Thursday, February 11, 2010

News - 02/11/10...

New Toy Story 3 characters to be revealed

Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich has been tweeting the past week that big news about the film would be announced this week. It appears to start today with the first of 14 new characters being revealed. Ain't it Cool News has the first look at Barbie's long time boy toy Ken, voiced by Michael Keaton. Updates will be posted here when available.

UPDATE: has the next new character: Peas-in-a-Pod. They also note a new trailer for the film is coming tomorrow.

Cars 2 pushed back

Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 has been moved to December 2011 from June 2011, reports. Disney President and CEO Bob Iger noted the change during the company’s first quarter 2010 earnings call on Tuesday.

DreamWorks, NBC Team on Dragon-themed Olympics Promos

DreamWorks Animation and NBC have teamed up for a promotional effort that will run during the upcoming Winter Olympics and spotlight the upcoming film How to Train Your Dragon.

The animation studio has produced seven winter-sports themed custom vignettes that are tied into the film. The shorts debut Feb. 9 and are directed by Dragon executive producer Tim Johnson and narrated by Craig Ferguson.

The clips, which feature humorous variations on winter sports set during the Viking-Dragon games of 1010, will appear across all NBC platforms. Sports highlighted in the clips include snowboarding, bobsledding, ski jumping and speed skating.

How to Train Your Dragon is DreamWorks’ next theatrical release and will will be released in stereoscopic 3D and 2D versions on March 26.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Fox Re-Signs Animation Vet Appel

Rich Appel, executive producer and showrunner on The Cleveland Show and a veteran of Fox’s animated TV series, has signed a new three-year deal with 20th Century Fox TV, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Appel will continue with The Cleveland Show, which he co-created. Appel has been with Fox since 1994, when he was hired as a writer on The Simpsons.

He has since worked on most of the studio’s animated series, including King of the Hill, Family Guy and American Dad! He also has worked on live-action series including Bernie Mac and Kitchen Confidential.

“If you're going to produce an animated show, there is no better studio to do it than 20th: they know quite intimately what is involved and how to develop those shows,” Appel told the trade.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Atomic Cartoons Adds Producer Turner, Pixie Honor

Atomic Cartoons, home to Pixie Platinum Award-winning director Tyler Schroeder, has added former Studio B producer Jamie Turner to its ranks.

Turner has more than 15 years of experience managing such animated productions as The Mighty Ducks, Jungle Cubs, Timon and Pumba, Catdog, and Angry Beavers. He also has produced What About Mimi, Something Else, Yakkity Yak, the BAFTA-winning The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers and Leo Award-winning Kid vs. Kat.

Schroeder won the Platinum Pixie Award for his work on Mythunderstood, a short-format cartoon he created and directed for Vancouver-based Atomic to produce.

The Pixie Awards is sponsored by the American Pixel Academy and judging is done by professionals who have excelled in the moving pixel fields of animation, motion graphics and effects.

"It goes without saying that we are very fortunate to have Jamie on board", stated Mauro Casalese, Atomic's VP of Production, "We've worked with Jamie in the past and have known him since he started in the toon business. He brings with him a ton of experience and his leadership is a wonderful asset to the A Team."

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Big Idea, Entrenched Team for More VeggieTales

Big Idea Entertainment, the studio behind such faith-based children’s programming as VeggieTales, has signed a multiproduction deal with animation studio Entrenched, Inc.

The two studios will collaborate on new VeggieTales content, including DVDs, with animation executed by Entrenched’s sister company Hawaii Animation Studios.

The principals at Hawaii Animation Studios — Dan Krech, Jeff Bell, Joe Serafini and John Morch — previously were significantly involved in the production of Big Idea’s 2008 theatrical release VeggieTales: The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything as well as the direct to video animated series 3-2-1 Penguins!

“We’re thrilled to partner with Entrenched at such an exciting time, " said Leslie Ferrell, general manager for Big Idea Entertainment. “We’re confident a fresh crop of VeggieTales will grow out of Hawaii, and continue to bring the timeless and delightful adventures, lessons and songs to viewers around the world. It’s an honor for us to participate in the official opening and celebration of Hawaii Animation Studios.”

