Thursday, January 21, 2010

News - 01/21/10...

Avatar, Coraline Take Lead in VES Noms

It was an eye-popping year for visual effects, a fact well reflected in multiple nominations for 3-D films in this year’s Visual Effects Society Awards.

Leading the nominations for the 8th annual awards event is Avatar with 11, followed by the stop-motion animated feature Coraline with four. Weta Digital was the top visual effects facility with nine nominations.

The awards honor both collective and individual achievements in visual effects and animation work in movies, television, video games, commercials and special venues. The winners will be announced at a ceremony set for Feb. 28 at the Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

The nominees are:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Feature Motion Picture
Volker Engel, Visual Effects Supervisor
Josh Jaggars, Visual Effects Producer
Marc Weigert, Visual Effects Supervisor

Richard Baneham, Animation Supervisor
Joyce Cox, VFX Producer
Joe Letteri, Senior Visual Effects Supervisor
Eileen Moran, Overall VFX Producer

District 9
Stefanie Boose, VFX Producer
Dan Kaufman, VFX Supervisor
Peter Muyzers, On-set VFX Plate Supervisor
James Stewart, Creature Supervisor

Star Trek
Burt Dalton, Special Effects Supervisor
Russell Earl, Visual Effects Supervisor
Roger Guyett, Visual Effects Supervisor
Shari Hanson, Visual Effects Producer

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Scott Benza, Animation Director
Wayne Billheimer, Visual Effects Producer
Scott Farrar, Visual Effects Supervisor
John Frazier, Special Effects Supervisor

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture
Angels & Demons
Angus Bickerton, VFX Supervisor
Mark Breakspear, VFX Supervisor
Ryan Cook, VFX Supervisor
Barrie Hemsley, VFX Producer

The Box
Peter Cvijanovic, Compositing Supervisor
Mark Kolpak, VFX Producer
Olcun Tan, Digital Effects Supervisor
Thomas Tannenberger, VFX Supervisor

Geoff Hancock, VFX Supervisor
Dennis Hoffman, Head of Production
Cyndi Ochs, VFX Producer
Michael Owens, VFX Supervisor

The Road
Mark O. Forker, VFX Supervisor
Paul Graff, VFX Supervisor - Crazy Horse Effects
Ed Mendez, Compositing Supervisor
Phillip Moses, VFX Producer

Sherlock Holmes
Dan Barrow, VFX Producer
Jonathan Fawkner, VFX Supervisor
Chas Jarrett, VFX Supervisor
David Vickery, VFX Supervisor

Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Ken Duncan, Animation Supervisor
Jinko Gotoh, Co-Producer
Daryl Graham, Supervising Animator
Joe Ksander, Animation Director

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Mike Ford, CG Supervisor
Chris Juen, Co-Producer
Alan Hawkins, Supervising Animator
Pete Nash, Animation Director

Claire Jennings, Animation Producer
Henry Selick, Animation Director

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Galen Chu, Supervising Animator
Jeff Gabor, Senior Animator
Anthony Nisi, Animation Production Supervisor
Melvin Tan, Senior Animator

Gary Bruins, Effects Supervisor
Pete Docter, Director
Steve May, Supervising Technical Director
Jonas Rivera, Producer

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie or a Special
Alice - Night 2
Sebastien Bergeron, DFX Supervisor
Les Quinn, CG Supervisor
Lisa Sepp-Wilson, VFX Producer
Lee Wilson, VFX Supervisor

Ben 10: Alien Swarm - Montage
Evan Jacobs, VFX Supervisor
Sean McPherson, VFX Supervisor
Andrew Orloff, VFX Supervisor

Disney’s Prep And Landing - Gadgets, Globes, and other Garish Gizmos
David Hutchins, EFX Animator
Scott Kersavage, VFX Supervisor
Dorothy McKim, VFX Producer
Kee Suong, EFX Animator

Dan DeEntremont, Animator
PJ Foley, VFX Producer
James May, Technical Director
Efram Potelle, VFX Supervisor

Sara Bennett, Compositing Supervisor
Jean-Claude Deguara, Senior Animation Supervisor
David Houghton, VFX Supervisor
Jenna Powell, VFX Producer

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Series
Battlestar Galactica Season 4 - Ep. 421 “Daybreak”
Michael Gibson, VFX Producer
Gary Hutzel, VFX Supervisor
Dave Morton, CGI Artist
Jesse Toves, CGI Artist

Defying Gravity - Pilot
Dale Fay, VFX Supervisor
Jared Jones, Lead Compositor
Sam Nicholson, VFX Producer
Mike Yip, 3D Lead Artist

Fringe – Ep. 206 “Earthling”
Robert Habros, VFX Supervisor
Eric Hance, VFX Artist
Andrew Orlaff, VFX Supervisor
Jay Worth, VFX Supervisor/Producer

Stargate Universe - Air
Shannon Gurney, VFX Producer
Andrew Karr, CGI Supervisor
Mark Savela, VFX Supervisor
Craig Vandenbiggelaar, Digital Effects Supervisor

V- Pilot
Johnathan R. Banta, Lead Compositor
Karen Czukerberg, VFX Producer
Andrew Orloff, VFX Supervisor
Chris Zapara, VFX Supervisor

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – Ep. 1001 “Opening Sequence”
Sabrina Arnold, VFX Producer
Steve Meyer, Compositor
Rik Shorten, VFX Supervisor
Derek Smith, Compositor

Flash Forward - No More Good Days
Kevin Blank, Visual Effects Supervisor
Andrew Orloff, VFX Producer
Steve Meyer, 2D Supervisor
Jonathan Spencer Levy, Facility VFX Supervisor

Kings - Ep. 001 “Goliath”
Ron Moore, VFX Producer
Brian Vogt, Lead Lighting TD
Craig Weiss, VFX Supervisor
Niel Wray, CG Supervisor

Krupp-Eine Deutsche Familie - Krupp
Thomas Tannenberger, VFX Supervisor
Olcun Tan, Digital Effects Supervisor
Mark Kolpak, VFX Producer
Shane Cook, Compositing Supervisor

Lost - The Incident Part 1 & 2
Eric Hance, Supervising Artist
Samantha Mabie-Tuinstra, VFX Producer
Sean Scott, Character Animator
Mitch Suskin, VFX Supervisor

Best Single Visual Effect of the Year

2012 - Escape from L.A.
Volker Engel, VFX Supervisor
Josh R. Jaggars, VFX Producer
Mohen Leo, VFX Supervisor
Marc Weigert, VFX Supervisor

Avatar - Quarich's Escape
Jill Brooks, VFX Producer
John Knoll, VFX Supervisor
Frank Losasso Petterson, Simulation Technical Director
Tory Mercer, Compositor

Thelvin Cabezas, Lighting Technical Director
Joyce Cox, VFX Producer
Joe Letteri, Senior VFX Supervisor
Eileen Moran, Overall VFX Producer

Knowing - Plane Crash
Dan Breckwoldt, Lead Compositor
Camille Cellucci, VFX Producer
Andrew Jackson, VFX Supervisor
Angelo Sahin, Special Effects Supervisor

Terminator Salvation - VLA Escape
Chantal Feghali, Studio Producer
Charles Gibson, Studio VFX Supervisor
Susan Greenhow, VFX Producer
Ben Snow, VFX Supervisor

