Friday, October 23, 2009

News - 10/23/09...

Astro Boy Ready for Takeoff

Astro Boy finally bursts onto movie screens this weekend, taking part in an epic box office battle against vampires, serial killers, the world’s most famous female pilot and another 3-D version of an animated classic.

Based on the classic manga and anime by Osamu Tezuka, Imagi Studios’ Astro Boy opens at more than 3,000 screens via distributor Summit Entertainment. The film was directed by David Bowers (Flushed Away) and features the voices of Freddie Highmore, Kristin Bell, Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane and Bill Nighy.

The film has so far earned plaudits from critics. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times writes, “Astro Boy is better than most of its recent competitors, such as Monsters vs. Aliens and Kung Fu Panda.”

Astro Boy is a marvelously designed piece of cartoon kinetics, with the pleasing soft colors and rounded-metal tactility of an atomic-age daydream,” writes Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly.

“In its best moments, the film exudes an almost Miyazakian love of flight, notably during the hero’s maiden soar through the clouds,” writes Nick Schager of Time Out New York.

Taking on the mighty atom is the fantasy film Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, which opens in some 2,700 theaters courtesy of Universal, and the horror film Saw VI, which also arrives on just more than 3,000 cinemas.

Rounding out the openings this week is Fox Searchlight’s limited release of Amelia, a biopic of Amelia Earhart starring Hilary Swank, in 818 cinemas.

And lastly, opening in 105 theaters, is a re-release of the 3-D version of the stop-motion animated classic The Nightmare Before Christmas.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Titan Maximum Fend Off Hillbillies

Here’s a clip from the upcoming Titan Maximum episode, titled To Eris, Human! (which is also the name of a Billy and Mandy episode). The stop-motion series recently premiered on Adult Swim, and the next episode airs on Sunday, October 25th at 11:30 PM.

Jason Steele’s Animated Job Interview

With so many people out of work these days, Jason Steele’s (Charlie the Unicorn) latest short The Interview offers perhaps the perfect distraction. The short was designed in Flash and animated in After Effects.

Animated "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies" Feature Debuts Strong Home Video Sales

The new Superman/Batman: Public Enemies direct-to-video animated feature debuts high on home video, selling nearly 260,000 copies in its first two weeks.

Above is the cover art for all three separate home video releases for the direct-to-video Superman/Batman: Public Enemies animated feature.

According to various home media retailing outlets and independent research, the new Superman/Batman: Public Enemies direct-to-video animated feature made a strong debut on the home video sales charts. The feature hit the DVD sales chart at #5 in its first week, selling an estimated 198,000 copies for the week ending October 4th, 2009. The title then managed to retain the majority of its sales for a second week, selling over 59,000 copies for the week of October 11th, 2009, bringing the cumulative two-week total to nearly 260,000 units sold. Keep in mind the sales numbers above do not take into account rental numbers, OnDemand numbers, legal download numbers, or high-definition release sales.

To compare, the previous "DC Universe Animated Original Movie" title Green Lantern: First Flight debuted with nearly 160,000 in DVD sales during its debut week in July 2009.

Latino Review Talks with "Princess & the Frog" Directors

Latino Review has posted a lengthy interview with Ron Clements and John Musker, the directors of the upcoming Disney animated feature film The Princess and the Frog. Among other topics, Clements and Musker discuss the workflow changes that have been instituted at the Disney studio at the suggestion of Disney Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter, the influences in the real-world and in the past Disney animated movies that inspired this latest film, and the prospect of doing more hand-drawn animated movies at Disney.

Zucker Signs on to Z Animation

Director Orrin Zucker has signed on with Z Animation, an independent commercial animation and design company.

Zucker is best known as the co-creator – along with his brother, Jerry Zucker – of the Emmy-winning web series It’s Jerry Time. The series depicts everyday preposterous events using a paper cutouts, photo collages and CGI animation. The series was produced by Zucker’s Boston-based studio, Ozone, which also has provided animation and motion graphics for USA Studios, CNN, Verizon Mobile and Ooma Free Phone Service.

Z Animation, founded by former agency executive producer Peter Barg, offers “a creative toolbox” to agency art directors, writers and producers. Zucker joins the company’s lineup directors, which includes Caroline Attia, Odd Todd, John Vondracek and Paul Fierlinger.

