Tuesday, November 3, 2009

News - 11/03/09...

Disney/Zemeckis’ Christmas Carol: “cold”

“On a showy, exuberant demonstration of the glories of motion capture, computer animation and 3D technology level, it’s a wow. On any emotional level, it’s as cold as Marley’s Ghost”, so says Kirk Honeycutt in his Hollywood Reporter review for Disney’s production of Robert Zemeckis’ film of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Tying Your Own Shoes takes home Leipzig award

The National Film Board of Canada’s animated documentary Tying Your Own Shoes by Shira Avni, has won the Golden Dove Award at the 52nd International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film.

The National Film Board of Canada film was honored with the Golden Dove Award for a short film after making its world premiere at the festival. The Jury gives this award to a film that gives voice to a segment of society that has long been rendered voiceless – while at the same time expanding the vocabulary of documentary film aesthetics. The Golden Dove award comes with a prize of €5,000. The International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film – DOK Leipzig – is the largest German and one of the leading international festivals for artistic documentary and animated films.

About Tying Your Own Shoes:

Tying Your Own Shoes is an animated documentary offering a rare opportunity to hear the unique perspectives of four adult artists with Down Syndrome. Shira Avni follows her award-winning animation, John and Michael, with this auteur hybrid film in which Petra, Matthew, Daninah and Katherine discuss their pasts, relationships and ambitions, challenging widely-held stereotypes. While Down Syndrome is often discussed in terms of disability, Tying Your Own Shoes is an artful, four-way essay about ability.

Princess brings Disney and directors full circle

The Wall Street Journal has a nice piece on The Princess and the Frog, the return of traditional animation to Disney, and how it was brought about by some directors they let go and the company some blamed for the demise of hand drawn films.

For 'Princess,' Disney Returns To Traditional Animation Style

"The Princess and the Frog," Walt Disney Co.'s first hand-animated feature film in nearly six years, is a gamble by the studio that audiences will respond to the traditional medium of Mickey Mouse in an era when animation is dominated by slick computer-generated fare from Pixar Animation and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.

Disney's 'The Princess and the Frog,' was made using hand-drawn animation techniques, rather than computer-generated imagery.

Ironically, it was two of the biggest names in computer animation—Pixar cofounders John Lasseter and Ed Catmull, who have overseen Disney Animation since 2006, when Disney bought their company for $7.4 billion—who were behind the decision to return to the hand-drawn technique, and to rehire filmmakers who use it.

Disney in 2003 announced that it was abandoning traditional animation in favor of computer-generated imagery, after a string of hand-drawn flops that included "Treasure Planet" and "Brother Bear." In the same period, DreamWorks' "Shrek" and Pixar's "Finding Nemo" cleaned up at the box office.

But from Mr. Lasseter's point of view, the real problem wasn't Disney's animation techniques—it was more fundamental elements like characters and plot.

"I've never understood why the studios were saying people don't want to see hand-drawn animation," Mr. Lasseter said at a fan convention earlier this year. "What people don't want to watch is a bad movie."

Disney didn't exactly strike pay dirt with its new all-computers, all-the-time approach. The studio's first fully computer-animated feature, 2005's "Chicken Little," posted a middling $135 million at the domestic box office, and 2008's "Bolt" earned $114 million domestically.

Production costs for films animated by hand or by computer tend to be comparable. The decision to use nearly photorealistic computer imagery, instead of the more impressionistic traditional technique, is mostly a matter of aesthetic calculations. Executives involved in making "Princess" say it cost slightly less than its original budget, which they declined to disclose. Others in the industry estimated the film's cost at around $150 million, a bit less than last year's "Monsters vs. Aliens," by DreamWorks Animation.

The retro production technique isn't the only hurdle facing "Princess." The movie's classic musical form, in which characters break into song, Broadway-style, could feel dated to audiences more accustomed to wisecracking movies like "Monsters."

"Princess" producer Peter Del Vecho said in an interview that the filmmakers consider that a selling point: "There is a whole new generation now that hasn't experienced a great musical, hasn't experienced a big, epic fairy tale."

