Tuesday, December 29, 2009

News - 12/29/09...

He-Man art show at Gallery 1988

L.A.’s Gallery 1988 has a new show for the new year, Under the Influence: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Artists Dan Goodsell, Jeaux Janovsky and Chogrin (above) join 100 others to reinterpret the 80s Filmation TV show and Mattel action figures. The exhibit opens Friday January 8th with an opening reception from 7pm-10pm. More art and info on the G-1988 blog.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Richard Corliss Speaks

... a discomforting reality:

... Alvin took in more in its first four days than the early December animated feature The Princess and the Frog did in its first 32 days (18 in wide release). The chipmunks should earn back their $70 million budget in a week or two. ...

Like it or not, every exec in the entertainment conglomerate pyramid is taking note of this.

"People are tired of CGI..."? Not hardly.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Third Season of Boondocks to Bounce Back in Early 2010

Aaron McGruder acclaimed and controversial animated series The Boondocks is slated to return to TV in early 2010. Variety reports that McGruder has been tweeting about the debut of the third season of his controversial show in early 2010.

The [adult swim] hit centers on two street-wise African American kids (Huey and Riley Freeman) who have been moved out of Chicago by their grandfather to live with him in the predominantly white fictional suburb of Woodcrest. Produced by McGruder's Rebel Base Productions and Sony TV, the first two seasons consisted of 15 episodes each. The voice cast includes Regina King, John Witherspoon and Cedric Yarbrough. Ed Asner, Marion Ross, Snoop Dogg, Samuel Jackson, Donald Faison, Cee-Lo, Mos Deff and Busta Rhymes were some of the well-known guests in the first two seasons.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

NYC Animation in the 2000s

A checklist of happenings in the New York animation scene during the 2000s, courtesy of ASIFA-East prez David Levy. It’s a commendable idea and would be fun to see it grow with additional contributions from NYers.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

It's the Tax Break, Stupid

Universal-NBC GE (soon to be Universal-NBC Comcast) has been a feeble player in the animation game. Universal Animation Studios essentially closed shop this month, and the company has been a non-presence in theatrical animation, as well as a chronic under-performer in live-action.

Now, of course, it's done a deal with Chris Meladandri and is partnered with Mr. M.'s Illumination Entertainment to make CGI animated features. For a period of time I wondered where Illumination was going to set up its studio, but then I found out the business model: Illumination works out of offices in Santa Monica, freelancing development and doing productions overseas.

It's first animation feature, Despicable Me was produced in France. Not India. Not China. But the land of champagne and camembert. And why is that? ...

... 3D toonpic "Despicable Me," which is produced by Chris Meledandri, [is] among the first five recipients of France's tax rebate for international shoots.

Paris VFX house Mac Guff handled animation modeling, texturing, rendering and compositing on
"Despicable Me," which is the first film from Universal's family film unit Illumination. .

When you are a pretender to animation's throne and not named Pixar, DreamWorks or Blue Sky, you have to watch your pennies, especially when you're dealing with a tight-fisted conglomerate like General Electric.

So Illumination-Universal will get its big French rebate, and the picture will roll out next Fall, and we will see if Mr. Meladandri's lower rent business model results in profits for Universal's shiny new animated feature.

If it does, other companies will likely sniff after the same sort of game plan. And if it fails, there will be small interest in replicating Illumination's blue print.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Found: The anti-smoking commercial R2-D2 and C-3PO made

Hey, kids! If you won't listen to Mom and Dad when they tell you not to smoke, then how about two robotic Star Wars stars?

We're not so sure that a warning about the dangers of smoking from the lungless R2-D2 and C-3PO is likely to sway anyone, but it seemed like a good idea to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services back in 1981, when it got the pair to deliver "A Message From a Distant Galaxy Far, Far Away."

Check it out below.

Beautiful footage of underwater radio-controlled model Enterprise

Space: the final frontier. Oh, really? No so fast! After watching this awesome video of the Enterprise swooping and spiraling through the water, we've got to believe that the true final frontier is a swimming pool somewhere in Japan.

Take a dip below and see if you agree.

'Captain America' To Start Filming In June?

Marvel Studios’ “Captain America” movie may finally be heading in front of cameras next June.

According to an interview with director Joe Johnston at Fangoria, Johnston is “readying for a June start” for “The First Avenger: Captain America.”

Information about the “Captain America” film has been in relatively short supply since Johnston — the director of “The Rocketeer” and the upcoming remake of “The Wolfman"was signed to direct the film last year. "Chronicles of Narnia" screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are also attached to write the script which is reportedly set in World War II.

Given that “Captain America” is scheduled to be released in July 2011 — two months after Kenneth Branagh’s “Thor” adaptation hits theaters — it’s somewhat surprising that the lead role has yet to be cast.

Back in 2008, popular speculation centered around Will Smith wielding the shield — rumors which were eventually shot down by Smith himself.

More recently, several actors have voiced their desire to portray Captain America, including “Twilight” actor Kellan Lutz and “Chuck” star Zachary Levi. However, “Avatar” and “Terminator Salvation” star Sam Worthington recently caused a splash when he told MTV News about his interest in the role.

"I'm a fan. I'm a fan of comics. I'm a fan of Captain America," explained Worthington. "I think I'd be lynched if I played the role, but I'd kill to play it."

Does 'Iron Man 2' Trailer Reveal Plot Detail For Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow?

We were all over the official "Iron Man 2" trailer when it hit the 'Net a few weeks ago, giving you the five most important scenes from the trailer, a shot-by-shot analysis and even some thoughts on what the "Iron Man 2" trailer reveals about the film's plot. But even after all of that coverage, there's something we missed.

Right around the 1:40 mark in the trailer, there's a scene featuring Scarlett Johansson in action as Black Widow, and some keen-eyed observers around the InterWebs have discovered what could be a major plot point revealed in a few frames. Check it out for yourself:

Notice anything? Well, if you're willing to brave a SPOILER ALERT, go ahead and read on for what could be an intriguing plot point revealed in this scene.

If you need a hint (and I did), cast your attention to Scarlett Johansson's left arm, just below the shoulder of her Black Widow costume. Notice the patch partly hidden by her hair? Does it look familiar?

We could be wrong, but it sure does look a lot like the S.H.I.E.L.D. insignia, doesn't it? Check it out:

Can you say "Black Widow: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D."?

However, it's worth pointing out that Johansson's character didn't appear to have the symbol on her sleeve in any of the previous images we've seen of her in costume as Black Widow. Neither the first image of Johansson as Black Widow nor the most recent shot of her in costume seem to feature the patch.

If that is indeed a S.H.I.E.L.D. emblem, it looks like Nick Fury could be receiving some help from Russian superspy Natasha Romanoff when "Iron Man 2" comes to theaters in May 2010.

Cool new trailer for Nolan's weird sci-fi Inception

We're eager to see Christopher Nolan's upcoming mind-bending sci-fi thriller Inception but still don't have a clear idea what it is. But the new trailer for the film is now live (at Apple.com), and it sure looks cool. Is that city actually folding in on itself??

The movie, from the director of The Dark Knight, stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine and Dileep Rao. It opens July 16, 2010.

Disney sees superhero dollars in Marvel unknowns

Movie fans have shown a willingness to be entangled by Spider-Man's web over, and over, again. But will they want to crawl into the comic book world of Nova, seen here in an image provided by comic-book giant Marvel Entertainment Inc. That's the kind of question facing The Walt Disney Co. as it nears its $4.2 billion purchase of Marvel Dec. 31, 2009.

Moviegoers have shown a willingness to be entangled by Spider-Man's web over and over again. Now, as Disney prepares to buy the comic-book powerhouse Marvel, it faces the question of whether fans will also get attached to characters as obscure as Ant-Man and Iron Fist.

The Walt Disney Co. is making a $4.2 billion bet that they will as it nears completion of its acquisition of Marvel Entertainment Inc. this week. The cash-and-stock deal brings those characters and thousands of others to an entertainment empire that already includes Mickey Mouse, Kermit the Frog and Hannah Montana.

Disney's biggest challenge will be to get enough people enthused about second-string superheroes to justify the price — about $1.2 billion, or 40 percent, more than what Marvel's stock was worth when the deal was announced Aug. 31.

The high price means Disney will have to find new ways to earn revenue from Marvel — perhaps by bringing Marvel-licensed toys to more store shelves around the world, and by digging deep into its comic vault for potential new blockbusters.

Although Disney is constrained by the fact that big-name Marvel superheroes such as Spider-Man are already locked up in long-term deals with rival movie studios, Disney has had a history of successfully turning unknown talent such as Miley Cyrus, the actress behind "Hannah Montana," into multibillion-dollar enterprises.

"With Marvel, it's not just about `Iron Man' and `Hulk,'" Caris & Co. analyst David Miller said. "It's all about the other 5,000 characters that you and I don't even know about yet."

Disney shares are already being helped, having risen more than 20 percent since the deal was announced, partly on the hope for new character development and better use of Marvel heroes in movies, stores and theme parks.

Marvel shareholders are expected to give final approval to the offer on Thursday, with the closing of the deal to follow immediately.

The deal has already spawned a bout of speculation in the comic book world about who will be the next big Thing.

Possibilities include classics such as Ant-Man, the alter-ego of mad scientist Dr. Henry Pym, and Dr. Strange, the mystical go-to guy whenever there's an extradimensional threat. Both are connected to The Avengers line of characters that Marvel had started developing for the big screen long before Disney made the deal; Iron Man and the Hulk are among the Avengers that Marvel already has tapped.

There are about 5,000 more characters, including obscure ones such as martial arts master Iron Fist from the 1970s and up-and-coming ones such as the Runaways, a street-savvy pack of teenagers that have become a recent Marvel comic-book hit.

Whoever is the next comic book movie star, Marvel has a track record of success: its "Iron Man" movie took in $572 million at box offices worldwide despite the character once being a B-lister in the pantheon of superheroes.

"They picked the right one and they did it the right way," said Gareb Shamus, whose company Wizard Entertainment Group runs several of the Comic-Con fan conventions around the nation. "When you do that you've got a franchise that could last forever."

Through the deal, Marvel gains the ability to quickly reach more markets worldwide. Disney is by far the world's top licenser of its character brands, with $30 billion in retail sales in fiscal 2008, compared with fourth-place Marvel at $5.7 billion, according to License! Global magazine.

"It gives Marvel the opportunity to expand internationally and leverage the Disney retail relationships as well as their licensee relationships," said Tony Lisanti, the magazine's global editorial director.

Marvel Chief Executive Isaac "Ike" Perlmutter, who owns 37 percent of Marvel stock, also secured himself the top job overseeing the Marvel business after the acquisition. That includes decisions on which characters are developed into movie stars.

Disney, which is based in Burbank, Calif., and plans to keep Marvel's operations in New York, hasn't tipped its hand on what lesser-known characters it believes have the potential to leap off the printed page.

And there are some characters Disney says it is happy to let other movie studios keep developing, including Spider-Man at Sony Pictures and the X-Men and Fantastic Four at 20th Century Fox. Marvel earns royalties and a piece of the merchandising sales from those movies, and Disney soon will, too.

Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said the company may initially develop new characters on television rather than in movies. Its boy-focused cable channel, Disney XD, already airs 25 hours of Marvel cartoons every week and recently launched in Japan, as well as in several European and Latin American countries.

Television is where Disney incubated such hits as "Hannah Montana" and "High School Musical." Since their debut on cable TV's Disney Channel, the franchises have spawned movies, concerts and a cascade of related merchandise.

"Instead of making a $200 million movie and kind of betting the farm on one character, you can develop a television pilot, a television series," Iger told analysts this month.

Disney would benefit the most from new characters that Disney and Marvel develop together because the company would own the franchises outright instead of simply receiving licensing fees from the movies that Sony Corp. and News Corp.'s Fox produce on their own. Those deals last until Sony and Fox stop making the movies.

New characters could also be a boon for fans who are tiring of sequels.

Analysts note that when Disney does land a hit, it is quick to spread the success around to its other businesses.

That's why "Hannah Montana" and "High School Musical" have combined to sell billions of dollars in merchandise, and why "Cars" — a product of Disney's purchase of Pixar — is getting its own section at Disney's California Adventure theme park. Conversely, Pirates of the Caribbean was a theme park ride decades before it became a huge movie franchise.

"What Disney does better than anyone else is they leverage content across multiple platforms," Miller said. "When Disney has a hit film property, it uplifts and enhances all the other businesses."

Superman Loves Spider-Woman

Superhero fan films are one thing, but Bollywood films based on comics... Well, they're usually an entirely different kind of awesome.

Take, for example, 1988's "Dariya Dil." In one sequence posted on YouTube, stars Govinda and Kimi Katkar suit up as Superman and Spider-Woman, respectively, for a song-and-dance number. Along with showing off their slick moves while flying through the air, the pair also take a break to toss some bad guys around — right before they kick off the next dance number, that is.

Now that is the sort of Marvel/DC crossover we probably won't see in the comics any time soon.

Hey, it's a slow day, okay?

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