Monday, December 7, 2009

News - 12/07/09...

Mayor Accuses Obama of Blocking Charlie Brown X-Mas Cartoon

Russell Wiseman, the mayor of Arlington, Tennessee, is fuming because he believes that Obama deliberately timed his speech about the war in Afghanistan to interfere with the airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. According to Time magazine, this is what Wiseman posted on his Facebook page:

Ok, so, this is total crap, we sit the kids down to watch ‘The Charlie Brown Christmas Special’ and our muslim president is there, what a load…..try to convince me that wasn’t done on purpose. Ask the man if he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he will give you a 10 minute disertation (sic) about it….w…hen the answer should simply be ‘yes’….you obama people need to move to a muslim country…oh wait, that’s America….pitiful.

Sounds like Wiseman holds two positions in Arlington: mayor and village idiot.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

The TV Show

I absolutely love this music video from director Sugimoto Kousuke:

(Thanks, Carlo Guillot)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Princess and the Frog – A Traditional Animation Renaissance?

The countdown continues to the release of The Princess and the Frog (December 11th). Here’s a new clip about gumbo. Will this film help lead the return of 2D animation?

Don Bluth’s Dragon’s Lair Coming to iPhone

EA is porting Don Bluth’s classic arcade game Dragon’s Lair onto iPhone and iPod Touch. Release date is listed on EA’s website as December 2009. Another of Bluth’s laser disc games, Space Ace, was released for iPhone last July [Apple store link for Space Ace].

(Thanks, Malcolm)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Travisty’s Beard

Say what you will about Shrek, Bee Movie or Shark Tale, the artists at Dreamworks (north and south) themselves are terrific. Now comes Travisty’s Beard, a collaborative blog of artists from the art department of PDI/DreamWorks in Redwood City. The artists choose a topic each month and submit their interpretations. The blog is not officially associated with DreamWorks and is for the artists to explore their own personal work and have fun.

(Thanks, Goro Fujita)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

More Magoo Book Signings

Animator and now author Darrell Van Citters will appear at events in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland to celebrate and sign his book Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol:The Making of the First Animated Christmas Special. Van Citters has scheduled book signing events to be held at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco next Tuesday December 8th and The Art Institute of Portland in Portland, Oregon on Wednesday December 9th.

In Los Angeles, the American Cinematheque will present a screening of the Magoo special at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Charles Solomon. Marie Matthews (voice of Young Scrooge), Jane Kean (voice of Belle) and layout artist Bob Singer will join Van Citters on the panel. The Aero Theatre event will begin at 4pm on Saturday December 19th.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Comedy Central to Air "The Goode Family" Starting Jan 6, 2010

On January 6, 2010, Comedy Central will begin airing the complete first season of The Goode Family, the animated comedy series created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky which had a brief run on Fox after Judge's King of the Hill was canceled. The show centers on the Goodes, an over-zealous left-wing family who lives by the credo WWAGD (What Would Al Gore Do?)

The full press release follows:

“The Goode Family” to Air on Comedy Central Beginning in 2010

Animated Comedy Series Spoofing the Left-Leaning and Politically Correct from Media Rights Capital and Ternion Pictures' Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinskyto Make Comedy Central Debut January 6, 2010

(click to enlarge)

New York, NY– “The Goode Family,” the satirical animated series from Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, will air on Comedy Central beginning January 6, 2010 in a secondary run. “The Goode Family,” which first premiered in May 2009, is produced by Media Rights Capital, Ternion Pictures and 3 Arts Entertainment.

The complete first season of “The Goode Family” will air on Comedy Central on Wednesday nights at 10:30 pm ET, giving vegans, lesbians, right-wing conservatives, Prius owners, Texas-rednecks and liberals-who-can–laugh-at-themselves a second chance to fall in love with the Goodes.

“Mike, John and Dave certainly turn the tables on liberals with this show. That’s not done very often on television, but the humor comes from skewering extremism and taking things too far, either to the left or the right,” said Modi Wiczyk, Co-CEO of MRC. “We know Comedy Central viewers will embrace ‘The Goode Family.’”

“‘The Goode Family’ isn’t just about ridiculing liberals; It’s about tackling the issues most TV shows haven’t,” said creator and Executive Producer John Altschuler. “I mean where else are you going to see an episode about class warfare in the Lesbian community or the downside of consorting with eco-terrorists?”

With standards always changing, no matter how hard you try to be good, it’s virtually impossible these days . . . especially for the Goode family. Meet Gerald and Helen Goode, a couple who live by the motto WWAGD (“What Would Al Gore Do?”) Gerald, a college administrator, and Helen, a community activist, are determined to obliterate their carbon footprint on the planet: They’re zealous vegans, drive a hybrid, and recycle everything possible. Even the family dog, Che, is vegan. In the words of Helen, all the Goodes want to do is buy organic apples and call minorities by their right names. But despite their best efforts, something always goes haywire with their politically correct plans.