On Feb. 11, Ferrell and Mike Nawrocki, Big Idea’s VP of creative development, will join other notable guests including Hawaii Lt. Gov. James Aiona and state Sen. Will Espero in Honolulu for a special commemorative opening ceremony.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Kalish to Run Mudpit Series for Cookie Jar

Veteran TV writer and producer Bruce Kalish has been hired as showrunner for Cookie Jar Entertainment’s upcoming animation-live action hybrid series Mudpit.

The series begins production on 26 episodes in April and is being produced for Cookie Jar’s label for teens and adults, The Jar.

Kalish most recently created and was executive producer on Disney’s Aaron Stone.

His credits span nearly forty years and include stints as producer on The Fall Guy, executive producer on Disney Channel’s The Famous Jett Jackson, and showrunner and writer on Power Rangers.

He also has worked as story editor on Mork & Mindy and writer on All in the Family, The Incredible Hulk, Eight is Enough, Alien Nation and The Highwayman.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Warner Bros. clashes with DreamWorks

Warner Bros.' shuffling of the release of its remake of the classic 1981 film "Clash Of The Titans" has caused a clash of the media titans this week. On Febuary 2, Warner Bros. pushed the release date back one week, from March 26 to April 2. But more than just moving the date, WB is releasing their film in 3D, too. Moving the release date from the same date as DreamWorks' How To Train Your Dragon to a week later might seem like it would be good for both films, but this move has DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg's panties all in a bunch.

A person familiar with the situation says that Katzenberg shot off an e-mail to Warner Bros. Entertainment Chairman Barry Meyer last week, crying about... um... protesting his studio's decision to release the film April 2. Seems that Katz thinks he will lose a lot of the 3-D screens to Warner Bros. film. With limited screens available- only about 3500 US screens are equiped for 3D- Katzenberg seems to think they all belong to him. Looks like Warner Bros. disagrees... and looks like Jeffy needs to grow up. With the new release dates, How To Train Your Dragon will get a whole week free of competition for the screens... besides, last time I checked, WB and DreamWorks are competitors.

Disney Wants To Sell You More DVDs

Disney thinks they should be selling more DVDs, and is now in discussions with cinema owners over how long to wait before selling newly released movies on DVD, Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger said. The company, home to the Pixar animation studio, is experimenting with the timing in response to the drop in industry DVD sales, Iger said yesterday on a conference call following fiscal first-quarter results. The plan risks alienating exhibitors, who have resisted any narrowing of the so-called theatrical window. On average, the DVD arrives in stores about 17 weeks after a film opens in theaters, according to DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, which tracks the market.

“It’s time on a case-by-case basis, movie by movie, to really take a look at how we’re windowing the home-video product into the marketplace,” Iger said. A healthy home-video business is “in the best interests of the theater owners” because it will allow studios to keep investing in content, he said.

Disney told U.K. theater owners it wants to release “Alice in Wonderland” on DVD 13 weeks after it opens March 5 in theaters, according to Jonathan Friedland, a spokesman for Burbank, California-based Disney. The company wants to avoid competing for viewers with the World Cup soccer tournament, he said.

Theater owners have long said a shorter theatrical window won’t help the DVD market and may damage ticket sales.

“DVDs and the home market are so commoditized, it’s a race for the bottom,” Patrick Corcoran, a spokesman for the National Association of Theatre Owners, said in an interview last month. By contrast, theater attendance is growing even as exhibitors raise ticket prices, he said.

Disney Profits not "Up" but Down

Walt Disney has reported a modest drop in its fiscal first-quarter profit, and the company blames the lowering of the bottom lineon its restructuring costs. The Burbank entertainment giant reported net income of $844 million, or 44 cents a share, for the quarter ended Jan. 2, compared with earnings of $845 million, or 45 cents, from the same period a year earlier. Revenue rose 1% to $9.7 billion.

Excluding one-time items, earnings of 47 cents a share beat analysts' average estimate of 38 cents.

