Tuesday, February 23, 2010

News - 02/24/10...

Justice League, $9.99 Cue Up on Home Video

Whether you’re looking for answers to why we’re here on earth or what life would be like on another earth, this week’s animated home video releases have the answers.

For fans of fantasy and superheroes comes the original animated feature Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (Warner Bros., $19.98 DVD, $24.98 special edition DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray). Based on the classic DC Comics tales in which the Justice League encounters a dimension where the heroes’ and villains’ roles are reversed, the most recent release in the DC Universe line also includes a short featuare starring The Spectre.

The more existential side of things is explored in $9.99 (E1 Entertainment, $24.98), the award-winning stop-motion feature from director Tatia Rosenthal. The 2009 release was a major hit on the festival circuit and features voice performances from Geoffrey Rush, Anthony Lapaglia and Joel Edgerton.

Also out this week is the classic Davey & Goliath Collection (E1 Enteratianment, $34.98), a four-disc set collecting the adventures of Art Clokey’s famous stop-motion duo.

And for fans of Japanese animation, there’s Domo, Vol. 1 (Phase 4 Films, $14.99) and Bleach, Vol. 25 (VIZ Media, $24.92).

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Laika Set to Tell Little White Lie

Laika Entertainment, the company that produced the Oscar-nominated film Coraline, has hired Chris McCoy and Jan Pinkava to write the animated feature film Little White Lie.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the feature is based on an idea from Pinkava, who will direct the feature.

Pinkava previously was at Pixar, earning a story credit on and co-directing Ratatouille. He also worked on Monsters, Inc., Toy Story 2 and A Bug’s Life and won an Oscar for the animated short film Geri’s Game.

Little White Lie joins a pair of animated features in the works at Portland-based Laika: an adaptation of Alan Snow’s Here Be Monsters! and an original idea called Paranorman.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Fox Orders Pilot for Brickleberry

The Fox network has ordered a pilot episode of the animated series pitch Brickleberry from comedians Waco O’Guin and Roger Black, according to Variety.

The pitch follows forest rangers at a park targeted for closure until a new ranger arrives to whip the place into shape.

Also attached to the project is Dave Herman as the voice of the new ranger and writer-producer Eric Kaplan, whose credits include The Simpsons, Futurama and The Big Bang Theory.

Voice actors Tom Kenny, of SpongeBob SquarePants fame, and Carlos Alazraqui of Reno 911! also provided voices for the presentation.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Guess With Jess Debuts on Treehouse

Guess with Jess, a new preschool series co-produced by Classic Media and Nelvana Studios, has debuted in a daily timeslot on Canada’s Treehouse channel.

The series, which launched in November on BBC’s CBeebies, follows the tales of a fluffy black-and-white cat named Jess who explores the world with his barnyard friends.

“We’re very excited to introduce Guess with Jess to children in Canada,” said Doug Schwalbe, executive VP of production for Classic Media. “We loved working with the entire Corus Kids team, and hope this leads to many future endeavors.”

The series has already been sold to international broadcasting partners ABC (Australia), France 5, Disney (France, Spain, Italy and Latin America), TV12 (Singapore), Kids 1 (South Korea), MNET (South Africa), Cartoon Network (India and Pan Asia), CYBC (Cyprus), Canal + (Poland), POP TV (Slovenia), MBC, E Vision & Al Jazeera (Middle East), YLE (Finland), NRK (Norway), Lativi (Indonesia), Cartoon Gang & True Vision (Thailand), VBC (Vietnam), TV3 (Malaysia), RTE (Ireland) and RTB (Brunei), Hop TV (Israel) and Canal Panda (Portugal). Télé-Québec (Canada) is also set to begin airing Guess with Jess in summer 2010.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

"Coraline" nominated for 4 visual effects awards

Four nominations have been given to Henry Selick's "Coraline" for the 8th Annual VES Awards, to take place this coming Sunday at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

Presented by the Visual Effects Society, the awards recognize outstanding artistry in over 20 categories of animation, film, TV, commercials and video games.

Coraline, from Laika Entertainment, is nominated for Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture (Selick, animation director; Claire Jennings, animation producer).

As well, it's been nominated in the categories of Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture ("Coraline"; Travis Knight and Trey Thomas, lead animators), Outstanding Effects Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture (John Allan Armstrong, VFX animator; Richard Kent Burton, stop motion effects animator; and Craig Dowsett, CG modeler) and Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Feature Motion Picture (Deborah Cook, lead costume design Fabricator; Paul Mack, model maker; Martin Meunier, facial animation design; and Matthew DeLeu, miniature lighting technician).

Vying with Coraline for Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture are 9 (Jinko Gotoh, co-producer; Joe Ksander, animation director; Daryl Graham, supervising animator; and Ken Duncan, animation supervisor), Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (Pete Nash, animation director; Chris Juen, co-producer; Alan Hawkins, supervising animator; and Mike Ford, CG supervisor), Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (Melvin Tan and Jeff Gabor, senior animators; Galen Chu, supervising animator; and Anthony Nisi, animation production supervisor) and Up (Pete Docter, director; Jonas Rivera, producer; Steve May, supervising technical director; and Gary Bruins, effects supervisor).

For Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture, the nominees are Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs -- Buck (Simon Pegg; characters designed by Peter de Seve), Monsters vs. Aliens -- B.O.B. (David Burgess, head of character animation; Scott Cegielski, effects lead; Terran Boylan, character technical director; and David Weatherly, animator) and Up -- Carl, "No Dad Scene" (Ed Asner, voice of Carl; Ron Zorman, animator; Brian Tindall, character modeling and articulation artist; and Carmen Ngai, character cloth artist).

