Friday, December 4, 2009

News - 12/04/09...

NBR Honors Up, Mr. Fox Director Anderson

The National Board of Review has named Disney-Pixar’s Up the best animated film of the year and gave a special awards to director Wes Anderson for Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The organization announced its annual awards winners Thursday, singling out the 3-D animated picture in a category dedicated to the medium.

Anderson’s award was a Special Filmmaking Achievement honor for the animated film, which used stop-motion to adapt the classic children’s book by Roald Dahl.

The group gave its top award, for Best Film, to Up in the Air.

Up also made the critics’ list of the year’s top ten films, along with the sci-fi action film Star Trek and director Spike Jonze’s version of Where the Wild Things Are. Also making the list were An Education, (500) Days of Summer, The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, Invictus, The Messenger and A Serious Man.

The group will present its awards to the winners at a ceremony set for Jan. 12 in New York City.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)






Box Office Sees Quiet Before Frog Storm

It’s a quiet week for new animation and VFX films at the box office — something that will be rectified with next week’s wide release of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.

The main openers are the action film Armored, which starts in some 1,900 cinemas; the drama Brothers in just more than 2,000 theaters; the comedy Everybody’s Fine in 2,100 locations and a wide release for the horror comedy Transylmania. A limited opening of some 10 theaters hails the arrival of the George Clooney drama Up in the Air.

But holdover VFX films will also be players. Chief among them is The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which could bring its total over the $250 million mark this weekend. Roland Emmerich’s 2012 also is still doing well.

Disney’s A Christmas Carol continues to perform well four weeks out from its first release. The film has passed the $100 million mark at the domestic box office.

Planet 51 and Fantastic Mr. Fox also are still in play, with the former having grossed nearly $30 million in two weeks of release. Mr. Fox has grossed just under $11 million in three weeks of release, though it has racked up plenty of rave reviews and awards buzz along the way.

Disney’s The Princess and the Frog continues its limited, two-location run this week. The film has racked up impressive per-screen numbers in advance of its wide release, set for next Friday.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)





Germany’s KI.KA Buys ToddWorld, SamSam

German broadcaster KI.KA has bought from Moonscoop the broadcast rights to the popular series ToddWorld and SamSam.

KI.KA will air in 2010 the second series of ToddWorld (78 x 11 min.), which is based on the book by Todd Parr. ToddWorld is co-produced by Taffy Productions, DQ Entertainment Limited, Telegael Teoranta and SuperTime EBoldntertainment.

SamSam (52 x 6.5 min.) is a preschooler series animated and available in HD formats. Produced by Bayard Jeunesse Animation with ARANEO, Tiji, Gulli and France 5, SamSam is based on the popular comic book series and has been a hit in Italy, Spain, France and the United Kingdom.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)





Disney Expands International TV Toon Production

The Walt Disney Co. has announced plans to triple its investment in animation production for programs in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, increasing its output from two to seven long-form series per year for Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Playhouse.

The European production drive will be lead by a London-based team headed by Marc Buhaj, senior VP of original programming for Disney Channels EMEA. The drive will include two long-form series for Disney Channel, four for the recently launched Disney XD and one for Playhouse Disney.

“For The Walt Disney Co., it’s about creating world class animation that will appeal to kids and families both locally and internationally,” says Buhaj. “Part of our ongoing strategy as a global company is to provide a local voice to the Disney brand in markets around the world.”

Among the series currently in development for Disney Channel are:

· I’m in Love with Rikki Doom, written and created by Dan Berlinka and Andy Williams at Dandy Productions (Brush Head, The Raoul Show), produced by Robert Chandler (Space Age Films), and designed by James A. Brouwer (7 Shades of Awesome).
· Tomax and the Amazing Things, designed and created by Peter Fowler, written by The Trap (Harry Enfield and Chums, People Like Us) and produced by Baby Cow (The Catherine Tate Show, Have I Got News for You).
· Out of Step, written and created by Morwenna Banks (The Appearance) and Carl Goreham (Meg and Mog, Stressed Eric).

