Tuesday, February 23, 2010

News - 02/23/10...

Up, Avatar win BAFTAs

Up won Best Animated Feature and Michael Giacchino picked up the Best Score trophy at the British Academy Film Awards. Avatar had a mildly disappointing night, losing in six of the eight categories it was up for, but taking home the Best Special Visual Effects and Best Production Design awards. Mother of Many won Best Short Animation.

Dear Sesame Street

Dear Sesame Street,

We, the undersigned, would like to register our concern over the contest you are now conducting with Aniboom. We are concerned that your contest includes a solicitation of original design concepts, characters and content to be produced on a speculative basis by cartoonists, artists, motion designers and animators.

This approach, requesting new and original work to be created in competition, is one that we believe seriously compromises the quality of work that is entered into “competition” and is questionable, at best, for a reputable organization to request.

Sesame Street has long been a highly esteemed provider of educational programming for children. From its inception, it has shown respect and support for the independent animation, film, and design communities. Artists have responded by creating lasting work – that is as valuable for children and adults today as when it was first created. We applaud that work, and hope that Sesame Street will continue to push the fields of animation and film-making. As such, we also think that Sesame Street should uphold the ethics and professional behavior we’d like our own children to grow up with. Is the education we want to pass on to them that artists’ and animators’ work is not valuable? That the only way to ‘make it’ is through winning a contest?

There is a more appropriate way to explore the work of various artists. A more effective and ethical approach to commission new work is to ask a pool of talent to submit examples of their work from previous assignments as well as a statement of how they would approach your project. You can then judge the quality of the artist’s previous work and her way of thinking about your project. The artist you select can then begin to work on your project by designing an original solution to your criteria while under contract to you, without having to work on speculation up front.

Design should not be a one-way street, with artists creating work in a vacuum. We believe the best design, art and content comes at the request of a specific brief, mission or client. Speculative design competitions and processes result in superficial assessments of the project at hand that are not grounded in a client’s specific needs. Art always has something to say.

There are few professions where all possible candidates are asked to do the work first, allowing the buyer to choose which one to compensate for their efforts. (Just consider the response if you were to ask a dozen lawyers to write a brief for you, from which you would then choose which one to pay!) We realize that there are some creative professions with a different set of standards, such as advertising and architecture, for which billings are substantial and continuous after you select a firm of record. In those cases, you are not receiving the final outcome (the advertising campaign or the building) for free up front as you would be in receiving an original film or character design.

There are many artists, animators and cartoonists who can provide you with original and highly creative new work that will far exceed your expectations, with respect for an appropriate budget and schedule. We can think of dozens off of the tops of our heads who we’re sure would love to work with Sesame Street. And we’d would love to point you in their direction.

We believe that “leveraging the power of the web” is an exciting prospect and casting a wide net can quickly provide many interesting results. But we think that more considered curation and the selection of applicants whose goals may be more closely aligned with your own can provide better results.

It’s your contest, though and you are free run it as you wish. But you will do so without our participation.

Your consideration of these professional issues is greatly appreciated.

Cartoon Brew

See the full list of document signers and how to put your name on the list after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Shutter Tops Weekend, but VFX, Animation Have Legs

The Martin Scorsese-directed thriller Shutter Island lead the box office this weekend, grossing $40 million in domestic markets.

But the real story continues to be the strong performance of Avatar. The 3D motion-capture blockbuster placed third with a $16 million take in its 10th weekend in release. That only adds to the movie’s lead in the all-time box office race, and it has now grossed $687 million domestically. Avatar’s overseas gross of $1.78 billion brings its worldwide total to $2.4 billion.

Second place went to the romantic comedy Valentine’s Day with $17.1 million, while teen fantasy film Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief landed just behind Avatar with a weekend gross of $15.3 million. The Wolfman landed in fifth place with a $9.8 million weekend.

Overseas, Percy has grossed $67 million for a $126 million total to date. Wolfman has made about $46 million overseas for a $97 million bottom line to date.

Also still doing respectable business is Fox’s Alvin and the Chimpmunks: The Squeakquel, which earned an estimated $935,000 this weekend – it’s ninth – to bring its domestic total to $215.6 million. Alvin has made nearly as much overseas, $208 million, making it a major hit with a worldwide gross of $424 million.

