Monday, March 8, 2010

News - 03/08/10...

Pixar's "Up" wins best animated film Oscar

Pete Docter, director of ''Up,'' accepts the Oscar for best aninmated feature feature film during the 82nd Academy Awards in Hollywood March 7, 2010.

Disney/Pixar's balloon adventure blockbuster "Up" won the best animated movie Oscar on Sunday, as the studio continued its dominance of cartoons at the Academy Awards.

That gives Pixar Animation Studios, which was bought by the Walt Disney Co in 2006, an industry-leading five Oscars for animation since that award was first handed out in 2002.

"Up" Director Pete Docter accepted the award on behalf of the studio and his animation team.

"Never did I dream that making a flipbook out of my third-grade math book would lead to this," Docter said.

A flipbook is a crude animation that children often make, with drawings on a series of pieces of paper that seem to move as the pages flip.

"Up" came out last May in 3-D and made more than $700 million at worldwide box offices.

The film is about a curmudgeonly old man named Carl, who is voiced by Ed Asner, and a young boy named Russell who fly off in a house tied to helium balloons.

They touch down in South America and meet the aged and exiled explorer Charles Muntz, who has made it his life mission to find a rare, flightless bird.

When he was a boy, Carl idolized Muntz, but in the remote South American jungle he learns the explorer is more sinister than he ever imagined.

"Up" was also nominated for best picture, as the only animated film apart from Disney's 1991 "Beauty and the Beast" ever to get that honor.

It also was nominated for Oscars for best original screenplay, original score and sound editing.

Most Hollywood watchers expected "Up" to win the Oscar for best animation, in a field that they said featured some of the best movies of 2009.

The animation category was widened to five films from its usual three because of the amount of eligible movies.

The other nominees were "Coraline," "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "The Princess and the Frog" and "The Secret of Kells."

Unlike some past years, only one nominated film was made with computer-generated imagery -- and that was "Up."Bold

Hand-drawn movies saw a resurgence with "The Princess and the Frog" and "The Secret of Kells," and filmmakers on "Coraline" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" opted for the painstaking stop-motion technique.

Docter, who got help on the film from co-director Bob Peterson, told Reuters earlier this year that the nominated films represent "many different approaches," which shows the genre "is in a healthy place."

Docter has racked up a half-dozen Oscar nominations in his career, including for his screenplay work on 2008's "WALL-E" and for making 2001's "Monsters, Inc."

In Oscars for best animated film, Disney/Pixar's closest competitor is DreamWorks Animation SKG with two wins.

"Up" this year won the animation industry's Annie Award for best feature film, and it also claimed a Golden Globe and a slew of critics' choice awards.

Alice is a wonder, breaking box-office records

Oh frabjous day: Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland killed the competition at the March 5 weekend box office, taking in an estimated $116.3 million domestically to set a new record.

Worldwide, the 3-D fantasy movie took in $210.3 million, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Even accounting for ticket-price inflation, that's the biggest-ever (domestic) opening in the first quarter of the year, easily beating the record of $83.8 million set by The Passion of the Christ in 2004.

In the 40 foreign territories where it opened simultaneously, Alice in Wonderland collected an additional $94 million. That's also a record for the biggest foreign opening in the winter or spring, Disney said.

Next stop: Pandora, where Alice will try to topple Avatar from the top of the box-office heap. Good luck with that!

Zack Snyder's animated owl epic Legend Of The Guardians gets a trailer!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a look at Zack Snyder's next flick, the animated adaptation of a popular kid's book series called The Guardians Of Ga'Hoole.

I must say that the movie looks exactly what I thought a CG animated flick directed by Zack Snyder would look like... and I don't mean that as a bad thing. In fact I love that this seems to be a movie for families, but one that has an edge. I get a little Secret Of NIMH vibe off of this... maybe it's just the animated owl factor, but they both share an overall dark tone.

At least that's my impression thus far. Yahoo has has the trailer, embedded below for your viewing pleasure! Enjoy!

(Thanks AICN)

The AMPAS Present: The Animated Feature Symposium

From L to R: Jon Musker, Henry Selick, Pete Docter, Tom Sito, Tom Moore, and Ron Clements; ©A.M.P.A.S.

On March 4, three days before the 82nd Academy Awards of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) ceremony, the AMPAS held an event at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in West Hollywood to honor the five animated feature films competing for the category of Best Animated Feature this weekend.

Bill Kroyer, Academy Award nominated animator and Executive Board member of the Animation Branch of the AMPAS, opened the event. Kroyer noted that 2010 is the first time five animated features have been nominated for the Oscar, with twenty feature films submitted. Academy members were required to see all twenty movies before choosing the final five. Kroyer also joked that a 21st movie met the qualifications, but a certain director balked, stating that his movie is “not” an animated film, referring to James Cameron's Avatar, nominated for nine Academy Awards. Next, Kroyer introduced Tom Sito, the evening’s host and MC, an animator who has worked on everything from 1980’s television classics such as He-Man to Disney feature films such as The Lion King. Sito paid tribute to veteran voice actress June Foray, who was in the audience. Foray is best known for her work as Rocky the Flying Squirrel from Rocky And Bullwinkle.

Audience members then donned the 3D glasses that were handed out upon entrance to the auditorium for Coraline, the evening's first animated feature retrospective. The screening was followed by a conversation with director Henry Selick, who discussed the genesis of the film and early collaboration with the writer of the original novella, Neil Gaiman. Selick also discussed the challenge of shooting the movie in 3D and reflected about the time he spent in the live action realm with films such as Monkeybone. Selick admitted to being in a downward spiral directing live action film and that he feels much more at home with animation, specifically the stop-motion variety for which he has become known. Selick discussed the production process, where animators draw out all of the characters’ facial expressions on paper to turn them into puppets, and then showed another clip of Coraline.

Next, Sito introduced two clips for another stop-motion feature nominated for the Oscar: The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Unfortunately, the film’s director, Wes Anderson, was in London so he could not attend the event.