Series in the works for Disney XD include:
· Max Helsing: Monster Hunter, created by Curtis Jobling (Frankenstein’s Cat; art director on Bob the Builder).
· Joe Giant, created by Alexander Bar (Lunar Jim).
· Inventory X, created by Andy Briggs (Hero.com/Villain.net).

The team has also co-produced the European shorts series The Secret Life of Suckers and Marvo the Wonder Chicken and is currently in production on the animated comedy Rekkit Rabbit from French producer Marathon.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)





China Vs. Disney: The Battle for Mulan

China is moving to take back one of its own - even if it is legend. Mulan is the Middle Kingdom's gender-bending heroine, its Joan of Arc. The character from folktale is a daughter who disguises herself as a male soldier to take her father's place in the conscription army. The problem for the Chinese is that, since 1998, the definitive version of the story is Disney's.

Indeed, because of the animated Disney film, the character Mulan has become one of the most recognizable symbols of Chinese culture worldwide. Baby girls adopted from China have been named Mulan by their American parents. Disney has staged musical versions of the movie Mulan from Mexico to the Philippines. And posing for a photo with Mulan is a must for hordes of tourists at Hong Kong Disneyland. (Read about China's long road to prosperity.)

Though it was too American for audiences in China (where it performed abysmally), Disney's Mulan was a smash hit in the rest of the world, where it reeled in $300 million. That didn't sit well with some Chinese, including Guo Shu, executive president of Starlight International Media Group, an entertainment company based in Beijing. "We commit ourselves to be a media with a sense of national responsibility," she told the state-run People's Daily. "Now that foreigners can produce a popular movie out of the story Hua Mulan, why can't we Chinese present its own to the world?"

In 2006, she announced production of a Chinese Mulan and now that version has opened to reclaim the global Mulan-mania. On Nov. 27, the $12 million, mainland-funded live-action war epic Mulan premiered in mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia. It will hit screens in Hong Kong this week, and negotiations are on the table for release dates in the U.S. and Europe. (See pictures of Shanghai.)

Hong Kong director Jingle Ma says the new 115-minute Mulan is a sweeping melodrama that depicts the central character as an action hero, dutiful daughter and wistful romantic. The film stars Vicki Zhao Wei, who shot to fame in the late 1990s playing the wide-eyed lead role in the television series Princess Pearl. Zhao may have gotten the role because of her tomboy image in action films such as Red Cliff and So Close, but in Mulan, she appears with full makeup and long, glossy fingernails - even as a soldier.

While the Disney film wove comedy into a Disney-esque plot about a young girl breaking out of the confines of tradition to pursue her own destiny, the new, live-action Mulan focuses on patriotism, filial piety, romance and the difficulties of war. The formula is part of an evolving mainland genre that has seen filmmakers incorporating more nuanced, entertaining storytelling into patriotic plots. "China is anxious to be part of the global community. There's a lot of concern over soft power right now," says Poshek Fu, professor of cinema studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Movies are a strong projection of that desire."

The new Mulan is at least the 10th film version of the Hua Mulan tale ("Hua" is the heroine's surname). Many of the previous films, such as Mulan Joins the Army, released in 1939 in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, carried political messages during turbulent periods in the country's history. In 1956, after the Communist party had banned American films and nationalized the country's film studios, a state-sponsored Hua Mulan was released, touting the party's egalitarian gender policy. After many Chinese filmmakers fled Communist-controlled China, the Shaw Brothers studio in Hong Kong gave overseas Chinese audiences a vision of a unified China in its 1963 film The Lady General Hua Mulan.

The latest Mulan was not the only post-Disney attempt to remake the folktale. In 2003, there was talk of a version starring Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat. In 2006, the Weinstein Company announced a big-budget Mulan film that would star Zhang Ziyi. Director Ma says his version comes at just the right time. "Eleven years ago, just because someone else made this film didn't mean that we had to come back and make our version right away," he says. "It was better to wait for things to cool down before we made our own Mulan. Back then, the Chinese market wasn't mature yet, but now it's ready."

