Tuesday, March 23, 2010

News - 03/23/10...

What's Wrong with Disney Feature Animation? - Part 1

Welcome to Part 1 of What's Wrong with Disney Feature Animation?. Check back tomorrow for Part 2!

"There is always an easy solution to every human problem -- neat, plausible, and wrong."
-- H.L. Mencken

What's wrong with Walt Disney Feature Animation?

The Princess and the Frog's $24.2 million opening weekend and $104 million total box office take (which comes $1 million short of covering its production costs) was a major box-office disappointment for Disney. By comparison, the competing Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel racked up more in its first two weeks than The Princess and the Frog made in its entire theatrical run, while Disney/Pixar's Up made nearly triple the amount domestically and well over three times as much when international box office receipts are accounted for.

In response to the lukewarm reception to The Princess and the Frog, The Los Angeles Times reports on the many changes in marketing Rapunzel, the next animated feature from Disney coming later this year, starting by changing its title to Tangled and going on to emphasize the high adventure aspects added to the original fairy tale. The article confirms many long-running rumors, stating that Ed Catmull and the executives at Disney have determined that the major factor behind The Princess and the Frog's disappointing box office was an absence of boys in the theaters, who apparently decided from the pre-release marketing that the movie had nothing to offer them.

I have always been impressed by Catmull's combination of technical, artistic, and business savvy, especially when so many Hollywood executives show little or no skill in even one of those fields. However, in this case, I think he and Disney have come up with one of Mencken's easy, neat, plausible, and wrong answers. While aiming to make movies for a wide audience is an admirable goal, I don't think it's strictly necessary for box office success. The Twilight series has little appeal for boys, but that hasn't seemed to harm its box office results. Much closer to home for Disney, the Tinker Bell direct-to-video movies are also targeted strongly at girls over boys, and they have been a success story for Disney. Furthermore, The Los Angeles Times states that Disney Princesses raked in $3.7 billion in retail sales last year. How much of that do you think was sold to boys? If you assume each girl averaged the astronomical sum of $1,000 on Disney Princess stuff last year, that still comes out to a potential audience of 3.7 million girls, all clearly rabid enough to spend ridiculous sums of money on Disney Princesses. It might be true that boys didn't care for The Princess and the Frog, but I can't see why that would actually matter.

In addition, Disney's conclusion shows a lack of institutional memory for events in the very near past. Walt Disney Feature Animation's last release was Bolt, a charming and very well done movie that opened with a disappointing $26 million weekend and ended with $114 million domestically, far short of its reported $150 million production budget. Meet the Robinsons wasn't as creatively successful as either Bolt or The Princess and the Frog, but was still a rather enjoyable and watchable movie. It also made about $25 million in its opening weekend, and while its production budget isn't readily available, I'd be surprised if the $97 million it made domestically covered it. In sum, The Princess and the Frog isn't an anomaly, but only the latest in a string of well-made box office disappointments. Even if their conclusion that The Princess and the Frog didn't appeal to boys is correct, I don't think it's sufficient to answer what's wrong with Disney Feature Animation because it doesn't address the earlier failures, nor does it explain the success of the Tinker Bell direct-to-video animated movies.

With Mencken's quote in the forefront of my mind, I can toss out a few alternative answers over The Princess and the Frog's disappointing box office, and that of Disney Feature Animation in general:

Disney wanted to eat its cake and have it, too, ensuring we all knew that Tiana was the First Black Princess while also trying to make sure we all knew that this wasn't just a movie for black people and that her race was only incidental. To their credit, they handle the subject quite nimbly in the movie, especially considering the well-documented difficulties over racial issues Disney has had in the past. Even so, I suspect that there probably were some people who didn't want to see The Princess and the Frog simply because Tiana was black, but I also can't believe that enough of them would stay away to lead to such disappointing box office. Similarly, most of the voices criticizing the movie well before its release (and the voices criticizing the critics) seem to have died away on its release; while there seemed to be no organized boycott or criticism of the movie from the black community, it also doesn't seem like they turned out in very great numbers to see it, either. In the end, I don't believe that race helped or hindered The Princess and the Frog at the box office in any significant way.

This explanation also obviously explains nothing about the lackluster box office for Bolt and Meet the Robinsons.