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial
AMF - The Caterpillar
Asher Edwards, VFX Producer
Jamie O'Hara, Lead Character Modeller
Becky Porter, Lead Compositor
Robert Sethi, VFX Supervisor

AUDI - Intelligently Combined
Jay Barton, VFX Supervisor
Rafael F. Colon, Sr. Compositor
Chris Fieldhouse, VFX Producer
Ronald Herbst, CG Supervisor

Ashley Bernes, Effects TD
Louisa Cartwright Tucker, VFX Producer
Jake Mengers, VFX Supervisor
Stephen Newbold, VFX Supervisor

PEPSI - The Flight of the Penguin
Murray Butler, VFX Supervisor/Lead Flame
Jenn Dewey, Senior VFX Producer
Seth Gollub, Animation Lead
Andy Walker, VFX Supervisor, Technical Lead

PLANE STUPID - Polar Bears
Scott Griffin, VFX Producer
Suzanne Jandu, Compositor
Jake Mengers, VFX Supervisor
Vicky Osborn, CG Artist

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project
Beyond All Boundaries – Multi-plane Visual Effects
Susan Beth Smith, VFX Producer
Cedar Conner, Lead Compositor
Daren Ulmer, VFX Supervisor

Dance Of The Dragons - Eastern
Derry Frost, VFX Supervisor
Michael Morreale, VFX Producer

Outstanding Real Time Visuals in a Video Game
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Gulag Extraction
Robert Gaines, Lead Visual Effects Artist
David Johnson, VFX Artist
Richard Kriegler, Art Director
Mark Rubin, Producer

Fight Night Round 4 - Gameplay
Jeff Atienza, Producer
Jenny Freeman, Art Director
Ben Ross, Lead Character Artist
Frank Vitz, CG Supervisor

Need For Speed Shift - World Sequence
Robert Dibley, Lead Rendering Software Engineer
Dave Flynn, Development Director - World
Andreas Moll, Art Director
Sven Moll, Art Director

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Christophe Balestra, Technical Lead
Evan Wells, Game Producer

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Video Game Trailer
DJ Hero
Diarmid Harrison-Murray, VFX Supervisor
Sarah Hiddlestone, Senior CG Producer
Jamie Jackson, Game Producer
Marco Puig, Art Director

Halo 3: ODST - The Life
Ryan Meredith, VFX Producer
Robert Moggach, VFX Supervisor
Michael Pardee, Executive Producer
Jens Zalzala, CG Supervisor

Mass Effect 2
Tim Miller, VFX Producer
Brandon Riza, VFX Supervisor

Star Wars: The Old Republic
Tim Miller, VFX Producer
Brandon Riza, VFX Supervisor

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Avatar - Neytiri
Andrew R. Jones, Animation Director
Joe Letteri, Senior VFX Supervisor
Zoe Saldana, Actress
Jeff Unay, Facial Lead

District 9 - Christopher Johnson
Brett Ineson, Motion Capture Supervisor
Jeremy Mesana, Animation Lead
Steve Nichols, Animation Supervisor
Vera Zivny, Senior VFX Coordinator

G-Force - Bucky
Benjamin Cinelli, Senior Character Animator
Peter Tieryas, Character Set-Up Technical Director
Dustin Wicke, Lead Cloth and Hair
Ryan Yee, Animator

Watchmen - Doctor Manhattan
Aaron Campbell, Character Rigger
Kevin Hudson, CG Modeling Supervisor
Victor Schutz, Lead CG Lighting and Compositing Artist
Keith Smith, Lead Animator

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Coraline - Coraline
Travis Knight, Lead Animator
Trey Thomas, Lead Animator

Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs - Buck
Simon Pegg, Buck
Peter de Seve, Characters designed by

Monsters vs. Aliens - B.O.B.
Terran Boylan, Character Technical Director
David Burgess, Head of Character Animation
Scott Cegielski, Effects Lead
David Weatherly, Animator

Up - Carl - “No Dad Scene”
Ed Asner, Voice of Carl
Carmen Ngai, Character Cloth Artist
Brian Tindall, Character Modeling and Articulation Artist
Ron Zorman, Animator

Outstanding Animated Character in a Broadcast Program or
AMF - The Caterpillar
Steve Beck, Lead Character Animator
Jamie O'Hara, Lead Character Modeller
Becky Porter, Lead Compositor
Robert Sethi, Lead CG Artist

Disney’s Prep And Landing - Wayne
David Foley, Voice of Wayne
Mark Mitchell, Supervising Animator
Hidetaka Yosumi, Character Technical Director
Leo Sanchez Barbosa, Modeler

Evian - Skating Babies
Jorge Montiel Meurer, Lead Animator
Jordi Onate, Animator
Emanuele Pavarotti, Animator
Wayne Simmons, Animator

Pepsi - Penguin - “The Flight of the Penguin”
James Dick, Technical Director
Seth Gollub, Animation Lead
Spencer Leuders, Technical Director
Andy Walker, VFX Supervisor, Technical Lead

Outstanding Effects Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Rob Bredow, VFX Supervisor
Matt Hausman, Effects Animation Supervisor
Carl Hooper, Effects Animation Supervisor
Dan Kramer, Digital Effects Supervisor

John Allan Armstrong, VFX Animator
Richard Kent Burton, Stop Motion Effects Animator
Craig Dowsett, CG Modeler

Monsters vs. Aliens
David Allen, Effects Animator
Amaury Aubel, Effects Lead
Scott Cegielski, Effects Lead
Alain De Hoe, Effects Lead

Alexis Angelidis, Effects Artist
Eric Froemling, Effects Artist
Jason Johnston, Effects Artist
Jon Reisch, Effects Artist

Outstanding Matte Paintings in a Feature Motion Picture
Avatar - Pandora
Jean-Luc Azzis, Senior Compositor
Peter Baustaedter, Senior Matte Painter
Brenton Cottman, Lead Matte Painter
Yvonne Muinde, Lead Matte Painter

Franklyn - Meanwhile City Scapes
Tania Richard, Matte Painter
Christoph Unger, Matte Painter

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
David Bassalla, TD
Emily Cobb, 3D Artist
Tania Richard, Matte Painter

Star Trek
Brett Northcutt, Digimatte Lead
Shane Roberts, Digimatte
Masahiko Tani, Digimatte
Dan Wheaton, Digimatte

Outstanding Matte Paintings in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
Kaiser Permanente - Emerald City
Kim Taylor, Matte Painter
Ben Walker, Matte Painter
Ben Walsh, Matte Painter
David Woodland, Matte Painter

Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Feature Motion Picture
Avatar - Samson/Home Tree / Floating Mountains / Ampsuit
Simon Cheung, Modeller
Paul Jenness, Lead Modeller
John Stevenson-Galvin, Senior Modeller
Rainer Zoettl, Senior/Lead Modeller

Deborah Cook, Lead Costume Design Fabricator
Matthew DeLeu, Miniature Lighting Technician
Paul Mack, Model Maker
Martin Meunier, Facial Animation Design

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian - National Air and Space Museum Escape
Robert Chapin, Digital FX Supervisor
Tony Chen, Model Maker
Forest Fischer, Model Crew Chief
Ian Hunter, VFX Supervisor

Terminator Salvation
Nick d'Abo, Model Shop Supervisor
Brian Gernand, Creative Director, Model Shops
Geoff Heron, Special FX Supervisor
Patrick Sweeney, Director of Photography