“The Goode Family” is voiced by Mike Judge as Gerald, Nancy Carell as Helen, Dave Herman as Ubuntu, Linda Cardellini as Bliss and Brian Doyle Murray as Charlie.

John Altschuler (“King of the Hill,” Blades of Glory), Mike Judge (“King of the Hill,” “Beavis and Butt-head,” “Office Space”), Dave Krinsky (“King of the Hill,” “Blades of Glory”), Michael Rotenberg and Tom Lassally are executive producers of the series. “The Goode Family” is produced by Media Rights Capital, Ternion Pictures and 3 Arts Entertainment.

Toons of the 2000s: Reviewed Cartoons You Probably Haven't Seen, But Really Should

Throughout this decade, toonzone's news team has reviewed a truly impressive number of cartoons. Along the way there have been many disappointments, but also many strong works well deserving of praise. From time to time, they've even had occasion to review exceptional achievements that may eventually be remembered as enduring classics. But there's another category, that of the underappreciated or underexposed triumph that deserves much more appreciation than it normally receives. Today, our staff highlight five hidden gems from toonzone's archives. If you haven't given these a serious viewing, there's no time like the present!

Contributed by Ed Liu

An extended ad for the anniversary of Nissin Cup Noodles probably isn't the first place one would look for a serious and exceptionally good science fiction series that celebrates space flight. However, despite its highly commercial origins, Freedom is an excellent, extremely accessible anime series that harnesses the drive for space exploration from The Right Stuff, dropping it into the 23rd century in the lunar colony Eden. Believing that Earth has been turned into an uninhabitable wasteland, the denizens of Eden submit to the totalitarian control of the Guidance Council, with the exception of rebels like the series' hero, Takeru. When he discovers that the state of Earth is far different than what he has been told (and, more importantly, when he learns there's a babe down there), he embarks on quixotic quest that sends him to Earth on a wing and a prayer.

The series is exceptionally good hard science fiction. It features Akira's Katsuhiro Otomo as character and mecha designer, and the cel-shaded CGI is surprisingly successful. However, the elements that make the series truly memorable are its humanistic core, its ability to subvert the expected cliches, its unflagging enthusiasm, and its contagious sense that our destiny lies in the stars. I'm not sure why Bandai has made the series so hard to find (the beautiful Blu-ray boxed set is out of print, and even the DVD boxed set seems tougher to obtain than it should be), but it's a series that's well worth the effort to seek out.

Jubei-Chan 2
Contributed by Duke

The original Jubei-chan: Ninja Girl was a good series with solid action and a fun story. While it never set records or anything, it did have enough of a fanbase to get a sequel series 5 years later. That sequel series - Jubei-chan 2: The Counterattack of the Siberia Yagyu - completely blows the first season out of the water.

The biggest selling point of the first Jubei-chan returns as Jubei, in a change from every other magical girl series out there, refuses to don the Lovely Eyepatch and become the reincarnation of the legendary swordsman Yagyu Jubei. This time around, instead of some lackluster bad guys existing seemingly only to have a bad guy to beat, we get well-developed antagonists in Freesia Yagyu and Kita Ressai, who each have very personal reasons for constantly going after Jubei; you actually feel for both near the end of the series. Add to that the constant drama among Jubei, her father, and fellow ninja Mikage, and you've got enough story to take on most anime series out there.

Jubei-chan 2 backs up its plot with some of the greatest sword fights I've ever seen on television. Almost every single episode has a sword fight, and all of them are storyboarded and animated with such excellence that it makes one neither remember nor care why these people are fighting, just so long as they do it all again. But when you take Akitaroh Daichi, add in some of Madhouse's best animation, and mix in some incredible music (raise your hand if you ever thought violins and pianos could be used to make a J-Pop song), you get 13 episodes of pure awesome. The only negatives are this annoying CG...thing that appears every once in a while with no explanation (though it comes into play later in the series) and a lackluster Blue Water dub, though the latter at least has consistency with the original season, also dubbed by Blue Water. Still, even with these minor problems, Jubei-chan 2 is one of the most underrated anime series of recent memory, and it is much more deserving of a license rescue than, say, Magikano.

My Beautiful Girl, Mari
Contributed by Ben Applegate

Back in 2005, I moved to Seoul, Korea, and set out to insinuate myself into the local animation scene. My goal was to find a Korean voice in animation - a master capable of matching the accomplishments of the greatest anime directors. If only I'd known that I could've just walked down to Suncoast and bought the ADV Films release of My Beautiful Girl, Mari instead.

