Friday, April 16, 2010

News - 04/16/10...

New Shrek Forever After poster revealed has an exclusive first look at the one sheet for Shrek Forever After. The poster shows Shrek and an army of ogres looking as though they are about to face off against Rumplestilskin and his army of witches. In addition, the site points out that The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that the first three Shrek films are in the process of being converted into 3-D for future Blu-Ray releases. “I think our product will be used to showcase what 3D in the home can offer in terms of the highest quality possible experience,” DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffery Katzenberg said.

Jamie Foxx gets animated with Welcome to the Jungle‎

Variety reports that Jamie Foxx is making his animated film debut with Welcome to the Jungle for 20th Century Fox. Based on an original pitch by Foxx and scribe Malcolm Spellman, Foxx is all set to star in, produce and score the film.

Global Co-production Preps New Adventures of Peter Pan

DQ Entertainment Ireland, Method Animation, Story Board Animation and France Televisions have teamed up to co-produce a 3D animated CG series called The New Adventures of Peter Pan.

The 26 episode, half-hour series has a budget of about U.S. $13 million, with a design and pilot team at work on the series in France and consulting with DQ Ireland on the script.

“We are delighted to join Method Animation and DQ Entertainment in the development of Peter Pan,” aaid Julien Borde, head of children’s and youth programs for France Televisions. “It is a great honor for us to be part of such a challenging and motivating project.”

“The creative pedigree of Method Animation, which is currently co-producing Little Prince, Iron Man II, as well as Charlie Chaplin, is well know worldwide, and this new series will bring renewed sparkle to our relationship,” said Tapaas Chakravarti, Chairman and CEO of DQ Entertainment.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Shrek Films Going 3D for Blu-ray Release

DreamWorks Animation is set to revisit the first three Shrek films for 3D conversion.

Speaking Wednesday at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, studio CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said the studio would be going back into the original animation files to do the conversion and ensure “a petty high-quality result,” writes The Hollywood Reporter.

The 3D versions of the films would be released on 3D Blu-ray discs. The upcoming Shrek Forever After, the fourth film in the series, is a 3D release due May 21.

Katzenberg has been highly critical of the last-minute 3D conversion of Clash of the Titans, saying poor 3D conversion only hurts the technology’s reputation. He said the technology for converting 2D films to 3D

"We are just beginning to see big capital investments made into the area of post 2D-to-3D conversion. Right now it's at the most rudimentary," he said. "It is going to change very, very quickly. I'm still pretty optimistic that whether it's 12 months or 18 months or 24 months from now, there is going to be a quality product in straight 2D-to-3D conversion."

Katzenberg also predicted that 3D technology will go glasses free in theaters and on billboards within 10 to 15 years.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Monster’s The Baaas Comes to MIP-TV

Monster Distributes is bringing The Baaas to the world at MIP-TV 2010.

The series, which is available in 104 x 12 mins. and 52 x 24 min. formats, is a multicultural family sitcom starring fluffy sheep, co-produced by Ceidiog, S4C and Al Jazeera Children’s Channel.

"I'm delighted that Monster are to distribute The Baaas,” says the show’s creator and Cediog managing director Nia Ceidiog. “The show is truly universal — it's about family values, and The Baaas are an extraordinary, ordinary family. They just happen to be walking, talking, singing sheep! Being with The Baaas is about belonging!"

The Baaas joins Monster’s catalog of award-winning animations, including Birdy, Abby Careful, I’m an Animal and I’m a Dinosaur, Jungle Beat and Gazoon, as well as the Oscar-winning short film Harvie Krumpet and Oscar-nominated Jasper Morello and Give Up Yer Aul Sins.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Second Season of Geronimo Stilton Ordered

Atlantyca Entertainment and Moonscoop have announced plans to continue the adventures of Geronimo Stilton into a second season.

The new season of 26 half hour episodes will be ready for delivery in autumn 2011.

Based on the popular children’s chapter book series of the same name, the Geronimo Stilton series is about the famous mouse who heads a veritable media empire yet is a klutz extraordinaire.

