Lee, DiDio, Johns to Top DC Entertainment
Warner Bros.’ DC Entertainment has promoted largely from within as new president Diane Nelson announces her management team for the newly reorganized comic book company.
In a statement released Thursday, Nelson appointed Dan DiDio and Jim Lee co-publishers of DC Comics, while making writer Geoff Johns the company’s new chief creative officer. The company also promoted Patrick Caldon to the position of executive VP of finance administration and brought in former ABC Family executive John Rood as executive VP of marketing and business development.
The move marks the beginning of a new era for DC and the fans of its many superhero comics. The transformation into DC Entertainment under Nelson is part of Warner Bros.’ desire to better exploit DC’s 75-year library of comic book characters in multiple media.
DiDio moves up from the post of senior VP and executive editor of the DC Universe, while Lee rises from the title of editorial director of Wildstorm Studios. They replace Paul Levitz, who had worked as a writer, editor and executive at DC for more than 30 years and announced last September he was returning to writing comics after Nelson took over as president of the company.
Prior to joining DC in 2002, DiDio worked in television, where his credits indclude stints as senior VP of creative affairs for Mainframe Entertainment and executive director of children’s programming for ABC.
Jim Lee began his career in comics as the popular artist on such Marvel titles as Alpha Flight, Punisher War Journal and X-Men. In 1992, he co-founded Image Comics and established the comic book production company WildStorm Studios. Lee came into the DC fold in 1998, when he sold WildStorm to the company. He has drawn such popular comics for DC as Batman: Hush and All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder with Frank Miller, and has lead the design of the upcoming DC Universe Online video game.
Johns is a prolific writer whose DC stories featuring the likes of Green Lantern, The Flash, Teen Titans and Justice Society of America have been fan favorites in recent years. He also has written for television, including episodes of Robot Chicken, Titan Maximum, Smallville and Marvel’s Blade: The Series. He began his career as an assistant to filmmaker Richard Donner, who directed 1978’s Superman: The Movie.
Caldon formerly was VP of finance and operations for DC Comics and MAD Magazine. He has worked with DC Comics since 1985.
Rood returns to Warner after a decade at Disney-ABC, where he most recently was senior VP of marketing for ABC Family.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
The Toon That Changed My Life!
To celebrate their 200th issue, Animation Magazine asked some of their favorite animation heavyweights to tell them about the movie/TV show or characters that made them realize they wanted to work in the toon business. Here are their responses:
"When I think back to what were my earliest animation inspirations, two characters come to mind: Gollum from the 1977 Rankin and Bass production of The Hobbit and Medusa from the 1981 movie, Clash of the Titans. The emaciated, amphibious design of the Gollum creature seemed to really fit the character from the books and there was such complexity to his character; such tragedy that he really affected me on an emotional level. The Medusa creature also affected me in an emotional way by scaring the crap out of me. In both instances I was affected by the magic of animation and its ability to make you believe the impossible."
Creator, Dinosaur Train, Hey Arnold!
“I'd have to go with A Charlie Brown Christmas, because it broke all the rules of cartoon storytelling, and had its own unique vibe, much closer to how I experienced life than the animated stories I'd seen up until then. I was around Charlie Brown's age when it premiered on TV, and I was shocked how bummed out about Christmas it was allowed to be. The wide shots with the kids walking in the snow to that beautiful, sad music were revolutionary. I wanted to grow up to make a cartoon that could be that eloquent.”
Senior Vice President, Original Series, Disney TV Animation
"Growing up I loved a lot of cartoons—Popeye, Scooby, The Flintstones. But if you’re asking me which characters were my absolute favorite, then it’s Looney Tunes by a long shot. At the time I just enjoyed Bugs, Daffy, and the gang because they were funny. But I think I was also secretly learning to appreciate great comic timing, beautiful animation, fantastic scoring, and the true meaning of breakout characters."
Co-Creator, Glenn Martin, DDS
“When I was a freshman at NYU, I saw a midnight screening of a film called Street Trash. The movie was awful, but I'll never forget the animated short that preceded it: Danny Antonucci's Lupo the Butcher (1987). What an awakening! A caustic, cautionary tale about safety in the workplace, Lupo combined a goofy cartoon look with over-the-top profanity and violence. It was like watching Tom & Jerry on steroids. That film opened my eyes to a world of animation that was strictly for grownups and inspired me to pursue a career path that was a bit more...twisted.”
Effects Animator, Iron Giant, Osmosis Jones, The Incredibles
“At age 11, Watership Down made a huge impression. The moody artwork, dramatic storytelling and beautiful heartfelt score by Angela Morley captured my young imagination. As a young teen, La Planete Sauvage, with its poetic and contemplative narrative, helped shape my taste for the fantastic. As a 16-year-old trying to decide what to do as a career, Lady and the Tramp came to my hometown’s theater and showed me how beautiful classical animation can be. The Secret of NIMH with its magic and mysticism made me want to work with Don Bluth. That was the beginning of my career.”
Jorge R. Gutierrez
Creator, El Tigre
“Two films punched me in the face and made me want to be an animator! I went to a very strict all boy Catholic school and I remember ditching school to go see The Nightmare Before Christmas on opening day. Seeing that beautifully scary & whimsical world full of amazingly designed characters and gorgeous locations made my little eyeballs explode! Then my first year at CalArts, the Pixar guys came down and showed us Toy Story. At that very moment, it seemed one could do anything in our beloved medium in any technique.”
“There were a lot of animated things that made me think about wanting to do animation myself, from Rocky and Bullwinkle to Pinocchio to Tex Avery to the Grinch to Charlie Brown to Betty Boop to Bambi Meets Godzilla. But the cartoons that just stuck in my mind, and that I probably watched and re-watched more than anything, were Popeye cartoons—especially the musicals, especially Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor.
‘I'm afraid of nobody under the sun.
All I say is ‘Boo!’ and my enemies run!’
I loved Popeye, I loved the songs, and I think I especially loved the idea of saying, ‘Boo!’ and having my enemies run.”
Creator, The Fairly OddParents, T.U.F.F Puppy
“What most inspired me to get into the animation business were the endless (unedited) reruns of Looney Tunes cartoons I watched on Detroit's famous Channel 50 during the 1970s. I knew I liked funny stuff, and I knew I liked cartoons. I just wanted to try animating or writing something that came close to the awesomeness of the ‘Rabbit Season/Duck Season’ bit that Chuck Jones did. Hopefully I'll get there someday!”
Animator, The Lion King, Enchanted, The Princess and the Frog
"The two movies I saw as a young boy which most inspired me were Cinderella and The Reluctant Dragon. Cinderella was my earliest Disney film I saw in the theaters. I was taken with Cinderella herself, as well as Frank Thomas's animation of the step mother. The Reluctant Dragon sequence showing Robert Benchley watching Ward Kimball animate Goofy had me hooked on animation. From that point on I wanted to be a Disney animator."
Director, Bolt, Rapunzel
"Chuck Jones is my hero. My anvil-dropping, wabbit-twacking, 'ooh-that-dirty-bee' hero. When I was just a little pencil-stub, I wondered why his cartoons were funnier than all the others. As I grew into awkward, gangly animator-hood, I realized that this was not only due to Chuck's superior draughtsmanship but also to his unbelievable sense of timing. My other hero is Chuck's main writer, Mike Maltese, who made me appreciate the importance of having brilliant writing talent behind your script."
CEO, DreamWorks Animation
"My singular influence was the man who showed us all how to make the magic—Walt Disney. He set the bar high, continually challenging himself and his team to stretch the bounds of animated storytelling. During my 10 years at his company, Walt’s presence went far beyond being the 'name above the door.' In the Disney Archives, he left an extraordinary record of his creative thought processes that guided us as we sought to produce new animated films worthy of his legacy. Walt once said, 'If you can dream it, you can do it.' I can think of no better anthem for all of us who work at this incredible art form.”