The good news is that nobody on Wall Street or Disney's corporate headquarters is trotting out the common excuse during the 90's and 00's that an animated movie failed because it was hand-drawn. As John Lasseter has said on multiple occasions, hand-drawn animation was just used as a scapegoat for poor storytelling. The bad news is that no matter how idiotic the reasoning was by executives and financial analysts at the time, their decisions led to an entire generation for whom "animated feature film" means "CGI."

So, I may be committing animation sacrilege by wondering if its hand-drawn animation did play a part in The Princess and the Frog's disappointing box office. Is it possible that hand-drawn animation has become comparable to black-and-white film? There is a non-trivial chunk of America that will not watch a movie in black-and-white, and the fact that they will be missing out on some of the greatest movies ever made doesn't seem to bother them as much as the absence of color. Even taking its limited release into account, the box office results of Ponyo also seemed rather disappointing, serving as another anecdotal data point for this possibility. Both movies are eloquent artistic statements on the value of hand-drawn animation, and neither one seems to have made much impact with the American moviegoing public. There's something rather upsetting about that thought.

Of course, even if this explanation is true (and I'm not convinced that it is), it also does nothing to explain Bolt or Meet the Robinsons.

Fans of animation and/or Disney all know that the studio churned out some real stinkers during the late 90's and early 2000's: the mediocre-to-awful direct-to-video sequels, well-animated but underwhelming movies like Treasure Planet, and films that probably would have been better off forgotten on the shelf like Home on the Range. No matter who you choose to blame for them, those disappointing movies mean that Disney Feature Animation is working under a significant negative halo effect, with audiences assuming the movies are bad until proven otherwise. Under this theory, Meet the Robinsons, Bolt, and The Princess and the Frog are still paying for very bad executive decisions of the prior administration -- an object lesson in what happens when you start valuing franchises and marketing over the quality of the entertainment.

This is a convenient explanation, and if its accurate, then Disney probably still has a lot of work to do to counterbalance the bad movie karma it was generating for so many years. Working against this theory is the success of Tinker Bell, although one might argue that she's being grandfathered in consumers' minds as "Old Disney" for being a Peter Pan character.

(Thanks Toon Zone)

When Dragons and Titans clash

Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. are currently battling it out over booking 3-D screens for their upcoming tentpole releases, the LA Times is reporting. Paramount Pictures is going through possibly extreme measures to get their animated How to Train Your Dragon in 3-D theaters, to the point where they’re even threatening some venues that they won’t submit 2D prints of the film to their screens if they don’t show it in 3-D as well. Its also been reported that DreamWorks honcho Jeffery Katzenberg has emailed a Warner Bros. executive with an angry message, furious over the studio’s last minute decision to convert their Clash of the Titans remake into 3-D and to release it just one week after Dragon. Meanwhile, the Walt Disney Company is trying to keep some 3-D screens open for their blockbuster Alice in Wonderland, which has grossed more than $250 million to date.

UPDATE: Animated Performance: Bringing imaginary animal, human and fantasy characters to life by Nancy Beiman

Disney animator and Sheridan professor Nancy Beiman announces her second animation book.

Animated Performance introduces students to the fascinating process of bringing animated characters to life. It demonstrates the power of animation, without the bodily constraints of human actors, to portray an almost unlimited variety of characters. Students will learn how species, weight and design can affect character actions, so that no two character performances are ever alike.

The book also examines the ways in which an individual character’s movements vary with the emotional or narrative context. Hundreds of thumbnail drawings show how cloth, paper, wood, animal, invertebrate, winged, aquatic and mechanical beings can live and move without losing their non-human qualities.

Introduces animation students to the techniques and processes behind convincing animated performances.

More than 200 colour illustrations demonstrate a variety of human, animal, and inanimate character performances.

The text is accompanied by student exercises, practical tips and never-before-published interviews with legendary animators Art Babbitt, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, and story artist Floyd Norman.

She also has a Facebook fan page located here.

UPDATE: Animated Performance is now on Amazon.com. Here is editor Georgia Kennedy: "People can pre-order the book on Amazon (I just checked and the entry for the book is on there now). We are aiming to have the book available in stores in August. The date on Amazon is September (Amazon cancel pre-orders if a book is 2-3 weeks late publishing so it is best to estimate a slightly longer production time, just in case)."

The lighting and look of Dragons

The New York Times discusses the lighting and overall look of DreamWorks’ How To Train Your Dragon with director Chris Sanders and cinematographer and eight time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins. Deakins is most well known for his live action work (No Country for Old Men, The Village, A Beautiful Mind, The Shawshank Redemption) and had little experience in animation — which made him the perfect person to give this animated film a unique look.

Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland: How illustrator Dawn Brown decorated the Red Queen’s Castle

Dawn Brown is a designer and artist in the film industry. Born and raised in the suburbs of Kansas City, she moved to Hollywood in search of fame and fortune in the movies. She is now an established set designer and concept artist, frequently working on big-budget feature films like Transformers, A.I., Ocean’s Eleven and many more, with award-winning designers and directors.

In between film projects, she indulges her passion for comic books and has created two critically acclaimed titles, Little Red Hot and Ravenous.

On Disney and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, she took part in the conception of the sets for the Red Queen’s Castle and tells us about her approach to the environment of that unforgettable, mean character…

Animated Views: How did you become an illustrator?

Dawn Brown:
All my life, I have wanted to draw. After graduating from college, I moved to California to pursue a career in animation. As hard as I tried, I just could not make that happen. I just didn’t have the chops. After a few years bouncing around entry-level jobs, I ended up as a production assistant in the art department on a television program called SeaQuest DSV. This was my first exposure to the various crafts in a television art department. Set design, Illustration, Model making, Storyboarding, Graphic Design, etc. I knew this was a good fit! I knew I could make a home for myself here. I have experience in all of these crafts, and in 1995 I had the opportunity to join the Set Designer’s branch of the union. I focused on my drafting skills and learned from the very best draftsmen and women in the industry. But over the last several years, computer technology has really taken over set design, And I have no interest whatsoever in computer drafting. It has always been about the drawing for me. After years and years of persistence, I finally had the opportunity to join the Illustrator’s branch of the union in 2007. I am grateful for a new direction to develop my skills as an artist and designer.

AV: May you tell me about your first collaborations with Tim Burton?

I first worked with Tim Burton on Superman Lives back in 1998. It was loosely based on the Death of Superman story arc that was popular in the comics some years earlier. I was working on Superman’s Tomb.
Then I worked on Planet of the Apes a couple years later. I enjoyed watching the actors in full ape makeup trying to eat lunch in the cafeteria. They had to feed themselves by looking in a mirror to guide their forks through those giant prosthetic mouths. It was a kick to see these big giant gorilla soldiers with forkfuls of food hunched over dainty little hand mirrors, trying negotiate their lunch through these thick rubber lips they couldn’t feel and could barely move.

In 2002 we went to Montgomery, Alabama to shoot Big Fish. Working on location is probably quite similar to being in a traveling circus. You’re working in a different place every day, and at night, the whole crew hangs out together. The crew becomes your second family. In 2008, Tim returned to Los Angeles for Alice in Wonderland after several movies in London. It was nice to see familiar faces from the Big Fish and Apes crews. Of course, I hope to be involved with Tim’s future projects, whatever they may be.

AV: How and why did you come on to the Alice in Wonderland project?

: The Supervising Art Director, Stefan Dechant, invited me to join the team. I have worked with Stefan before, and he has been a friend for many years. I worked on Alice from July to December, 2008. I have quite a bit of experience designing furniture for films, and I was brought on Alice specifically to work with the Set Decorator, Karen O’Hara.

AV: How did you work with Karen?

Karen is fantastic, working with her was truly a pleasure. She knows what she wants, and also allowed me enough room to incorporate my own ideas. I would prepare concept sketches for Karen based on her direction, and then she meets with Tim and with Rob Stromberg, the Production Designer. Then she comes back to me with revision notes, or if it’s approved, it goes to the set designer for blueprints and then it goes to the shop to be built.

AV: Some of your furniture integrate animals. Can you tell me about that and how furniture can help tell a story?

That was all in the script. There were different animals for everything. Way, way more than what ended up in the film. The point was that the Red Queen accumulates all these exotic creatures and makes them her slaves. To illustrate her obsession with control and power, and that these creatures are really afraid of her and very unhappy. It’s the small unspoken details that are so important in telling a story like this. You can watch the movie again and again and keep finding these little details. I really wanted to make that clear in the body language of these animals. Imagine two wild, strong crocodiles being reduced to holding up a table top. What does that say about how incredibly strong and scary the Red Queen is? She’s stronger than a croc! She can summon a wild pig beneath her feet! Creating this world full of these savage beasts under her thumb not only illustrates how evil she is, but how strong Alice has to become to defeat her. Unfortunately, most of what I did was cut from the film. They ended up using one monkey in a bellhop suit for most of the furniture. It just doesn’t make the same statement. Oh well, that’s showbiz!