Outstanding Created Environment in a Feature Motion Picture
2012 - Los Angeles Destruction
Haarm-Pieter Duiker, CG Supervisor
Marten Larsson, CG Effects Animation Lead
Ryo Sakaguchi, CG Effects Animation Lead
Hanzhi Tang, CG Lighting Supervisor

Avatar - Floating Mountains
Dan Lemmon, Visual Effects Supervisor
Keith F. Miller, CG Supervisor
Cameron Smith, Lead Compositor

Avatar - Jungle / Biolume
Shadi Almassizadeh, CG Supervisor
Jessica Cowley, Senior Texture Painter
Dan Cox, CG Supervisor
Ula Rademeyer, Lead Texture Painter
Eric Saindon, Visual Effects Supervisor

Avatar - Willow Glade
Thelvin Cabezas, Lighting Technical Director
Miae Kang, Lead Lighting Technical Director
Daniel Macarin, Lighting Technical Director
Guy Williams, Visual Effects Supervisor

Outstanding Created Environment in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
AMC Theaters / Coke - Magic Chairs
Dariush Derakhshani, CG Supervisor
Steve Cummings, CG Artist
Harry Michalakeas, Technical Director
Rob Nederhorst, VFX Supervisor

Assassin’s Creed: Lineage - Ep. 1 “Duke of Milan Assassination”
Nadine Homier, Compositor
Joseph Kasparlan, Lead Textures and Lighting
Mathieu Lalonde, CG Modeler
Christian Morin, Compositor

Flash Forward - Pilot “Freeway Overpass”
Colin Feist, Compositor
Paul Ghezzo, CG Supervisor
Roger Kupelian, Matte Painter
Steve Meyer, Compositor

V - Pilot “Atrium and Ship Interiors”
Trevor Adams, CG Artist
Chris Irving, Lead Compositor
David Morton, Matte Painter
Chris Zapara, VFX Supervisor

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture
Erich Eder, Compositor
Robin Hollander, Compositor
Giuseppe Tagliavini, Compositor
Erik Winquist, Compositing Supervisor

Avatar - End Battle
Jay Cooper, Technical Director
Beth D'Amato, Digital Paint
Eddie Pasquarello, Compositing Supervisor
Todd Vaziri, Compositor

District 9
Janeen Elliott, Senior Compositor
Simon Hughes, Senior Compositor
Hamish Schumacher, Lead Compositor
Shervin Shogian, Compositing Supervisor

Sherlock Holmes - Wharf Explosion Sequence
Jan Adamczyk, Mid Compositor
Alex Cumming, Junior Compositor
Sam Osborne, Compositor
Kate Windibank, Senior Compositor

Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program or Commercial
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Ep 1001 Opening Sequence
Steve Meyer, VFX Supervisor
Derek Smith, Compositor
Christina Spring, Compositor
Zach Zaubi, Compositor

Kerry Lowlow 'Mouse' - Overall
Kelly Bruce, Compositor
Greg Howe-Davies, Compositor
Jake Mengers, VFX Supervisor
Stephen Newbold, VFX Supervisor

Pepsi - The Flight of the Penguin
Murray Butler, VFX Supervior/Lead Flame
Ben Cronin, Senior Flame Operator
Andy Rowan-Robinson, Technical Director
Miyuki Shimamoto, Flame Operator

Porsche - Family Tree
Tim Davies, VFX Supervisor/Lead Compositor
Jeff Willette, Lead Technical Designer

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project
The Full Moon Mystery - The Discovery
Flip Buttinger, VFX Supervisor & Producer
Jeffrey De Vore, Director
David Goubitz, VFX Supervisor & Producer

Hannes Appell

They Will Come To Town
Thilo Ewers

Urs - Cliff
Moritz Mayerhofer, Graduate

VES Lifetime Achievement Award
James Cameron

Georges Melies Award for Pioneering
Ed Catmull

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Uncharted 2 Leads GDC Awards Nominees

Uncharted 2 earned a leading 10 nominations in the 10th annual Game Developers Choice Awards.

The awards, the leading peer-based video game industry awards, also gave five nominations to Flower and four nominations to the game Assassin’s Creed II.

The awards are chosen via a combination of open game industry nominations and the votes of the leading creators in the Choice Awards Advisory Committee. Starting this year, winners are now being selected by the Game Developers Choice Awards-specific International Choice Awards Network, which is a new invitation-only group comprised of 500 leading game creators from all parts of the video game industry.

The complete list of nominees follows:

Best Game Design
• Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady)
• Assassin's Creed 2 (Ubisoft Montreal)
• Flower (thatgamecompany)
• Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog)
• Plants Vs. Zombies (PopCap)

Best Visual Art
• Borderlands (Gearbox Software)
• Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog)
• Assassin's Creed II (Ubisoft Montreal)
• Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward)
• Flower (thatgamecompany)

Best Technology
• Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward)
• Red Faction: Guerrilla (Volition)
• Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog)
• Killzone 2 (Guerrilla Games)
• Assassin's Creed II (Ubisoft Montreal)

Best Writing
• Brutal Legend (Double Fine)
• Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady Studios)
• Dragon Age: Origins (BioWare)
• Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog)
• Halo 3: ODST (Bungie)

Best Audio
• Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog)
• Dragon Age: Origins (BioWare)
• Rock Band: The Beatles (Harmonix)
• Flower (thatgamecompany)
• Brutal Legend (Double Fine Productions)

• Scribblenauts (5th Cell)
• Flower (thatgamecompany)
• Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog)
• Plants Vs. Zombies (PopCap)
• Demon's Souls (From Software)

Best Debut
• The Maw (Twisted Pixel)
• League Of Legends (Riot Games)
• Spider: The Secret Of Bryce Manor (Tiger Style)
• Torchlight (Runic Games)
• Zeno Clash (ACE Team)

Best Downloadable Game
• Plants Vs. Zombies (PopCap)
• Trials HD (RedLynx)
• PixelJunk Shooter (Q Games)
• Shadow Complex (Chair Entertainment)
• Flower (thatgamecompany)

Best New Social/Online Game
• Restaurant City (Playfish)
• Farmville (Zynga)
• Dungeon Fighter Online (Neople/Nexon)
• Free Realms (Sony Online Entertainment San Diego)
• Bejeweled Blitz (PopCap)

Best Handheld Game
• Scribblenauts (5th Cell)
• Flight Control (Firemint)
• Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (Rockstar Leeds/Rockstar North)
• Spider: The Secret Of Bryce Manor (Tiger Style)
• Legend Of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (Nintendo EAD)

Game Of The Year
• Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog)
• Dragon Age: Origins (BioWare)
• Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady Studios)
• Demon's Souls (From Software)
• Assassin's Creed II (Ubisoft Montreal)

The winners will be announced at an awards show set for March 11 as part of the 2010 Game Developer’s Conference at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Animators & cartoonists from all over come together to “Help the Hodges”

Jim Hill talks up the online auction that gets underway today at 10 a.m. PT. Where one-of-a-kind items & original pieces of art are putting up for bid to aid a very worthwhile cause

I know, I know. Wednesday is typically the day we talk about books here at JHM. But today, I just had to make an exception. I mean, take a look at this beauty.

Copyright 2010 Help the Hodges. All Rights Reserved

This copy of Jeff Kurtti’s “The Art of Mulan” redefines one-of-a-kind. By that I mean, this 192-page hardcover comes straight from Disney’s Animation Research Library. Which means that it’s in pristine condition.