Disney’s The Princess and the Frog earned about $519,000 for a domestic total of $102.7 million in its 11th week of wide release and 13th week overall. The film has grossed about $84 million overseas for a total of $187 million.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

CHINAnimax Signs Up Singapore for Rubi

CHINAnimax has licensed its preschooler series Rubi to MediaCorp okto in Singapore.

CHINAnimax is the worldwide distributor for ZN Animation, one of China’s largest animation production companies.

The deal includes 104 six-minute episodes of the CG-animtaed series, which follows the adventures of little Rubi and her sidekick from the moon, Yoyo.

Rubi has been sold into markets in Latin America, eastern Europe, the Middle East and southeast Asia.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Shout! Factory and Marvel Animation to Release "Super Hero Squad Show" on DVD

Shout! Factory and Marvel Animation, Inc. have announced a content partnership that will bring The Super Hero Squad Show to DVD, with Shout! being the exclusive U.S. home video distributor for the hit half-hour animated series. Releases are expected later this year.

The full press release follows:


Shout! Factory Secures Home Entertainment Rights to Marvel Animation’s The Super Hero Squad Show

Los Angeles, Calif., – Shout! Factory and Marvel Animation, Inc. announced today a new alliance to bring Marvel’s successful animated series The Super Hero Squad Show to the home entertainment marketplace. Under the multi-year deal, Shout! Factory will be the exclusive U.S. home entertainment distributor with licensing rights to the action-packed half-hour episodes of The Super Hero Squad Show, Marvel Animation’s highly successful animated series currently airing on Cartoon Network. The announcement was made by Shout! Factory founding partners Richard Foos, Bob Emmer and Garson Foos and Marvel Animation President Eric Rollman.

“We are thrilled with this exciting opportunity to work closely with Marvel Animation, a globally recognized studio for its fantastic productions and pop culture content. This strategic partnership with Marvel continues to build on our continuing success in distributing some of the most premiere brands to the marketplace,” stated Shout! Factory founding partners. “The Super Hero Squad Show has become one of the most popular animated series on television. There’s a lot of interest from loyal fans, and we plan to do a great job with upcoming releases. We hope that this is just the start of a mutually beneficial relationship.”

“We have found a tremendous and passionate partner in Shout! Factory who bring some of the most innovative DVD releases to market, and always with unique bonus features and packaging that deliver the best value to the fans,” stated Eric Rollman, President of Marvel Animation. “We have some great ideas for the upcoming Super Hero Squad Show DVDs and look forward to continuing the Super Hero Squad Show experience from Cartoon Network to our fans on DVD.”

The Super Hero Squad Show launched on Cartoon Network US in October 2009 to tremendous ratings and continues to deliver impressive numbers in its regular M-F 8:30am and Saturday 7:30pm time slots.

Boasting a stellar ensemble of voice talent from Hollywood , The Super Hero Squad Show animated series features super-stylized versions of Marvel’s popular characters (including Captain America , Silver Surfer, Thor, Hulk, Wolverine and Iron Man) with a comedic twist. Marvel has attracted some top voice talent to play the roles of Marvel’s iconic heroes and villains of Marvel Super Hero Squad, including Tom Kenny (aka Spongebob) as Iron Man, Captain America and M.O.D.O.K., Grey DeLisle (Fairly Oddparents) as Ms. Marvel and the Enchantress, Alimi Ballard (NUMB3RS) as the Falcon, and Charlie Adler (Cow & Chicken, Transformers 1 & 2) as Dr. Doom. In addition, superstar guests have joined the cast to play various villains and heroes from throughout the Marvel universe, including Shawn Ashmore (X-Men films) as Iceman, LeVar Burton (Ali, Roots) as Rhodey, Taye Diggs (Private Practice) as the Black Panther, Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street) as Dormammu, Greg Grunberg (Heroes) as Ant-Man, Mark Hamill (Star Wars) as the Red Skull, Lena Headey (300, Sarah Connor Chronicles) as the Black Widow, Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) as Sif, Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Ugly Truth) as Stardust, Wayne Knight (Seinfeld) as Egghead, James Marsters (Smallville, Buffy The Vampire Slayer) as Mr. Fantastic, Jennifer Morrison (Star Trek, House) as the Wasp, Adrian Pasdar (Heroes) as Hawkeye, Kevin Sorbo (Hercules, Meet The Spartans) as Ka-Zar, George Takei (Heroes, Star Trek) as Galactus and Michelle Trachtenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gossip Girl) as the Valkyrie. The cast is also joined by comics legend Stan Lee (co-creator of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor and many other Marvel characters) in a recurring role as the Mayor of Super Hero City.