Nominees for Outstanding Effects Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture are Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (Rob Bredow, VFX supervisor; Dan Kramer, digital effects supervisor; and Matt Hausman and Carl Hooper, effects animation supervisors); Monsters vs. Aliens (Amaury Aubel, Scott Cegielski and Alain De Hoe, effects leads; and David Allen, effects animator) and Up (Jason Johnston, Alexis Angelidis, Jon Reisch and Eric Froemling, effects artists).

For Outstanding Animated Character in a Broadcast Program or Commercial, the nominees are AMF -- The Caterpillar (Robert Sethi, lead CG artist; Jamie O'Hara, lead character modeller; Steve Beck, lead character animator; and Becky Porter, lead compositor), Disney Prep and Landing -- Wayne (David Foley, voice of Wayne); Mark Mitchell, supervising animator; Hidetaka Yosumi, character technical director; and Leo Sanchez Barbosa, modeler), Evian - Skating Babies (Jorge Montiel Meurer, lead animator; and Wayne Simmons, Jordi Onate and Emanuele Pavarotti, animators) and Pepsi -- Penguin, "The Flight of the Penguin" (Andy Walker, VFX supervisor and technical lead; Seth Gollub, animation lead; and James Dick and Spencer Leuders, technical directors).

Among the nominees for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie or a Special are Ben 10: "Alien Swarm" -- Montage (Evan Jacobs, Sean McPherson and Andrew Orloff, visual effects supervisors) and Disney Prep and Landing -- Gadgets, Globes, and other Garish Gizmos (Dorothy McKim, VFX producer; Scott Kersavage, VFX supervisor; and David Hutchins and Kee Suong, EFX animators),

Nominees were chosen by numerous blue-ribbon panels of VES members who viewed submissions at the FotoKem screening facilities in Burbank and San Francisco, as well as at other facilities in London, Sydney and Vancouver.

"The Visual Effects Society is proud to present these nominations as the most outstanding work in the field this year," said VES chair Jeffrey Okun. "It's important to keep in mind that it wasn't machines that created these images, but incredibly talented artists. We congratulate them all."

"Total Drama Action" gets 2 writing nominations

Two separate episodes of "Total Drama Action" -- Elliot Animation's sequel to the teen series "Total Drama Island" -- are among the finalists for the 14th Annual Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Awards.

Both nominated in the Animation category, they are "Crouching Courtney, Hidden Owen," written by Alex Ganetakos, and "The Sand Witch Project," by Shelley Scarrow.

Also competing are the Grossology episode "New Recruits," by Richard Clark, and the League of Super Evil episode "Glory Hog," written by Philippe Ivanusic-Vallee and Davila LeBlanc.

In the Children and Preschool category, all three finalists are from animated series: the Max and Ruby episodes "Max Says Goodbye" (Kate Barris) and "Ruby's Good Neighbor Report" (Shelley Hoffman and Robert Pincombe), and the Zigby episode "Zigby's Collection" (Louise Moon).

For Short Subject, the three nominees include the National Film Board of Canada cartoon How People Got Fire, written by Daniel Janke.

This year, more than 148 scripts vied for the attentions of the judges of the WGC Screenwriting Awards. The entries have been narrowed to 43 finalist scripts across 11 categories, including screenwriting for feature film, episodic half-hour and one-hour, and documentary film and more. In all, 76 screenwriters are up for awards.

The winners will be announced Monday, April 19 at Maro in Liberty Village, Toronto. Several special awards, including the WGC Showrunner Award, will also be handed out at the event.

Hosting the WGC Screenwriting Awards this year is Canadian Comedy Award-winning Debra DiGiovanni. The awards will be written by Canadian Comedy Award-winning writers Steven and Daniel Shehori in collaboration with DiGiovanni.

"Secret of Kells" wins Irish award for animation

Directed by Tomm Moore of Cartoon Saloon, the movie Brendan And The Secret Of Kells won the prize for animation Saturday at the 7th Annual Irish Film and Television Awards, held in Dublin.

Also known as The Secret of Kells, the Irish-French co-production is a current Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year.

It won in the Animation category over Hasan Everywhere, by Andrew Kavanagh (Kavaleer Productions); The Polish Language, by Alice Lyons; and Trolley Boy, by Teemu Auersalo (Still Films).

Though nominated for best film as well, The Secret of Kells lost in that category to the live-action The Eclipse, by Robert Walpole and Rebecca O'Flanagan (Treasure Entertainment).

In the International Film category, Pixar-Disney's Up lost to The Hurt Locker.

Ballybraddan, Gerard O'Rourke's Monster Animation series about the the fifth-class pupils of fictional Ballybraddan National School, had been nominated for Children's/Youth Programme. However, "Tory Island," an episode of the live-action series On The Block, was the winner.

"Up," "Penguins of Madagascar" win sound awards

Pixar-Disney's movie "Up" and an episode of the TV series "The Penguins of Madagascar" were among the winners Saturday of the Golden Reel Awards, presented by the Motion Picture Sound Editors.

About 1,200 people came to the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles for the awards ceremony.

Up's sound editing honor was for Sound Effects, Foley, Music, Dialogue and ADR Animation in a Feature Film. It won over animated movies 9, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Monsters vs. Aliens and The Princess and the Frog.

For Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue, ADR and Music Animation in Television, the winner was What Goes Around, an episode of The Penguins of Madagascar.

Something, Something, Something Dark Side, an hour-long special episode of Family Guy, won for Best Sound Editing: Direct to Video.

Larry Singer, ADR editor of such films as Disney's animated The Little Mermaid (1989) and The Rescuers Down Under (1990), was honored with a lifetime achievement award. Singer is the first ADR editor to be so honored.

Director Steven Spielberg was given the MPSE Filmmaker Award. Spielberg called sound editors "the artists who have given the films and movies I directed a dimension of sound that has made those movies the full 3D experience, but you don't have to wear glasses because of what you do."