But wait ‘til you see what’s inside ...

Copyright 2010 Help the Hodges. All Rights Reserved

Not only has “The Art of Mulan” been autographed by most of the supervising animators who worked on this 1998 Walt Disney Pictures release, but Ruben Aquino, Tom Bancroft, Mark Henn, T. Dan Hofstedt, Alex Kuperschmidt and Pres Romanillos all contributed drawings of the characters that they did for this film.

Copyright 2010 Help the Hodges. All Rights Reserved

What’s more, Tony Bancroft (“Mulan” ‘s co-director), Chris Sanders (this film’s head of story), Peter de Sève (a key visual development artist on this production), Chen-Yi Chang (character designer on this animated feature) and June Foray (voice of Grandma Fa) all signed this book too.

This is literally animation history that you can hold in your hand. And it can be yours … IF you place the winning bid for this item during the “Help the Hodges” auction.

Copyright 2010 Help the Hodges. All Rights Reserved

“And what’s the ‘Help the Hodges’ auction?,” you ask. Starting today, The National Cartoonists Society Foundation (NCSF) is launching a fund-raising effort featuring one-of-a-kind items (see the autographed “Art of Mulan” described above) as well original art by America's top cartoonists. Who have donated their time & talent to help out one of their own in his time of need.

The one in need would be former Disney & Veggie Tales artist Tim Hodge. Back in August of last year, Tim’s teenage son Matthew was in a car accident involving a train. The resulting injuries left this 17 year-old in a coma. More importantly, the Hodge’s short term insurance policy doesn’t cover Matthew’s long term recovery at a nursing care facility because – in hospital parlance – his coma is now a “pre-existing” condition.

Matthew Hodges.
Copyright 2010 Help the Hodges.
All Rights Reserved

To help Tim and his family raise the funds necessary to deal with this difficult situation, the cartooning & animation communities has come together. Over 100 artists & animators have donated 170 items of original art from comic strips, comic books, children's books, animation, and sculpture. With the first of these items being listed today on eBay starting at 10 a.m. PT.

I urge JHM readers to head over to the Help the Hodges website so that they can then check out some of the truly amazing items that are coming up for bid over the next three weeks. Pieces like this original “Pogo” daily comic strip which was drawn by Walt Kelly.

Copyright 2010 Help the Hodges. All Rights Reserved

Or – better yet – how about this original Peanuts art that was drawn by Charles M. Schulz himself.

Copyright 2010 Help the Hodges. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, if you can’t find anything that you’d like to bid on but would still like to help out here, fully tax-deductible donations may be given to Help the Hodges through Paypal on, or by sending a check with "Help the Hodges" written on the subject line to:

The NCS Foundation
341 N. Maitland Ave., #130
Maitland, FL 32751

Thanks in advance for your kind thoughts & generosity, folks. I know that the Hodges -- as well as their extended circle of friends & family -- will really appreciate any and all efforts on their behalf.

Disney XD Unveils Kick Buttowski Premiere Schedule

Disney XD will premiere its new animated series Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil with two episodes to air Saturday, Feb. 13.

The 2D animated series follows Clarence "Kick" Buttowski, an extraordinary kid living in the world's most ordinary town. Determined to become the world’s greatest daredevil, Kick rebels against the mundane and knows that when life throws him an obstacle, his only choice is to jump it.

The series will debut on Feb. 13 with an episode at its normal time slot of 8:30 a.m., followed by a second at 9:30 a.m. Episodes of Phineas and Ferb will air at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Free full episode previews will be available through iTunes starting Jan. 29 and on Disney XD VOD on Feb. 5. After episodes air on XD, they will be available online at

“This series embodies the new Disney XD brand. It delivers the perfect mix of action and comedy that our audience wants,” said Eric Coleman, Senior Vice President, Original Series, Disney Television Animation.

The series is the creation of Sandro Corsaro, with Chris Savino serving as executive producer and director. The series is produced by Disney Television Animation and features the voices of Charlie Schlatter as Kick, Matt L. Jones, Danny Cooksey, John DiMaggio and Eric Christian Olsen.

Leading up to the premiere, will launch a "Kick Buttowski – Suburban Daredevil" show page featuring action-packed games, activities and videos including "Loco Launch-o," a high energy game where users help Kick perform the ultimate daredevil jump. Beginning Feb. 13, kids can create their own Kick Buttowski catch phrase by submitting their favorite saying customized with a selection of backgrounds, props, sound effects and graphics; some of the catch phrases may be selected to appear on-air.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Thomas Tops Licensing Poll for 10th Year in a Row

For the 10th consecutive year, HIT Entertainment’s Thomas & Friends has been ranked the No. 1 license for preschoolers in NPD EPoS Retail Tracking Services’ annual survey.

The franchise, which has been around for 65 years, has extensive plans for the coming year including new toy lines from Fisher-Price and Megabrands, as well as a new animated TV series that for the first time will use CG techniques. The new series is set to debut Jan. 25 in the United Kingdom and will be followed by a DVD release titled Misty Island Rescue on Oct. 11.

“Today’s NPD results reflect the widespread and timeless appeal of Thomas & Friends, a brand which continues to evolve, providing a wealth of entertainment to children around the world,” says Peter Byrne, executive VP of consumer products international for HIT Entertainment. “We look forward to taking Thomas to even greater heights this year.”

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Little Airplane Academy Returns Feb. 13-15

Little Airplane Productions will hold its next Little Airplane Academy on developing and selling preschool TV shows Feb. 13-15 in New York.

The three-day course for industry professionals and newcomers, will cover everything from pitching and designing a show to directing and production. Courses will be taught by Little Airplane’s senior staff, including founder and president Josh Selig, creative director Jennifer Oxley, head of production Tom Brown, music director Jeffrey Lesser and supervising producer Tone Thyne.

Guests will appear on a panel discussion on trends in preschool programs and how to pitch networks, to be headed by Kay Wilson Stallings, VP of production and development for Nickelodeon Preschool Television, and Andrew Beecham, senior VP of programming for PBS KIDS Sprout.

The Academy takes place at Little Airplane’s studios, 207 Front St., between Fulton and Beekman at the South Street Seaport.

For more information please contact Melinda Richards at 212-965-8999 or or visit

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Erich Segal wrote "Love Story," "Yellow Submarine"

Classics scholar Erich Segal, author of the best-selling novel Love Story and co-writer of the screenplay for the 1968 Beatles animated feature film Yellow Submarine, died Sunday in London. He was 72.

Segal died of a heart attack, said his elder daughter, writer Francesca Segal, adding that he had had Parkinson’s disease for 25 years.

He wrote the screenplay for Yellow Submarine in 1967, based on the story by Lee Minoff. Disney plans a digital 3D remake for release in 2012, using motion capture and CGI to recreate the hand-drawn animation of the original film.

"The Yellow Submarine marked a milestone in my life. It was the first filmscript that I wrote or -- to be correct -- rewrote that actually made it to celluloid," Segal wrote in the foreward to Robert Hieronimus's 2002 movie history Inside the Yellow Submarine.

"For this I will always be grateful to [executive producer] Big Al Brodax & Co. He gets a pretty bad rap... but -- give the man a break -- he held the thing together and got it on the screen!"

The son of a rabbi, Segal was born in Brooklyn on June 16, 1937. In 1969, when he was 32 and a classics professor at Harvard, he wrote Love Story, a novel about a young couple dealing with love and bereavement. It tells of a Radcliffe scholarship student who dies shortly after her marriage to a Harvard scion.

The following year, it was adapted into a film. The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including best writer, best picture, best director, and best actor (Ryan O'Neal) and actress (Ali MacGraw). It won an Oscar only for best music.

Love Story's best-known line, "love means never having to say you're sorry," became part of popular culture. Segal instantly gained fame, appearing as a regular on TV shows. He was also a commentator on the Olympic Games for ABC.

Segal wrote over half a dozen novels, including Oliver's Story, a sequel to Love Story. Other works included The Class, about what happens to five members of the Harvard class of 1958, and Doctors, a melodrama about childhood friends who are classmates at medical school.

He also wrote the screeplay for 1980's A Change of Seasons, about a marriage gone sour. It starred Anthony Hopkins, Shirley MacLaine and Bo Derek.

A professor who taught at Yale and Princeton as well as Harvard, Segal continued to write up to his death, also producing essays and literary criticism. He was a fellow of Wolfson College at Oxford University.

With friend Jack Rosenthal, he authored a new English translation of the opening Friday-night Hebrew prayer for the West London Reform Synagogue.

Among his scholarly works was a study of Roman playwright Plautus. His last major work, in 2001, was look at the history of comedy (and dirty jokes) from the ancient Greeks through to Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove.

Besides his daughter Francesca, Erich Segal is survived by his wife and editorial collaborator, Karen James, and his younger daughter Miranda, a student at Bristol University.

A funeral was held Tuesday.

Up's Pete Docter credits Filipino-American talents

Pete Docter, co-director and co-writer of Pixar-Disney's Up, has praised the contributions of Filipino-American personnel who worked on the award-winning film.

Up won the Golden Globes for Best Animated Film and Best Score on Sunday evening.

During an after-party following the awards show presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Docter singled out story supervisor Ronnie Del Carmen and production designer Ricky Nierva for their work.

"Both are incredibly talented," the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Docter as saying. "Ronnie makes screenplays come to life. He makes materials that are not 'filmable' translate well to the screen. Ricky's drawings are full of life"

Docter announced that Del Carmen and Nierva are collaborating with him in future projects. "I hope they stay with Pixar," he remarked.

The Asians Explain Conan vs. Jay

A summary of the Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno controversy, as animated by an Asian news channel. Bet you didn’t know that Conan can transform into the Incredible Hulk.

(Thanks, David OReilly)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

New from McCracken and Faust

I’m way overdue in reporting on the current activities of cartoon creator Craig McCracken (Powerpuff Girls, Foster’s Home) and his wife, animator Lauren Faust (Iron Giant, Cats Don’t Dance). I caught up with them at the CTN Expo last November where they were displaying their latest projects.

Craig is developing Wander Over Yonder (above), a new character he hopes to bring to life in animation but is only available now in sneak peek form - in a sketchbook and on a T-shirt available directly from Craig himself. The sketchbook is really cool because, though it’s a series of still pictures, it tells a little story about an appealing oddball character. Check it out here.

Lauren has developed a line of girl characters and limited edition dolls (available only at FAO Schwarz) called Milky Way and the Galaxy Girls (below). Apparently it’s catching on, and gaining quite a cult among gals of all ages. I love it when animators like McCracken and Faust use their skills to create their own properties and find ways to bypass the traditional business model to connect with an audience. That’s the way it should be.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Scribble Junkies, a blog by Bill Plympton and Pat Smith

Make room for another solid addition to the animation blogosphere: Scribble Junkies is a blog by well-known New York indies Bill Plympton and Pat Smith (who is currently living in Singapore). I know them both well, and I enjoy hearing their perspectives on the art form, even if I don’t necessarily always agree with them. If it’s not clear from the name of their blog, both of these guys are driven by their passion for the art of drawn animation, and they’ve told me that they plan to have guest contributions from other artists who are similarly passionate about drawing and draftsmanship.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Toonzone Presents: New "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths" Video Clip

Toonzone News is proud to present a new video clip from Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the new direct-to-video movie coming to DVD and Blu-ray disc from Warner Home Video on February 23, 2010. Click here to to see and play the clip (requires QuickTime):

“The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History” looks back at Conan O’Brien’s beginnings

Jim Hill reviews John Ortved’s book. Which talks about the part that this acclaimed animated series played in CoCo becoming David Letterman's replacement

With all the talk this past week or so about how NBC is booting Conan O’Brien off of The Tonight Show so that network execs can then turn this show back over to Jay Leno, I thought that it might be interesting to take a look back at how CoCo actually got into the late night talk game.

Which is why I cracked open a copy of John Ortved’s “The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History” (Faber & Faber, October 2009). Which – to put it bluntly – is this supremely entertaining, behind-the-scenes look at this long-running (451 episodes and counting) Fox series.

Copyright 2009 Faber & Faber. All Rights Reserved

And given that O’Brien played such a huge part in shaping this show … Well, it’s only appropriate that Ortved devotes a full chapter of this 352-page hardcover (which is loaded with great stories from writers, animators, producers and network executives who worked on this animated show over the past 20 seasons) to Conan’s tenure with The Simpsons.” Which actually came about became CoCo had grown tired of working for another late night television show, “Saturday Night Live.”

As O’Brien told Ortved in a recent interview:

I was working on Saturday Night Live. It was fall of ’91 and it was time for all the writers to come back to Saturday Night Live, and I just realized I was burnt out.

Lorne Michaels and Conan O'Brien. Copyright New York Daily News

I told Lorne Michaels I couldn’t come back to work and I just needed to do something else. I had no plan whatsoever. I was literally in this big transition phase of my life where I decided, I’ll just walk around New York City, and an idea will come to me.

And this is one of those stories that aspiring TV writers everywhere must hate, but my phone rang, and it was Mike Reiss and Al Jean, and they said, “We heard that you just left Saturday Night Live. Would you be interested in working at The Simpsons?” So I said, “Yes.”

And – as it turns out – the staff of “The Simpsons” (because of Conan’s reputation for being the funniest writer at “Saturday Night Live”) welcomed O’Brien with open arms. As Josh Weinstein – a writer/producer who worked on this animated series from 1991 – 1997 – remembered:

Copyright Fox. All Rights Reserved

Some of my best memories from (working on “The Simpsons” come from being with) Conan. Every day Conan was in the room it was like a ten-hour Conan show, nonstop.

This is largely because – during O’Brien’s time with this animated series – Conan helped write several episodes that are now considered “Simpsons” classics. Chief among these is “Homer Goes to College” and “Marge vs. the Monorail.” With that last episode having a particularly large impact on shaping the future of this Fox show.

As screenwriter Brent Forrester told Ortved:

The Simpsons was not initially cartoony. The first few seasons, it was an animated show about a family that was highly realistic. The conventional wisdom is that the show changed after the monorail episode, written by Conan O’Brien. Conan’s monorail episode was surreal, and the jokes were so good that it became irresistible for all the other writers to write that kind of comedy. And that’s when the tone of the show took a rapid shift in the direction of the surreal.