Disney is aiming to build word-of-mouth buzz for "Princess" ahead of its Dec. 11 opening by holding two and half weeks' worth of premium-priced screenings at single theaters in New York City and Los Angeles. The studio says it has already sold $2.8 million worth of tickets for the unusual showings, which cost $20 to $50 and include a carnival-style event following the movie itself.

But reversing course wasn't simple. Special hand-animation workstations—with backlit, rotating drawing surfaces and pegs designed to create makeshift flipbooks out of stacks of drawings—had been scrapped or mothballed. Disney Animation's Burbank, Calif., headquarters had been turned into a warren of cubicles suited to creating computer-generated, or "CG" imagery. As for the fate of the traditional animators: about 150 were retrained at "CG Boot Camp" while others found work elsewhere, in videogames or commercial production.

Among those laid off were Ron Clements and John Musker, the writer-director team behind "The Princess and the Frog"—and previously, hits like "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin." The men also made the 2002 box-office disaster "Treasure Planet."

Searching for a new gig, the men paid a visit to Pixar in 2005. In an interview, Pixar President Mr. Catmull recalled experiencing "the weirdest feeling" when he realized that Pixar's success had contributed to the men's ouster. "We in no way wanted to be thought of as advocates" of computer graphics only, Mr. Catmull said. "We wanted to make great films; great films are independent of technology."

The Disney-Pixar deal was imminent, but hadn't been finalized. That meant that Pixar essentially would be bringing back to Disney two men who had just been let go. "We had to be super-secret because the talks were confidential," Mr. Catmull said.

A Disney spokeswoman said Messrs. Clements and Musker were unavailable for interviews.

Messrs. Lasseter and Catmull ordered the sprawling second floor at Disney Animation, which houses the production operation, split in two. Half continues to contain the cubicles used for computer-generated films. The other side of the floor has been transformed into a "bullpen" filled with dozens of specialized animation desks retrieved from a studio warehouse.

Still, given the way the hand-animation capacity had been dismantled, parts of the process were outsourced to firms in Canada, Florida and Brazil—all started by ex-Disney animators.

Having won one reprieve for their art form, the reassembled team of animators in Burbank have been wary of giving their bosses another reason to shut down their operation. Mr. Lasseter said: "You have never met a group of artists more dedicated to proving something than the artists who did 'The Princess and the Frog'."

The Opus Movie That Never Was

For several years now, there’s been talk of an Opus feature emerging from Miramax or The Weinstein Company. The prospect of this happening was eventually quashed by the comic’s creator Berkeley Breathed, but today I spotted a 2005 test for Opus: The Last Christmas by Blur Studios. What you see below was directed by Paul Taylor (The Nutty Professor), with art direction by Dan Rice. Leo Santos was the animation supervisor.

The First Full Trailer – How To Train Your Dragon

DreamWorks Animation has revealed the first full trailer for next spring’s release (March 26, 2010) – How to Train Your Dragon, which is being directed by Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch) and Dean DeBlois (also Lilo & Stitch). What do you think?

Zemeckis defends Carol process

Robert Zemeckis defends his performance-capture animation techniques with some name-dropping in an article from the National Post, and Jim Carrey gets philosophical with the LA Times, as they both discuss A Christmas Carol, opening this Friday.

Metropolis returns!

After more than a year of intensive restoration work, the full length edition of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, which featured groundbreaking special effects work that continues to influence filmmakers today, will premiere on February 12 2010 as part of the 60th Berlin International Film Festival, and at the Alte Oper house in Frankfurt on the same evening.

Originally poorly received at 153 minutes and with the subsequently cut footage long thought lost, a 16mm print of the complete 1927 film, a good half an hour longer than a 2001 restoration, was discovered in Buenos Aires. The Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra will accompany the gala screening with a version of the film’s music based on the original score by Gottfried Huppertz, and a Blu-ray is set for release later in 2010.