When the greatest heroes on the planet unite to face the world’s greatest villains, you get the biggest, most family-friendly Super Hero team-up in TV history… The Super Hero Squad Show. It’s no small job protecting Super Hero City from the wild, weird (& even wacky) villainy of Villainville’s infamous baddies… but Iron Man, Wolverine, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, Thor and the Falcon are always up for the job. Shouting “Hero Up!” as they rush into battle, the Squad must keep Dr. Doom’s minions from gathering pieces of the Infinity Sword. Otherwise, Doom will use the Sword to rule the universe! Luckily, the City is filled with Marvel super-hero guest-stars to help out in a pinch. These brave heroes totally deliver the action – but with plenty of humor on the side.

Shout! Factory plans a strategic rollout of The Super Hero Squad Show home entertainment product-line later this year, utilizing the same sales and marketing strengths that has made them one of the leading independent studios in the entertainment industry.

Monday Mouse Watch: Will “Rapunzel” ‘s new title translate into higher grosses for Disney’s next animated fairy tale?

Jim Hill reports in on how the Studio & Consumer Products have very different take on how “The Princess and the Frog” did. More importantly, whether “Tangled” will really be the title that convinces young males that it’s okay to come see this Holiday 2010 release.

I got a note this past weekend from HatMadder

Am I the only who’s confused by what’s going on in Burbank these past few week? First Disney changes “Rapunzel”‘s title to “Tangled” and then cancels “The Snow Queen” outright because studio execs reportedly believe that modern moviegoers are no longer interested in watching feature length animated fairy tales. But then they announce that they’re making a sequel to “Enchanted.”

Did any of those executives actually watch
“Enchanted” ? If so, don’t they realize that this 2007 Walt Disney Pictures release pays tribute to that studio’s library of animated fairy tales? So what’s the point of making a sequel to “Enchanted” if Disney execs no longer believe that there’s really an audience out there for these sorts of movies?

Copyright 2007 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Long story short, MatHadder, the reason that Walt Disney Pictures has put an “Enchanted” sequel into active development is that the “Enchanted” franchise is now a known commodity. That – provided that Disney Studio execs mount the proper sort of promotional campaign (more importantly, pick the right opening weekend) – “Enchanted 2” is virtually guaranteed to turn a profit.

As for the reason that Disney opted to change “Rapunzel” ‘s title to “Tangled” … According to the Mouse’s market research, it would seem that – outside of the United States & Germany – the story of Rapunzel itself has very little name recognition. More to the point, even those among surveyed who actually recognized Rapunzel’s name, these people had little or no knowledge of what her fairy tale was actually about. They knew that this story featured a princess with long hair who was trapped in a tower. But beyond that … zippo.

So here was Disney’s marketing department trying to trade on Rapunzel’s name recognition only to then discover – outside of the U.S. & Germany – this fairy tale didn’t really have any name recognition. Which then forced the Studio to rethink how it was going to sell this particular animated feature.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Now to answer the really difficult question: Did “The Princess & the Frog” ‘s overall box office performance really have an impact on Disney’s decision to retitle “Rapunzel”? Well … I’m not going to lie to you folks. There are a lot of people in Burbank who are still scratching their heads over the disconnect that seems to have occurred in regards to Disney’s return to hand-drawn animation. I mean, how is it that a film that was this heavily hyped and received so many glowing reviews (i.e. this Ron Clements & John Musker movie received a 85% freshness rating over at Rotten Tomatoes) still needed eight weeks in wide release before it was finally then able blow through the $100-million-in-domestic-ticket-sales box office barrier?

The prevailing theory in-house seems to be that having the name “Princess” featured so prominently in TPATF’s title may have had a detrimental impact on this movie’s grosses. That – to be specific – young males may have deliberately shied away from buying a ticket to a movie that had the word “Princess” in its title. Which seems to have been a contributing factor in Disney’s recent decision to rename “Rapunzel” “Tangled.”

Know this, though: At least from the Disney Consumer Products’ side of the fence, “The Princess and the Frog” was a smash hit. This past holiday season, most retailers regretted not taking a bigger position when it came to merch associated with Disney’s newest hand-drawn animated feature. Given that they typically sold through everything that they had in stock by Thanksgiving and then had to turn away customers who specifically came in looking for Princess Tiana toys in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Photo by Nancy Stadler

Speaking of Princess Tiana: Of all the Disney Princess dolls that were sold over the 2009 Christmas shopping season, Tiana moved the most units. Which is pretty extraordinary for a brand-new character.

So as far as DCP is concerned, “The Princess and the Frog” was a home run. They’d love it if WDFA turned out a new movie like that every year. Whereas the folks on the Studio side of things, who judge success not by how many dolls were purchases, but – rather – by how many tickets were sold … “TPATF” ‘s grosses weren’t quite what they were looking for.

Which bring us back to “Rapunzel” … Or – as this film is now known – “Tangled.” As I understand it, in an effort to win over young men, to convince them that this Holiday 2011 release is far more male friendly that “The Princess & the Frog,” the posters, trailers and TV ads for this upcoming WDFA production will place a pretty heavy emphasis on Rapunzel’s love interest, the infamous bandit Flynn Rider.

Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, just as the title of “TPATF” was adjusted for different foreign markets (EX: In Germany, this Ron’n’John production was known as – simply – “Kiss the Frog”), “Tangled” ‘s title will also be tweaked as this picture is trotted out around the globe.

Which is why you just have to love the French. I mean, here’s Disney execs reportedly so upset about the impact that the word “Princess” has on “The Princess and the Frog” ‘s box office that they changed “Rapunzel” ‘s title to “Untangled.” And yet – in spite of all the brouhaha back in Burbank -- what does Disney Studios France’s marketing staff choose as the title for this holiday 2010 / January 2011 release? “Princess Rapunzel.”

Watch Clips From Chomet’s The Illusionist

After premiering last week at the Berlinale, we are now treated to the first footage of Sylvain Chomet’s upcoming feature The Illusionist. The 2D film from the Oscar-nominated director of Les Triplettes de Belleville introduces us to a struggling illusionist and his relationship with a young woman. Based in Scottland, it’s based on a story by the late Jacques Tati, a French director/actor/mime. The footage begins with an interview with Chomet (in French) and then around the :40 second mark, they introduce some footage.

Animators Board Surfers Against Sewage Campaign

It’s not a stretch to imagine that there’s polluted water in the UK, but I’d never assumed there were surfers. And sure enough, there’s Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), a British organization that combats the awful pollution that ruins surfing, swimming, diving or any other recreational watersport. SAS recently teamed up with Treat Studios, a collective of 6 animators livin in London, for a series of animated shorts bringing attention to the topic. They’re actually part of a feature-length film by Richard Stewart that’s being released with Surfer’s Path magazine. Here’s the first one, and a second can be seen over at Vimeo.

Turkey, Taiwan snuffing out cartoon smoking scenes

Turkey's broadcasting watchdog has fined a private TV channel the equivalent of $32,000 for airing a Tintin cartoon episode that depicted gangsters smoking.

And in a separate bid to stomp out tobacco, Taiwan plans to change its movie rating system to make tobacco use by characters a criterion for age restrictions -- a move which could restrict kids from viewing some cartoons.

RTUK, a Turkish government agency, fined the TV8 channel after ruling that "Tintin Against the Chicago Mafia" contravened strict anti-tobacco laws by showing villains smoking cigarettes, the Guardian reported.

In the episode, Tintin defeats the leaders of a 1930s Chicago mob all by himself. However, a happy ending wasn't enough for Turkish regulators. Legislation broad in last year requires the country's broadcasters to block smoking scenes.

This could result in more fines for Tintin cartoons that aren't altered. The boy detective's sidekick Captain Haddock is a well-known pipe smoker. And one episode features the chain-smoking Professor Hector Alembick.

Even the most famous of Hollywood films are aired with cigarettes hidden behind a mist, although it's often obvious that the characters are smoking.

Another private channel, E2, was fined over smoking in Mad Men. RTUK pointed to many examples of scenes that depict "lighting a cigarette, smoking, blowing smoke into the air, offering [a cigarette] to another, putting out cigarettes and drinking."

But the channel successfully fought the fine in a court appeal. This followed an expert report noting that Mad Men was shot before Turkey enacted the ban on TV puffing.

In Taiwan, the Department of Health said Saturday that its plans to change the movie rating system are part of an effort to reduce the number of children taking up smoking.

"Smoking [in movies] has a much worse impact on health than sex and violence," the department said in a statement posted on its Web site. It cited the popular Japanese cartoon series WanpƮsu, where the main characters smoke often, setting "a bad example for children."

According to government figures, Taiwan has about five million smokers out of a total population of 23 million. Lung cancer has long been a leading cause of death in the Far Eastern nation.

PIXAR's newt Not Likely

Over the weekend, when asked about newt's status on the Animation Guild Blog, Disney vet Floyd Norman replied, "Oh, and Newt is dead." When another visitor probed for more details, Norman answered, "Naturally, our pals up north run a tight ship, so it’s not polite to provide details at this time."

newt, helmed by Gary Rydstrom, was to examine the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet who are forced together by science to save the species... and they can't stand each other.

While not a definitive, official announcement, this project's outlook is more downside than Up. The2001 releasew date may be filled by the sequel Monsters, Inc. 2.

Animated "Karate Kid" Coming to DVD

Tvshowsondvd.com reports that Sony is releasing two volumes of the animated series The Karate Kid to DVD on May 4, 2010.

Daniel LaRusso and his mentor Mr. Miyagi go around the world looking for a stolen miniature shrine that has special healing powers. Unaware that some villians want to use the shrine for their own evil purposes.

The Karate Kid was produced by DiC, in association with Columbia Pictures Television, and aired on NBC back in 1989. The toon features the voices of Joey Dedio (Wheeler from Captain Planet and the Planeteers) as Daniel, Robert Ito (Sam from Quincy M.E.) as Mr. Miyagi, and Janice Kawaye (Gi from Captain Planet and the Planeteers) as Taki.

Sony is going to release The Karate Kid in two volumes. Volume 1 contains 7 episodes, and Volume 2 will feature the final 6 episodes. Both volumes will hit stores on May 4, 2010.

Derriman Takes Aim at Widescreen Blues

Arj and Poopy creator Bernard Derriman recently directed and animated this short film, titled Widescreen Blues, which follows a pair of introspective hit men. The short was written and created by Clayton Jacobson and Ant Keogh.

Tex Avery's Roots

The Dallas Morning News remembers a native son:

... [Tex Avery] first heard the line [Eh, what's up, doc?"] at North Dallas High, where he graduated with the Class of 1926. Standing in the cavernous hallways, one can almost hear Roaring '20s teenagers passing one another during class changes. "Hiya, doc." "What's new, doc?" "What's up, doc?"

... Avery ... once told an interviewer that Daffy Duck was born on White Rock Lake in East Dallas, where he and his friends hunted ducks.

Who knew?

Unfortunately, various educators are aware of N. Dallas High's graduate, and are steering impressionable youth down a perilous path..

... [S]tudent artists are competing in a contest to paint the best mural of Avery's characters. Winners will be declared later this month. Teachers say incidents of illegal graffiti have decreased recently, because students can use the cartoon contest as an outlet ...

It's fine and dandy that illegal grafitti is down, but get real. Lawyers from Time-Warner will soon be banging on North Dallas High's doors, handing out "cease and desist" orders for copyright infringement. And getting students to erase the murals.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Can't Keep a Good Director Down

As there is life after Disney, so is there life after Pixar:

Chris McCoy and Jan Pinkava are writing the animated film "Little White Lie" for Laika Entertainment, the company behind the Oscar-nominated "Coraline."

"Lie" stems from an original idea by Pinkava, who has a story credit on Pixar's "Ratatouille," which he co-directed. Pinkava also will direct "White Lie."

Laika needs a replacement for Henry Selick, and now it's got one in Dr Pinkava. Here's hoping White Lie is a thundering success.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

DVD Package Art For "Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths," CD Soundtrack Contest

The World's Finest has a first look at the disc art and package artwork for the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Blu-ray home video release. Other Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths updates include details on a Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths – Soundtrack From the DC Universe Animated Original Movie CD soundtrack giveaway.

Click on the thumbnails below to view exclusive images of the disc and package artwork for the upcoming Two-Disc Special Edition DVD release of the direct-to-video Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths animated feature. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is the latest title under the popular DC Universe Animated Original Movie direct-to-video line released by Warner Home Video.

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.

In further Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths news, The World's Finest and WaterTower Records have teamed up to give fans the opportunity to recieve a free copy of the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths – Soundtrack From the DC Universe Animated Original Movie CD release from WaterTower Records. Beginning today and for this week only, The World's Finest will be giving away ten copies in total of the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths – Soundtrack From the DC Universe Animated Original Movie Soundtrack CD release to ten lucky recipients, courtesy of WaterTower Records.

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths – Soundtrack From the DC Universe Animated Original Movie is available on Amazon, iTunes and other Digital Music Outlets beginning Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010. The soundtrack is available as both a digital download and an Amazon-exclusive compact disc release.

To enter, simply send an email to bbeyond@yahoo.com, including your name, full mailing address and phone number by Friday, February 26th, 2010. Please label the email "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths CD Contest." Only one entry per person will be accepted. From there, ten entries will be randomly selected to receive a free copy of the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths – Soundtrack From the DC Universe Animated Original Movie CD release from WaterTower Records. Please note this special giveaway is only available to residents of the United States.

Only those randomly chosen to receive a copy of the CD release will be notified via email shortly after the closure of the contest. Please note the terms and conditions of this special giveaway are subject to change without notice.

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths – Soundtrack From the DC Universe Animated Original Movie is available on iTunes, Amazon and other Digital Music Outlets beginning February 23rd, 2010. Official details for the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths – Soundtrack From the DC Universe Animated Original Movie CD release from WaterTower Records are available here.

A co-production of Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation, the direct-to-video Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths animated feature debuts February 23rd, 2010 on DVD and Blu-ray disc from Warner Home Video.

Fox the Dominator

Fox is developing yet another teevee cartoon:.

... BRICKLEBERRY PARK (FOX, New!) - Waco O'Guin and Roger Black ("Stankervision") have booked a pilot presentation order from the network for a new animated comedy about "a group of forest rangers at a declining park that's about to be shut down." Dave Herman ("Office Space"), Tom Kenny ("Spongebob SquarePants") and Carlos Alazraqui ("Reno 911") have already signed on to voice the project ...

Forget about Disney, the company. Or John Lasseter, the man. The Big Kahuna in animation is someone else ...

... and that someone else is a kindly old gentleman named Murdoch.

Think about it a minute. Rupert presides over the highest grossing animated feature (Avatar) of all time. Sure, there's live action in it. And James Cameron argues that it falls in the l.a. column. But anybody who's honest would concede there's more animated elements in its two hour and twenty minute running time than anything else.

As Snow White was the highest grossing feature film as of 1938, so Avatar is the highest grossing feature circa 2010 ($2,467,962,011 and counting.)

But that's only a fragment of the reason that Rupert Murdoch is Animation's New King. In television, the Fox Network has its Animation Domination" schedule, where Sunday night IS Toonville. On the theatrical front, Avatar is only the beginning. There is the tentpole known as Alvin and the Chipmunks. There is Blue Sky Studio's Ice Age franchise, the last feature of which brought in a tidy sum for News Corporation.

So forget Walt Disney or John Lasseter or Jeffrey Katzenberg. The Big Kahuna of animation isa well-known newspaper mogul Keith Rupert Murdoch.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

First Superman comic fetches a crazy record of $1 million!

How much is Superman worth? $1 million!

That was the record-breaking price for a rare copy of the first comic book featuring the Man of Steel: A 1938 edition of Action Comics number one, the Associated Press reported:

It features Superman lifting a car on its cover and originally cost 10 cents.

It was sold by a private seller to a private buyer, neither of whom released their names. The sale was conducted by the auction site

The sale smashed by a mile the previous record of $317,000 for another copy of the same issue. The new one is reportedly in better condition, hence the bigger price tag.

Would you pay $1 million for a comic? If we had it, I think we would. After all, it's Superman!

'The Dark Knight' DVD Pirate Receives Two-Year Prison Sentence

Batman's strict stance against injustice is well established within the confines of fiction, but now Gotham City's ever vigilant protector is bringing his war against crime to the real world.

According to The Wrap, a Missouri resident has been sentenced to two years in prison and must pay a fine of $24,738 for illegally recording "The Dark Knight" in theaters and consequently distributing pirated DVDs for profit. The sentence was issued after the man pleaded guilty to the crime.