The Princess and the Frog, the movie that marked Disney’s return to traditional, hand-drawn animation, followed. The clips included the musical numbers for “Almost There” and the already legendary “Friends On The Other Side,” which I quite frankly consider the best animated musical number of the decade. This preceded the entrance of the movie’s co-directors, Ron Clements and John Musker. Clements and Musker discussed the development of the movie as a musical and their work with composer, Randy Newman, before the script was finished. Clements and Musker also talked about their research into the movie’s setting of New Orleans and the process of making a real-life and richly historical American city look authentic for an animated film. Sito then introduced another clip from the film.

Next was a retrospective of the traditionally animated film, The Secret of Kells, dubbed the “dark horse” nominee by Sito. Two clips were shown of this unique film before Sito introduced the movie’s director, Irishman Tom Moore. Moore talked about gaining inspiration for the visual look and style for the movie from more obscure animated fare such as The Thief And The Cobbler. Moore discussed the challenges of working with the movie’s budget as well as the animation production which was done all across Europe and Brazil. Moore also mentioned that the producers of the movie were enormously helpful with the film and did not pressure him because of the movie’s content.

Last but not least was Up -- the only movie to be nominated for both Best Animated Feature and Best Picture. The clips for Up were shown in 3D and included the poignant and heartwarming montage sequence depicting Carl and Ellie falling in love, getting married, and growing old together. Director Pete Docter then took the stage to speak with Sito about the movie and how 3D came along later into the movie’s production. Up is notable for being an animated film with an elderly protagonist, allowing for a main character who could be grouchy and say what’s on his mind. Often protagonists in animated films tend to be young and bland. Docter also discussed using 3D to film certain sequences flatter to fit the mood of the story, as well as later expanding and adding more depth to change the mood for other sequences.

Following another clip for Up, all the directors took the stage for a question and answer session with Sito. The directors shared experiences about what they like to do when their movies open, and Sito asked if they like to hide for three days. Ron and John talked about a private screening held in Chicago for friends and family to get an automatic good reception. Docter went around town, watched the movie and looked at the audiences’ reactions to see whether the filmmakers' work was successful. Next, Sito soon opened up the panel for questions from the audience which included some inspiring anecdotes. Ron and John advised aspiring animators to use sources such as YouTube as a way to show their animation and work. I believe Henry Selick noted that in order to be an animation director you must know how to draw and also enjoy it.

82nd Academy Award, Animated Feature Symposium, ©A.M.P.A.S.

Some would argue that animated films are incapable of attaining the same level of quality as a live-action Best Picture nominee. Kroyer stated that animated films are more often than not the best reviewed and highest grossing movies of all time. However, animated movies often are not recognized for Oscar categories outside of a scant few. Up marks the first time an animated movie has garnered a nomination for Best Picture since 1991’s The Beauty And The Beast. That said, the Animated Feature Symposium was a delightful celebration and retrospective of animated films in multiple forms. It was refreshing to see the honored films presented in the style of stop-motion animation, computer generated animation, and traditional hand drawn animation -- a medium not long ago referred to as theatrically irrelevant and dead. On the evening of March 4, there were no winners and losers among animated movies, but simply quality stories of all shapes and sizes brought to life through different forms of animation.

(Thanks Toon Zone)

NY Times on the Making & Marketing of "The Secret of Kells"

The New York Times has delved into the unlikely success story of The Secret of Kells, the independent Irish animated feature film made for €6 million (approx. US$8 million) that managed to snag an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature against stiff competition from Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar, and other Hollywood animation heavy hitters. The article digs into how the director Tomm Moore began working on the film while studying animation in college, formed a company to make it, and managed a production that involved 200 people in 5 different countries, as well as its distribution problems and the word-of-mouth campaign that led to an Annie Award nomination and ultimately the Oscar nomination.

The Secret of Kells opened in New York City on Friday, and go into nationwide release on March 19, 2010.

Toonzone Talks with Norton Virgien on Directing "Curious George 2"

Norton Virgien probably owes a lot of his career to rugrats.

Specifically, Nickelodeon's Rugrats, for whom he worked as a storyboard artist and director before being tapped to co-direct 1998's The Rugrats Movie. His success at bringing the kids of the Pickles family from small screen to large led to a second stint directing Rugrats Go Wild and a reputation for being able to produce material that could appeal to kids and adults alike.

Virgien believes it was that reputation and those skills that led to his position directing Curious George 2: Follow that Monkey, the direct-to-video follow-up to the 2006 feature film that brought Margret and H.A. Rey's famous kids-lit primate to the big screen. We were able to chat briefly with Virgien via phone before the movie's release date of March 2, 2010, where he explained that the long time between movies was because the producers were willing to let the crew spend a full feature-length development cycle on the movie, meaning it took two full years to produce from start to finish.

Virgien also clarified something that might have confused fans of the Curious George movies and TV show, stating that "the two projects were developed in parallel," but separately, which is why the TV show premiered on PBS Kids so soon after the movie was in theaters. However, despite several common cast and crew members, the movie line and TV series work as separate but independent productions under the same production company umbrella. This is why in the movies, George's human friend is named Ted and he has a girlfriend named Maggie, while he's the girlfriend-less Man with the Yellow Hat on the TV show. Virgien noted that it's easy to tell who's working on what because people will be talking in the hallway, and "someone will say 'Ted,' and the other person will ask, 'Ted? Oh, you mean the Man with the Yellow Hat!'"

One thing that separates the Curious George films from their competitors is that they may be the only animated kids films in recent memory that have no jokes about noisy bodily functions. This is a deliberate choice, since it was important to Virgien to maintain the tone and sentiments from the original books by Margret and H.A. Rey. In preparation for his work on the movie, he spent quite a bit of time with the original books and recognized that "these are heirlooms that people have passed down for generations." As a result, he didn't want to mess with the perception that people had in their heads for Curious George, which meant no fart jokes or other attempts to make George "edgy." While Virgien recognized that "going edgier and pushing the boundaries might be a good way to get a larger audience," the producers and crew were willing to avoid that to stay closer to people's idea of George.

When asked what was the toughest scene to animate in the film, Virgien's first instinct was to mention one of the action sequences before switching to the first meeting between George and Kayla the baby elephant, whose homesickness launches the movie into its cross-country plot. It was a scene "with two characters who are shy and don't speak, trying to communicate a lot of things to each other," and Virgien recognized that it was the core scene of the movie. If it didn't succeed at selling the idea that George and Kayla would become friends, the rest of the movie would pretty much have fallen apart. He said that he handed it to one of his best storyboarders to work with, since she was the most talented person on staff for animated acting, and was tremendously pleased with the work she turned in. At the same time, he also went to the music crew, described the scene, and asked, "What can you do for us here?" The result was a delightful little song about friendship that melded beautifully with the animation, with each reinforcing the other. It's a scene he's tremendously proud of because it works so well, and is probably his favorite in the movie.

Adults in the audience will also get a kick out of a few jokes that might fly by too fast for kids to pick up on, like Ted's list of ideas for the museum or the presence of Albert Einstein, Jimi Hendrix, and Woody Woodpecker in a voiceprint identification lineup. Virgien told us that he "aimed to make a movie that parents could enjoy with their kids," which led to a lot of these sorts of quick jokes getting slipped into the movie. He was the one who came up with Ted's list, since it wasn't much more than squiggles on the storyboard, and he added that Woody was in the line up because "he's a Universal property, so we could put him in pretty easily."

After shepherding through three movies of other people's properties, Virgien is about to embark on a new adventure of his own, developing his own material to bring to the screen. If he can bring the same touch that he brought to the Pickles and a famous literary monkey, the kids of the future will definitely have something to look forward to.

Curious George 2: Follow that Monkey is available now on DVD.

(Thanks Toon Zone)

Toonz Animation Sets Up Distribution Shop in US

Singapore's Straits Times reports that Toonz Animation has set up Toonz Entertainment USA, a new US-based division that aims to "specialize in sales and distribution of animated feature films, direct-to-video content and television series." The move is intended as another step in the growth of the parent company Toonz Entertainment into a full-fledged media house.

Ed Asner Talks "Up"

CNN has posted an edited version of an interview with actor Ed Asner, focusing on his role as Carl Fredricksen in Disney/Pixar's Up and his one-man show Sunrise at Campobello, where he portrays Franklin D. Roosevelt. Among other topics, Asner reveals that he "never stopped loving cartoons" but hadn't seen a Pixar movie until WALL-E, and also comments on the lack of marketing of Up to the senior community and on the current Oscar race that has placed Up in the running for Best Picture.

Elsewhere, an article for The New York Times about the shrinking of up-front salaries of Hollywood stars notes how an animation voice-over actor can be paid up to $15,000 less for a feature-film role than an on-camera actor. At the end of the article, Asner states that his up-front compensation for his performance in Up was limited to session fees, but that he also received bonuses that were linked to the film's success.

Grickle Channels Our Inner Anger

I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore! While that famous line from Network is not spoken in Graham Annable’s new Grickle short, titled Channels, that could very easily be the intended sentiment.

Latest Salty Saga Unmasked

The latest Salty spot, Mask, directed by David Hicks from Sons & Daughters, revealed itself this past month, and this poor guy just can’t get a break. On the bright side, his merchandising ventures are a huge success! According to the Sidekicks site, the salt and pepper shakers they were selling are all sold out. Wonder if the meals they’re marketing are having similar success.

Blatant Blasts New Mangan Music Video Into Space

Jon Busby, a director at Blatant Studios, helmed this new music video for Canadian artist Dan Mangan. The track is titled Road Regrets, off Mangan’s 2009 release Nice, Nice Very Nice.

The Squeak E. Clean Toy Story Mash-up

The latest Pixar-related music mashup comes from the award-winning DJ Sam Spiegel, otherwise know as Squeak E. Clean. It’s the Beyond Infinity Remix of the Toy Story franchise, featuring all sorts of dialog from the features.

Dwyer Leads the Charge on Turin Brakes Video

Harry Dwyer, a director represented by London-based 2AM Films, helmed this new stop-motion music video for the folk duo Turin Brakes. The track is titled The Sea Change, and Dwyer does an excellent job of giving life to the rigid military characters, ala A Town Called Panic.

Organize MBO?

A visual effects artist emailed today:.

Several people have mentioned to me that they are disgusted by the way freelancers are being asked to sign up and pay for "Employer of Record" services in order to get jobs. Typically these freelancers would not be eligible for union representation since their are neither a group nor employees, however thousands of them are now employees of companies like MBO and Yurkor who serve as their "Employers of Record" while not providing any of the benefits employers customarily provide. ...

Welcome to the Brave New World of "squeeze the nickel 'til it bleeds."

I talked to the artist on the phone later in the day, and said that it was certainly possible to organize MBO or Yorker, but there were interesting challenges:

1) MBO would probably fight tenaciously to avoid unionization. And getting sufficient representation cards from far-flung visual effects houses across the fruited plain would be a bit daunting.

2) And when you did get enough cards, there could be an argument at the resulting National Labor Relations Board hearing over who the actual employer was, MBO or the various Mom and Pop houses it was serving. One legal eagle I consulted said it could well be a joint employer situation -- MBO and the viz effx houses might both be
"Employers of Record."

3) Lastly, you'd have to get a lot of artists onboard, construct phone and e-mail trees to communicate, build momentum. (All these things are achievable, but they take time.)

Much of the problem of visual effects employment, of course, stems from the way that it's done. Different sub-contractors bid for the work, low-balling one another to get the job, and this usually results in narrow (or non-existent?) margins and big pressure to cut wages and benefits to the bone.

