Wednesday, February 17, 2010

News - 02/17/10...

Annecy adds YouTube competition

To help celebrate their 50th anniversary, the international animation festival Annecy has announced an online competition co-sponsored by YouTube. While open to everyone there are specific guidelines entries need to follow, which you can find on their website. The top winner will receive a week at Annecy 2010 (transportation to France, accommodations, and accreditation included) and the winning film will be screened during the festival.

DreamWorks talks marketing

Forbes has an interview with DreamWorks Animation Head of Worldwide Marketing & Consumer Products Anne Globe, where she discusses how the company markets their films.

Disney Teases Tangled to Facebook Fans

Disney’s says its upcoming animated re-imagining of the classic tale Rapunzel will go by the title of Tangled.

Producer Roy Conli announced the title first to fans of Disney’s Facebook page, which also included an image from the film.

“It’s a really fresh, smart take on the Rapunzel story,” Conli wrote. “In our film, the infamous bandit Flynn Rider meets his match in the girl with the 70 feet of magical golden hair. We're having a lot of fun pairing Flynn, who's seen it all, with Rapunzel, who's been locked away in a tower for 18 years.”

The CG-animated movie will come out in stereoscopic 3D, starting with a limited release Nov. 12 and a wide release Nov. 24.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Pixar Executive Jumps to Twitter

Pixar Animation Studios is losing its chief financial officer and senior VP of planning to Twitter.

The internet messaging company has hired Ali Rowghani away from the animation studio. He will start as the company’s CFO in March.

"Ali will be an important member of a growing team focused on creating value for our users and capturing the financial opportunities that result from it," Twitter CEO Evan Williams said in a news release. "His thoughtfulness on retaining a great culture to work and staying consistent with your principles will also be a significant contribution."

Rowghani is expected to play a key role in Twitter’s future, as the company explores ways to make money from the popular messaging system.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Lady and the Reaper Director Talks About Acclaimed Short and Oscars

One of the Oscar frontrunners in the Best Animated Shorts category is Javier Recio Gracia’s clever, fast-moving and hilarious toon The Lady and the Reaper, which also took home the Goya Award (the Spanish Film Award) for Best Animated Short this past weekend in Spain. We recently had the chance to interview the talented young animator about his whirlwind year and the making of his CG-animated mini-masterpiece, which is co-produced by none other than actor Antonio Banderas and his toon studio Kandor Moon.

Animag: Your short tells a highly original story about an older woman’s battle with a proud doctor who is determined to keep her alive by any means necessary. Can you tell us a little bit about the origins of his project?

About two years ago when we were producing The Missing Lynx at Kandor Moon, the partners of the studio had a terrific idea, to make a short film prior to producing our next feature. They wanted to test the studio's ability to produce a feature length 3D film of world-class quality and the short would be a great way to do some R&D. Any member of the team could submit an idea to be voted on by the whole group. Mine was ultimately chosen and because I had some notion of narrative storytelling given my experience as a storyboard artist on The Missing Lynx, I was also offered to direct it.

Lady and the Reaper

How did you come up with the unusual storyline?

At about the same time this was happening, my grandmother was slowly dying. It gave me reason to look around and think about the ways in which the elderly spend the last few days of their lives; some alone, or others in a hospital unnecessarily extending their agony. I thought it would be good idea to tell a story that would speak humorously and at a frantic pace about the idea of death with dignity.

Animag: How long did it take you to produce the short?

It took us about a year and a half from first storyboards to seeing it completed on the screen. A year and a half for eight minutes, that's the extent of the sacrifice that's required, not always by the whole team, but that's how we did it; relatively staged.

What kind of CG software/tools did you use to do the animation?

This was our last project using 3DStudio Max. We've moved to Softimage XSI for the next feature.

The main characters from Lady and the Reaper fight over the recent Goya award they picked up in Spain.

Why do you think the short has attracted so much attention?