Animator, The Pink Panther, George of the Jungle
“So many wonderful animated films and filmmakers have influenced me. Frederic Back and Oscar Grillo come to mind quickly, along with Marc Davis and T. Hee. And who doesn't love Disney's Pinocchio or Dumbo, or now Up? Great films! If I have to pick just one film I think it would be UPA's Rooty Toot Toot by John Hubley. Besides being smart, funny and inventive, that film made me aware of how close animation is to the dance. That animation is choreography and we don't have to be limited by realistic actions. Thank you, John Hubley, for your innovations.”
Director, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Clone High
“The shorts in the International Tournée of Animation. I made my parents take me to this rank arthouse to see them annually in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when I was barely a middle schooler. It was the first time I saw Bill Plympton, Ren and Stimpy, and The Simpsons. I saw that cartoons could be divergent, subversive, contemporary, intelligent and wildly funny. It was also the first time I saw so many people with thick glasses and bad posture assembled in one place. I said to myself, "Ah, these are my people.”
Producer, The Penguins of Madagascar
“It was perfect that I was pondering my inspiration to pursue a career in animation during the holidays, since that's when it all began for me. The stop-motion work that the folks at Rankin-Bass did on Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town was magical. The understated simplicity of A Charlie Brown Christmas and the comic genius of Chuck Jones' How the Grinch Stole Christmas were brilliant in completely different ways. That such a range of styles and techniques could achieve the same goal—entertainment that would endure for generations—made me fall in love with animation.”
President, Fresh TV
“For me, it was Battle of the Planets. The year was 1978 and my excitement over Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica was barely containable. Then I discovered this awesome animated show about five fearless kids who called themselves G-Force and defended Earth from the evil Zoltar. They wore bizarre bird costumes and whizzed around the universe in a flaming bird contraption. Little did I know, I was actually watching an English version of the classic Anime series Gatchaman from 1972. Warner Bros is planning a CGI Gatchaman feature for 2011. Bring it!”
Director, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Clone High
“The 1953 Chuck Jones short Duck Amuck. Watching this cartoon as a kid I realized the freedom of imagination and the creative possibilities that only animation can provide. Later watching it as a young adult I saw it as a ‘meta’ exploration of the animation process and the relationship between the animator and the worlds s/he creates. And on top of that, it's really, really, really funny.”
Director, Co-Exec Producer, Special Agent Oso
“My inspirations in exactly 100 words: Drawings of Heinrich Kley, Honoré Daumier and Bob Pauley, George Herriman's Krazy Kat, Hal Fosters Prince Valiant, Bob Mitchell's 7 UP commercials: ‘Intermission’ (1971), ‘See the Light’ (1975); Further Adventures of Uncle Sam by Bob Mitchell and Dale Case; Yellow Submarine’s Eleanor Rigby sequence; Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bongo, Tinker Bell, The Jungle Book, Walt/Roy, Bill Peet, Mel Blanc, Carl Stalling, Harman/Ising; Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck, Gumby; Fantasia’s Dance of the Hours; Fleischer's Gulliver's Travels; The Incredible Mr. Limpet; The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Nilsson’s The Point, Ward Kimball's Steam Engine, and the Original Disney Animation Building.”
Director, Disney’s Princess and The Frog, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules
“On film it was Sleeping Beauty in its original 1959 release. The Prince leaping that drawbridge and fighting his way through those thorns to fight that terrifying woman/dragon Maleficent: that was the James Cameron action spectacular of 1959 to a highly impressionable six year old. I continued to see Maleficent in my closet for a year or two after that. Then Bob Thomas' Art of Animation book that I found in the local public library explained the animation process using examples from Sleeping Beauty, and it all burned deep into my six-year-old brain.”
Creator, Duckman, Squirrel Boy
“When I was a little kid I saw a 35mm copy of Steamboat Willie. I guess that got me started down the path to animation, although to this day I have no idea what the parrot says at the end.”
Indie Director/Animator, I Married a Strange Person, Idiots and Angels, Guard Dog
“I think one of the most influential films I saw was The Do-It-Yourself Cartoon Kit by Bob Godfrey. I was in college at the time and I'd never seen an independent film before. I loved Disney and Warner Bros. of course but they never showed indie films on TV. So it was a complete revelation to me that one could make a film without studio support. And of course the humor and style were completely different from anything I'd ever seen. This was my first hint that I could make animation by myself and as you know that's been my style throughout my career.”
Creator, Phineas and Ferb
“The movie that really did it for me was The Jungle Book. Not only was the animation and the story great, but the songs got stuck in my head when I was five and never got out. Even now, 40 years later I can still sing every word of every one of those songs. Also, it was the first animated movie in which I was actually aware of the strength of the lines and posing. It was the first time I saw it as an art form and not just entertainment.”
Indie Animator, All My Relations, Utopia Parkway, Missed Aches
“For over two decades, my favorite animated film has been The Man Who Planted Trees (L'homme qui plantait des arbres, Canada, 1987) by Frédéric Back. I have seen it 25 or 30 times and still feel a deep thrill when I hear the opening string music. The film is based on two stories published in 1953 by French author Jean Giono. Most people think the film is based on a true story, but Giorno said ‘Elzéard Bouffier is a fictional person. The goal was to make trees likeable, or more specifically, make planting trees likeable.’
Frédéric Back balances luscious, pastoral imagery with bleak monochromatic landscapes and glimpses of violence. The drawings are exquisite and scenes like the final zoom from the face into the eye of the old man are etched into your memory forever. It has a brilliant score and sound design by Normand Roger with Denis Chartrand and thoughtful editing by Norbert Pickering. See this movie!”
Animation Supervisor, G-Force
“I was a big fan of Disney's 101 Dalmatians, Jungle Book and Sword in the Stone. That was the era where they started photo copying pencil drawings onto cels, instead of inking them. These movies really looked like moving illustrations to me. I think that is what truly inspired me to learn animation. Being able to generate a living performance with nothing but a pile of paper and a pencil.”
Animation Supervisor, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland
“I was a huge fan of Disney cartoons as a kid, and I still remember the day the light went on for me. It was a flip book that I got from a Disneyland souvenir store. There they were—Chip 'n' Dale and Mickey Mouse coming to life right there in my hand as I flipped the pages! It was pure magic, and I felt like the magicians had just revealed their secret. That awakening inspired many epic creations in the corner of every phone book I could get my hands on. There was no turning back from there.”
Producer, The Penguins of Madagascar
“The Fisher-Price Movie Viewer changed my life. In the pre-video days when Disney still rationed their classics to a once-every-seven-years theatrical rarity, this little no-batteries-required film loop viewer allowed me to obsesses and analyze. I could click frame by beautiful frame over abridged Silly Symphonies and Mickey Mouse shorts. Cranking back and forth, the mystery of squash and stretch was revealed. Thanks to the kid controlled speed, the Tortoise could zip and the Hare crawl. Or go backwards. It was a quick leap from this toy to making my own Super-8 cartoons. I was hooked.”
Animator/Producer, TV Funhouse, Harvey Birdman
“It was the Fleischer Superman cartoons that did it for me—and I'd only seen them in black and white! Next to that, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Yellow Submarine. And the Jean Marsh hosted International Animation Film Festival on PBS in the mid-1970s. This program introduced me to so many of the classic films from Eastern Europe … Sisyphus, the work of Peter Foldes, and lots of stuff from Zagreb.”
Exec Producer and President, Frederator Studios
“When I was a kid I loved Bugs Bunny, Huckleberry Hound, and the Flintstones. And fortunately, my formative years were spent watching TV when there wasn't enough original programming. So the studios dusted off everything in their libraries and the stations played it all. Felix the Cat, Farmer Gray, Koko the Clown, Crusader Rabbit, Astro Boy, Tom & Jerry, the Disney, Warner Bros., Hanna-Barbera, Fleischers, and all the independent [cartoons]—they seemed to be on all the time. It was a magic moment. All kinds of cartoons worked and I think I loved them all.”
Director, Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas
"There's no single animated character, TV show or feature that got me going in animation. Instead, there's a whole list of things that have tickled my animation fancy from my early childhood through my college years. Some favorites include: The cyclops from Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and the sword-wielding skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts, Tubby in George Pal's Tubby the Tuba, Chernabog from Night On Bald Mountain and Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia, the Pink Elephants sequence from Dumbo, Pinocchio, 101 Dalmatians, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Mighty Mouse Playhouse, Gumby, Davey and Goliath, Mr. Magoo, UPA’s Rooty Toot Toot, Caroline Leaf’s Orpheo, Ryan Larkin’s Walking and The Street, Co Hoedeman’s The Sand Castle, Jiri Trinka’s The Hand, Jan Svankmeyer’s Jabberwocky, Norman McLaren’s Pas de Deux and Neighbors, Allegro Non Troppo, and Yellow Submarine.”
VP of Children’s Programming, PBS
“My favorite cartoons were the Bugs Bunny cartoons and I watched them faithfully every day after school. I had decided around seventh grade that I wanted to write Bugs Bunny cartoons, and someone finally told me that most of them—the good ones—had been produced long before I was born. A few years later, a guy in my filmmaking class in high school made his own animated film. We all crowded around to watch his 8mm Don Martin-looking film about a food fight, and at that exact moment, I knew I wanted to be an animator. A few months later, after making my own incredibly mediocre animated film, I realized I actually did not want to be one. But in college, as I watched the 16th Annual Tournee of Animation, I decided that I was still going to have to find some sort of job in animation!”
Animator, The Princess and the Frog, The Lion King
"Inspiration for me to get into animation started way before I knew I
could do this for a living. Watching cartoons Saturday morning with a
bowl of cereal was the norm for me growing up. Warner Bros. shorts with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and friends and of course the endless supply of Hanna-Barbara cartoons. But it was at about seven years old when I was home sick from school fighting off a fever watching TV, when I was introduced to Tom & Jerry and Tex Avery. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. The stuff they were doing was so crazy and funny and it made me wonder, how can I do that? It pushed me to try different things with my drawing and is what propelled me into pursuing animation as a career. To this day I am inspired when I look at Tom & Jerry and Tex Avery shorts. It's timeless knowledge for an animator."
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
Atom.com Series to Air on Comedy Central, MTV2
Online short film site Atom.com is expanding its presence on television.
Comedy Central has ordered a third season of the half-hour late-night series Atom TV, while its sister network MTV2 will debut a new best-of series called The Atom Show.
Both series will feature the best of the short films made for the site by animators, comedians and short filmmakers.
Atom TV is set to begin its third season in the Monday at 2:30 a.m. time slot on Comedy Central, while The Atom Show will air Fridays at 11:15 p.m.
“We are thrilled to return to Comedy Central and to start spending our Friday nights with MTV2,” said Scott Roesch, general manager of Atom.com. “Playing on both networks is going to give us access to an even bigger audience seeking original comedy on every platform.”
Another Atom-generated web series, Five-On, is set to make the transition to TV show on Comedy Central as the new series Ugly Americans debuting March 17.
Additional details, including specific premiere dates, will be announced this spring.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
WotWots to Debut on Canada’s Treehouse
The animated children’s series the WotWots is coming to Canada from New Zealand.
The series, created by Richard Taylor and Martin Bantyon, will debut Feb. 22 at 6:15 p.m. on Canada’s Treehouse channel.
The series and its 52 10-minute episodes will be seen in an estimated 8 million home in Canada. In addition to the Friday slot, it will air Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. and Sundays at 1:40 p.m.
Launched in New Zealand on TVNZ in 2009, the WotWots has become one of the country’s most popular preschool properties and is currently seen on TV2 and TVNZ6 daily. It’s been a hit in Australia and the United Kingdom.
"We are absolutely thrilled to be launching the WotWots in Canada on Treehouse,” said Taylor, co-founder of Weta Workshop. “The series is already enjoying great success in other territories so we look forward to seeing similar results in Canada”.
The WotWots is produced by Pukeko Pictures and made at Richard Taylor’s Weta Workshop. Pukeko Pictures is a new business partnership between Taylor and children’s television creator Baynton. Taylor and Baynton previously teamed up to create the award winning children’s program, Jane and the Dragon.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
Penguins Special Tops Holiday Ratings
Nickelodeon’s President’s Day special The Penguins of Madagascar: Dr. Blowhole’s Revenge scored in the ratings as the top basic cable program with total viewers for the night.
The new episode, which guest starred Neil Patrick Harris, ranked as basic cable’s No. 1 telecast with total viewers (4.6 million, +19%) in the 8-8:30 p.m. time period. It was also broadcast and basic cable’s top telecast with kids 2-11 (8.3/2.9 million, +34%) and kids 6-11 (9.9/2.1 million, 167%) on Monday.
Dr. Blowhole’s Revenge also ranked as broadcast and basic cable’s No. 1 animated telecast with total viewers on Monday.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
Shutter Island Snaps Into Box Office Picture
Martin Scorsese’s most recent film, Shutter Island, is the sold major movie release of the week.
The Paramount release, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley, opens in about 2,500 theaters.
It enters the fray against last weekend’s champion, the romantic comedy Valentine’s Day, as well as a still-formidable Avatar and more recent VFX-heavy holdovers such as The Wolfman and Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
Avatar’s position as the top 3D movie of the year will be challenged next weekend by the release of Tim Burton’s new take on Alice in Wonderland.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
3-D Beauty and the Beast Pushed Back to 2011
The 3-D update of the animated Disney classic Beauty and the Beast has been pushed back to sometime in 2011.
Disney-Pixar animation chief John Lasseter told MTV that no date had been chosen for releasing the film, which was originally due out Feb. 12. Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the original release of Beauty and the Beast, which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.
The new 3-D version of the film has been in the works for some time, and preview footage was shown last summer at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
Lasseter says that while he’s very enthusiastic about 3-D, updating the studios’ classic films to the new format is not a top priority.
"We don’t have any plans yet for further 3D-izing of our older films," he told MTV. "But it’s always a possibility. I’m excited that people are loving 3-D and it seems to be not just a fad, but something that will stay."
Pixar released in October 3-D versions of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in advance of this summer’s Toy Story 3 in 3-D.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
Breakthrough Takes on GoGo’s Crazy Bones
The popular collectible toy GoGo’s Crazy Bones is being developed for an animated TV series by Canada’s Breakthrough Films.
The property, owned by Spain’s Martomagic and PPI Worldwide Group through Bulldog Licensing Ltd., features hundreds of characters that each has its own personality, strength, power and score. The toys, which are both collectible and used in various games, were released in 2009 and have earned a large fan following all over the world.
“We are looking forward to working alongside Martomagic and PPI to create an extraordinary and entertaining children’s property with unique storylines and memorable characters that will appeal to the property’s established international fan base and attract new audiences around the world,” said Ira Levy, executive producer and co-founder of Breakthrough Films & Television.
Martomagic and PPI have expressed their “excitement to be working with the professional team at Breakthrough in producing the television series and bringing GoGo’s Crazy Bones alive in viewers’ homes.”
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
Animated Doodlebops Debut on CBC
Cookie Jar Entertainment is bringing a long-running live-action hit to animation with the debut Sunday on Canada’s CBC of Doodebops Rockin’ Road Show.
The 26 x 30 min. series, a co-production with Argentina’s Illusion Studios and Germany’s Optix Entertainment, will air as part of the Kids’ CBC block on Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. and Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.
The series continues with Deedee, Rooney and Moe Doodle as they take a musical journey to new destinations with pals Bus Driver Bob and the dog BopBop. Each episode will feature two original songs performed by the original cast members, who also provide voices for their characters.
“We’re thrilled to partner once again with Kids’ CBC to bring this fantastic new animated show to Doodlebops fans throughout Canada,” said Jamie Waese, head of current programming, Cookie Jar Entertainment. “We are certain that the show’s positive messages and exciting music will continue to resonate with fans of the popular, long-running live-action series as well as a new generation of fans.”
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
An Afternoon of Remembrance
Once each year at the DeMille Barn in Hollywood, the Animation Guild, ASIFA-Hollywood and Women In Animation present An Afternoon of Remembrance, “a non-denominational celebration of departed friends from our animation community”. This year the event takes place on Saturday, March 13th, at 1pm (A reception precedes the memorial at 12 noon). Tributes will be paid to many, including:
Wayne Allwine, Ray Aragon, Dina Babbitt, Bob Broughton, Art Clokey, Vincent Davis, Virginia Davis, Jaime Diaz, Roy E. Disney, Bob Dranko, Heinz Edelmann, Ric Estrada, Victor Haboush, Dallas McKennon, Marty Murphy, Tony Peters, Arnold Stang and others.
The Afternoon of Remembrance is free of charge and is open to all. No RSVPs necessary. Food and refreshments, 12 noon, Memoriams, 1 pm. The Hollywood Heritage Museum (Lasky-DeMille Barn) is located at 2100 N. Highland Ave. (across from Hollywood Bowl) in Hollywood, California.
(Thanks cartoon brew)
Henry Selick Has a Point
It regards James Cameron's small art film, and it's a good one.
"Is it animation? Is it a new category? ... I don't know where it fits. I will tell you this, animators have to work very, very hard with the motion-capture data. After the performance is captured, it's not just plugged into the computer which spits out big blue people. It's a hybrid."
Just like Out of the Inkwell and Gulliver's Travels (the Fleischer edition) and Don Bluth's later work. There was lots of live-action emoting in the mix with all of them, but the final results needed animators sitting and desks. Lots and lots of animators. Likewise Avatar.
So to describe it as pure flesh-and-blood actor's performance is more than a little wrong.
(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)
March of New TeeVee Animation
The last few months, various conglomerates and law firms have phoned in to ask about contracts for new animated shows. (Had one today, in fact.)
Funny how companies have figured out that animation is cost effective and, as an added bonus, has a dandy commercial shelf life. And that adults like it too. The media is apparently picking up on the trend:
HBO launches The Ricky Gervais Show and the second season of The Life & Times of Tim on Friday (9 and 9:30 p.m. ET/PT), and FX recently introduced Archer (tonight, 10 ET/PT). They join Comedy Central's South Park, Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block and Fox's Sunday lineup with offerings aimed more at grown-ups. ...
Casey Bloys, who oversees comedy at HBO, says the pay-cable network isn't specifically trying to launch animation. "What we're looking for are interesting shows. (The creators') point of view was the most important thing." ...
On the business side, animation is easy to dub for international audiences and it performs well in DVD sales, says Modi Wiczyk of Media Rights Capital, which produces Tim and Gervais. Quality animation can now be made "at a basic-cable price," too, Landgraf says.
The animation field is growing, Wiczyk says. "Twenty to 30 years ago, there wasn't a huge bench of people who wanted to make animated comedies. Now, this genre is attracting such bright talent."...
Thirty years ago, there weren't a jillion cable networks. We had three big broadcast companies, and we had low-rent syndicated shows appearing on the independent teevee channels sprinkled across the air waves. That, boys and girls, was pretty much it. Now, however, there's a lot more time to fill, and it can't all be talk and reality shows.
So animation is getting a close look by the multi-nationals because it travels well and makes money. And on our end, we're getting inquiries from various entities about new contracts. But we're telling the smart operators who ask about covering "just the writers" some sad news:
"Sorry, TAG isn't serving as a prophylactic against the Writers Guild of America (west). You want to cover your six writers to the exclusion of directors, storyboard artists, designers and animators, you can't do it with a contract from the Animation Guild, because we won't sign that kind of a deal."
It's pretty much all or nothing, the way we see it. In the next few weeks, we hope to have some newer studios signed to contracts, but the congloms' latest subsidiaries and subcontractors are going to have to decide if they want to cover the whole animated enchilada. Because covering a small slice of it just isn't going to work.
(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)
Pixar Chief Discusses Totoro Cameo In 'Toy Story 3' Trailer
If you watched the most recent trailer for Pixar’s “Toy Story 3” very closely, you might have noticed a familiar face among the new characters added for the sequel. In the scene when Woody and friends use a computer, a plush Totoro is visible on the left of the screen. Fans of Japanese animation, specifically the films of Oscar-winning filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away;” “Ponyo”), know the big rabbit-looking creature as one of the titular spirits from the director’s 1988 classic “My Neighbor Totoro.”
MTV spoke to Pixar head John Lasseter during a recent “Toy Story 3” promotional event about the crossover.
“Totoro has a cameo appearance in “Toy Story 3,” he acknowledged. “We do little homages in our films, and we thought it was a very appropriate homage to let [Miyazaki and his film company] Studio Ghibli know how much they mean to us.”
Lasseter mentioned his long friendship with the filmmaker and the animation studio, as well as the fact that Disney has been distributing English-language versions of Miyazaki’s films in the United States with Lasseter himself producing the U.S. dubs of “Spirited Away,” “Howl’s Moving Castle” and the latest, “Ponyo.”
This was not the first time Pixar paid tribute to the work of Miyazaki. Two years ago, the studio held an auction in support of the Totoro Forest Project, a charitable effort to preserve a forest in Japan. Featured in the auction were “Totoro”-inspired works from top artists, including “Ratatouille” storyboard illustrators Enrico Casarosa and Ronaldo Del Carmen (whose contributions were reportedly bought at the time by Lasseter).
Lasseter and Miyazaki first met more than 30 years ago and later became friends while the latter was at work on “Totoro” in 1987. Apparently neither speaks the other’s language, but they get along famously anyway.
“I admire him so much,” Lasseter said of the master animator, adding that he thought “Ponyo” was “fantastic.”
Happycamper and Nathan Love Help Launch Mothership
To help launch their new sister-company Mothership (based in Venice, CA), Digital Domain enlisted a few talented folks to get the word out. Below you can see a whimsical short from Happycamper, and below that is one from Nathan Love.
How To Train Your Dragon Olympic Ads on NBC
If you’ve been glued to your TV watching the 2010 Winter Olympics, American viewers may have spotted the NBC promos featuring the cast of DreamWorks Animation’s upcoming CG feature How to Train Your Dragon. Here’s two of my favorite:
French Animated Feature Takes Cinderella Out West
I spotted a new trailer for a French CG feature titled Cendrillon, or as it’s known in English Cinderella. What you’ll notice straight away is that this take on the classic tale is set in the wild West, and you’d never know this story had anything to do with Walt Disney’s version. I love the use of vultures as horses. Pascal Herold is directing the feature with Paris-based Delacave producing.
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.
Continue to the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths subsite here at The World's Finest for further coverage and details on the upcoming Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths direct-to-video animated feature. Additionally, The World’s Finest has published a review of the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths animated feature, available here to view. A review of the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Blu-ray release is also available here to view.
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 from Warner Home Video.
Bruce Timm Confers Animated "Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths," "The Spectre"
Warner Home Video has released a new studio-conducted interview with Bruce Timm, executive producer for the upcoming direct-to-video Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths animated feature.
The World's Finest presents the latest in a series of studio-conducted interviews, provided by Warner Home Video, for the upcoming Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths direct-to-video animated feature. Continue reading below for the latest installment featuring executive producer Bruce Timm.
Executive producer Bruce Timm offers new perspective on the creation of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the latest entry in the ongoing series of DC Universe animated original movies, and The Spectre, the inaugural DC Showcase animated short, in an all-new Q&A with the guru of super hero animation.
Bruce Timm will be joined by filmmakers and cast members on Thursday night at The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills for the West Coast Premiere of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. The premiere is presented by Warner Home Video, Newsarama and The Paley Center for Media. The screening will commence at 7:00 p.m.
Gina Torres, the seductively powerful voice of Superwoman, has joined the panel of filmmakers and cast members to follow the screening. Josh Keaton and Vanessa Marshall, the voices of Flash and Wonder Woman, respectively, will also be on hand to field questions. Filmmakers slated to attend are co-directors Lauren Montgomery and Sam Liu, dialogue/casting director Andrea Romano and screenwriter Dwayne McDuffie.