The company's flagship Media Networks group, which includes the ABC broadcast network and cable channels ESPN and Disney Channel, posted an 11% rise in operating income for the quarter to $724 million from $655 million a year earlier. Revenue rose to $4.2 billion from $3.9 billion.

Analysts had been expecting modest first-quarter results for Disney's television group. However, worldwide growth of the Disney Channel and higher affiliate and advertising fees at ESPN helped drive a 5% gain in operating income for the cable networks, which rose to $544 million for the quarter, up from $517 million a year earlier.

The broadcasting group, which includes ABC and local TV stations, posted a 30% jump in operating income to $180 million, up from $138 million a year earlier. The previous year's results included a bad-debt charge associated with the bankruptcy of Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times.

Theme parks reported a 2% drop in operating income to $375 million, from $382 million in the same quarter last year. Revenue remained essentially flat at $2.7 billion. The domestic parks saw a boost in attendance, benefiting in part from a shift of the New Year's holiday from the fiscal second quarter to the first. But attendance was off at Disneyland Paris.

Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said Disney planned to wean consumers from the park promotions it used during the height of the recession.

"It's not crystal clear looking forward what the best tactics will be to eventually make our way out of discounting . . . but we will see in the coming quarters," said Rasulo, who until January headed parks and resorts. "It probably won't be flipping the switch off. It will be a gradual buildup out of it."

The film studio staged a turnaround, reporting a 30% boost in operating income to $243 million, from $187 million a year earlier. Revenue was essentially flat at $1.9 billion. This reflected strong home entertainment sales of the Disney/Pixar Animation film "Up" -- a best-picture Oscar nominee -- and the comedy "The Proposal."

"Our movie studio, under its new leadership, is focused on improving its creative performance through high-quality branded films [from] Disney, Pixar and Marvel," said Disney Chief Executive Robert A. Iger. "The studio has also restructured its organization to produce, market and distribute movies more efficiently in light of the challenges that the movie business is facing."

The consumer products unit reported an 8% drop in operating income to $243 million, compared with $265 million a year earlier. Revenue fell 3% to $746 million, in part because of weaker sales of "High School Musical" and "Hannah Montana" merchandise.

The Interactive Media group saw a modest improvement, as it cut its losses to $10 million for the quarter compared with $45 million a year earlier. Sales decreased 29% to $221 million because of lower sales of video games and fewer titles released. Disney Online, however, saw subscription gains at its Club Penguin virtual world.

Composer Richard Delvy was pioneer surf drummer

Richard Delvy, the drummer for California's first surf band, The Bel-Airs, has died.

The announcement was made Tuesday by Sundazed Records, a reissue label which released a Bel-Airs anthology under the name of one of the group's hits, "Volcanic Action." No date or cause of death was given for Delvy, who was born Richard Delvecchio in 1942.

Beyond his work as an instrumentalist, he was a music producer for the 1972 Filmation series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. With Ed Fournier, he produced the title song for the 1973 Filmation series My Favorite Martians.

And in 1971, he provided music for the partly animated TV special Aesop's Fables, featuring Bill Cosby.

He was also a lyricist for the hit "Chick-A-Boom (Don't Ya Jes' Love It)" by Daddy Dewdrop, which debuted on the Hot 100 at #9 in March 1971. The tune had been performed on Chick A Boom -- an episode of Filmation's The Groovie Goolies -- by series music executive Dick Monda, using "Daddy Dewdrop" as a pseudonym.

Formed by Delvy and guitarists Eddie Bertrand and Paul "P.J." Johnson, the Los Angeles-based Bel-Airs were contemporaries of Dick Dale & His Del-Tones and helped to build the gymnasium-rattling ground swell that became surf music. In 1962, the quintet swamped the charts with the classic "Mr. Moto," which soon became a standard in the repertoires of innumerable surf bands.

After the Bel-Airs broke up in 1961, Belvy went on to lead a similar group, the Challengers. As leader and drummer, he hit the skins on such tunes as "Everything To Me," "Before You" and "How Can I." He played on a slew of other surf instrumentals and vocal recordings.