ASIFA-East presents – An Evening of Calendars and Films

November 12th, Thursday 7pm

Join us as we screen films by Bill Plympton, John Dilworth, Michael Sporn, Mo Willems, Kristy Caracas, Candy Kugel, George Griffin, Emily Hubley, Debra Solomon, Signe Baumane, Jennifer Oxley, and Xeth Feinberg, and sell our first-ever ASIFA-East 12-month calendar featuring art from these same superstars of NY Animation.

The full-color calendars, which make a great holiday gift (hint! hint!), are priced at $10 each. All proceeds go to ASIFA-East and count as a charitable donation on your taxes.

Cash only, please.

Admission: FREE!

School Of Visual Arts
209 East 23rd Street
Fifth floor, Rm. 502
(Bet. 2nd & 3rd Ave)

(Thanks asifa east)

"Justice League Unlimited" Animated Series Returns To Cartoon Network This Weekend

The fan-favorite Justice League Unlimited animated series returns to Cartoon Network this weekend as part of the expanded "You Are Here" programming block.

Cartoon Network is bringing Justice League Unlimited back to its weekend line-up starting Saturday, November 7th, 2009. The series will air Saturday nights in the 9:30pm (ET) timeslot. Once a staple for the animation network, Justice League Unlimited is back as part of the new Saturday night "You Are Here" programming block on Cartoon Network. Expanding upon the current "You Are Here" Friday night installment, the new Saturday block will also include reruns of the Batman: The Brave and The Bold animated series along with other as-of-yet unannounced programs. Justice League Unlimited episode schedule details are available below.

Justice League Unlimited
Saturday, November 7th, 2009 at 9:30pm (ET) on Cartoon Network - "27 I Am Legion"
Lex Luthor escapes from a maximum security prison, only to be invited to join Grodd's unstoppable Legion of Doom.

Justice League Unlimited
Saturday, November 14th, 2009 at 9:30pm (ET) on Cartoon Network - "28 Shadow of the Hawk"
Batman is suspicious of Shayera's new boyfriend, a mysterious archeologist with sinister ties to her Thanagarian past.

Justice League Unlimited airs Saturday nights at 9:30pm (ET) as part of the "You Are Here" Saturday night programming block on Cartoon Network. Please note schedule details are subject to change without notice.

San Francisco International Animation Festival Runs November 11-15, 2009

The 4th San Francisco International Animation Festival will be running from November 11-15, 2009, and complete programming is now available on the event's official website. Included are screenings of Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox, a selection of Walt Disney's early "Alice" comedies, and Mamoru Oshii's anime-style documentary Musashi: The Dream of the Last Samurai.

AOTS and Titmouse Attend Slasher School

G4’s hit series Attack of the Show (weeknights 7pm ET) has been featuring a fair amount of animation these days. New episodes of Baman Piderman premiere about every other week on the live show, and on Monday the AOTS team premiered an original series. Slasher School, once a live action series, was a group effort by the AOTS producing team, but it was written by Blair Butler, a longtime G4 member who is often on-screen, but she also writes and produces. Butler, along with fellow hosts Kevin Pereira and Olivia Munn, provided the voices, and then Jody Schaeffer (co-creator of Megas XLR) at Titmouse Inc. took over to bring it to life. Schaeffer first turned to Dave Johnson, who designed the characters, and then he and Kevin Hand (DJ & the Fro) animated the episodes along with assists from Shiloe Swisher, Gary Doodles and Eliot Sperl. Here’s the first 2 Flash-animated episodes, and the third is up at G4TV.com.

Scary Fear a Reaction to Tel Aviv Murders

On August 1st of this year, two men were shot and killed by a masked gunman and ten others were injured at the Gay Community Center in Tel Aviv. The killer wasn’t caught, and the resulting shockwaves in Tel Aviv and around the world are still reverberating. Subsequently, support rallies were held in a number of cities, including Vancouver, Berlin, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Boston.

And more recently, Israeli artist Mysh, along with two animators, Dror Davidovich and Udi Asoulin, created this short film as a reaction to the incident. It’s titled Scary Fear.

Robert Zemeckis on "A Christmas Carol" Tech

The New York Times has spoken with director Robert Zemeckis about the techniques and technology at work in A Christmas Carol, his latest motion-captured CGI animated movie which opens this Friday. Zemeckis details what he thinks the technology gets him, from the ability to craft his shots more precisely and fewer obstacles in set-up and knock-down of sets, as well as the disadvantages, such as the loss of serendipitous discoveries on a movie set.

Confirmed: Juliet will be back for Lost's last season

Elizabeth Mitchell (left) as Juliet, Josh Holloway as Sawyer and Evangeline Lilly as Kate in last season's finale.

Last we saw of Juliet on ABC's Lost, she'd fallen to the bottom of a nasty pit, was near death and hammered on a nuclear bomb, which went off, obliterating her and the island.

So ... is she coming back?

"I can't [say], because they've decided to do a complete blackout," Elizabeth Mitchell, who played the character, told us exclusively last week on the set of her new show, ABC's V. "They're doing no press, and they're giving no hints and no spoilers, and they're showing no promos. So I really can't say anything."

Ah, but when are you going back to Hawaii to shoot the sixth and last season of the show?

"I believe on the 14th [of November]," Mitchell said.

There you have it.

What does this mean for Mitchell's other gig, V? How will she balance shooting the sci-fi alien-invasion show in Vancouver, Canada, and Lost, in Hawaii?

"It seems to have worked out seamlessly so far," Mitchell says. "And I really don't know how. But it has." She will finish V's first few episodes in early November, fly to Los Angeles to do a quick movie, then to Hawaii for Lost. She'll be there until January, when she returns to Vancouver to do more V. That sounds like she'll be in most of the season of Lost.

"January 20th, I think, yeah, that's the plan," Mitchell said.

V debuts tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Lost returns to ABC in early 2010.

What even Roland Emmerich won't destroy: An Islamic landmark

In Roland Emmerich's upcoming global demolition derby movie 2012, the director gets to indulge his passion for destroying landmarks on a world scale.

In previous movies, he's destroyed the Empire State Building and the White House (Independence Day), sent a giant monster into the middle of Manhattan (Godzilla), blown away the famous Hollywood Sign and the Capitol Records building in Los Angeles (The Day After Tomorrow), and savaged New York again by flooding and then freezing it (also The Day After Tomorrow).

In 2012, he takes on landmarks in Rome, Rio de Janeiro and, yes, Washington, but there is one place even he couldn't bring himself to obliterate. We caught up with Emmerich in Jackson Hole, Wyo., where he told us why he chose various landmarks to lay waste to in 2012, and about the one that got away.

"I always like I think when it feels very new and original," Emmerich said, adding: "Landmarks are always symbols, just symbols. ... They stand for something."

Herewith Emmerich's favorite landmarks destroyed in 2012 and the one he couldn't blow up (click on the images for larger versions). 2012 opens Nov. 13.

The White House


This time around, he has a giant wave striking it. A wave carrying the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy.

"I think my favorite in this one is like the White House destruction," he said. "I didn't want to go there again, and [co-writer/producer] Harald [Kloser] pretty much convinced me that I have to. And then I was brooding for days and days and days, and then I kind of had the idea: ... I've got JFK kind of coming back to the White House, which I thought was ironic."

The Poseidon

Well, not really. It's a cruise ship that rolls over much like the ill-fated ship from The Poseidon Adventure and its recent remake.

"The most striking image for me of any disaster movie was when the ship in Poseidon Adventure rolls over," Emmerich says. "I pay homage to that. ... For me it's always the most striking image of all the disaster movies. Because it's a really big object that rolls over."

The Sistine Chapel in the Vatican

That includes the famous frescoed ceiling by Michelangelo depicting Adam touching fingers with God.

"I always try to come up with what makes sense for the story, you know?" Emmerich says. "And it's not only about the destruction. It has to kind of stand for something. One of my favorite pieces of art is Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: ... God ... reaches out to Adam, and the crack goes through it. It's just an interesting kind of notion."

St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican

"Why ... don't [we] have the church fall on people's head?" Emmerich said. He added: "The whole Vatican kind of tips and kind of rolls over the people. It said something, because in the story, some people ... believe in praying and prayer, and they pray in front of the church, and it's probably the wrong thing what they would do in that situation."

Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro

"Because I'm against organized religion," Emmerich says.

The one that got away

Emmerich said that he got approached by people who wanted their landmarks destroyed, such as the 101 Tower in Taipei, the world's tallest building (pictured below).

But Emmerich was thinking of something even more explosive: The Kaaba, the cube-shaped building at the heart of Mecca, the focus of prayers and the Islamic pilgrimage called the Hajj; it is one of Islam's holiest sites.


"Well, I wanted to do that, I have to admit," Emmerich says. "But my co-writer Harald said I will not have a fatwa on my head because of a movie. And he was right. ... We have to all ... in the Western world ... think about this. You can actually ... let ... Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol, you would have ... a fatwa, and that sounds a little bit like what the state of this world is. So it's just something which I kind of didn't [think] was [an] important element anyway in the film, so I kind of left it out."

Taipei's 101 Tower

Don Cheadle Offers 'Iron Man 2' War Machine Update

Playing a superhero is never easy—especially when somebody else has played the role first. Such was the dilemma for actor Don Cheadle, who takes over the role of James "Rhodey" Rhodes from Terrence Howard in next summer's "Iron Man 2." In addition to replacing Howard, Cheadle also gets to don the War Machine armor, something that Howard was never able to achieve.

In an interview with Moviefone, Cheadle admitted to some awkwardness surrounding the takeover due to his friendship with Howard—but the discomfort didn't last too long.

"Terrence is a friend of mine," said Cheadle. "But the actual playing it, I just felt like it was my role. I wasn't made to feel like I had to sort of take care of what was done before. I really feel like I could make it my own."

A first look at Cheadle as War Machine debuted during this year's Comic-Con in San Diego, with the reaction from fans widely positive. According to the actor, playing War Machine was certainly different than anything he's done in the past, but only in the best of ways—particularly because, by the sound of it, Cheadle's character will spend as much time in a suit-and-tie as he will in War Machine mode.

"I think the character that I play, my CGI character worked as much as I worked," he said. "The stuntman worked as much as I worked. It's a huge undertaking. It was great. It was a really different experience than I have worked on before."

While he said the job is further "down the road," Cheadle also confirmed that he'd have a starring role in "The Avengers," the superhero team-up flick that unites Iron Man with Captain America and Thor.

Terminator rights going to auction. Got $200 million?

If you hated Terminator Salvation and thought you could make a better movie in your sleep, well, here's your chance: Rights to the franchise are up for sale, and all you need is a cool $200 mil.

According to DailyFinance.com:

The rights to the franchise are being sold by Halcyon Company, the production company behind Terminator Salvation, the latest iteration in the series, which grossed $380 million worldwide. The two most recent films failed to garner the acclaim of the first two films, which struck a chord with many fans who saw the series as a metaphor for humanity's increasing reliance on computers and technology.

The last movie, as you recall, was directed by Charlie's Angels' McG and starred a ranting and raving Christian Bale and a glowering Sam Worthington. The film featured cool visual effects but left a lot of fans cold.

If you want to snap up the rights, though, you'd better get your cash together: All the big film studios have expressed interest, with Sony Pictures a leading contender.

Joss Whedon wants to buy Terminator! Read his offer here

You know how we said the rights to Terminator are up for sale? Well, Joss Whedon has a modest proposal, and we say, game over, give him the reins RIGHT NOW!

Seriously, Whedon—the mastermind behind Alien Resurrection, Buffy and Dr. Horrible—posted this letter and offer on the Whedonesque blog. That is, we think he's serious.

Dear Sirs/Ma'ams,
I am Joss Whedon, the mastermind behind
Titan A.E., Parenthood (not the movie) (or the new series) (or the one where 'hood' was capitalized 'cause it was a pun), and myriad other legendary tales. I have heard through the 'grapevine' that the Terminator franchise is for sale, and I am prepared to make a pre-emptive bid RIGHT NOW to wrap this dealio up. This is not a joke, this is not a scam, this is not available on TV. I will write a check TODAY for $10,000, and viola! Terminator off your hands.

No, you didn't miscount. That's four -- FOUR! -- zeroes after that one. That's to show you I mean business. And I mean show business. Nikki Finke says the
Terminator concept is played. Well, here's what I have to say to Nikki Finke: you are a fine journalist and please don't ever notice me. The Terminator story is as formative and important in our culture -- and my pretend play -- as any I can think of. It's far from over. And before you Terminator-Owners (I have trouble remembering names) rush to cash that sweet cheque, let me give you a taste of what I could do with that franchise:

1) Terminator... of the Rings! Yeah, what if he time-travelled TOO far... back to when there was dragons and wizards? (I think it was the Dark Ages.) Hasta La Vista, Boramir! Cool, huh? "Now you gonna be Gandalf the Red!" RRRRIP! But then he totally helps, because he's a cyborg and he doesn't give a s#&% about the ring -- it has no power over him! And he can carry it AND Frodo AND Sam AND f@%& up some orcs while he's doing it. This stuff just comes to me. I mean it. (I will also offer $10,000 for the
Lord of the Rings franchise).

2) More Glau. Hey. There's a reason they're called "Summer" movies.

3) Can you say... musical? Well don't. Even I know that's an awful idea.

4) Christian Bale's John Connor will get a throat lozenge. This will also help his Batwork (ten grand for that franchise too, btw.)

5) More porn. John Connor never told Kyle Reese this, but his main objective in going to the past was to get some. What if there's a lot of future-babies that have to be made? Cue wah-wah pedal guitar -- and dollar signs!

6) The movies will stop getting less cool.

Okay. There's more -- this brain don't quit! (though it has occasionally been fired) -- but I think you get my drift. I really believe the
Terminator franchise has only begun to plumb the depths of questioning the human condition during awesome stunts, and I'd like to shepherd it through the next phase. The money is there, but more importantly, the heart is there. But more importantly, money. Think about it. End this bloody bidding war before it begins, and put the Terminator in the hands of someone who watched the first one more than any other movie in college, including "Song of Norway" (no current franchise offer).

Joss Whedon.

'Gandalf' has read the Hobbit script and tells us about it

Ian McKellen, whom we expect will put on Gandalf's gray robes in director Guillermo del Toro's upcoming Hobbit movies, tells us he's finally read the script for the film.

And, no, he won't tell us much about it, except that producer Peter Jackson (who co-wrote the script with longtime Lord of the Rings collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, as well as del Toro) wrote it specifically for him.

"As Peter has said, they loved writing Gandalf [for The Hobbit] because they knew who they were writing him for," McKellen told us exclusively in an interview last week while promoting AMC's The Prisoner. "There are a lot of characters in The Hobbit including, crucially, Bilbo, and they don't know who's going to play Bilbo. So it's extremely attractive that this part has been written for me. The other Gandalf was written for, well, just as Gandalf. There's lots for me to enjoy, in all sorts of ways. And I couldn't be happier. But I'm sworn to secrecy. I'm not to say anything at all about the script."

As for del Toro's input into the new script, McKellen said that he and Jackson speak the same language. "They are the same person," he said. "They were separated at birth. They're twins. They have the same attitude. Neither likes working in Hollywood. They're both fascinated by fantasy and violence on the screen, and gore, and things that frighten you. They like going into the psyche. They're both brilliant storytellers in very much the same way. And I think the script, because I have read it, plays very much to Guillermo's strengths, as I've seen them. I have seen his other movies and people act very well in them. So I think it's all fine. And Peter will always be there."

McKellen said that the role of Gandalf changed his life forever. "I can't believe it's 10 years for me," said the actor, who first played the wizard in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, film one in the trilogy that began principal photography in New Zealand in 1999. "I remember being told by a friend in Hollywood that, 'Your life is going to change,' and it has. Gandalf is an extremely famous character, and I quite like having him around the corner. He's very popular."

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