Hence "independent sub-contractors" and the emergence of MBO. Visual effects companies know that there will be pressure from tax agencies, both federal and state, to make workers the actual employees they should be so that taxes can be withheld.

This, of course, is where MBO comes in. The charming "Employer of Record" middle-man collects the effects studio's checks, pays the required taxes to the federal and state governments, then passes the remainder to the men and women doing the work. The sub-contracting studio is protected from the IRS auditors, the government bureaucracies get their taxes, and the "employees" get shafted. All very neat and tidy.

But it probably works well for a chosen few.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

The Secret of ... Success

You want to make hand-drawn animation, this might be the way to do it.

Tomm Moore is the director of the animated film “The Secret of Kells” ... Set in a remote abbey in medieval Ireland, [the film] follows the adventures of a boy — a young monk in training — as he works with an illuminator to finish the Book of Kells, the Latin manuscript transcribed by Celtic monks around A.D. 800 ...

... The film arrived with strong buzz from animation fans, earned when it won the top audience prize at the Edinburgh Film Festival in July, the first animated film to do so ... [Mr. Moore] said he hoped the attention from the Oscar race would propel the film to greater success at home ...

Mr. Moore and Mr. Beckman both said they didn’t believe
“The Secret of Kells” had a chance of winning an Oscar. But in their case just being nominated really does pay dividends: in audience awareness, DVD sales and future financing ....

Ralph Bakshi says that animation artists should go do their own films. So here's an artist from a small town in Ireland who's actually done just that. Kudos to him.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

The Permanence of Three Dee -- Part XIII

There hasn't really been much question for a while now, but now Mr. Park's weighed in.

Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park has said that he would like to make a Plasticine animation in 3D.

Park, speaking in Los Angeles ahead of Sunday's Oscars, said he had planned to make a Wallace and Gromit story in 3D but shelved it for financial reasons.

"I'd like to see a 3D Plasticine animation - I think it would really suit it," he told the BBC ...

Personally, I think the die is cast. I think Three Dee is now a major part of studio planning. Congloms are throwing a ton of money at it, converting flat features to dimensional ones, so I think all the boulders are now rolling and bounding downhill.

And where they'll stop? That's anyone's guess.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

"Up" now available on Comcast's on-demand service

Comcast announced Monday that several of this year's Academy Award-nominated films, including Pixar-Disney's Up, are now available On Demand on television as part of its Oscar Films & More collection.

The collection also features more than 50 past Oscar winners, biographies of Academy Award-winners and past red carpet interviews, as well as a special collection of "B" movies from this year’s honorary Lifetime Achievement Academy Award recipient, "B" movie king Roger Corman.

Beginning March 3, Comcast customers will have access to all of this year's Academy Award-nominated animated shorts -- A Matter of Loaf and Death, French Roast, The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama Y La Muerte), Logorama and Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty -- as well as Oscar-nominated live-action shorts.

Consumers can also watch trailers and scenes from this year's Oscar nominees, a 2010 Academy Awards TV Guide special and more on Fancast XFINITY TV at

"For our customers, we extend the Academy Awards into a multi-week, multi-platform entertainment binge of the best-of-the-best leading up to the show," said Derek Harrar, senior vice-president and general nanager of video and entertainment services for Comcast. "On Comcast, past and present Oscar movies, trailers and shorts are only a remote or mouse click away."

Tangled teaser trailer

A short teaser trailer for Disney’s Tangled can now be seen on Trailer Addict. Formally titled Rapunzel, the upcoming CGI film will open in theaters on November 24th, 2010.

New Toy Story 3 poster

Yahoo! Movies has just revealed a brand new poster for Disney/Pixar’s upcoming Toy Story 3. The poster seems to feature virtually every major character from the much anticipated sequel, due in theaters and IMAX 3D on June 18th.

The Book Nobody’s Been Waiting For

Lou Scheimer tells all . . . like about the time he produced something crappy, or that other time he produced something crappy, or those few decades where he had an impressive streak of producing lots and lots of crap in a row. There’s also an uplifting personal story about the time he vowed to produce something decent, but then realized it was more important to stay true to himself and produce crap.

Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation drops in July.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Tostitos Salsa Ad by Nicholas Weigel and Laika

As far as CG spots for salsa go, this one directed by Nicholas Weigel at Laika offers some impressive art direction. An in-depth interview with Weigel and production credits can be found at Motionographer. For a more immersive version of the ad, watch it on Vimeo where it takes over the screen.

(Thanks, Mike Johnson)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Pink Panther and Pals

I don’t know much about the new Pink Panther and Pals series - which premiered last Sunday March 7th on Cartoon Network at 7:30am - except I like the redesigns of the Ant and the Aardvark. The new show features three six-minute cartoons - two featuring a “teenage Pink Panther” and one Ant and Aardvark short in the middle. 26 episodes were produced by MGM Animation. There’s no animation online, but here’s a bunch of still images to tide you over till next Sunday.

(Thanks, Bob Spang)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Producer Simon to Develop B.C., Wizard of Id

Animation producer Mark Simon has reached a deal with the estate of late comic strip creator Johnny Hart to develop, pitch and produce feature movies and TV series based on the strips B.C. and Wizard of Id.

Under the exclusive agreement, Simon will work with the Hart Estate, Jack Newcombe of Creators Syndicate and The Metropolis Talent Agency on the projects.

"This is a dream project for me," says Simon. "I've been a huge fan of both B.C. and Wizard of Id since I was 5 years old. Johnny Hart's family continues the strips, and have done an incredible job matching the same quality of humor Johnny created, while at the same time making it more accessible to the younger generations again. Both of these hysterically funny properties are overdue for greater exposure on both the big screen and the small screen."

B.C. launched in 1958, featuring a cast of colorful cavemen and anthropomorphic animals. The strip is appearing in more than 1,300 newspapers and has been collected in 37 book editions, with a new one set for publication this year. After Hart’s death in 2007, the strip has been continued by his grandsons Mason and Mick Mastroianni.

Wizard of Id began in 1964, following the adventures of the titular magician in the oddball medieval kingdom. The strip won a Reuben for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, and is a four-time winner for the National Cartoonist Society's Best Humor Strip. The strip’s original artist, Brant Parker, died in 2007 within two weeks of Hart’s death. The strip is continued by Parker’s son, Jeff Parker, as artist with the Hart family overseeing the writing.

Simon has worked on over 2,800 productions, ranging from feature films to television series, and with both animation and live action. His animation projects have been seen on Nicktoons, G4 and Comedy Central mobile. He also is the author of ten entertainment industry texts including Producing Independent 2D Character Animation and Storyboards: Motion In Art.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Second Season of Iron Man: Armored Adventures Ordered

Get ready for more Iron Man.

A second season of the Nicktoons hit series Iron Man: Armored Adventures has been ordered, to be produced by DQE, Marvel Animation and Method Animation.

The second season of the series, based on the popular Marvel Comics character and motion picture franchise, will include 26 episodes.

“With the premiere season cherished by fans of all ages across the globe, we are thrilled to work with DQE and Method to bring season two of Iron Man: Armored Adventures to our loyal fans,” says Eric Rollman, president of Marvel Animation. “We have a lot more action and excitement planned for Season 2 and we are going to take the show to a whole new level.”

In addition to the animated series, the live-action sequel Iron Man 2 is due for release May 7.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

FUNimation to Stream Baka and Test, Vampire Bund

FUNimation has acquired North American rights to Baka and Test — Summon the Beasts and Dance in the Vampire Bund, and will stream subtitled episodes free of charge to fans in the United States and Canada within days of their debut in Japan.

The streams will be available on the company’s site,, with the first two episodes of Baka and Test and the first four of Vampire Bund debuting March 5 at 10 a.m. CT.

New episodes will roll out weekly, following their release in Japan, starting March 10 and 12.

FUNimation also will offer these episodes as downloads through for $1.99 per episode.

Baka and Test — Summon the Beasts is a 13-episode series produced by Silver Lake and directed by Shin Oonuma (Pani Poni Dash, Negima!) and adapted from the light novel series by Kenju Inoue and Yui Haga.

Dance in the Vampire Bund is a 12-episode series produced by the Japanese studio SHAFT and directed by Masahiro Sonada (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) and based on the manga by Nozomu Tamaki.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Smurfy casting news has revealed casting news for Sony’s upcoming Smurfs movie, which is going to be a mix of live action and animation. Original Smurfs voice actor Jonathan Winters will be the pipes behind Papa Smurf, while Katy Perry, Alan Cumming and George Lopez are also on board. Neil Patrick Harris is set to play the main live action character. Originally set for release this Christmas, The Smurfs are now planning on coming to theaters in the summer of 2011.

Charles B. Pierce, 71, was early indy filmmaker

Charles B. Pierce, one of the first modern-day independent filmmakers and an influence behind the hit movie The Blair Witch Project, died Friday at a Dover, Arkansas nursing home. He was 71.

A cause of death could not be obtained.

He was the set decorator for the partly animated 1970 movie The Phantom Tollbooth, Chuck Jones' first full-length feature film. He shared a 1987 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or a Special in connection with Part 1 of Fresno.

Pierce debuted in Hollywood debut with 1972's The Legend of Boggy Creek. According to his youngest daughter, Amanda "Amy" Squitiero, he made the film while in the advertising business on a $160,000 budget, and it brought in about $25 million at the box office.

A documentary about Bigfoot, it paved the way for such similar films as the 1999 docudrama The Blair Witch Project, she said.

He was also a screenwriter for 1983's Sudden Impact, starring Clint Eastwood. He put the phrase "Go ahead, make my day" into Eastwood/Dirty Harry's mouth.

But his 1972 movie brought him fame, said friends and associates.

"He really did change the face of filmmaking," Arkansas Film Commissioner Christopher Crane told the Texarkana Gazette. "With his model, many filmmakers became successful with the drive-in creature feature, so to speak."

Blair Witch Project director Daniel Myrick cited Pierce's film as an influence.

"We just wanted to make a movie that tapped into the primal fear generated by the fact-or-fiction format, like Legend of Boggy Creek," he told the Tulsa World in a 1999 interview. "That was one of my favorites; it freaked me out when I was a little kid. I was beside myself with fear for weeks after seeing that thing."

Boggy Creek was based on a local legend of a creature resembling the Sasquatch in Fouke, a town southwest of Texarkana. Retailers still cash in on the notoriety of what was called the Fouke Monster.

Born in Hammond, Indiana in 1938, Pierce moved to southwest Arkansas with his family as a child. He grew up in Hampton, Arkansas. As an adult, he lived in nearby Texarkana, where he ran an ad agency.

Pierce made his films mostly in Arkansas. He moved to Dover after filming Hawken's Breed with Peter Fonda in 1987.

Producer-director Harry Thomason, who worked on the TV sitcom Designing Women, grew up next door to Pierce in Hampton.

"Charlie was one of the greatest storytellers in the world," Thomason said. "He had remarkable success when you think of it."

He also praised Pierce's follow-up movie Bootleggers as "a very intelligent script with great acting."

Pierce also directed such films as The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Winterhawk, The Winds of Autumn, Grayeagle, The Norseman, The Evictors and Sacred Ground.

Squitiero described her father as always very creative and artistic. "He could paint a story on film," she said.

Director Charles B. Pierce in 1983. Posters of two of his movies, Bootleggers and The Legend of Boggy Creek, are visible on the wall behind him. (Photo: Texarkana Gazette)

"Dumbo" musical hits Broadway when elephants fly

The classic 1941 Disney animated movie "Dumbo" is being adapted for the stage, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

Quoting an unnamed Disney executive, the paper said that Disney Theatrical Productions and Stephen Daldry, the Tony- winning director of Billy Elliot: The Musical, are working on the stage version.

After Daldry approached Disney Theatrical Productions several months ago with a concept, both parties are now in "the very initial stages" of shaping those ideas, the executive said.

The source requested anonymity because the company will not comment on projects at such an early stage, said the Times.

Disney's Dumbo had several songs, including "Baby Mine," which was nominated for the Academy Award for best song. Other tunes included "Casey Junior" and "When I See An Elephant Fly." The movie did win the Oscar for best original score.

However, a creative team, which would include composers, book writers and designers, has not yet been assembled, the executive said.

At this stage, it's too premature too early to say when the musical, would come to Broadway, if it would premiere in London, as did Billy Elliot: The Musical, or in another major theatrical city outside New York, the executive said.

"Let's put it this way, Dumbo will not be on Broadway in the 2010-11 season, because it’s simply in the very early stages," the executive said.

The New York Post reported Wednesday that Disney was interested in developing Dumbo for the stage, but that Daldry had decided against working on the project because he and Disney could not come to an agreement.

But according to the Disney executive, Daldry has always been supportive: "This is Stephen's idea, and he's very passionate about it."

Descendants by Heiko van der Scherm

Writer, director, designer and modeler Heiko van der Scherm took three years to produce his CG short film Descendants. Whoopi Goldberg lent her voice to the project, which has been playing film festivals and winning awards all over the world.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Cast And Crew Details For Upcoming Episodes Of "Batman: The Brave And The Bold"

The World's Finest has a look at cast and crew details for upcoming episodes of the Batman: The Brave and The Bold animated series. Batman: The Brave and The Bold currently airs on Cartoon Network.

Cast and crew details for the upcoming Batman: The Brave and The Bold episodes “The Power of Shazam!” and “Chill of the Night” are available here at The World’s Finest. The listings are as cited in the official credits for the featured upcoming Batman: The Brave and The Bold episodes. Details are available below.

Batman: The Brave and The Bold "The Power of Shazam!"
Diedrich Bader as Batman
Jeff Bennett as Captain Marvel
John DiMaggio as Black Adam
Laraine Newman as Ms. Minerva
Jim Piddock as Dr. Sivana, Shazam
Roger Rose as WHIZ Reporter
Tara Strong as Mary / Billy Batson
Animation by Dongwoo Animation Co., Ltd.
Written by Steven Melching
Directed by Ben Jones

Batman: The Brave and The Bold "Chill of the Night!"
Diedrich Bader as Batman
Jeff Bennett as Abra Kadabra/Joker
Kevin Conroy as Phantom Stranger
Zachary Gordon as Young Bruce
Jennifer Hale as Zatanna
Mark Hamill as Spectre
Richard Moll as Moxon
Julie Newmar as Martha Wayne
Peter Onorati as Joe Chill
Adam West as Thomas Wayne
Written by Paul Dini
Directed by Michael Chang
Animation by Digital eMation, Inc.

Cartoon Network is currently scheduled to air the Batman: The Brave and The Bold episode "The Power of Shazam!" on Friday, April 2nd, 2010 at 7:30pm (ET), with "Chill of the Night" also tentatively scheduled to debut in April 2010. Please note that schedule details are subject to change without notice. Continue to the Batman: The Brave and The Bold subsite here at The World’s Finest for more Batman: The Brave and The Bold content.

The next new episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold, "The Super-Batman From Planet X!" is scheduled to air Friday March 26th, 2010 at 7:30pm (ET). Batman: The Brave and The Bold airs every Friday at 7:30pm (ET) on Cartoon Network, with Friday-premiering episodes re-airing Saturdays at 8:30pm (ET).

Ray Favata

Ray Favata (l.) with Jules Feiffer at Terrytoons

My pal, Ray Favata, is the subject of a lengthy profile in this week’s Post-Star paper. He started his career at Tempo Productions, one of the early ‘cartoon modern’ studios that was later shuttered because of the blacklist. He went on to design commercials at Academy Pictures, John Sutherland Productions, and Deitch-era Terrytoons (where he boarded an unproduced sequel to Flebus), before starting a commercial studio with Bill Tytla, and then launching Ray Favata Productions. Since then, he’s worked on everything imaginable from projects with Frank Zappa to the TV series Doug. More of his work can be seen on the Cartoon Modern blog.

Here’s an episode of “Billy Jo Jive” that Favata made for Sesame Street:

(Thanks cartoon brew)

A Leg Up by Bevin Carnes

Speaking of the Oscars (isn’t everyone?), when I attended the Academy Feature Animation Symposium the other night I briefly met Bevin Carnes, winner of the 2007 Student Academy Award for Animation (Silver Medal). She made her prize winning film, A Leg Up, while a student at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, and recently posted it on You Tube. Since winning the award, Carnes has since worked for Rhythm and Hues, Disney (on Bolt) and at Blue Sky, as an animator on Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Here’s her film:

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Disney's 'Avengers' Animated Series Arrives In Fall 2010

Back in 2008, Marvel Animation announced it was teaming up with Film Roman for "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes", an animated series featuring the classic "Avengers" lineup in anticipation of the upcoming live action film.

Given Disney's acquisition of Marvel, it should come as no surprise that the series will be coming to Disney XD.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, "The Avengers" will debut this Fall on Disney XD to prime younger audiences for 2012's live-action "Avengers." Disney Channels' Entertainment President, Gary Marsh, said the network has been "pouring through the library of 7,000 Marvel characters looking for the next 'Spider-Man.'"

Last summer, "Spectacular Spider-Man" producer Greg Weisman revealed that Sony relinquished the "Spider-Man" TV rights back to Marvel in return for "some concessions vis-a-vis the live action 'Spider-Man' features." Potentially, that could mean that "Spider-Man" would also be free to appear in the "Avengers" animated series at some point.

A previously planned "Hulk" animated series was reportedly shelved to allow Marvel to focus on the "Avengers" animated series; which may incorporate stories and characters from that series as well.

"The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" is currently slated for 26 half-hour episodes.

Kill all humans! New Futurama is coming in June!

Good news, everyone!

If you're like us, you watch every rerun of Futurama on Comedy Central no matter how many times you've seen it before, though we have to say we're getting a little tired of the one on Mars with the Buggalos.

So that's why it's so nice to hear that new episodes of the sci-fi animated show will arrive on Comedy Central in June, HitFix reports:

Comedy Central sources confirm to HitFix that Thursday, June 24, at 10:00 p.m. is currently set to be the premiere of the first new half-hour episode of "Futurama" since 2003.

We're also pleased to report that the entire voice cast will be back, though there was some concern a while back that Fox was going to replace them with cheaper knockoffs or possibly robots. If they had done that, they could kiss our shiny metal asses. :)

So ... will you be tuning in??

Oscars shmoscars: Transformers 2 'wins' worst-movie Razzie

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
was the big "winner"—not at the Oscars, which are handed out tonight—but at the Razzies, otherwise known as the 30th Annual Golden Raspberry Awards, which recognize the worst movies of the year.

The Transformers sequel copped Razzies for worst picture of 2009 and two other awards.

The Razzies are handed out every year on the eve of the Oscars to poke fun at the worst movies and movie performances of the year.

Transformers also snagged Razzies for Michael Bay as worst director and Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman for worst screenplay.

Transformers actually tied Land of the Lost, with seven nominations each. Astonishingly, Land was nearly shut out in every category.

But the 650 Razzie voters also managed to tie in their votes for worst prequel, remake, rip-off or sequel, and Razzie founder John Wilson cast the tie-breaking vote to throw the win to Land of the Lost. "It really did stink, and, I thought, well, it ought to get something, because it is a very bad movie," Wilson said.

The other sci-fi award went to Sienna Miller, who nabbed worst supporting actress for her performance in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

In a special awards category, the Razzies "honored" Battlefield Earth as worst picture of the decade, Eddie Murphy (The Adventures of Pluto Nash) as worst actor of the decade and Paris Hilton (House of Wax) as worst actress of the decade.

(And check out the video at the bottom to see Sandra Bullock accept her award; what a good sport is she? Thanks, Gozer, for pointing us to it.)

Land of the Lost

Here's the entire list of 2009 Razzie winners:

Worst Picture: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Worst Actress: Sandra Bullock for All About Steve

Worst Actor(s): All three Jonas brothers for Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience

Worst Screen Couple: Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper for All About Steve

Worst Supporting Actress: Sienna Miller for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Worst Supporting Actor: Billy Ray Cyrus for Hannah Montana: The Movie

Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel: Land of the Lost

Worst Director: Michael Bay for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Worst Screenplay: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, written by Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman

Worst Picture of the Decade: Battlefield Earth (winner of 8 Razzies)

Worst Actor of the Decade: Eddie Murphy (winner of 3 Razzies)

Worst Actress of the Decade: Paris Hilton (winner of 4 Razzies)

First look: The official story of the Captain America film!

We may have our first look at the story for The First Avenger: Captain America, the movie adaptation of the iconic Marvel Comics hero, and it's encouraging to fans of the franchise.

A casting notice posted on Feature Film Casting reveals that the movie is in preproduction for a June 28 start, with a release date of July 22, 2011. Here's the story summary (spoilers!):

Born during the Great Depression, Steve Rogers grew up a frail youth in a poor family. Horrified by the newsreel footage of the Nazis in Europe, Rogers was inspired to enlist in the army. However, because of his frailty and sickness, he was rejected. Overhearing the boy's earnest plea, General Chester Phillips offered Rogers the opportunity to take part in a special experiment ... Operation: Rebirth. After weeks of tests, Rogers was at last administered the Super-Soldier Serum and bombarded by "vita-rays." Steve Rogers emerged from the treatment with a body as perfect as a body can be and still be human. Rogers was then put through an intensive physical and tactical training program. Three months later, he was given his first assignment as Captain America. Armed with his indestructible shield and battle savvy, Captain America has continued his war against evil both as a sentinel of liberty and as leader of the Avengers.

The story, of course, is just preliminary and subject to change and doesn't include crucial information such as the film's villain. Still, it's something.

What do you think?

Stay tuned for casting news soon!

(Thanks to for pointing the way.)

Animated Tron TV show could race onto your screen!

The much-anticipated sequel Tron Legacy doesn't hit theaters until December, but Disney's wasting no time developing other extensions of what it hopes will be a Pirates of the Caribbean-style franchise: Today comes news that Disney Channel is developing a Tron animated TV series.

According to The Hollywood Reporter:

The news was part of Disney's upfront presentation Tuesday evening to media buyers and clients, which included a preview of the "Tron" series. Geared towards kids age 6-14, the plan is to precede "Tron" with another project, a 10-part "Tron" micro-series premiering in fall 2011 on Disney XD.

While this could go the way of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, we'll remain optimistic, as we're huge fans of Steve Lisberger's original 1982 movie and like what we've seen so far of the sequel. The new 3-D trailer for the sequel debuted Friday attached to prints of Disney's Alice in Wonderland; Tron Legacy opens Dec. 17.

Are you ready to ride that light cycle on TV?

Green Lantern's ring now powered by 3-D

If you always wanted to see Green Lantern on the big screen in 3-D instead of that boring old 2-D ('cause we all know how yawn-inducing that would be), you're in luck, and you can thank Avatar for that, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Warner Brothers has decided to add an extra dimension to DC's superhero, apparently inspired by all the big bucks Fox pulled in with the James Cameron blockbuster. The studio had already announced plans to convert both Clash of the Titans and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One to 3-D releases.

Warners also announced that Zach Snyder's action fantasy Punch, set to hit theaters on March 25, 2011, will also make the leap from 2-D to 3-D.

Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds, is set to premiere on June 17, 2011.

Ridley Scott's Alien will be 3-D and—a trilogy, too?

All the Alien reboot news that's slowly been coming out over the past year has been exciting, but now we're really starting to salivate.