Well I think it entertains viewers. There are over 100 shots stuffed into those eight minutes. Also on Internet blogs and forums I see people talking about death with dignity more than I expected, so clearly this is a subject that people want to speak about.

Were you surprised by the Oscar nomination?

Perhaps with the exception of James Cameron and some other Hollywood heavyweight, everyone is surprised to be nominated for an Oscar. In my case, given that this is the first Spanish animated film to be honored has surprised us even more. Sometimes I stop to think about all this, and I can't believe it.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and work in animation?

I'm a storyboard artist, so my experience is really just limited to this piece. I can tell you though, that as a first time director, my biggest fear was that the plot wouldn't connect with the audience: It's not enough to make something that you and your team like; but at the same time, I wanted to stay true to my own tastes. I get a kick watching people enjoying the film at festival screenings.

Lady and the Reaper

How many people actually worked on the short?

At the studio, counting the team at the art, animation, lighting and other departments, about 25 people. Although many more more people outside the studio have worked and continue to work in other areas to make it possible for the short to be in Hollywood, and other international venues.

What are you working on next?

At Kandor Moon we are producing Goleor, a feature film directed by Manuel Sicilia and produced by the same team that did The Missing Lynx and The Lady and the Reaper; Antonio Banderas, Manuel Sicilia, Juan Molina, Enrique Posner, Raúl García and Antonio Meliveo. It's the story of a young man in medieval times who has to defy his father's to pursue his dream of being a heroic Knight. What's funny and charming is that at first glance he seems like the most unlikely person to succeed. Still he remains true to his dream and pursues it relentlessly. In a sense this is the story of Kandor, a small studio stuffed away in Granada, Spain that you might not have initially thought could get as far as it has. It's a story that I think many of us can identify with.

Who are you most excited about meeting at the Oscar ceremony?

Quentin Tarantino, no doubt. For me he has always been one of the great geniuses of American cinema. I love his use of black humor, and the freshness of his films.

Javier Recio Gracia

Who are some of your animation idols?

Not counting Goleor, who has yet to show himself to the world, there are many from Disney who kick started this industry all the way to John Lasseter at Pixar who helped pave the way for animated storytelling with a more adult profile in mind. But most of all I admire Brad Bird, director of true gems such as The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and the beautiful Ratatouille I think he's one of the best directors around.

What kind of advice would you give newcomers who want to make it in the animation field?

It's a world that requires much sacrifice, but there's nothing more rewarding than the opportunity it affords you to work as a team and see how a theater packed with people enjoy your work.

For more info about Gracia and his Oscar-nominated short, visit

Disney Toys With 250+ Toys

Disney-Pixar doesn't want to get caught with its action figure pants down again. Disney's chief creative officer, John Lasseter, announced the creation of 250 toys and games tied to Toy Story 3 at the opening of Toy Fair in New York.

Lasseter co-founded Pixar and created Toy Story 11 years before his company was absorbed into Disney's empire. He couldn't have forgotten that their Distibutor- Disney- made a bust of merchandising his original Toy Story, with no toys and games ready to fly off shelves for holiday wish lists when the movie debuted in November 1995.

Apparently the Mouse House didn't believe Toy Story would be a hit; few imagined that a bunch of computer animation upstarts would upstage Disney tradition. So, when Toy Story opened, anyone seeking a Buzz Lightyear or Woody of their own — or any memorabilia — settled for cloth dolls sold with Burger King kids' meals. Not even Disney Stores at local malls had anything cool with the Toy Story brand to sell.

Production of higher-grade toys accelerated after the first weekend's box office numbers were announced but couldn't match the holiday demand, causing a stampede on stores, or online brokering at higher prices. No such mistake was made when Toy Story 2 opened in 1999, with an array of merchandise including a video game for multiple formats. Toy Story 3 opens June 18, four months from now, so there won't be any merchandise shortage this time. With 250 items available, there won't be any shortage of overkill, either.

