think of what actor would possibly be cast in this [role] if this was an on-camera gig, and you would try doing that voice.
TZN: You definitely had the talent to pull that off.
BELL: I worked at it day and night and on the weekend. You always worked at it. I mean, sitting around, you always listen to people. I call it vocalbating. As actors in a session, we’d often be sitting around vocalbating, just talking to each other, and every now and then tell a joke or a story. That was when we would employ voices for all the characters. You would also shamelessly pick up tricks from other actors (which is still being done). I remember when I was asked to play a John Wayne-type character.” I’d never tried to do Wayne, but one of my friends used to do him beautifully. I figured I would do do his impression of Wayne.” So I pulled that out, held my breath, and the director said, “Yeah, yeah. Do that.”
And then years later it was Clint Eastwood, which of course is just whispering (mimicking Clint Eastwood) while keeping your teeth closed. (In normal voice) And not modulating too much. Not too much acting. Just a straight whisper. And then Jack Palance. There’s a lot of heavy breathing involved with recreating Palance. You have to breathe in through your teeth and sound menacing. So that always worked for me. There are some really talented people in the VO business to emulate and learn from.
TZN: Getting back to Plastic Man, I believe that, back in the late 1970s, it took about a year from voice recording to the airing of an episode.
BELL: To get it done, yeah.
TZN: So, how much production artwork had you seen before you did the initial recording? Did you have an idea of how your character was going to look, for example?
BELL: Oh, yeah. [The producers] gave us drawings of character prototypes. And we got to see the storyboards to get the general idea [of the story], because you have to know why you are straining and screaming and falling, etc. It’s not in the taping script, so the storyboard helps.
TZN: The storyboard must have also given you an idea of the overall look of the show.
BELL: To some degree, yes. Absolutely. And we didn’t have the script for a long time. I don’t recall getting the script in advance. Eventually we get them in advance for other shows, but more often than not, throughout the bulk of my career, you went to the studio, you sat down, and you were given the script. You do one table read, and then you went in front of the mike.
TZN: So you had no idea what you needed to have Plastic Man do when you entered the studio.
TZN: What was your first reaction to actually seeing Plastic Man animated on the television screen?
BELL: I absolutely loved it. Boy, it was a mini-dream come true. Seeing myself representing the character at least to some degree — because you have to give a great deal of credit to the artists and the creative team that put [the show] together — to see myself as part of that team was very, very exciting. I imagined — and I don’t know, I really can’t say — but I imagined that film stars who played iconic characters must have said, “Wow, I got to play that.” Whether it was [Jack] Nicholson or the late Heath Ledger [portraying the Joker], or the actors who played Batman, or Wonder Woman, etc. — you get to play an iconic character and it’s you up there [on (or off) the screen]. And that’s how I felt about [being on] the Plastic Man show.
TZN: I know it’s been a long time, but do you remember if you had a favorite Plastic Man episode or scene from the show?
BELL: You know, I don’t recall.
TZN: I understand. I saw it as a teen myself. Before Cartoon Network re-aired the episodes in the 1990s, I only remembered bits and pieces, like the scene when Plas got stuck in a taffy machine, or…
TZN: Or fought the guy dressed like a giant carrot. Or was changed into a fly. Little unexpected moments that were so unique.
BELL: Absolutely. But I don’t recall. You know, I was thinking about this not too long ago. When an actor does a show, that show becomes their life, and they have great memories of it. I did so many [different roles and shows]. In a really bizarre and dark analogy, it’s kinda like a porno king who has had several hundred different women he’s been in films with. You can’t ask him, “Well, how was Samantha Fox?” “Samantha who?”
TZN: (Laughter.) Right. I understand completely, with all of the voice-acting roles you have done, and it has been 20 years.
BELL: I don’t even remember the segments. I just have visions of myself standing there with Joe and Melendy and doing [the voices] and enjoying it. Every now and then, something flashes by and I see a segment here or envision a character there. But that’s pretty much it. Of course when I watch the show, then I could turn to you and say, “Oh yeah, I recall that.”
I’m just sorry that my voice has changed so much. It’s softer now, so I won’t be available for the adult film version [of Plastic Man].
TZN: (Laughter.) Seriously, though, there were plans to bring Plastic Man to the silver screen in a live-action feature. The Wachowski Brothers wrote a script way back in 1995 (with Paul Reubens considered for the role).
BELL: I know Paul, and as funny as he is, he's wrong for it. Actually, Ryan Reynolds would be super. I’m sure they’ll do [a] Plastic Man [film eventually]. They are doing all of the iconic characters. I mean, everybody short of Little Lulu will wind up on screen.
TZN: I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Little Lulu movie.
BELL: I sure eventually they will. And I’m sure they’ll cast Whoopi Goldberg in the role. Totally CGI and the voice of Whoopi Goldberg. And everybody will go, “Now why did they do that?”
TZN: Well, see, you can play Plastic Man, then, because Plas would be pure CGI.
BELL: Oh yeah. Absolutely! You know, what I would love to do is to play a role in the film that was a bad guy, or one of the heavies, or even the head of the CIA or something. So that, when the credits came up, and it said “Michael Bell as…”, the fans would say, “Holy $#!+! That was the voice of Plastic Man! We saw him on camera!”
TZN: (Laughter.) I think the first time I saw you on camera, and actually knew it was you, was on the Star Trek: The Next Generation premiere.
TZN: And I’m sure I’ve seen those Ironsides and other shows you were on.
BELL: Oh, I’m sure you did. M*A*S*H and Star Trek and Get Smart. I also did two segments of Three’s Company.
TZN: I’m sure they’re on DVD somewhere.
BELL: Oh sure. They’re out there. I’m not getting a dime for them, but they’re all out there.
TZN: Will that be the same for the Plastic Man DVD?
BELL: Well, I should make enough to buy a Mallomar. There’s not a tremendous form of residuals for DVDs. Unless it sells like Michael Jackson’s Thriller, then I’ll really make some bucks... and I'll have my ears done.
TZN: (Laughter.) Maybe you should buy a few copies, autograph them, and sell them on eBay.
BELL: Yeah, I guess I could do that. Or, at the next Comic Con, people can bring the pack to me and I’ll charge them 20 bucks to sign my name. It’s more money than I would make [from a residual]. (Laughter). [Fans] can take a photo with me as well. In fact, I’ll wear the outfit. It just sags a bit here and there.
TZN: The Plastic Man outfit?
BELL: Yeah, I got the outfit. I usually wear it on my wedding anniversary. [My wife] loves it. It frightens the cats, though. They won’t come out of the closet — which is unusual for Hollywood cats.
TZN: (Laughter.) Since you also portrayed Zan the Wonder Twin and Gleek, you can also autograph the recent Super Friends DVD that came out in August, which are the so-called “lost” shorts that never aired in the U.S..
BELL: Those were my shorts. Shannon Farnon took them off me. It was a wonderful, wonderful session...
BELL: Did you know that Zan was the last voice heard at Hanna-Barbera before they closed down?
BELL: They called me in to do a promo for something. And I went into the booth, and the place was pretty clean. They couldn’t find Liberty Williams, who played the original Jayna. Liberty’s living out here now, but they didn’t know how to reach her at the time. So they brought a young girl in [to play Jayna], and she was pretty good. [When we were done, the directors] went, “Okay, wrap it up.” And I said, “What do you mean?” And they said, “That’s it. Last voice heard at Hanna-Barbera.”
BELL: Then [Hanna-Barbera] closed the studio. So I called up Frank Welker and I said, (mock-smug) “F#¢* you, Frank! I was the last voice [at Hanna-Barbera]! Not you. It was me!”
TZN: (Laughter.) I take it he laughed as hard as I am now.
BELL: Oh, he did. You know, Frank and I are friends. Frank got back at me though. He turned down a movie [called Race to Space] to do the voice of the chimps. He said [to the casting agent], “Why don’t you ask Michael Bell?” So my agent said to me, “Well, Frank doesn’t want to do it. Do you want to do it?” And I said, “Sure, I’m a voice slut. I’ll do it.”
BELL: I lost my voice doing every chimp in the movie!
TZN: Oh my gosh.
BELL: Yeah. It was revenge. But I got him back recently.
TZN: Getting back to Plastic Man, are there any “in-house stories” you can share?
BELL: When we do voice overs, there’s not a lot to talk about, because you are not moving. You’re in front of a mic. There’s not a great deal happening. It wasn’t as if somebody hit the mic by mistake and it landed on my head and put me in the hospital. None of that occurs.
TZN: No, but I’m sure there were memorable bloopers or funny situations during a recording session. When I interviewed Shannon Farnon, she told me that you were absolutely hilarious on several outtakes on the Super Friends show.
BELL: Well, that’s because I had to work naked.
BELL: I usually let [Shannon] spread the butter and rice on me, and then I get in front of the mic.
BELL: Yeah, I think I was kind of wacky. I think some people followed in my wake at being crazy. I guess that was part of my personality, to loosen everybody up, and myself at the same time. Someone once said to me that I “didn’t have an unexpressed thought.”
TZN: (Laughter.) That almost sounds dangerous.
BELL: It was dangerous, and sometimes I’d get in trouble. But more often than not, I managed to get out unscathed.
TZN: I’m sure you threw a few zingers during a Plastic Man recording session.
BELL: Oh, I’m sure I did. I mean there was just no way I could keep it going straight for long without poppin’ on something. I’m sure at one point [Melendy, as Penny,] said “Oh, Plas.” And I’m like, “Was it good for you, honey?” or something like that. I’m sure to throw something in. Every now and then, Joe would fall over the mic, and then say, (mimicking Joe Baker) “C’mon. Let’s get goin’!” And then I would have to get back in stride.
TZN: And that was just the mild humor.
BELL: Just the mild humor. There has got to be a blue tape of Plastic Man around. I doubt very seriously that it will ever be released.
TZN: (Laughter.) Let’s talk about the style of comedy for Plastic Man, which was fairly unique at the time. You mentioned how your portrayal of the character is based on Don Adams from Get Smart, and I remember scenes and dialogue on Plastic Man that paid homage to that show. For example, there was a scene (in “The Horrible Half-Ape”) where Hula is accepting phone calls in a hotel from various contacts under different aliases, and the same bellhop is bringing him the phones, going, “I thought your name was…”. That was based on a similar scene from a Get Smart episode (“A Man Called Smart, part 1”).
BELL: That’s right. [The producers and writers] were actually able to do that. You just brought that back to my mind. Yeah. Absolutely.
TZN: To be honest, I saw that scene on Plastic Man first then saw that syndicated episode of Get Smart, and I thought, “Oh, they stole that bit from Plastic Man…”
BELL: Oh no, no, no. (Laughter.) I doubt anybody said (mimicking), “Waitaminnit! I’m watching Plastic Man and this would be great for our show!” (Laughter.) I can’t imagine that happening.
TZN: (Laughter.) Right. Plastic Man also paid homage to Three Stooges routines [like the clam chowder scene in “Wham Bam, Beware of the Clam”]. It almost seemed like the Plastic Man show was a vehicle to introduce this classic comedy to kids.
BELL: I don’t know if it registered or whether anybody thought it was a breakthrough here, but [Plastic Man] was much more “adult” in many ways than other shows that the kids were watching [at the time].
TZN: I’ve noticed that cartoons over time have become more sophisticated and more adult, even though they are claiming to target young kids.
BELL: Well, cartoons are becoming more outrageous and over-the-top. Some of it works and a lot of it doesn’t. There have been some animated shows that were hip and funny. I don’t know. I don’t watch animated shows at this point in my life. I don’t bother. I don’t even watch the anime shows that I sometimes re-voice.
TZN: You used to watch cartoons when you were doing the voice-overs?
BELL: Yeah. I love to see my work. And I also like to see what else is going on. I was so ambitious. I had to see what everybody else was doing. Of course now I’ve [done voices for] interactive games. So I have to see some of those. I don’t really [play] interactive games however. Not dexterous enough.
TZN: Sounds like a good excuse to convince your wife to buy a video game player.
BELL: Right. But I got a Playstation 2 as a gift from a producer [after I worked on Legacy of Kain: Defiance]. I played Raziel, a vampire. She said, “Here, so you can play your character.” I was curious to see what Defiance looked like. But I couldn’t get to the movie segment because I couldn’t get through the game. I couldn’t get my character to jump a rock. I didn’t realize four hours had gone by. I said to myself, “I’ve been sitting here for four hours trying to get my friggin’ character to jump a rock?!”
BELL: So I shut it off and put the whole thing away.
TZN: The pains you have to go through to be able to see your finished work.
BELL: I just wanted to see what it was. The artwork was sensational! It was really super. But I never had a chance to see [the movie segments] until they were on YouTube.
TZN: But when you see the video on YouTube, you’re probably not seeing it in all its pixilated glory.
BELL: Absolutely right. And there are a lot of games and shows that I voiced that I have never seen. I did an Avatar [the Last Airbender] recently and never got a chance to see it. You know, I just don’t sit in front of a set and watch these things [anymore]. I’ve been watching the old Voltrons, which are kinda fun. And kinda silly. And when Plastic Man comes out [on DVD], I’m going to watch the old Plastic Mans. There was something special about that show. That’ll be fun.
TZN: The second season introduced the character of Baby Plas, the son of the now-married Plastic Man and Penny. Various websites credit actress Clare Peck as the voice of Baby Plas, but that was actually you, wasn’t it?
BELL: Yeah. [When the producers] said we’re gonna have Baby Plas, I said, “Okay, we’ll bring in a girl.” Because normally girls do the voices of babies [on cartoons]. And they said, “No, can you do Baby Plas?” And I thought, “Oh, wow.” I mean, everything in my body had already dropped; I wasn’t sure I was able to pull that out of my hat.
So I said, “Okay, I’ll give it a shot.” I wound up doing a kind of strange little voice that my friend Joanie Gerber had taught me years ago. It was kind of a: (as Baby Plas) “O-kay! What do we do nowww?” That voice was sharp and clear at the time. I did that voice, and [the producers] said, “You’re on!”
TZN: The Plastic Man/Baby Plas Super Comedy Show created a radical shift in the show format, with the "spy mission" stories being overshadowed and eventually replaced by adventures of Baby Plas and the “Plastic Family”. That season also did away with what I thought was one of the most charming running gags of the first season: where Penny was constantly pining for Plas, who only had eyes for the Chief.
BELL: Don’t have a memory of it. You could be sitting here talking to some guy from the motion picture home.
TZN: Well, it seemed pretty sudden for this viewer that Plas was married to Penny.
BELL: You know, I think at that point I made jokes about that. I said, “Are we gonna do a scene on their honeymoon?” And the response was a caustic “No, we’re not, Mike. Let’s just continue with the script.” “But I just have these great things that he could do…” And they, more sternly, repeat, “Yes. We got it, Mike. Let’s just move on.” And then I said, “And right after the honeymoon, they find her dead!”
BELL: Because there is no way you would be able to stop him. Y’know, kinda like Superman. I mean, what do you do to protect [Penny]? And the director finally blew, “We got it, Mike! We got it! Let’s just move on!”
TZN: (Laughter.) Well at least you are approaching this situation very analytically.
BELL: Oh yeah. Absolutely. I looked at it for the truth, as an actor who studied the Stanislavski Method, I was looking for the truth.
TZN: (Laughter.) You sound so earnest when you say that.
BELL: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I wanted Penny to say to Plas, “Okay you can stop now.” (As Plas) “No, I can’t!” (As Penny) “Wait a second. Ouch! That smarts!” (As Plas) “Happy, honey?”
TZN: With the extra role of Baby Plas, I take it you had to cut one of your “visiting character” roles.
BELL: Yeah, if I recall, we had a maximum of three voices per actor [per episode]. But we often did crowd scenes. We didn’t mind doing crowds. We didn’t mind voicing a heckler or a beggar, etc.
TZN: It didn’t really count as a voice?
BELL: It counted, but we always gave that to the producers. Because you had the role and you were the star, so you didn’t care.
TZN: That’s nice.
BELL: We were not going to push that. This was before we had a strike and demanded money for the third voice, which wound up being ten percent of scale. Because it was animation, [the producers] wound up getting three actors for the price of one, which put two other actors out of work. So at the very least you saved the company two other salaries. So we finally came to the conclusion that the least they could do is to give us some money for the second voice, which they refused to do. And then we asked for money for the third voice, and they just refused to do that too. And I was striking to get us ten percent of scale for the third voice. Plastic Man was way before that, so I wound up doing [all the voices] for one fee.
Sometimes it’s worth it [for the producers] to have the talent do the third voice at 10 percent of scale. Or, if it’s a really different voice, and they want really major separation, they’ll bring in a guest [actor]. But nowadays you have so many TV stars doing the leads that most of us [voice actors] who were playing the leads all those years are now brought in to do ancillary voices — workmen or a cowboy or whatever the hell it is — and the stars are getting a hell of a lot more compensation then we did or currently do.
TZN: That doesn’t seem right.
BELL: Yeah, we feel it’s wrong, but we’re in the minority. I don’t understand why they do it ‘cause, quite frankly, from my point of view, I don’t think that a star is necessary. I don’t think they bring anything more to the project than a good actor — who most of us [voice actors] are — does, and for scale. I think it is unnecessary to have a star to do that, even for a Disney animation. I mean, [MGM] did a motion picture called Igor with nothing but stars doing voices, and it went into the toilet. So what was the value in that? Kids didn’t go [to watch an animated film] to see the stars. They are not interested in hearing Brad Pitt in an animated movie.
TZN: I’m sure it wasn’t the first, but Titan A.E. was the first animated movie that I recall having mostly major Hollywood stars in it, and it didn’t work for me.
BELL: It doesn’t work. I mean, if you have someone like Eddie Murphy or Robin Williams, yeah, it’s gonna work. Or John Lithgow, who’s marvelous, yes, absolutely. But… when I was doing Rugrats, we did the movie Rugrats in Paris, and there was no need to have Susan Sarandon play the French woman [Coco LaBouche]. She’s wonderful, but she was wrong for [the role]. There are a number of [voice] actresses that could have kicked more laughs out of it. They didn’t have to pay for Susan Sarandon. What was the purpose? What was the purpose of bringing in Whoopi Goldberg and David Spade to the first Rugrats movie? Or Bruce Willis as the voice of the dog [in Rugrats Go Wild]. There was no need for it. It could have been any wonderful actor.
TZN: Perhaps “big” stars were used to generate media buzz for the project.
BELL: It may be, but [the producers] also had to pay through the nose for it. You can’t get [stars to work] for scale. It doesn’t make any sense because the [Rugrats] product itself was [already] selling like crazy. Listen, we did the pilot for a [show] called Captain Planet years ago for DIC. And they brought in Neil Ross to play Captain Planet. And I played Looten Plunder in the series. Kath Soucie was in it, and Lynette Mettey played the “aura” or the “princess” or the “oracle” or whatever it was [named Gaia in the series]. We did the pilot, and then [the producers] decided, “Let’s bring in stars.” So they brought in Tom Cruise, his wife [at that time], and Whoopi Goldberg, and none of them [except Whoopi, who played Gaia] could do it after the first [episode], and [the producers] had to replace them all anyway. But they didn’t go with the original cast [from the pilot]. They did use Kath and they may have used one other person, but they certainly didn’t go with Neil or myself or any of the other people. They used David Coburn [for Captain Planet]. James Coburn came in to replace me. I mean, What are they using stars for? It’s dumb! What was the purpose? There are a lot of VO actors out there and this is our only source of revenue. I used to joke about that. When somebody said to me, “I heard that Tom Cruise took the place of Neil for Captain Planet”, I said, “Yeah, and I don’t understand it. You know, they offered me Born on the Fourth of July and I said, ‘I don’t do that! Give it to Tom Cruise!’”
BELL: I was up in arms about it for a long time. I finally gave up the fight. If they ever do Plastic Man today, trust me, they’ll get some young star to play him. Like “Chad somebody” or “Chance somebody.”
TZN: Getting back to your Plastic Man show, did you ever have a preference between the “spy mission” stories of season one and the Baby Plas/Plastic Family format of season two?
BELL: Y’know, never having really seen them together or watching them, I’m not sure I had that kind of finite concept. It was, “Whatever Charlie [Nichols (director)] asked for.” Whatever the guy wanted, I did. It never occurred to me that there was a difference in concept, because you think of it as a kid’s show. Unless it becomes so radically odd and so strange, unless the artwork is so different, and the stories are so skewed, then you go, “Well, I think you fixed something that wasn’t broken.” I’m not sure if there was a problem. I’m just sorry it didn’t go for ten years.
TZN: I noticed that Joe Baker’s character of Bad Luck Hula wasn’t featured as prominently in the second season, but given the “triple-voice” duty, was he still involved with the show?
BELL: He probably was. I thought he was in there. But I guess he... I think he called me every now and then and he’d say “God, my character’s not in there.” And I said, “I don’t know what to tell you.” Joe was a really sweet man. So charming. A very dear guy. He looked like the character [Bad Luck Hula] and was really funny.
TZN: It’s too bad that his character was essentially written out of the show.
BELL: I used to joke about that when I was doing G.I. Joe. B.J. Ward played Scarlett, and after about a season, I noticed that B.J. wasn’t back [in the recording studio] a lot. She’d come back every now and then. She said, “Well, I haven’t been in a lot of scripts.” And I said, “’ I think it's because your doll isn’t selling.”
BELL: Everybody broke up and we all fell on the floor. We all laughed because it was so funny that all of our careers were predicated on whether our dolls sold.
TZN: That was at the time when cartoons were based on toy lines and the show served as a marketing tool.
BELL: That’s right. I don’t think there was such a thing for Plastic Man. Wouldn’t that have been great. Especially if they came up with the kind of material that you could stretch.
TZN: Yeah, they had Stretch Armstrongs at the time, and I’ve heard stories from fans that would take a red permanent marker and draw Plas’s costume on a Stretch Armstrong figure.
BELL: I think a real stretch Plastic Man [toy] would have been sensational. But what do I know? And unlike my friends on The Simpsons, I never got any merchandising money anyway. So, what do I care?
[Note: Xum discovered that the Mego Corporation actually released an “Elastic Plastic Man” figure in 1979 as part of their “Elastic Heroes” line. This figure was extremely rare because Mego made a short production run right at the time when they lost a lawsuit from Kenner (maker of the Stretch Armstrong), which resulted in Mego being ordered to remove and destroy any unsold “Elastic Heroes” figures.]
TZN: Can you tell me what you liked best about working on the Plastic Man show?
BELL: Hard to say. Just working, you know. I think possibly in the final analysis, being able to play all of those characters. I was kinda like the… do you remember Wild Wild West, the series?
BELL: I was kinda like the Ross Martin [Artemus Gordon] of animation. I got to do all of those different characters. I didn’t know anybody that was doing all of the characters in their show, plus playing old ladies, if necessary.
TZN: Can you tell me what you liked least?
BELL: I don’t think there was anything I liked least. Quite frankly. It was all good. It was all one big Foster’s banana split. Loved it.
TZN: Thank you very much for your time.
BELL: My pleasure.
TZN: Are there any current projects you’d like to plug before I let you go? Are there any commercials out there where we can listen for you?
BELL: No commercial voice overs other than Peoples. I don’t do a hell of a lot of commercials anymore. There are a lot of young tigers out there. A lot of young talented turks pushing their way up. And some of the people I used to run alongside of that were younger than me, and are still working. And that’s fine with me. I’m okay with that. It’s always nice to have ancillary money coming in, but I’m pretty well set at this point.
I still do video games. I just finished the latest Ratchet and Clank, and I’ve got a lot of other games coming as well as ADR. I’m called in every now and then to do the voice of a character in a movie that needs to be replaced. I just did some looping for a Wes Craven film, and looping for The Astronaut’s Wife. I keep pretty busy doing that.
I also teach voice animation. I did a two-day seminar with Lynneanne Zager, who is one of the top queens of ADR and a major VO artist. We did the seminar out at RH Factor, a studio out in the Valley. It’s a good class. I work basically with actors, but every now and then we bring in somebody who may not have had a lot of background and get them started.
TZN: Someone who has a good voice?
BELL: It’s even more than a good voice. Because having a good voice really isn’t enough. Everyone has got a good voice. You know, back in the old days they said a good voice was a deep, resonant, powerful sound. It doesn’t make a difference anymore. No matter what your voice is, now it’s, “You got good acting chops? You got a chance at work.”
But what I am doing now is very exciting, I’m directing as well as voicing Graphic Motion Comics. The latest is called Sparks. [Catastrophic Comics] put out our second one, Sparks Part 2. William Katt is one of the producers along with Chris Folino, who is a producer/director I had met a couple of years ago. He wrote, produced and directed a film called Gamers. Which you might want to see. If you were ever into “Dungeons and Dragons,” you will absolutely love it. Wear Pampers when you watch it because you’ll wet yourself. It’s so funny.
I’ve directed the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth episode of the Sparks series. And I play one of the heavies. We got Michael Paré as the voice of Sparks, and Charlie Brill, who is one of the top VO people out here, and Courtenay Taylor, another major VO person. And my daughter, Ashley, whose career has been taking off in all directions. She just completed a film in Louisiana. A lot of top talent is involved, including the really marvelous animation and sound people. [Sparks is] just absolutely amazing. It’s very dark, and wa-a-a-a-ay too sexy for kids. This can be downloaded to your iPod Touch and your iPhone.
TZN: The motion comics I’ve seen usually take the existing comic book artwork and cut it into pieces so when it’s “animated,” it looks like a bunch of 2D paper marionettes.
BELL: Right. Exactly. However, Sparks goes much further. We have lips syncing, background movement, and more. If you download Sparks, you’ll see.
[Catastrophic Comics] will be releasing up to six [episodes] and then they will be doing The Mythology Wars, which is another approach to the graphic motion comic. I’ve also just finished directing the first episode of BOOM! Studio's Irredeemable graphic motion comic, with more [episodes] to come.
TZN: That all sounds great. Before we “sign off,” I know you have a seminar that people pay for, but can you offer a little free advice for aspiring voice actors and actresses?
BELL: Just to take improv classes. To study at the Groundlings, which is a wonderful little improv class out here. To study to be actors. It’s very, very important to be an actor. And if you don’t have one, try to develop a funny bone. And also to plagiarize, “don’t shade your eyes, that’s why God made your eyes.” If you hear something you like, plagiarize it. It’s bound to sound a little different coming out of you, anyway.
You can check out Michael Bell’s performance as Plastic Man on DVD in Plastic Man: The Complete Collection, which will be available in stores on October 20, 2009. You can also purchase Sparks and Sparks Part 2 right now for 99 cents each at the iTunes Store (keywords: "Sparks," "Catastrophic Comics").
(Thanks Toon Zone)
ImageMovers Lines Up Behind Airman
Gil Kenan, director of Monster House, is signed on to Airman, a $150 million motion-capture fantasy film from Robert Zemeckis’ ImageMovers banner.
The film is based on a book by Eoin Colfer about a boy whose father is the bodyguard to the king of Ireland, Variety reports. When the King is killed, the boy is falsely convicted and sent to prison, where he builds a flying machine with which to save his family.
Ann Peacock has been tapped to write the screenplay, while Zemeckis, Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey are producing the film, with Jackie Levine overseeing for ImageMovers.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
Cookie Jar Joins Harlem Globetrotters for Licensing, New TV
The Harlem Globetrotters got one giant step closer to returning to TV animation by signing on with Cookie Jar Group for a global licensing and entertainment deal.
Under the deal, Cookie Jar Entertainment will develop animated entertainment based on the Globetrotters brand, while the company’s licensing arm, Copyright Promotions Licensing Group launches a worldwide, multi-tiered licensing campaign. The campaign will begin by focusing on fans that grew up with the Globetrotters and offer vintage apparel and collectibles.
The Harlem Globetrotters have mixed entertainment with basketball for more than 80 years, putting on shows in more than 120 countries on six continents before more than 130 million people in that time.
The team previously appeared in an animated TV series produced by Hanna-Barbera in the 1970s. They also have made live-action appearances on numerous shows, including most recently Hell’s Kitchen, Jon & Kate Plus 8, The Bachelorette and The Amazing Race.
“The Cookie Jar Group has developed many of the most iconic, multi-platform brands in the world, and they are uniquely capable of creating broad consumer opportunities for the Globetrotters that capitalize on the team’s timeless appeal as well as its current pop culture heat,” said Harlem Globetrotters CEO Kurt Schneider.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
Canada’s NFB Launches iPhone App
The National Film Board of Canada is calling all iPhone-equipped animation fans with a new application for the popular mobile device.
The mobile application is available now and allows free, full viewing of hundreds of documentaries, animated films and trailers streamed over wi-fi, 3G and EDGE wireless networks. The application is a first for a Canadian film and entertainment organization.
In additon to making hundreds of films available for viewing, the app will let users preload films to watch later within a 24-hour period, search the entire online collection of NFB.ca, explore films by theme, save a list of favorite films and target films viewed by people nearby.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
YTV Picks Up Full Season of Pretty Cure
Canada’s YTV has bought 23 more episodes of Toei Animation’s Pretty Cure, completing the first season of the show.
The first 26 episodes of the popular anime series for children debuted on the channel earlier this year.
The series follows a pair of eighth graders who are visited by mysterious creatures from the Garden of Light that grant the girls the power to transform into the superheroes Cure Black and Cure White. Together, they become the guardians of the planet Earth against an invasion from the Dark Zone.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
Aardman Gets on Tweak’s RV
Aardman Animations has integrated Tweak Software’s RV image and sequence viewing application into its Linux-based CG animation pipeline.
The Oscar-winning studio has been using the software since its pre-beta release and recently approved its integration into the pipeline.
“Having Aardman adopt RV is a great acknowledgement of the software as a tool for artists," said Seth Rosenthal, Tweak co-founder.
"We are developing our CG pipeline on Linux and we are fitting RV in pretty much everywhere we can,” says Tom Downes, pipeline lead at Aardman. “To start with, we are using it for lip sync tests and playblasting because it is frame accurate and syncs the sound nicely. It's pretty much the only player we've tried that does that. On Linux, as far as I am aware, there is no good alternative."
Downes says some of Aardman's key stop-motion animators are using RV for animation planning tests being done in Maya. "They are not really keen on using computers so playback has to be a really transparent process — they will have 8 or 10 RV sessions up at the same time to compare playblasts. We've wrapped it up a little bit to make it transparent, but we don't need to do much, it's a simple program to use."
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
"Ponyo" Coming to DVD in March '10
Via the Ghibli Blog, according to Frank Marshall, the co-producer of Ponyo's English dub, the region 1 DVD of the Japanese animated, Studio Ghibli-produced film (which is still playing in U.S. theaters) will be released in March 2010. It was originally tentatively slated for the holiday season. No word on the Blu-ray version yet.
Frigou Navigates Through Orange Maps Advert
Frigou (aka Helene Friren) directed this recent spot for Orange Maps. The ad was animated by Ginny Robertson, Laura Nailor and Arianne Wolodarsky.
School Up on Grickle Halloween Animation
To help get us in the Autumn mood, Graham Annable offers his take on the Halloween short with Principal Skeleton. It’s the latest short in his Grickle series.
Why 1997's 'Batman & Robin' Might Be 'The Most Important Comic Book Movie Ever Made'
Newsflash: 1997's "Batman & Robin" might be the most important film that the comic book movie genre has ever seen.
Hey, don't shoot the messenger—those words are coming straight from the mouth of Marvel Studios bigwig Kevin Feige.
The LA Times recently reviewed the career of Akiva Goldsman, the producer-director-writer with involvement in comic book properties such as "Jonah Hex," "The Losers" and—that's right—"Batman & Robin," the George Clooney-starring film that nearly destroyed the superhero movie genre in the late 1990s.
But Feige, one of the many creative minds behind "Iron Man" and the newly reinvigorated Marvel Studios lineup, said that the current renaissance of comic book movies wouldn't be possible without the widespread critical failure of "Batman & Robin."
"That may be the most important comic-book movie ever made," said Feige. "It was so bad that it demanded a new way of doing things. It created the opportunity to do 'X-Men' and 'Spider-Man,' adaptations that respected the source material and adaptations that were not campy."
In the interview, Goldsman admitted that there were some flaws with "Batman & Robin," though he wouldn't fully apologize for the film's failings.
"What got lost in 'Batman & Robin' is the emotions aren't real," he said. "The worst thing to do with a serious comic book is to make it a cartoon. I'm still answering for that movie with some people."
Many of the film's cast members, like actress Alicia Silverstone, weren't fully aware of the campiness of "Batman & Robin" at the time, but such a lapse in judgment is forgivable if you look at it through Feige's logic — not only does Marvel have "Iron Man 2" and other movies on the horizon, but fans also have "The Dark Knight" thanks to Hollywood's newfound respect for the comics genre.
'Deadpool' Producer On Movie's Potential Characters, Has No Problem With Reynolds As 'Green Lantern'
Deadpool himself is an anti-hero at best, so trying to come up with an appropriate villain for the Merc with a Mouth to square off against in his upcoming solo feature is an understandable challenge for the folks at Fox—but that doesn't mean they don't have some ideas.
In an interview with Empire Online, producer Lauren Shuler Donner spoke about Fox's plans for the "Deadpool" film, which she confirmed would be completely different than the version of the character seen in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."
Donner said that there are plenty of villains that could wind up in Deadpool—including Black Tom, Slayback and the Weasel—but the one she sounded the most interested in is none other than Blind Al, an elderly woman that Wade Wilson keeps locked up at home.
"Blind Al is this blind woman in [Deadpool's] house, who he abuses and mocks... it's terrible," the producer said. "But you find out that she was a convict who did something terrible and he saved her from execution. So he lets her live in his house and she looks after him, but they both torture each other. Anyway, there are good stories and we're figuring out which ones to incorporate."
One thing that Donner and the folks at Fox don't need to figure out is who will end up playing Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds was recently cast as Hal Jordan in "Green Lantern"—and while the actor himself said he'd have no trouble juggling both roles, it remained to be seen if the "Deadpool" producers agreed with his assessment.
"I don't see it as a problem," Donner said. "I mean, look at Harrison Ford—he was in Star Wars and Indiana Jones at the same time and everyone was fine with that. Green Lantern could not be more different to Wade Wilson."
'Green Lantern' Movie Leading Up To 'Justice League' Film?
The color green turned on Hal Jordan recently when "Green Lantern" had to pull out of its Australian shooting locations due to economic issues—but it appears that a new location may already be locked in for the DC Comics adaptation, and it's not Mexico as some had guessed.
According to The Times-Picayune, "Green Lantern" could very well lens in New Orleans, Louisiana. The manager of studio operations at the New Orleans-based Second Line Stages reported that producers for "Green Lantern" have contacted him about the studio space, and that "'Green Lantern' production offices could be set up in town as early as this week."
If the move pans out, it's great to hear that "Green Lantern" has already bounced back with a new location. Still, that's not the only interesting bit of news buried in the Times-Picayune's article, which posits an interesting rumor about DC's on-screen plans for a "Justice League" movie.
Towards the article's end, "Green Lantern" is mentioned as "the first in a trilogy of films focusing on DC's Justice League heroes—the others being 'The Flash' and 'Wonder Woman'—before uniting all three with fellow League members Batman, Superman and Aquaman for a Justice League movie."
The formation of DC Entertainment led us to speculate on which movies the company needs to focus on going forward, and it sounds like their ideas are much in line with ours.
If "Green Lantern" is truly paving the way towards "Justice League" alongside "Wonder Woman" and "The Flash," then the folks at Marvel Studios might need to watch their backs — they won't be the only comic book movie company with film-to-film continuity.
New Avatar Trailer Guaranteed To Blow Your Mind Will Debut In Theaters On Friday
Comingsoon, home to the big brain of Ed Douglas, has learned that Fox will debut a brand spanking new Avatar trailer this Friday.
Nothing mentions on which movies the trailer will be in front of. I'm guessing pretty much all of them since this is a huge release for Fox.
I'm sure the trailer is going to be in 3-D so get ready for more James Cameron eye sex this Friday.
In the epic action adventure fantasy AVATAR, James Cameron, the director of Titanic, takes us to a spectacular new world beyond our imagination. On the distant moon Pandora, a reluctant hero embarks on a journey of redemption, discovery and unexpected love -- as he leads a heroic battle to save a civilization.