“The success we achieved with the first season of the animated series underscores the universal appeal of the delightfully adventurous Geronimo Stilton character and will serve as a strong foundation for an even wider audience with the debut of season two,” said Caterina Vacchi, senior manager and executive producer, Atlantyca Entertainment.

“We are thrilled to be going back into production on this endearing property and look forward to further establishing Geronimo Stilton’s position as an evergreen brand around the globe with entertaining new episodes that continue the comical exploits of this wonderful character,” said Nicolas Atlan, executive producer and CEO Moonscoop

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Half-dozen animated nominees for Banff TV awards

Six shows, including two from the United States, have been nominated for a Banff World Television Award in the Animation Programs category.

The American contenders are Nickelodeon's The Wonder Pets!, produced by Little Airplane Productions in association with Nickelodeon, and the PBS series Sid the Science Kid, produced by The Jim Henson Company in association with KCET/Los Angeles.

Canadian nominee Le Printemps de Melie/Molly in Springtime was produced by the National Film Board of Canada in association with Folimage, PIWI and Divertissement Subséquence Inc.

Also nominated are Figaro Pho (Vishus Productions in association with ABC TV; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia), The Gruffalo (Magic Light Pictures in association with Studio Soi; BBC, United Kingdom) and The Little Boy and the Beast/Der Kleine und das Biest (Studio Soi GmbH & Co. KG; ZDF German Television, Germany).

Often known as the Rockies, the TV awards are presented annually at the Banff Television Festival. There are 34 nominees from the American networks and 31 from Britain, along with 26 Canadian shows. Nominations in 34 categories were announced Wednesday from among 900 international entries.

The Banff World Television Awards will be presented June 15 in the Alberta resort town.

"Hook, Line and Stinker" earns top Student Emmy

Ross Bollinger's "Hook, Line and Stinker," made at the School of Visual Arts, won first place for animation Saturday night at the 31st College Television Awards -- better known as the Student Emmys.

A Brooklyn resident, Bollinger was recognized in Los Angeles by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation.

Hook, Line and Stinker is Part 10 of his Pencilmation series, "the salty tale of a simple, pencil-drawn fisherman and his various fish stories as spun by the infamous pencil."

"People, I've got to say that it's refreshing to know that a solid story and funny jokes are still the main ingredients to the secret sauce," Bollinger reflected Sunday on his blog.

Getting a second-place Emmy was Topi, directed by Arjun Rihan of the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts. In the animation, amidst the turbulent partition of India circa 1947, a young Hindu boy has a chance encounter with a stranger.

"Both sides of my family were directly affected by the mass migrations of partition, and this film reflects my fascination with the events of that time period," said Rihan, who is originally from Pune, India.

Currently a camera and staging artist at Pixar Animation Studios, Rihan studied computer science and economics as an undergraduate at Stanford University. He recently graduated with an MFA from the John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts at USC. Topi (The Cap) is his thesis film.

X-ing, by James L. Jackson and Jenny Johnson of Brigham Young University's Center for Animation, won a third-place Emmy. The farce centers on an ill-fated pair of lovesick armadillos at a truck stop.

The film represents a reversal from the animation program's most recent Emmy-winner. While last year's Kites was a poignant tale of a grandson's love, X-ing (pronounced "crossing") identifies itself clearly as slapstick comedy with a major shock in the opening scene.

Another member of the BYU community, music student Richard Williams, received a student Emmy for best music for his jazz score for the animated film Mashed.

101 Yeahs by Ryan Junell and Phillip Niemeyer

A masterpiece of timing and movement in four letters, 101 Yeahs is directed and animated by Ryan Junell and Phillip Niemeyer. The shocker: discovering that it’s created under-camera. Filmmakers say, “Dirty and old school. Stop motion animation of letters of four sizes silkscreened on transparency. The letters are backlit by a lightboard.” The proof is on Flicker.

(via Motionographer)

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

Blue Eyed Universe by Eric Power

Beautiful collage styled music video by Austin Texas-based Eric Power, of Clear Productions, for the rock band Fictionist.

