Wednesday, February 10, 2010

News - 02/10/10...

Imagi shut down

ABC News reports that Imagi Animation Studios has shut down. The parent company of the studio behind TMNT and Astro Boy is trying to stave off financial problems. But Imagi says will continue to develop movie ideas and then outsource work to others. The news does not mention the status of other Imagi projects in the works such as Gatchaman, Cat Tale, and Gigantor.

Making-Of "The Princess & the Frog" - A Frogumentary

Behind the scenes interviews with some of the artists who made "The Princess & the Frog" .

Here are two parts of the "frog-umentary" featuring Lead Animator Eric Goldberg , and Lead Key Clean-Up artist Marshall Toomey.

Click through to YouTube to watch the other parts of the documentary.

(Thanks David Nethery)

WIA Sets Bay Area Event for Feb. 25

The Women in Animation Bay Area chapter has announced a meeting and networking event for Feb. 25.

The event will feature networking, pizza, games and a surprise screening.

The meeting is open to the public. Admission costs $10, with students getting in for $5. An RSVP to by noon on Feb. 24 is required to attend.

The meeting will be held at the Art Institute of California-San Francisco at 1130 Market St., located between Seventh and Eighth avenues near the Civic Center BART Station.

Women in Animation is a professional, nonprofit group founded in 1994 to foster the dignity, concerns and advancement of women who are involved in all aspects of the art and industry of animation.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Warner Home Video Releases New "Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths" Video Clip

Warner Home Video has released a new video clip from the upcoming Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths direct-to-video animated feature.

Made available by Warner Home Video, new Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths media has been released by the studio. To view the new clip from the upcoming Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths direct-to-video animated feature in the Quicktime format, please click HERE.

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.

Craig McCracken’s Tezuka Tribute

‘Milton Glaser v. Magma Taishi’ is Craig McCracken’s tribute to Osamu Tezuka and graphic designer Milton Glaser, who created the Sixties poster of Bob Dylan upon which this image is based. It’s available as a print and T-shirt during the month of February at

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Mouk Trailer

Mary Blair, Richard Scarry, Fyodor Khitruk’s Winnie the Pooh, and anime-styled cuteness are all mashed together in this colorful trailer for Mouk, an upcoming TV series produced by French studio Millimages. It’s based on illustrator Marc Boutavant’s book Around the World with Mouk. Sixty-two eleven-minute episodes and thirty one-minute shorts for web/mobile are currently in production.

(Thanks, Philippe Bercovici)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Wow! A Talking Fish! (1983)

This is seven minutes long, but I promise you it’s well-worth watching. It’s an animated film from Armenia, in Russian with sub-titles, written, produced, animated and directed by Robert Saakyants. It’s based on an Armenian folk tale, and at about 1:30 a wizard appears — the animation of this shape-shifter makes this a classic. Check it out:

(Thanks, Thorsten Fleisch)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Beware The Deep Archives and David Scheve

Photo of David Scheve found on his public Facebook profile

I’ve never had to write something like this before because I’ve never had a consumer experience quite as awful as this. I hope to prevent others from suffering what I had to go through with animation art retailer The Deep Archives and its owner David Scheve.

The story begins last August when I stumbled upon this piece on their website:

It was listed in the NY animation category, but it is obviously a Tom Oreb model sheet for an Ipana Toothpaste commercial produced in Disney’s short-lived TV commercial unit. I’m familiar with the disreputable tactics of some animation art dealers who pass off copies as original art so I sent The Deep Archives an email asking point-blank:

It says original art so is it correct that it is not a photostat? Can you please let me know what media the piece was made with? Is the grey background the color of the paper or is it paint?

The response I got back was:


Thanks for the email.
The piece is original. The Grey is paint.


With that assurance, I Paypaled David Scheve the amount of $270, which was the price of the piece plus shipping. A couple of weeks later I received a package in the mail. With great anticipation and utmost carefulness, I opened the package. Now this should be the happy part of the story where I end up with an original piece of art by one of my favorite animation artists. Except for one small detail. The piece I received in the mail was a photostat.

I emailed him and told him I was shocked about how misleading he’d been. “There is not a single bit of paint in this entire piece,” I wrote. “It’s a copy of paint.” At first Scheve denied it outright and wrote back, “Amid, the piece is an original gouche (sic) painting. We don’t sell stats.” He finally relented and told me to send back the photostat for a full refund.