"Some of surf music's been real good to me because I've been involved in a lot of records, everything from 'Pipeline' to 'Boss' to some of those things, but accidentally I kept the rights to 'Wipeout,' and that particular copyright has been wonderful for me," Belvy once recalled.

"At times, it's kept me eating. I wish I had ten of 'em."

Drummer Richard Belvy with The Bel-Airs.

The Modifyers by Chris Reccardi and Lynne Naylor

Head on over to Facebook to view a 12-minute unaired 2007 Nickelodeon pilot created by Chris Reccardi and Lynne Naylor. The Modifyers is a sixties spy spoof with incredibly beautiful design in every shot. Gorgeous eye candy - and funny too. Direction and Music score by Chris Reccardi.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Crowd-Funding Animated Shorts

The crowd-funding path for short filmmakers is finally gaining traction, and established animation filmmakers have begun experimenting with the concept. Throughout the years, various filmmakers have toyed with the idea of funding their films in this fashion, mostly by soliciting Paypal donations, but the gamechanger has been new websites that are dedicated solely to facilitating crowd-funded projects. The two most prominent sites being used by animators right now are IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. There is a difference between the sites: IndieGoGo’s fundraising period continues indefinitely, whereas Kickstarter has a 90-day fundraising period and if the artist doesn’t meet their monetary goal, all the money is returned to the donors.

Last month on Cartoon Brew, I linked for the first time to a crowd-funded project, The Future. Expect to see us doing a lot more of this; crowd-funding is a major development in how animated shorts will be made in the years to come. Right now, I anticipate the concept will work most successfully for filmmakers with a proven track record, like Nick Cross, who set up a page on IndieGoGo last week to fund his next short The Pig Farmer. That’s because Nick has already made numerous animated shorts over the past few years (The Waif of Persephone and Yellow Cake among them) and all of them without any outside funding. Backers of his project will feel confident that they are investing in a name brand who can get the job done.

There’s also the stop-motion short Line by Justin and Shel Wagner Rasch. They’re asking for $2500 and are already halfway there. The Raschs have two things working in their favor. First, they’ve already posted an animated clip from the film that gives funders a clear sense of the type of work they’re helping them produce:

Additionally, they’re offering unique perks for funders at different levels, including actual puppets used in the film and a chance to attend the music recording sessions. As crowd-funding takes off, it’ll be fun to see the creative goodies that different filmmakers will offer their fans.

Sites like IndieGogo and Kickstarter are already filled with amateur looking projects whose creators are asking for tens of thousands of dollars. Most of those projects understandably have raised only a few bucks at most. On the other hand, I think it bears pointing out that the Raschs and Cross are obviously spending more money on their films than they’re asking for. At this nascent stage, modesty isn’t a bad plan. Crowd-funding is in its infancy, a natural by-product of the growing intimacy between artists and their audience. The most successful filmmakers of the future will be those who grasp the increasingly intertwined relationship between creator and consumer, and recognize how best to take advantage of this new connectedness.

Addendum: After I wrote this piece yesterday, I caught up with my blog reader and noticed that Aaron Simpson at Cold Hard Flash has also written a piece about crowd-funding. It appears that we were both spurred to action by the news of Nick Cross’s project, and we mention a few of the same projects. Aaron doesn’t appear to view this with quite the same perspective as I do though. He writes that, “This method seems like no more than a sophisticated version of the ol’ Paypal ‘donate’ button.” While it’s certainly true that filmmakers have tried soliciting funding like this before, the idea has never taken off in a widespread way because of the lack of a standardized process. Sites like IndieGoGo and KickStarters aim to do for film funding what YouTube did for online video: standardize the process, and this will eventually lead to the normalization of viewers directly sponsoring the content they want to see. That’s a great thing for both creators and consumers.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

NY Int'l Children's Film Festival Announces 2010 Schedule

The New York International Children's Film Festival (NYICFF) will be running from February 26 - March 21, 2010, at 6 different locations in New York City. The festival will open with the US premiere of Summer Wars, the newest film from rising anime director Mamoru Hosoda, and will also include the US or East Coast premieres of movies like Jiri Barta's stop-motion In the Attic, Mai Mai Miracle, and Oblivion Island. The festival will also host a filmmaker event for The Secret of Kells, with a Q&A with director Tomm Moore following the screening. Another special event will be "The Animauteurs: 50 Years of French Animation," which will include screenings of Le Roi et L'Oiseau, Kirikou and the Sorceress, and Fantastic Planet.

Full scheduling information and tickets are available via the NYICFF website at or by calling 212-349-0330.

Click to download the NYCIFF 2010 press release (pdf format, 287K).

'Batman: Under The Hood' Cast Revealed, Bruce Greenwood And Neil Patrick Harris To Star

Although the highly anticipated "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths" is scheduled to come out in just under two weeks, further details about the next DC direct-to-DVD animated feature have already begun to emerge. As reported late last year, "Batman: Under The Hood" will be the latest comic storyline adapted into a film with animation legend Bruce Timm executive producing and Brandon Vietti ("Superman: Doomsday") on board as the director.

According to The Los Angeles Times, Bruce Greenwood will star as Batman, with John DiMaggio ("Futurama") as the Joker, "Supernatural" star Jensen Ackles as the Red Hood and Jason Isaacs as Ra's Al Ghul. "Doctor Horrible" and "How I Met Your Mother" star Neil Patrick Harris will portray Nightwing.

"Batman: Under The Hood" will be adapted by Judd Winick and based on the storyline of the same name that Winick wrote in the "Batman" comic series with artists Doug Mahnke and Paul Lee.

The story finds Batman contending with a figure from his past who has donned the identity of the Red Hood — a former alias of the Joker — in order to pursue his revenge against the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime.

While several DC heroes also appeared in the original story — including Green Arrow and Zatanna — it is currently unknown if they will appear within the film.

It should also be noted that the story in the LA Times identifies the film as "Batman: Under The Red Hood" even though the original story was simply called "Under The Hood."

A sneak preview of "Batman: Under The Hood" will likely appear on the "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths" DVD when it is released on February 23.

Denton and Watkins Construct Animated Adland

Mark Denton and Seth Watkins directed this 3-minute homage to British advertising, titled Adland. It was released by Creative Circle as part of their annual awards program. Denton is the outgoing president of Creative Circle, and you can read about his experience over at Like Logorama, the piece features over 80 advertising references, but all of these are British. For instance, the first homage is to Ridley Scott’s Hovis ad (inset). The piece was produced by Coy Communications and the animation was completed by A Large Evil Corporation. The creative concept was originated by Mark Fairbanks, Paul Pateman and Mike Nicholson at AMV BBDO.

Stop Motion Spot for New Sigma Camera

What types of photos do cameras hang on their walls? Landscapes, apparently. Here’s new stop-motion spot out of South Korea for the new Japanese Sigma DP2 camera.

Polychronakis Completes Construction of The Village

Greek artist Stelios Polychronakis recently wrote, directed and animated a new stop-motion short film titled The Village. The story follows a doctor who rushes to an emergency, only to find the village empty. The puppets were crafted by the brilliant team at Mackinnon & Saunders. Here’s a trailer:

FriendsWithYou and Are Better Together

The Miami-based collaborative FriendsWithYou have paired up with the dating website, and their lovechild is now online. Better Together is a new, 1-minute spot that takes a whimsical look at matchmaking and pairs that simply belong together.

PRA Composes Series of Itty Bitty Ditties

Australian studio The People’s Republic of Animation (PRA) have revealed the first episode of a 10-part, intersticial, musical TV series titled Itty Bitty Ditties. The project was created and directed by PRA’s James Calvert, and features artwork by Chris Edser. The project began airing on the Australian network ABC3, and the 1-minute songs are apparently all as nonsensical as this one, which details which body part love eminates from. If I tell you the title of the song, it’ll ruin the joke.

The Plight of Viz Effx Artists

I've hit on this before, but Bill Cohen in Variety reiterates it:

... [P]ost-production labor issues rarely enter the consumer press. ... Daily Variety has covered the problems of vfx artists occasionally over the years, and with the production downturn and bad economy, matters are only getting worse.