AV: Can you tell me about your Wonderland version of classic master paintings?

That was a really fun assignment! Karen wanted lots of artwork in the Red Queen’s castle. I was given the original images to adapt. I don’t know on what basis those images were chosen. I approached the portraits with the intention that these people were members of the royal family, some of them would have large heads, or heart-shaped hair, or other general quirky features that tied this crazy family together. For the landscapes, I added the Queen’s Castle to the backgrounds. Always with the intention of matching the original artist’s style. I did over 25 paintings, but only saw one in the movie. I do not know where the others came from, not sure what happened there.

AV: How did you create an environment specific to the personality of the Red Queen?

I read the script, and I’ve worked with Helena Bonham Carter in Tim’s other movies. I really wanted to do something fun and quirky that was in line with where her character was coming from.

AV: Did you reference Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s original Alice?

John Tenniel’s wonderful illustrations were among the many many resources we referenced and drew inspiration from.

AV: What kind of memories will you keep from your experience on that production?

I remember working very fast! Six months is a very short amount of time to design an entire world like this. We were rushed so post-production could have enough time to do their thing. Personally, I don’t think we had enough time to do our thing, but hey, something’s got to give. I will also remember working with some of the finest artists and designers in the film industry, and they inspired me every day.

AV: Did the fact that Tim Burton was part of it influence your approach to it?

Alice in Wonderland was my fourth project with Tim. Each project had it’s own vibe, it’s own artistic direction. Sometimes I think people assume that because it’s a Tim Burton film, it’s going to be filled with curly-cues, spirals, and black and white stripes. People assume it’s going to be whimsical, dark goth. And I feel that is kind of an unfair expectation to be saddled with. It is the Production Designer’s job to lead the look of the picture, and it is an added challenge to incorporate the director’s visual trademarks.

AV: Did the fact that this was Disney’s second attempt at Alice (after the original Walt Disney classic) influence your approach?

: No.

AV: You’ve also been working in the field of comic books, and you once met Bob Kane, the creator of Batman. Can you tell me about that meeting and how it inspired you in your work?

I was working as a set designer on Batman & Robin at Warner Bros. The prop master, Brad Einhorn, told me that Bob Kane would be visiting the set and offered to introduce me to him. Brad knew I was really into comics and really into Batman. I kept a copy of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns in my desk, and I asked Bob Kane to sign it. He was very kind and gracious. He seemed sincerely awed by the scale of our production. Regardless of what people say about the final film, those sets really were incredible. To this day, I have not worked on another film with so many sets of that scale and scope. It was inspiring to see how one person can create something that can grow into something so big. I was motivated to pursue an idea I had been developing, a story about a bounty hunter married to the devil. That idea became a comic book series called Little Red Hot, which was published by Image Comics in 1999 and 2001.

All artwork by Dawn Brown ©Walt Disney Pictures.

Disney: Alice in Wonderland – A Visual Companion
is available to pre-order now from Amazon.com

(Thanks Animated Views)

WB, Segal Aim to Adapt Bleach

Warner Bros. is negotiating a deal with VIZ Media to obtain the feature film rights to the popular manga and anime series Bleach, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Peter Segal, whose credits include Tommy Boy and Get Smart, is talking with the studio about producing the film with his Callahan Filmworks partner Micheal Ewing, but not directing, the trade reports.

The franchise began as a manga created by writer and artist Tite Kubo in 2001. It has been turned into a popular anime series that has aired in the United States on Cartoon Network.

Bleach is about a teenage boy who can see ghosts and ends up trading places with a Soul Reaper tasked with fighting evil and escorting the souls of the dead.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Walmart ties on to "Dragon" with Viking vessels

More than 2,500 Viking ships are sailing into Walmart stores across the United States as DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. unveil an exclusive, first-of-its-kind program tied to next Friday's release of the studio's feature film How To Train Your Dragon.