I sent it back to him via certified mail and he received it in mid-September 2009. It turns out that refunding my money—a not-insignificant sum of $270—wasn’t a priority for him. I let the oversight slide for a couple months, but in late-November I began calling and emailing him regularly to remind him that he owed me money. I even had to threaten a small claims suit if he didn’t return it by a certain date. The money finally arrived in January 2010.

Besides the obvious disappointment and anger about Scheve’s misrepresentation of the artwork, there are other things that bother me about the experience:

1.) As of this writing, over five months after he learned it was not an original piece of art, the piece is available for sale on The Deep Archives website in the “1950s/1960s NY” category. It is still labeled as “Original Animation Art” and the price remains unchanged. It saddens me to think that an inexperienced collector might fall prey to this listing and buy a fake piece of “original art.”

2.) Late last December, when I called David again asking him to refund my money, he screamed at me so violently and unexpectedly over the phone that it caused my ears to ring afterward. His unprofessionalism was such that after twenty seconds of conversation, all of it polite and courteous from my end, he yelled, “Amid, listen, I’m going to hang up on you in two seconds,” which he then proceeded to do.

3.) His lackadaisical attitude about refunding my money and how he stringed me along for months with his games. On September 25th he wrote, “Your refund will be processed and sent first thing MONDAY.” Not true. On November 28th he wrote, “I will be in on Monday, let me see what is going on.” He didn’t respond until I called him again. On December 8th he wrote, “I having (sic) trouble tracking down the initial payment paper work, can you tell me what day you sent it, so I can go back and refund it correctly.” So before he would return my money, months late mind you, he put the burden on me to provide his gallery with information. It went on and on like this.

Needless to say, I will never again be dealing with him, and I will urge everybody I know to exercise extreme caution should they choose to do business with him. There are plenty of reputable art dealers around. Unfortunately, it’s guys like David Scheve and his company The Deep Archives who continue to perpetuate the image of animation art dealers as slimy scumbags.

UPDATE 10:11am PT: One bit of good news. Since I posted the story today, the photostat of Ipana artwork is no longer listed as “Original Animation Art.” In fact, the listing has been removed entirely from their website.

UPDATE 1:44pm PT: David Scheve and his “friends” have been attempting to post inflammatory comments on the site for the past couple hours. One person, “Jaru Kempter,” who identified himself as a friend of David, has so far referred to me as “mad,” “bitchy,” and said, “It’s clear you’re a woman scorned.” It helps to know somebody’s gender before resorting to sexist remarks.

Scheve’s own comments have the audacity to pin the blame on me. He wrote, “As for AMID’s false claims; yes, he purchased a piece that turned out to be something OTHER than what it was thought to be. He was asked to return it for a full refund. He took forever to do so, which complicated the matter with paypal.”

For the record, I payed him via Paypal on August 14, 2009. I received the piece on August 22, 2009. When I sent it back, the post office attempted a certified mail delivery on September 11, 2009. It did not take “forever to do so.” Scheve also claims that we are deleting positive comments from the site. That is most definitely not the case. The only ones we have deleted are the multiple insulting posts by the aforementioned “Jaru Kempter.”

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Cool Stuff: Oceansize

Oceansize was created by Supinfocom Arles students Romain Jouandeau, Adrien Chartie, Gilles Mazières and Fabien Thareau in 2008. In the short, two oil-rig workers find themselves under attack by a large, viscous creature. This short gets a number of things right. There's a palpable tension throughout. Both the designs of the environment and their attention to detail within it (textures on the rig itself, particles floating in the water, lighting) bring you immediately into the world of these two oil workers. Of particular note are the well-framed shots in the action sequences. They help communicate the urgency of the oil workers' situation and are held just long enough to cover up some of the stiff character animation as the action builds to its climax. Good stuff. I'm going in for another viewing.

Ricky Gervais Prepares "Flanimals" for Feature with "Simpsons" Writer

Paste Magazine is reporting that Ricky Gervais is preparing an animated feature film series based on his children's book series Flanimals. Gervais will be teaming up with Simpsons writer Matt Selman for the project, which has an expected release date in 2011. It is not known if this is connected to an earlier Flanimals project commissioned by ITV for the United Kingdom. The new movie is in addition to his HBO animated series, set to debut on February 19, 2010.

Initial Details, Hi-Res Cover Art For Upcoming "Wolverine And The X-Men" DVD Title

Lionsgate Home Entertainment has provided Marvel Animation Age with a closer look at the next Wolverine and The X-Men DVD home video release.

Marvel Animation Age has received hi-res cover art and initial details for the upcoming Wolverine and The X-Men: Revelation DVD release, the fifth home video volume release for the popular Wolverine and The X-Men animated series, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The Wolverine and The X-Men: Revelation DVD home video release, featuring five episodes from the series, is slated to hit shelves May 4th, 2010. The release is described as below.

Synopsis: The world's end arrives in eight days. Will Wolverine and the X-Men discover the deadly secret to stop it? Uncover the truth in Wolverine and The X-Men Volume 5: Revelation with five gripping episodes. As the X-Men face a threat lurking in their midst, Angel goes against his own father to save fellow mutants. But when his wings are taken from him, will he throw away everything for revenge? Next, dangerous secrets await Scott in the depths of his own mind when he attempts to rid himself of his memories of Jean Grey. Meanwhile in the future, Xavier struggles at all costs to get information back to Wolverine, even at the risk of Rover and Marrow's loyalty. He must act quickly, before Gambit succeeds in his treacherous game of thievery. Because if he doesn't, a power more deadly than anything the X-Men have ever faced will put the world at risk: a fiery entity known as...The Phoenix.

The episodes "Guardian Angel," "Breakdown," "Rover," "Aces & Eights," and "Shades of Grey" are slated to be included in this release. Wolverine and The X-Men: Revelation is also set to feature trailers and audio commentaries on all episodes included. Further specific details are set to be revealed when Lionsgate Home Entertainment issues the official press release for Wolverine and The X-Men: Revelation in the coming weeks.

The Wolverine and The X-Men: Revelation DVD home video release, made available by Lionsgate Home Entertainment, is slated to hit shelves May 4th, 2010.

Organizing Workplaces, Organizing Lives

Some time back I did an interview for the website. It covered -- surprise, surprise -- the state of animation and visual effects workplaces, the state of animation and visual effects workers, where they've both been and where they're likely going.

It dovetails nicely with this article:

Unlike every other craft in the film industry, there is no union for visual effects artists. This seems to be a matter of timing as much as anything. Modern visual effects techniques are only a few decades old, and the digital side of the visual effects arts really only has about 20 years of history as a popular filmmaking tool. The other filmmaking disciplines such as acting, directing and music composition date back to the very beginnings of the film industry.

This newness has left digital visual effects artists with absolutely no collective bargaining power whatsoever. In this age of weakened unions, many of these artists are understandably leery of the idea of unionization. Additionally, visual effects artist currently work under constant threat from producers of having their work sent off to India or China. (The irony of sending creative work to a country like China that routinely censors communications -- including the announcement of this year's Oscar® nominations -- doesn't seem to bother these bottom-line seeking producers.) ...

Mr. Stranahan has it slightly wrong. The Animation Guild has been representing visual effects employees for decades. (What is Shrek, Aladdin or The Princess and the Frog, after all, if not ninety-minute long visual effects? Which, come to think of it, is what Avatar mostly is.)

The fact that we don't represent a lot of live-action visual effects is apparently what eats at Mr. Stranahan ....

But here's the rub: even though visual effects are an increasingly large part of the blockbusters to which Hollywood is addicted, the people who create them have relatively little clout. There are lots of reasons for this, from effects houses underbidding each other for jobs and gutting their own profit margins, to effects workers being categorized as "independent contractors" when they're actually employees, to lack of unionization.

This last problem was driven home to me when I attended a discussion at UCLA between Scott Ross (then the CEO of Digital Domain), and Tom Sito (then the President of the Animation Guild.) Ross was there to argue how unionization was really a bad and counter-productive thing for effects artists, but a short exchange during the audience's Question and Answer period undercut his argument. It went like this:

Angry Questioner: You know, Scott, I've worked at Digital Domain for a couple years now, and what really burns me is, on our last big project, all of the effects crew got pushed down below the Assistant Directors and Unit Production Managers' names in the credits at the back. We were way at the freaking bottom.. That's just wrong, man. Why did DD allow that to happen?

Scott Ross: I totally sympathize with you. Your names should have been higher up. But we couldn't do it, because the Directors Guild has a contract with the majors that forces us to put their people's names ahead of everybody else's.

Tom Sito (taking the microphone): And I'd like to point out that those A.D.'s and producion managers are ahead of the effects artists because they're in a union.

Scott Ross (after staring at Tom): Touche.

My advice to effects creators and everybody else: Know your rights. Know what the laws and regulations are. And know the addresses and phone numbers of the agencies that enforce and monitor the laws. (Knowledge is power, and power is -- if you decide to use it --leverage.)

Never stop training and learning. Never stop networking. And never stop living below your take-home pay.

Thanks for listening.

Here is the latest podcast. And here is my first podcast interview from August 2008.

If you have problems with the podcast widgets you can right-click to download the August 2008 and February 2010 podcasts in .mp3 format.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Around El Studios

Today I was especially crazed and visited two studios: Disney Television Animation at the Frank Wells Building, and DreamWorks Animation, where Mr. Katzenberg's black Prius was gleaming in the afternoon sun ...

Disney Television Animation on the lot is busy wrapping up the second season of Phineas and Ferb and gearing up for the third season. Fish Hooks, crewed by most of the artist that were previously on Cartoon Network's Chowder, are working on Season Uno and slowly expanding.

Disney TVA has five half-hour pilots in work. I stared at the titles on a cork board in a hall but since I know nothing about the shows themselves I have already forgotten them. An artist peering at me over the top of his cubicle said: "Hopefully we'll be making some of those as series soon ..."

At DreamWorks, there's a few end stragglers on How to Train Your Dragon and a push to complete Shrek IV. One of the artists boarding The Croods said to me:

"We screened the story reels for Jeffrey last week. He had notes, but we knew he'd have notes, and we kind of knew where the problems were, so his input reinforced our thinking. But it was a pretty good session; nobody got fired ...."

Then it was back to the office for e-mails and meetings. What fun!

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

NYC and Chicago: Al Jarnow Screening

Truth be told, I’d never heard of Al Jarnow prior to learning about this screening, but I’m curious to see more of his work now. He did a lot of work for educational programs like Sesame Street and 3-2-1 Contact, as well as his own work. From a press release about his work: “Al Jarnow captured life’s scientific minutia and boiled it down for easy consumption between cookie eating monsters and counting vampires. Coupling time-lapse, stop motion, and cel animation with simple objects found in every day life, Jarnow deconstructed the world for an entire generation."

This Friday, February 12, there will be two screenings of his work at 92Y Tribeca (200 Hudson Street) at 7pm and 9pm. Both screenings are the same (sixty minutes of his films and a thirty-minute documentary about his creative process). Jarnow will do a Q&A after the 7pm screening and introduce the 9pm screening. Tickets can be purchased at the 92Y website. Additional screenings of his work will take place in Chicago on February 19 and 20th at the Gene Siskel Film Center. They will begin at 8pm each evening.

If you can’t make the screenings, a dvd of his work, Celestial Navigations, is being released later this month with 45 of his films, the documentary about his work, and a 60-page booklet. It’s a reasonable $25 at the Numero Group website.

(Thanks, Heather Harkins and Greg Condon)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

DreamWorks Animation and NBC Join Forces

DreamWorks Animation and NBC today announced that they have joined forces in a first-of-its-kind televised promotional partnership that will debut on Tuesday, February 9th, just three days before the commencement of the network's broadcast of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

With an eye toward audiences of all ages and promoting both NBC's broadcast of the Olympics and DreamWorks Animation's upcoming theatrical release of its 3D animated feature film, How To Train Your Dragon, DreamWorks Animation has produced a series of seven winter sports-themed custom, CG animated vignettes tied to the film, which opens nationwide on March 26th. The vignettes will be fully integrated across all NBC platforms, including The Today Show, CNBC, USA and MSNBC as well as during the network's regularly scheduled telecasts of the Vancouver Games.

The entire series is narrated by Emmy Award-nominated late-night talk show host, Craig Ferguson and directed by Tim Johnson, Executive Producer of How To Train Your Dragon. Featuring the characters from the feature film as they compete in humorous variations of the "Dragon/Viking" sports from the mythical Viking Games of 1010, the custom vignettes include competitions such as snowboarding, speed skating, bobsledding and ski jumping.

"We were inspired by the Nordic-like setting of this year's Winter Games in Vancouver and tied it to our imagined story of burly Vikings on a desolate island we call 'Berk,'" said Chris Sanders, one of the Directors of DreamWorks Animation's HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. "The result is a series of fun vignettes that take our characters to the 11th century as they compete in Viking Games of their own kind ... with the added pressure of fire-breathing Dragons constantly on their tails!"

The Return Of Wazowski

It looks like PIXAR is moving ahead on a proposed sequel to 2001's Monsters, Inc. At this point, it looks to be directed by Pete Docter, director of the first film. Billy Crystal and John Goodman are likely to return as Mike Wazowski and James P. 'Sulley' Sullivan, respectively.

This will be PIXAR's third feature to return in sequels, following the successful Toy Story franchise as well as this summers' Cars 2. We are looking at 2013 for a release.

"Metropia" wins producer's award at Goteborg Fest

For her work as producer of last fall's animated "Metropia," Kristina Åberg of Sweden won the Lorens Award on Saturday night at Scandinavia's largest film festival.

The Göteborg International Film Festival gave her the award, which consists of free developing of the winning producer's next feature film. It's estimated to be worth 500,000 Swedish krona ($68,000 U.S.).

Metropia was described by the festival as "an innovative and unique animated film." A science-fiction film directed by Tarik Saleh, it's a futuristic look at a terrifying Europe where the world is running out of oil. The film used a technique in which actual photographs were altered and heavily stylized in a computer program, and then animated.

"The Lorens Award 2010 goes to a courageous and community-involved producer who does not shy away from the difficult or challenging," festival organizers said. "This year's producer is a driven person with high artistic ambitions who produces unexpected stories and is not afraid of using new and not yet tested technologies."

Sweden's 33rd Gothenburg Film Festival sold 130,400 tickets to 32,000 visitors. There were 720 screenings of 450 films from 78 countries.

Family Guy, American Dad, Simpsons 'Currently Casting'

Voice Actors in the News has a list (via and another undisclosed source) of contact info for the casting directors of Family Guy, American Dad and The Simpsons.

Surprisingly included by is King of the Hill, which FOX previously announced was canceled.

Also worth noting is that Robot Chicken is listed as "on hiatus," and that several popular animated series on FOX and Adult Swim are "currently casting."

UPDATE: It's Official: "Daria" is Coming to DVD reports that Daria is coming to DVD on May 11th, 2010. All five seasons from the Beavis & Butt-Head spin-off series will contain every episode and movie as well as these special features:

Pilot - Sealed With a Kick
Mystik Spiral Music Video "Freakin' Friends"
Daria Day Intros
Top Ten Video Countdown Hosted by Daria & Jane
Cast & Crew interviews
Never Before Seen Mystik Spiral spin-off script

Daria: The Complete Series will hit stores on May 11, 2010.

UPDATE: has the cover for Daria: The Complete Series. The 8-disc set will contain all 65 episodes as well as the 2 telefilms.

The Morning Diz

A chunk of this a.m. was spent on the three floors of the Hat Building with representatives from our Mother International ...

On the first floor, the c.g. crew is working on Rapunzel* while the traditional layout crew is hard at work on the Winnie the Pooh feature. We spent a lot of time looking at pencil lines on big sheets of paper (what a concept!), while the artists said:

"We're making the Hundred Acre Wood a lot more green and lush than the first time [the featurette from the 1960s]. There was research done at the actual place in Britain, and we're putting in more greenery, ferns, and bigger trees than before, making it look like Wood that exists in Britain ..."

Up on the second floor, the animators are "resigned" to the reality that Snow Queen, has been shelved. As one of them noted: "There's now maybe going to be a long gap between hand-drawn projects, but they're going to work to come up with another project to replace Queen, we'll see what happens."

Meanwhile on the third floor, the story and visual development artists have finished work on Rapunzel. As we stumbled around, story artists were gathering for an Andrew Millstein and Ed Catmull meeting where they were going to get updated about future feature development. (Mr. Catmull and Mr. Millstein were coming up the stairs as we were going down ...)

Then I went off to lunch, and my friends from the IA returned to their offices for meetings. (Exciting, no?)

* Which, for our purposes here, we'll be the designated title until the House of Mouse announces another.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Christopher Nolan To 'Mentor' New 'Superman' Movies, Unlikely To Direct

"The Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan is making room for another superhero franchise — none other than the Man of Steel himself, Superman.

A report from Deadline Hollywood states that Warner Bros. has tasked Nolan with a "godfather" role in shepherding a "Superman" relaunch following the poorly received "Superman Returns." The site also reiterated its report from yesterday that Nolan is currently working on the third "Batman" screenplay with David Goyer and brother Jonah Nolan.

According to the report, Nolan isn't likely to direct the new "Superman" film, which won't be a followup to "Superman Returns." Curiously, the report mentions that "Returns" collaborators Brandon Routh and Bryan Singer aren't officially off the relaunch yet.

"We know what we don't want to do. But we don't know what we want to do," an insider reportedly told the site. "We learned a lot from the last movie, and we want to get it right this time."