"The fact that we have no representation means we have no voice anywhere," [Visual Effects Society chairman Jeff] Okun said, "so it's a free-for-all from the bottom up and the top down," where artists and studios alike must haggle for the best deal possible ...

Here's the way it works: Studios film their big,CGI effects movies, and put all the effects shots out for bid.

Then visual effects studios of various sizes swarm around like hungry tuna, bidding the projects at razor-thin profit margins.

Then the studios award the work to studios with the lowest bids or best reputations or a combination thereof, and everybody sets to work creating effects shots against a release date that is carved in obsidian marble.

In the course of all this, some high-flying effects supervisors do nicely from a financial point of view; many others get ground into dust by the insane work schedules.

And sadly, some don't get paid at all.

Once upon a time, most of the conglomerates ran their own in-studio effects shops, but they soon realized that it was way cheaper to farm the work out, so most closed their facilities and went the sub-contracting route.

Today, the visual effects landscape consists of a few large sub-contracting studios, and lots of smaller ones of various size and prosperity, all fighting for c.g. work. There are also a smattering of visual effects units attached to a few television shows, but the work is mainly project to project, with staffers and free-lancers scrambling from one job to another. The work is ripe for abuse.

CGI animated features are, relatively speaking, islands of prosperity and stability. They're far from perfect, but many are repped by union contracts. As Dan Rounds, one of the visual effects artists shafted by a Canadian sub-contractor for Journey to the Center of the Earth says:

"I have had by far the best year of my 18-year career in digital f/x." ... "I made more money, had the best lifestyle, worked with state-of-the-art technology for a company that has attracted the best talent in the industry. I've been treated wonderfully up here."

Mr. Rounds works for IM Digital, which is covered by an IATSE contract, and represented by the Animation Guild.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Green Froggy Watch

A kind commenter mentions:

As of this week (February 10, 2010) the box office track site The Numbers reports The Princess and the Frog's worldwide take as:

U.S. -- $101,011,000
International -- $95,000,000
Worldwide -- $196,011,000

So The Princess and the Frog is now close to double its reputed production gross.

Before we get into the "It's turned a profit!" "No it hasn't!" argument, remember a few things.

Feature films, particularly animated feature films, go on making money from a variety of sources for years and years. There is all the merchandising and supplementary market moolah (licensing; t-shirts, toys, video games, DVDs, etc. etc.) to consider, which never show up in a film's box office tally. But trust me, Bob Iger is happy to have the money.

The studios -- and you'd better sit down as you read this -- very often misreport what a film actually costs to make. So it's difficult for any outside to know if a film is actually (as opposed to officially) profitable.

Long ago, the rough rule-of-thumb was that a moving picture had to earn double its production cost to break even. More recently the rule is triple the cost. But who the hell knows, really? Money flows through our fine conglomerates like mud through a La Canada mansion, so pinning the profit and loss down exactly is damn near impossible.

However, it's probably true that Froggy has a ways to go before all its foreign theatrical revenue has come in. I'm guesstimating that total theatrical revenue will ultimately be a 60% foreign/ 40% domestic split.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Is Christopher Nolan's 'Superman' Just The Latest Reboot Rumor?

FROM MTV.COM: Will "Dark Knight" god Christopher Nolan swoop in to carry the Man of Steel back toward big-screen glory? That's the rumor swirling around the Internet following a report that Warner Bros. had conscripted Nolan into a "godfather" role to mold "Superman" once again into an enduring film franchise.

The report is just the latest in a string of Metropolis-based gossip that has cropped up around this iconic superhero following the four, Christopher Reeve-led "Superman" films starting in the late '70s. After the middling reception in 1987 of "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace," Warner dithered for years as it attempted to reinvigorate the franchise. Writers and directors who took a crack at the franchise included Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, Tim Burton, Brett Ratner and McG. Among the names floated to play prominent roles were Will Smith, Nicolas Cage, Jack Nicholson, Shia LaBeouf, Scarlett Johansson and Johnny Depp.

Continue reading 'Superman' Rumors: A Look Back At Years Of Hype And Hope at

Full Airbender trailer showcases fantastical action

The new two-minute theatrical trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender has gone live on Yahoo!, and you can view it below.