Plumiferos (Free Birds)

This time I’m not going to say a word:

Plumiferos premiered in Buenos Aires last Friday. It’s the first CG animated feature to come from Argentina, in addition to being the first feature length film animated in Blender. For more information, and a candid review by a production crew member, visit Blender Nation.

(Thanks, Chris Larkee)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Toon Tuesday: Disney’s “Dreams Come True” now drawing to a close at the New Orleans Museum of Art

Jim Hill chats with Lella Smith, Creative Director of the Animation Research Library about this one-of-a-kind exhibition – featuring 600 pieces of rarely seen Disney animation art – which will be ending its run at the NOMA on March 14th

To hear Lella Smith, Creative Director of the Animation Research Library, tell this particular once-upon-a-time, it was John Lasseter who actually came up with the concept for this one-of-a-kind celebration of Disney fairy tale art.

(L to R) John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar & Walt DisneyAnimation Studios; and John Musker & Ron Clements, co-directors of “The Princess and the Frog.” Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

"New Orleans is John's favorite city,” Ms. Smith explained. “And after Hurricane Katrina as well as all the hospitality that the City of New Orleans showed the ‘Princess and the Frog’ creative team while they were down there doing research, he wanted to show his appreciation, give something back. Which is when John came up with the idea of putting together the 'Dreams Come True' exhibit.”

Mind you, the ARL has previously loaned out some of its animation treasures (And given that this Glendale-based facility currently has over 60 million pieces of Disney-related artwork in storage … Well, they do have a few to spare). But never before have this many pieces (i.e. 600 sketches and animation stills) been on display all in one place.

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

And when it came down to selecting exactly which pieces of art would be featured in the “Dreams Come True: Art of the Classic Fairy Tales from the Walt Disney Studio” exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art … Well, to quote Lella:

“It was hell. We initially selected 1300 pieces to be in this show. But then we kept winnowing them down, trying to focus in on what this exhibit was really about. Which was celebrating the fairy tale films that Walt Disney Studios had produced over the past 80 years.”

Which – for the “Dreams Come True” exhibit – meant that Smith and her team had to go all the way back to the Silly Symphonies. Digging down deep into the ARL’s flat files to unearth drawings & artwork from 1933’s “Three Little Pigs” and 1939’s “The Ugly Duckling.”

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

But there’s more to the ARL’s “Art of the Classic Fairy Tales from the Walt Disney Studio” exhibit than just artwork from the Studio's celebrated shorts & features. Lella also made an effort to use this exhibition to address a complaint that academics have continually made about Disney’s animated features.

“There have always been those who complained about the Disney version of fairy tales, how the Studio supposedly tried to change things, clean things up for the movie version of these classic stories,” Smith said. “Well, I re-read all of these fairy tales as I was prepping this exhibit. And let me tell you that – for each of these stories – there were already multiple versions out on the marketplace before the Disney version ever came along. And each of these fairy tales’ storylines would change depending on which author was telling the story, what decade that book was published in, even which company was publishing what edition of each book. So Walt Disney wasn’t the first person to ever make changes to these fairy tales. The times – more importantly, the social mores of that particular time period – determined how that fairy tale was told.”

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

More to the point, Lella defended many of the changes that the Studio made as it was producing movie versions of this classic stories.

“Take – for instance – Cinderella. In a book, you can go on for pages about how good & kind & gentle this character is. But in a movie, you actually have to show the audience how a character behaves,” Smith continued. “So when Disney showed Cinderella interacting with her animal friends, feeding the birds, freeing the mice from those traps, that goes a long way toward establishing the type of person Cinderella really is. Which is why the audience was pleased when all of her goodness & kindness was ultimately rewarded.”

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Speaking of goodness and kindness … If you were to ask Ms. Smith what her favorite aspect of this “Art of the Classic Fairy Tales from the Walt Disney Studio” exhibit was, she wouldn’t point to any one piece of artwork. But – rather – she'd talk about the community outreach program that The Walt Disney Company created in order to help support this particular exhibit at the NOMA.

“Disney put the funding in place to bring 12,000 school children in from the New Orleans area to come see the ‘Dreams Come True’ exhibit,” Lella explained. “The Company paid to have them bussed in, covered the cost of their admission. And given that many of the schools down there don’t have any money in their budgets for extra-curricular activities … Well, this was the first field trip that many of these kids had been on since 2005. And the NOMA staffers just raved about how great it was to have kids in the museum again.”

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Ah, but like with all good fairy tales, this magical experience must come to an end someday. And when it comes to “Dreams Come True: Art of the Classic Fairy Tales from the Walt Disney Studio,” this NOMA exhibit – John Lasseter’s present to the City of New Orleans -- must close on March 14th.

But the good news is – once it completes its run at the NOMA – “Dreams Come True” is then headed down under. Where a slightly revamped version of this traveling ARL exhibit (which will then feature a brand-new gallery that celebrates WDAS’ now-in-production version of the Rapunzel fairy tale, “Tangled”) will set up shop at a yet-to-be-disclosed location in Australia. And then – from there – this “Art of the Classic Fairy Tales from the Walt Disney Studios” will make its way to Japan, China, Korea, even Edinburgh, Scotland. Until finally – just in time for “Snow White” ‘s 75th anniversary celebration – “Dreams Come True” will return to where this cinematic story first started out. Which – as far as The Walt Disney Company is concerned – is Los Angeles, CA.

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

But if you really can’t wait ‘til 2013 to see all 600 of these amazing drawings, paintings and animation cels Ms. Smith and her staff at Disney’s ARL found in their flat files, you have just 20 days to make your way to the New Orleans Museum of Art. That’s where Nancy and I are headed this coming weekend. So that we can then see “Dreams Come True” before this one-of-a-kind exhibit heads overseas.