But there's a foreign presence even in this Chinese attempt to take back its own. The Russian entertainer Vitas plays the role of a singer from a distant land held hostage by the nomadic and militant Rouran tribe, which is set on invading Chinese territory. The casting choice, Ma explained, was a simple marketing decision. Starlight International also represents Vitas in China. And, who knows, the Russian actor could be key to the new Mulan's conquest of foreign audiences. Take that Disney.





Up Soundtrack Nominated for Grammy Awards

On the heels of his Annie Award nomination, Up composer Michael Giacchino has received four Grammy nominations. However, in one category, he’ll have to compete against himself.

TrekMovie.com (via EOnline) lists the albums/compositions Up will be up against.

Giacchino’s Up score will be up against these albums in the category of Best Score Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media (listed with each album’s record label):

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (Alexandre Desplat) [Concord Records]
Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (Nicholas Hooper) [New Line Records]
Milk (Danny Elfman) [Decca]
Star Trek (Michael Giacchino) [Varèse Sarabande]

The individual Up cues Married Life and Up with End Credits were also nominated for Best Instrumental Composition and Best Instrumental Arrangement, respectively.





CNN’s Visit to Pixar

I feel like I’ve seen this same report a half-dozen times about Pixar’s amazing studio space and John Lasseter’s playful office, but it’s still kinda fun to watch. In this 4-minute video piece, CNN’s Douglas Hyde goes up to Emeryville and talks to folks like Ricky Nierva (production designer on Up) and Bryn Imagire (shading art director on Up).







Secret of Kells Playing in Burbank

The award-winning Irish feature film The Secret of Kells hits theaters in March 2010, and if you’re lucky enough to be within a tank-of-gas from Burbank, you can also see the film now. It’s currently playing at the AMC Burbank 8 until December 10th.







Rabbids Space Ship Mission

Picking up where they left off in October, the Ubisoft Rabbids fail yet again in a space launch attempt. In this effort, titled Space Ship, they’re promoting the Rabbids Go Home game, which launched in November.







ESRB Offers Ratings Info in iPhone App

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board, which rates video games as a guide to parents, has developed a free iPhone app that provides instant access to ratings information.

The app was unveiled for the holiday season to give parents shopping for games instant access to information that can help pick appropriate titles for their children. The app is available for free download from the Apple iTunes Store or from the ERSB site at www.esrb.org/mobile.

Users of other devices also can access the information on internet-enabled devices by visiting the mobile website at m.esrb.org.

The nonprofit, self-regulatory group also has developed a new series of public service announcements set to air soon on television and radio and in-store at some video game retailers.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)





Kalangis to Head Up Originals at marblemedia

Filmmaker and producer Johnny Kalangis has joined marblemedia as its creative director for the interactive division.

In the new role, Kalangis will oversee all of the company’s online projects, including building and maintaining relationships with broadcasters, portals, publishers, distributors and other partners.

Among his current projects are Skatoony, an innovative animated/live action children’s quiz show; animated relationship comedy The Dating Guy; and Stoked, an animated sitcom developed by Toronto-based Fresh TV Inc. about six teenagers who work and surf at the world renowned Surfer’s Paradise Resort.

“This is a great opportunity to work with an award-winning new media production company and the team behind it,” said Kalangis. “I can’t wait to jump in with the creative department to explore fresh new ways of telling stories.”

Prior to joining marblemedia, Kalangis worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as executive in charge of online original programming, and producer for high-profile projects including Barney’s Version and The Mercer Report.

His most acclaimed film, Love is Work, received numerous awards including the American Express People’s Choice Awards for Best Feature Film, and the special jury prize at the Canadian Film Festival.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)





Vicon’s Blade Makes Inroads at Game, VFX Studios

A number of top gaming and visual effects companies have adopted Vicon’s Blade motion-capture processing software for the creation of 3-D animation.

Among the companies that have chosen Blade are London-based animation company Digi-guys. “We had been using iQ but decided to switch after seeing Blade,” says the studio’s motion-capture supervisor, Andrew Hutchinson. “I was really impressed with the ease of use and the functionality of the software - it's great. The new kinematic solver was particularly eye-catching and brilliantly fast. We're all excited about Blade and how it will improve our mo-cap data.”

Other companies that have added lately Blade are Activision, Capcom, Creative Assembly, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Eurocom, Imagemovers Digital, Industrial Light & Magic, Metric Minds, Perspective Studios, Plastic Wax, Quantic Dream, Rainmaker, Square Enix and Ubisoft.

Vicon Blade is a complete motion capture processing system that can be configured as a simpler tool for smaller facilities, or as a highly customized and hardware-scalable tool for very large studio uses. Blade comes with a full suite of plug-ins for Autodesk 3ds Max, Maya and MotionBuilder and also includes native support of .XSI and .FBX file formats.

“These companies are on the cutting edge of performance capture for 3D animation, and their input into development is invaluable,” says Vicon CEO and president Douglas Reinke. “We'll continue to work with customers to ensure Blade has the right capabilities while keeping performance ruthlessly fast.”

(Thanks Animation Magazine)






Xing Xing Adopts TACTIC System

Chinese animation studio Xing Xing Digital Corp. has acquired Southpaw Technology’s TACTIC digital asset management system for use in production of all its animated shows, visual effects and feature films.

Based in Beijing, Xing Xing’s credits include animated programs such as Fireman Sam and Farm Kids; its visual effects have appeared in the films Tropic Thunder, X-Men, Red Cliff, Forbidden Kingdom, Changeling and others.

Designed by veterans of film, visual effects and video game productions, TACTIC offers asset management, workflow management, project management and communication tools. Its dynamic web-based interface, cross-platform support and robust API make it flexible and intuitive enough to handle diverse production environments.

“We have been looking for a solution like TACTIC for many years,” said Lifeng Wang, president of Xing Xing. “Some solutions provide project tracking. Others are good at version control. The team at Southpaw has created a solution that is great at it all. Its many production-oriented features are robust enough to handle the complexity and variety of projects we work on, and intuitive enough to get our teams up and running quickly. We’re really looking forward to simplifying the management of our assets and our projects.”

(Thanks Animation Magazine)





Meet Dilworth!









The Oscar nominated animator and creator of Cartoon Network’s Courage the Cowardly Dog will present the best of his films and other surprises next Tuesday at SVA. ASIFA-East presents an evening with New York’s resident animation madman, John R. Dilworth on Tuesday Dec 8, 2009 at The School of Visual Arts. Dilly will answer questions, draw funny pictures and premiere his latest short, Rinky Dink. The screening will be in the 3rd floor amphitheatre at 7pm, SVA is at 209 E 23rd Street, Admission: FREE!

(Thanks cartoon brew)





DiCaprio as Jack Frost

















DreamWorks announced today that Leonardo DiCaprio will make his animated feature film debut when he heads the cast of The Guardians. DiCaprio will be voicing Jack Frost. (Click image above to see larger, full length figure). The film’s story, according to the Dreamworks press release, is as follows:

When an evil spirit called Pitch becomes bent upon taking over the world by inspiring fear in the hearts of kids everywhere, a group of our greatest heroes—Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and Jack Frost—band together for the first time, determined to stand in Pitch’s way. More than a collection of storybook subjects, “The Guardians” are also a band of superheroes, who possess their own special powers. The film is based on “The Guardians of Childhood,” a series of highly anticipated books by William Joyce.

Peter Ramsey is directing; the film is scheduled for release on November 2nd, 2012.

(Thanks cartoon brew)





The Waif of Persephone by Nick Cross


Nick Cross finally put his 2007 short, The Waif of Persephone, online. We highly recommend supporting the filmmaker by purchasing the DVD directly from the animator off his website. It contains extras that you can’t get anywhere else, all for a low low price of $13.99.




(Thanks cartoon brew)





Can't Get Anything by These Analysts

DreamWorks had its dog and pony show for market analysts yesterday, and the green eyeshade boys and girls picked up on the obvious.

Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) -- DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., maker of “Shrek” movies, rose the most since May in Nasdaq trading after an analyst recommended the stock and the company predicted higher profit margins in 2010.

The Glendale, California-based filmmaker will generate
“significant” amounts of cash next year, President Lewis Coleman said today on a conference call. Tony Wible, a Philadelphia-based analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, raised his 2010 profit estimate and recommended investors buy the shares.

DreamWorks Animation gained $3.36, or 9.7 percent, to $37.96 at 4 p.m. New York time. The shares have risen 50 percent this year.


So we can say that DWA's rollout of product for the Wall Street crowd at its Glendale campus on Tuesday was a success, can we not?

One analyst was so impressed by [How to Train Your Dragon] after a screening that he upgraded DreamWorks to buy from neutral, in a note to clients.

"The film is shaping up to be a major hit with a strong marketing campaign, merchandise opportunities, and franchise value." says Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Tony Wible ...

This pretty much tracks with what crew members have been telling me, also my own eyes after viewing the HTTYD trailer: It's a winner.

What always amazes me is how DreamWorks haters just can't bring themselves to admit that the studio makes any quality films. Sure, not every one is a gem, but they all have something. And frankly, the Emeryville studio up in the Bay Area isn't a flawless creator of animation either. (I found the first 40 minutes of Wall-E riveting; unfortunately it was attached to a featurette entitled 2001 With Fat People which was way less riveting.)

So put me in with all those stock pickers who believes that DreamWorks Animation is going to have a banner year. Its 2010 features will do gang-busters, its Nick teevee shows will do well, and Jeffrey K. will continue doing hand-stands up there on his high wire.

Here's the L.A. Times take on the analysts' meeting.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)





"Variety" on Crossover Appeal of "Phineas & Ferb"

Variety has taken a look at Disney's Phineas and Ferb, taking note of its big success with the "tween" audiences that watch Disney Channel's live-action sitcoms, as well as with younger siblings and parents. The article notes how the series was picked up by Disney and also addresses the breakout success of the show's Perry the Platypus, answering the question "why a platypus?"




International Iron Man 2 poster: Tony's grumpy!











Another day, another poster for Iron Man 2: This one's the international onesheet, posted by Empire magazine.

The sequel, starring a grumpy Robert Downey Jr., opens May 7, 2010.




























Monster attacks in new extended Avatar clip! (video)










During the live webcast for James Cameron's Avatar today, the filmmakers released a new extended action clip from the upcoming 3-D sci-fi epic, which you can view below.

It features an attack by a "Thanator," which chases Jake Sully's blue avatar around the jungles of Pandora. Enjoy!

Avatar opens Dec. 18; look for SCI FI Wire coverage next week from the film's London press junket.







News briefs: Lucas honored; new Daybreakers trailer












Star Wars creator George Lucas was among 13 individuals inducted into the California Hall of Fame on Tuesday, chosen for being "remarkable individuals who embody the innovative spirit of the Golden State and who have changed the world by pursuing their dreams." (Lucas with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, above)
...

Theo Alexander and Grant Bowler have landed recurring roles on Alan Ball's vampire drama True Blood, according to The Hollywood Reporter; Alexander will play Talbot, an "intensely beautiful" vampire and the boyfriend of Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare), the vampire king of Mississippi, while Bowler will play Coot, a werewolf, the menacing ringleader of a biker gang.
...

Summit Entertainment and Participant Media are teaming on Invasion, Ben Magid's sci-fi spec script described as a sci-fi action movie with an environmental theme, Variety reported.
...

Lionsgate has released a new TV commercial for Daybreakers, its upcoming sci-fi vampire movie, which opens Jan. 8, 2010.


...

Jesse Corti, Joe Pilato, Alona Tal and Cornell Womack are the latest additions to Zebediah de Soto's Night of the Living Dead: Origins, according to The Hollywood Reporter; Pilato, star of George Romero's Day of the Dead, will voice the role of Harry Cooper, while Tal is his wife Helen. Corti plays a reporter, and Womack is a cop.
...

Star Wars Celebration V will take place Aug. 12-15, 2010, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.; tickets will be available for purchase online starting Dec. 10.





Jeff Bridges reveals the secret of his two Tron Legacy roles








Is this Jeff Bridges as an older Kevin Flynn ...

Jeff Bridges likened playing Kevin Flynn in the original 1982 Tron to being a kid again, playing pretend, so it's appropriate that he literally becomes a kid again in the upcoming 3-D sequel film, Tron Legacy, in which he plays dual roles.

Though the movie's storyline is closely held, we know that Bridges will play an older version of his original character, Kevin Flynn, as well as a second character whose appearance is that of Bridges 27 years ago.








... and as a different, younger character?

The film will use of the same computer technology employed to age and de-age Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

"It was challenging, in that I got a little taste of this new technology of acting what they call 'in the volume' and making movies without cameras," Bridges said in a group interview Wednesday in Beverly Hills, Calif., where he was promoting the drama Crazy Heart. "It's a completely different deal. That was kind of a challenge. It was great getting back with my old buddy, [original Tron director] Steven Lisberger, and Bruce Boxleitner." Boxleitner, who played the dual roles of Alan Bradley and Tron in the original film, will appear in the sequel as an age-appropriate Bradley.

Fans got a taste of Bridges' mysterious dual role in the original teaser for Tron Legacy, which screened two Comic-Cons ago (embedded below). The teaser gives a sense of how they've updated familiar Tron effects, such as the light cycles and flying discs, but Bridges said that's only the beginning of what's in store for Tron Legacy.

"All that technology that we were going to use in the movie itself is used in the trailer," Bridges continued. "It wasn't as highly polished as the movie is going to be, but it gives you a little peek into what you might find. That teaser was something they do kind of often with movies, and I think it's a good idea. The Coen brothers told me they did it with making Blood Simple. Before they even shoot the movie at all, they shoot the trailer of the movie, as if it was already made, and then they use that to entice the financiers. So, even though it was a Disney property, Disney wanted them to shoot this pretty expensive trailer. I don't know how much it cost, but it was pretty expensive." The teaser footage was actually test footage that won't likely appear in the finished movie.

In Tron Legacy, Kevin Flynn's son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), goes back into the digital world to find his lost father. Olivia Wilde and Michael Sheen co-star as programs living in the world of computer programs. Boxleitner also reprises his role from the original Tron. Lisberger collaborates as a producer. Joseph Kosinski directs the new vision of Tron.

"I used to love to pretend when I was a kid," Bridges said. "Here's a movie that they say, 'You get to play a guy who gets sucked inside a computer.' Ooh, yeah. Use all the modern technology that's available today, [and] the same goes with the sequel, except all the technology that we're using in that makes the old one look like an old black-and-white TV show or something. Gosh, it's amazing what they've got going on this. I can't wait to see it all pasted together."

Tron Legacy has completed principal photography but will not be finished with post-production effects until its release, currently slated for December 2010.





Man spends $70K building his own working (sort of) Stargate












If you've got a spare $70,000 and are as big a fan of Stargate as Jacob Yarmuth of Louisville, Ky., you too can build a home theater that duplicates the gateroom of Atlantis.

That's just what Yarmuth did, according to Electronic House:

It surrounds a 10-foot diagonal circular screen that shows a 96-inch diagonal image. The circle within the Stargate can also light up blue, mimicking the water that appears in the show's Stargate prior to transport. ...

The theater, explains Phil Chaney, president of the Louisville division of Visual Concepts, uses a blend of styles from Stargate Atlantis, the original Stargate SG-1 TV series, and the 1994 movie. There are even air pocket doors that open like those on Star Trek and a star dome that shows comets streaking across the sky.

And for the technically inclined, here are more details:

The Stargate is made from MDF (medium-density fiberboard), with the symbols, or glyphs, of Lexan (a plexiglass-like resin). The glyphs and other effects in the room are backlit with large, old-style Christmas tree bulbs.

About the only thing it doesn't do is transport you across the galaxy in an instant. We'd say SOMEONE got ripped off.












(Click over for more images of the theater.)





Joss Whedon comes clean about why Dollhouse failed














As we ready ourselves for the final episodes of Fox's Dollhouse, starting today, the Chicago Tribune's excellent TV columnist Maureen Ryan has scored a long interview with creator Joss Whedon, in which he is surprisingly candid about how Fox undercut the show and offers up a bit about the upcoming Dr. Horrible sequel.

Among other things, we learn that the series finale will be called "Epitaph Two: Return," that production begins soon and that it will air on Jan. 22, 2010. "Epitaph One," as we know, was the unaired extra episode from season one that looked into the Dollhouse universe's dystopian future.

Here are some excerpts from Ryan's Whedon Q&A:

"The problems that the show encountered weren't standalone versus mythology [episodes]," Whedon said. "Basically, the show didn't really get off the ground because the network pretty much wanted to back away from the concept five minutes after they bought it. And then ultimately, the show itself is also kind of odd and difficult to market. I actually think they did a good job, but it's just not a slam-dunk concept."
...






Joss Whedon

"We got the espionage that the network wants, but it's the questions about identity that we want," he noted. "There are other things about the show that never came back, and I didn't really realize it until the second season—[there were] things that we were ultimately sort of dancing around. ... We always found ourselves sort of moving away from what had been part of the original spark of the show and that ultimately just makes it really hard to write these stories."
...
"People responded to ['Dollhouse' by saying], 'This is trafficking. This is sex for money.' It wasn't just sex," Whedon said. Part of the problem was "the other implications of what was originally supposed to be somewhat more of a fantasy. The real-world version of [this kind of activity] was I think what made the network really twitchy and I can't really fault them for that. I just thought when I went in and pitched it ...you know, it frightened me too [but I thought] we all got that that was what we were doing."
...
Once he's done making "Dollhouse," he'll continue to work with Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon on a "Dr. Horrible" sequel, the title of which Whedon declined to reveal. He will say that he expects to corral star Neil Patrick Harris and "the rest of the gang" from the first "Dr. Horrible" for the second installment of the Internet musical.

"What we need to do is get enough time to really solidify what we've got, really get the [script] in shape, and then it all becomes about Neil and his availability. We've been basically telling him, 'Do whatever you want,' which he clearly took to mean, 'Do everything there is,'" Whedon said with a laugh. "But we were like, until we have a script, we can't really think of a schedule or a venue or how we're going to do this and what size it will be, if we're going to get any kind of any kind of backing from a studio or an independent."

You can read the entire interview here. Dollhouse returns tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.







First look at Marvel's amazing $1 billion superhero theme park











If the Marvel/Disney merger doesn't mess things up, get ready to be dazzled come 2012 by a $1 billion theme park based around Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer and other superheroes.

Unfortunately, it won't be that easy for most of us to go "Flying with Spidey" or visit the "X-Men: Danger Room", since the park, a joint venture of United Arab Emirate-based Al Ahli Group and Marvel Entertainment Inc., is going to be built in Dubai (that is, if Dubai's current economic woes don't kill the project outright).











Still, whether the park gets built or not, we can't help but dream and drool over these concept drawings from the Chimera Design company.

Check out a complete gallery and more info over at Disney and More.
















Toaster to supermodel: Cool new 'Evolution of a Cylon' poster








In anticipation of Syfy's upcoming Battlestar Galactica prequel series Caprica, QuantumMechanix is selling this beautiful "Evolution of the Cylon" poster, tracking the rise from humble toaster to toothsome Six.

Click on the image below for a full-sized look.








Here's how Quantum describes the 12" x 29" banner-style poster, which retails for $14.95:

From kitchen appliance to Caprica Six, how the Cylons came to be. Now you can own this large banner-style poster that depicts the complete evolution of the Cylon race, starting with the simple Toaster through their early prototypes up to the advanced humanoid models.

The second and third models make an appearance in the first episode of Caprica; the third and fourth are Centurion models familiar from Battlestar itself. You know Six.

As for the toaster? Here's a better look: