Tuesday, January 5, 2010

News - 01/05/10...

Two Animation Veterans Speak

Eric and Ralph talk about where they are now:

... [Eric] Goldberg clearly remembers his emotions when he was invited back into the Disney fold.

"It was relief and joy and . . . a little bit of fear. That's because, to a certain extent, when we embarked on this movie, it was one of those things where we were asking, 'Is this going to be the first one or the last one?' It felt like, 'We'd better make this one good, because it's going to be our last chance.' "...

Eric is one the big talents in animation, also a very nice guy. Before coming to Disney in the Katzenberg era, he animated for Richard Williams and ran his own studio in Great Britain. He was the animation director for Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and though the feature film didn't fly, the animation was top notch.

And then there is the estimable Mr. Bakshi:

Q: Do you ever look at your old stuff?

No, not at all. I hate it. I don't know why. If I look at it, it might not be as good as people say it is. I had so little to make it. Making it was so fraught with battles with studios and critics and censors. They were very painful films. I look at the money Pixar has. They do beautiful films. The first three minutes of any film they make they spend more money than I did in any one of my films. So it was very difficult for us to produce that work. And all the guys that drew who were my friends are dead. It's a hard pill ...

I got to know Ralph a bit during the making of his hybrid feature Cool World, financed and released by Paramount in those off days when Brad Pitt was young and dewy fresh ... and not commanding a gazillion dollars a picture.

But those were exciting and wild times. The animation industry was springing back from its late 1980s depression, and Paramount was trying to keep the animation crew non-union, even as it approved all of Bakshi's over-scale cartoonist hires. (Ralph was offering his animators and assistants more than they could get anywhere else, so kudos to him. But Paramount had no idea they were paying top dollar. They were pig ignorant about salaries back then.)

Mr. Bakshi, one of a kind. Both then and now.

Ralph on the left; animator Steve Gordon on the right.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Fox should just switch to Animation

Why is it a no-brainer (literally) for major studios to green-light live action CGI remakes of classic cartoon properties as feature films (Scooby Doo, Marmaduke, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, Underdog, Garfield, Speed Racer, etc.), but the idea of reviving such characters as TV series is considered a no-no?

One major reason movie execs chase these characters is that these properties appeal to adults who grew up with them and can easily attract their kids (if handled correctly). Case in point: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel in two weeks of release has a North American box office gross of $157.3 million!

20th Century Fox should just stop making live action films. The studio has been doing poorly in recent years, it’s only saving grace being the Ice Age movies, Alvin and the Chipmunks and the mo-cap Avatar (not to mention their TV fare led by The Simpsons and Family Guy).

(Thanks cartoon brew)

How Conservative is Pixar?

Tom Elrod makes the case in this well thought out blog post for a special brand of conservatism that appears in Pixar’s output. I don’t quite agree with it, but it’s a viewpoint worth sharing:

There is something conservative about much of Pixar’s output, but when I say conservative, I mean a small “c” conservative that sees the world along the same lines as Edmund Burke: “A disposition to preserve.” I’m going to call this “social conservatism,” by which I don’t mean the religious or moral conservatism of modern political discourse, but a conservatism that is interested in preserving traditional social features - in particular, the idea of “family” - but which sees such preservation as ultimately futile. The family will dissolve, eventually, and so we must do what we can to keep it going as long as possible. It is a worldview based not on progression but on loss.

It could be argued that a lot of that conservatism is simply a byproduct of the excessively nostalgic and sentimental viewpoint in Pixar’s films (think the Toy Story series, Cars and Up).

(via Kottke)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Getting Over Him In Eight Songs or Less

On February 14th at 7:30pm, HBO-2 will premiere the debut of a remarkable animated special, directed, co-produced and animated by New York indie filmmaker Debra J. Solomon (Disney’s Lizzie McGuire). Getting Over Him In Eight Songs or Less is a funny, touching, adult story about losing love and finding yourself. Solomon, whose animation drawings evoke Blechman, Driessen and Tyer by way of New Yorker cartoons, also wrote the eight songs, sings them and narrates the show.