We hope to see some of you folks there. In the meantime, for further information on NOMA and/or its “Art of the Classic Fairy Tales from Walt Disney Studios” exhibit, please click on this link.

ASIFA-East spends an evening with The Singing CPA!

This past Friday night, ASIFA-East was treated to a very special and entertaining evening with The Singing CPA, Steven Zelin. I cannot believe that we spent 3 hours talking about taxes and the evening just flew by! Animators and artists came armed with questions regarding every possible scenario we encounter on a daily basis, and Steven took the time to thoroughly go over every nuance of this crazy business in regards to taxes and the IRS. And he did it while strumming his guitar the whole time, and breaking out into hilarious songs, about, you guessed it, filing taxes!

As artists and animators, the world of taxes is often a hard one to understand and navigate. I don’t think it’d be too far-fetched to say that most of us find taxes a mystery and a bore at the same time. The majority of us work on a freelance basis, whether we choose to freely or are reluctantly pushed into it by the sheer nature of the animation business. By the time tax time comes around, most of us have a mixture of 1099s, W2s, unemployment, and a mountain of receipts to go through. Dealing with taxes can be a confusing mess. That’s why I’m a huge advocate of arming yourself with as much knowledge as possible about your finances and business. As freelancers, we cannot rely on the traditional safety net of an employer taking care of us. It is up to us to do that for ourselves. We are our own advocates. I think it’s highly beneficial to see an accountant that understands the issues freelancers face, and what better one, than one who is a freelancer himself!

Read the entire article here!

(Thanks ASIFA - East)

“Waking Sleeping Beauty” review, by Emmett Goodman

One of Glen Keane's original rough animation drawings from "Beauty and the Beast"

I was lucky enough to attend a preview of Don Hahn’s new documentary, “Waking Sleeping Beauty”. The Dolby Screening Room is a small theater, which is mostly used for critical viewings. Honestly, I felt out of my league there, as possibly the youngest audience member. Still, I can say it was worth it.

Most film artists of my generation know of the Disney Renaissance that took place in the late 80’s and 90’s. After a series of critical and/or financial disappointments by the mid 80’s, it seemed the Disney empire’s best years were behind it. Then with the appointment of new CEO Michael Eisner, along with Frank Wells and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the studio found new direction. These led to some of the studio’s most successful films ever, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Don Hahn, primarily a producer, directed this documentary, which covers the inner workings of the Disney studios between 1984 and 1994.

There are several animation and film giants on view here, mostly seen through home movies shot buy future Pixar legends John Lasseter and Joe Ranft. There are several early clips of Lasseter, Ranft, Hahn, Brad Bird, John Musker, Ron Clements, Glen Keane, and Tim Burton at the studio in the early 80’s. Unfortunately (and not surprisingly) these guys came to Disney full of energy and new ideas, but were soon reined in by management more interested in keeping the studio’s reputation intact than in creating groundbreaking work.

Click here to read this article in its entirety

(Thanks ASIFA - East)

Rad Sechrist's "How To" blog

This is a great blog which ought to be on every animation student's blog roll -

Rad's How To

Rad Sechrist is a storyboard artist, currently working at Dreamworks Animation. His blog has some terrific tips on drawing for animation.

Rad also has combined his talents with several other animation artists on another how-to blog :

The Art Center - Sharing Ideas & Tips from Artist to Artist

He gives Tips on basic Storyboarding:

(click images to see larger)

How to Get Good FLOW into your rough drawings:

And many other fine tips for animation artists.

Check it out.

(Thanks David Nethery)

Torres gets bad for JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS

Actress is Superwoman in New Movie


Gina Torres mixes equal parts evil, sexy and powerful of conjure the hypnotic voice of Superwoman in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, an all-new DC Universe Animated Original PG-13 Movie arriving TODAY, February 23, 2010 from Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation.

In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, a “good” Lex Luthor arrives from an alternate universe to recruit the Justice League to help save his Earth from the Crime Syndicate, a gang of villainous characters with virtually identical super powers to the Justice League. What ensues is the ultimate battle of good versus evil in a war that threatens both planets and puts the balance of all existence in peril. Torres plays Superwoman, the evil doppelganger to Wonder Woman and one of the leaders of the powerful Crime Syndicate.

Torres had an unanticipated assist in bringing about the powerful, yet sultry voice of Superwoman, coming into the booth in the final days of a bad flu that slightly lowered her vocal range and added a smoky sexiness to the outstanding performance. Even more impressive is her perfect match with the voice of Owlman, James Woods – considering the two actors recorded on opposite coasts, weeks apart, and have never met each other.

She is well known throughout the fanboy realm for her standout roles in Joss Whedon’s Firefly/Serenity and Angel, her performance at Cas in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, as well as 28 episodes in Cleopatra 2525. Torres has since been a mainstay across primetime television with recurring roles on 24, Alias and Standoff, in addition to guest appearances in CSI, Without a Trace, Boston Legal, Bones, Eli Stone, Pushing Daisies, Criminal Minds, Dirty Sexy Money, The Unit, FlashForward, Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, to name just a few.

Gina Torres (Serenity/Firefly) is the voice of Superwoman in JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS. (Photo courtesy of Gary Miereanu)

Torres has also spent some time in the animated world, working with Warner Bros. Animation as Vixen on Justice League.

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is an original story from award-winning animation/comics writer Dwayne McDuffie (Justice League). Bruce Timm (Superman Doomsday) is executive producer, and Lauren Montgomery (Wonder Woman, Green Lantern: First Flight) and Sam Liu (Superman/Batman: Public Enemies) are co-directors. The full-length animated film will be distributed by Warner Home Video as a Blu-Ray™ and Special Edition 2-disc version DVD, as well as single disc DVD, On Demand and For Download.

Torres spent a few minutes after her recording session – and last week during the Los Angeles premiere of the film at the Paley Center for Media – to chat about her performance as Superwoman, the importance of strong female role models, the acting strengths of Whedon alums, her childhood obsession with Wonder Woman, and the fun of allowing her evil side to come out and play. Listen up … or else.

QUESTION: As you stepped into the sound booth to voice Superwoman, were you actually feeling wickedly sexy, delightfully cruel and ultimately powerful … or was that all just acting?

I'm so glad they called me to do Superwoman, (she laughs) because I was in the mood to get back in there and be a badass. Superwoman is one of those super heroes that knows her power, and is very comfortable in her power. And it's all cat – it's no mouse with her. She likes to bat around her prey and she really enjoys what she's doing.

In the booth, you sort of have to become this person. When you're not on stage with other actors and you're not on camera, you really get to free up your body and do all kinds of things that maybe aren't as pretty on camera. You get to have a good time getting your whole body involved in the interpretation.

Superwoman flies into battle in JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS

QUESTION: Have you ever had a relationship with comic books?

Do the Archies count? (laughs) I was a big Archie fan. I love Veronica – I want to look like Veronica. Betty was great, but Veronica was the girl. And that whole “Sugar, Sugar” (singing) thing was great. I'm telling my age – I'm really only 28. My sister is older (laughs). I was listening to her 45s.

I don't want to disappoint any comic book fans out there, but I'm a girl so I really wasn't reading the super hero comic books much. But it's done great things for my marriage. The husband loved the idea of me playing Superwoman. And my girlfriends said, “Well, that's just kind of you every day, isn't it?” So I’m happy.

QUESTION: So there was no super hero role playing games when you were a kid?

I absolutely played Wonder Woman when I was a kid. I had the lasso, the whole bracelet thing, I even had my twirl down. I just knew that I was going to be taken back to Paradise Island, because that's really where I belonged. I was this small little Amazon just waiting to express myself, waiting for my true mother to come and get me. (laughs)

QUESTION: Can you give me an idea of what Superwoman’s motivations are in this film?

Let's see. Superwoman is motivated by power and money and sex, and sex and money and power. Who can’t relate to that?

Superwoman can't decide whether to kiss or kill Batman in JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS

QUESTION: Good answer. Not that Superwoman is a role model, but do you feel like women have enough super hero representation these days?

What do you mean Superwoman is not a role model? Isn't she a role model? She rules the world (laughs). She's Superwoman! (laughs). What I love about super heroes, and Superwoman in particular, is that in that comics world they're all curvaceous. There aren't really any skinny bitches in the world of comic books. They've got muscle. I like that. I appreciate that. They're strong. And it's important to have strong images of women out there, women who aren't afraid of expressing themselves, women who aren't afraid of taking chances, women who aren't afraid of their own power. Unfortunately, being a woman in society means that sometimes you have to sort of quell what is instinctually broad and magnificent and magical about you. I think a lot of people feel that way. I don't know if that's necessarily relegated to being a woman, because we're all so worried about fitting in and not sticking out. So what's great about this whole genre is that it's all about sticking out. It's all about being magnificent to the highest power.

QUESTION: You're a terribly nice person by everyone's perception. What’s your trick for turning on the villainy in a performance?

Oh, there is no trick to capturing villainy. (laughs) The rumor is that I'm a nice person. I love that rumor. Everybody has different sides to them. Everybody has that inner villain that you want to break out and express. It's a good time going out there and letting her come out. Lock good Gina in the closet … and have evil Gina come out and play.

QUESTION: You've been in this universe before, most notably as Vixen for Justice League. Do you have an attraction to the medium or just when the situation presents itself?

I love voiceover work. It's wonderful, it's expressive. It's a way of using a part of my instrument that I'm comfortable and familiar with. The voice is such a vital part of crafting a character. I'm so pleased that I have the kind of voice that prints well and that people want to hear. I've had friends actually say, “You know, I was in the kitchen, and the television was on and I heard you.” I love hearing that there's something familiar about my sound, and that to some people it's soothing.

Superwoman (voiced by Gina Torres) and one of her Made Men ponder what to do with a beaten Batman in JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS

QUESTION: The DC Universe animated original movies have been blessed with numerous members of the Joss Whedon alumni association – from Adam Baldwin and Nathan Fillion to David Boreanaz and James Marsters, to name just a few. Is there something about the Joss experience that lends itself to this universe?

Joss has an attraction to a certain kind of actor. Obviously, we're all so very different in our own way. But when he's choosing a world, he really does inhabit it quite completely. I mean, it is an entire universe. It is a Whedonverse, which is why I believe he's so successful when he creates these worlds that one can get lost in. All the inhabitants in it require, without sounding self-serving, a kind of intellectual whimsy. You have to understand where you are and be true to it and at the same time let it go and let it fly and enjoy it for what it is – for the maniacal, for the fantasy, for the tragedy of it. I think all of these actors have lent themselves to these kinds of projects because we've been in that place. And so we can come here and say, “Yeah let's have fun. I know where we are and let's just go and have a good time.”

QUESTION: You’ve got significant sci-fi fantasy experience. Is that by choice or happenstance?

I would say that I was dragged into the sci-fi genre. (laughs) I wouldn't say kicking and screaming. I actually went willingly. But it wasn't something that I sought out. I grew up in New York, born and raised, and cut my teeth in the theatre. I did a lot of off-Broadway, and some Broadway. Sci-fi was certainly not where I thought I'd be making my bread and butter for this period of time. It's been a pleasant surprise, certainly. I find that it's a niche that I'm comfortable with. What else are you going to do with a strong, almost six-foot girl? Give her a gun. Give her superpowers. (laughs) And you give her a hefty belt with things attached to it. Yeah!

