Wednesday, March 17, 2010

News - 03/17/10...

Drawn to Greatness

Director Don Hahn discusses his insightful new documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty, which travels back to 1984 to chart the rebirth of Disney’s creative spirit and a behind-the-scenes look at the studio politics and artistic battles that were the backdrop of hits such as The Little Mermaid and The Lion King.

Although “Making of” documentaries have become a regular feature of special edition DVDs and Blu-ray releases, audiences rarely get to hear about the real stories behind the making of some of their favorite animated movies. It’s even harder to come across a revealing film that chronicles how great films get made, at times despite the political machinations and battles between studio executives and artists. Next month, audiences get to enjoy one of these rare treats as director Don Han and producer Pete Schneider’s effective and highly watchable new documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty is released in theaters.

An editing session with director Don Hahn (left) and producer Peter Schneider (right) of Waking Sleeping Beauty.

Schneider, who led the animation group during the 1980s renaissance at Disney and Hahn, the Oscar-winning producer of modern classics such as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and The Nighmare Before Christmas offer a surprisingly candid look at the studio’s phenomenal creative and financial comeback during the period between 1984 and 1994. Recently, the film’s gifted director Don Hahn was kind enough to answer a few questions about his must-see documentary. Here are some of the tidbits he told us:

Animag: You are one of the busiest men in Toon Town. What prompted you to make the documentary?

Don Hahn:
As with most good films, the idea for this one started at a
coffee shop. I hadn’t seen Peter Schneider in years and I ran into him at the opening of his play, Sister Act. As we sat down with our lattes, we inevitably started talking about our time together at Disney. I think we both remember back then with a combination of euphoria and horror. On one hand we knew we were part of a winning team of people that made some incredible movies, on the other hand it took it’s emotional toll and left us with some of the most unbelievable Hollywood stories.

Peter had always wanted to tell the story of what really happened in watershed. He felt like it had been told poorly by people who were not there and didn’t know what really happened from the inside. We did know. We probably knew too much about what happened, but we thought that if we could tell that story in as honest and candid way as possible, it would be an amazing tale: Shakespearean characters, and palace intrigue, mixed with cartoons. Who wouldn’t love that?

Animag: How long did it take to make, from idea to delivery and how did you pull all the footage together?

Don Hahn:
It took two years to pull the film together. We didn’t want to make a film with talking heads and old guys reminiscing. We’d seen too many of those films on DVD bonus tracks. So much of the production time was spent working with our great researchers Tracey Miller Zarneke and Maggie Gisel to find vintage clips that could illustrate our story. We called everyone we knew to find footage It was important to me to transport the audience back in time and put them there in the rooms that Peter and I had been in when it all happened.

I’d always been aware of Randy Cartwright’s home movies of the studio going back to 1980. Randy was leaving the studio to go to Japan to work, and he decided to film everything before he left. Morale was low among the younger artists, and even though photography of any kind was strictly prohibited on the Disney lot, Randy (and his cameraman John Lasseter) filmed anyway and created a rare snapshot of a special time at the studio. The fact that filming was prohibited, makes it even more funny when studio head Ron Miller walks into what is essentially Randy’s opening shot.

The 1975 graduating class of Cal Arts included the future stars of the animation business like John Lasseter, Brad Bird and John Musker.

Randy might have been thrown into jail that day, but because of a good-natured Miller, the footage survives to this day and becomes the centerpiece of the first act. Cartwright went on to shoot another round of film after returning from Japan and finding all of his friends and colleagues sitting in a warehouse in distant Glendale. Jim Cox, a writer on Oliver and Company, shot home movies of the studio to show to his wife, Penney. Penney could never manage to make it over to the Disney warehouse, so much of the footage from the warehouse comes from Jim’s filming spree, once again against company policy, but this time capturing a young Peter Schneider, Oliver director George Scribner, and some precious vintage footage of the late Vance Gerry and Joe Ranft at work in their story room.

Some clips were found in vaults at the Disney Channel, others in cold storage with publicity, and still others that we only found because my mom would tape things off the TV when the films came out (thanks, mom!). The caricatures from that period were rich and plentiful. The big problem was selecting which drawings were best to tell the story. John Musker, whose caricature work figures prominently in the film, started a caricature show in the 1980s and because of that we have a rich catalogue of the funniest nastiest caricatures imaginable.

Animag: Why do you think Disney was able to make its famous comeback during the 80s?

Don Hahn:
The timing was right, and the marketplace was right. It was the perfect storm of artistic excellence mixed with executive boldness in the form of Eisner, Wells and Katzenberg. Then add equal parts new technology like computer graphics and the advent of the VCR. Add to that the presence of Roy Disney, who defended and nurtured animation when he brought Eisner and Wells into the studio, and also add Peter Schneider and others like him from the Broadway theater who brought a sense of collaboration and a creative “workshopping” process to the studio.

I guess it was less a perfect storm and more akin to a gasoline fire. It was a time of high productivity, artistic competition, technical advancement, stressful debate on every creative grain of the movie, and intense pressure to out-do the last accomplishment. It was equal parts chaotic, exhausting and thrilling.

Animag: Why do you think there were so many strong personalities and nasty politics involved at the studio at the time?

Don Hahn:
Executive egos and infighting are things we’ve come to expect from Hollywood, but in truth the egos exist in any business. Eisner even says as much in the last quote from the movie. It was the age of the celebrity CEO and Disney offered one of the biggest stages on earth for the personalities to surface. With success came magazine covers, and talk show appearances ... and not just for the executives, but for the artists too. The animation industry had been one of the most anonymous professions on earth, not unlike monks copying bibles, and now everyone could have their 15 minutes of fame, executives and artists alike. With fame came ego, notoriety and financial rewards ... and with the good press, you’d start believing that you’re special and that you deserve to be in the spotlight. And as we know, fame and success can be fleeting, as the film shows.

Animag: What was the biggest discovery you made as you put the documentary together?

Don Hahn:
I wasn’t aware of the strong role Frank Wells played in keeping the company glued together. As Katzenberg, Eisner and Disney shared their stories, they would always call Frank the peacekeeper. I had no idea he was playing this role behind the scenes. I was surprised too when Roy Disney compared Howard Ashman to Walt Disney in terms of the influence he had on us. That’s a pretty heady statement to make. I was surprised when Eisner commented so frankly on Jeffrey’s resignation, and offered up that Jeffrey “played it wrong. Had he just stayed and been patient, he would have gotten the job.” (Who knows if Katzenberg would have ever been president of Disney. Not likely while Roy was around).

Clockwise from Top Left: Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King.

Jeffrey was perhaps the most generous, candid and giving of all the films participants. He was eager to give his perspective of how he was hurt when Eisner announced a new building for animation without his knowledge. He was touched when he recalled how much the artists, whom he didn’t know at first, became close colleagues, and in his most astonishing clip from the end of the movie, Jeffrey says his final “thank you” to all the artists on The Lion King, but also unexpectedly wraps up his ten year career at Disney in what plays as a farewell speech to the troops. The clip is my favorite in the movie. I shot it in 1994 without notes, teleprompters or any preparation. Jeffrey did it in one take exactly as it is in the film, from the heart, and now 15 years later, it plays like the summation and epilogue for this extraordinary era. When we screened the film for Jeffrey at Dreamworks I would not expect him to agree with every point of view in the film, and he did not. But I think he was moved by seeing such a key chapter in his life played out on screen, especially his relationship with Howard Ashman, and it was a very emotional experience watching it with him.

Animag: How do you think the animation division is different now from the era you covered in your movie?

Don Hahn:
I’m probably too close to it to tell. However, Up was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar this year [as well as winning the Best Animated Picture Award], it’s about time. I don’t think of Up as animated film. It’s a film, and a great one at that. If Beauty and the Beast had a tiny part paving the way fro that to happen, great. But animation is not a novelty anymore, and the guys and girls working as animation directors are making the most popular, beloved films of our era.

Animag:There has been much written about the philosophy and management style of John Lasseter and what he brought to Disney a few years ago. What is your take on that?

Don Hahn:
No one is more passionate about animation than John. And even though he pioneered computer graphics for features films, he is no snob about it. He just really likes good stories told with great animation. That means he’ll be making 2D, 3D and stop-motion films…whatever technique fits the vision of the director. I also think John has an “artists first” mentality. He believes in a filmmaker-driven studio and he walks the walk. He knows how hard it is to make an animated film, and he’s willing to cheerlead both inside Disney, and out in the industry for the highest quality in art and technology. Whether you work for Disney/Pixar or not, we’re all the be beneficiary of his leadership.

Animag: Personally, you've been responsible for some of the biggest animated hits of that period. What is your recipe for success?

Don Hahn:
There’s a great saying about producers that I really subscribe to: hire the best people that you possibly can, and then do exactly what they tell you to do. That may sound over simplistic but it really isn’t. If I have a talent for success, it’s my talent to know and understand great people when I see them. Working with directors like Richard Williams, Kirk Wise, Gary Trousdale, Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff, Tim Burton. You really can’t go wrong. It’s such a team sport, and if your team is sound and your artistic leadership is strong, then the success will come. You can take a great idea and kill it with mediocre people, but you can take a mediocre idea (like rats in a kitchen) and make it a huge hit (Ratatouille) with great people (Brad Bird and Pixar).

Animag: What do you hope audiences will take away from your movie?

Don Hahn:
The working title of the film was “Persistence of Vision.” That’s it in a phrase...that’s what makes animation so special. I hope the audience gets an honest look at the joy and struggle and persistence required to make an animated movie. So often, especially with Disney films, the audience feels like the movies just drop from heaven for your enjoyment. Not so. And the lessons of the film apply to every creative craft. The arts are hard, and yes full of joy and accomplishment, but also full of hard work and struggle. I look back with equal parts pride, sadness, humility and joy on the years I cover in the film. Pride in what we accomplished with some paint, pencils, paper, pixels and persistence, and sad at the loss of Howard Ashman, our colleague and mentor. Humbled to this day by the audience’s reaction to our work, and happy to have been in the right place at the right time to see it all happen. It was a winning season, in every way as exciting and hard fought as any winning season in any sport. And we were lucky to be players.

Peter Schneider, Roy Disney and Jeffrey Katzenberg take a break from a story retreat in Waking Sleeping Beauty.

Animag: What kind of advice would you give young students who want to pursue a career in animation today?

Don Hahn:
It’s a great time to be in animation right now. Really. Not only are animated films thriving at the box office, but now you are seeing directors like Jim Cameron and Steven Spielberg take on animation with motion capture. Add to that a huge gaming industry and an international marketplace, and it’s clear that it’s a boom time. Along with that though is competition. Never before have there been so many animation schools or animation programs at universities around the world. As a new talent you are competing with every grad that comes out of these schools. There is only one way to stay above it all, and that is to make yourself excellent. That means study, tough critiques, and really hard work. There are thousands of so-so artists out there and only a few really outstanding ones. Make yourself outstanding, or go do something else. You have to set your goals high, because the industry will dismiss you if you don’t!

Animag: When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in animation and who were your idols?

Don Hahn:
I was a music major and an art minor when I was coming up through college. I wanted badly to go to Cal Arts but my family just couldn’t afford it at the time, so I attended L.A. Valley College and Cal State Northridge. I always like animation and got a chance to work at Disney in the summer of 1976 in a job that had me delivering coffee and artwork to animators like Frank Thomas, Milt Kahl and Ken Anderson. What made me pursue animation? They did. The guys that worked for Disney were real artists. They weren’t fans or geeks, they were mature artists who led full, interesting, well-rounded lives. Woolie [Wolfgang Reitherman] was a fighter pilot, Frank [Thomas] played piano, Eric [Larson] was an architect. They were all deeply passionate about what animation could do. As Eric once said, “it will flex every artistic muscle you have and then some!” These guys were so inspirational that I was hooked.

About that same time, I ran across Walt Stanchfield, who was a longtime animator and artist at Disney. Walt ran the training program for new talent and he was my mentor. He lived larger than life. His interests ranged from drawing to opera, to basket weaving, tennis, painting, guitar and beach combing. He was a role model for many of us not only by his art and passion for animation, but also for his passion for life. That’s why I published his writings last year [Drawn to Life, Focal Press], so that everyone could share his genius. We all need a role model like that.

Waking Sleeping Beauty opens in select cities on March 26. For more info, visit

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Princess and the Frog, Astro Boy, New Moon Come Home

Disney’s return to its roots comes home this week with the release of The Princess and the Frog on DVD and Blu-ray.

The movie (Disney, $29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $44.99 Blu-ray/DVD combo pack) features plenty of bonus features, including deleted scenes, audio commentary from writers and directors John Musker and Ron Clements and producer Peter Del Vecho, the music video for the Ne-Yo song “Never Knew I Needed,” and interactive games. The Blu-ray edition features additional behind-the-scenes featurettes and art galleries.

Summit Entertainment has two releases of note this week. First is Astro Boy (Summit Entertainment, $26.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray), the feature-length update of the classic Osamu Tezuka manga and anime. Second is The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Summit Entertainment, $32.99 special edition DVD, $34.99 special edition Blu-ray), which is set for release Friday at midnight with many stores planning special events.

The kids from South Park are back on the air this week with the series’ 14th season kicking off Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT and the release of South Park: The Complete Thirteenth Season (Paramount, $49.99 DVD, $57.99 Blu-ray).

Also out this week is SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeBob's Last Stand(Paramount, $16.99), Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog: Sonic Who (NCircle Entertainmet, $6.99), Sonic The Hedgehog: Sonic Forever (Ncircle Entertainment, $6.99) and Caillou: Caillou Pretends To Be ... (PBS, $14.99).

Anime fans will want a taste of Honey & Clover: Box Set 3 (VIZ Media, $59.90), Tayutama: Kiss On My Deity Complete Collection (ADV, $39.98) and Genshiken 2 Collection (Media Blasters, $59.99).

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Wonder Pets, Mighty B!’s Poehler Win Gracie Awards

Little Airplane Productions’ animated series The Wonder Pets won the 2010 Gracie Award for outstanding children’s/adolescent program.

Also honored in this year’s awards was Amy Poehler as Outstanding Producer - Entertainment for the animated Nickelodeon series The Mighty B!.

The Gracie Awards are presented by the Foundation of American Women in Radio and Television, the philanthropic arm of AWRT. The Gracies recognize exemplary programming created for women, by women and about women in all facets of electronic media, as well as individuals who have made contributions to the industry.

“The Gracie Award is a great honor and a tremendous achievement,” said Melanie Pal, supervising producer for The Wonder Pets. “We are very proud to be recognized for a show that challenges gender roles in a gentle way and shows that kids can do anything!”

The winners of this year’s Gracie Awards will be honored at a special awards luncheon May 26 at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Extended Avatar Re-release Rumors Heat Up

Rumors of a re-release for Avatar are getting closer to reality.

Director James Cameron is discussing with Fox plans for a fall re-release of the movie, which likely will include about 10 minutes of unseen footage, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The studio and the film’s producers reportedly still see demand for the film, especially in the 3D IMAX format, that could not be supplied once Disney’s 3-D Alice in Wonderland took over many of the screens on which Avatar had been playing.

While as much as 40 minutes of footage was cut from the film, the maximum length of a feature for analog IMAX facilities is 170 minutes.

With the theatrical cut of Avatar currently standing at 160 minutes, an extra 10 minutes of footage makes sense and is manageable for the studio to complete post-production on in time for the re-release.

The re-release would follow an expected 2D DVD and Blu-ray release, which the trade says will arrive no later than May.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

VIZ Media Launches Streaming Anime Site

VIZ Media has announced the debut of a new web site that will stream episodes of the company’s most-popular anime properties as well as new content.

The site, called VIZ Anime, has launched at with more than 400 episodes from such series as Bleach, Buso Renkin, Death Note, Hikaruo No Go, Honey & Clover, Inuyasha, Inuyasha: The Final Act, Nana, Naruto, Naruto: Shippuden and The Prince of Tennis.