Tuesday night (1/5/10), I will have the pleasure of introducing the film at an L.A. sneak preview screening at The CineFamily/Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax (near Melrose) in Hollywood. Solomon will appear in person for a Q&A discussion and we will screen several of her previous award winning short films. The program begins at 8pm, tickets are available (with discounts for Asifa-Hollywood members) here.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Bill Plympton’s School of Animation

After a successful 1st term last year, New York based indie animator Bill Plympton has decided to bring his School of Animation back for the spring. With limited enrollment, the 10-week school begins on January 11th and goes until March 22nd, every Monday night. The fee is $1,200.00 per student. Registration is on a first come basis. According to his press release:

“…you can now learn the secrets of animation from the Master. Learn how you can make amazing films that can earn money. Learn the tricks of drawing, design, layouts, storyboards, writing, humor, directing, backgrounds and editing. Learn the business of animation, budgets, funding, selling, distribution, festivals and cost-cutting tricks.”

No one knows the ins, the outs, the techniques and how to play the game like Bill. Call (212) 741-0322 or email at Plymptoons-at-aol.com for more information.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Stan “The Man” Lee to become Disney's front man for Marvel

Jim Hill talks about what’s really behind the Mouse’s decision to acquire 10% of POW! Entertainment last week. How Mickey’s hoping that Stan’s involvement will make Disney’s acquisition of Marvel that much easier for comic book fans to swallow.

Well, it’s official. Provided – of course – that the Securities and Exchange Commission actually signs off on this merger, Marvel Entertainment, Inc. is now a wholly owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. Marvel shareholders voted last Thursday to approve this $4.24 billion acquisition, which will add the 80-year-old comic brand and its library of 5000 characters to Disney’s stable of franchises.

Now it’s important to understand here that Marvel Chief Executive Isaac "Ike" Perlmutter will still be calling the shots creatively at that company. Marvel will still be Marvel, home to numerous emotionally complex superheroes who often wisecrack their way through inner turmoil. Disney’s job will be to take these well-known characters and – through its theme parks, movie studios, cable channels, the Disney Store, Disney.com and other distribution channels – just sell the hell out of them .

“And how exactly does Disney plan on selling the Marvel characters?,” you ask. Well, a big clue to their corporate strategy also came on Thursday. Which is when Disney revealed that it would expanding its 2007 first-look deal with Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment. That – by paying $2.5 million for a 10% share of this comic legend’s company – the Mouse would now have additional rights when it came to Lee’s consulting services and creative output.

Copyright 2008 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

As Bob Chapek – president of worldwide distribution of Walt Disney Studios – put it, it makes perfect sense for Mickey to expand his relationship with Stan, given his "… knowledge and familiarity of the Marvel Universe."

Translation: Look for Lee to now become the Marvel equivalent of Frank Thomas or Ollie Johnston. That entertaining storyteller / learned sage who can then speak knowledgably to the press or whomever about this comic book publisher’s past, present and future. Mickey’s marketeers hope that Stan’s new very public role will make it that much easier for members of the Merry Marvel Marching Society to embrace the idea that Spidey & Wall-E are now pals.

To his credit, Lee was among the first to voice his enthusiasm for this acquisition back in August. Saying that “… Nobody can produce and market franchises better than Disney, and nobody has the extensive library of characters that would make great franchises that Marvel has … I think it's a terrific deal which will be extremely beneficial to both companies. The synergy between them is perfect.”

Copyright 2010 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, the folks at Marvel aren’t entirely enthused when they learned about this new role that Disney has envisioned for Lee. Sure, Stan has been Chairman Emeritus of Marvel Entertainment, Inc. for a number of years now. But truth be told, he has had nothing to do with day-to-day operations.

And then there’s the matter of that lawsuit that Lee filed against the Company back in 2002, claiming that he was owed a portion of the profits from all those Marvel-based movies that Hollywood had begun making. Lee reportedly eventually received a settlement of more than $10 million in 2005. But this maneuver didn’t exactly endear Stan to Marvel Entertainment, Inc.’s current management team.

But now that Mickey’s marketers are calling the shots and want Stan to be front-and-center when it comes to promoting Marvel Entertainment, Inc.’s upcoming efforts, everyone’s decided to play nice. Though one wonders if Disney really knows what it’s doing by positioning Lee as the official grand old man of Marvel.

Copyright 2008 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“And what’s the problem with doing that?,” you query. Well, as one longtime Marvel employee told me last month:

“Stan’s a great guy and a terrific storyteller. But – inhouse at Marvel – he’s infamous for his terrible memory. You’ll actually go into a meeting with the guy and he’ll then say ‘And you are?’ Which is when you have to remind him of all the times you’ve previously worked together, all the projects that you’ve already done for the Company. After that, he’s fine. But given that Stan can’t seem to remember anybody’s names these days, that makes him a pretty interesting choice to serve as Disney’s front man for Marvel.”

You should expect to see a lot of Stan in the coming months, as the Mouse reveals how it plans to make use of Marvel properties on Disney XD. Or – for that matter – the important role that these comic book characters will play in the Company’s Shanghai Disneyland project.

Reissinger Doctors Health Care Animation

Michael Reissinger recently directed a series of spots for Zilveren Kruis, the Netherlands-based health insurance provider. This one below, titled Collaboration, was produced at Rokkit in London, and the animation was handled by Peppermelon.

Mr. Pricklepants – A New Toy Story 3 Character

Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich introduces a new character in this short featurette. Mr. Pricklepants is voiced by Timothy Dalton, of James Bond fame.

New Archer Clip

Archer, Adam Reed’s new animated series on FX, premieres on January 14th at 10pm, and a few new clips have emerged. Here’s one that highlights the star of the show, Sterling Archer, who is voiced by H. Jon Benjamin (Ben on Dr. Katz and Jason Penopolis on Home Movies).

WDW Closing Tiana's Showboat Jubilee

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is closing down it's newest parade down Main Street, Princess Tiana’s Showboat Jubilee. In the parade, characters from the newest animated Disney movie The Princess And The Frog go through Disney’s Liberty Square while the song “Down in New Orleans” plays.

Lights Go Off On Shrek

DreamWorks' first Broadway show, Shrek The Musical, plays its final performance on January 3, 2010. When the show closes it will have played 37 previews and 441 regular performances. Shrek The Musical opened at the Broadway Theatre on December 14, 2008, following previews from November 8, and had been selling tickets through to May 30, 2010.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, said. "While we were hopeful that the show would have had a longer run on Broadway we believe it will continue to create financial value for the company and deliver profits beyond our initial investment."

In an earlier statement, Bill Damaschke, President of DreamWorks Theatricals, said, "Bringing Shrek The Musical to Broadway has been a joyous and thrilling adventure, and we couldn't be more proud of our first Broadway show."

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

Warner Home Video has released updated 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 updated 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

Further package artwork is expected in the coming weeks. 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.

"Evil Toons" designer Chas. Balun dead at 61

Writer and artist Charles "Chas." Balun, designer of the wolflike creature in Fred Olen Ray's partly animated 1992 horror comedy Evil Toons, died December 18 of cancer. He was 61.

Balun lived in Westminster, California (near Hollywood) and worked in Huntington Beach. The graphic artist described himself as an "unrepentant hippie" who also enjoyed drawing, painting, blues guitar, collecting books and "chainsaw chooglin."

In Evil Toons, a group of teenage girls spend the night in an old house. A strange man arrives at the house, delivering an old book. The girls examine the book, where they find a sketch of a wolflike monster who emerges from the book and becomes a toon.

The creator and founding editor of horror film magazine Deep Red, Balun built up an international cult following among fellow "gorehounds" by writing serious criticism of horror movies. In The Connoisseur's Guide to the Contemporary Horror Film, he critiqued themes, acting, special effects, editing, cinematography and cinematic roots. "Sometimes they don't bear the scrutiny I give them," he concedes, noting that he considers some of the films "unimaginative, dull, brain-dead."

Balun cheerfully admitted his obsession with gore and monster movies. He sold thousands of the guide and his other book, The Gore Score, to bloodthirsty moviegoers around the world. Balun loved the film genre since childhood and never lost his enthusiasm.

He once said that he spent as many as 30 hours a week on his hobby and "about as much money as a singles-bar hustler would spend on drinks and the juke box."

Balun liked his favorite movie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, so much that he saw it over 15 times. He sat through the original King Kong and The Thing 20 times each.

"Balun was a distinctive and unique voice in talking about horror," said Fangoria editor Tony Timpone, who first hired him to write for the magazine. "He was no-holds-barred, funny and caustic. He called attention to countless films that would have gone largely ignored if not for his critiques. He also championed the little-guy filmmakers out there and railed against the MPAA's unfair practices back then.

"He blasted the mediocrity of mainstream movies. Chas. and his everyman (everyfan?) writing style -- inventing wacky terms like 'chunk blower' -- inspired countless horror maniacs, as well as emerging filmmakers and writers. You can't look at any horror website or blog today and not see Chas.' bloody influence on almost every page. He was a true trailblazer."

Born in 1948, Balun was a 1960s hippie. He worked as an underground cartoonist, graphic artist and T-shirt designer.

He appeared in several documentaries, including In the Belly of the Beast (2001).

Among his many non-fiction books were More Gore Score, Horror Holocaust and Beyond Horror Holocaust. Most were published by FantaCo, a now-defunct Albany, New York company that also released his debut novel, Ninth and Hell Street.

After years of watching horror movies and collecting magazines and books about them, Balun wrote his first book, The Connoisseur's Guide, in 1983. He rated on a scale from one hatchet to three hatchets. His criticism was serious.

In his second book, The Gore Score, Balun took a lighter approach, rating the films on both merit and quantity of blood shown.

Balun sometimes carried his hobby into real life. Once, when he and his wife returned home unexpectedly early from vacation, Balun's brother-in-law, who lived with them, was taking a shower. The towering Balun dressed up as Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre -- white mask with holes for the eyes and nostrils and a butcher's apron smeared with fake blood. He waited until his unsuspecting brother-in-law emerged from the bathroom and then leaped at him, shrieking and brandishing a machete.

Balun's wife, Pat Petric, encouraged his hobby. "Anyone who would stand with me in the rain at 12:30 a.m. in downtown L.A. to see the West Coast premiere of The Evil Dead is someone I can spend the rest of my life with," he once said.

"I know Chas. most valued his many years of association with Fangoria," Petric told the magazine.

"He was bigger than life, with a passion, wit and intellect that were truly awe-inspiring. His passing has left a hole in my heart and life that will never be filled. I'm hopeful that his spirit will live on in the fond memories we all share of him."

Two Dozen Disney Felonies

Patrick Disney Miller plead not guilty to an even two dozen felony charges in Van Nuys California. Though free on $35,000 bail, Mr. Miller was taken back into custody after the hearing, when his bail was raised an addttional $515,000.

Walt Disney's grandson was arrested in December for violation of his parole from his 2005 drug conviction by his possession of ammunition. As the decade ended, police added a further 23 felonies, including 19 counts of possession of a firearm by a felon, one count of possession of an illegal assault weapon and three counts of possession of a controlled substance with a firearm.

TV DVD Award Winners

The winners of the 2009 TV DVD Awards have been announced, per this article from Home Media Magazine (original article here).

The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season won for Best Contemporary Series Set (episodes that aired between 1990 and 2007).

The Transformers: 25th Anniversary Matrix of Leadership Edition won for Best Animation TV DVD.

Winners of categories with animated nominees (see original article) are as follows (animated winners in bold print):

Best Contemporary Series Set (episodes aired 1990-2007): The Simpsons: The Twelfth Season, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Best Complete-Series Set: Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series, Universal

Best Animation TV DVD: The Transformers: 25th Anniversary Matrix of Leadership Edition, Shout! Factory

Best Kidvid TV DVD: Sesame Street: Elmo Loves You/Being Green, Sesame Workshop

Congratulations to all the winners!

Astro Boy coming to DVD in March

Summit Entertainment’s animated action adventure Astro Boy is coming to DVD and Blu-Ray on March 16th, according to Amazon.com. No further details on the release are currently available. Starring the voice talents of Freddie Highmore and Nicolas Cage, Astro Boy was a dissapointment in theaters, grossing just $19 million against a production budget of $65 million.

Awesome fan-made War Machine suit from Iron Man 2

How cool is this fan-made War Machine costume, based on Iron Man comics and Jon Favreau's upcoming Iron Man 2 movie?

So cool that Favreau himself re-tweeted it. (You can compare it to the real one when Iron Man 2 opens on May 7.)

The real War Machine (left) as depicted on the Iron Man 2 poster

Here's how the fan, who calls himself Masterle247, describes the suit he made:

The reason why my armor look the way it does. The reason being is that i used Phil Saunders War machine concept and balanced some of the New IronMan 2 Armor design in to the concept, hench forth a hybrid War Machine Armor. I seen the leaked Ironman 2 from Comic-Con San Deigeo 2009 and most of the design i did fall REALLY close to the War machine armor. so im really excited Hope you enjoy my journey of creating the armor.

Additional info
-Built material High Impact urethane
-over 600+ rivets and rivet washer used so far

Spec's so far
-Wrist rockets w/ laser v1.0 completed
-Mini Gun simulated fire and drop lock system w/laser v1.0 completed
-Movie accurate Arch reactor v3.0
-Mid-section w/ movable plates v3.0
-"underwear armor" v2.0 Completed
-Leg's/Pants armor v3.0 Completed
-Armor shoes v1.0 Completed
-Neck cover piece armor v2.0

Things still need completed
-Replusor gauntlets
-Upgraded helmet v7.0 w/ upgraded flip open/close hinge system
-lighted eyes "in progress"
-remote firing system "to shoot bottle rockets hehehe"
-replusor gauntlet top cover.
-Paint job with brush metal finish.

The guy who designed the fan-made armor

Prequel to Carpenter's The Thing is happening!

Proving once and for all that Hollywood is an amorphous, shape-shifting, evil, alien intelligence with no form, structure or integrity of its own, Production Weekly has tweeted that Universal is going ahead with its prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 SF/horror classic The Thing.

Now it's true that Carpenter's The Thing—about members of a U.S. scientific research team in the Antarctic fighting off an alien menace that can assume the form of any living being—was itself a remake of Howard Hawks' 1951 The Thing From Another World.

But what made both versions of The Thing—based on John W. Campbell's classic short novel "Who Goes There?"—great was the fact that both movies were made by the sure hands of ballsy cinematic auteurs. Even though Hawks gave directing credit to his editor, Christian Nyby, the 1951 and 1982 versions demonstrate the hard-hitting styles of both Hawks and Carpenter at the height of their powers.

This new Thing prequel—reportedly about what happens at the Norwegian camp that found the Thing before it infiltrated the American camp—will be directed by yet another commercial director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.

The screenplay is by the writer of the Nightmare on Elm Street reboot, Eric Heisserer. The only hint of a real innovator's hand of the Hawks and Carpenter stripe comes from the fact that BSG's Ronald D. Moore did the first draft of the screenplay.

So what do you think? Is this yet-another-remake? Or does the presence of Moore hint at a BSG-like re-invention?

In the meantime, you can watch Hawks' totally awesome The Thing here.

Marvel President Describes 'Thor' Costume Tests

With director Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of “Thor” scheduled to begin filming later this month, further updates from the set have begun to spring up online.

“To be honest the thing that I'm most excited about right now though, is the screen test we just finished for ‘Thor’, related Marvel President Kevin Feige in a retrospective on Marvel’s feature films posted on Marvel.com. “We've done some costume tests and watching the Asgardians walk onto the sound stage takes me back to that first time I saw the X-Men on the set all together in Toronto. Only it was unlike anything we've ever put on film before!"

"It's great to be starting the next decade in such an exciting way just as we did last decade," he continued. "We're really redefining the comic book genre and what a Marvel movie can be. It's going to be great.”

Over the weekend, Adam Sabodish — a costume assistant on “Thor” — left the following update on his twitter page.

“Busy Saturday in Asgard, [Chris Hemsworth’s] fitting went well, Stuart [Townsend] is up next. This film might actually get made. Finally. Then I could sleep in!”

Last month, actress Jaimie Alexander also posted several comments about the stunt rehearsals for her role as Sif, including a slight mishap with Townsend — who will portray Fandral of the Warriors Three.

“[I feel] bad for accidentally punching Fandral in the stomach. Good thing he's a sweet guy!”

18 pics from Ethan Hawke's bloody vampire film Daybreakers

Lionsgate has released a full gallery of images from the upcoming vampire thriller film Daybreakers, which you can view below.

The gallery features stars Ethan Hawke, Isabel Lucas, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan and Willem Dafoe.

Hawke portrays a researcher in the year 2019, during a time when a plague has changed most of the world's population into vampires. As the human population dwindles, vampires hunt, capture and farm every remaining human in order to survive, or else must find a blood substitute before time runs out. But some humans won't go down without a fight.

Daybreakers, written and directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig, opens Friday.

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