The report also indicates that there are still legal troubles plaguing "Superman," as the character's rights revert back to creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster in 2013. If production does not begin by 2011, "the Siegels could sue to recover their damages on the grounds that the deal should have contained a clause in which the rights returned to the owners after a given time if no film was in development."

Exactly what Christopher Nolan plans to bring to the "Superman" table remains unclear at this point, though an insider reinterpreted previous reports of a "darker" reboot to mean a "more sophisticated" relaunch. Interestingly enough, Nolan coming on board the "Superman" franchise echoes Warner Bros' previous attempt in the 1990s to bring "Batman" filmmaker Tim Burton in on the Man of Steel's big screen voyage. That attempt never took flight.

Tim Robbins Joins 'Green Lantern' Cast

Hector Hammond's got daddy issues coming his way in the form of Oscar-winning actor Tim Robbins.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Tim Robbins has joined the cast of "Green Lantern," Martin Campbell's film adaptation of the DC Comics property. Robbins will play Senator Hammond, the disapproving father of Doctor Hector Hammond, played in the film by Peter Sarsgaard.

Robbins is the latest notable actor to sign on for "Green Lantern," joining the likes of Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, Blake Lively as love interest Carol Ferris, Mark Strong as the traitorous Sinestro and the aforementioned Sarsgaard as the telepathic Hector Hammond.

"Green Lantern" is Robbins' most recent foray into the world of comic books, with the widely lampooned "Howard the Duck" being the first. I completely forgot that he was in that 1986 film, and frankly, I'm sure Robbins tried to forget, too.

But his role as Senator Hammond is just the most recent mention of Robbins in relation to comics. The actor was briefly rumored for the role of Howard Stark in Marvel's "Iron Man 2," though he eventually dispelled the report as an internet rumor. "Mad Men" actor John Slattery ultimately landed the part.

With Robbins on board as Senator Hammond, there are few major roles left to be cast. Campbell confirmed the involvement of Kilowog, Abin Sur and other members of the Green Lantern Corps. Given the production's March start date, it shouldn't be long before those other actors are revealed.

Nic Cage Channels Adam West's Batman For 'Kick-Ass' Role

As a lifelong comic fan, Nic Cage has previously been linked to Superman and the Green Goblin before finally starring in a comic book movie in "Ghost Rider." Later this year, Cage gets another opportunity as Damon Macready — better known as the vigilante Big Daddy — in Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.'s "Kick-Ass."

"I always fantasized about what would happen if you could become a superhero," Cage told Empire Magazine (the text of the interview is posted on "As a child I was Kick-Ass. I would call myself The Spirit and I had a white t-shirt with a black ‘S’ on it. I strapped a boomerang to my chest and I would prowl the alley at the back of my house between one and two in the morning. When I got the script, I loved the concept because I think it’s something that speaks to all of us."

Cage also acknowledged that Adam West greatly influenced his portrayal of a "thinly veiled take on Batman."

"Well, it came out of a rehearsal, when Matthew (Vaughn) wanted me to have a yellow belt," explained Cage. "And it looked so much like the belt from the 'Batman' TV show that I thought, 'Well, why don’t we just go the whole way and have Damon be channeling Adam West?' Because that’s his Jungian muse, to help him accomplish the things he accomplishes. Adam West, is for me, the only Batman. He found the humour in the character and found the charm that the original Batman comics always had."

"I wanted Damon to be the nicest father in the world," continued Cage. "I once dated a girl many, many years ago whose father was a cop. He had a moustache and glasses and he’d always refer to my then-girlfriend as 'child.' He was the last guy you’d ever expect could break someone’s nose in a fist-fight but he was indeed a bad-ass police officer. I liked that tonality."

MTV News recently spoke with Cage's onscreen daughter, Chloe Moretz about their interactions on the set of "Kick-Ass."

"Kick-Ass" will leap into theaters April 16.

EXCLUSIVE: Anthony Hopkins Talks 'Thor,' Says Thou Shalt Not Hear Shakespearean Talk

Over the weekend, affable veteran actor Anthony Hopkins was haunting the hallways at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, shaking the hands of various journalists as he showed off a new grey beard. When a couple of journalists asked him who he was playing in his next movie, he responded “I’m God!” and then burst out laughing.

Moments earlier, the Oscar-winner sat down with MTV to explore a few of the finer points of his character in Marvel’s now-filming blockbuster.