QUESTION: Can you quantify the passion of the fanboys out there?

That passion of the fanboy is immeasurable. And it is priceless. And it is necessary when you're doing these things because you don’t quite realize while you’re doing the work that you're in a bubble. And it's not until you're released into the world that you realize that you're making an impact and that you're making somebody's day brighter and someone's universe broader. It is great fun to be confronted with these guys and gals.

Comedy Central Debuts Ugly Americans March 17

Ugly Americans are invading the airwaves of Comedy Central, starting March 17.

The half-hour animated horror-comedy series, which follows a social worker in charge of integrating such creatures as werewolves and vampires into life in New York City, will debut at 10:30 p.m.

The series stars Mark Lilly as Department of Integration agent Mark Lilly, Kurt Metzger as Mark's zombie roommate, Natasha Leggero as Mark's demon boss and office fling, Randy Pearlstein as an aging drunken wizard, Michael-Leon Wooley as a terrorizing demonic bureaucrat and Larry Murphy as a law-enforcement officer who despises non-humans. Additional characters are voiced by Mike Britt, Devin Clark, Pete Holmes and Julie Klausner.

David M. Stern, series developer and executive producer, began his career writing for The Wonder Years during its first three seasons. He went on to serve as a producer on The Simpsons during the first four seasons where he wrote many memorable episodes. He has served as a co-executive producer on the premiere season of the USA hit series Monk, as well as a co-executive producer on the Fox series Oliver Beene.

Series-creator Devin Clark has been involved with a broad range of television projects including work with HBO, MTV, Nickelodeon, TCM and The Cartoon Network, applying his design and narrative skills to everything from network graphics to traditional cartoons. His films and animation have been featured in Stash magazine, Animation Block Party, Rooftop Films, Ottawa Film Festival, Platform and Atom Films.

Stern and Daniel Powell are the executive producers of Ugly Americans. Aaron Augenblick serves as animation director, with animation by Augenblick Studios and Cuppa Coffee. Lisa Leingang is the executive in charge of production for Comedy Central.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Academy to Host Animated Feature Symposium

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will again host a look at this year’s animated feature Oscar nominees at a special event set for March 4.

The Animated Feature Symposium will be moderated by animation historian Tom Sito and include as many of the filmmakers behind this year’s nominated features as possible.

This year’s nominated features are: Coraline, directed by Henry Selick; Fantastic Mr. Fox, directed by Wes Anderson; The Princess and the Frog, directed by John Musker and Ron Clements; The Secret of Kells, directed by Tomm Moore; and Up, directed by Pete Docter.

The event — the second such symposium the Academy has held — will take place at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, 8949 Wilshire Blvd., in Beverly Hills. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; the event begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $5 for the general public, $3 for academy members and students with a valid ID. Tickets can be ordered online, in person or by mail and there is a limit of four tickets per order.

For more information or to order tickets, call (310) 247-3600 or visit

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

FX Orders Second Season for Archer

FX has renewed its new animated comedy series Archer for a second season.

According to The Hollywood Reporter’s The Live Feed blog, the cable network has ordered 13 episodes for the second season, up from the 10 ordered in season one.

The series, created by Adam Reed, follows the comic misadventures of a spy Sterling Archer, who works for his mom at the secret spy group ISIS. The series’ voice cast includes H. Jon Benjamin, Chris Parnell, Judy Greer, Aisha Tyler, George Coe and Jessica Walter.

Reed’s previous credits include the Adult Swim animated series Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Deal Expands Naruto Airings in Latin America

VIZ Media has expanded its deal with Televideo Services to bring new seasons of the anime hit Naruto to viewers throughout Central and South America.

As part of the agreement, Season 3 of Naruto has been licensed for broadcast in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Paraguay, Honduras and Bolivia.

Televideo Services also has secured broadcast rights for season two for Chile and season one for Argentina.

Televideo Services Inc. is a holding company based in Miami, which has participation or direct ownership of more than 50 television and radio stations throughout Latin America.

“We’re very pleased to expand our relationship with Televideo Services to license additional seasons of Naruto,” says Gonzalo Ferreyra, VIZ Media VP of sales and marketing for VIZ Media.

Created by Masashi Kishimoto, Naruto was first introduced as a manga in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine in Japan in 1999. The manga series and animated counterpart, are among VIZ Media’s most successful properties.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Animation Legends and Facebook

I spent some time on Facebook last night compiling data that shows who the most popular classic animation artists are on the social networking site. As a historian, I’m interested in understanding how artists from the early years of animation are remembered within the online community. The results aren’t particularly encouraging. Of the forty-eight artists I managed to find, roughly a quarter of them have attracted over five hundred fans. That’s a small number considering that these are some of the most revered names in our art form. Furthermore, a majority of the artists (nearly 60%) have less than 300 fans.

However, there is a silver lining. Classic artists who have continued to receive exposure in recent years have a disproportionately larger number of fans, which means that people would care about these artists if they were more aware of their accomplishments. Mary Blair, who has had a couple gallery exhibits and books published about her recently is the sixth most popular animation legend on Facebook. Walt Stanchfield, whose instructional handouts were compiled into books last year, is one hundred times more popular than Bill Tytla, who despite his stature, has received scant attention in the past couple decades.

What is most surprising are the omissions. Are Bob McKimson’s cartoons so disliked that he can’t garner even one fan from a pool of 400 million Facebook users? And McKimson is the tip of the iceberg. For starters, where are Ken Anderson, Bobe Cannon, Norm Ferguson, Carlo Vinci, Hawley Pratt, Pete Burness, Dick Lundy, Emery Hawkins, Preston Blair, Rod Scribner, Ray Patterson, Bob Givens, Art Davis, Dave Hilberman, Hugh Harman, Rudy Ising, Dave Tendlar, Grim Natwick, Bob McKimson, Milt Kahl, Sterling Sturtevant, Frank Thomas, Tom Oreb, Eric Larson, Les Clark, Shamus Culhane, Bill Littlejohn, Ken Harris, Art Babbitt, Virgil Ross, Manny Gould, Willard Bowsky, Al Eugster, Joe Grant, Dick Huemer and T. Hee to name but a few. Nobody appreciates any of these artists enough to start a fan page for them on the world’s largest social networking site, and that says a lot when nearly everything else has a fan page or group on Facebook nowadays.