The new trailer gives us a great look at the fantasy world of the movie, which is based on the animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender. It stars Noah Ringer, Nicole Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Dev Patel and Aasif Mandvi and opens onJuly 2.

Oh, and about all those white faces you see? You can read all about it here.

'Book Of Eli' Directors In Negotiations For 'Akira' Movie

"Book of Eli" directors Albert and Allen Hughes are picking up a different book for their next movie collaboration — none other than "Akira," the adaptation of the popular manga series.

According to New York Magazine, Warner Bros. is currently negotiating a deal with the Hughes brothers to direct the live-action adaptation of "Akira," which comes from a script by "Iron Man" writers Mark Fergus and Hawk Otsby. Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way is producing.

"Akira," written and illustrated by Katsuhiro Otomo, takes place in the post-apocalyptic city of Neo-Tokyo and focuses on a biker gang led by the charismatic Kaneda. His best friend is Tetsuo, a man that develops psychic abilities and rapidly loses hold of his sanity. As Tetsuo's powers grow deadlier and deadlier, Kaneda is forced to face the reality that he must put a stop to his closest friend, even if that means killing him.

The story was already adapted as a 1988 anime, though that version of the story shaved off a significant amount of the manga's events. It's not hard to understand why — it's a 2,182 page series, after all, making a straight adaptation impossible to fit into a two hour runtime.

The WB has apparently embraced this notion, as the report claims "Akira" will be split into two parts. The first three of six volumes will comprise the first film, due out in theaters next year.

Casting information is currently unavailable, though DiCaprio has said that he won't star in the film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been linked to the role of Tetsuo, though his involvement is far from a certainty.

EXCLUSIVE: Mezco's 12-Inch 'Kick-Ass' Figure Is Ready To, Well... You Get The Idea.

Last summer, I raved about the 18-inch Deluxe "Hellboy II" Abe Sapien figure from Mezco Toyz that debuted during the San Diego Comic-Con and has been a permanent fixture at Splash Page HQ ever since. Well, the Mezco crew has come through again — this time, with another ridiculously cool, over-sized figure from the upcoming film "Kick-Ass."

We have your first, exclusive look at the 12-inch "Kick-Ass" figure before it debuts at this weekend's Toy Fair 2010 convention:

Based on the hit series from Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., "Kick-Ass" is directed by Matthew Vaughn and follows a teenage comic book fan who decides to become a costumed vigilante. Along the way, he manages to both receive and give a fair amount of ass-kicking, inspire a few more costumed crimefighters and discover why there aren't more vigilantes out there righting wrongs.

Mezco's 12-inch "Kick-Ass" figure, based on the likeness of actor Aaron Johnson, is scheduled to arrive on shelves in October. Another figure, based on the Hit Girl character (played by Chloe Moretz in the film), will also be available. No price has been set yet for the figures.

"Kick-Ass" is scheduled to arrive in theaters April 16.

You can head over to Mezco Toyz for more information about their Toy Fair 2010 lineup, and keep it locked to Splash Page for more "Kick-Ass" movie news and reports from Toy Fair 2010.

'Spider-Man' Movie Gets Release Date And 3D Treatment

The new, live-action "Spider-Man" movie will hit theaters July 3, 2012, filmed in 3-D and directed by "500 Days of Summer" filmmaker Marc Webb.

Sony made the release date official today, and added that the film will debut in 3-D when it premieres. Production on the project, which has yet to name an actor for the lead role, is expected to begin later this year. The studio announcement also indicated that the film's title hasn't been finalized yet — though we're pretty sure the name "Spider-Man" will be in there somewhere.

Spider-Man is the ultimate summer movie-going experience, and we’re thrilled the filmmakers are presenting the next installment in 3D," said Jeff Blake, Chairman of Sony Pictures Worldwide Marketing & Distribution, in the statement. "Spider-Man is one of the most popular characters in the world, and we know audiences are eager and excited to discover Marc’s fantastic vision for Peter Parker and the franchise.”

The "Spider-Man" movie is based on a screenplay by James Vanderbilt. In an interview with MTV News, Webb hinted that Marvel's "Ultimate Spider-Man" series could provide source material for the new film.