Fans in the Los Angeles area wishing to receive free tickets to the event must RSVP via email to justiceleagueLA@newsarama.com. Tickets will be distributed on a “first come, first served” basis, and fans are encouraged to arrive early to ensure good seating for the 7:00 p.m. screening and panel. Limited edition prizes will be awarded to select members of the audience during the Q&A panel session following the screening, including “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” script covers signed by the entire cast, autographed copies of the Blu-ray and DVD, and two mounted posters signed by Thursday night’s panel.
Batman attempts to save the Earth, er, Earths as he faces off with his evil doppleganger owlman in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the next DC Universe animated original movie. The film will be distributed February 23, 2010 by Warner Home Video.
Warner Home Video will distribute the full-length animated Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths on February 23rd as a Special Edition 2-disc version on DVD and Blu-Ray™ Hi-Def, as well as single disc DVD, and On Demand and Download.
Timm, the executive producer on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, has been the creative force behind many of Warner Bros. Animation’s modern-day successes, elevating DC Comics’ canon of super heroes to new heights of animated popularity and introducing generations of new fans to the characters via landmark television series and made-for-DVD films. The latter task includes the creation of the current series of DC Universe animated original movies, which have drawn critical acclaim and further whetted the public’s appetite for comic book entertainment. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is the seventh film in the ongoing DC Universe series.
And here’s what Mr. Timm had to say …
Question: What excites you about Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths?
Bruce Timm: In a weird kind of way, this is a return to my favorite show Justice League Unlimited. The original script was intended to be the bridge story between Justice League and Justice League Unlimited to explain how we went from seven heroes to more than 50 super heroes. We loved the story and the script, and it floated around here for years while we tried to figure out what to do with it – it was considered for a comic, but fortunately that got shot down. Then we took a look at it and, with just a few slight tweaks, we jumped at the chance to make it a DC Universe movie.
Question: What sets it apart from the TV version of Justice League?
Bruce Timm: It’s a very satisfying, grand scale adventure movie with a big cast of interesting, quirky characters. It’s amazing how much it feels like a great episode of Justice League Unlimited as a big, epic film with slightly different visual stylings. That’s a good thing.
Question: Did this film present challenges that the first six DC Universe movies did not?
Bruce Timm: The biggest challenge, and this is kind of esoteric, was that we had to find the line between the original source material and making it feel like a stand-alone movie so anyone that didn’t watch JLU could follow it. We really didn’t have to tweak the script too much – I think about 95 percent remains untouched. In terms of visual styling, we also wanted it to stand on its own and not necessarily as a continuation of the old show. We have this brilliant character designer – Phil Bourassa – who draws in a style similar to my own in terms of simplicity, but slightly different. So it doesn’t look 180 degrees away from the old show, but it definitely feels unique.
Question: What are the benefits of having two directors on the same film?
Bruce Timm: The positive for Sam and Lauren is that having two directors lightens the workload, because it’s a big movie. They have similar strengths, and they’re both very good at what they do. They’re both all around talented in terms of understanding story, acting, the emotional core of the story, and they’re both really good at directing big crazy action scenes. But they’re methodology is different. Sam thinks a lot, he’s very analytical. Lauren is more intuitive about everything. I just kind of stayed out of it when they had disagreements – fortunately I never had to be the tiebreaker, They just worked things out between the two of them.
Question: What are Dwayne McDuffie’s strengths?
Bruce Timm: Dwayne is really well-rounded as a writer – he knows comics inside and out, he understands the lore, he knows what makes a good super hero story, and at the same time he’s really good with character dynamics and conflict. Plus he’s one of the best dialogue writers in the business.
Question: Of this fairly huge cast, do you have a favorite character?
Owlman explains his nefarious plot to destroy all Earths with a devastating weapon in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the next DC Universe animated original movie. The film will be distributed February 23, 2010 by Warner Home Video.
Bruce Timm: In this story, it’s probably Owlman. He’s a fascinating character himself, but the dynamic with Superwoman is so messed up as a couple, and yet really appealing in a weird kind of way. It’s a little similar to JLU’s relationship between The Question and Huntress. Superwoman is this badass hot chick, and he’s the quiet, brainy, nerd guy. They’re an interesting, odd couple. Plus I loved both James’ (Woods) and Gina’s (Torres) performances – they were spot-on. The amazing thing is we like to get all the actors to record as an ensemble, but in this case it wasn’t feasible, So they never met or performed together, but they totally mesh. It’s such an interesting chemistry considering they’ve never even met.
Question: You’ve brought another all-star cast to this film. Anything fans don’t know about the casting choices this time around?
Bruce Timm: There’s an interesting side note in that Vanessa Marshall, who plays Wonder Woman, came this close to playing the role in Justice League. We were down to the final two choices, and they were neck and neck. The thing about Vanessa is that she sounded perfect for Wonder Woman – exactly what she should sound like. But Susan Eisenberg had this vulnerability. We thought it would be interesting to not play her to type, which ultimately played really well. When it came to casting for this movie, we thought, “What if we go down the road not taken?” So we opted for Vanessa in a full-length movie and she is great.
Question: Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths includes the premiere of the first "DC Showcase" animation short, The Spectre. How have the "DC Showcase" shorts changed your work day?
Bruce Timm: The "DC Showcase" is fun because it gives us an opportunity to play with characters that maybe don’t have a broad enough marquee value to support their own movie. As much as I like Batman, Superman, etc., the more lower tier, offbeat characters are really fascinating to me. It’s fun to mess around with others characters in the DC Universe. Super heroes are great, but it’s nice to do a change of pace, and that’s a lot of what we’ve done here. The Spectre is a supernatural thriller,; Jonah Hex is a western, and so on. So the Showcase is giving us a chance to stretch different muscles.
Question: After taking a break from episodic TV for the past several years, are you enjoying a return to the short-form with the "DC Showcase"?
Bruce Timm: The interesting thing is these are really short form – they’re half as long as a half-hour TV episode. So the story has to be really tight and condensed – you have to cut away the fat, but it can’t be just wall-to-wall action. It still has to be a story. Fortunately we’re working with some really great writers, and because of that, every time we roll tape on these shorts, they feel like you’ve watched a whole episode of something. There’s a clear beginning, middle and end – a full story. So mission accomplished.
Question: What made Steve Niles the right guy to write The Spectre, and how did you lure him into writing an animated short?
Bruce Timm: I’ve admired Steve Niles’ work for a long time and, honestly, it would have never occurred to me to approach him. That was Todd Casey’s suggestion. He contacted Steve, and Steve was thrilled to get the assignment. He’s a big Michael Fleisher/Jim Aparo fan, and a big fan of The Spectre – especially that 1970s era of the character. Steve is very into crime fiction and horror, so he was the perfect writer for it.
Question: Does The Spectre hold any special significance for you?
Bruce Timm: The Spectre was one of my favorite characters back in the 70s. Even by today’s standards, those comics are pretty hard core, and they were written in 1974, I don’t know how they got some of that stuff past the comic code. It was so different from any other comic on the stands. It’s really dark, really nasty. The character is pretty easy to understand – he’s the dark avenger of the night, even more so than Batman. He punishes bad guys in horrible, horrible ways. He’s like the benign Freddie Krueger. I’ve wanted to use The Spectre for a long, long time and we never had a opportunity to do it, and this was our chance to go hog wild with him.
The Justice League makes its pitch to stand and fight the Crime Syndicate to an alternate Earth’s President Wilson in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the next DC Universe animated original movie. The film will be distributed February 23, 2010 by Warner Home Video.
The Secret of Kells - official U.S. trailer
The Secret of Kells official U.S. release trailer.
This film has been released in Ireland and in Europe, and has played a limited Oscar-qualifying run in a few theaters in the U.S., but has not yet been widely released . But it looks like it is on track now to get a proper theatrical release in the United States.
(the Oscar nomination for "Best Animated Feature Film" helped, I think !)
I'm hoping to see this and Sylvain Chomet's (Triplets of Belleville) new feature film "The Illusionist" soon.
(Thanks David Nethery)
First reviews of Chomet's "The Illusionist"
Sylvain Chomet's new hand-drawn animated feature film premiered recently at the Berlinale Film Festival .
Here are a few of the early reviews :
Variety review of "The Illusionist"
Another review of "The Illusionist"
Screen Daily review of "The Illusionist".
"It took six days and an awful lot of films, but the Berlinale has finally turned up a masterpiece. Moreover, it’s a rare case of one of the fest’s most eagerly awaited titles managing to meet, and even subvert, expectations.
“The Illusionist,” French animator Sylvain Chomet long-gestating follow-up the 2003 Oscar nominee “The Triplets of Belleville,” confirms a truly singular auteur sensibility, while revealing a more disciplined artist and storyteller within. A streamlined character study, less deliriously eccentric in tone and structure than his debut feature, “The Illusionist” nonetheless boasts an emotional heft that handsomely repays its creator’s restraint."
(Thanks David Nethery)
Each year I’m dismayed at the lack of U.S. distribution for several high quality theatrical animated features, out of the dozens of really good ones produced around the world.
However, I recognize that not all non-U.S. features are of the quality of The Secret of Kells, Persepolis, Waltz With Bashir or The Triplettes of Belleville. Here are two examples of recent Euro-features that will probably never see the light of day at an American multi-plex (though I wouldn’t rule them out from the $1 dollar bin at Target):
The first, from Germany Norway and Finland, Sunshine Barry and the Disco Worms
The next, a Belgium-Luxembourg co-production, is based on the graphic novel by Willy Vandersteen, Bob and Bobbette and the Devils of Texas:
(Thanks cartoon brew)
Blue Sky Diz says that Mr. Lasseter is co-directing Cars 2. I wouldn't know anything about that, but in the recent past I had occasion to talk to Disney and Pixar artists who said:
"The new management team is cautious. John isn't taking big chances at Disney. They're trying to go with the kind of structure they have at Pixar, with a smaller creative group at the top, and I'm not sure it works well at Disney. The slate is really thin, and they've got a hole in the slate now that Snow Queen is shelved, and they've asked directors here to see if they can come up with something. There should be more pitching of ideas, but management is wedded to the director-driven project, and they haven't greenlit a lot of stuff ..."
"The best way to not get ahead at Pixar is to say you want to be a director ..."
Me, beyond my observations walking around the hat building and talks with various artists there, I couldn't tell you much about Pixar. (In fact, I could tell you no-thing.)
The artists I've conversed with agree that the Disney development slate is thin, but between the films in the pipeline at Emeryville and the ones now in production down in Burbank, the House of Mouse has a goodly number of animated releases lined up on the tarmac, so there really isn't a short-term problem.
It's the more distant future that appears cloudy, but maybe that's because we're not there yet. Maybe a burst of new projects will happen between now and summer. Who knows?
(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)
The Sub-Contracting Scam
The New York Times details the mis-categorization of working stiffs:
Federal and state officials, many facing record budget deficits, are starting to aggressively pursue companies that try to pass off regular employees as independent contractors ...
... Many workplace experts say a growing number of companies have maneuvered to cut costs by wrongly classifying regular employees as independent contractors, though they often are given desks, phone lines and assignments just like regular employees. Moreover, the experts say, workers have become more reluctant to challenge such practices, given the tough job market.
Companies that pass off employees as independent contractors avoid paying Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance taxes for those workers. Companies do not withhold income taxes from contractors’ paychecks, and several studies have indicated that, on average, misclassified independent workers do not report 30 percent of their income ....
I've had a number of visual effects artists, storyboard artists and designers complain to me about this practice over the years. I've even known of assistant animators, working in-studio, who have been labeled as "independent contractors" by a company in order to get around taxes and unemployment.
Now, of course, we have outfits like MBO striving to be enablers for firms that don't want to be on the hook for taxes and unemployment benefits for the people they engage. The tap dance goes like this:
"Heey now! You're a happening cat with places to go and people to see! You don't want to be pinned down with that employee stuff! You need your free-dom! We'll help make the indie thing work for you! Just give us 5% of your cash flow! ..."
Nice work if you can get it, but here's the way it's supposed to work: If you're working on site, or taking direction for the work performed, or using the company's equipment, you're an employee.
There are certainly bona fide independent contractors out there, and there are certainly independent contractors who make good livings. But let's face it, there's a lot of cheating and corner-cutting being done by various companies, and lots of workers are being short-changed.
(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)
Voice actors Lowenthal, Platt begin book tour Sat.
A duo in life as well as art, Tara Platt and Yuri Lowenthal will hold the first stop on the international book signing tour of their book Voice-Over Voice Actor: What It's Like Behind the Mic this Saturday, February 20 in Las Vegas.
Offering tips and tales from their professional careers, they'll be at Alternate Reality Comics, 4800 South Maryland Parkway, from 3 to 5 p.m. Platt and Lowenthal are married to each other.
More stops will be announced shortly for the book tour, but next on the list are San Francisco in March, and Melbourne and Brisbane, Australia and Chapel Hill, North Carolina in April.
"People always ask me for advice on how to get started in the VO business," says actor Phil LaMarr. My advice: 'Get this book.'"
Lowenthal, in addition to being a giant nerd, is an award-winning actor of stage, screen and voiceover. He's voiced Superman and Superman X on the Saturday morning animated Kids' WB show Legion of Superheroes as well as Jinno/Kuma on Afro Samurai.
He's also been Ben Tennyson on Cartoon Network's Ben Ten: Alien Force and Bobby Drake, "Iceman," on NickToons in the animated series Wolverine and the X-Men. Anime fans may also know him from such series as Naruto, RaveMaster, Kyo Kara Maoh, Gurren Lagann, Bleach and Code Geass, and from the film Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles.
Platt is not a nerd, but is proudly married to one. She has performed internationally from London to New York to Los Angeles in film, TV, animation and theatre. In the VO world, she is best known for her work on the series and video games Naruto as Temari, DC vs. MK as Wonder Woman, and Legion of Superheroes as Dream Girl. Anime fans may also recognize her from the animated series and features Digimon: Island of Lost Digimon, Buso Renkin, RaveMaster, FateStayNight, Rozenmaiden, Tokko, Blue Dragon, Bleach, DearS and Boys Be.
Platt and Lowenthal's production company Monkey Kingdom Productions recently finished their first feature film, Tumbling After.
Interested in pursuing a career in VO? Curious what goes on behind the scenes in a business where people talk funny for money? Voice-Over Voice Actor offers a fun and comprehensive look at what it takes, what goes on and what it’s like behind the mic from two working pros who started from scratch.
For more information, visit raiseyourvoiceacting.com and voiceovervoiceactor.com.
"Princess and the Frog" singing gone from the Oscars
Live performances of tunes that are nominated for the original song category -- including Randy Newman's "Almost There" and "Down in New Orleans" from Disney's The Princess And The Frog -- have been pulled from this year's Academy Awards ceremony.
Instead, the nominated tunes will be shown with clips from the films that featured them, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which presents the Oscars, announced Thursday.
Also nominated for best original song are "Take it All" (Nine), by Maury Yeston; "The Weary Kind" (Crazy Heart), by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett; and "Loin de Paname" (Paris 36), by Reinhardt Wagner and Frank Thomas.
Last year, singer Peter Gabriel withdrew from performing at the Oscars because he didn't want to perform a shortened version of "Down to Earth" from Pixar-Disney's WALL•E. At that time, the Academy combined all the nominated tracks into one medley.
The Academy Awards show will be held Sunday, March 7.
Koochie Koochie Hota Hai
From the country (India) that brought you Roadside Romeo now comes this:
(Thanks, Rohit Iyer)
(Thanks cartoon brew)
Eric Calderon Launches “Cold Space”
"Cold Space" #1 Debuts in April
Not many comic book series get to launch with an instantly recognizable yet entirely new hero, but when BOOM! Studios distributed a teaser image for “Cold Space” in advance of any other details about the title, fans sat up and took notice. The armored, gun-wielding protagonist of the series bore a striking resemblance to Samuel L. Jackson, an actor known for his distinctive on-screen presence and eminently memorable delivery, and an avowed fan of comics. Soon, of course, it was revealed that Jackson would be co-writing the April-debuting “Cold Space” with his “Afro Samurai” partner-in-crime Eric Calderon, with artist Jeremy Rock rounding out the team. CBR News spoke with Calderon about the book, working in comics and animation, and reuniting with Mr. Jackson.
The series finds an outlaw named Mulberry—“played by” Samuel L. Jackson—stranded on a planet torn by civil war. But rather than pick sides, Mulberry looks to turn the situation to his advantage and profits from the chaos. “'Cold Space' is simple because it’s just normal people trying to survive. It’s just the time and place that’s radically different,” Calderon told CBR of the book's premise. “Mulberry is just a runaway criminal who doesn’t feel like getting taken in by the Galactic police and wants to keep making a buck so he can have some fun and have some cool stuff. When he crash lands on a ghetto space mining moon, he finds that the one small town that exists has two warring entrepreneurs and a third freelance scavenger gang on motorcycle. So, you can already imagine the pinball machine of this set-up making noise when a new hotshot comes into town.”
Asked why he and Jackson chose to develop “Cold Space” as a comic series rather than an animated project or in some other medium, Calderon said, “It was just for a change, really. Sam’s got plenty happening in other mediums, so this was a chance to branch-out and hopefully not take years and years just to get off the ground.
“BOOM! was really perfect for us because they love making comics! There are lots of other publishers who want to rush things straight to some development deal or 'Variety' magazine press release about director attachment or studio option,” the writer continued. “First and foremost, BOOM! wants to make great comics and is staffed by people who are freaks about comics. Just like me and Sam!”
Character designs for Mulberry, Dee, and GK
Coming from the world of animation, though, Calderon did find a learning curve associated with writing for comics. “I’ve only written screenplays for television and a couple of 8-pagers for comics. So, this is my first full length graphic novel and the first time for Sam, too,” Calderon said. “To be honest, I’m nervous, but Sam is always relaxed! I read some basics: Scott McCloud’s 'Making Comics' and Dennis O'Neil’s 'DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics.' Then I was lucky enough to collaborate with Mark Waid for a bit on a project where he told me, ‘Kid... You ain’t bad.’
“But basically, I kind of made-up my own format like a lot of writers do I’m told. Also, I tend to stick to classic three-act structure rules and mythological precedent. So far, I’ve been pretty anal about giving exact panel numbers and visual blocking. But I leave that to the artist to take if they want or throw away if they have a better idea. Sam sculpts the overall plots with me. Then, he gives great design and tone ideas along the way. Finally, he knows how to make Mulberry ‘sound’ like him better than anyone.”
On the subject of his previous collaboration with Jackson on “Afro Samurai,” on which Calderon served as a writer and producer, Calderon recounted the accidental nature of their first encounter.
“Like many things in LA, it was a fortunate accident,” he said. “When I first completed producing the test pilot for 'Afro Samurai,' I literally made about 50 copies on my laptop, labeled them, and gave them to everyone I knew in the business by hand. Like magic, one day an agent called and told me Sam took the DVD and passed a single message to me. 'I AM Afro Samurai.' That was it!”
And getting work with Samuel L. Jackson on another project with “Cold Space?” “I am one lucky Filipino nerd. Let me just say that.”
The success of “Afro Samurai,” which Calderon shepherded from its earliest stages after discovering an obscure toy and at-the-time untranslated Japanese manga, gives him hope for further distinctive animated projects in future. “I guess what I enjoyed the most about Afro’s success is that now we can all point to it and say, ‘See! It’s possible to do cool action animation for adults in the US!’ I just hope we can do more,” Calderon said. “Anyone wanna see a 'Cold Space' animation? I do!!!”
Beyond this, though, Calderon was silent about any further plans for “Afro Samurai,” including the long-rumored live-action film. “Sorry, no comment,” Calderon said. “It’s all about 'Cold Space' now!”
Character designs for Mario Waid and Patience
(Thanks Comic Book Resources)
Cameron: Everyone wants Avatar 2, but it's not a done deal
In the first of three new snippets from MTV, director James Cameron reveals that he's still not 100 percent on board for an Avatar sequel, below.
"I'm thinking about what the next feature will be, and another Avatar is a strong possiblity," Cameron tells MTV's Josh Horowitz.
But, the director adds, "Got some deal hurdles to get over," without elaborating. "It's never really been properly worked out, let's put it that way."
But Cameron says that everyone is "highly motivated" to get a sequel underway, and we think that's likely, especially, as he points out, that News Corp honcho Rupert Murdoch has publicly said he's eager to make a second movie.
James Cameron says Terminator has 'run its course'
Though the new owners of the Terminator film franchise are casting about for partners to make some new movies, don't count on creator James Cameron to be part of it.
"I have stepped so far away from the Terminator universe," Cameron told MTV in the second of three video interviews, below. He added: "I know what you know. ... I'm happy with that. ... I made a decision a ways back to just let it have its life ... To me, ... it's run its course."
Cameron adds somewhat profanely that he wouldn't want to be part of any new incarnation even if asked: "The soup's kind of been pissed in a little bit by other filmmakers," he said.
Cameron's idea for the new Spider-Man: Do it like Batman
Director James Cameron, who raised 3-D filmmaking to new heights with Avatar, is downplaying reports that he is consulting with director Marc Webb about a rebooted Spider-Man movie
Though Cameron's Avatar producing partner Jon Landau told MTV that the duo met with Webb, Cameron now tells MTV, "I never talked with them directly" in the third of three new video interviews, below.
Cameron added that he's happy to speak with Webb, who will be shooting the new Spidey movie in 3-D, but added, "It's not like I want to tell them how to do it. .. It's more like, just don't make the same dumbass mistakes that we made for 10 years."
As for what Cameron would like to see in a new rebooted Spider-Man? (Remember that Cameron himself once wanted to adapt Spidey to the movies): "I'd like to seem him reinvented. ... That's very successful," he said.
Clash of the Titans on set: Bubo, black Pegasus and F-bombs
We went to the set of Louis Leterrier's upcoming reboot of the classic mythology movie Clash of the Titans last summer, and one thing we took away from it is this: It definitely isn't a straight remake.
Oh, there's Perseus (played by Sam Worthington), a cool new Medusa, a cool new Kraken, Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) and lots of sword-fighting.
But there's also cooler versions of the giant scorpions, bat-winged harpies, eyeless Stygian witches and tons of new monsters, and Zeus (Liam Neeson) doesn't wear a white, diaphanous woman's gown: He wears armor, as befits the king of the gods.
And what about Bubo, the mechanical owl? He's in it. But not for long.
Bubo, from the original movie
Pegasus, Perseus' winged steed, is also in it. But he's black, not white. And he and Worthington did not get along.
"I hate that f--king horse," Worthington told a group of reporters visiting the film's U.K. set last summer. "Have they told you that? How I hate the horse? I hate it, I hate it."
Worthington adds: "It's a simple way of saying this isn't the Clash of the Titans that you're used to. We're revving it up a bit. Bubo is not necessarily liked. Um, the horse has an attitude problem."
SCI FI Wire was part of the group that visited the set of Clash of the Titans at Longcross Studios, a converted tank factory in Chertsey, outside London, on Aug. 21, 2009. (The new 3-D movie opens on April 2.)
From left: Sam Worthington as Perseus, Hans Matheson as Ixas, Ian Whyte as Sheikh Suleiman, Gemma Arterton as Io and Liam Cunningham as Solon (click to enlarge)
French director Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk) said that he set out to make Clash as an action-adventure movie for a new generation.
"I just didn't want to do it the same, but just different," Leterrier said during a break in filming, adding: "The only way to make it ... mine was really to make it personal. Therefore to rewrite a screenplay to ... incorporate in my vision of the film, and then change the rest. And I actually [was inspired] more [by the] mythology and other ideas and stuff ... than just one movie. ... Creating a universe, you know?"
During our visit, we saw some awesome sets, including the black boat that Charon (an animatronic specter) pilots across the River Styx, as well as a large outdoor set of the City of Argos, consisting of a main plaza off of which run several streets.
Up a flight of stairs is a market with overhanging canopies; around the square are dun-colored open storefronts and what look like multistory residences. The set is dressed with all manner of props: braziers smoking with real fires, pots, baskets, carts, tables, stools, fake fruit and food, draped clothing, the works. It's like standing in the middle of ancient Greece.
There's a slight drizzle falling on an otherwise lovely, coolish late summer day in England, uh, Argos.
In the scene we're observing today, a flock of bat-winged harpies descends on the crowd in Argos, while a Djinn warrior atop a giant scorpion rides in to save the day by heaving an immense spear at a harpy, destroying a storefront. The square is full of extras dressed in the rough tunics of ancient Greece, their faces dirty and their robes ragged. A camera rig hangs on wires strung from towering cranes overhead; it will shoot from the harpies' point of view as it flies over the crowd.
Leterrier, in a blue-and-red plaid shirt and camouflage shorts, oversees the shot from the thick of the crowd, telling the extras where to run as the harpies descend (there are no actual harpies here today; they will be added in post-production).
In the middle of the crowd there will appear a giant scorpion atop which rides a warrior sitting in a wooden palanquin. For the shot, the palanquin and the black-robed warrior are there, but the "scorpion" is actually a mechanical gimbal rig, which will rock the palanquin as if it were riding atop the giant arthropod.
For the shot, Louis yells, and the extras scatter. There's smoke, screaming, a woman tumbles off a balcony. The camera swoops around overhead and behind the "scorpion" as it rocks. We are told that Perseus, astride Pegasus, will gallop forward and ascend over the scorpion, but that part of the shot is not in today's scene. Behind us, the giant Kraken will emerge from the sea to smash its tentacles onto the city; again, this is something for another day.
Here's Warner Brothers' official description of the movie:
Cast: Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen, Alexa Davalos, Jason Flemyng, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson
In "Clash of the Titans," the ultimate struggle for power pits men against kings and kings against gods. But the war between the gods themselves could destroy the world. Born of a god but raised as a man, Perseus (Sam Worthington) is helpless to save his family from Hades (Ralph Fiennes), vengeful god of the underworld. With nothing left to lose, Perseus volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat Hades before he can seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson) and unleash hell on earth. Leading a daring band of warriors, Perseus sets off on a perilous journey deep into forbidden worlds. Battling unholy demons and fearsome beasts, he will only survive if he can accept his power as a god, defy his fate and create his own destiny.
"It really is a dangerous story, and also it's a bit darker, it's a bit funner," Leterrier says. "There's more adventure. ... We stretched it."
Worthington says his version of Perseus is different from the love-struck demigod played by Harry Hamlin in the original film.
"In the original, Perseus ... he's part man, part god, as you know," Worthington says. "And he accepts the gods' side pretty easily in the first one and accepts all the gifts the gods give him. And, to me, that wasn't a very good message to give to my 9-year-old nephew or any kid, I think, is that you have to be a god to achieve something. So one of these things I said to Louis and talked to Louis about was that ... he wants to be a man and do this as a man. And do it with other men. Because I think that's a good message: that anything is possible if you banded together as men."
Worthington adds: "The second thing is that, you know, in Greek mythology, destiny is set for you. Something I thought that was another crap message to give to my nephew, because you know, hey, to say to him, 'You're already going to be destined to do this, this and this,' I believe you can make your own fate. So we kind of played against that. So my Perseus is really, to use that word again, a boisterous, belligerent kind of teenager, is how I've been playing him. Who, you know, you tell him he can't do something, he'll run headlong into doing it. And that gets him into a lot of trouble. He's not the golden boy. He's the teenager who has to learn to grow up."
Tron's Cindy Morgan talks: Why she's not in Legacy
When the upcoming 3-D sci-fi sequel film Tron Legacy hits theaters in December, it will feature original Tron stars Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner. But where's Cindy Morgan, the hot blonde who played Lora and her digital counterpart, Yori?
Morgan, who now lives in Florida, talked with us on Wednesday and said it's a mystery to her. "Indirectly folks called casting, and indirectly they said, 'We love Cindy, but there really isn't a part for her on this film,'" Morgan told us in a telephone interview. "Who knows what the real story is? It's like a game of telephone. One person talks to another person that talks to another person." (Also check out our Cindy Morgan gallery, at the end of the story.)
Morgan is putting together a coffee-table book on her Hollywood experiences but has been following the development of Tron Legacy, which picks up the story 28 years after the 1982 original and centers on Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the son of Kevin Flynn (Bridges). (Possible spoilers ahead!)
Fans have been lobbying for Morgan to be in the movie, which has wrapped production: There are active campaigns online, such as "Yori Lives" on Facebook, which is independent of Morgan herself.
"All I know is what I'm seeing online," Morgan said. "I am so thrilled and touched and excited about the fan reaction and about people talking about the first one and how it relates to the second one. I can't tell you how warm a feeling I get from that. It just means so much."
Nobody from Tron Legacy contacted Morgan, and she did not directly speak with anyone from the Joe Kosinski-directed sequel.
That's not for lack of trying. Morgan gave her contact information to the Disney team, who set up the Flynn's Arcade promotion at San Diego Comic-Con last year. When Disney built a mock-up of the arcade from Tron in San Diego's Gaslamp District, they did not even invite Morgan or offer her a pass to avoid the lines.
"The people I was with said, 'We'll just go in,'" Morgan said. "I said, 'Uh-uh. We're going to just quietly, unobtrusively stand in line, very quietly, walk in, say hello, take some pictures, and on the way out, I handed them my business card and said, 'Thank you very much.' I let them know who I was, and just scooted out. I had the best time. It was fun."
One of the excuses Morgan has heard for keeping Yori out of Legacy is that in Tron canon, Lora is dead. The Tron 2.0 video game reveals that Lora died in a digitization accident.
In Tron Legacy, Sam Flynn goes into the digital world, which has evolved since 1982, to find his father, Kevin. Boxleitner reprises his role as Alan Bradley. (Don't read the next paragraph if you want to avoid a big spoiler.)
The game is not necessarily canon, though, and death has never stopped anyone from returning for sequels. Morgan is happy to offer some story notes. "I've got all kinds of thoughts, and my phone does work, believe me," she said, not so subtly hinting that Disney should still call her. "It's a really funny position to be in. They killed Lora, they killed my character off, but I thought, 'Well, if I were a mother, and if I knew what could happen in the computer universe, I would have created a program in that computer to watch over my son.' This is science fiction, as you know, so anything is possible."
Tron Legacy has wrapped principal photography and is in post-production. Some of the fan campaigns suggest digitally inserting 1982 footage of Morgan to put her in the new film. Bridges appears in his 1982 form as the original Kevin Flynn, thanks to modern visual effects.
"I think anything's possible," Morgan said. "I really believe that. As far as I know, my phone still works. We'll see. We'll just see how it turns out. There's so much buzz about it, I'm getting all my information from the people who are really making the decisions now, and that's the fans. They make the choices. Isn't that cool? Isn't that the way it should be?"
The original Tron gang has mostly lost touch since the '80s. Morgan stayed on good terms with her co-stars and original director Steven Lisberger, but they don't hang out regularly. "I heard from Jeff before he did Against All Odds, and I wasn't able to make it to that screening. Bruce I see occasionally. We actually did a series, a short-lived series called Bring 'Em Back Alive, together. I see Bruce occasionally at a Tron event or a show. Steven Lisberger I really haven't seen. I saw him once in a restaurant, but that's it since Tron. So this is very, very interesting to me. I'm just kind of standing by and watching and smiling, enjoying what I'm seeing. I just think it's very cool."
Morgan's first book, From Catholic School to Caddyshack, recounts her life up to the 1980 comedy, featuring never-before-seen photos from the set. She is planning a second book, an autobiography of her Hollywood experiences, including Tron stories and her frustrations with Hollywood's behind-the-scenes shenanigans.
Morgan hopes Tron Legacy will please the passionate fans, whether she finds a way to appear in it or not. "Everything about that film needs to be true," she said. "Tron Legacy needs to be true to the original vision of Tron, and I think that's where a lot of the disappointment comes. If they're actually going to call it Legacy, the fans are sort of hoping that it does have a legacy."
Tron Legacy opens Dec. 17.