Friday, December 25, 2009

News - 12/25/09...

Merry Christmas!

Nuttin’ For Christmas

Animator Doug Compton used a classic 1955 Stan Freberg recording as the basis for his Christmas card this year: a fully animated version of Nuttin’ For Christmas which he drew and animated every frame of.

For reference, the song’s lyrics (written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett) are here. Enjoy - and Merry Christmas!

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Oscar T. Perez

Óscar T. Pérez is a wonderful book illustrator based in Madrid, Spain. Now, Perez has posted a group of animated shorts - films sponsored by his publishers Edicions Bromera and La Galera — made to promote some of his recently published books. Below is a stylish one for The Encyclopedia of Monsters and Other Terrifying Creatures, written by Enric Lluch. To see more of Perez’ illustration art visit his blog.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Animation Copyright Protection Service Week Begins in Beijing

The English language site of China's CCTV reports that Animation Copyright Protection Service Week has launched in Beijing this week to develop "effective copyright protection measures, combining the efforts of animation makers and producers, intellectual property experts and the government." (NOTE: Link includes embedded video.) The article states that China's Pleasant Sheep and Big Bad Wolf, called China's version of Tom & Jerry, is wildly popular but also widely pirated. The event will continue at the first International Animation Copyright Fair in Dongguan, Guangdong Province.

Widespread and endemic piracy has long been a problem for foreign media companies attempting to develop operations in China, but a report from Xinhua that notes the way cartoons and graphic novels have become big business in the country (also noting the success of Pleasant Sheep and Big Bad Wolf) probably explains the government's sudden interest in intellectual property protection.

Gobelins Students Give Life to a Golem

Adeline Grange, Violaine Briat, Rachid Guendouze and Benoit Tranchet produced this special effects shot this year as part of their studies at Gobelins L’Ecole de L’Image. It’s titled Golem.

Animated Films Place High in Best of the Decade Awards has wrapped up the decade with a categorical review of the best films, using atypical categories like Best Remake and Best Directorial Debut. In their Best of the Decade piece, Animated films stood out proudly, taking the top spot in two categories and placing high in others. Here’s how it sorted out:

The Incredibles (first place)

Finding Nemo (4th place for Andrew Stanton)
Chicken Run (5th place for Nick Park and Peter Lord)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (1st place)
Coraline (2nd place)
Shrek (3rd place)

In a reader poll on the last page, The Incredibles also holds the top spot as best of the best.

Year-End 2009 Sales For “DC Universe Animated Original Movie” Animated Feature Titles

The World’s Finest has a look at current sales for the 2009 DC Universe Animated Original Movie titles and how they are expected to finish out the year.

Debuting three new titles this year, the DC Universe Animated Original Movie direct-to-video animated feature line from Warner Home Video moved nearly one million DVD units in 2009. Over 900,000 of those units came from the three new DC Universe Animated Original Movie titles that debuted this year - Wonder Woman, Green Lantern: First Flight and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies - and those numbers are expected to grow during the December 2009 holiday season.

Among the three new DC Universe Animated Original Movie titles, the September 2009 Superman/Batman: Public Enemies animated feature made the biggest splash of this year’s releases, moving an estimated 342,000 DVD units since hitting shelves. Home video retail outlets are expecting the title to finish with at least a total 350,000 of units sold by the end of 2009. The direct-to-video Superman/Batman: Public Enemies animated feature debuted to an estimated 198,000 DVD copies sold in its first week of sales, during the week ending October 4th, 2009.

The second DC Universe Animated Original Movie title released this year, released during the summer sales season, the direct-to-video Green Lantern: First Flight animated feature has sold an estimated 286,000 copies since its mid-year debut. The direct-to-video Green Lantern: First Flight animated feature debuted to an estimated 160,000 DVD copies sold in its first week of sales, during the week ending August 2nd, 2009. The Annie Award nominated feature is expected to finish 2009 with at least a total of 295,000 DVD units moved according to home video retail outlets.

Lastly, the first 2009 release under the DC Universe Animated Original Movie banner, Wonder Woman has moved an estimated 292,000 DVD copies since premiering during the first quarter of the year. The release has boasted consistently stable sales throughout the year despite having the lowest debut week of all the DC Universe Animated Original Movie titles to date. Wonder Woman debuted with 107,000 in DVD sales in its first week, the week ending March 8th, 2009, though sales quickly leveled off after the standard second week plunge. The critically-acclaimed direct-to-video animated feature is also expected to finish out 2009 with a projected estimate of 295,000 DVDs unit sold according to home video retail outlets.

Please note the above sales numbers do not take into account rental numbers, OnDemand numbers, legal download numbers, or high-definition release sales.

Additionally, though not under the DC Universe Animated Original Movie line, Warner Home Video and Warner Premiere also debuted the direct-to-video animated tie-in feature Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter, tying into the live-action Watchmen Spring 2009 theatrical release. While the home video premiere title stumbled out of the gate with 42,000 in DVD sales for its first week, the week of March 29th, 2009, the title has since moved an estimated 198,000 copies since its debut, and will likely top out with a respectable 200,000 DVD units moved by the end of 2009.

A co-production of Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation, the DC Universe Animated Original Movie line is expected to release between two – three new direct-to-video animated features in 2010, with the next title, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, set to debut February 23rd, 2010 on DVD and Blu-ray disc. Two additional direct-to-video animated features are set to follow later in the year.

Stay tuned for updates on current and upcoming DC Universe Animated Original Movie titles here at The World’s Finest, including exclusive content and more. More details on the entire DC Universe Animated Original Movie can be found here at The World's Finest special dedicated subsite.

2009 Sales information for Planet Hulk, the Marvel Animated Features production from Marvel Animation and Lionsgate Home Entertainment, is available at Marvel Animation Age. Click here for more details.

The Chipmunks make a box office killing

Whether you love them or hate them, the Chipmunks proved yesterday that they still have plenty of box office power left in them, with their new movie Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel opening to an extremely impressive $19 million yesterday, according to studio estimates. Estimates regarding how Disney’s The Princess and the Frog was affected by this are currently unavailable. Meanwhile, Avatar has been continuing its very strong run throughout the week, earning $16 million every day for the last three days.

Loeb Discusses Recent "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies" Animated Feature Release

Jeph Loeb sits down with The World's Finest for an exclusive Q & A on the recent Superman/Batman: Public Enemies direct-to-video animated feature.

The World's Finest caught up with famed comic and television writer Jeph Loeb for a quick Q & A to share his thoughts on the recent direct-to-video Superman/Batman: Public Enemies animated feature released under the DC Universe Animated Original Movie banner by Warner Home Video. The Superman/Batman: Public Enemies animated feature arrived on home video in September 2009. The animated feature adapted the six-issue story arc of the same name, originally written by Loeb, from the Superman/Batman comic series currently published by DC Comics. The story features Superman and Batman facing off against Lex Luthor, now President of the United States.

The World’s Finest: First up, what are your thoughts on the finished product?

Jeph Loeb:
I thought it was great. Any time we can get our stories out there beyond comics is awesome.

WF: What did you think of the changes made, such as the new explanation for the bounty on Superman's head, or the altered ending (I.E., no more "There will be a crisis.."), etc? Any alterations you disagree with?

I think it helps that I work in television and film already. I understand the challenges of making a story accessible to an audience that isn't reading comics. Things like "There will be a crisis" is super cool for the comic book reader, but how would that translate to everyone else. So it was all good.

WF: What about the art-style? Did you find it faithful, and that it translated the visuals successfully?

Its always a challenge to take something that is 2-D and animate it. Both Ed [McGuinness] and I were thrilled with the end vision.

WF: Based on the impressive debut for the title, Warner Home Video has greenlit a second Superman/Batman movie. Which other story Superman/Batman story that you penned would you like to see adapted. Why?

I hear rumors that they are doing Superman/Batman: Supergirl which introduces Supergirl to the DCU. It has a great cast, including Wonder Woman and and the villain Darkseid, and as written, a true origin story for Supergirl. All that and Michael Turner's astonishing artwork. Go for it!

WF: Do you have any last thoughts on the title? Good? Bad? Do you hope you'll see more of your work animated?

I'd love to see more of it and if I have the time, be able to do the adaptation myself!

WF: To wrap up, what projects do you have on your plate right now?

I'm about to begin this giant epic adventure over in Hulk revealing all the secrets of the Red Hulk starting in January. In February, a new project called Ultimate X with beautiful illustrations by Arthur Adams. And in March, I've got New Ultimates coming out with extraordinary artwork by Frank Cho. I'm very proud of what's to come in 2010!

The World's Finest would like to thank Jeph Loeb for his participation!

A co-production of Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is now available to own on DVD and Blu-ray disc. The next title under the DC Universe Animated Original Movie banner, the direct-to-video Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths animated feature, debuts February 23rd, 2010 on DVD and Blu-ray disc.

Besting Jeffrey K.

I'm not talking about what other Hollywood animation studios are hoping to do in the upcoming 12 or 24 months, I'm talking about the folks whom Jeffrey (and DreamWorks Animation) have unwittingly humiliated, the animation artists of the Middle Kingdom.

Chinese cartoonists and animation experts have put their heads together, for the future of the industry. At the 2009 Annual Animation Meeting, held in Hainan island, one idea was to use China's rich history as inspiration ...

Many experts suggested production companies should investigate what the overseas audience wants and try meeting their demands.

Yin Xiaoxiang, Today Animation Company, said,
" We would test the water by pre-selling cartoons in the international market. The response we receive from overseas buyers and media will then decide if we should continue producing the cartoons or not. "

Another gnawing fact is that China's animation market is still dominated by overseas productions. Statistics show that 88-percent of cartoons that young Chinese people love, are from Japan, Europe and
America ....

Call it "The Curse of Kung Fu Panda", or the Great Wall of Global Toondom, but it appears the Chinese might be doing some focus groups and outside studies as they strive to tear down the barriers that prevent them from becoming global animation players. For it seems the cartoon industry of China is keen on producing animated blockbusters in the manner of Jeffrey Katzenberg, John Lasseter and Walter Elias Disney. (What would Chairman Mao think?)

Sadly, it's not enough to commission reports, or have a lot of eager fingers poised over keyboards and a big render farm at your disposal. You must also have characters and a story that connects across cultural and national boundaries.

That small detail often seems like a simple task when you're watching someone else's successful cartoon in a darkened theatre ("Hey! We'll just do something like that! It's easy!"). Trouble is, it isn't, not really. If it were, more studios besides the ones run by Jeffrey, John, and Chris Wedge would be doing it.

But we're happy the Chinese want to join the club. They're capitalists now, aren't they? And profit and big bucks are the names of the games they want to play. The Five Year Plans have been tucked away in a dusty Beijing attic, forgotten and ignored.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Falling Wages

Across the animation biz more 'toon employees are working at lower wages. No exceptions.

Walt Disney Co.'s chief executive Bob Iger received a total compensation package worth $29 million in 2009 -- a tad less than the $30.6 million of a year earlier ...

See? We all have to sacrifice.

But when you think of Mr. Iger's pay cut, think also of Disney's falling profits:

Net income at the Burbank media conglomerate fell 25% in fiscal 2009 from a year earlier, with significant declines at Disney's movie studio and weaker earnings at the company's theme parks ...

Things are tough all over.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Development Heck

There's been a lot of chit chat about Disney feature projects that are in development at the hat building. (You can find some of it here, here and here. And a compendium of real old unmade projects here.) What I've learned about "development" as both participant and spectator is that projects come and go and fall in and out of favor. They are put into development, then yanked out of development. Some blessed few are greenlit for production, then the red light flashes and the whole train comes to a rattling halt. Directors are assigned, then unassigned.

At the end, what gets made is determined by (in no particular order) 1) the quality of the piece, 2) How many internal studio champions it has, 3) Marketing's input about a) whether marketing can sell the movie and b) how well the characters lend themselves to toys, video games and electronic devices. And 4) If there's a gaping hole in the release schedule that has to be plugged with something. ....

There are other motivating factors, of course, but those are some of the larger ones that come to mind.

So let us tip toe back through various projects that have been in development at Disney over long stretches of time. This isn't a comphrehensive list, since I'm making it on Christmas eve from the top of my pin head and it only covers stuff going back to the 1960s. (We'll label the projects produced and unproduced. We'll also note that some earlier development work on well-loved titles is, in some cases, pretty much unrelated to development work on the same titles years and years later.)

Chanticleer -- based on the French fairy tale, this project was in the running after Sleeping Beauty. Songs were written, boards and design work done; ultimately done in because Walt didn't think a chicken could carry an animated feature (The internal saboteurs around the studio kept muttering: "Oh yeah, that's the chicken picture...") Unproduced.

Catfish Bend
-- based on the books by Ben Lucien Hubbard. Song of the South style animal characters living along the lwer Mississippi. Character designs, outline storyboards, several rough treatments. Spearheaded by Ken Anderson, it never went much of anywhere. Unproduced.

The Nightingale -- based on the short story by Hans Christiam Anderson, this piece was worked on by Mel Shaw and John Lasseter back in the day. Embryonic development, unproduced

The Abandoned -- this book by Mr. Gallico has gone in and out of development for a lot of years, championed by Bernie Mattinson and Joe Grant, among others, with lots of work done on it. Unproduced into the 21st century.

Mickey and the Three Musketeers -- Wait. Wasn't this done at Disney Toons? And released a few years ago? Well, yeah, but this version was different, and in development at features in the early 1980s. (There are obvious similarities because both spring from the Dumas classic, but the approaches were not the same.) This version unproduced (but produced at Disney Toons.)

Wild Life -- in development for a lo-o-ong period of time, slated as one of Disney Feature's early CGI projects, and championed by division head Tom Schumacher. The plug on this particular project was pulled when Roy Disney objected to the direction it was going in. Unproduced.

In the 21st century, two Big Name Disney directors worked on a spy feline project (the name of which eludes me), Gnomeo and Juliet came and then departed during a management change, and the ever-popular Joe Jump had a birth, then death (or at least deep hibernation), and then a rebirth with Mr. Moore at the helm. (The project's been around since the early days of TAG blog.)

Rapunzel, now scheduled for a November 2010 release, has had a number of story changes over a lengthy gestation period, and Home on the Range, released back in 2004, started life years before as an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous.

Animated projects -- particularly those of the Disney persuasion -- have often occupied Development Heck for years and sometimes decades before showing up at the neighborhood AMC. Not the way executives and production managers usually want it, but the way it is.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Animator Sykes Brews Special Glue

Andy Sykes has teamed up with the distribution company Shorts International for a series of 3 Flash-animated shorts. The collection is titled Special Glue an Other Stories, and below you can see the first. Here’s Special Glue, which has already screen at a number of festivals around the world.

Titmouse Amplifies Animation on Metalocalypse

Have you been tuning into season 3 of Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse? Like the first two seasons, the series is being produced at Titmouse Inc in Hollywood, and they’ve begin to add more elaborate animation. Here’s a clip from a recent episode:

The 2009 Flash Animated Holiday Cards!

Our yearly Flash-animated holiday card round-up revealed another bumper crop in 2009. Happy holidays everyone and here’s to more jobs, more shorts and more Flash animation in 2010!

Happy Tree Friends – Strain Kringle

Joseph Troy’s Holiday Short

JibJab – You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer from 30 Second Bunnies Theatre

Mukpuddy’s Christmas Message

Animax – Not a Creature Was Stirring

The Brothers McLeod – Two Hats Christmas Message

Toons of the 2000s: Top 25 Animated Television Series Countdown #5-1


Dates: 2004-present (pilot aired 2003)
Adult Swim (Cartoon Network)
47+ episodes

Created by Jackson Publick (Christopher McCulloch)
Starring: James Urbaniak, Patrick Warburton, Michael Sinterniklaas, Christopher McCulloch, Doc Hammer

The misadventures of a washed-up scientist, his two idiot sons, and their bodyguard. Oh, and a villain or two.

Why It Made The List
What originally started as a parody of Jonny Quest turned into one of the most inventive and witty animated comedy shows on television. Not content with riffing on the absurdly buffoonish antics of animated adventure heroes, The Venture Bros. actually dared to develop an intricate (but mostly transparent) continuity for its dozens of major characters and to give more than a few of them some major psycho-dramatic development and expression.

It would take a small dissertation to plumb the depths of Dr. Thaddeus "Rusty" Venture's soul. Suffice it to say he has daddy issues, offspring issues, sibling issues, a vexed relationship with his own competence, and a tiresomely obsessed arch-nemesis to fend off. Almost all the other characters have similar or equivalent problems, and they all intertwine and ricochet off each other to both comic and dramatic effect.

Also, let us not overlook the show's sheer fertility. How many other series could invent a supporting character named "Girl Hitler" and have the stones to kill her off after only five minutes?


Dates: 2002-2007
Disney Channel
87 episodes

Created by Mark McCorkle & Robert Schooley
Starring: Christy Carlson Romano, Will Friedle, Nancy Cartwright, Tahj Mowry, John Di Maggio, Nicole Sullivan, Raven-Symoné, Kirsten Storms, Gary Cole, Jean Smart, Shaun Fleming (2002-2006), Spencer Fox (2007)

Kim Possible
saves the world when she isn't at cheerleader practice.

Why It Made The List
For four seasons this light-hearted action comedy lampooned the genre with affection and a sense of fun. Its characters acknowledged the clichéd plots and stereotypical actions, but did so without lapsing into irony or self-aware winking. It even managed to fleetingly glance at teen issues.

For four seasons, it consistently entertained, especially during a final season replete with continuity nods and references for loyal fans.


Dates: 2001-2004
Cartoon Network
52 episodes

Created by Genndy Tartakovsky
Starring: Phil LaMarr, Mako

A samurai is flung into the future, where he must battle a shape-shifting wizard.

Why It Made The List
One of the most stylish series of the decade, Samurai Jack set itself apart almost immediately with its use of limited animation as a striking stylistic choice rather than as a necessary budgetary evil. It also showcased an eclectic range of influences, from gangster movies, horror movies, westerns, and film noir, to rave culture, chambara drama, and (of course) the classic films of Akira Kurosawa.

It also boasted a diverse array of characters and dropped them into sometimes hallucinogenic bizarre worlds. It also featured striking action sequences, including a glorious chiaroscuro duel that we named one of the Top 5 duels ever animated.


Dates: 2004-2009
Cartoon Network
79 episodes

Created by Craig McCracken
Starring: Sean Marquette, Keith Ferguson, Grey Delisle, Tom Kane, Candi Milo

A boy hangs out with a home for abandoned imaginary friends.

Why It Made The List
Foster's Home
takes a brilliant—and in retrospect obvious—conceit and makes it silly in all the right ways.

Naturally, a show about imaginary friends rises or falls on the quality of the imaginary friends themselves. Luckily, characters like Wilt, Eduardo, Coco, and Bloo are clever, beautifully designed, and smart (and stupid) enough to have funny adventures. They are also a lot of fun to hang out with and quite believable as the kind of characters a lonely child might invent as a companion.

There is also the series' look, which is cleanly stylized but highly expressive, giving the show its own distinctively imaginative sheen.

And the number one show of the decade is...


Dates: 2005-2008
61 episodes

Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Koniezko
Starring: Zach Tyler Eisen, Mae Whitman, Jack DeSena, Jessie Flower, Dante Basco, Mako (2005-2006), Greg Baldwin (2007-2008), Grey DeLisle

The 12-year old Aang awakens after a hundred years in suspended animation. To end the rapacious Fire Nation's century-long world war, Aang must shoulder his burden as the Avatar and master the four elements of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water.

Why It Made The List
According to co-creators Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, Nickelodeon's call for a show with "magic, action, and adventure" led to a pitch session for Avatar the Last Airbender that began with a concept illustration for each of those three words and continued for two-and-a-half hours as the pair outlined the rough story arc for all three seasons of the show. Afterwards, Eric Coleman, Nick's VP/EP of Animation Development at the time, told them two things. The first was that, ironically, they pretty much had him after the first drawing. The second was that they broke all the rules of how you're supposed to pitch a show.

That's emblematic for Avatar, which broke a lot of rules about kids cartoons while delivering magic, action, and adventure in spades over its 61 episode run. Its Asian-influenced world of four warring nations provided a vividly realized and richly-detailed backdrop for an epic story that successfully made the classic hero's journey feel fresh and original. It was a show that succeeded on all levels, with a gripping story and creative plot development; witty and intelligent dialogue; superb voice acting and character development; a marvelously eclectic soundtrack; beautiful art direction and character design; and some of the very best action animation ever made. Finally, Avatar is a tremendously effective long-term serial narrative, managing to produce excellent single episodes that join together to become far more than the sum of their parts. Many of the show's fans express a little disappointment at the start of the third season, but this is only because it followed one of the best single seasons of television ever made, live-action or animated.

If the title character of the show is the master of all four elements, then Avatar is the master of Hollywood's "four-quadrants," easily cutting across all lines of age and gender to create a diverse and sometimes near-fanatical fandom. It is another elegant proof of John Lasseter's claim that "Quality is the best business plan." We can hardly wait to see Konietzko and DiMartino come up with next.

(Thanks Toon Zone)

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