Just before the film hits theaters, Walmart and DreamWorks Animation are bringing into port a "retail-tainment experience" featuring a giant "How to Train Your Dragon" designated area in stores, complete with a Viking ship and more than 100 How to Train Your Dragon items for purchase. Walmart and DreamWorks Animation are also sharing the experience with New York, docking a 40-foot Viking ship in the center of New York's Times Square with a two-day event for movie fans, including a special appearance by America Ferrera (Ugly Betty), who voices the role of girl Viking "Astrid" in How to Train Your Dragon.

"Our partnership with DreamWorks Animation has changed the way retailers can work with the movie industry," said Gary Severson, senior vice-president of entertainment for Walmart U.S. "From the start of this program, we have worked toward the goal of changing the way movie fans connect to a great movie, and families could bring the adventure home in products they love. This is one of the largest footprints that we've ever created in our stores for a theatrical release, with exclusive merchandise that has been custom created for our customers."

"From our earliest conversations, we were excited and impressed with Walmart's vision and ambition for our property as well as the way they chose to deliver such a creative and innovative experience at retail for How to Train Your Dragon," said DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, Chief Executive Officer of DreamWorks Animation.

Walmart and DWA began working on their joint collaboration surrounding How to Train Your Dragon over a year ago. Manufacturers such as Kraft, Kellogg, Pepsi and Spin Master worked directly with Walmart and DreamWorks Animation months ago to create custom How to Train Your Dragon-branded products, which arrive next week in stores across the U.S.

The dragon-ized products include dragon and Viking-themed toys, such as foam swords and helmets, apparel, skateboards, hooded towels, sunglasses and snacks, all available among the lifelike character stands of Viking- and dragon-themed fixtures, as well as Walmart's actual Viking ship displays holding the products. Also for the first time, Walmart has developed a How to Train Your Dragon activity book that will be found in Happy Meals at 1,000 McDonald's locations in Walmart stores.

"We are thrilled to join forces with Walmart on a robust consumer experience that features such fun and engaging thematic tie-ins to How to Train Your Dragon," said Anne Globe, head of worldwide marketing and consumer products for DreamWorks Animation. "Our innovative approach to this program with Walmart was inspired by the great creative elements of the film itself, and we are so excited to extend the life of the movie beyond the theater for families to connect with DreamWorks Animation's characters and worlds in new ways both in stores and online."

To bring the event closer to home for New Yorkers, Walmart and DreamWorks will dock a 40-foot Viking ship in Times Square on Monday and Tuesday, with live Vikings, giveaways of the new products and "How to Train Your Dragon" previews of the new movie around the ship to a live audience of thousands. In addition, Ferrera will be on-site Tuesday morning to greet fans and discuss her experience voicing Astrid in the animated feature.

Walmart will begin actively advertising and marketing How to Train Your Dragon with broadcast, print and in-cinema spots, as well as digital activities, in the coming days. Moviegoers will see that "actual dragons" have arrived in stores in a 30-second in-cinema commercial running on more than 13,000 screens in 4,600 theaters.

Online, fans of the movie can create their own Viking name or watch the dragon's fire burn a message on screen through Walmart's digital ads. Walmart's How to Train Your Dragon Web site, which will feature a Dragon-themed map game, goes live April 1.

Creating the Multi-National Book of Kells

Today we received a lengthy report in moderated comments regarding production details of the Academy-nominated The Secret of Kells. Since I found the comment highly interesting ... and since the feature is out now ... I put the whole of it here.

I thought I would bring a bit of trivia about the production [of The Secret of Kells] to the forum.

The film was produced in 7 studios around Europe and Brazil with a work-split approximately like this:

Pre-production and Story up to Layout was done in Kilkenny-Ireland.

Backgrounds: Kilkenny-Ireland and Angoulême-France

Animation: Kilkenny, Brussels-Belgium, Sao Paolo-Brazil and Kecskemet-Hungary

Cleanup: Sao Paolo and Kecskemet, and the odd one in Kilkenny

Ink & Paint: Liege-Belgium

Compositing: Brussels and Angoulême

3D: Brussels

Final editing: Paris-France

All being directed and edited (except for final editing) from Kilkenny, the main base of the director Tomm Moore (His blog: http://theblogofkells.blogspot.com/", and the teaser for the next film from Tomm and Cartoon Saloon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdCabgJQpbA)

The film was drawn on paper, with a few sequences in Flash and 3D integrated with 2D. A few scenes incorporated flash elements.