Copyright Fox. All Rights Reserved

And yet – as O’Brien was cranking out these classic episodes of “The Simpsons” – there were rumors floating about that Conan was eyeing greener pastures. As Wallace Wolodarsky (who – along with Jay Kogen – were the first writers hired to work on this animated series) remembers, people on staff at the show were saying that …

... Lorne Michaels was talking to Conan about being the guy to replace Letterman. And it made complete sense to us, because Conan was so funny. We never would have thought of it in a million years, but as soon as you heard it, it made sense.

“So how did CoCo actually go about auditioning for the Late Night gig?,” you ask. Well, as Gavin Polone – O’Brien’s former agent – describes the scene to Ortved:

Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson.
Copyright Johnny Carson Productions. All Rights Reserved

We came to this agreement (with NBC executives that they would allow us to) do a test with Conan on The Tonight Show’s stage and see how it went. We got Jason Alexander and Mimi Rogers to be the guests, and Conan worked on a monologue – and he did a great job.

And as Wallace Wolodarsky (who was there as this test was being taped) recalls:

One of the weirdest experiences of my life was going to see Conan’s tryout for Late Night, because it was done on the stage of The Tonight Show. That was back when Johnny Carson was still hosting the show (the curtain looked a certain way – it was this multi-colored curtain), and seeing this friend of yours, this guy that you worked with, walk out from behind that curtain and deliver a monologue was something that you could only dream up that you couldn’t ever imagine actually happening.

Copyright Johnny Carson Productions. All Rights Reserved

The whole thing was beamed back by satellite to New York, where Lorne Michaels was watching and probably other NBC executives.

So Conan came out and did an approximately twenty-minute version of a talk show. And then we all ran down and hung out on The Tonight Show stage, because we couldn’t believe it, and sat in the guest chair and did all the stuff that a tourist would do.

And after O’Brien’s audition, a couple of weeks went by. And – out of the blue – he got the call that changed his life. As O’Brien told Orvted:

"The Simpsons" writing staff circa 1992. Back row, L to R: Mike Mendel, Colin ABV Lewis, Jeff Goldstein, Al Jean, Conan O'Brien, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Mike Reiss, Ken Tsumara, George Meyer, John Swartzwelder, Jon Vitti, CJ Gibson and David M. Stern. Front row, L to R: Dee Capelli & Lona Williams.
Copyright Fox. All Rights Reserved

I remember very clearly: we had just done a script. It was the day we were going to record an episode and we were all sitting around this table. A phone rang and someone said, “It’s for you, Conan.” It was my agent, Gavin Polone, and he just said – it was probably like ten o’clock in the morning – and he said, “You’re the new host of Late Night.”

Now if you think that O’Brien actually celebrated this news … Think again. As his fellow “Simpsons” writer Colin A.B.V. Lewis remembers:

The day he got hired, Conan came over to hide, basically, in our offices. And he was just lying on the floor, hands over his head, like, Oh, my God! It was just so bizarre.

Copyright NBC Universal. All Rights Reserved

post production Michael Mendel also recalls O’Brien’s odd reaction:

(Conan) was passed out facedown in this horrible shag carpet. He was just quiet and comatose down there … I remember looking at him and saying, “Wow. Your life is about to change, in a really dramatic way.”

And indeed it would. Given that – at that time – CoCo didn’t have the sort of grown-up wardrobe that one associates with a late night host. Looking back on that time, O’Brien said:

Copyright NBC Universal. All Rights Reserved

I didn’t own a suit. I just had a zip-front jacket and three pairs of jeans. So Gavin bought me two suits, ‘cause I had to go in and people had to get a look at me.

“So Conan then immediately went on to achieve late night success,” you say. Not so fast. As it turns out, what NBC’s been doing to O’Brien for the past two weeks isn’t the first time that he’s been jerked around by a television network. As Polone explained:

After NBC wanted him, Fox would not let (Conan) out of his contract. It was really shocking, actually, because we thought they would. I think it was a guy named Steve Bell. Really hard-assed us and I’ll never forget it. They actually demanded money. And it wasn’t a situation where (O’Brien) was going to compete against them. (Fox) could have built goodwill, and they just dispensed with all of that, so (that the network) could squeeze a writer – who wasn’t making huge money to begin with – out of $100,000. It’s pretty funny.

Copyright NBC Universal. All Rights Reserved

O’Brien also recalled this awkward time:

Some executive at Fox – who I don’t remember, and that’s probably for the best – said “No, no, no. he still owes us money on his contract.” It was like a year’s salary or something. So I think NBC paid half, and I paid half. I actually had to pay my way out of Fox, which always felt a little strange. I’m sure that Simon Cowell has that money now. He’s using it on hair gel.

One has to wonder – given that it’s rumored that Fox is anxious to have CoCo come on over to their network so that O’Brien can then start up a brand-new late night talk show – whether Fox executives will now offer to reimburse Conan for that “Simpsons” exit penalty that they hit him with nearly two decades ago.

Brad Bird

Mind you, O’Brien’s trials and tribulations aren’t the only thing covered in "The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History.” Ortved also ropes in other production veterans like Brad Bird. Who talk about how this ground-breaking television show furthered his own personal agenda. As this Pixar rock star explains:

My agenda almost as long as I’ve been working professionally is to try to reinforce the idea that animation is not exclusively for kids. And so, for me, The Simpsons was a wonderful way to get on board a ship that was flying in the face of that. The problem with a lot of animated films that aren’t aimed at kids is that they try to declare their “adultness,” and it’s an adolescent way of announcing that you’re not aimed at kids. It’s not truly an adult way. What I liked about The Simpsons was that beside it being really funny, it was smart. It ran the gamut from really base, the occasional butt-crack joke, and then talking about Susan Sontag or something in the next sentence. It affected things very profoundly. But I think, unfortunately, a lot of people have taken the wrong lessons from The Simpsons and just the butt-crack jokes, and not picked up the smart ball.

Well, if you yourself would like to pick up the smart ball and then learn more about this Peabody Award-winning series (Which has won 25 Emmys over its to-date 20-year run of this show), be sure and get yourself a copy of “The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History.” And if you’re on Team CoCo … Then you should definitely purchase John Ortved’s book. If only because you’ll then have some Conan-related reading material to tide you over until O’Brien’s next late night talk debuts in September.

Copyright Fox. All Rights Reserved

At the Hat

In between the downpours of rain, I dashed into Walt Disney Animation's hat building and visited three floors. On floor #1, layout artists have been at work on Winnie the Pooh/ for the past month and a half. (Somehow I wasn't paying attention previously.) Upstairs one of the leads on the picture said:

"We've got fifty feet of animation in the story reel, and the animators are starting to roll on footage. They haven't handed out a lot of scenes yet." ...

A couple of story artists informed me that 60% of Rapunzel has now been moved out of story and into production. They told me: "We have another screening of the picture next week. The last one went pretty well. John L's been giving his notes, and we're most of the way there. By next week 70%, will be cleared for production ..."

Elsewhere on Disney development front, several artists are working on Snow Queen, and "The feature former known as Joe Jump" continues in work.

Then there is the television blockbuster Prep and Landing:

Me: So what's going on with P and L, you doing a sequel?
Story Artist:
Yeah. ABC had really good numbers with it, more than they projected. For sure we're doing a sequel.
Me: I think it was one of the great television specials, really funny. You should do three featurettes. Make it a feature.
Story artist
: Don't think we haven't thought of that.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Bird Box Gets the Animated Blues

Bird Box Studio has created yet another short for BBC Comedy Extra. It’s a quickie titled Blues.