While no one has been cast in the film thus far, "Percy Jackson" star Logan Lerman recently indicated that he was in talks for the role of Peter Parker previously held by Tobey Maguire. The studio has indicated that the new film will bring Spider-Man and his supporting cast back to high school, relaunching the franchise with a newer, younger set of actors.

Could Stan Lee's new superheroes be the next X-Men?

Stop me if you've heard this one before—a wise older man takes a group of misunderstood outsiders under his wing and teaches them to become superheroes. Is that Professor X and the X-Men? Not necessarily. According to today's Hollywood Reporter, it's Stan Lee and the Super Seven!

Lee has teamed up with Archie Comics and A Squared Entertainment to tell the story of seven aliens who are stranded on Earth after their spaceship crashes and are then befriended by none other than The Man himself. Lee becomes their leader and helps turn them into heroes.

"Although I've briefly appeared in other comics, Super Seven is the first time that I'll actually be a continuing character in a far-out, original superhero series," Lee said.

If all goes as planned, Archie Comics will publish the print version of Super Seven in the fall, and A Squared will develop the project as a TV series and online property.

So what do you think? Will lightning strike again? Can Stan Lee still deliver?

Secrets of the new Black Hole: Maximilian returns!

Remember that proposed remake of the classic Disney sci-fi movie The Black Hole that was being prepped by Tron Legacy director Joseph Kosinski?

Well, he's got more details, including a glimpse at the story.

Speaking with MTV, Kosinski said writer Travis Beacham will begin drafting the script soon.

"We've got a really strong idea and concept for the film," Kosinski said early in January. "The title alone has tremendous amount of potential. We've got a really talented writer on it named Travis Beecham. We're just getting started on the script in the next few months."

The 1979 original focused on a ship on a deep space mission and its encounter with a lost vessel called the Cygnus, home to a lone scientist in charge of an army of robots (including the hulking red killer Maximilian) who turn out to be the ship's missing crew. Kosinski's updated version won't pick up after the events of the first film, but rather will rework them with a vastly bigger budget and a deeper understanding of the science behind black holes.

The new movie will include iconic elements, such as the red robot, Maximilian; the death of the big villain, Dr. Alex Durant (played originally by Anthony Perkins); and even the design of the ship Cygnus, Kosinski said.

Why the new Snake Plissken HAS to be a 'badass'

Snake Plissken? "I heard you were dead!"

Nope, he lives, and new details about his upcoming resurrection in the remake of John Carpenter's kick-ass 1981 sci-fi action movie Escape From New York assure us that he'll be the same old badass.

In fact, it's in the contract, according to a report on Vulture:

We learned that in order to land the rights, New Line had to sign a contract with John Carpenter stipulating, among other things, that Plissken "must be called 'Snake'"; "must wear an eye patch"; and that he would—and we're not making this up —"always be a 'bad-ass.'"

Gotta love that.

The site also offers up new details about the remake:

New Line Cinema is quickly moving forward with plans to remake John Carpenter's 1981 dystopian action classic Escape From New York, thanks to a rewrite from Allan Loeb, the man who rescued the Wall Street sequel from development limbo over at Fox. A big reason for the fast track was creative: Loeb nailed the humor in Plissken without slipping into camp, and he changed Snake's rescue-mission target from a president to a female senator, thereby upping the banter quotient.

But just as big a factor was economic: They found a much cheaper way to turn Manhattan into a giant prison.

In the original, set at the end of World War III, New York City was a husk of itself after being turned into a giant prison, but that kind of destruction gets pricey.* So in
Escape 2.0, the Big Apple that the as-yet-uncast Snake Plissken is dropped into will be geographically undesirable, but intact: This Manhattan was evacuated and turned into a privately run penal colony after the detonation of a crude radioactive dirty bomb on the outskirts of the city.

Sounds like the movie will also preserve other elements of the story: The authorities will still be on Liberty Island, though this time around it's a private KBR-like security company.

Only thing missing, we're guessing, will be the irreplaceable Kurt Russell.

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