Photoshop for Layouts and BG's

Good old pencils and paper for animation and cleanup

Linetest in Animo

Ink and paint in proprietary software (SoftAnim) in Digital Graphics (http://www.digitalgraphics.be)

3D: 3DSMax by "Walking The Dog" (http://www.walkingthedog.be)

Composite: Combustion, Shake and SoftAnim by Digital Graphics

Misc: A little bit of flash (Italy, and Ireland)

Editing: 4 Avid systems automatically kept up to date with latest footage (HoBSoft is also integrated with FCP)

Production system: HoBSoft (http://www.hobsoft.net)

Here is an
early clip of video featuring some early artwork, and some clips from the studio in Brussels; it is in French, but interesting even if you do not understand ....

Here is
an article more or less about the same [It's in French, but break out your French English dictionary and take a look-see ...].

As a last tid-bit of info I would like to add that the production Manager
Camille Leganza (Now DreamWorks Redwood), who at the time was living in Turkey did about 50/50 of her time at home and in Kilkenny, however... once production had finished in Ireland (Except for direction and editing), (so only 6 studios producing), Camille worked almost 100% from home in Turkey.

Imagine keeping the reins on 6 studios "From the comfort of your own home" ...

I haven't yet seen the feature, but the NY Times says:

... [T]he sometimes hectic plot ultimately serves as scaffolding for Mr. Moore’s extraordinary visual brio. Using the vivid colors and delicate lineations of the Book of Kells for inspiration, he establishes a surprising and completely persuasive link between the ancient art of manuscript illumination and the modern practice of animation. Like the crystal lens that is a crucial element of Aidan’s craft — an enchanted eye that refracts and renews his, and then Brendan’s, perception — “The Secret of Kells” discloses strange new vistas that nonetheless seem to have existed since ancient times.

What Kell's production highlights is the breadth and width of animation work around the globe. Hats off to everyone connected with the making of the feature. Their talent and craft are on full display.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Your Early-Morning Read

Kevin points out one of the cornerstones of effective story-telling in Animationland.

My Final Answer to the Question

We’ve established that I don’t think story is the end all and be all for successful animated films, and that it might not even be crucial. And I’ve written that I think storytelling is one factor that is absolutely crucial. But is there more? Yeah, I think so, and I think both of these things are separable from story and storytelling.

My answer to the question,
‘What are the three most important things for a successful animated film?’ is, Storytelling, great characters, appeal. When you’ve have these three things going on, you have a chance unleash a Lion King or a Toy Story or an Ice Age.

Appeal, as I’ve discussed before, is difficult to quantify, and I’m not going to try here. We know it when we see it. The first moment we saw Skrat in the very first teaser for the very first Ice Age, we were hooked. Regardless of what the story might turn out to be, we were going to that film ....

Go read the whole thing.

I'll offer only one small spoiler: Kevin holds up Dumbo as a cartoon feature with appeal. In this he appears to have a slightly different take from one of the old animation masters.

I was coming out of a third-floor screening room after watching Dumbo (under instructions from Woolie Reitherman, as I remember.) Frank was walking toward me down the hall. He smiled when he saw me, and asked what I'd been watching.

"Dumbo", I said. "Woolie wanted me to look at it. Man, it's a great movie."

Frank's smile got wider. "There's a mistake in every scene."

I nodded blankly. Said "Oh."

Frank walked on down the hall.

Six months later, I ... mentioned my brief exchange with Frank about
Dumbo to Ward Kimball, and Frank's "mistake" comment. "It seemed kind of strange to me," I said. "Why do you think Frank would say say something like that?"

Ward beamed at me from behind his big round glasses. "Because Frank didn't work on

By the way, if you want to comment on Kevin's post, you'll need to do it over at SynchroLux.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Dragon's Foreign Rollout

The Hollywood Reporter tells of How to Train Your Dragon's overseas launch.

DreamWorks Animation's "How To Train Your Dragon" opened No. 4 on the weekend via Paramount in Russia, Romania and the Ukraine for a take of $8.1 million from a 698 locales.

The 3D animation about a Viking dragon hunter turned dragon owner drew $7.5 million from 600 screens in Russia, which Paramount says is
25% more than the comparable opening figure for Pixar/Disney's "Up" and 50% more than the opening gross of Pixar/Disney's "WALL-E ." ...

A few hot foreign markets, of course, are not overwhelming predictors of worldwide box office success. But they're certainly better than the reverse, wouldn't you say?

Meanwhile, Mr. Burton's Alice continues to thrive.

... "Alice in Wonderland" cruised to its third consecutive No. 1 round overseas, rounding up $47 million from 6,687 screens in 49 territories.

Foreign take so far for director Tim Burton's re-imagining of the Lewis Carroll classic stands at $300 million, of which $216 million or 72% derives from the 3D venues playing the film. Worldwide,
"Alice" has grossed $565.8 million to date.

Think about that. Almost 3/4 of the turnstile take is from stereo venues. No wonder the conglomerates are falling all over themselves to retrofit dimensional viewing to their 2-D backlogs. (Sort of like when studios retooled silent movies with music, sound effects and fresh-filmed talking sequences in 1928 and 1929.)

Corporate and human behavior seldom changes. You dangle a big enough carrot out there, and some entity or other will go charging after it. And those kinds of box office numbers are too mouth-watering for the Big Boys to resist ....

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Critics Fired Up For DreamWorks’ Dragons

The early reviews for DreamWorks Animation’s upcoming CG feature How to Train Your Dragon are on fire. The PG film currently holds a 100% rating at RottenTomatoes.com, with Variety calling it “a thrilling drama interspersed with amusing comedic elements,” while the Hollywood Reporter says it’s “a lively though disjointed 3D cartoon.” You’ll be able to see for yourself this Friday, when the film hits theaters. Below is a featurette, and around the :45 second mark, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, the directors and writers of the film, introduce us to the most prominent dragons we’ll meet in the film.

Wallace and Gromit in Revenge of the Killer Watts

Wallace and Gromit didn’t hang their plasticine heads after they lost the Oscar to Logorama earlier this month. Instead, they got back to work in this new nPower spot, the third in the series. In Revenge of the Killer Watts, which took 4 weeks to make, the comedy duo get a free Smart Energy Monitor and live through a night of unspeakable horrors.

New 'Green Lantern' Animated Projects In The Works?

Last year, Warner Brothers Animation released "Green Lantern: First Flight" — an animated retelling of Hal Jordan's first days as a Green Lantern — to a favorable reception that helped cement Green Lantern's status as one of the top DC superheroes in advance of the upcoming live-action film starring Ryan Reynolds. However, there may be another "Green Lantern' animated film just in time to coincide with the new movie next year.

According to Comics Continuum, Warner Brothers Animation is making another "Green Lantern" direct-to-DVD animated film that will center around the origins of the Green Lantern Corps, along with the very first ring wielders. Given the suggested time frame of the story, popular Green Lanterns like Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner may not appear at all — though it should be noted that this rumor has not been confirmed by Warner Bros.

Earlier this month, comic scribe Geoff Johns hinted at the possibility of a "Green Lantern" animated series. However, the potential animated movie appears to be a different project entirely.

Earlier this month, comic scribe Geoff Johns hinted at the possibility of a "Green Lantern" animated series. However, the potential animated movie appears to be a different project entirely.

Director Martin Campbell's live action "Green Lantern" movie began filming earlier this month. Temuera Morrison and Taika Waititi recently joined the cast that includes Tim Robbins, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard and Mark Strong.

It was also recently confirmed that "Green Lantern" will be released in 3D.

Will 'X-Men: First Class' Lose Bryan Singer?

Bryan Singer went on the record this month with his "ultimate frenemies" pitch for "X-Men: First Class," but the "X-Men 2" and "Superman Returns" director may have some obstacles ahead before he gets to make that vision a reality. In fact, a new rumor posits that Singer may not get to head "First Class" at all, and 20th Century Fox is actively talking to other directors.

According to an anonymously sourced report over at HitFix.com, Fox met with two other big-name directors last week. Those new candidates reportedly come with recognizable credentials among comic book and geek movie watchers.

Given that Singer spoke about about "First Class" as recently as several weeks ago, this rumor comes as a big surprise to a lot of people, perhaps even Singer himself. As the website indicates, however, such a scenario could have been a known possibility all along.

The Los Angeles Times pointed out in their recent interview with Singer that "Jack the Giant Killer" was already locked into his schedule at Fox, so calendar conflicts could have easily made a new "X-Men" movie a non-option.

All of this is still firmly grounded in rumor territory at this point, but it means that we might hear new names come up soon in Singer's place. On a side note, I hear Matthew Vaughn just wrapped "Kick-Ass."

Chris Evans Accepts 'Captain America' Lead?

While everything is still far from official and awaiting studio confirmation, a new report indicates that actor Chris Evans has accepted the role of soldier-turned-superhero Steve Rogers in the upcoming Marvel Studios film "The First Avenger: Captain America."

According to The Hollywood Reporter, negotiations have moved quickly since the offer was first made to Evans last week. Neither Marvel Studios nor the actor's representatives have confirmed the report at press time.

If Evans indeed becomes the face of Captain America, it will be the fourth live-action movie based on a comic book series in which he's starred. He previously appeared as Johnny Storm in both "Fantastic Four" movies, and has prominent roles in both "The Losers" (based on the DC/Vertigo series) and "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" (based on the Oni Press series) later this year.

Evans was the latest of many rumored contenders for the lead role in "Captain America," and will likely be contracted for multiple Marvel movies, including superhero team-up film "The Avengers."

Greg Berlanti Explains Why Ryan Reynolds Is Perfect For 'Green Lantern,' Won't Discuss Costume

Now that filming for "Green Lantern" has kicked off, it's only a matter of time before we get our first peek at Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, the ring-wielding protector of Sector 2814.

While we couldn't pry any details about the visual elements of Jordan's big-screen debut from from the film's co-writer and producer, Greg Berlanti, we did get an update of sorts on the production — and some thoughts on why Reynolds was the right man to play the pilot-turned-superhero.

"They just started production on Monday," said Berlanti during last week's ShoWest Film Festival. "I grew up reading the comic books, so to be a part of it in any way has been a real dream come true. It's like being a kid in a candy store — seeing the ring, seeing the plan for what Oa is going to look like, and seeing someone like Ryan Reynolds bring it to life has been pretty amazing."

"We're all on lockdown about that stuff," he said when asked how much (if any) CGI will go into Green Lantern's uniform, "so as they dole it out to fans, everyone can enjoy it for the first time."

As for Reynolds himself, Berlanti had no small amount of praise for the actor and why he was offered the role.

"He's one of those actors who can really do everything," he said. "The part really requires someone to fit the role of a superhero, but also bring their own personality to it. ... At the end of the day that's as much what makes these films different, I think. What's the personality of the star, and how does that mesh in with the way we know and love Hal Jordan?"

"Ryan had the whole package — he could do the comedy, he could do the drama," he added.

Louis Leterrier Explains How He'd Approach 'The Avengers'

"Incredible Hulk" director Louis Leterrier recently revealed that he's on the short list of potential directors for "The Avengers," Marvel Studios' upcoming team-up extravaganza featuring Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk and various other characters from the studio's movie universe.

When MTV News caught up Leterrier during the junket for "Clash of the Titans," his remake of the 1981 classic, we asked him how he'd approach the film if given the chance.

"It all starts with the ensemble... the cast," said Leterrier. "It's all about the cast. It's all about the characters. You have to find the way to enter the movie through the cast."

"With 'Avengers' it would be a little different, because a lot of the cast would have been casted by different directors from other movies, but you can still bring everybody together," he added. "That's what we did that was great on 'Clash of the Titans' — for the first three weeks, we brought everybody into a room and we workshopped the movie."

Chris Evans Accepts 'Captain America' Lead? [UPDATED]

While everything is still far from official and awaiting studio confirmation, a new report indicates that actor Chris Evans has accepted the role of soldier-turned-superhero Steve Rogers in the upcoming Marvel Studios film "The First Avenger: Captain America."

[UPDATE: Variety is now indicating that the deal is official, though Marvel Studios and Evans' reps have not confirmed.]

According to The Hollywood Reporter, negotiations have moved quickly since the offer was first made to Evans last week. Neither Marvel Studios nor the actor's representatives have confirmed the report at press time.

If Evans indeed becomes the face of Captain America, it will be the fourth live-action movie based on a comic book series in which he's starred. He previously appeared as Johnny Storm in both "Fantastic Four" movies, and has prominent roles in both "The Losers" (based on the DC/Vertigo series) and "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" (based on the Oni Press series) later this year.

Evans was the latest of many rumored contenders for the lead role in "Captain America," and will likely be contracted for multiple Marvel movies, including superhero team-up film "The Avengers."

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