Animator Dooley Creates Home in Italy

Ryan Spring Dooley (aka Marvin Crushler) is a Wisconsin native living in Italy, where he’s been since 1997. He’s a street artist, a set designer, a writer and a DJ – but he also produces some rather beautiful animation. Here’s his latest work, titled Home. It’s the first part of a series that utilizes traditional 2D, cut-out and sand stop-motion animation.

Video: Lost's Oceanic 815 crash in real time, a la 24

OK, so you know Oceanic flight 815, that airplane that crashed on that weird island on ABC's Lost?

Well, you know there was a bunch of stuff happening all over the place as it came down, and one enterprising fan has taken the various pieces of film from various episodes and strung them all together, a la Fox's 24, to come up with a 10-minute, real-time version of events just as the plane was coming apart in the sky. At crucial moments, the events occur on split screen to let you see what was going on simultaneously. It's extremely well done.

We'd actually like to see the entire show—which is notorious for its time-jumping narrative style, flashing back, forward and sideways all the time—and have it laid out in chronological order just like this to make sense of the whole crazy mess, which we've been fed in bits and pieces over the last five years.

Even watching this now, it still doesn't make that much sense, which I suppose doesn't really say much about the coherence of the show and the kinds of answers we're likely to get as Lost begins its sixth and final season on Feb. 2.

What do you think?

Cool! EVERYTHING you want to know about Avatar in new video

A new 23-minute making-of video for James Cameron's Avatar has gone live online, with a full look at the creation of the epic hit movie, below.

"Creating the World of Pandora"—now on Yahoo!—compiles what we know about the production of the award-winning film in one video, which we expect will be an extra on the eventual Blu-ray/DVD.

The video takes a close look at the designs, landscapes, creatures, military hardware, sets and costumes in the film; casting decisions; and the secrets behind the 3-D motion and performance capture, which required a surprising amount of physical performance from the movie's stars (not to mention learning the fictional Na'vi language).

We also learn a lot about the tech Cameron used, including his innovative "virtual camera" system and his 3-D digital camera rigs.

The video includes ample interviews with Cameron, producer Jon Landau, members of Cameron's creative crew and cast members Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver.

It's also nice to see the late Stan Winston, if only briefly.

Man supposedly dies from watching Avatar

Avatar's action sequences were exciting, sure, but after what happened to a Taiwanese man recently, does the blockbuster need to be accompanied by a warning that watching it could be hazardous to your health? An undentified 42-year-old man with a reported history of high blood pressure died of a stroke 11 days after watching the film—and his doctors state that his brain hemorrhage was triggered by overexcitement from watching the film.

The man, identified only by his surname Kuo, started to feel sick during the screening earlier this month in the northern city of Hsinchu and was taken to Nan Men General Hospital. He was unconscious when he arrived, and a scan showed that his brain was hemorrhaging.

The China Times said it was the first death linked to watching James Cameron's epic.

So what do you think? While we're sad for Mr. Kuo's unfortunate end, can Avatar really be blamed?

Viewers abandon Heroes in droves: Can it be saved?

Oh, Heroes, it's been nice to know you!

Despite talk that NBC is considering bringing Heroes back for a fifth season, it's not looking good! Apparently few people wanted to see Hiro battle his brain tumor, Sylar kiss Claire or Samuel try to woo the woman of his past in Monday's episode, "Pass/Fail," which hit a series low in the ratings.

The show's ratings had been dropping gradually since the season premiered last September with about 6 million viewers, and there was a noticeable drop when new episodes began airing this year: under 5 million. But Monday's episode completely tanked and drew in fewer than 4 million viewers. That's a drop of about 2 million viewers since the season began, and 2 million more viewers than Heroes can afford to lose.

Just over a week ago we reported that NBC executive Angela Bromstad said that NBC was considering keeping Heroes for another season and was expecting a pitch from creator Tim Kring about a fifth season before making any decisions. But the falling ratings call into question the show's chances for getting a pickup.

Why exactly have a third of viewers abandoned Heroes this season? (Loss of interest? Sylar not being himself, literally? Killing off Nathan for real? Claire kissing a girl? Hiro's brain tumor? Or maybe the viewers were kidnapped by aliens?)

And consider this: Heroes was a hit in its first season, averaging 14 million viewers. Now the series has an average viewership of 3.93 million.

With just three episodes to go before Heroes' season finale, "Brave New Year," on Feb. 8, fans had better start rallying if they hope to see another season.

Meanwhile, NBC's delightful Chuck is doing fairly well, averaging about 7 million viewers so far, and there's reason to be hopeful for the show's future. (Heroes airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT.)

Do you think Heroes can be saved? Should it be?

This British TV import ends the world like nothing you've seen before

The future's not what it used to be: We've seen a lot of apocalypses lately, including the movies The Book of Eli and 2012 and TV shows from Jericho to NBC's upcoming Day One movie.

Add to that BBC America's upcoming Survivors, in which a flu virus wipes out all but a handful of the world's population. In England, survivors including a mother, a prison inmate, a nurse and a child form units to try to rebuild according to their own different plans.

If it sounds familiar, it is: Not only is the show based on a 1975 series, but it's also similar to countless other post-apocalyptic stories. What's different this time around?

Adrian Hodges (Primeval), who created the new series, says there's no limit to how many post-apocalyptic survival stories you can tell. (The show has already been picked up for a second season in the United Kingdom.)

"I think [the difference] is character," Hodges said last week in Pasadena, Calif., as part of the Television Critics Association winter press tour. "You're right, there is a lot of stuff out there and a lot of different angles on it. The fact of survival is a given. What it's about is how your character responds. So the interesting thing for me as a dramatist, and for the actors, is it gives you a brilliant chance to explore characters outside of society. If you look at most drama, it's all about people interacting within society. It's about the rules. Everything is about our reaction for or against society. If there is no society, then you're down to the basic stuff. You're down to how human beings really behave, how they might behave, how they would behave."

In the new Survivors, Greg (Paterson Joseph) just wants to find a farm somewhere and take care of himself. Abby (Julie Graham), a newly widowed mother, convinces him to join up with him and other survivors. Former inmate Tom Price (Max Beesley) gives himself a clean slate and reinvents himself. These are only a few of the permutations Hodges' drama can take. (Doctor Who's Freema Agyeman also stars.)

Everyone makes runs to the abandoned grocery stores and gas stations, but even the scavenging can take on different levels in these characters' hands. In Survivors, looting is not free: There are consequences to every supply run.

"I think the natural assumption is that because there's only a few people left, therefore there's a lot of stuff," Hodges said. "But, of course, a lot of stuff doesn't stay there for long. People will take it. A lot of it will perish. A lot of it will be inaccessible. So it becomes a really interesting dilemma about how you live."

Movies from The Road Warrior to The Road may make set pieces out of scavenging runs. But Survivors deals with the day-to-day realities of "looking for stuff."

"When you find it, what do you do about it?"
asked actor Paterson Joseph. "Do you share it with everybody, or do you guard it with your life? Do you guard it violently? This is what happens in the warehouse. It becomes this place that people are prepared to kill each other for, because everything you would ever need is in this place. I think that's really true of what would happen."

Julie Graham's character is something different: the mommy action hero, a suburban housewife who only springs into action because she has to in this dangerous new world.