New episodes will be added each week, with the site also using social networking tools and features to foster an official online home and community for VIZ Media anime fans. The features allow fans to keep track of the last episode they watched in a series and receive notifications of new episodes.

“We’re committed to developing VIZ Anime as a premiere online destination, and hope to offer a real community for VIZ Media fans to interact with each other and share their love of anime,” says Ken Sasaki, senior VP and general manager of VIZ Media. “We will also utilize the site as a means of two-way communication to better understand what our fans enjoy most and want, and how they engage with anime and manga online.”

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Screen 21 Adds 3D, HD Technologies

Screen 21, the Spanish production company behind BRB International, has adopted technologies including stereoscopic 3-D and high-definition panoramic formats for multiple platforms to its pipeline.

The moves will see the company debut by the end of the year in stereoscopic 3-D three of its most recent series, Zookaboo, Canimals and Kambu. All three series will be able to be viewed in both 2D and 3-D, either with stereoscopic glasses or without them according to the broadcast needs.


As a complement to the TV series, videogames will be developed that will be available exclusively through internet on the web page corresponding to each series. Interactive videos also will be developed for mobile devices – principally iPhone, iPad and Android – by using augmented reality techniques that will allow users to interact.

“Viewers will be able to see their favorite characters and to interact with them in the series, by way of the television, the computer and their mobile phones, all in three dimensions,” says Carlos Biern, executive director of Screen 21.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Tiger Woods and his putter open SP's 14th season

After a session in sex rehab for his repeated breaches of the Seventh Commandment, pro golfer Tiger Woods will show up in animated form Wednesday when South Park begins its 14th season on Comedy Central.

"It's such an important issue in America right now -- the sex addiction outbreak," Matt Stone, co-creator of the irreverent series with Trey Parker, told Associated Press. "We're all really concerned about him and hope he gets better."

Stone acknowledged his disgust by Woods' public apology February 19, but said that the Woods scandal was so big that he and Parker could have created an entire season devoted to Woods.

As of last Friday, Parker and Stone were still writing the episode and would not provide details. However, Comedy Central released an image of the episode showing Woods at his "sorry" press conference, Cartman standing beside him.

Woods apologized publicly to his family and his fans after several mistresses came forward following the golfer's car crash last November. Reportedly, the greatest golfer alive returned to his Florida home last week in a bid to save his five-yearmarriage Elin Nordegren.

Stone says that an episode about Woods' infidelities would be much less controversial than other plotlines -- such as Jesus defecating on President Bush and the American flag.

"There's a delicacy in talking about (Woods) that we don't have to worry about," said Stone, who, with Parker, has taken pot shots at such other celebrities as Michael Jackson and Tom Cruise.

Woods is rumored to be returning to golf for the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Florida, which will be held from March 22 to 28.

A somewhat contrite Tiger Woods shares the lectern with Cartman in the 14th-season premiere of South Park. (Via New York Daily News)

Butters Pimps Out South Park Season 13 DVD

For my money, Butters’ Bottom Bitch was far-and-away the best episode from the 13th season of South Park, which is out on DVD today. The mixture of Butters turning into a pimp and Sergeant Yates on his lustful sting operation made for a classic episode:

Passion Pictures Gets Small For East Coast Trains

Passion Pictures director Darren Walsh recently teamed up with East Coast Trains, the UK transporation company that recently launched a Miniature Prices campaign, thus the miniature stop-motion characters. The agency leading the creative was Dentsu London. Here’s the spot titled Museum.

… and here’s a short “Making Of” video featuring interviews with director Darren Walsh and animation director Gary Cureton.

tokyoplastic Returns With Kitty Cat Dreams

I hadn’t seen anything from the tokyoplastic guys in a while. Perhaps I haven’t been looking, but it’s like they fell off the face of the Earth since they rocked the web with their bad-ass Drum Machine stuff years back. Alas, they have returned with a new micro-series called Kitty Kitty. Anders Freij animated these two below, which take us on a journey into a kitty cat’s dreams…


The Tail Gunner

At the DreamWorks

The Lakeside building's additions have now been completed and various artistic group are prepping to move. Some pull up stakes this Friday, some next week.

"Some people don't want to move, but I'm in favor of it. I'll have more natural light."

Production on Shrek 4 is pretty much wrapping up. A bunch of artists will be cycling off the feature this week and next. Naturally enough, lots of the people I talked to have high hopes for How to Train Your Dragon's launch in two weeks ...

But Janney Capital Analyst Tony Wible has his worries:

Wible writes that the movie is “a great film that will likely show DWA is perfecting its 3D skills,” but that awareness and interest in the film “looks weaker than expecting (sic) heading into the final 11 days to its release.”

If public awareness isn't where financial analysts (or the studio?) would like it to be, it isn't for want of trying, as writer Ethan Alter points out in Film Journal International:

Dragon [had] an inventive ad campaign that included a unique promotional partnership with the 2010 Winter Olympics, for which DreamWorks produced seven original animated shorts featuring the movie's characters competing in various winter sports. ...

DWA is skilled at promoting its features, and I anticipate a drumbeat of publicity for Dragon in the next week and a half. Jeffrey always works every venue to the max. Why would anybody think it's going to be different this time?

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

IM Digital Follow On

This morning we fielded a lot of questions from ImageMovers employees who wondered:

1) What happens with health insurance?
2) What happens with pensions?
3) What happens with separation in general?

We told folks that A) Health coverage will continue for most employees for six to twelve months after layoff, B) 401(k) contributions are owned by the employees, C) The Individual Account Plan Pension is vested for IM Digital employees who have worked 400 or more hours in a calendar year, and D) the Defined Benefit pension is takes five qualified pension years to vest, but there's a five year window to reach to goal.

We put this information and more into a letter that goes out to IM Digital employees tomorrow.

When conglomerates hand out mass pink slips, it's always crappy. (There's no other way to describe it.)

We're going to do what we can to backstop IMD staffers. More than one told me about Zemeckis's visit to the studio on Friday, how there were tears and emotional talks, and employees were in shock.

There is still a picture to complete, so everyone is going to keep working awhile. (Even though people must be kind of numb.)

Our condolences to all the employees at IM Digital. They deserved better.

Add On: This article from last week's NY Times describes the situation succinctly:

Disney Cost-Cutting Fells Zemeckis Company ...

The Mouse is in major retrenchment mode. Divisions that don't produce healthy cash flows get whacked.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Upcoming Anime in North America

Hollywood Ghost in the Shell screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis has stated during a Shutter Island q & a that she plans to "turn in a draft in a few weeks." She expressed cautious optimism about the project, and indirectly noted an obstacle such a project faces in Hollywood: "Cross your fingers, guys — [it has a] female lead."

Kalogridis was once hired by Avatar director James Cameron to script his planned adaptation of Yukito Kishiro's Battle Angel Alita (GUNNM) manga. When asked about the possibilities of the Battle Angel film or an Avatar sequel, she responded, "You have to ask Jim — anything to do with [those projects]."


Buzz has it that MovieStop is listing a North American release of Mamoru Hosoda's Summer Wars MovieStop listed a DVD price of $24.98, & a Blu-ray version for $39.98.

If you're interesting in Summer Wars:
A look at Tokyo Anime Center's Summer Wars Exhibit
Anime about games, game logic, and how SUMMER WARS IS KIND OF LIKE YU-GI-OH
Mono no awar: A feelgood hit for the summer

Xam'd and Ultraviolet 044 from Sony. Ultraviolet 044 had a completes series release for July 13 on DVD ($59.98) & Blu-ray ($99.98), while the first 13 episodes of Xam'd were listed for August 10 on DVD ($49.98) & BD ($99.98).


SyFy's right to Earth Sea expire in 2010. Rumor has it that Ghibli's adaptation, directed by Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goro, is coming to North American theatres.

Upcoming Anime in Japan

Promos -

Trigun: Badlands Rumble
Heroman (Bones and Stan Lee)
Pocket Monster Diamond & Pearl: Genei no Hasha Zoroark
Detective Conan: The Lost Ship in The Sky
Crayon Shin-chan: Super Dimension! The Storm Called My Bride
IkkiTousen XX
Mardock Scramble: The First Compression Ashuku - revived Tow Ubukata project
Senko no Night Raid here and here
Planzet from the solo animator of Negadon: The Monster From Mars
Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider The Movie: Cho Den-O Trilogy

The Mobile Suit Gundam 00 movie's subtitle will be A Wakening of the Trailblazer-


Takako Shimura's Wandering Son manga, to be released in North America by Fantagraphics, will be adapted into anime.


a 3D version of the anime adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo and Shinji Kimura's Hipira: The Little Vampire will be showcased at Tokyo Anime Fair


Detective Conan related thief/magician Magic Kaito will be getting his own anime TV special


A Masayuki Ochiai directed combination anime/live action Kaidan Restaurant film is in development


Rumor is that a Future Diary anime is on the way. The manga is released in North America by Tokyopop


Toei is developing 13 episode Flash series based on LifeStyle Tsunoda's dog based Ketsu-Inu web comic.

Yoshiki Tanaka's Legend of the Galactic Heroes military space epic, famous for an anime direct to video OVA that went well past 100 epieosde, is being adapted for the stage. The adaptation is scheduled to open in April 2011


Gainax has announced a second set of Gurren Lagann Parallel Works music videos

animators will be producing the following segements
Akemi Hayashi "The Sense of Wonder"
Gekidan Inu Curry "Ore no XXX wa Uchu Hitotsu"
Shouko Nishigaki "Sayonara Dai Gurren"
Ayumu Kotake, Shintarou Douge "Big Building" (pictured at right)
Satoru Yamaguchi "Kiyal no Magical Time, Sanpun Mae" ("Kyal's Magical Time, Three Minutes Before")
Shouji Saeki, Shingo Abe "Gunmen Symphonia"
Sushio "Kitan Zero"

Event News

Anime Expo will host character design and Bones co-founder Toshihiro Kawamoto

The Anime Business

Anime News Network reports that anime and shock movie distributor Media Blasters has laid off or furlough at least 13 of the company's 50 staff members.

Media Blasters CEO John Sirabella told ANN that the company hopes to rehire the furloughed employees and explained the circumstances that led to the layoffs: "Recently, some of our larger vendors have slowed down quite a bit, so we have to take precautions." He added, "We are hoping that if we start to see the orders flow back from these vendors, we can bring [the furloughed employees] back later."


Harvey Weinstein is being sued for plagiarizing the O-Ren Ishii section of Kill Bill.

In the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Tuesday, Dannez Hunter claims he had submitted a treatment to Miramax back in 1999 featuring a character named Ren Short who hails from a historical Samurai lineage and watches his mother brutally murdered "in a cartoon format."

Anime on North American TV

Nicktoons will be showing Dragon Ball Z Kai, the remastered, reedited version of Dragon Ball Z, as well as Voltron Panthera Force starting in May.

FUNimation will also be releasing Kai on DVD and Blu-ray in May.

Voltron Panthera Force "follows the exploits of a group of five young cadets brought together under trying circumstances to form a newly appointed Voltron Lion Squad dubbed the 'Panthera Force.'"
Voltron Panthera Force is a World Events Production in conjunction with Kick Start Production.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, debuting this season on Nicktoons, was recently acquired by Nickelodeon and is jointly produced by 4Kids Entertainment and Mirage Studios.

New episodes of Bleach, scheduled to hit Cartoon Network in April, have been pushed back

Worth Checking Out...

an interview with frequent Oshii collaborator, composer Kenji Kawai

Awesome Engine starts looking at late night anime
PAST MY BEDTIME PART II – You don’t have to be Madhouse to work here, but it helps.
PAST MY BEDTIME PART III – The Legacy of the Naked Elves
PAST MY BEDTIME PART IV – In the midnight hour, she cried moe, moe, moe.

Also on Awesome Engine What anime actually looked like in 2009

Sci-Fi Japan on Production I.G's "fantapolitical thriller" Eden of the East

Ani no Miyako on Talented up-and-coming animators

Psychics and ESPers

Stan Lee talks Ultimo

Paul Dini on disrespect for voice actors

A brief look at the new live action Girl who Leapt Through Time

Five Ridiculous Premises in Anime that are More Real than You Think

Bayformers style Voltron

OMAC/Astro Boy mashup

history of mecha openings

very nice Three Musketeers animation

Hosoda's (Girl Who Leapt Through Time) One Piece 6 w/ animator annotations

More Hosoda work

Yutaka Nakamura's Soul Eater work

Masahiro Sato MAD

Shojiro Nishimi on .hack

Masaaki Yuasa's (Mind Game, Cat Soup) 1999 pilot for Vampiyan Kids

1960 Cartoon predicts Skype and Roomba

Silly Science (released May 1960). Director Seymour Kneitel. Animation: I. Klein, Irving Dressler. Story: Carl Meyer, Jack Mercer. Scenics: Robert Owen. Music: Winston Sharples.

Silly Science is a somewhat forgettable Paramount Modern Madcap cartoon from 1960 featuring numerous spot gags about “space-age living”. However, its worth another a look due to its rather accurate predictions of a telephone-video combo (Skype), a pint-sized flat vacuum cleaner (Roomba), and wide-screen drive by movies (I’m still waiting for this). Disney buffs will note an unauthorized appearance by Baby Weems at the 30 second mark.

This cartoon also made use of subtle cut-out animation techniques. This is cited in Eli Levitan’s long-out-of-print book Animation Techniques and Commercial Film Production (1962). The process is described on three pages which I’ve posted below (click thumbnails to enlarge each page). This is how it was done before Flash. Paramount made even better use of cut-outs in another short released later that year, Bouncing Benny.

(Thanks, Mark Kausler)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Swimming by Shiho Hirayama

In Swimming by Shiho Hirayama (b. 1979), a chubby boy’s imagination transforms an awkward swim class into a magical experience. This short really sneaks up on the viewer. It didn’t seem much at first glance but its simple honesty grew on me quickly and left a lasting impact. Charming character animation, a playful visualization of space and distance, and elegant sound design come together to make this one of the more memorable shorts in recent memory. There are more examples of Shiho’s animation on her website including a cute piece located on her “about me” page.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Gundam Week: Top 5 Rivalries

A staple throughout the Gundam universe is none other than a rivalry between two, or perhaps even more, pilots. This only makes sense as it would be rather boring and senseless for one Gundam to come along and complete destroy all of the enemies quickly. These rivalries offer some great action as well as drama, both needed in order to really be great. While difficult to narrow down the list to only 5 rivalries, as there are so many, we had some clear winners. Prepare to launch!

Top 5 Rivalries

5. Kira Yamato vs Athrun Zala

Gundam Seed and Gundam Seed Destiny both receive a lot of heat for a lot of plot points that seemingly didn't work, but one thing that was done well is the rivalry between Kira and Athrun. Perhaps what makes this rivalry interesting is the fact that both used to be such great childhood friends, torn apart by war. Neither quite understands why they are fighting the other, Athrun is following orders and what he believes to be right, while Kira believes he should be fighting to protect his friends. Either way, they are both put into a situation they don’t want to be in. In Seed the rivalry reaches a rather exciting climax with the two friends legitimately trying to kill each other. Kira and Athrun are clear examples of the horrors that take place during war, especially when pitted against one another.

4. Heero Yuy vs Zechs Merquise

The rivalry between Heero and Zechs is not intense in the way that the Amuro/Char conflict is. In fact, it is Zechs who initiates the rivalry by using his Talgeese to twice challenge Heero and his Wing Gundam. It isn't until that second duel in Antarctica that Heero becomes aware of Zechs. The fates of the two ace pilots become linked when Relena Peacecraft rises to prominence. Zechs fights to protect Relena in his own way and Heero spends time as a man that sees nothing to fight or live for until circumstance brings him to Relena's Sanc Kingdom. Ironically, the fate of Sanc Kingdom and the power shifts that begin the series' final story arc are what lead to Zechs' disillusionment and his leadership role on one side of a supposed war to end all wars. Only through paying an unprecedented price, he insists, will humanity ever learn to avoid repeating old mistakes. Heero, on the other hand, witnesses Relena's strong beliefs first hand and makes a deliberate, conscious choice to trust her leadership ability and convictions. The final duel between Zechs and Heero, then, is a war between an idealist embittered by experience and a disheartened cynic that learned to have faith.

3. Setsuna F. Seiei vs Ribbons Almark

What makes this rivalry so incredible is the long build up throughout the show, specifically the second season. Ribbons believes that humans are not meant to rule for themselves. He is superior and it is his right to rule them. Setsuna fights for peace and believes that mankind will find the answers themselves. These ideals are set up for an interesting conflict between the two and really make it quite intense to watch the two make blows indirectly until the very end. As if that weren’t enough, we also have the case of who is the fake innovator and who is the real innovator. The two go back and forth until the final confrontation sets in. The show does a fantastic of building the anticipation to a fight that leads to a very satisfying end to this long rivalry.

2. Domon Kasshu vs Master Asia

The furious rivalry between Domon and his master, the Undefeated of the East, is easily the most compelling relationship of the fists in Mobile Fighter G Gundam. Initially introduced to the viewer through Domon's words of praise for his wise master we finally meet the Undefeated of the East in episode 12. From there we travel with Domon and share his shock and confusion over Master Asia's turn to the Devil Gundam. Domon decides to continue on a path that will lead him to being able to surpass his beloved Master. After much training and meditation Domon finally conquers his anger and manages to overwhelm the Undefeated of the East. Domon learns his former master has survived their confrontation and now has joined in the Gundam Fight finals as Neo Hong Kong's representative. Their rivalry continually becomes more intense as we learn more about Master Asia's true intentions and the show continues to provide awesome battles, leading up to Domon and Master Asia's final confrontation. This is a truly awe-inspiring moment in the series.

1. Amuro Ray vs Char Aznable

Amuro and Char really set the standard for all of Gundam with their fun and interesting rivalry.

Amuro begins the series as someone who admires the skills and abilities of Char and yet at the same time wishes to match them and become even better. Char is a very charismatic character, always having something planned while Amuro tends to work purely on instinct. It’s impossible to say which is actually better, making their rivalry rather fun to follow. It is also interesting in that they both seem to learn from one another, Char perhaps learning a bit more than Amuro. In the end neither truly defeats the other, though a good argument could be made for Amuro. Both are incredibly talented pilots and resemble what a great rivalry is all about, no ifs, ands, or buts.

(Thanks Toon Zone)

Edward Norton Says 'Avengers' Director Should Get 'Dark Knight'-Level Creative Control

If "Incredible Hulk" star Edward Norton had his way, not only would his former director Louis Leterrier direct Marvel's upcoming superhero team-up "The Avengers," but he'd get a similar level of creative control as Christopher Nolan did for "The Dark Knight."

"I loved Louis Leterrier," Norton told MTV News during the South by Southwest Film Festival. "I thought he was just the greatest guy. I wish they'd given him more free reign than they did."

Norton went on to compare the storytelling potential in "Avengers" to that of another little film that generated some buzz around the comics world — before and after it hit the big screen.

"The thing that was so cool about seeing 'The Dark Knight' was seeing that those guys really let Chris Nolan go there," he said. "They let him go long and dark and deep and we had been trying that and I think they weren't as comfortable with it."

While Norton currently has no plans to return as Bruce Banner or his alter ego, Marvel Studios' confirmation that Hulk will have a role in the film certainly puts a big question mark on the character's live-action future. However, we already know Louis Leterrier is ready and willing to get behind the camera for "Avengers" if Marvel picks up the phone.

Jack Kirby's estate sues: Will Marvel lose control of Iron Man?

Looks like Iron Man's biggest threat isn't Whiplash, the villain of this summer's blockbuster sequel, but rather a lawsuit that puts the character's ownership—and that of many other Marvel superheroes—in jeopardy.

Jack Kirby's children have officially sued Marvel to terminate copyrights and gain profits from Iron Man, Spider-Man, the X-Men, The Incredible Hulk and other characters, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The heirs of the comic-book icon filed suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles as a follow-up to a September move when the estate sent out 45 notices of termination to Marvel and owner the Walt Disney Co., as well as Sony, Universal, Fox and others, hoping to recapture control of much of Kirby's work. Back in January, Marvel countersued, asking a judge to invalidate notices.

You can read the complete filing by Marc Toberoff, attorney for the Kirby estate, here.

Paragraph #19 gives an idea of how large a swath of the Marvel Universe the lawsuit would affect:

Between 1958 and 1963, Jack Kirby authored or co-authored numerous original comic book stories featuring a variety of characters, including "The Fantastic Four," "X-Men," "Iron Man," "Spider-Man," "The Incredible Hulk," "Thor," "The Avengers," "Nick Fury" and "Ant-Man," which were purchased by Marvel's Predecessors and published in their following periodicals: Amazing Adventures, Vol. 1, Nos. 1-6; Amazing Fantasy, Vol. 1, No. 15; The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 1, Nos. 1-7; The Avengers, Vol. 1, Nos. 1-2; The Fantastic Four, Vol. 1, Nos. 1-21; The Fantastic Four Annual, No. 1; Journey Into Mystery, Vol. 1, Nos. 51-98; The Incredible Hulk, Vol. 1, Nos. 1-6; The Rawhide Kid, Vol. 1, Nos. 17-35; Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandoes, Vol. 1, Nos. 1-4; Strange Tales, Vol. 1, Nos. 67-115; Tales of Suspense, Nos. 1, 3-48; Tales to Astonish, Vol. 1, Nos. 1, 3-50; and The X-Men, Vol. 1, Nos. 1-2 (hereinafter, the "Kirby Works").

The suit is careful to recognize that many of these properties were co-created with others, and so refers to them as Co-Owned Kirby Works, rather than seeking sole ownership rights. The lawsuit makes no mention as to what the proper restitution would be, though The Hollywood Reporter suggests that "any termination of copyrights could be worth tens of millions of dollars, if not more."

First (very fuzzy) look at Green Lantern movie power ring

Who said rumors can't come true? When New Jersey Green Lantern fan "kenny" heard a rumor that "a local bar was closing from the 12th to the 17th for filming of the Green Lantern movie," he quickly headed to the scene and snapped half a dozen shots of the set—including one that caught Ryan Reynolds in GL's civilian identity of Hal Jordan wearing the famous power ring!

Check out Reynolds below on set for the first day of shooting. He's the one looking toward the camera.

Now take a look below at what's on his finger. Yeah, yeah, once you blow up a photo that large, it loses detail, but, hey, it's the first look at Green Lantern's ring, so we're willing to take what we can get.

For more photos, visit comicbookmovie.

6 1/2 spoilery reasons to tune back in to V

When ABC's re-imagined sci-fi invasion series V ended its four-episode run last year, fans were left with several cliffhangers: Father Jack (Joel Gretsch) was mortally stabbed; Valerie (Lourdes Benedicto, below) learned she was pregnant (possibly with an alien baby??); FBI agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell, above) found out that her son, Tyler (Logan Huffman), was aboard the alien mothership with Lisa (Laura Vandervoort), whom we learned was the daughter of Queen V Anna (Morena Baccarin); and Chad (Scott Wolf) discovered that he had a lethal brain aneurysm.

You can catch up when ABC airs a clip show V: The Arrival next Tuesday at 10:06 p.m. ET, but to prepare you for the return of new episodes on March 30 (at 10 p.m.), executive producer Steve Pearlman offered up some spoilers for the remaining eight episodes this year and talked about what's new and different.

In particular, new show runner Scott Rosenbaum will ratchet up the suspense and paranoia, and the new batch of episodes will offer up an explosive, OMG moment every week, Pearlman said.

"In the pilot, spaceships showed up, it was a very tense moment," Pearlman told a group of reporters visiting the FBI office set of V near Vancouver, Canada, on Monday. "The title of the first episodes after the pilot is 'There Is No Normal Anymore.' And I think that kind of became the theme for the season in many ways. But as you get further and further away from the pilot, from that event of the spaceship showing up, how do you maintain the suspense? How do you maintain the paranoia of, you know, a V could be anywhere? We established in the pilot that Dale [Alan Tudyk], Erica's partner, was a V. And that led to a certain degree of paranoia that was set up right there in the first episode of, 'Oh my God, anybody could be a V.' So I think that was one of the things in particular as we launched into the second batch of episodes that we really wanted to try and dial up."

Pearlman also gave us a few spoilers:

♦The cliffhangers will be resolved quickly. "The challenge has been as we come back to the new batch of episodes, you can't just ignore those things," Pearlman said.

♦We meet a new character, Kyle Hobbes, played by Australian actor Charles Mesure.

♦We will meet John May, the inspiration for the V Fifth Column, who will be played by Battlestar Galactica's Michael Trucco. The big news? "We will meet John May in a flashback episode," Pearlman said.

♦Someone dies. "There will be a character of significance that dies during the eight episodes," Pearlman said. "I can tell you. But I think that's going to be a surprise."

♦The theme of the show is now "Mom vs. Mom." "Anna is the mother of the Vs, and Erica metaphorically is the mother of humanity, and I think that that is ... the core battle in this show," Pearlman said. "So I don't think that it's overstating that. And I think that one of the longer arcs over the course of this season that we're playing with is that as ... Erica sees her own son get kind of sucked further and further into the web of the Vs and feels that she's losing her own son, Anna sees the same with Lisa, that she's losing Lisa."

♦Every episode will contain a major revelation. "I think the goal certainly is in every episode to be able to give the audience something that either is kind of an 'Oh, s--t!' moment or an 'Oh, my God!' moment, ... whether that's a ... V thing or just a smaller thing ... with our own characters."

And what about the homages to the original miniseries: Someone eating a guinea pig, the alien baby?

"If you're going to do a remake, you can't just repeat," Pearlman said. "The audience has already seen that. And so you have to take essentially what was done and in effect pay homage to it, and I think that's what we're aiming to do. And I think you will see in the next batch of episodes that we're shooting, I think there will be some vermin that may show up in one of the episodes. There's definitely going to be some storylines involving procreation. And I think that the specific reference to the old series where Diana ate the ... guinea pig, I think, in the first episode back, there will be something that will top that that I think will be kind of exciting."

Well, how can we NOT tune in now?? Will you be watching when V invades the airwaves again?

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