Directed by Lee Seong-kang, Mari sees a middle-aged office worker, Nam-woo, reminiscing about his childhood in a fishing village and the fantasy of a kind, magical girl who gave him solace while his family life fell apart. Compared to the work of Hayao Miyazaki, obviously Lee's idol, Mari seems spare and light. The animation is mostly limited, and there's only 80 minutes of it. But as a student animator in Seoul once explained to me, Korea is a tiny market - the country is roughly the size of Indiana - and all the money for animation goes into video games, leaving none for ambitious filmmakers. In that context, Lee pulls off a miraculous debut. With no outlines, the pastel-shaded characters seem ready to float away - as they sometimes do - into Lee's colorful seascapes and forests of giant flowers.

Though it didn't quite lead to the grand arrival of Korean animation many were hoping for (and Lee's sophomore effort, Yobi, the Five Tailed Fox was not nearly as interesting), Mari is still a touching, overlooked treat.

Star Trek Animated
Contributed by Ed Liu

There really aren't too many cartoons from the 1970's that have withstood the test of time, but the animated spin-off of Star Trek is definitely one of them. This Filmation cartoon successfully preserved the same sense of fun and adventure as the live-action series, largely due to the participation of a lot of the original cast and writing crew. The series made exceptionally few compromises in its jump from live-action to animation, with none of the usual idiocies that make many of its contemporaries so insufferable to watch today. The Spock-centric episode "Yesteryear" is one of the finest Trek stories from any medium, and episodes like "The Magicks of Megas-Tu" or "The Jihad" tackled political and religious topics that are absolutely taboo to animated series today, unless it's South Park or Family Guy mocking them. As with all of Filmation's cartoons, the kindest term for the animation is "extremely limited," but even so, moving to animation allowed effects that would have been prohibitively expensive in live-action at the time. The hardcore fans can argue whether it's canon or not, but it's worth pointing out that this series identified what James T. Kirk's middle initial stood for and also provided perfectly worthy sequels to many fan-favorite episodes. With the recent feature film successfully rebooting the Star Trek franchise, interest in the adventures of the original series crew is riding high, but it would be a mistake to skip over the animated adventures of the first Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the Enterprise crew.

(related links: History of Trek animated and Filmation's many animation tricks of Trek).

Welcome to the NHK
Contributed by Radical Raven

Welcome to the NHK is a wonderful series that manages to tell a heart-felt, epic story while simultaneously being a hilarious send-up of the otaku sub-culture. The show stars Sato, a hikikomori - a man so reclusive and paranoid that for the past four years he's barely left his tiny, filthy apartment. Nor has he had any need to - his parents send him allowance under the assumption he's in college, and this precarious situation takes care of his every need. He's reached the bottom of the barrel, his future is looking pretty bleak, and he allows his talking appliances to convince him that this sad state is occurring through the efforts of an evil organization, which he named the NHK. (That's a joke. Look it up.) Enter Misaki, a teenage girl who claims she can solve all of his problems if he agrees to meet with her every night at a certain park; these meetings are what she collectively calls "The Project".

The thing that primarily distinguishes Welcome to the NHK is its outstanding cast. Sato himself is a magnificent protagonist. His situation and feelings become frighteningly familiar as the show goes on, and the trips we take inside his fantasies offer up some of the most creative bits of animation in the show. Misaki is, early in the series, mysterious and vaguely sinister: she makes a gradual 360 near the middle, which terrifically reverses her and Sato's roles. Sato's otaku friend Yamazaki is a hilarious caricature of the anime nerd who still manages to prove quite endearing and - horrifyingly - sometimes relatable. The last of the four major characters is Sato's high-school flame, Hitomi, who seems to be the coolest of the four but is actually at least as deranged as any of them. Actually, it's hard to decide who's the most insane character in Welcome to the NHK: the unspoken moral of the show is that everyone is insane, at least a little bit, even if some people do better jobs of hiding it. Like the best art, this reflects the real world almost exactly.

Perhaps most importantly, the show is hilarious. Sato's various exploits (including an attempt to make a Hentai game, accidentally attending a suicide party, and trying to trick his mother into thinking he actually has a life) are portrayed as humorously as possible, even while the show is busy being profound. The characters themselves make even the stalest material seem fresh. It's rare for a show to succeed at being both a comedy and a drama simultaneously, but Welcome to the NHK does it. This one is a must-watch.

(Thanks Toon Zone)

November 11 Second Club - B.J. Crawford

Another great entry from B.J. Crawford into the 11 Second Club competition (November 2009) --

(Thanks David Nethery)

Toons of the 2000s: Top 5 Toonami Programs

Toonami. From 1997 until its end in 2008, Cartoon Network's popular and long-lived programming block was the perfect home for action cartoons. It gathered old cartoons from the 80's and 90's, Japanese animation, and Cartoon Network originals to create an appealing smorgasbord of programming that no animation fan could resist. With such a marvelous history and library to its credit, crafting a list of excellent programming from Toonami's reign was not too difficult. Toonami's goal was to offer the best in action animation, to build us a better cartoon show. Those slogans aside, it was unapologetic about a pretty basic idea: cartoons are, can be, and ought to be cool. For 11 years, a generation of fans was raised on this concept, and for that it continues to deserve our gratitude. For this list, we have chosen five Toonami programs which embody Toonami's intentions and spirit.

5. Naruto

Whether you're a die-hard fan, a casual viewer, or a even a skeptic of this ninja action series, the popularity of Naruto is undeniable to all. Animated adaptations of shonen manga (Japanese comics for boys) have been no stranger to Toonami or U.S. television at large, and shows like Yu Yu Hakusho, One Piece, and Rurouni Kenshin were fine cartoons that left their mark over the years. But since its Toonami premiere in 2005, Naruto is the series that has enjoyed enduring popularity as one of the most visible anime to hit U.S. airwaves since the behemoth that is Dragon Ball Z came to Toonami in 1998. Like its mighty predecessor, Naruto found a devoted and substantial audience in anime fans and kids alike.

Yet make no mistake, Naruto hasn't made it onto this list because of popularity in and of itself. While it may not be the greatest thing out there as some of its most passionate fans might claim, the show does mix in its obligatory fighting with some respectable drama and an ensemble cast of ninja characters that tempts the viewer to pick a personal favorite. The action isn't necessarily groundbreaking, but it is certainly distinct. Since this is a ninja show, deception, stealth, and hidden surprises are common in most fighting sequences, so while the series is not free of shonen tropes, it also doesn't reduce things to a contest of power levels and brute force.

Most of all though, Naruto has one big advantage going for it: genuine heart. When you get right down to it, this is the tale of a kid who literally starts off with nothing except big dreams and an even bigger mouth. With no family or real friends of his own, his desire to become Hokage (the leader of his ninja village) is basically a dream of gaining acceptance and respect from others. After he barely graduates ninja academy in the first episode, he ends up on a team with his distant boyhood crush Sakura and brooding rival Sasuke, an elite student so talented that Naruto is seemingly stuck in his shadow for good. Nonetheless, Naruto finds ways to succeed and improve himself time and again, offering inspiration to his fellows and even to some of his enemies. Some other series offer a super powerful protagonist that becomes even greater to defeat stronger opponents, and that's fine. But here Naruto is just a boy who wants the things that any boy wants and an outcast who wins a better life by working for it rather than giving in to what other people think. There is something very relatable and inspirational about this that transcends age.

Even after Toonami's end, the story continues on via Naruto Shippuden on Disney XD, and new volumes of the Naruto manga continue to top graphic novel sales in America. It's a safe bet that this part of Toonami's legacy will be with us for a long time to come.

4. Gundam Wing

Fans of the now 30-year-old Gundam franchise have varied opinions about this 1995 series, but the arrival of Gundam Wing to Toonami on March 6, 2000 was certainly a landmark moment in the block's history. At a time when most Toonami programming consisted of cartoons that had aired in years past on other networks, it was one of the very first exclusive Toonami premieres along with Tenchi Muyo! and Blue Submarine No. 6. True to Toonami's stated commitment of "building a better cartoon show," Gundam Wing offered something fresh, unique and interesting unlike anything that had aired on Cartoon Network before.

Gundam Wing starts off as a seemingly standard story of good vs. evil: five unique and highly skilled pilots from space colonies are sent to Earth with exceptional giant robots known as Gundams, their mission being to fight back against the oppression of the United Earth Sphere Alliance and the secret organization OZ. However, things do not stay that simple for long. Soon the Gundam boys and ensemble cast are caught in the midst of warring factions on Earth, unexpected changes back in space, and a chaotic era of conflict that the pilots can do little to stop in spite of their Gundams' overwhelming power. Allegiances change and new movements arise as our heroes switch between retaliating, running for their lives, and even infiltrating their hated enemy; the actions of the Gundam pilots ultimately serve as a catalyst to alter the course of history in ways that no one could have predicted. With no shortage of engaging action, memorable characters, and a vibrant and thoughtful script, Gundam Wing raised the bar for action animation on Toonami, and its success paved the way for fellow iterations Mobile Suit Gundam and G Gundam.

3. Month of Miyazaki

Hitting the airwaves in 2006, the Month of Miyazaki was arguably Toonami's last truly great highlight. Fans of animated films hardly need to be introduced to Hayao Miyazaki; he and studio Ghibli have been among the most acclaimed creators of animated films on either side of the Pacific. Ghibli films have been renowned for absolutely fantastic animation and art, strong female heroes, ecological messages, a contagious penchant for flight, and innovative narratives. The presence of even one Studio Ghibli film on the block would have been a notable event. The delivery of four had everyone excited, and for good reason.