The defendant, identified as Robert Henderson of Grandview, Missouri, will serve a three year probation period following his prison sentence.

The defendant, identified as Robert Henderson of Grandview, Missouri, will serve a three year probation period following his prison sentence.

"The theft of films by camcording is a serious threat to the health of the motion picture industry and the 2.4 million Americans it employs," said Mike Robinson of the Motion Picture Association of America in response to the verdict. "This is an appropriate sentence for a very serious crime, and we hope it will serve as a warning to would-be movie thieves that they will face severe consequences for engaging in these activities."

Henderson's sentencing comes just two months after the arrest of Gilberto Sanchez, the man accused of putting the illegal copy of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" online.

No matter your stance on the verdict, we can all agree upon one thing — film piracy is being taken very, very seriously on a legal level. Perhaps it's best to keep those video-equipped cell phones turned off during movie showings after all.

6 coolest classic sci-fi toys of the year (gallery)

A lot of the major toy companies exhibiting at American International Toy Fair (which just finished its annual four-day run in New York City) like to focus on the old standby properties like Star Wars or DC and Marvel action figures, as well as tie-ins for upcoming movies for the calendar year.

But in the last few years, more companies are going against the grain, creating collectibles out of classic sci-fi properties with niche but dedicated fan bases.

We found a few very cool pieces for sci-fi lovers that celebrate the collectible road less traveled. Click on the images for larger versions.

Which will you add to your collection?

Clash of the Titans Bubo Wacky Wobbler (Funko, TBA) The remake of Clash of the Titans comes out in April, but there's still something awesome about the old-school cheese of the '80s version with Harry Hamlin and company. Funko agrees and has two Wackly Wobblers on deck, including Medusa and Bubo, the mechanical owl that is so awesome he deserves his own damn movie.

Classic Twilight Zone Megos (Bif Bang Pow, available in August) A relative newcomer to the toy scene, Bif Bang Pow is really going for properties that have rabidly loyal niche fan bases. And in a brilliant move they are creating a few of their lines in the beloved '70s cloth Mego style, including these black-and-white classic characters from Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone. The line includes Kanamit("To Serve Man"), Satan ("The Howling Man"), the airplane Gremlin ("Nightmare at 25,000 Feet")and Jason Foster.

Classic Star Trek Klingon Disruptor (DST, TBA 2010) DST has been really successful the last couple years recreating classic sound and light props from both the classic Star Trek series and the spin-off films (tricorders, tribbles, etc.). Based on that success, they're hitting the villains next with this Klingon disruptor gun that will feature actual voices and sounds from the franchise.

Lord of the Rings Wacky Wobblers (Funko, TBA) It's been a few years since the last Lord of the Rings film came out, and there's been a marked decrease in new toys and collectibles relating to the trilogy outside of the high-end market. But Funko is offering these new desk-size Wacky Wobblers (bobbleheads) featuring Sauron, Gandalf, Frodo, Gollum and Legolas. They're also introducing a line of LotR mini vinyl figures and some pretty adorable plush versions, too.

Star Trek Spock Bearbrick (Medicom, available in June) If you showed Mr. Spock a toy version of himself featuring bear ears, we guaranteed you'd earn yourself a terse "Illogical" in response. But then we're pretty sure Spock wouldn't be collecting toys of himself, either. For the rest of us in search of something different in the Trek world, then Medicom's Mr. Spock Bearbrick in either 400 percent or 1,000 percent size is a very cool offering. Dressed in his science officer blues, Mr. Spock sports the classic Trek logo on his butt. "Highly illogical."

Universal Monsters Select (DST, release staggered over 2010 and 2011) It's been a while since the classic Universal monsters have had some love, so DST is releasing highly detailed 7-inch select action figures over the next two years featuring Universal's iconic menagerie. Look for figures based on The Creature From the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man and The Mummy.

New Tron Legacy spoilers and a secret cameo

When the Disney sequel Tron Legacy lights up the screen in December, fans will be treated to an entirely new virtual realm that expands beyond the relatively simple one of the 1982 original movie Tron, with a surprising cameo appearance. (Big spoilers ahead!)

Besides a host of new vehicles and environments, the new movie will feature a virtual nightclub, which star Michael Sheen's character runs. He spoke with SCI FI Wire about it in an exclusive interview over the weekend while promoting Alice in Wonderland.