Animation artists have never been ones to hanker for the spotlight, and as a result, there are few celebrities in this art form save for the characters themselves. So while nobody may appreciate the name Bob McKimson anymore, his character the Tasmanian Devil has 82,000 fans on Facebook, and though the name Grim Natwick may draw blank stares, rest assured that his eighty-year-old character Betty Boop has 92,000 fans.

The list of classic artists on Facebook is after the jump. I’m curious to hear what others make of these numbers.

Read the rest of this entry »

(Thanks cartoon brew)

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

Warner Home Video has released a new video clip from the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths direct-to-video animated feature, now available to own on Blu-ray and DVD.

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 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 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 today, February 23rd, 2010 on DVD and Blu-ray disc.

Bruce Timm Talks 'Batman: Under The Red Hood,' Potential 'Green Arrow' Animated Feature

The animated "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths" film finally arrives in stores today. And while the latest "Justice League" movie has barely been released, animation legend Bruce Timm is already dropping hints about the next DC Animated film: "Batman: Under The Red Hood."

"It's really good," Timm told Comic Book Resources. "That's about all I can say about it at the moment. It really is. We actually have the footage coming back from overseas, literally as we speak. We have two acts out of four, and it looks really, really solid. It's a really cool story. It's pretty darn dark but at the same time, it's fun and emotionally involving, so I think it's going to be a really terrific movie."

Timm also elaborated on why Bruce Greenwood and Jensen Ackles were cast as Batman and the Red Hood, respectively.

"I've been a fan of [Bruce Greenwood's] for years. We've been trying to work with him for years on different projects, but we could just never get the stars to align, and this time, again, any time you have to re-cast Batman, it's like, 'Crap. We have to get somebody who can conceivably be as good as Kevin Conroy.' Bruce was somebody who jumped out at me, especially after I saw the 'Star Trek' movie this past summer. I went, 'Wow. He has an awesome, awesome voice.'"

[Jensen Ackles is] somebody that I've been following for a long time and I think he's a really good actor," added Timm. "His voice had the right placement in that he sounded like a grown-up, but not too old, and he had the right kind of attitude. We knew he could be tough but with a sense of vulnerability, as well. So yeah, he's a terrific actor."

Earlier this month, it was announced that "Green Arrow" will be featured in an upcoming DC Showcase animated short. However, Timm also revealed that at one point, "Green Arrow" was under consideration to headline one of the animated features.

"We had a 'Green Arrow' long form script in development, which was written by a really talented writer called Tab Murphy," Timm related to Newsarama. "He wrote a script that was basically the Green Arrow origin story. It was a really, really great script. We all enjoyed it. The home video people crunched the numbers and thought that Green Arrow probably wasn't famous enough yet to support his own feature. So we kind of had to put it on the back burner. But we're hoping at some point to be able to make the movie because it's a really, really great script. He's a character that a lot of us really like. And it gives us a chance to to outside the Batman/Superman mythos and do something a little bit different. Let's keep our fingers crossed."

"Some of the upcoming DCU DTV's that we've got coming up are really, really exciting properties," added Timm. "Some of them are original stories and some of them are based on very familiar, famous story lines that, when they are announced, people are going to lose their minds. So we've got some really exciting stuff coming down the pike in the next year or two."

Don Cheadle Ponders The Unknown Elements Of 'Iron Man 2'

Don Cheadle plays an undercover cop in "Brooklyn's Finest," but comic book fans know him better as the new face of James "Rhodey" Rhodes, the man who becomes War Machine in "Iron Man 2."

Given his upcoming debut as Iron Man's military-minded counterpart, we had to spend a little time during this weekend's "Brooklyn's Finest" junket getting Cheadle's take on where "Iron Man 2" stands and whether we'll get to see Marvel's armored heroes square off in the May 7 sequel.

"I think that thing's going to be delivered dripping wet to theaters," said Cheadle when asked where "Iron Man 2" is at in post-production. "Friday, I have to go back and do a re-shoot, so..."

Asked whether Iron Man and War Machine would do battle in the film (since we've already seen them team-up in the "Iron Man 2" trailer), Cheadle wasn't giving anything away.

"I'm not sure," he said. "I haven't seen the finished product. I don't know what's going to happen in the film."

However, he did offer up some thoughts about the process behind the film, and why he's expecting to be as surprised as anyone else in the audience when the film hits theaters.

"There's a fair amount [of CGI in the film]," he said. "War Machine shows up and the suit is very heavy, and very hot. It's really an interesting thing to see how they put it together. It's the motion-capture suit and the stuntmen and then you, and the animation, the pure CGI, and somewhere between those four elements there's a composite character that comes out. I think my CGI character works as much as I did."

"There are so many unknowns when you do a film like that — from what you're doing on the set to what happens in post-production once you leave and all of these elements get put in that you're not seeing while you're working," he added. "So it's a very different way of working."

Of course, we had to ask about the future of War Machine — whether in solo films or "The Avengers." According to Cheadle, he's signed to a multi-film contract, but he's not certain exactly where that will bring the character.

"Yeah, it depends on what it is," he said. "You don't mind being locked into things that are good, but you don't want to be locked into something that is not good. But I imagine the movie is going to be good."