The story's protagonist, Jake Sully, is an ex-Marine who was wounded and paralyzed from the waist down in combat on Earth. In order to participate in the Avatar program, which will give him a healthy body, Jake agrees to travel to Pandora, a lush rainforest environment filled with incredible life forms - some beautiful, many terrifying. Pandora is also the home to the Na'vi, a humanoid race that lives at what we consider to be a primate level, but they are actually much more evolved than humans. Ten feet tall and blue skinned, the Na'vi live harmoniously within their unspoiled world. But as humans encroach on Pandora in search of valuable minerals, the Na'vi's very existence is threatened - and their warrior abilities unleashed.
Jake has unwittingly been recruited to become part of this encroachment. Since humans are unable to breathe the air on Pandora, they have created genetically-bred human-Na'vi hybrids known as Avatars. The Avatars are living, breathing bodies in the real world, controlled by a human driver through a technology that links the driver's mind to the Avatar body. On Pandora, through his Avatar body, Jake can be whole once again. Moreover, he falls in love with a young Na'vi woman, Neytiri, whose beauty is matched by her ferocity in battle.
As Jake slides deeper into becoming one of her clan, he finds himself caught between the military-industrial forces of Earth, and the Na'vi - forcing him to choose sides in an epic battle that will decide the fate of an entire world.
Conceived 14 years ago and over four years in the making, AVATAR breaks new ground in delivering a fully immersive, emotional story and reinvents the moviegoing experience.
How long will the trailer be? Click HERE to find out.
Nightmare's new Freddy defends his new face
Early reviews of Freddy Krueger's new look have been mixed, based on a glimpse in the recent teaser trailer for the reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street, compelling producer Brad Fuller to say things aren't final yet.
Now we get the new Freddy himself, Jackie Earle Haley, defending the new makeup, which we're told will be more realistic.
We see only a glimpse of Freddy's face in the trailer for the upcoming Nightmare on Elm Street movie, but Haley thinks we'll love it. SCI FI Wire talked to Haley on the red carpet for the Scream Awards at the Greek Theater in Hollywood last night, where he told us how much time it takes to make him into the stuff of nightmares.
"It's so cool," Haley said. "Andrew Clement [the makeup artist] did an awesome job redesigning the makeup. You know, you can imagine since they're making it, going back in time and starting over. Robert Englund did such an amazing job of owning Freddy Krueger, you know, we need to pay homage to that but at the same time be a little bit fresh and new, while still being familiar. So Andrew and Sam [Bayer, the director,] kind of created a new look for this guy that I think is awesome. Of course, we've got the hat and the glove and all that stuff. It should be awesome."
Haley said the process takes three and a half hours, start to finish. "It started at six and a half hours, because they 'art it in' [i.e., play around with it]," he said. "At first it's all about art, and once it's like, 'Oh, this is what it is,' we got it down to three hours and 20 minutes, I think. And then an hour to get out. And that's before I even step foot on set. I've got a four-and-a-half-hour day of makeup."
Sounds like enough to make anyone into a mass murderer. A Nightmare on Elm Street opens April 30, 2010.
Watch the special effects guys f*ck up Optimus Prime
We've got an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip from the new Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen DVD/Blu-ray, showing how the visual-effects artists bang the crap out of Optimus Prime.
The DVD and Blu-ray are on sale starting today in two-disc special editions and a single-disc DVD, from DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures in association with Hasbro; distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment.
The two-disc Blu-ray and DVD feature more than three hours of special features, including a multi-chapter documentary, interviews with the cast and crew, an all-access featurette following director Michael Bay through an entire day, a comprehensive exploration of the "confidential files" on a dozen of the characters, multi-angle breakdowns of some of the most sensational action sequences and more.
R-rated, NSFW re-edit of Star Wars Mos Eisley scene (video)
This juvenile and entirely hilarious re-edit of a scene from Star Wars is notable for the voice of British actor Peter Serafinowicz redubbing Alec Guinness' dialogue the way it should have been. It's NSFW and definitely R-rated, so be warned.
Kid bites mom after seeing Where the Wild Things Are
CNN has an interesting article about how kids have reacted to seeing Where the Wild Things Are. Some are bored, some are scared, and one kid turned into a wild thing herself and bit her mother.
Movie critics were, on the whole, approving of the PG-rated film, though the poor reviews were particularly scathing. "I have a vision of 8-year-olds leaving the movie in bewilderment. Why are the creatures so unhappy?" wrote The New Yorker's David Denby.
The heavily publicized film, which opened in theaters last Friday and debuted on top of the weekend box office, seemed to do too much, said [James Griffioen of Detroit, Mich.]. He thought much of the problem lay in the script, by director Spike Jonze and author Dave Eggers, which expanded on the 10-sentence children's book. ...
For Devon Adams in Chandler, Arizona, the problem wasn't keeping his 5-year-old daughter, Claire, interested—it was dealing with the aftermath of the violent scenes.
"She and her friend seemed to enjoy the film, but when she returned home, she threw her own tantrum, bit her mother very hard (something she does not do), and told her she was going to run away from home and go to where the wild things are," Adams said.
Of course, we remember when the book itself was cause for concern among parents. Who knows? Maybe the movie will eventually become a kids' classic?
(Meanwhile, final box-office figures for the movie are in: WTWTA took in $32.7 million domestically in its first weekend, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.)