Wednesday, December 30, 2009

News - 12/30/09...

'Batman: The Animated Series' Writer's Bible Reveals Story Intentions And Villainous Traits

While I would never deny the amazing quality of the recent DC Universe animated movies — heck, "Wonder Woman" was my favorite comic book film of the year — my first love will always be "Batman: The Animated Series," the much beloved cartoon that made household names out of Kevin Conroy, Bruce Timm and Harley Quinn throughout the comic book community.

Although the show is long over, there's still plenty of "Batman: TAS" goodness for fans to enjoy. Recently, the show's "Series Writer's Bible" made the rounds online, revealing some fascinating insight into the cartoon's production process from the creative minds of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini.

Read on for some of the highlights from the "Batman" writers' bible.

The Origins of Crime: The show's obvious reliance on film noir and crime story tropes wasn't just an extra enjoyable layer — it was part of the series' fabric.

"Our half-hour series will have a darker look and tone to it," states the bible. "With a nod to the crime films and novels of the 1940s, we will combine both old and new in this 'Dark Deco' visual design and create a fresh take on The Batman."

Change of the Cowl: Aside from the heavy use of '40s-era crime story elements, the bible boasts a list of other changes that the show made to the Batman mythos. Notable changes include describing Batman as a solo act without too much help from Alfred and Robin, Robin's own status as a solo crime fighter, and the Dark Knight's conflicts with the Gotham Police Department.

"Our stories will be hard-edged crime dramas with villains who play for keeps," the bible reveals of the changes made to Batman's famous Rogues Gallery, who were intentionally created to be "as wild, dark and sinister as we can make them."

The Funny Business: There is an entire section of the bible devoted to the show's use of humor, which, ironically enough, is pretty funny in and of itself.

"The humor in our version of Batman should arise naturally from the larger than life characters and never tongue-in-cheek campiness," instructs the bible. "Dry lines in tough situations and occasional comments about the outlandishness of costumed villains is certainly within the realistic context of our vision of Batman."

Character Building: The bible has an extensive rundown of all of the various characters that popped in and out of Timm and Dini's Gotham City, heroes and villains alike. Interestingly, the bible notes that aside from Joker, Penguin and Catwoman, each new villain introduced — such as Riddler and Poison Ivy — would be encountering Batman for the first time.

"Many of the villains faced by Batman will combine an eccentric, outrageous sense of criminal 'fun' with deadly efficiency," the bible describes. "After all, if they're going to give a character as extreme as Batman a run for his money, they'll have to be pretty extreme themselves."

SAG, Unions and Financial Core

Apparently the Screen Actors Guild has been educating aspiring actors about the downside of not joining the Guild when they start getting industry jobs.

... A skirmish broke out last week over thesps being persuaded to quit the Screen Actors Guild.

SAG First VP Anne-Marie Johnson and several board members ... leafleted outside a class conducted on the technique of filing for
"financial core" status at the Hey, I Saw Your Commercial workshop studios in Los Angeles.

"We felt it was important to make sure that people attending the class get all the information about taking that step," Johnson told Daily Variety. "It's not something that we can ignore." ...

And what exactly is "that step?" Just this.

Members who go "fi-core" resign their SAG membership and withhold the dues spent by SAG on political activities but can still work on union jobs ...

The Supreme Court ruled some years ago that nobody had to be a member of a union against their will, but did have to pay those portion of dues that unions used to administer and police the contracts under which those persons worked. (Again, the dues excluded are for icky political stuff. In TAG's case, that amount to 4% of total dues.)

So what's the advantage to resigning and going financial core? You don't have to go on strike.

What's the disadvantage? You can't run for union office, you can't vote, and you might be damaging yourself politically with union members who think unionism is a good thing.

But everyone makes up their own mind.

Despite SAG's efforts, a total of nearly 2,000 actors have filed for financial core status, according to SAG's most recent filing with the federal government.

To be specific, 1,894 SAG members have resigned and gone fi core out of a total membership of 128,187. That's 1.47%.

Back in 1982, TAG had a bunch of members resign from this union and take financial core status. For most, it was done so they could legally return to work near the end of a ten-week strike. Since then, there have been a handful of people who have resigned membership for one reason or another.

I've never had a problem with people taking financial core status. I wouldn't do it myself, since I'm one of those lefties who believe in collective bargaining, collective action, and E Pluribus Unum. But I also believe in people knowing what their rights are (which is why I'm writing this.) And if somebody believes resigning from union membership is right for them, hey, go for it. There have even been a few times in the course of my illustrious union rep career when I've asked people to go financial core, just to get them out of what's left of my hair.

They've always refused.

The interesting thing is, over the last several years, we've had more financial core non-members wanting to come back to full membership than the other way around. 1982 is a long time ago, and few people believe that the fine conglomerates for which they work is actually in their corner.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

The Wise Old Producer

... speaks*.

He said -- yesterday when we were having lunch -- that he believed that a good, hand-drawn feature could make a lot of money. (More than TP&TF.)

I said, based on evidence to date, that isn't the case. Because, except for The Simpsons Movie, no hand-drawn feature in the last decade has made more than $120 million domestic, and all we have to go on are the hand-drawn features that have been released, not the ones that would do gangbusters if they could only get themselves made.

(Having now done some research, I have to revise my original comment. I think a case can be made that the right hand-crafted feature could do big business. The question is, who will do it?)

Here are the domestic and worldwide takes of the most recent American hand-drawn features:

U.S. Hand-Drawn Features -- 1999-2009

Tarzan (1999): (d) $171 million; (ww) $448.2 million.
Emperor's New Groove (2000): (d) $89.3 million; (ww) $169.3 million.
Atlantis (2001): (d) $84 million; (ww) $186 million.
Lilo and Stitch (2002): (d) $145.7 million; (ww) $273.1 million.
Treasure Planet (2002): (d) $38 million; (ww) $109.6 million.
Brother Bear (2003): (d) $85.3 million; (ww) $250.4 million.
Home on the Range (2004): (d) $50 million; (ww) $104 million.
The Simpsons Movie (2007): (d) $183.1 million; (ww) $527 million.
The Princess and the Frog (2009): (d) $64 million.

So, having now done some research, I would have to say the Wise Old Movie Producer is probably right, for not only is he the Wise Old Movie Producer, but he has data that helps prove his point: Lilo and Stitch and The Simpsons Movie. (If a hand-drawn feature can reverse the down-trend twice, it can do it three times.)

But come on, somebody! Create a zazzy, new, hand-drawn epic. Prove the theory! There's gotta be one out there somewhere.

* Revised from my original comment here.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

JibJab Ends 2009 With Stop Motion and Song

JibJab is famous for using cutout digital photos of famous people and (in particular) politicians to make us all laugh. This year, they pushed aside the digital tools, and sharpened their scissors. Here’s their 2009 wrap-up animation – Never a Year Like ‘09. Congrats to the Spiridellis brothers, and to the many artists who pulled this together like Devin Bell, Ian Worrel, Jeff Gill, Kevin Elam and Alan Cook.

Belated Holiday Wishes

In this day in age, ’tis the season where more and more “holiday cards” have become digital, leaving mantle places and refrigerators bare of holiday greetings with the exception of ‘once a year’ correspondence from Aunt Millie and her 9 cats, out in Sheboygan, Idaho. I just spotted this one on Glossy, from JWT which I thought was a nice mix animation by Blacklist, with a glimmer of hope for 2010. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!


And if this puts you in the mood for more reasons to procrastinate at work, you can check out these sites which have put together a list of other holiday cards:

While is might not be the norm to direct you to some of our “competitor’s” sites, I figure it’s the holiday season, so why not let them do all the work while I sip on egg nog and stuff myself with Christmas cookies. Kidding…at least about letting them do all the work.

9 Reborn on DVD

The 80-minute CG feature from director/writer Shane Acker, 9, grossed over $40 million at the box office before heading to DVD. Not than anyone but me is keeping track, but 9’s namesake Nine, the live-action feature from Academy-award nominee Rob Marshall, opened with only $5 million last weekend. Acker’s post-apocalyptic tale opened with $10 million, and hits DVD shelves today. Take that, living, breathing actors!

Disney Institute open enrollment Announced

The 2010 schedule for Disney Institute open enrollment programs is now available at Located under the Web site’s “Events” tab, the extended calendar offers increased flexibility for professionals who want to book training through the end of the coming year.

Open-enrollment programs include three- and five-day programs available at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and a series of one-day programs offered at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif. One- and three-day programs are dedicated to specific topics such as quality service, leadership excellence, people management, brand loyalty, and inspiring creativity. The five-day programs dedicate a day to each of the five core Disney Institute curricula.

Open-enrollment programs take participants onstage and behind-the-scenes of Disney locations. Meeting with Disney leaders, they discover proven best practices from The Walt Disney Company that are easily adaptable to their organizations.

Disney producing Israeli children's shows

Disney has decided to start producing original Hebrew-language children's shows featuring Israeli actors for the Disney Channel in Israel, reported Globes.

The Disney Channel began broadcasting in Israel in September and has since then featured only dubbed versions of Disney's American shows and cartoons.

Disney has a long positive relationship with Israel. The most prominent example of that was a millennium exhibition at Epcot Center at Disney World in Florida 10 years ago that featured a presentation of Jerusalem and referred to the city as "the heart of the Israeli people."

China Convenes Int'l Animation Fair

Global media giants including Disney, Viacom and Star TV will have their presence felt at the first China International Animation Copyright Fair opening on Wednesday in the southern city of Dongguan.

The event, jointly organized by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and Guangdong provincial government, has attracted about 450 institutions and enterprises from both home and abroad, said Jin Delong, director of SARFT's department of publicity management, at Monday's press conference.

Some 1,200 exhibition booths would stand in the 30,000 square meters exhibition area and a cartoon and animation copyright transaction pavilion would be the highlight, said Jin.

China currently has more than 1,000 companies focused on anime products.

Nearly one third of all Barbie dolls were manufactured in Dongguan which is also a factory for Snoopy and Mickey Mouse products, said Wang Daoping, an official in charge of publicity in the southern city.

Jin said the fair, a top one in the country, would boost the protection of the copyright of animation works and promote trade and research with regards to animation products.

The city is planning to spend up to 40 million yuan (about 5.8 million U.S. dollars) next year in nurturing the potential market for original animation products and other toys.

About 400,000 people are expected to visit the fair which will last until Jan. 3 next year.

3 of 2009's Top 10 Animated

Three of the top 10 box office giants of 2009 were fully-animated films. Another four of the largely live-action films had significant CGI portions.

It should surprise no one that the highest-grossing animated film of the year was PIXAR's Up, whicxh came in at third at just under 300 million dollars worldwide. Up was beated by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (at just over the 300 mill mark) and Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen, which was 100 million more than Potter worldwide.

Further down the list at number 8, DreamWorks checks in with Monsters vs. Aliens, with just under 200 million in worldwide box office, and Blue Sky/Fox' Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs at number nine.

In a film year marred by pink slips, post-writers' strike repercussions, slashed budgets and other consequences of the current economy, that Hollywood is chuffed about earning its biggest box office year in history is a bit perverse. Still, as the industry, like most of the country, sorts out its fiscal future, audiences did prove yet again that in times of monetary adversity, it will dig deep to find a means of escape. And, if the recent Christmas holiday weekend attests, they sought to be transported in record numbers.

Top Ten Goofs

Everybody comes up with their own list of stupid that's done in and around Hollywood, but one of our fine trade papers (via Reuters, via the New York Times) compiled a few errors that caught my attention.


Axed TV shows usually stay dead, yet two titles canceled by former Fox chief Sandy Grushow in 2002 refused to go quietly. One was Seth MacFarlane's
"Family Guy," which was moved around the schedule and even put opposite top-rated hits "Survivor" and "Friends" before getting yanked. After the show's repeats got strong ratings on Adult Swim and netted big DVD sales, the comedy made its way back to broadcast in 2005. "Family Guy" is now Fox's second-highest-rated scripted series and has produced a successful spinoff ("The Cleveland Show") ...

Fox is the only network to hit big with prime time animation. (Others have tried, but only Fox has succeeded.)

I could never understand why the network canceled FG in the first place. It had a loyal fan base, it was doing okay considering how it got kicked around from time slot to time slot, but it was still drop-kicked out the door. As a Fox exec told me years ago: "Thank God for the millions of DVDs that flew off the shelves. If not for that, the show never would have come back."

But bad decisions get made all the time, by everybody. Fox is also the company that put The Blind Side into turn-around, and now the $29 million production is making buckets of money for Warner Bros.

But the newspapers don't think it's just Hollywood companies that are stupid. In the interests of being fair and balanced, here is the articles Top Pick for dumbness:


Has there ever been a longer 14 weeks? The 2007-08 walkout was a largely avoidable mutually destructive act that occurred at exactly the wrong time. In addition to almost wiping out an entire pilot season, the strike sent shows into repeats, driving a ratings crash that broadcasters have not been able to recover from thanks to increased DVR use and viewers fleeing to cable. In the end, writers outmaneuvered the studios, but few felt as if they actually won.

Some writers maintain that the DGA, after the dust had settled, got a better deal than the WGA. And since then, development deals have evaporated, writing staffs have shrunk, so who really outmaneuvered who?

Little did we know at the time, back during that winter of 2007-2008, but the job action began almost the same moment the American economy nosed into recession. Was the strike, in the end, a net plus? The only thing I know with certainty is that TAG-repped artists working on prime-time, WGA shows took it on the chin when hundreds of them were laid off during the strike.

It was not pretty.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Anime/Live Action Adaptations

Mamoru Oshii, director of the Ghost in the Shell movie, will be directing a live action adaptation of Mitsuteru Yokoyama's seminal boy and his remote controlled giant robot Tetsujin 28-go (aka Gigantor).

Oshii had already directed a stage play version of Tetsujin 28-go, which featured a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound), six-meter-tall (20-feet-tall) replica of the title robot.

Imagi (the recent Astro Boy movie) had indicated the intension of produce a CGI Tetsujin 28 CG movie.

Previous adaptations of the 1956 manga include a 1960 live action tv series, 1963 anime TV series, 1980 anime TV series, 1992 anime TV series, 2004 anime TV series, 2005 live action TV/CG movie and 2007 anime movie.

1967 live action TV series Giant Robo (aka Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot), 1998 OVA Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still, and 2007 GR: Giant Robo anime tv series are also variants of Tetsujin 28.

Upcoming in Japan

Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

Gekijouban Yu-Gi-Oh! ~Chou-Yugo! Jiku o Koeta Kizuna~ (10th anniversary movie)

Detective Conan: The Lost Ship in the Sky

Rintaro's (Rintaro's CG children's movie)

Senko no Night Raid - espionage set in 1931 China


Votoms: Gen-ei Hen promoted as the final part of real robot war franchise

Girl Who Leapt Through Time (new live action, starring Riisa Naka, voice of the lead in the Hosoda anime)

Tono to Issho

Hellsing Ultimate VII


Makoto Shinkai, best known for his solo work greating Voices of a Distant Star, announced a new project, to be created with most of the main staff from 2007's 5 Centimeters Per Second. The project is being described as "lively" adventure, action, romance, and a girl dealing with loss and preparing a final farewell.

Preview art can be seen on Shinkai's site


20th Lupin III TV special, the Last Job will air on Japanese TV on February 12th The story follows the supposed death of not-so-gentlemanly thief Lupin's police inspector adversary Zenigata and his battles with a ninja gang over stolen Japanese treasures.


Tono Municipal Museum will host an anime adaptation of Mizuki Shigeru no Tono Monogatari (Shigeru Mizuki's The Legends of Tono), a work by the famed yokai manga creator, best known for GeGeGe no Kitaro.


Tatsunoko Production 's 1970 anime series The Adventures of Hutch the Honeybee (Konchu Monogatari Minashigo Hutch) will get a new anime movie, set to hit Japanese theatres in summer 2010.


A new DVD cut of Evangelion 2.0 has been confirmed to be in the works for a Spring release.


Junod, a Shinichiro Kimura directed 60 minute anime account of the account life of the first foreign doctor to arrive at Hiroshima after its atomic bombing is scheduled to be completed in January 2010. A trailer can be seen here.


NHK will be broadcasting four shorts based on the work of sci-fi writer Shinichi.

The four animated stories and their animators are "Muryo no Denwaki" ("Free Phone") by Pantagraph, "Atarashii Asobi" by Tayuta Mikage, "Kotta Jikan" by Tetsuro Kodama, and "Gogo no Kyoryu" by Takashi Kato. The two live-action stories are "My Kokka" ("My Nation") and "Kofu na Ai."


A second Big Windup! (Okiku Furikabutte) baseball anime is scheduled for Spring 2010. A compilation OVA of the first series will be released in March


Fuyumi Ono (12 Kingdoms) and Ryu Fujisaki's (Hoshin Engi) horror manga Shiki will be adapted into an anime series by Studio Aniplex


2004 mecha anime Soukyu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor is on its way back via Soukyu no Fafner: Heaven and Earth


Masami Kurumada's (Saint Seiya) boxing series Ring ni Kakero 1 will be back in April with Ring ni Kakero 1: Shadow


TAGRO's Abnormal Physiology Seminar (Hen Zemi) manga is being adapted into an anime series

Worth Checking Out...


ANN spoke to Girl Who Leapt Through Time (and more recently, Summer Wars) director Mamoru Hosoda

Iwa ni Hana on Loups - Garous - a sci-fi novel to be released in North America by Viz and adapted into anime by Production I.G

David Levine 1926-2009

David Levine was one of the great caricaturists of the 20th Century. He was best known for his work for the The New York Review of Books. He passed away today at age 83 and here is his obituary from The New York Times. It’s worth noting (at least on this blog), Howard Beckerman and Fred Wolf both told me that Levine began his career as an assistant at Famous Studios (Popeye, Casper, et al) in the early 1950s. A gallery of his caricatures can be found here.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

War Machine Will 'Kick Some Major Ass' In 'Iron Man 2,' Promises Joe Quesada

There's no shortage of hype surrounding the debut of War Machine in "Iron Man 2," and according to Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, the character will more than live up to his action-packed tease in the new "Iron Man 2" trailer.

"I've actually seen a rough cut of the movie, and it's going to be good," Quesada told MTV News during the opening night of "Marvelous Color," a new art exhibit in Manhattan. The exhibit highlights Marvel's history of prominent African-American characters, with special attention paid to six of the publisher's most well-known heroes: Storm, Black Panther, Luke Cage, Blade, Falcon and of course, War Machine.

"[Don] Cheadle is one of the greatest living American actors, what do you expect?" said Quesada of the actor playing War Machine's alter ego, James "Rhodey" Rhodes, in the blockbuster sequel. "I think fans are going to love it — especially fans of War Machine — and he does kick some major ass."

According to Quesada, African-American characters like War Machine have always had a special place in his heart — though his favorite of the bunch has yet to make his big-screen debut.

"I've always had a special connection to the Black Panther," he said. "One of the things that made Marvel stand out for me was that they had a character called the Black Panther. As a Latin kid growing up in Queens, while I'm not African-American, the Black Panther signaled to me that Marvel was open to characters of all race while other companies weren't at that time. It really made Marvel feel like it was my company."

However, Quesada kept mum when it came to which War Machine story would fuel "Iron Man 2" — or any future "Iron Man" movies, for that matter.

"There are a lot of classic Iron Man stories, but being sort of an insider, saying anything would be tipping my hand a bit," he said. "I'd rather just avoid it altogether and tell people that Iron Man is in great hands."

And while he kept similarly quiet regarding "Thor" plot points, he did offer up some thoughts on how the upcoming, Kenneth Branagh-directed film will be a very different experience than the typical comic book movie.

"I've sat through the story meetings and sat with Branagh," said Quesada. "The character is in tremendous hands. Branagh understand the mythology and what he doesn't understand, he's asking questions about — in particular, the comic book mythology. He's really immersed himself in it."

"It's going to be pretty epic, and regardless of what you think it's going to be, it's going to surprise people," he added. "It's an interesting piece for a superhero movie. It's going to change the conventions of the superhero movie."

The "Marvelous Color" exhibit runs through February 26 at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute in Manhattan.

Time-traveling Back to the Future Delorean for sale on eBay

Got $89,000 and an urge to channel Marty McFly? Then head over to eBay and check out the most screen accurate Back to the Future Delorean time-machine replica you're ever likely to see, brought to our attention by our friends over at collider.

According to the seller, this super-accurate replica is even better than the real thing, because "sadly, the 'actual' film cars have been rotting away on the Universal backlot for the last 25 years, being picked apart and neglected. You wouldn't want it. This car is what you want, a car that looks exactly like what you saw in the film, with all the cool lights, sounds and buttons you thought the car in the film had (but never really did). People are often really disappointed when they see a prop up close. Movie props are designed to be filmed from a distance, but this car truly looks and feels 'real' even up close. It is in many ways 'better' than the 'real' car, as many replica props often are, because the people who build them spend so much more time and effort tending to every last detail."

Some of the stated features which have us checking our checking account balances include:

Programmable time circuits which function just like those in the film.
Functioning digital speedometer on the dashboard (reads actual vehicle speed).

Main Time Circuit switch functions just like in the film, with all sound effects.

All interior indicators and switches light up, just like in the film,

Sound effects for door openings.

Includes "Plutonium rods," which can be loaded in to the "reactor" on the rear of car, just like in the film.

Exterior flux band lighting

Custom "95 MPH" in-dash speedometer like the one mocked up for the film. The stock Delorean speedometer only goes up to 85MPH.

Screen-accurate "OUTATIME" metal-stamped license plate with 1986 registration tag.

Our only quibble? No matter how good those time circuits look, can they really be said to "function?"

The auction ends Dec. 31, so if you want to party like it's 1985, get your bid in now.

Go behind the scenes with the awesome Avatar mockumentary

James Cameron's not the only visionary changing the way we watch movies. In a hilarious behind-the-scenes video from the comics over at Free Love Forum, one of the bootlegging industry's true geniuses explains the new technologies he had to invent to realize his vision.

"This is the movie that I've been dreaming about pirating since I was 14 years old," says director Tim Carson.

Check it out below.

Transformers 2 voted both best and worst movie of 2009

What was the worst movie of the year? What was the year's best action movie? Based on Moviefone's poll, which received 238,000 votes, the answer to both of those questions was the same—Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Who was the year's sexiest female star? Which actress gave the worst performance? If you guessed that the winner in both of those categories was also the same, you'd be right. Transformers 2 star Megan Fox proved to be as divisive as her film, which somehow grossed $834 million in worldwide ticket sales even so.

As for the best overall film of the year, that turned out to be New Moon, which grabbed 41 percent of the votes, beating out both Avatar and Star Trek, which turned in relatively anemic results of 14 percent and 11 percent, respectively. (Though in the best action-movie category, the three films weren't quite that far apart.)

Paranormal Activity came in as the best horror movie, with 42 percent of the vote, beating out Zombieland, which only captured 20 percent.

The year's sexiest male star? Why, New Moon star Robert Pattinson, of course, with 46 percent of the vote. Who else did you expect?

Check out Moviefone for the complete results—and let us know how you would have voted.

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