Going from Alice in Wonderland to Tron Legacy reminded Sheen of a different sort of wonderland, a digital one. "Similar in a way, isn't it? Certainly in the first Tron film, Jeff's [Bridges] character gets kind of sucked into this Wonderland-type place. So there's a similarity to it. We go back to the world of Tron 28 years later, and technology has moved on. All the same things that we saw in the first Tron film will be there, but it's just, again, in a new light and with 28 years of technology."

Sheen said that he serves an important role in the movie. "I run the nightclub," Sheen said. "I am the host of the nightclub and a showman, this sort of very over-the-top character."

The nightclub has some retro-Tron cred, too. Steven Lisberger, the original writer/director of Tron, performs a cameo role in the club. "I met Steve," Sheen revealed. "We're in the same scenes together, or one of the scenes. He has a little cameo, yeah."

Will Daft Punk—the music duo who provide the sequel's soundtrack—perform onscreen in the club, as rumored? Sheen was coy: "I'm not sure," he said. "I'm not sure."

Well played, Sheen. He also said he couldn't remember the name of the digital nightclub. More likely, that's also a secret being closely guarded for the film's release.

He did confirm that the club was an actual set, not a computer-generated environment a la Star Wars: Episode I, although many of the film's locales will be created in post-production, with principal photography conducted on green screen.

"It was fantastic," Sheen said. "It was this amazing set and all these amazing people there. For a film that has a lot of green screen, I got the most fun bits to do."

Tron Legacy opens Dec. 17.

News briefs: Avatar still strong; Lantern's Sinestro confirmed

Mark Strong

With no new sci-fi/fantasy/supernatural movies debuting over the Feb. 19 weekend, Avatar held on in third place with $16.1 million in its 10th weekend for a total of $687.8 million domestically; Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief took fourth place ($15.3 million, down 51 percent in its second week, for a total of $58.5 million); and The Wolfman dropped 69 percent in its second weekend to $9.8 million for a total of $50.3 million.

Newly named DC Entertainment executive Geoff Johns tweeted that Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes) will indeed play the villainous Sinestro in the upcoming Green Lantern movie:

"Back from an amazing trip to Green Lantern town a.k.a. New Orleans!! Ryan IS Hal. And Mark Strong is going to be a brilliant Sinestro."

Twilight stars Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart will be among the presenters at the upcoming Oscars, HitFix reported.

French producers Aton Soumache and Dimitri Rassam are preparing a 3-D animated-film adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's beloved children's book The Little Prince, with production is set for early 2011, Variety reported.

Why Johnny Depp changed his mind about Pirates 4

Wow, that Dick Cook, former chairman of Walt Disney Studios, must be one persuasive guy. Johnny Depp, who had committed to play Captain Jack Sparrow for a fourth time back while Cook was still top dog at Disney, told the press that his enthusiasm for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides had waned once Cook resigned.

But now Depp is fully committed again as the film gears up for production this summer. Why? Was it something the new chairman, Richard Ross, told him that restored his confidence? Nope. Depp revealed it was a conversation he had with Cook after his resignation that turned things around.

"One thing that I found very reassuring was a very good conversation with Dick Cook, who is someone I admire greatly," Depp said on Feb. 20 in Hollywood. "So yeah, that helped a lot. He was a perfect gentleman about the entire situation."

If you want to know more about what Cook told Depp ... tough. Further details about their conversation remain private, but Depp also remembered that the new Pirates was more than just another sequel. "Also, knowing that we're coming at it from a different angle at this point, with Rob Marshall and a totally new take, it's a new story," Depp said.

Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom will not return to the franchise. That leaves more room for Capt. Jack to take the spotlight, as if he wouldn't anyway. However, Depp said On Stranger Tides is still an ensemble.

"I don't think we'd ever throw too much Jack Sparrow in there," Depp said. "There will be a little bit of everybody."

Pirates 4 will film after Depp wraps The Tourist, which is about to begin filming. He is also attached to play Barnabas Collins, the vampire in Dark Shadows. Frequent collaborator Tim Burton is gearing up a Dark Shadows film, which Depp also plans to film before the end of 2010.

"I see it going this year," Depp said. "I hope it does. I do, yeah. We'll work like dogs to get there."

Depp stars in Burton's Alice in Wonderland, opening March 5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is due out in the summer of 2011.

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