Spirited Away was the 2002 Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature, and it earned it well with its tale of a spoiled girl who has to take responsibility and grow up in a hurry to help her parents by working in a mystical bathhouse visited by spirits and beings from Japanese folklore. Princess Mononoke was arguably one of the most violent cartoons to ever air on Toonami, telling the compelling tale of a country warrior trying to make peace between forest spirits and the industrialized Iron Town. Castle in the Sky features plenty of steam-powered flight and follows the quest of two children to find a ruined sky kingdom known as Laputa while combating the evil Muska, who wants the ancient civilization's secrets for his own greed and power.

Finally, we have Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Studio Ghibli's very first animated film, and in my view, it is still one of Miyazaki's best. A clear forerunner to Ghibli's later works, this story chronicles the title heroine's efforts to preserve a polluted forest and stop the petty wars that threaten to destroy both it and humanity's chances for survival. Opinions will certainly vary on the highlight of this event, but every one of these movies is undoubtedly brilliantly realized and executed. Nothing like it had happened to Toonami before, and nothing like it came again after it was done. But while it was there, it rocked.

2. Outlaw Star

Simply put, Outlaw Star was cool. It was a fun-loving, action-packed space western about lone gunman and his ragtag crew pursuing riches. Its sci-fi setting was memorable, though it certainly served the action first and foremost. If Gene and the others aren't involved in a fight on land, no problem, that didn't mean the show slowed down. Here bounty hunters and pirates fly around in "grappler ships", space-faring vessels with huge mechanical arms used for pummeling foes into submission.

At first, Gene Starwind and his eternal companion Jim Hawking are just two guys making their own way by doing odd jobs and taking down the local riffraff, but all of that changes when another bounty hunter hires them and gets them involved in a galaxy-wide struggle to find the location of the Galactic Leyline, a legendary place that can supposedly grant one's greatest desires. The key to finding it is Melfina, a girl apparently created to interface perfectly with a state-of-the-art spaceship that Gene comes to call the Outlaw Star.

What follows is a romping adventure where there's never a dull moment. Gene, Jim, and Melfina are eventually joined by a female Samurai assassin named Suzuka and by Aisha, a shape-shifting catgirl alien. They find themselves opposed by enemy bounty hunters, a group of lethal space pirates known as the Anton Seven, and frequently just their own bad luck: every time Gene makes a fortune, circumstances conspire to deprive him of most of it. Naturally, on the course of the journey trust develops among the group, and Gene comes to value more than wealth. It may not be a masterpiece or particularly deep, but Outlaw Star was a lot of fun. You can just sit back, enjoy it, and walk away satisfied afterward. It was an excellent action adventure show.

1. Justice League

Created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, for many people Justice League is the standard by which all following DC animation ought to be measured. It's that big, it's that good, it's that significant a part of the greater DC Animated Universe. Before this show, the DCAU had broken plenty of ground. Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series were hallmarks of the 1990's that explored new territory for two of the most iconic superheroes in American comics. After that, 1999's Batman Beyond dared to reimagine Batman decades in the future as teenager Terry McGinnis, a fellow with his own completely different set of circumstances. Then came 2001's Justice League, which greatly expanded to eventually include most DC heroes and villains worth remembering.

The series certainly started off with a bang, using a massive alien invasion as an excuse to unite Superman and Batman with Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawk Girl, and Martian Manhunter. As they say, the rest is history, and there was no shortage of highlights. There is The Savage Time, where the League goes back to the 1940's to stop Vandal Savage from helping the Nazis win World War II. There is Twilight, where the double threat of Brainiac and Darkseid must be faced. There is Hereafter, where Superman is seemingly lost to the world for good. There is A Better World, where the League has to deal with dimensional alternates that have different ideas about what superheroes need to do. Naturally, no one can forget Starcrossed, which made the threat in series premiere look like a walk in the park. These are just the big, "epic" highlights; other episodes are mostly worthy and no doubt particularly entertaining to fans of specific heroes.

After its end in 2004 the series thankfully managed to continue as the renamed Justice League Unlimited, which ran until 2006 and expanded the League to include dozens upon dozens of superheroes. In this form the show expanded and became even more of a fan-pleaser; one multi-part episode even found a way to include Terry McGinnis and Static Shock! Batman Beyond fans were in for a particularly pleasant surprise with Epilogue, an episode that served as an effective bookend for both that series, Justice League, and the DCAU itself. Beyond that, JLU's highlight was undoubtedly the well-received, season-spanning story arc regarding the Cadmus conspiracy and the U.S. Government's growing distrust toward the League for reasons that harken back to the first Justice League series. Even the character of Superman, DC's #1 boy scout, is challenged and tested. Inside and outside that story arc, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Supergirl, Captain Atom, Aquaman, Captain Marvel, Huntress, The Question, and Booster Gold are a few of the secondary heroes who got good attention, even if only for an episode in some cases.