Bruce Willis Says M. Night Shyamalan 'Still Thinking' About 'Unbreakable 2'

Confession time, folks: There are a few of us around Splash Page HQ who are big fans of M. Night Shyamalan's dark superhero tale "Unbreakable" — so we can't help bringing up the possibility of a sequel every time we talk to the filmmaker or one of the film's cast. Back in June 2009, Shyamalan told us that he still had plans for a sequel, so when we caught up with actor Bruce Willis during this weekend's "Cop Out" junket, we had to get his take on whether we'll ever see "Unbreakable 2."

"I talked to [Shyamalan] over the holidays, and he is still thinking about doing the fight movie between me and Sam that we were going to do," Willis told MTV News.

"We chose to do the origin," he explained, indicating that there was discussion early on about whether Willis' character and the villain played by Samuel L. Jackson should square off in the first movie or a sequel.

"As long as Sam can make it, I'm up for it," said Willis.

'Heroes' Creator Discusses Series' Decline, Says Network Forbids Killing Certain Characters

Despite a widely embraced first season, NBC's "Heroes" has steadily declined both in ratings and critical approval to the point that it now faces cancellation. What exactly happened to cause such a fall? To answer that question, there's no one better to ask than Tim Kring, the show's creator.

In a recent interview with The A.V. Club, Kring spoke about some of the superhero drama's most criticized elements, including an inability to kill off certain characters due to network interference.

"It becomes very hard to kill off certain characters," he said. "The network has a very strong say in this, because of actors who are under contract and do publicity for them. It's not just up to the writers to decide."

When asked how the writers reconcile their own creative needs with the network's edicts, Kring admitted that it's not an easy act to balance.

"It gets more complicated when you have a show that gets more popular, not just with your audience, but with your own network," said the "Heroes," creator. "We were very free to do whatever we wanted until people had opinions. There's a real luxury to making your show in a vacuum, when the microscope isn't on. It's why every year we make eight or nine episodes before the audience starts watching, and it's always more comfortable to work."

Kring even conceded that certain characters are far too powerful — like Peter Petrelli, Hiro Nakamura and Sylar, as examples — creating difficult problems for the writers to overcome.

"If you sit in a writers' room and try to come up with these stories — for this particular character, especially — you come to the conclusion that he's simply too powerful," Kring said. "He can stop anything from happening at any time. You face the problem of having to throw dirt in his eyes or kick him in the shins. You find ways to cripple him. While that may become obvious to the audience, the flip side is that we just can't figure out how to keep him from using his powers in a way that could affect the story at the drop of a hat."

If you have even the slightest interest in "Heroes," I strongly encourage you to read the entire interview. Kring's remarks are very helpful in pinpointing the show's most problematic areas, even if raising such awareness wasn't his intention.

Freddy's new face: Latest Nightmare on Elm Street poster

As the date draws closer for the new A Nightmare on Elm Street, Warner Brothers is dribbling out teasers for the film: Today brings a new poster on MySpace.com, which you can view in full below.

The new poster gives us the best look yet at the new Freddy Krueger, played by Jackie Earle Haley.

Look for the new trailer at midnight PT on Wednesday night on MySpace.com.

Read our full set visit report here.

You can also follow producer Brad Fuller's Twitter feed here.

The new Nightmare opens on April 30.

Whaddaya think??

Lethal Weapon screenwriter set to direct Doc Savage

Shane Black, who turned Mel Gibson into a Lethal Weapon, will be directing a screen version of Doc Savage, one of the greatest superheroes of the pulp era, Variety reported.

Black, who was one of the highest-paid screenwriters of late '80s and early '90s, thanks to his scripts for Lethal Weapon and The Long Kiss Goodnight, has turned to directing in recent years, beginning with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, starring Robert Downey Jr. Black will be working from a screenplay he's writing with Anthony Bagarozzi and Chuck Mondry.

The superhuman adventurer, inventor, explorer and crime fighter, also known as the Man of Bronze, was created to capitalize on the sucess of the earlier pulp hero the Shadow. His adventures ran in Doc Savage Magazine from 1933 to 1949.

Whatever Black has planned for Doc Savage, we can safely assume that he won't be taking the hero in the same direction that George Pal did in his tongue-in-cheek 1975 film Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze.

Check out a clip in all its campy glory below.

Why sci-fi TV hates black people

Harold Perrineau Jr. as Michael Dawson on Lost

It doesn't really, but comedian Andre Meadows has a bit of fun with the idea in a video you can view below.

The comic from BlackNerdComedy.com riffs on the fate of African-American characters in ABC's Lost and NBC's Heroes, among others.

And we have to say he makes a coupla good points, like why does a bullet kill Leonard Roberts' character D.L. in Heroes even though solid objects pass right through him?

Whaddaya think?

(Thanks to Deadline Hollywood for the heads-up.)

Birdemic could be the next Plan 9 From Outer Space

Every now and then we come across something that is so ... odd ... that it immediately qualifies as noteworthy, if not completely awesome, and so it is with Birdemic: Shock and Terror, an indie horror movie, which you can preview below.

Judge for yourself, but there's something weirdly hypnotic about the combination of bad acting, bad lighting, coat hangers, ludicrous visual effects and Silicon Valley jargon.

This movie clearly transcends the usual parameters of good and bad, much in the way that, say, Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space does. Entertainment Weekly says the movie "answers the question of what Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds would have looked like if it had been made not by Hollywood's legendary Master of Suspense, but by a mid-level Silicon Valley software salesman."

The trailer undercuts your expectations, to put it mildly, so much so that it caught the attention of Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof, who tweeted:

See if you can guess where this trailer is going. Then bask in the glory of where it DOES.

The movie will debut in Los Angeles on Feb. 27. Below is the official announcement.

What do you think of Birdemic? Are you shocked? Awed?

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