Annie Awards video

Until Asifa-Hollywood posts the official videos of this year’s Annie Awards (2/5/10 at UCLA’s Royce Hall), we’ll have to do with hand-held shakey cam videos popping up on You Tube. This one was shot from the nose-bleed seats, and the center screen is too bright to be properly photographed, but it does give you a sense of the event - It’s the first seven minutes of the ceremony, which includes a gag video of Tom Kenny battling William Shatner ala a sequence from Star Trek (”Arena“); Shatner’s opening remarks; and Seth Green presenting the Home Entertainment Award to Futurama’s creators.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Yuri Norstein Inspires NY Artists at SVA

still from Hedgehog in the Fog

Acclaimed Russian animator, Yuri Norstein stopped by the SVA theatre last night, to show his films and have a Q & A with the audience. The animation community here heavily anticipated the evening, and the house was packed. It had been 10 years since Yuri’s last visit. Many well-known NY animators turned out to hear him speak, and it was very inspirational to be listening to such an amazing artist.

Yuri spoke candidly with the audience about his meticulous approach to animation.

Click here to read this article in its entirety.

(Thanks ASIFA-East)

Sign On San Diego on the 2010 "Spike and Mike" Animated Film Festival

Sign On San Diego has interviewed Craig Decker, the "Spike" half that founded the famous Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation, on the return of the festival after a three year hiatus (Mike Gribble, the "Mike" half, passed away from cancer in 1994). Among other topics, Decker discusses the origins of the Sick and Twisted festival, why the festival has dropped that moniker, why there was a three-year hiatus for the festival, what he looks for in animated films submitted for consideration to the festival, and what he thinks is the future of animated short films.

"A New Generation of Spike and Mike Animation" will be running at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego - La Jolla from February 13 - March 5, 2010. For more details, check out Sign On San Diego's schedule page or the festival page itself.

Variety on Fox Animation Studios President Vanessa Morrison

Variety has profiled Vanessa Morrison, president of Fox Animation Studios who has shepherded the studio to a string of critical and/or box office successes from the Ice Age franchise, Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!, and Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox. The article chronicles her career from an intern at Columbia Pictures to creative executive on Fox's live-action family films to president of Fox's animation studio.

Adult Swim to Expand to 9 PM Starting in 2011

Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block, which currently runs from 10 PM-6 AM (Eastern time) in the U.S., is set to expand to a 9 PM starting time in January 2011. Stu Snyder, current president and COO of Turner Animation, said, "Let’s be clear: The choice to go to 9 p.m. is 100 percent a reflection on the success of Adult Swim as a brand... It’s clear that the kids business has been challenging, and much of that has to do with the recession and the resurgence of certain hot-topic discussions that are having an impact on key categories like food. But this is less about taking anything away from Cartoon Network than it is a matter of building up Adult Swim."

Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle on "Penguins of Madagascar"'s Jonathan Storm has spoken with Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley, co-creators of Disney's Kim Possible and current executive producers for The Penguins of Madagascar, currently the second-most popular animated program on television today (behind SpongeBob SquarePants) and the third-most popular cable TV show last week. The article delves into the pair's past as Pennsylvania natives and their path from entertainment managers at Sesame Place to the mailroom of DIC to their current positions at Nickelodeon. The pair also discuss their roles on the show, their novice status at CGI animation, and the biggest disappointment for the pair living in Burbank, CA.

Writer Greg Johnson On "Planet Hulk," "Wolverine And The X-Men" Bonus Features

Marvel Animation Age caught up with Planet Hulk writer Greg Johnson to discuss is participation in bonus content featured on assorted Marvel Animation home video releases.

Coming off the highly-acclaimed Planet Hulk animated feature, which is now available to own on Blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment and Marvel Animation, Marvel Animation Age caught up with writer Greg Johnson to discuss how bonus features come together for the home video release of his many projects. Participating in bonus features for the home video releases of X-Men: Evolution, Wolverine and The X-Men and a host of titles from the "Marvel Animated Feature" line from Lionsgate Home Entertainment and Marvel Animation, Johnson walked us through how these extra features come together in the following mini-Q & A.

Marvel Animation Age: Can you break down how you get involved and actually record bonus features for Planet Hulk and other releases? What about providing the behind-the-scenes material? What type of legalities are involved?

Greg Johnson:
I actually just watched the bonus features now that the movie has been released. I thought they turned out terrific, and credit for that goes to the producer of these segments, Jon Mefford. I really like the section detailing how the main title was created. Who knew how much thought goes into those things.

Basically, I’m not involved with assembling these. I got a call from Jon, who had me come in to the MLG Production Office, where he was all set up to interview me, Josh [Fine], Frank [Paur], and Eric [Rollman]. He had a list of questions, and we kind of just chat for a while with the camera running. Jon’s a great guy, very knowledgeable about the subject matter, and a true fan of comics.

MAA: Are there any features you tend to prefer working on? The featurettes? The commentaries?

The featurettes are always tough. Fortunately, the editors are good at patch-working comments together with visuals so we don’t sound too terrible. The commentaries are fun, but challenging. The shows I do commentary for are usually scripts I’d finished a year to two years before, so it’s not always easy remembering specific thoughts and motivations that went into writing them. But they’re fun to do. I should be doing one for Thor: Tales of Asgard soon.

MAA: You seem to really get in there with your coworkers during the commentaries, as evident in both the Planet Hulk and Wolverine and The X-Men releases. What type of atmosphere is it when recording these?

The sound booths are usually designed for comfort, with couches, coffee, sometimes even lunch or dinner. I participated in 26 commentaries for Wolverine and The X-Men, and we tried to get through three to five per session. And these were all done at night to accommodate schedules. Craig Kyle is such a crackup, we did way too much laughing on some. You have no idea what was in the outtakes. But I won’t lie, by the last one of the evening, it was all we could do to not just sit there and describe what we were watching. Josh Fine and I finally participated in a commentary together on Planet Hulk, and I was impressed with how much info Josh had gushing out of that brain of his. Smart guy.

Marvel Animation Age would like to thank Greg Johnson for his participation.

Wolverine and The X-Men: Fate of the Future, the current DVD home video release from the acclaimed Wolverine and the X-Men animated series, is now available to own courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment and Marvel Animation. Wolverine and The X-Men: Revelation, the next Wolverine and the X-Men DVD home video release featuring commentary by Greg Johnson and other participants, is slated to hit shelves May 4th, 2010. High-res artwork and initial details for Wolverine and The X-Men: Revelation are available to view here.

Additionally, Planet Hulk is also currently available on Blu-ray and DVD from Marvel Animation and Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

(Thanks Marvel Animation Age)

A Three Dee Crash and Burn?

The question I have: Is this gimmick going to collapse of its own weight?

Hollywood studios, juiced by the success of "Avatar," are tripping over each other to release movies in 3-D. In the process, they risk overloading multiplexes, which are equipped to handle only a portion of the 3-D pack at a time.

More than 20 3-D releases are scheduled already for this year, and additional titles are expected to be announced. Costly productions could wind up cannibalizing each other as they jostle for screens. As of the beginning of the year, less than 10% of the U.S.'s roughly 40,000 screens were 3-D enabled

The whole Three Dee explosion was as predictable as the sun coming up in the east this morning.

As soon as Avatar and all the animated features began making huge money, the stampede to stereo viewing got serious. Like for instance:

"There are dozens of projects that are being looked at right now for last-minute 3-D conversion to be released in 2010," says Chris Bond, who heads up the 3-D team at Prime Focus, the special-effects company working on "Clash." but has never before converted a major feature film into 3-D. "A lot of studio executives are going to look at 'Clash,' and if it works—then 3-D conversion will explode."

Brace yourself for a big explosion.