First we learned there was going be a prequel, and that Tony and Ridley Scott would be involved, though neither would direct. Then we found out that Ridley Scott was stepping in to direct after all. And a few months ago, he let slip a few details about the plot—that the film wouldn't deal with the backstory to that giant alien ship the crew of the Nostromo discovered in his 1979 original movie.

But now it all gets even more interesting, because Roger Christian, art director for the original Alien, spilled big news over at shadowlocked: "Ridley's doing the next Alien in 3D."

And in even bigger news than that, the film may turn out to be the first of a trilogy:

Ridley told me some of his ideas when we were here in Toronto. He has a very clear understanding of where this should go. They kind of stopped dead one of the greatest horror franchises there's ever been, and it had legs to go on. So I'm hoping he'll revive another three. The world certainly wants it, and the fans want it—everybody.

Now, perhaps Christian is only speaking for himself and not Scott with his talk of a three-quel. But it does make us wonder whether the two have discussed the possibility, and whether it could be more than just idle speculation.

In any case, even if the trilogy talk is just a rumor, the 3-D sounds solid, so—can you think of any scene better suited for 3-D than an Alien chestburster? Not us!

'Captain America' Casting Update: 'Smallville' And 'Friday Night Lights' Actors Off The List?

While there's still no official word on who will play the lead role in "The First Avenger: Captain America" — or even who's up for the role — it looks like we can cross two rumored contenders off the list.

"Smallville" actor Michael Cassidy (pictured left as Cap) was one of five names mentioned in a widely circulated short list alleged to be contenders for the part, but he announced on Twitter that he is not in the running for the role. "No Captain America for me," he posted in response to a fan's question yesterday.

Earlier today, "Friday Night Lights" actor Scott Porter took to Facebook to let fans know he won't be slinging Cap's shield, either. As reported by io9, Porter posted, "Ain't Cap. Thank you all for the prayers though, I appreciate them all so very much."

While somewhat of an unknown commodity, Cassidy was regarded by many as having the proper "look" for Cap's alter ego, Steve Rogers, despite his relatively short resume. Porter, on the other hand, was a favorite among many Splash Page readers. We offered our own assessment of Porter and Cassidy's potential in a recent edition of our weekly Secret Identity segment.

So, with Cassidy and Porter out of the mix, who's left?

The remaining rumored contenders for the role include Chace Crawford ("Gossip Girl"), John Krasinski ("The Office") and Mike Vogel ("Cloverfield"). If you're curious what each of the actors might look like as Cap, be sure to check out our Photoshop-fueled "Captain America" contender gallery.

'Wolverine 2' Screenplay Finished, 2011 Filming Confirmed

Whether you loved it or hated it, there's a sequel to "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" on the way, and perhaps a bit sooner than you thought — 10 months following the release of "Origins," a sequel script has been finished.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, "X-Men" screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie has finished his draft of the "Wolverine" sequel, which he began writing in August. Shooting is currently expected to commence in January of 2011, a fact that leading man Hugh Jackman confirmed several months ago.

"Wolverine's going to be back," the actor said during the People's Choice Awards in January. "We shoot that probably in a year, year-and-a-half, something like that."

As has been widely reported, "Wolverine 2" will take place in Japan, based upon the character's adventures written and illustrated by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller.

"['Wolverine 2'] will be very different from the last 'Wolverine' movie, and that's what I like about it," Jackman told MTV News last year. "I didn't want it to feel like the same thing. ... It's a whole new environment and the storyline is unbelievable. I wish I could announce to you some of the people involved."

Some of those people are still unannounced, as the director's chair for "Wolverine 2" is currently unfilled. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" director Gavin Hood has expressed interest in the job. Additionally, some have speculated that the position could go to Bryan Singer, the former "X-Men" filmmaker that has close ties to screenwriter McQuarrie. Singer is already back in the mutant fold as the director of the upcoming "X-Men: First Class," and whether or not he gets involved with Logan's trip to Japan remains to be seen.

Wesley Snipes Explains What He'd Like To See In 'Blade 4'

Talk of a new "Blade" movie has been popping up around the online world for a while now, with everything from a spin-off film to a complete reboot mentioned at one point or another by the cast and creative team.

With "Blade" star Wesley Snipes returned to theaters this past week in "Brooklyn's Finest," MTV News had a chance to ask the actor for his take on all the rumors.

"Man, this has been coming up quite a bit," laughed Snipes. "I'm really surprised to see how people are anticipating me doing another one, so you never know."

"There are some things we really want to do that we didn't get a chance to do," he explained. "The first and the second one were experiments, and we started to get better. If we do another one, it will reflect our maturity and our better understanding of the genre."

Asked what he'd like to see in a new "Blade" movie, Snipes offered up a pair of suggestions — one serious and the other a reflection on the hurried schedule of the third film, "Blade: Trinity."

"[I'd like to see] a larger, multiracial cast, and it would be great to have some rehearsals before some of the action sequences," he laughed.

Gil Gerard and Erin Grey in an exclusive new Buck Rogers clip!!!

Hey folks, Harry here with a neat little treat. A while back I posted a teaser trailer for an upcoming Buck Rogers Web Series by James Cawley, who is famous for his Star Trek: Phase II web series. It got me excited and I suppose it must've gotten Cawley's attention, because no sooner did I get back from The Runaways today to find an email from James asking if I'd like to debut this exclusive clip on AICN. The video may still be processing at YouTube, it should continually look better and better as the day goes, but what we have here is a clip showing a young Buck Rogers (Bobby Rice), who is working on his parents (played by Gil Gerard and Erin Grey) to let him go to France to join the Air Corp during World War I.

I have to say, it warms my heart to see Gil and Erin together on screen - and I believe I'd tune in to watch her snap veggies all day, every day. What a lovely lady! Can't wait to see the more science fictiony aspects of this Web Series... but thanks to Mr Cawley for giving us a sneak peek at what he's up to!!!

(Thanks AICN)

No comments: