Wednesday, January 27, 2010

News - 01/27/10...

Imagi Sherman Oaks Shuttered?

Former Imagi employees called to tell me that the Sherman Oaks studio closed its doors last Friday.

My first reaction was "Whaaaa?"

But sure enough. There's this:

Imagi International Holdings Ltd (OTCBB: IINHY, IINHY message board) has announced large scale review of operations which has mostly negative effect towards the staff.

The company has cut off their US subsidiaries from any funding, the working contracts for 30 employees were terminated
and the Los Angeles based office closed. The company was left with only a few important staff members being utilized as consultants and has transferred the functions of the closed office to other contractors.

I find this sad and depressing. The company had high aspirations a couple of years back. It had several projects in development. It had a large (and growing) staff. It had morale that was pretty good.

But when your first picture comes out and flops, it kind of casts a pall. And when you run out of money and fail to pay staff, you have shot yourself in both feet and one of your shoulders.

But where there is ying, there is also yang:

It looks as if it's going to be a big year for DreamWorks Animation.

In 2010, DWA will become the first studio to release three CGI animated films in one year. That's a potential game-changer as the studio will have five films hitting screens every two years instead of the three or four so far ...

Let's just call it the ever-turning, ever-changing circle of cartoon commerce. As one fades away, another rises up.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Bakshi N.Y. Art Show

Ralph Bakshi (Fritz The Cat, Wizards, Mighty Mouse) will return to New York in March to present an art show in SoHo. He’ll appear at a reception at the Animazing Gallery, with a new series of paintings in an exhibition entitled The Streets. These are mixed-media construction/paintings inspired by Bakshi’s youth in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.

New York’s Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) will present a lifetime achievement award to Bakshi at the opening reception on Friday, March 19th, from 6-9PM (by invitation.) A public meet and greet reception takes place on Saturday March 20th, 2-5PM. Admission is free and open to the public. The exhibition runs through May 15th. Animazing Gallery is located at 54 Greene Street at Broome in SoHo. For more information visit

(Thanks cartoon brew)

The Princess and the Frog DVD and Blu-ray in March

UltimateDisney reports that Disney’s traditionally animated The Princess and the Frog will be out on DVD and Blu-ray on March 16 as a single-disc DVD, a single-disc Blu-ray, and a three-disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack. Extras on the single-disc DVD will include a filmmakers’ audio commentary, deleted scenes, a Princess Portraits game, and a music video for Ne-Yo’s end credits song The Blu-ray disc will add a number of exclusive features, including art galleries and the featurettes “The Disney Legacy”, “The Making of a Princess”, “Disney’s Newest Princess”, “Conjuring the Villain”, “The Return to Hand-Drawn Animation” and “Bringing Life to Animation.”

Burton to helm Cannes Film Festival jury

The head of this year’s Cannes Film Festival jury will be Tim Burton, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “After spending my early life watching triple features and 48-hour movie marathons, I’m finally ready for this,” Burton said. Cannes president Gilles Jacob noted, “It’s the first time an artist whose origins are in animation will preside over the jury of the Festival de Cannes.”

Outsider Art Becomes Animated in The Future

The video above is about The Future, a twelve-minute animated short drawn and voiced entirely by artists who are members of League Treatment Center’s L.A.N.D. (League Artists Natural Design) Gallery in Brooklyn. What makes these artists unique is that they all have developmental disabilities. The film is being directed by NY animation artist M. Wartella (Wonder Showzen, Superjail) and is scheduled for completion this summer. To help complete the project, the organization is currently accepting donations through the fundraising website Kickstarter. The art looks like a lot of fun; can’t wait to see how it turns out!

(Thanks, Christy Karacas)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

The Match by Ken Mundie

Independent animator and producer Wendy Johnson Carmical has started a production blog dedicated to veteran animator Ken Mundie and his new traditionally animated film (still under production) called The Match.

Mundie, who is now in his eighties, directed the first Fat Albert special, created the titles for The Wild Wild West and produced a controversial Warner Bros. animated short, The Door (1967). Carmical says, “This endeavor to help Ken get his film made is inspired by a love of animation, respect for the pioneers, and regard for a really unique interesting artist.” The Match is “an animated film about an epic tennis match that represents the battle of brute force against the intellect. It will be animated entirely by Ken Mundie. We are hoping to find people interested in painting the finished animation and/or find funding.”

Below is a work-in-progress reel of the first act.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Toon Tuesday : My Luncheon with Roy

Join Disney Legend Floyd Norman via JHM, in the Coral Room on the Burbank lot in late 1984. And then listen in as Walt’s nephew reassures the troops in regards to all the changes that had recently been made at Walt Disney Productions

I don’t know who came up with the bright idea, but it was a darn good one. What about spending our noon hour with the Vice Chairman of Walt Disney Feature Animation? Would Roy Edward Disney accept our invitation, we wondered? The only way to find out was to simply ask.

The early 1980s proved to be a turbulent time at Walt Disney Studios. The Company had just evaded a takeover by green-mailers, and new management was finally in place. A good deal of these changes were initiated by none other than Walt Disney’s nephew, Roy Edward Disney. Frank Wells had been brought over from Warner Bros. and Michael Eisner & Jeffrey Katzenberg arrived from Paramount. Sweeping changes were happening daily at the Disney Studios, and more than a few Mouse House staffers were concerned. Suddenly, Disney had a bold new future. But what would this future bring?

You can imagine the number of questions we had prepared. And who better to answer those questions than the man who not only represented old Disney, but the new incarnation of Disney as well? Better yet, we knew we would not be dealing with the typical Disney suit. A businessman to be sure, Roy Edward Disney was that unique combination of tough business guy and creative individual. Affable and easy going, Roy knew who he was, and had nothing to prove. What the heck! His name was on the damn building.

We reserved a small table in the Coral Room, a cozy dining area adjoining the Disney commissary. Roy arrived exactly on time, and greeted each of us warmly. I won’t bother listing the names of the artists and writers who attended. But oddly enough, each of us worked in the building next door that was named after Roy’s dad.

Roy Disney still sported a mustache in those days, and he had not yet given up smoking. As you can imagine, the first thing Roy did was light up a cigarette. He bore an incredible resemblance to his famous uncle, and like Walt, his manner was warm and friendly. We ordered juice and coffee, and our conversation began.

We spent our lunch hour in conversation with Roy Edward Disney back in the 1980s.
I'll never forget that special afternoon.

“Are you happy with the way things are going at the Studio,?” we ventured. Roy’s answer was simple and direct. “I am now!” he replied with a broad smile on his face. Roy spoke of his concern with the studio’s direction during the past few years. Disney had grown irrelevant and was now being upstaged by creators like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. In the eyes of many in the Hollywood community, Disney was totally out of touch, and Roy was determined to change all that.

The subject of Filmation came up. At that time, this sizable animation enterprise had just embarked on production of a feature length motion picture entitled “Pinocchio.” Well, Roy was furious about that, and vowed he would do everything possible to prevent this well-known television animation company from riding on Disney’s coat tails.

I gather Roy was ready to turn up the heat on Filmation should they attempt to market their feature film in any way that connected it to Disney. I don’t remember how this battle eventually resolved itself, but I doubt if anybody even remembers that second rate animated motion picture today.

Of course, I had my own questions, and my main issue with the Disney Company was having animation booted out of their own facility and exiled to warehouses & trailers in nearby Glendale. To his credit, Roy apologized for that indignity to Walt Disney’s premiere animation unit. It was a necessary concession to the new management. There was no other facility on the Disney studio lot large enough to house all of the new production units that would soon be ramping up. Roy gave us his word that a new animation facility would be constructed to house Walt Disney Feature Animation. It took a few years, but Roy Edward Disney delivered on that promise.

Unlike today’s politically correct weaving and dodging, no questions were off limits. We had concerns that Walt’s studio would now be run by major Hollywood players and studio bigshots with their inflated egos & bloated salaries. Would they accept the Disney culture, or even understand it? Roy implored us to cut the newcomers some slack, and give them a chance to prove themselves. “These young guys (Eisner was only 43 at the time) have some good ideas,” said the vice chairman. “Let’s see what they can do before you judge them.”

Over a thousand people attended Roy's memorial last week at the El Capitan in Hollywood. It was not a sad occasion. It was the celebration of a remarkable life.

Eventually, the conversation moved to animation, and that’s when Roy truly got excited. “We’ve got some terrific projects in development,” said the vice chairman. “Animation is on the way back, and people are going to be amazed when they realize that Walt Disney Studios is just as creative as it ever was. We’re going to see some remarkable things in the next few years."

The dessert plates were being cleared away, and before we knew it, our lunch hour had come to a close. Since Roy had been our guest we insisted on picking up the check. However, Roy Disney would have none of it, and he made sure the lunch tab went on his own personal account. I guess he was good for the money. The waitress didn’t even bother asking for his credit card.

Roy Edward Disney has now joined his dad and uncle in the big studio upstairs. The Disney tradition remains intact today largely because of his efforts and dedication. As for myself, I’m just glad I’ve been a small part of this creative enterprise, and was able to spend a very special lunch hour with a personal hero.

Did you enjoy Floyd’s look back at his luncheon with Roy E. Disney? If so, I should probably let you that Mr. Norman currently has three books on the market that talk about all of the other amazing & amusing adventures this Disney Legend has had while working in the animation industry.

These volumes include Floyd's original collection of cartoons and stories -- "Faster! Cheaper! The Flip Side of the Art of Animation" (which is available for sale over at John Cawley's Cataroo) as well as two follow-ups to that book, "Son of Faster, Cheaper" &
"How the Grinch Stole Disney." Which you can purchase by heading over to Afrokids.

And while you're at it, don't forget to check out Mr. Fun's Blog. Which is where Mr. Norman posts his musings when he's not writing for JHM.

At Nick

I spent the afternoon wandering the technicolor halls of Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank. I have no overarching view or wisdom about the studio (except that everyone is working energetically). But what artists told me was:

"We're doing six new episodes of Fairly Odd Parents and and seven additional episodes of Tough Puppies, a total of twenty newer half-hours. I think that we'll always be doing episodes of FOP, because it always does well. And there could be a new spin-off series for new characters Poof and Foop, who knows?" ...

"I'll be surprised if
Ni-Hao Kai Lan doesn't come back for more episodes. The merchandising is doing well, and the company likes that..."

"Nick is moving toward having maybe 80% of its shows in CGI. The DreamWorks shows,
Fanboy and Chum Chum, and some others in development ..."

Meanwhile, there are more cubicles filling up as newer product filters into the development pipeline.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Buckets of 2010 Animated Series Premieres

2009 was the year of the animated feature – with an unprecedented 20 films in consideration for the Best Animated Feature at the Oscars. It looks like 2010 will be the year of the animated TV comedy, with no fewer than 7 series coming out on FOX, Comedy Central, TBS, HBO and Adult Swim. Plus, we couldn’t confirm air dates for Adult Swim’s new series Southies, and Nick Swardson’s comedy show will include animated segments, so the list is probably even longer. Here’s a run-down of what’s on tap:

The Ricky Gervais Show

Creator(s): Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington
Network: HBO
Premieres: February 19th, 2010
Premise: Based on the podcasts in which Gervais riffs on a variety of subjects with Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington
Also involved: Craig Kellman (Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends)

Ugly Americans
(see clips here)

Creator(s): David M. Stern and Devin Clark
Network: Comedy Central
Premieres: March 17th, 2010
Studio: Augenblick Studios (Superjail) and Cuppa Coffee
Premise: We follow Mark Lilly, a social worker at the Department of Immigration, as he helps new citizens both human and “other” adapt to hectic life in the Big Apple

Cheyenne Cinnamon and the Fantabulous Unicorn of Sugar Town Candy Fudge
Creator(s): Dave Willis (Aqua Teen Hunger Force)
Network: Adult Swim
Premieres: May 9th, 2010
Studio: Williams Street
Premise: A computer generated parody of the “Pop Princess” genre of girls kids shows featuring a Strawberry Shortcake-esque character who lives in a candy kingdom outside of Detroit
Also involved: the mighty MC Chris and T-Pain

Frankenhole (aka Frankenstime)

Creator(s): Dino Stamatopoulos (interview)
Network: Adult Swim
Premieres: June 27th, 2010
Studio: ShadowMachine Films and Williams Street
Premise: In this stop-motion series, we follow Victor Frankenstein, the mad genius who mastered immortality and now has also created an infinite number of portals (or Frankenholes) connecting his small, Eastern European village (that is teaming with monsters and supernatural forces) to every time period from the past and the future
Also involved: Scott Adsit from 30 Rock

Tight Bros.

Creator(s): Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil (interview)
Network: Adult Swim
Premieres: October 10, 2010
Studio: Williams Street
Premise: The series explores the lives of two New Jersey Guidos, Vince and Aaron, who want to be rich and get laid but are really only successful at looking orange.

Neighbors From Hell
Creator(s): Pam Brady
Network: TBS
Premieres: 2010
Studio: 20th Century Fox TV & DreamWorks Animation SKG
Premise: The series follows a suburban family — the Hellmans — who are literally from Hell.
Also involved: Mireille Soria (Madagascar)

Mongo Wrestling Alliance (aka The Galaxy Wrestling Alliance)
Creator(s): Tommy Blacha (co-creator of Metalocalypse)
Network: Adult Swim
Premieres: October 10th, 2010
Studio: Williams Street

Bob’s Burgers

Creator(s): Loren Bouchard
Network: FOX
Premieres: early 2011
Studio: 20th Century Fox Television
Premise: Bob runs runs a struggling burger joint with the help of his tightly wound wife and their three unhelpful kids.
Also involved: Jim Dauterive from King of the Hill

Lendvai Produces Black and White Animation

Hungarian animator Gabor Lendvai created this CG short, titled Black and White, as his graduate film for Animation Mentor. I hope he explains Donkey Kong next.

Waterfield Welcomes You Into Lobster Club

UK animator Milo Waterfield, has finished a new short film. Lobster Club is an allegorical story of a sex tourist on holiday “in an unidentified Mediterranean country where he is lured into an unusual gentlemen’s club.” Here’s the trailer for the 6-minute film.

'Iron Man 2' Gets AC/DC Album - Check Out The 'Shoot To Thrill' Music Video!

Iron Man already has some powerful allies in War Machine and Nick Fury, but his latest compatriots bring a whole new meaning to "solid as a rock." Apparently, the Armored Avenger is teaming up with AC/DC.

Marvel Entertainment announced plans today to join forces with Columbia Records in featuring the music of AC/DC in "Iron Man 2," director Jon Favreau's upcoming sequel to Marvel Studios' 2008 film. Columbia Records will also release an album called "AC/DC: Iron Man 2" on Monday, April 19, containing 15 classic songs from the band selected from ten of their studio albums.

A new video for "Shoot To Thrill" also debuted online, integrating concert footage from a recent Buenos Aires show with scenes from "Iron Man 2."

The video doesn't reveal too much in the way of new footage save for some elaboration on Tony's suit-and-tie arrival in front of a large audience, which includes an array of Rockette-inspired dancers wearing Iron Man-like bikinis.

"Jon Favreau's vision and passion for AC/DC's music blend seamlessly into this incredible film," said Steve Barnett, co-chairman of Columbia Records. "The music really underscores the high energy and excitement of the film."

Pre-orders for the album begin yesterday, January 26, at (for the "AC/DC: Iron Man 2" CD) and (for a deluxe version of "AC/DC: Iron Man 2" CD/ DVD Package and Vinyl).

"Music is an integral part of the Tony Stark and Iron Man experience, and we are pleased that Columbia and AC/DC are taking part in the franchise's phenomenon," said Tim Connors, Marvel Studios' Chief Operating Officer. "Through this relationship, the band is delivering fans supercharged Iron Man branded music through all our combined consumer touch points, from the movie to retail outlets and even virally with the debut of the new video."

Samuel L. Jackson's 'Thor' Role Is News To Him - 'Nobody's Told Me Anything!'

Earlier today we told you about Samuel L. Jackson's new comic book series, "Cold Space," but now we get back to the projects that are foremost on comics fans' minds: the Marvel movies in which he plays S.H.I.E.L.D. head honcho Nick Fury.

Since he's listed as part of the official cast of "Thor," Kenneth Branagh's upcoming take on Marvel's god of thunder, we had to ask how his character will fit into the film. Will Fury drop by to recruit Thor for the Avengers like he did in "Iron Man"?

We'd love to tell you Jackson gave us the full scoop, but apparently he didn't know he was even in the film until he read the news. However, he did have some opinions to offer on Fury's relationship to Thor and how much of the character we'll see in Marvel's future movies.

"Nobody's told me anything," Jackson laughed when asked about the "Thor" role. "I was reading the trades last week and I saw the cast list. My name was in it, so maybe I am doing something that I don't know about and I'll hear about it soon."

Jackson confessed that he's heard very little about the plan for his character ever since the Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment.

"I don't know what's going on," he said. "Since Disney's bought the franchise, I have no idea what Marvel told them or even if my deal with Marvel is still valid."

Even so, he said he's confident that Fury can fit into the world established by Branagh's "Thor"."

"It all depends on where they find him," he said. "If they're dealing with that particular timeline... Hey, they're shooting it in Santa Fe, it's not like they're shooting it in Norway."

'White Collar' Actor Recalls Brief Time As Brett Ratner's Superman

Matthew Bomer is currently impressing audiences as conman-turned-FBI agent Neal Caffery in the "White Collar" television series, but there was a time not too long ago when he was primed to bring a far more familiar character to the big screen as the star of what eventually became "Superman Returns."

Before Bryan Singer took over "Superman Returns," Brett Ratner had been tagged as the project's director and cast Bomer as Kal-El. Ratner left the project in 2003, and the role of Superman was re-cast and given to Brandon Routh when Singer was named the new director. So, when Bomer dropped by MTV HQ to discuss "White Collar," we had to ask him what it was like to be Superman — even for just a little while.

"I actually screen-tested for Superman, and there was a time when Brett Ratner and I were going to work together on it," Bomer told MTV News. "That particular incarnation of that franchise sort of fell apart, and then it became a whole different beast."

"I was in full tights," he laughed when asked how much of the costume he had donned for his screen test. "I was rocking the tights, the speedo, all of it."

"It was really surreal," he added. "As a kid, you grow up idolizing superheroes, and to be in that garb was really fun and surreal and humbling. ... It was a really great experience, and one that I'm really thankful for. I got to live out a childhood fantasy, if only for the period of the screen test."

Bomer, who earned extra comics cred for dropping by Splash Page HQ post-interview to talk comics, also shared some of his thoughts about the superhero genre as a whole.

"I think superheroes are really fun roles," he said. "I think they're something we'll always need as a society, because they show us what we could be and that hopefully, no matter how scary and bad things get, there's always somebody who can help us — or that humanity really wins out in the end."

"Usually they have a great duality to the character," he added. "There's this superhero aspect and their alter ego is usually somebody completely different."

Oh, and by the way, anyone wondering about Matt Bomer's take on Superman can see him in costume — the actual "Superman Returns" costume — in a Japanese ad for the Toyota Prius. Seriously.

Check it out:

Coming soon: An underwater futuristic sci-fi western

Vampire movies, space adventures: What we need is a good underwater sci-fi movie, like The Abyss or Leviathan.

Kidding about Leviathan.

But we are in for another soggy sci-fi tale now that Gotham Group has optioned Dark Life, based on a book by Kat Falls, Variety reports:

Book will be published in May by Scholastic, which won the rights and inked a two-book deal after making a preemptive bid on the manuscript. Foreign publishing rights to the book, which generated considerable buzz in the pub world pre-sale, have been sold in six languages.

"Dark Life" is set in a near-future world in which rising ocean levels and natural catastrophes have led some people to homestead on the ocean floor. Story centers on an underwater teenage boy and a surface girl who join forces to uncover a government conspiracy.

This futuristic western sounds a bit like a wet Little House on the Prairie meets City of Ember meets The Little Mermaid, doesn't it?

Are you in?

New 'Smallville: Absolute Justice' Trailer - Now With More Dr. Fate, Hawkman And Star Girl!

Okay, I admit it — I haven't been watching "Smallville" lately. Much like "Heroes," I was addicted to the series early on, but eventually lost interest. However, the two-hour "Absolute Justice" arc seems like it might be the thing that brings me back to "Smallville."

Written by prolific comic creator Geoff Johns, "Absolute Justice" will feature the debut of one of my favorite superhero teams: The Justice Society of America. I've been hooked on the team since picking up Johns' "Black Reign" arc in the JSA comics, and the latest trailer for "Absolute Justice" offers some new looks at two of my favorite JSA members, Dr. Fate and Hawkman.

The new trailer is being aired in Canada, and also includes some appearances by Star Girl, Green Arrow, Icicle (at least, I think that's Icicle) and J'onn J'onzz (The Martian Manhunter).

"Smallville: Absolute Justice" debuts February 5th on the CW network.

'The Last Airbender' Posters Hit The 'Net

It's been a long time since we've heard anything about "The Last Airbender," M. Night Shyamalan's upcoming adaptation of the massively popular anime/manga series. More than six months ago, the first "Airbender" trailer arrived online, and now with six months until the film's July premiere, we get a pair of cool new posters.

Each of the new images features one of the film's main characters — the last of the airbenders, Aang (played by Noah Ringer), and the film's firebending villain, Prince Zuko (played by "Slumdog Millionaire" actor Dev Patel).

Set in a world full of martial arts and magic, "The Last Airbender" follows the last survivor of a race of nomads who can "bend" air as he sets out to bring peace to warring nations that control the four elements of air, water, earth and fire.

Back in May 2009, we got our first look at Patel as Zuko, as well as Tae Kwon Do-trained actor Noah Ringer as Aang. Along with Ringer and Patel, the film also stars "Twilight" alum Jackson Rathbone as Sokka, a warrior from the Southern Water Tribe.

"The Last Airbender" is currently scheduled to hit theaters July 2, 2010.

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