To check out some of Zucker's award-winning work, visit

To learn more about Z Animation and its roster of talented directors, go to

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

LaMB Takes Golden Bell For Best Animation

Animax’s original animation project LaMB has won the Golden Bell Award — Taiwan’s equivalent of an Emmy Award — for Best Animation Program.

The judging panel commended LaMB for being “a breakthrough in the exploration of the science fiction genre, as well as for special effects and spot-on appeal to youth audiences’ tastes on an international level. Style and design, direction methods and production techniques were on a professional level. In its entirety, LaMB is a shining example of how far locally-made original animation productions can go, and is worthy of commendation.”

LaMB premiered in March, based on a script submitted by the Carmelo Juinio of the Philippines, who won a regional script-writing competition. The project was developed as Animax Asia’s first original animation production. Set in the future on a barren planet where criminals are “laminated” in suits as virtual slaves called “LaMBs” that are meant to remain productive but not free members of society.

The TV feature is the centerpiece of a multimedia and multiplatform project that spans TV, online and mobile. It is a regional animation production that brings together a stellar line-up, including celebrity voice-overs, fashion creations by a world-class designer, and songs from international bands.

Made under the $6 million Singapore Economic Development Board and SPE Networks – Asia Joint Production Fund, LaMB is executive produced by Animax Asia. Production is by Singapore studios Peach Blossom Media and Imaginary Friends Studios, directed by Hong Kong-based director Thomas Chou with Japanese project consultant Ryosuke Tei, and storyboards by Yasufumi Soejima.

The awards were presented Oct. 16 in Taipei.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Universal Distributing Geronimo Stilton DVDs in Europe

Universal Studios International Entertainment has won the rights to release hit animated series Geronimo Stilton on DVD in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Benelux.

The deal calls for the company to release all 26 22-minute first-season episodes of the series, which is a co-production of Atlantyca Entertainment and Moonscoop.

“This new agreement for home entertainment rights continues the incredible momentum sparked by the new animated series and is the next natural step in sharing the beloved Geronimo Stilton character with children throughout the world,” said Claudia Mazzucco, CEO, Atlantyca Entertainment.

The new fully completed Geronimo Stilton series, produced with the participation of RAI, M6 France and pre-sold to Radio-Canada, had a successful premiere on September 15th on Italy’s Rai 2.

Based on the award-winning Geronimo Stilton international kids’ book series by Edizioni Piemme, the series, centers on the life and adventures of mouse-author Geronimo Stilton who works as a journalist for the fictional newspaper The Rodent’s Gazette.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

3 animated features up for European Film Awards

Three films have been nominated in the Animated Feature Film category for this year's European Film Awards, the European Film Academy announced Thursday.

The nominees are Mia and the Migoo (Mia et le Migou) by Jacques-Rémy Girerd, Niko & the Way to the Stars (Niko - Lentäjän poika) by Kari Juusonen and Michael Hegner, and The Secret of Kells (Brendan et le Secret de Kells) by Tomm Moore.

Mia and the Migoo (France, 2008) tells the story of a young girl's journey in search of her father who is working at the building site of a luxury hotel in the middle of a hidden forest. Deep in the woods, she encounters the mysterious creature Migoo.

Niko & the Way to the Stars (Finland/Germany/Denmark/Ireland, 2008) is the adventure tale about the young reindeer Niko, who is still learning how to fly. He sets out for a quest to find his father, a famous member of the legendary Santa Flying Forces.

In the ninth century, in the remote parts of Ireland, lies the fortified Kells Abbey, which is threatened by the Vikings. In The Secret of Kells (France, 2009), 12-year-old Brendan explores the art of illuminating the darkness and discovers the means of protection against the raids of the barbarians.

The jury consists of EFA board members Per Holst (producer, Denmark) and Antonio Saura (producer, Spain), as well as representatives of CARTOON, the European Association of Animation Film: Agnès Bizzaro (program consultant/editor, France/Germany), Enzo d’Alo (director, Italy) and Joanna Quinn (director, United Kingdom).

The nominated films will now be submitted to EFA members to choose the winner, which will be honored at the European Film Awards ceremony Saturday, December 12 in Bochum, Germany.

"Life's a" wins at Canada's Gemini Awards

A co-production of Cuppa Coffee Studios and Teletoon, "Life's a" was named Best Animated Program or Series on Tuesday night at the 24th Annual Gemini Awards.

The Geminis -- Canada's equivalent of the Emmys -- were handed out in Children's and Youth, Comedy, Drama and Variety categories at The Sound Academy in Toronto.

Singled out for his work on Life's a was writer Adam Shaheen, now an executive producer of Glenn Martin DDS.

The series won out in the category over fellow nominees Jibber Jabber (Jibber Jabber Toons Ltd.), Rick and Steve, The Happiest Gay Couple in all the World (Cuppa Coffee Studios) and Rollbots (Amberwood Entertainment Corp.).

For Best Direction in an Animated Program or Series, the winners were George Elliott and Joey So for the Rollbots episode "Training Day."

The Gemini for Best Original Music Score for an Animated Program or Series went to Michael Richard Plowman for the Jibber Jabber episodes "Race to the Red Planet" and "Pride of Frankenstein."

For Best Individual or Ensemble Performance in an Animated Program or Series, the winners were Tajja Isen, Colin Fox, Dwayne Hill, Bruce Hunter, Rick Miller and Adrian Truss for the Atomic Betty episodes "Elementary, My Dear Minimus" and "Great Eggspectations."

Steven Westren won for Best Writing in a Children's or Youth Program or Series for his work on "Frog On A Log," an episode of Nelvana's cartoon series My Friend Rabbit.

Hosted by Ennis Esmer (CTV's The Listener) and Zoie Palmer (Global's The Guard), Tuesday's gala was a total of 24 awards presented.

The 24th Annual Gemini Awards will conclude with the Broadcast Gala on Saturday, November 14 at the BMO Centre, Stampede Corral in Calgary, Alberta. Hosted by award-winning comedian Ron James, the event will be broadcast on Global and Showcase at 9pm ET/PT.

The Gemini Awards were presented by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. Established in 1979, the ACCT is a national, non-profit, professional association dedicated to the promotion, recognition, and celebration of exceptional achievements in Canadian film and TV.

Fred Wolf retrospective

Speaking of Ninja Turtles… My next screening at the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theatre in Hollywood is a tribute to animator Fred Wolf.

Wolf collaborated with Harry Nilsson to create The Point!, with Frank Zappa to produce 200 Motels, and with Peter Yarrow to make Puff The Magic Dragon. He’s the man behind the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series, Marlo Thomas’ TV special Free To Be You And Me, the animated feature The Mouse And His Child, the classic “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?” commercial (see below) and won an Oscar for his short The Box. He even animated the iconic second season opening sequence to The Flintstones! Yours truly (Jerry Beck) will present rare clips from his movies, TV shows, vintage TV commercials, his award winning shorts and will conduct a live on-stage interview with Wolf himself, discussing his career in film and his relationships with his world famous collaborators.

Join me on Tuesday November 3rd at 8pm. Advance tickets available now… the first 100 admissions will receive a free DVD of The Point!, and every admission will receive a free Tootsie Pop! Buy Tickets Here!

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Interviews Worth Reading and Hearing

Filmmaker Michael Sporn interviews Jennifer and Bert Klein about their ambitious new animated short Pups of Liberty and the lengths they to to finish it:

Jennifer: It is hard to sit down and work after you have worked a full day, but I always remembered something Bert would say, “Even if you just get one drawing done you are one drawing ahead.” So I’d try and get one scene’s worth of layouts done a night, or read a track, or just something, and we’d inch forward until we were done.

The Venture Bros. creator Jackson Publick and voice actor James Urbaniak recently appeared on “The Best Show on WFMU with Tom Scharpling.” The interview lasts a couple hours and there’s a lot of goofiness, but there’s also a lot of good discussion because the host, Scharpling, is a TV writer and producer (Monk, Tom Goes to the Mayor). The interview begins a little after an hour into the September 29 program, which can be listened to at the WFMU website.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Ottawa Animation ad campaign

The funniest thing I saw in Ottawa last week wasn’t on screen, in a theatre or even cartoons. They were the festival posters plastered on buses, mounted on walls and bannered all over intersections in downtown Ottawa.

HBS Marketing created this clever print ad campaign for the Ottawa International Animation Festival — which perfectly sums up my own philosophy of life. Click on images below and above to view at full size.

(Thanks, Kelly Neall)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

October Studio Roundabout

Today was Sony Pictures Animation day on the Hulett studio tour, where I was told:

"We're working on Hotel Transylvania as the next theatrical feature. We've also got Open Season 3 going, and some other projects in early development. Sony was happy with the money that OS2 has brought in, and they've okayed scripting and boarding on another one ..."

"We've got six months to get Open Season 3 up on boards and ready. We're working with the writer, who's good about working with the board artists, real collaborative. But we're moving fast ..." "... They are animating the Open Seasons in Texas, and theyre making money because they've kept the costs down on them."

I got to see some of the character development for Hotel Transylvania going on upstairs; the characters look edgy and fun (whether they stay in the picture when story beats are worked out is another story.) ...

Yesterday at Disney Television Animation Sonora, I was happy to see that crew for the new season of Inspector Oso is trickling back to work. And the new show they haven't yet officially announced? Designers and story artists are coming aboard, and Story Booking is proceeding at a high rate of speed.

So while DTVA Sonora has lots of square footage that is empty, at least a few productions are rumbling to life. (There's a lot more artists working upstairs at Disney Toons.)

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

A celebration of Derdad Aghmalian: Sunday, October 25

Derdad Aghamalian passed away on September 10th, 2009. He worked in the animation industry for over 20 years as a color stylist for DIC, MGM, Universal, and Marvel. Outside of animation, Derdad was a world-renowned painter, illustrator, and stained-glass artist. He had many dear friends in animation, and will be remembered for his sense of humor, his creative vision, and his transcendent character.

-- Leonard Drorian

Please join us for an evening in remembrance of Derdad Aghamalian’s life and art.

This will take place on Sunday, October 25 from 5:30 pm to 8 pm, at the Brand Library Recital Hall, 1601 West Mountain St. in Glendale.

For more information, please call Tamara at (818) 209-0030.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

What to know what’s “Up” at Pixar? Then buy a ticket to next month’s Cartoon Art Museum benefit

Jim Hill talks up this annual fundraiser. Which allows a lucky few the chance to wander the halls at this Emeryville-based animation studio

So what are the odds that – all on your own – you’ll ever get to see the inside of Pixar Animation Studios?

To be honest, they’re not good. At an “Up” preview screening that was held in Hartford, CT. back in May of this year, Donald Evans (i.e. the Senior Vice President of Animation Marketing for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios) remarked that – for the 15 intern positions that open up annually at this Emeryville, CA.-based operation – Pixar receives several thousand applications.

Mind you, over the next 20 years, this animation studio does plan on increasing its head count from 900 to 2000 employees. So I guess if you’re really patient (and also happen to be the best of the best of the best when it comes to CG) … Well, that’s one way that you might make past the guard shack at 1200 Park Avenue.

Copyright Pixar. All Rights Reserved

What’s that you say? You don’t want to wait / work hard in order to gain access to Pixar? You just want to be able to waltz through the front door, no questions asked?

Well, there is a way. But you’re going to have to cough up some cash if you want to get past that guy in the guard shack.

No, you’re not going to bribe the security guard. You’re going to buy a ticket to Pixar’s 6th annual Cartoon Art Museum benefit.

Copyright Pixar. All Rights Reserved

For those of who don’t know, the Cartoon Art Museum (which is located at 655 Mission Street in San Francisco) is the only museum in the western United States that is dedicated to all forms of cartoons and comics.

And since the guys at Pixar are such big fans & supporters of the Cartoon Art Museum, every year they hold a fundraiser for this facility. During which – for just a few brief hours – they allow members of the public to enter their Emeryville campus and then explore certain areas at their animation studio.

This year, this benefit is being held on Saturday, November 14th. And depending on how much you’re willing to spend, there are two different ways you can experience this annual fundraiser.

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The Family Fun Track is … Well, just what it sounds like. It’s designed to give families an understanding of how films get made at Pixar. From 1 – 4 p.m., parents & their kids will be able to tour the studio’s second floor gallery space. Which is currently loaded with lots of pre-production art for “Up.”

Folks on the Family Fun Track will also get to see a display of rarely-seen “Toy Story” –related artwork & sculpture that Pixar’s archives just unearthed. And artists from the studio will be on hand to help teach children how to draw their favorite Pixar characters.

As for Mom & Dad … Well, if they’d like, they can participate in a silent auction. Where everyone attending this Cartoon Art Museum benefit can then have the chance to bid on original works that were created by Pixar’s artists & animators.

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And speaking of animation … A selection of the Studio’s short films (including “One Man Band,” “Lifted,” “Presto” and “Burn-E”) will be shown continuously in Pixar’s state-of-the-art screening room.

If you’re interested in the Family Fun Track at this year’s Cartoon Art Museum benefit , tickets are $35 for an individual or $100 for a Family Four Pack. Which covers entry for 2 adults and 2 kids under 18 and/or 1 adult and 3 kids.

The only problem with the Family Fun Track is … Well, folks with tickets to that tier of this fundraising event aren’t allowed to enter Pixar Animation Studios ‘til 1 p.m. If – on the other hand – you’d like a little more time to explore the Emeryville campus and maybe have a bit more upscale experience … Then you may want to spring for the VIP Screening Tier.

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“And what is the VIP Screening Tier?,” you ask. Well, you get everything that people who’ve paid for the Family Fun Track get. But then … You also get access to Pixar’s Studio Store. Where you can then purchase all sorts of exclusive items at employee prices.

And did I mention that you’re also allowed into Pixar’s digital theater? Where you’ll then get to see a special 3D screening of “Toy Story 2” and the rarely seen Cars Toon, “Tokyo Mater.” Better yet, this screening will be hosted by Dr. Michael B. Johnson (who works at Pixar Animation Studios as well as being a member of the Cartoon Art Museum’s board of directors). Who will then be happy to answer any of your questions about these two films.

And let’s not forget about those free lunchtime snacks. Or the fact that those who on the VIP Screening Track get to enter Pixar Animations Studios a full two hours ahead (i.e. 11 a.m.) of folks who bought tickets for the Family Fun Tier.

Copyright Cartoon Art Museum. All Rights Reserved

Of course, this sort of additional access does come with a far heftier price tag. A single ticket for the VIP Screening Tier will run you $149 (Though it’s worth noting here that Cartoon Art Museum members can purchase their tickets for this track at the reduced rate of $99). And if you’d like to treat 9 of your friends to an afternoon of behind-the-scenes fun at Pixar Animation Studios, reserved rows of 10 can be purchased for $1,500.

A word of warning, though. Tickets for Pixar’s annual Cartoon Art Museum benefit will NOT be sold at the door. They can ONLY be purchased in advance. And given that this annual fundraiser tends to be very popular and there are only a limited number of tickets … If you really have your heart set on visiting the Emeryville campus this year, NOW would be a very good time to go and purchase those tickets.

For further information on this benefit and/or the Cartoon Art Museum itself, please call 415-227-8666, ext. 300 or click on this link.

EXCLUSIVE: Brian Bendis Explains How Thor And Iron Man Can Mix In The 'Avengers' Movie

Sure, we're all looking forward to Marvel's superhero team-up extravaganza "The Avengers" in 2012, but seeing Iron Man, Captain America and Thor on the screen together isn't the only reason it has fans excited.

"Iron Man 2" director Jon Favreau recently wondered how the supernatural world of Thor would blend on the big screen with the reality-based universe of Iron Man, and he's not alone in questioning how "Avengers" will handle this mix. So, when I had the chance to pose the question to "Avengers" comic book writer and one of the chief architects of the current Marvel Universe, Brian Bendis, I had to ask what advice he's giving the Marvel movie team when it comes to mixing Thor and Iron Man.

"My advice is, has been, and will be, that much like the comics, you look at movies like the 'Oceans' movies that have all these different flavors, you put the flavors together and you cook 'em," Bendis told MTV News. "It absolutely can be done."

"Look at 'The Great Escape' or other movies that have all these big elements to them, and even elements that don't seem that they would fit can rub up against each other in a very excellent way," he explained. "They really can create something you wouldn't even imagine you had before."

Bendis called this type of co-mingling of entirely different characters and their universes his "favorite stuff" when it comes to scripting super-teams in books like "New Avengers," which he's been writing since the title's first issue. He cited the relationship between Spider-Man and Luke Cage in the series as one in which two characters might have otherwise never been together in a project, but now have become one of readers' favorite pairings.

"It's funny, here are these two characters that have been in the same universe for 40 years, and all of a sudden they're Abbott and Costello," he laughed.

Bendis went on to reiterate his certainty that the culmination of the Marvel movie lineup will not only meet the lofty expectations of fans, but surprise them, too.

"Having read the 'Captain America' movie script and the 'Thor' movie scripts and 'Iron Man 2' and everything, and seeing them all develop, nothing is more exciting to me than the 'Avengers' movie," said Bendis. "It's absolutely going to be something better than— different than—anything we've seen before."

"I think the challenge is absolutely there," he said. "It's an immense amount of work, but the payoff will be gigantic."

Dr. Curt Connors Confirmed For 'Spider-Man 4,' Could The Lizard Be Far Off?

When it comes to "Spider-Man 4," the upcoming superhero sequel directed by Sam Raimi, all eyes are on figuring out who the film's villains are going to be.

Based on the results of our recent poll, many Splash Page readers are hoping that the fourth "Spider-Man" outing finally focuses on The Lizard, Dr. Curt Connors' reptilian alter-ego that's been teased over the past several films. While Raimi himself previously said that the villain's story would likely be told eventually, he conceded that it might not happen in "Spider-Man 4."

Even though the Lizard's involvement still isn't a certainty, actor Dylan Baker—who played Connors in previous "Spider-Man" films—will indeed reprise his role in "Spider-Man 4," offering hope to fans of Spidey's scaly-skinned nemesis.

According to UGO, Baker confirmed his involvement in the fourth "Spider-Man" film during a question and answer session following a screening of horror movie "Trick 'r Treat" in New York City yesterday evening. Some confusion arose, however, when the film's director Michael Dougherty joked that Baker would essentially remain a background character—an assessment that Baker acknowledged as likely.

It's unclear whether Dougherty and Baker were joking about the actor's level of importance in "Spider-Man 4"—the "Trick 'r Treat" filmmaker referred to Baker's continued role as Connors as a "c---tease for another year"—or if they were simply trying to throw the audience off the scent.

Regardless, Baker's attachment to "Spider-Man 4" means that The Lizard is at least a possible contender for the film's villainous role, if not the current frontrunner.

Shaun of the Dead guys take on UFO sci-fi

Simon Pegg (center left) and Nick Frost (center right) in Paul

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost—the stars of and creative forces behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz—will team up next with Seth Rogen for the sci-fi E.T. comedy Paul.

Pegg and Frost co-wrote Paul and star as English sci-fi fans who encounter an actual alien, voiced by Rogen, as they tour America to see famous UFO sites (after a stop at Comic-Con in San Diego). Rogen's Paul is a computer-generated alien, and Superbad director Greg Mottola has completed filming in and around Albuquerque, N.M.

Now that the movie's in post-production, a lot of Rogen's previously recorded dialogue will have to be tweaked and changed, Frost says.

"The stuff that we [recorded] with Seth, that was [in] the first two weeks [of] preproduction," Frost said in an exclusive interview last week in London, where he was promoting Pirate Radio. "Then we've started shooting, and a lot of the lines have been changed and stuff. So then Seth will go in post-production now and re-voice the character."

Between what Frost and Pegg said on set and what Rogen is saying in post, expect Paul to offer a raunchy take on sci-fi. "We were pushed to make it R [rated]," Frost said.

Frost can take credit for one of the film's oddest jokes. The name of the agent chasing the trio is Lorenzo Zoil (Jason Bateman). Put the names together, and it sounds like "Lorenzo's Oil," which is also the title of a movie about the parents who developed a cure for their son's rare disease.

"That was one of mine," Frost said. "It's just one of those things that I kind of like doing, that thing that you take one letter from the surname and add it to the forename and it becomes something completely different. It's possible someone could be called Lorenzo Zoil."

The writers were so proud of that joke that they paused to celebrate. "I think we took the rest of the day off when I thought of that," Frost said.

Frost wouldn't spill the specific locations the characters visit on their alien road trip, but assured fans that he and Pegg did research during their own real-life UFO tour. "I don't want to say, because it would give away bits about the plot, but Simon and I did the road trip a couple of years ago," Frost said. "In January we hired an RV, and we drove from L.A. for eight, nine days up through the American Midwest, ending up in Colorado."

Paul is due out in 2010.

V's new Diana tells us: Will she eat a guinea pig?

Firefly babe Morena Baccarin stars in ABC's upcoming reboot of the alien-invasion miniseries V as the leader of the so-called Visitors, whose name is Anna.

Baccarin wants to make sure you know she's not the same character as Diana, the guinea-pig-munching bitch queen of the original 1983 miniseries, who was memorably played with campy relish by Jane Badler.

Likewise, this V isn't your parents' V, but a "re-imagining" of the old sci-fi miniseries that inspired a second miniseries, a weekly show, a book and 25 years of pent-up demand for another series.

"It completely re-invents the material, actually," Baccarin told us in an exclusive interview last week. "It's a re-imagining of the old one, so it's the same concept. Aliens come down from space. You have the conflict between them and humans. Why are they here? The show in the '80s was more about communism and totalitarianism, and our show plays a little bit more with the terrorist aspect, which is more the reality of the world we're living in now. And the characters are different. I'm not Diana. I play Anna."

The Visitors arrive on Earth proclaiming their desire to befriend mankind, but really want to eat us.

Though Anna's not Diana, she shares certain characteristics. She's got a skin of gorgeousness masking a reptilian body. But unlike Diana, Anna speaks—publicly anyway—in a calm, reassuring voice that hides her true intentions. Anna is entrancing enough to pull the wool over the eyes over countless people, including a TV reporter (Scott Wolf) and the impressionable son (Logan Huffman) of an FBI counter-terrorism agent (Elizabeth Mitchell).

Jane Badler played V's original Lizard Queen

"Anna is somebody who is extremely ambitious and will do whatever needs to be done to secure the continuation of her species," Baccarin said. "So she's come down to Earth, and she's going to do whatever it takes to get people to trust her and to listen to her, so that she can get what she wants. So I'd say she's a very motivated alien."

Sounds like a good politician, actually.

"She knows exactly what to say, what to do," Baccarin concurred. "The aliens seem to play off of whItalicat they think human beings want and what they think human beings gravitate toward, like healthcare and peace. There's a line in the pilot about the aliens acting more human than humans, and that's how Anna and her people are going to get what they want, by enacting that, by giving humans what they want and taking advantage of that."

That all sounds great, but what everyone really wants to know is if Anna will chow down on a guinea pig. Fans of V classic vividly remember the squirm-inducing bit in which Diana snacked on a guinea pig, swallowing the sucker in a single gulp.

"Not yet," Baccarin said, laughing. "The writers keep saying that 'We're paying homage to the hallmark moments,' and I don't really know what that means yet. I don't know if that means I have to become very friendly with a [guinea pig]."

The new V isn't without its controversies. There are rumors that production shut down for a time. ABC is breaking its episode order into four-episode pods. Baccarin said that whatever is happening behind the scenes isn't affecting the day-to-day.

"We are kept as in the dark as [the public] is," Baccarin said. "I think that they just want to protect us as much as possible."

V premieres on Nov. 3.

Fox pulls Dollhouse from November schedule

Fox can't seem to make up its mind about Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. On the one hand, it renews it despite some of the lowest ratings ever. Then it buries it on Friday night, where its ratings continue to plummet before stabilizing. Then it decides to air all 13 season-two episodes once it's clear a lot of people are watching it on DVRs.

But now comes word that it's pulling it from the schedule entirely during the all-important month of November, the so-called "sweeps" period when the network tries to boost ratings to set its advertising rates.

Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello tweeted the news first:

@EWAusielloFiles Exclusive: Hearing FOX will bench DOLLHOUSE for November sweeps and air back-to-back eps on Friday night in December....

Then the FutonCritic chimed in:

Network sources have confirmed Friday entries "Brothers," "'Til Death" and "Dollhouse" will all go on hiatus after their October 23 airings. A rebroadcast of "House's" two-hour season premiere will sub in for the night on October 30 with additional repeats of "House" and "Bones" taking over for the rest of the month.

"Dollhouse" will then return with back-to-back originals starting at 8:00/7:00c on December 4, 11 and 18.

This sounds a lot like Fox has decided to burn off the new episodes it just ordered. Sounds like there's some confusion at the network about what to do with the troubled show. What do you think?

Pie-splattered comedian Soupy Sales dies at 83

Soupy Sales, the rubber-faced comedian whose anything-for-a-chuckle career was built on 20,000 pies to the face and 5,000 live TV appearances across a half-century of laughs, has died. He was 83.

Former manager and longtime friend Dave Usher of Detroit says Sales died Thursday night at a hospice in New York. Usher says Sales had many health problems and entered the hospice last week.

Sales began his TV career in Detroit, where he drew a large audience on WXYZ-TV. He move to Los Angeles in 1961.

The comic's pie-throwing schtick became his trademark, and celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis and Shirley MacLaine queued up to take one on the chin.

Sales was born Milton Supman in North Carolina in 1926. He grew up in Huntington, W.Va.

In 1983, Sales did voice work for Ruby-Spears, notably voicing Donkey Kong in the animated show Saturday Supercade.

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