“It’s for ‘Thor’,” he said of the beard. “It has a great director in Kenneth Branagh. So, I’m lucky. In the past year I’ve worked with [‘Wolfman’] filmmaker Joe Johnston, Woody Allen and Ken Branagh.

A veteran star who has played all kinds of complex characters, one thing Hopkins has never portrayed is a god — so, as he works on telling the tale of Marvel’s hammer-wielding hero, the 73-year-old actor is getting a kick out of it.

“I knew nothing of it,” he said of the “Thor” character, who has been appearing in comics since 1962. “It’s a surprise to be in these sort of movies.”

As Marvel fans know, Thor has often appeared a bit stiff due to his Asgardian multi-millennial life and tendency to rely heavily on old-timey talk. But according to Hopkins — who played Claudius in a 1969 version of “Hamlet” — this is a superhero interpretation, not a Shakespeare one.

“It’s a superhero movie, but with a bit of Shakespeare thrown in,” revealed Hopkins, who plays Thor’s irascible daddy Odin in the flick. “It’s a big, big broad thing. This is a bit of a Shakespeare movie as well, on a big scope.”

As for the key question of whether Thor will contain “Thee,” “Thou” and other such words, Hopkins said absolutely not.

“No, not in this,” he said of the blockbuster. “It’s all modern language.”

Although they’re still early into shooting, Hopkins — who can be seen in “Wolfman” this weekend — told us that he’s enjoyed working with some of the film’s lesser-known stars, such as Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, who play his dueling sons.

“Oh, I love working with young actors,” he said of the duo, flashing a grin. “I don’t have to do much work. I let them do all the work. I let them act, and then I just stand back.”

What do you think of Branagh’s decision to lose Thor’s “thou” and “thee” speech patterns? Will it help update the character, or take him too far away from his roots?

Big shock: James Cameron might NOT direct Avatar 2

James Cameron talks about Avatar in Beijing. [CFP]

As James Cameron heads into the home stretch of making sure every human being who hasn't seen his film Avatar gets to the theater, talk is naturally turning to exactly what the King of the World will be working on next. And he revealed that he might NOT direct a sequel.

We caught up with Cameron at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, where he received the fest's Modern Master award, and he said that he hasn't completely settled on his next project, but added that he certainly won't be taking another 12-year sabbatical before getting behind the camera again, as he did between Titanic and Avatar.

Battle Angel—a big-screen adaptation of Battle Angel Alita, the Japanese manga-series-turned-anime-franchise—has long been rumored to be on deck as Cameron's next film. But the writer-director revealed that while the project's still high on his priority list, it may be sidetracked in favor of a sequel (or series of sequels) to Avatar. Or possibly yet another film.

"We're still figuring that out," Cameron said. "I love Battle Angel. I've always loved Battle Angel, but a second Avatar film is a possibility, and I've got a couple of other films that I've developed over the last few years as well. So it's all still up in the air."

Cameron also explained that continuing Avatar as a franchise has been part of his game plan from the beginning. "It was embedded in my original pitch to the studio that part of the kind of business model for this is that we create all these digital assets. We essentially create a world. It exists in hard drives when you're done with the movie. And you can re-create it very quickly. When physical sets get struck, their value plummets from a $2 million set to zero in one day. But our equivalent $2 million of development for a digital set, it's still there. So the idea was maybe we don't make so much money on the first film, but we make more on the second film."

Now that Cameron HAS made so much money on the first film, what he's not sure of yet is whether he'll personally be at the helm of any Avatar sequels or overseeing the franchise as executive producer. "[It's] unknown right now," he said. "Have to look at that, and have to get a script pulled together—all that sort of thing."

At the film festival's "Directors on Directing" panel, Cameron also addressed Fox Corp. head Rupert Murdoch's recent announcement that 20th Century Fox was in "early talks" with him about Avatar sequels. "Well, there are still some deals to be made," he said with a smile. "Which will be easier now that Rupert's announced it."

Moviegoers can count on the filmmaker to continue to push the boundaries of technological advances. "I think that we spent a lot of energy on Avatar building a technology and a system for doing 3-D, for doing performance capture, for doing CG," Cameron said. "The next threshold for me is to do it all faster and cheaper and more efficiently. Do the same thing, hit the same kind of quality level, but just with a better process, a more robust process, because it was very experimental on this film. You make a lot of mistakes, and you learn from those mistakes, but we didn't always have time to implement [the lessons]."

Hedge fund buys Terminator rights: Now what?

In the popular consciousness, it would seem that the only force more nefarious than Skynet is a hedge fund, so it comes as huge irony that Pacificor has outbid Lionsgate and Sony Pictures for the rights to the Terminator franchise.

We won't bore you with the details, but the hedge fund prevailed in an auction of the rights by Halcyon Holding Corp., which had been pushed into bankruptcy by the very fund that ended up winning the rights, according to Deadline Hollywood:

Halcyon Holding Corp accepted the $29.5 million bid from, of all parties, the debtholder which pushed it into bankruptcy, Santa Barbara-based hedge fund Pacificor. (This is the same Pacificor whom Halcyon accused in a lawsuit of extortion, bribery, and fraud and demanded $30M in damages.)

So now that the auction is over, what does this mean for the beloved franchise?

As the deal is subject to approval by the federal bankruptcy court handling Halcyon's case, not much, at least in the short term.

It's likely that the case will be tied up in court for at least a while. "I suspect that Terminator will be something so tied up in legal red tape and rights that we won't see another film for a long, long time," Cinematical writes.

Also, while Lionsgate was reportedly planning to reboot the franchise, what the hedge fund wants to do is anyone's guess.

Since Pacificor isn't exactly a known quantity in the film business, how it will proceed is a mystery. What studio will want to partner up with a firm that's been sued by its last Hollywood partner for extortion? And without a Hollywood partner, how will a hedge fund produce a movie?

One possibility: foreign partners. Maybe the Russian mafia? Or Chinese triads? (We're kidding.)

And will it go forward with movies? Turn the franchise into a TV series again? Sock puppets?

Stay tuned ...

Shield's bad cop is ABC's superhero dad, other TV news

Michael Chiklis in The Shield

Holy Incredibles! How about The Shield's Michael Chiklis playing a superdad in ABC's new superhero drama pilot No Ordinary Family?

In the pilot, Chikis plays the father of an American super family who all have special abilities. No Ordinary Family was written by Greg Berlanti (Eli Stone) and Jon Feldman (Tru Calling) and comes from ABC Studios.

Chiklis won an Emmy for his role as the rogue supercop Vic Mackey on FX's The Shield; however, he's no stranger to superhero movies. He played the Thing in the Fantastic Four movie franchise and has been very in demand this pilot season.

In other pilot casting news, Lost's Daniel Dae Kim has been tapped to play a lead role on CBS's Hawaii Five-O reboot. Kim, who plays Jin Kwon on Lost, will take on the role of Detective Chin Ho Kelly.

Hawaii Five-O is a hot property that's attracting a lot of genre actors, possibly because it comes from those smoking-hot Star Trek writers and Fringe co-creators Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Moonlight star Alex O'Loughlin is in talks to play the lead role of Detective Steve McGarrett (originally played by Jack Lord). And Stargate's Michael Shanks confirmed to us that he was reading for the part of Danno (originally played by James MacArthur).

Meanwhile, The CW has ordered a pilot for Betwixt, which takes place in an urban setting and revolves around "changelings" who try to save humans from evil. Elizabeth Chandler (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) wrote the script, which is being executive-produced by Paul Stupin (Make It or Break It).

Does No Ordinary Family or Betwixt sound like a pilot you'd like to see go to series?

M. Night Shyamalan's 'The Last Airbender' Toys Arrive!

You've seen a trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's "The Last Airbender." You've seen the promotional posters for "The Last Airbender." So, what's left?

How about the toys?

Nickelodeon Consumer Products debuted the upcoming line of toys based on "The Last Airbender." today, including various waves of 3 3/4-inch action figures, as well as larger, action-enabled figures, costumes and other props based on Shyamalan's adaptation of the hit anime/manga series.

Among the toys featured in the line were (of course) figures based on the film's hero, Aang (played by Noah Ringer), the villainous Prince Zuko (played by "Slumdog Millionaire" actor Dev Patel). Toys based on Sokka (played by "Twilight" alum Jackson Rathbone) and Katara (Nicola Peltz) also factored into several waves of figures.

Oh, and did we mention the fully ride-able Appa the Sky Bison?

"We worked very closely with M. Night, the rest of the Paramount team and our in-house design team, along with our partner Spin-Master, to come up with the right assortment, the right size for these action figures and make sure we we had representation of all the nations within the 'Airbender' series," said Nickelodeon's Lourdes Arocho.

For those looking to mark their calendars, Wave 1 of "The Last Airbender" toys arrives June 1, Wave 2 will hit shelves closer to the movie's release date in July, and the final batch will arrive closer to the holidays.

Check out the images below:

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