Before it's all over, the congloms will turn every movie this side of Birth of a Nation into a dimensional extravaganza, because the blood is now n the water and the big finned fish are having a feeding frenzy. And when the cloudy red water finally clears, audiences will have become sick of all the sh*tty Three Dee (and alot of the "good" Three Dee along with it) and grosses will slide.

And then the corporate hand-wringing will start. "What the hell happened?! It's Three Deee! Why aren't the rubes coming anymore!?"

There will be angst. There will be recriminations. A little while after that, all eyes will turn to Jim Cameron to find out what the Next Big Thing will be, and the next stampede will commence.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Drawing Prince Naveen From Princess and the Frog

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 2D feature The Princess and the Frog was nominated earlier this month for the Best Animated Feature category, and I think it should get an award (along with Secret of Kells) for simply helping bring 2D back into the limelight. Here’s a little vignette about Drawing Prince Naveen to help tide you over until the DVD arrives on March 16th. It’s not really a tutorial on how to draw Prince Naveen, but more of an homage to Duck Amuck, where the animator and his pencil mess with Daffy.

Bonzoms Bites Off Biscuit Spots

Bonzoms, a director rep’d by Passion Paris, recently helmed a series of spots for United Biscuits. This one is titled Crunchy, and the ad agency leading the effort was Fred & Farid.

When Lynch Met Lucas by Sascha Ciezata

This is an animated short using audio of David Lynch recounting the time he met George Lucas about possibly directing Return of The Jedi. Animator Sascha Ciezata says, “This was shot entirely with my iPhone 3G using the iMotion app. I take credit for the crude illustrations. Enjoy…”

(Thanks cartoon brew)

“Dog in the Burning Building” by Fran and Will Krause

Twins Fran and Will Krause produced this mixed-media music video for Mile Kurosky’s “Dog in the Burning Building.” Light-hearted fun and easy on the eyes. There’s some behind-the-scenes production details on Fran’s site.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

James Cameron involved with Spider-Man reboot ... sort of

We know that Avatar director James Cameron once had his own ideas for a Spider-Man movie, but it comes as a bit of a surprise that the Oscar winner may be a part of the upcoming reboot movie.

Sort of.

MTV reports that Cameron and his Avatar producer Jon Landau met with Spider-Man reboot director Marc Webb.

Not about story points, though: about the technology they used to create Avatar's 3-D visual effects:

"Last [week] we met the director of [the next 'Spider-Man' film]," Cameron's producing partner Jon Landau revealed to us when he stopped by the MTV studio, explaining that the "Avatar" filmmaker and Spider-Man's new gatekeeper compared notes Wednesday evening. "[Webb] wants to do the next one in 3-D, which they've announced that they want to do. So, we want to try to support that as much as possible."

Although such an exchanging of professional pleasantries isn't typically noteworthy, this one is intriguing for two reasons. First, Cameron himself wrote a treatment for Spider-Man back in 1991, but after his brief flirtation with the webhead fizzled out, he insisted that any director following Sam Raimi's films would be getting his "sloppy seconds." Secondly, the recent revelation that the Spider-Man reboot will be in 3-D can be coupled with Landau's comments to indicate that Cameron is happy to advise Webb as he navigates the choppy waters of his blockbuster debut.

One of the surprises is that sci-fi techhead Cameron is a fan of Webb's snarky romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer. Who knew?

More than 100 Star Wars fans stage MASSIVE lightsaber battle

Next time someone put downs Facebook, just point them to the videos below of more than 100 Star Wars fans taking over the Bristols Cabot Circus shopping mall in the U.K. for a joyful lightsaber battle.

The flash mob, which took place Saturday, was organized entirely through Facebook, and all we can say is—hey, we're on Facebook! Why didn't we hear about it?

We would have been there!

(And even if we couldn't make it, well ... we can dream, can't we?)

And thanks to slashfilm for the heads-up!

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