What more can one say about this marvelous series? If we count both iterations, Justice League brought us five years and 91 episodes of superheroes and everything we like about them: memorable characterization, well-told stories great and small, and of course plenty of bone-crunching action. The DCAU may be over, but the interpretation of DC heroes that it offered us will be the stuff of fond memories for a very long time. Justice League was one of Toonami's longest, funnest, most memorable shows, one that will be fondly remembered well into the next decade.

(Thanks Toon Zone)


Another Friday fraught with links.

Disney U.K. is ramping up its TV toons.

LONDON - Disney is to boost its content production presence across Europe, trebling its investment in animation and airing five new series across its portfolio of TV channels ...

Can we say Glo-Bal? ...

Another Arthur hybrid cartoon emerges from France ....

... Animated sequences feel less crowded than in the previous film, and production designer Hugues Tissandier ("Taken") offers some nifty sets that combine small-scale models with CGI backgrounds. But the garishly designed cartoon characters, captured by d.p. Thierry Arbogast's harsh yellow and green lighting, are often hard on the eyes and not nearly as fun to watch as they should be.

Live scenes are mostly by the book, with passable performances and little cinematic inspiration, especially in the nostalgic, small-town Americana settings (actually shot in Normandy) ....

The first installment tanked stateside; we'll see how this one shakes out.

Ricky Gervais, of The Office fame, brings his new cartoon extravaganza stateside early next year:

The Ricky Gervais Show, which is due to premiere on US cable channel HBO on February 19th, is expected to air on Channel 4 [in Britain] in March.

Gervais has made the show with the US film company MRC, with whom he worked on the recent movie The Invention of Lying, and the animation house Wildbrain.

Based on his series of audiobooks of the same name, which originated in an Xfm show and later ran as a podcast for the Guardian website,
The Ricky Gervais Show will feature the same banter between the comedian and his sidekicks Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington, with animation accompanying original recordings of the trio.

Wildbrain, now headquartered in Sherman Oaks, is doing the Gervais show as well as "Peanuts"; yet two more good reason for TAG to secure a contract with the company ...

Director-story artist-animator and all around talent Will Finn here provides evidence why Mel Brooks should voice an animated feature:

This was just about the last really long piece of full animation I've done--the project itself was (alas) shelved. Eric's idea was to cast Mel as a certain elf with an unpronouncable name and I got to make up this animation as I went along. Eric designed the character and provided me with a custom made model sheet.

(But the hand-drawn art form is coming back, so maybe there is hope ...)

This is the year for movies with the word "Up" in the title:

... [T]he National Board of Review gave "Up in the Air" multiple awards on Thursday, including best film of the year ...

In a strong year for animated pics, the board named
"Up" for animated feature kudos -- and resurrected a special filmmaking achievement award for Wes Anderson's stop-motion pic "Fantastic Mr. Fox."...

And we'll see some of you up at the TAG Christmas party this p.m. The rest of you will get to look at pictures ... when we get our wits together and put them up.

Have a joyous weekend.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

DVD And Blu-ray Art For Upcoming "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths" Animated Feature

Warner Home Video has released the cover art for the Single-Disc DVD, Two-Disc Special Edition DVD, and Blu-ray editions of the upcoming February 23rd, 2010 release of the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths animated feature.

Click on the thumbnails below for a closer look at the assorted package artwork for the upcoming home video releases of the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths direct-to-video animated feature.

Blu-ray Disc artwork -- Two-Disc Special Edition DVD artwork -- Single-Disc DVD artwork

A co-production of Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation, the direct-to-video Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths animated feature debuts February 23rd, 2010 on DVD and Blu-ray disc. Click here to view the official press release for the upcoming direct-to-video Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths animated feature release.

Stay tuned for further Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths updates, including exclusive content and more.

New The Princess And The Frog posters

Several new international posters advertising The Princess And The Frog have popped up over at Internet Movie Poster Awards. Each features different characters from the traditionally animated film, including Princess Tiana, Doctor Facilier, and Mama Odie.

15 animated features eligible for Golden Globes

Fifteen animated feature films have been qualified for consideration in the Best Animated Feature category for the 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards honoring 2009 achievements, Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Philip Berk announced Thursday.

The 15 submitted features are:

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
Battle for Terra
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Disney's A Christmas Carol
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Mary and Max
The Missing Lynx
Monsters vs. Aliens
Planet 51
The Princess and the Frog

There will be five nominees in the Best Animated Feature category. Nominations for the 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards will be announced at 5 a.m. PT on Tuesday, December 15.

The 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Ricky Gervais, will be broadcast live coast to coast Sunday, January 17 on NBC (5 to 8 p.m. PT, 8 to 11 p.m. ET) from the Beverly Hilton.

The 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards will be seen in more than 160 countries worldwide, and is one of the few awards ceremonies that span both TV and motion picture achievements. The special will be produced by dick clark productions in association with the HFPA.

Animation Writers and Residuals

Dave McNary of Variety writes of the Hatfield and McCoy feud that is the WGA vs. IATSE:

The WGA West recently told members it had processed $136 million in residuals on feature films last year, without mentioning that virtually none of that went to animation writers. Animation writing, unlike most other areas of Hollywood scripting, is a hodgepodge of union coverage and non-coverage that leaves writers with little leverage ...

Uh oh. McNary brings up the dread "l" word.

Because that's sort of the crux of the matter. If you've got leverage, you can go someplace. If you don't have leverage, you're mired in the mud or sliding backward.

A little history: In the 1930s, Hollywood workers are divvied up between different unions and guilds. For whatever reason, the Screen Writers Guild doesn't organize animation writers, but the Screen Cartoonists Guild (not us) does.

In the 1950s, The Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists (later the Animation Guild) displaces the Screen Cartoonists Guild as the principle representative of animation workers.

Still no Writers Guild in the mix.

So let's skip ahead to the the 1990s. (Somewhere in there, the Writers Guild negotiates an agreement with the movie companies that they don't/won't cover animation. I'm told the WGA has been attempting to get the language out of their contract for the last ten or twenty years, with about the same success we've had negotiating WGA-style residuals.) In 1997, the WGA negotiates a prime-time animation agreement with Rupert Murdoch's Fox. Under that agreement, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Family Guy, American Dad and others are under a contract that includes WGA-style residuals.

Since then, the WGA has negotiated animation writers' contracts that include residuals and animation writers' contracts that don't. (I'm informed that the non-residual contracts are for non-primetime animation, but I'm not a student of WGA contracts, so they would know better than I would. Generally, they don't advertise their non-residual contracts.)

Both the Screen Writers Guild and the Screen Cartoonists, began proposing residuals in the 1940s. By the time residuals happened in 1961, the Screen Cartoonists Guild was mainly history, and the WGA and the IATSE (the "mother international" under which TAG operates) had achieved a residual package for the television shows and features they worked on. The WGA opted for residual checks that went straight into the pockets of members; the IATSE went for residuals flowing into its pension and health plans.

Whether you think this structure if fair or unfair, it's the reality. And it's the reality that TAG and other IATSE locals have operated under for half a century.

So where are we now?

The WGA shares jurisdiction on animation writing with the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which covers most feature work at terms that aren't as sweet as the guild's. And significant titles are produced without any union contract, such as Pixar's "Up" and Blue Sky's "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs."

Those two titles will probably eventually sell 5 million to 10 million DVD units. If writing were covered by the WGA, the scribes would receive about a nickel per unit in homevideo residuals, so a hit film would deliver as much as $500,000.

As far as I know, the WGA covers no feature work, even as WGA members work on Blue Sky and Pixar projects. Up until now, the WGA has apparently countenanced Guild members working on non-union animated projects, but I don't if that will go on forever.

Tom Schulman, VP of the WGA West ... had ... suggested during his VP campaign that the guild enforce Working Rule 8, which bars members from working for non-signatory producers. Under Rule 8, the WGA can fine the member for the entire amount of compensation, but it has not taken that step yet on animation writing.

It would be interesting to see what develops if the WGA starts invoking Rule 8 with members who write non-union feature animation. If this were to happen, the scenarios I can envision would include:

1) WGA members not writing non-WGA feature animation and producers getting along without them (using more board artists as writers? Like in the old days?)
2) WGA members performing the work anyway and getting fined.
3) Producers signing an IA deal that included animation writing and WGA members writing under the union contract.

My position is all this is:

A) I'm a TAG-IATSE employee, and I organize for TAG-IATSE because that's one of the things I'm paid to do. I'm not paid to organize for the WGA (east or west), so I don't.

B) I want every animation worker -- designers, animators, board artists, tech directors and writers to make the most money they can. I'm a spread-the-wealth kind of guy.

C) I agree with WGA Veep Schulman when he says: "producers will resist signing a WGA deal when an IATSE deal is available." This has been true since 1997 (when the WGA finally got into the animation game), just as producers will resist an IA deal when a NABET deal is available, just as producers will resist a NABET deal when they can get the work done non-NABET for say, $9 per hour.

Lastly. I've no clue why the WGA refuses to talk to Dave McNary. He's a very nice man.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

The Lost promo ABC doesn't want you to see

Lost won't be returning for another few months, and ABC has just released a trailer for the series' sixth season that has us anxiously counting down the days until Feb. 2. But it turns out that there's a second trailer, one not airing in the U.S., that puts ABC's promo to shame.

First, here's how ABC teases the new season.

Now watch the Spanish promo created by Spanish TV network CUATRO, one that even Lost co-creator and executive producer Damon Lindelof called "incredible" (as per his tweet below).

Now we really can't wait to return to la isla—pronto!

Thanks, CUATRO!

Brilliant trailer for nonexistent sci-fi TV series (maybe NSFW)

We found this trailer for a proposed British sci-fi show called Slingers, which is kind of a Firefly-meets-Mad Men with an Ocean's 11 plotline that we WANT TO SEE RIGHT NOW: Watch it below.

The promo was designed to get people to fund and make it. If we had the money, we'd do it ourselves. Here's what creator Mike Sizemore said about it:

It's directed by Steve Barron and stars Sean Pertwee, Adrian Bower, Tom Mison, Margo Stilley, Haruka Abe, GUN and JUNIOR. The outstanding conceptual design was by Arran and Corran Brownlee. The music is by The Mummers. And yeah I'm the creator/writer/idiot who came up with it. Sleepydog are the guys running the show.

To quickly answer the most obvious question, we're hoping to shoot the pilot in 2010. We have a few more meetings to get through before that happens, but we're still heading in the right direction. In fact we've had a lot of good news since the last update on here, but I don't wanna jinx anything just yet.

What do you think?

(Thanks to Topless Robot for the heads-up.)

New 'Kick-Ass' Poster Hits the 'Net Featuring The Red Mist

It's been a little while since our last update on "Kick-Ass," Matthew Vaughn's big-screen adaptation of John Romita Jr. and Mark Millar's comic book series about a teenager who decides to fight crime as a costumed vigilante. Nevertheless, another piece of news has arrived — and it puts the spotlight on The Red Mist, the copycat vigilante played by "Superbad" actor Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

The new "Kick-Ass" poster, which debuted in massive, high-res glory on AICN today, features The Red Mist front and center, perched on top of his super-charged car (which we first saw in these early "Kick-Ass" set photos). Playing off the tagline of the previous "Kick-Ass" poster, this one reads, "I Can't Read your Mind. But I Can Kick Your Ass."

Currently scheduled to hit theaters April 16, "Kick-Ass" has kicked off its marketing campaign the last month or so with the first official "Kick-Ass" trailer, an official "Kick-Ass" movie website, and the aforementioned poster featuring actor Aaron Johnson in costume as teenager-turned-hero Kick-Ass.

As for The Red Mist, Mintz-Plasse shared some thoughts with MTV News about his character's fight scenes and weed-smoking ways last month, and revealed how the glam-rock style of David Bowie influenced his character's costume.

George Clooney Explains Why 'Batman & Robin' Should've Won Him An Oscar

Recently I attended the premiere for “Up in the Air,” and had a conversation with a friend about how amazing it is that “Sexiest Man Alive” regular George Clooney has somehow managed to dodge the vitriol that dudes typically have towards beefcake leading men. My theory on how he gets away with it? The guy loves to make fun of "Batman & Robin."

Remember when you were a kid, and bullies would pick on kids to feel them out? Some would spaz and just make things worse. Others would laugh at themselves before the bullies got a chance, thereby being in on the joke rather than being the butt of it. And in the years since he played the world's greatest detective in Joel Schumacher’s disastrously awful 1997 superhero film, Clooney has been smart enough to laugh along with the rest of us.

Take the red carpet, for example, when I asked him about the top-notch awards season buzz “Up in the Air” has been receiving. By virtually all accounts, the movie about a man who fires people for a living (which hits theaters today) is a surefire Oscar contender. But, I mentioned to Clooney, not every film he’s made has been an awards contender.

“Really,” he teased. “Do you think?”

And then, hilariously, Clooney went to town. “You’re thinking ‘Batman & Robin,’ he grinned, faking outrage. “Is that what you’re talking about? Are you trying to bring that one out?”

“There was a lot of Oscar buzz around ‘Batman & Robin’,” he insisted. “There was a ‘Best Codpiece’ award. And then they took that out, and I had no shot.”

As Batman fans — and Clooney fans — know all too well, the Oscar winning A-lister once donned the world’s most masculine-challenged costume in Schumacher’s 1997 dud. It’s easier to laugh at all these years later, because Christian Bale has saved the Dark Knight, “Up in the Air” seems bound for Oscar glory — and, thankfully, George is the sexiest man alive to be in on the joke.

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