"When I first read it, I kind of thought, 'OK, I'm going to be playing this mother who's looking for her son,'" Graham said. "In actual fact, I realized that she's a real heroine and that there's so much more to that. Oh yeah, I absolutely loved it. It's such good fun."

Survivors also deals with a politician (Nikki Amuka-Bird) trying to re-establish government, under her own leadership, of course. She gets dangerously strict in the series' third episode.

"She badly wants to be the government," said Hodges. "That's the point. I think the interesting thing about that episode is in a world where we no longer have to play by the old rules, anybody who wants to play by the old rules has to prove that they're the big cheese."

Survivors premieres Feb. 13 on BBC America.

New Spidey will be ultimate, angsty, smaller and unknown

The cover of Ultimate Spider-Man 100

Now that the improbably named director Marc Webb has been hired to reboot the Spider-Man film franchise, we're getting new details on what he plans for his proposed trilogy: namely, basing them on a rebooted Marvel comic series, Ultimate Spider-Man.

We're also learning that Sony is making a smaller movie ($80 million, compared with an estimated $260 million for Spider-Man 3) with an unknown actor to star (no Robert Pattinson or Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and James Vanderbilt (Zodiac) writing the script.

Here's how The Hollywood Reporter's Risky Business blog reported it:

The story will be pared down to center on a high school kid who is dealing with the knowledge that his uncle died even though the teen had the power to stop it.

The touchstone for the new movie will not be the 1960s comics, which were the inspiration behind the movies by [previous director Sam] Raimi, who grew on up on them, but rather this past decade's "Ultimate Spider-Man" comics by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley where the villain-fighting took a back seat to the high school angst.

The first of the new Spidey movies is set to begin production this year.

Much as we like the Ultimate Spidey comics, the movies sounds less like Spider-Man and more like Twilight or early Smallville.

Do you approve?

Here's Sony's official announcement about the coincidentally named Webb and the new Spider-Man for you to parse:


Marc Webb Chosen To Direct Next Chapter of the Acclaimed Series
- Spider-Man to Climb into Theaters in Summer, 2012 -

CULVER CITY, Calif., January 19, 2010 - Marc Webb, the director of the Golden Globe nominated Best Picture (500) Days of Summer, will direct the next chapter in the Spider-Man franchise, set to hit theaters summer 2012, it was jointly announced today by Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios.

Written by James Vanderbilt, Webb will work closely with producers Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin in developing the project, which will begin production later this year.

Commenting on the announcement, Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Matt Tolmach, president of Columbia Pictures, said, "At its core, Spider-Man is a small, intimate human story about an everyday teenager that takes place in an epic super-human world. The key for us as we sought a new director was to identify filmmakers who could give sharp focus to Peter Parker's life. We wanted someone who could capture the awe of being in Peter's shoes so the audience could experience his sense of discovery while giving real heart to the emotion, anxiety, and recklessness of that age and coupling all of that with the adrenaline of Spider-Man's adventure. We believe Marc Webb is the perfect choice to bring us on that journey."

Arad and Ziskin added jointly, "Over the years, the Spider-Man comics have been told with bold and creative new writers and artists who have re-calibrated the way audiences see Peter Parker. Marc Webb will do for the new direction of the films what so many visionary storytellers have done with the comic books. He is an incredibly talented filmmaker and we look forward to working closely with him on this new adventure."

Webb said, "This is a dream come true and I couldn't be more aware of the challenge, responsibility, or opportunity. Sam Raimi's virtuoso rendering of Spider-Man is a humbling precedent to follow and build upon. The first three films are beloved for good reason. But I think the Spider-Man mythology transcends not only generations but directors as well. I am signing on not to 'take over' from Sam. That would be impossible. Not to mention arrogant. I'm here because there's an opportunity for ideas, stories, and histories that will add a new dimension, canvas, and creative voice to Spider-Man."

Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man, added, "I'm excited that Sony has chosen a director with a real penchant and understanding for the character. This is a brave, bold direction for the franchise, and I can't wait to see what Marc comes up with next."

Added Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, "The idea of re-imagining the on-screen story for one of the world's most iconic superheros is sure to deliver an exciting new dimension to Spider-Man fans everywhere. There are volumes of comics and material available to inspire fresh and compelling takes on Peter Parker and his journey as Spidey and we look forward to seeing this come alive onscreen."

MARC WEBB has won acclaim with his film debut (500) Days of Summer. He has several MTV VMAs™ including 2009's Best Director award for Green Day's "21 Guns," 2006 Best Rock Video for AFI's "Miss Murder," and Best Group Video for The All-American Rejects' "Move Along." The Music Video Production Association honored him in 2006 as the Director of the Year for his work with Weezer, AAR, and My Chemical Romance.

In addition to two Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture (musical or comedy), his first feature film, (500) Days of Summer, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, has been nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature. Webb was also awarded the Spotlight Award, which honors outstanding directorial debuts, by the National Board of Review MARVEL, Spider-Man and all related characters and elements are Trademarks of and ©2010 Marvel Entertainment, Inc. and its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.

New Star Wars crawl: What George Lucas was REALLY thinking

Those funny guys at College Humor are hit and miss, but sometimes they come up with some amusing bits, like this rewritten crawl for the "special edition" of the first Star Wars movie, which reveals what George Lucas was probably thinking in his head.

Oh, and that misspelling of Hayden Christensen's name? We're going to call that creative license.

So, does this give you a chuckle or just make you mad at George Lucas all over again?

Latest 'Smallville: Absolute Justice' Teaser Offers New Justice Society Of America Easter Eggs

It might take some time before fans get their very own "Justice Society of America" movie, but the DC Comics heroes are at least finding their way to the small screen.

The Source has unveiled an exclusive teaser from "Absolute Justice," the upcoming two-hour episode of "Smallville" that puts Clark Kent into contact with various members of the Justice Society. The episode debuts February 5th.

"It's the first live action Justice Society of America," explained DC Comics writer Geoff Johns, who penned the "Absolute Justice" script. "Hawkman, Doctor Fate and, my personal favorite, Stargirl."

"But don't expect them to be the [only] ones you see," he added. "Look closely in this episode. There's more cameos and easter eggs than Green Lanterns."

The cameos revealed in The Source's exclusive clip are few, save for a flash of the previously seen Hawkman at the episode's end. Easter eggs, however, are another story. Between Ted Grant's boxing gloves, Alan Scott's mask and lantern and Jay Garrick's winged helmet — not to mention an enormous mural depicting the whole roster, including Hawkgirl, the Spectre, Sandman and Doctor Midnight — it's clear that Johns is digging deep into his DC know-how for the upcoming episode.

As for the episode's plot, the official synopsis reveals that Clark and his pals are forced to join forces with the JSA in order to "stop a killer before he murders another member of the retired superhero group."

EXCLUSIVE: 'Tron Legacy' Lightcycle Poster Goes Yellow, Director Joseph Kosinski Interview Incoming

"Tron Legacy" can't arrive soon enough, right? The long-hoped-for sequel to Disney's groundbreaking sci-fi flick hits theaters on December 17 of this year, a CG-heavy, 3-D spectacle to rival 2009's year-ending juggernaut, "Avatar." Precious little has been revealed about "Legacy" thus far, but that's all going to change later today.

Director Joseph Kosinski took some time out of his busy schedule recently to chat with MTV at length about "Tron" and more, a participant in our "10 To Watch In 2010" interview series. The goods will show up later today on, so stay tuned for some juicy details to finally surface!

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