(via No Fat Clips)

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

Andreas Deja takes a “Different” approach to the art of character design

Jim Hill talks up the sketchbook signing & discussion that this acclaimed Disney animator will taking part in Saturday night at the Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, CA.

When you look at Mama Odie, what do you see?

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Okay, for starters, she’s one of the more memorable characters from Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” (FYI: Sales of the DVD version of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ return to hand-drawn animation have been surprisingly strong. Since “The Princess and the Frog” hit store shelves back on March 16th, over 3.1 million units have been sold). But there’s more to Mama Odie than meets the eye.

Like – for example – that this bayou version of a Fairy Godmother doesn’t actually have any eyes. Just a dark pair of glasses to hide the fact that Mama Odie is blind.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

So given that audiences typically look toward an animated character’s eyes in order to determine emotional change, how do you then get an emotionally effective performance out of an essentially eyeless character?

For Mama Odie’s supervising animator Andreas Deja, the answer was simple. You just add a few wrinkles to the area directly above this character’s eyebrows and PRESTO! This 197-year-old blind lady is now able to register all sorts of emotion.

(L to R) John Musker, Ron Clements, Andreas Deja and Peter Del Vecchio at the premiere of "Tiana y el Sapo" in Madrid, Spain. Photo by Carlos Alvarez.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Speaking in front of a hall full of students & parents at a recent Ryman Arts career event, Andreas talked about all the care & thought he put into designing Mama Odie.

“I’d never worked on a character like this before. (Mama Odie)’s not really a sorceress who uses voodoo. She’s more of the fairy godmother type,” Deja explained. “Plus she’s the oldest character that I’ve ever animated. So I wanted to find some interesting ways to show her age.”

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

What Andreas eventually decided to do was contrast flesh and bone. As in: Mama Odie has very wide hips, while – at the same time – narrow bony arms.

“And figuring that – after she’d lived 197 years – most of Mama Odie’s hair would be gone … Well, that’s why I put kind of a wrap around her head. And that hat stays on Mama Odie’s head for the entire movie except for three frames toward the end of ‘Dig a Little Deeper.’ That’s when she does a hop in this musical number. And – just for an instant – Mama Odie’s hat comes off of her head. And that’s when you see she has nothing but fuzz left,” Deja laughed.

Andreas put this amount of care & thought into every aspect of “The Princess and the Frog” that he worked on. Which included Mama Odie’s seeing-eye snake, Juju.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“I didn’t want people looking up at the screen and saying ‘That’s the snake from Jungle Book,’ “ Deja continued. “Which is why I made some very deliberate design choices with this character. Because Kaa had a long snout and beady little pupils, I designed Juju with a short snout and big Roger Rabbit-type eyes.”

Which – as far as snakes go – then made Juju a cute, almost cuddly kind of a reptile.

And speaking of taking unusual looking animals and then making them look appealing … This coming Saturday night, Van Eaton Galleries will be holding a special event in honor of this Disney animator’s new sketchbook, "A Different Stripe: Andreas Deja's Animal Sketchbook."

This event (which will be held at 13613 Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, CA) kicks off with Andreas leading a discussion from 4 to 5 p.m. Then – from 5 to 7 p.m. – Deja will be signing copies of “A Different Stripe.” And while visitors are waiting for Andreas to personalize their copy of his latest sketchbook, they’re welcome to check out many of the original paintings & sketches that are used to illustrate this paperback.

Which – as you can see – wittily transition from nature as it actually is …

… to nature as it might be …

Please be advised that space (especially for the discussion portion of Saturday’s “A Different Stripe” event) is extremely limited. So if you’d like to attend, you need to call Van Eaton Galleries at (818)788-2357 and RSVP ASAP.

For further information on the “A Different Stripe: Andreas Deja's Animal Sketchbook” event, please click on this link.

The Latest Gaming Battle

For years TAG has nibbled around the edges of the video game business, trying to figure out a way to organize it. While we nibbled, this has been going on:

Every industry has its rivals: Two big companies duking it out for customer loyalty and king-of-the hill status. ...

Among video game companies, it's Electronic Arts vs. Activision Blizzard —and it's about as ugly a fight as you've ever seen.

While the rhetoric gets shrill in any corporate battle, it has moved well past that in this fight, with high profile employees being wooed away and gamer loyalties being put to the test. Ultimately, though, it's shareholders that, for better or worse, could be caught in the middle.

Monday saw the latest—and biggest—rift between the companies, when Jason West and Vince Zampella tied their new development house to EA, striking an exclusive distribution deal with the publisher. The pair formerly headed Infinity Ward, the Activision studio responsible for
"Modern Warfare 2," 2009's top selling game. The publisher abruptly fired them last month, alleging breach of contract and insubordination. ...

... At the heart of the battle is two companies jockeying for the title of the industry's largest publisher. EA held that role for years until Activision merged with Blizzard Entertainment in 2008, putting it on top. Around the same time, EA saw some big titles underperform and was rejected in its efforts to acquire Take Two Interactive Software ...

... There have been so many employees switching allegiances in recent years that it might be worth setting up a shuttle between the companies' two offices.

I know I dream, but perhaps while all the sniper and mortar fire is happening, we could slip through te barbed wire and organize the joints. (You know, get union contracts? With 0vertime and stuff?).

Yeah, I do dream.

Unions have never had much of a toe-hold in video games. From time to time, we get despairing phone calls from employees about long workweeks and subpar working conditions, then hold a few meetings. And there have been lawsuits over the years from disgruntled employees sick of the grind. (For some reason, people get twitchy when they work enough eighty-hour weeks.)

But to date, no union contracts. Sadly, labor hasn't been able to trigger a general uprising among gamers (drat). We credit this to management hiring mostly 22-year-old libertarians who have no wives, no lives, and maintain an unshakeable belief in their ability to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become millionaires by age thirty.

But this belief usually falters between the ages of thirty-two and thirty-six. By that time, Electronic Arts and the others have shed themselves of the thirty-somethings' services, and moved on to the next batch of starry-eyed college graduates.

The ever-turning, ever-devouring circle of tech life. Yet we, the ever-optimistic Animation Guild, continue to fantasize collective bargaining agreements and actual overtime.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Animated Short Lightheaded Ignites Online

After apprearing at numerous festivals and screenings, Dacko’s CG film Lightheaded has arrived online. He teased the 5-minute production online last October, but now we learn that he managed to pull off. Not only is it a thought-provolking and clever film, Lightheaded is proof of the power of indie spirit. Dacko not only got Thievery Corportation to handle the soundtrack, he managed to rope in Skywalker Sound to polish the sound design. Enjoy….

Seagulls Fly In To Launch Adobe CS5 Production Suite

The production company Seagulls Fly was recently called in to help launch the new Adobe CS5 Production Suite. FlavioMac directed this spot that shows off a number of production methods that artists might use with the new suite.

Images, Video Clips And Details For New “Batman: The Brave And The Bold” Episode

The World’s Finest has received new video clips, images and details for this week's new Batman: The Brave and The Bold episode "Gorillas in Our Midst!"

Cartoon Network has passed along the episode synopsis, video clips, and a collection of images from the upcoming all-new Batman: The Brave and The Bold episode "Gorillas in Our Midst!" The episode is scheduled to air this Friday, April 16th, 2010 at 7:30pm (ET) on Cartoon Network. Click on the thumbnails below to view hi-res images and video clips from the all-new Batman: The Brave and The Bold episode.

Click Here For More Images, Videos & Details!

The all-new Batman: The Brave and The Bold "Gorillas in Our Midst!" episode, scheduled to air Friday, April 16th, 2010 at 7:30pm (ET) on Cartoon Network, is described as seen below. Cast details are also provided.

Batman: The Brave and The Bold "Gorillas in Our Midst!"
Gorilla Grodd and his super secret ape alliance replace Gotham 's entire human population with gorillas. Batman teams with Detective Chimp, B'Wana Beast and Vixen to thwart the mad Grodd's plans.

Diedrich Bader as Batman/Gorilla Boss
Mark Hamill as Spectre
John DiMaggio as Gorilla Grodd
Kevin M Richardson as B'wana Beast/Msr. Mallah
Dee Bradley Baker as Dr. Milo/Detective Chimp/Bat-Griffin
Cree Summer as Vixen

As mentioned above, video clips and other episode content from Batman: The Brave and The Bold "Gorillas in Our Midst!" are available to view here at our Batman: The Brave and The Bold subsite.

DQ Scores Jungle Book Deals in Canada, U.K.

DQ Entertainment has secured deals in Canada and the United Kingdom for its new CG-animated series The Jungle Book.

The deals for the 3D and HD series’ 52 11-minute episodes are with The Ontario Educational Authority in Canada (TVO) and BBC in the United Kingdom. The deal with Ontario also includes a 60-minute special.

The Jungle Book is a beautifully animated adaptation of the classic Rudyard Kipling stories, and is a wonderful complement to our lineup of shows which encourage kids to learn and discover new things - all while having fun,” says Frances James of TVO.

“The Jungle Book is going to be a brilliant adventure for 5-8 year olds. The world of the jungle is looking glorious in the series and will reintroduce this brand to a generation who might not know of this fabulous story,” says Steven Andrew, head of CBBC Drama and Acquisitions.

The Jungle Book is co-produced with ZDF TV and ZDF Enterprise of Germany; and TF1 TV and MoonScoop of France. It is scheduled for delivery by end of 2010 and carries a production budget of $12.5 million U.S.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Singapore’s Scrawl Enters Co-Production Deal

Scrawl Studios and the Media Development Authority of Singapore have announced co-production deals with international producers that will result in up to five animated projects to be completed in the next five years.

The total production value of the projects under the deal is pegged at $13.5 million.

The first to projects are Almost Extinct, a 3D animated TV series that Scawl will co-produce with CCI Entertainment of Canada in association with Coolframes Digiworks of Hong Kong; and Hunter the Wereboy, a 2D animated series Scrawl will co-produce with Planet Nemo Animation of France.

MDA will be an investor in these projects.

“The collaboration with the Media Development Authority is a highly strategic one for Scrawl Studios, allowing us to significantly accelerate several co-productions in original animation content, and at the same time develop high-value production capabilities to engage with major international partners and broadcasters, including in North America, Europe, as well as Asia and in particular, China,” says Seng Choon Meng, CEO of Scrawl Studios.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

CIS Acquires Postmodern Sydney

CIS Visual Effects Group has acquired the assets of Postmodern Sydney, a growing design and visual effects facility in Australia.

CIS, which has offices in Hollywood and Vancouver, was drawn to Postmodern’s work in high-end feature movies, commercials and television for clients in Australia and Asia. Recent Postmodern work includes effects on the feature movies Knowing and Daybreakers, as well as commercials for McDonald’s and Macquarie Bank.

The studio will still run under the Postmodern banner, from the same offices and with the same personnel. Plans are underway to build later this year an expanded CIS-Postmodern facility in Sydney.

“The depth of Australian creative talent and strong governmental support for the industry make entering the Sydney market very attractive,” says Don Fly, president and general manager of CIS. “The Postmodern team has done some great work. They are a design led boutique company with a lot of talent and energy. We're all very excited about working with them.”

"The CIS guys reached out to us late last year to talk about joining forces with them on an Australian shop," says Andrew Robinson, managing director of Postmodern, which was founded in 2001. "We hit if off immediately with Don and his team, and their understanding of the Australian market. We look forward to bringing CIS technologies and capabilities into our creative pipeline for film studios, commercial production companies and television networks in addition to the independent feature market.”

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Vets Open Artistic Image in Atlanta

Ed Dye and Ken Soons have announced the opening of Artistic Image, an Atlanta-based studio with animation, CGI, character development, finishing and live-action production capabilities.

The studio, based in the city’s trendy King’s Plow Center, is ready to offer a top-caliber creative resource to ad agencies in the Southeast in a wide range of media from TV to web content, viral campaigns and print.

“Our goal was to create a design-driven company where a team of top-caliber directors, designers, producers, visual effect artists, animators, illustrators, editors and compositors work under one roof with unfettered access to each other’s creative input throughout every phase of the creative process,” said Dye and Soons in a statement.

Soons worked at A Band Apart Commercials as postproduction supervisor before going out on his own as an editor, and ultimately bringing his experience in the post and VFX arena to his role as director. He has worked for such prestigious clients as J. Walter Thompson, Chiat Day, TNT, Cartoon Network and CNN.

Dye helms Artistic Image’s design and FX division, providing creative direction as he guides projects in the realm of CGI, 3D imaging, effects, motion graphics animation, character generation, broadcast design, compositing, editing, digital illustration and creative imaging. His credits include directing and creating the look for the 2009 and 2010 Latin America Academy Awards Show, and The Global Globe awards for TNT/Latin America, Ford and AT&T.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Thailand’s Imagimax, Malaysia’s Elite Sign $3M Deal

Thailand-based animation studio Imagimax has signed a joint-production deal worth $3 million with MSC Malaysia Status Company’s Elite Animation in Malaysia.

Executives on hand for the signing of the deal said they hope it will spur and encourage additional deals with Malaysian animation developers.

“The joint-production will benefit both countries taking effort to proof to the world in producing high quality feature animations. We’d like to prove to the global market that Malaysia & Thailand will be able to share resources, technologies and talent pool to produce a world-class animation IP for the world”, said Hon. Sen. Datin Paduka Datuk Nor Hayati binte Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Hj Onn, the executive chairman to Elite Animation.

Imagimax co-founder and managing director Saksiri Koshpasharin said he forecasts that the popularity of the company’s leading-edge animation will be in high-demand when the animation has been completed.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Cartoons from Censored 11 screened at TCM festival

Some of the most popular cartoons from Warner Brothers' "Censored Eleven" will be screened Saturday, April 24 as part of the first-ever TCM Classic Film Festival.

"Out of Circulation Cartoons (1931-1944)" will be shown from 10 to 11:45 p.m. Saturday, April 24 at The Egyptian Theatre in the heart of Hollywood. Author Donald Bogle will be in attendance to present once-popular cartoons -- in 35mm prints -- that have been kept from the public eye because of negative racial or cultural stereotypes.

This screening features the work of such talented animation directors as Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones and Rudolf Ising. Titles include Coal Black And De Sebben Dwarfs (1943), Clean Pastures (1937), Goldilocks And The Jivin' Bears (1944), Hittin' The Trail For Hallelujah Land (1931), The Isle Of Pingo Pongo (1938), Sunday Go To Meetin' Time (1936), Tin Pan Alley Cats (1943) and Uncle Tom's Bungalow (1933).

"Unless this screening causes a race riot, Warners is considering releasing them on DVD," animation historian Jerry Beck wrote Wednesday on The Animation Guild's blog.

Alec Baldwin, Tim Roth, Esther Williams, Betty Garrett, Tab Hunter and filmmaker John Carpenter are slated to join the stars previously scheduled to take part in the festival, which runs from Thursday, April 22 to Sunday, April 25.

Passes are still available for the TCM Classic Film Festival, which will be packed with more than 50 screenings, complete with special introductions, guest appearances, panel discussions and more. More than 90% of the festival presentations will feature high-quality, 35mm and 70mm prints, many brand new.

Most of the films on the festival slate have been restored and remastered. TCM is committed to presenting each film in its proper aspect ratio and the best format possible for optimal picture and sound.

Festival passes and additional information are available at Same-day tickets for individual screenings (except for the opening night screening of A Star Is Born and the poolside screening of Neptune's Daughter, introduced by stars Williams and Garrett) will be on sale at each venue for non-passholders, depending on seating capacity.

Joss Whedon's Avengers: Weighing The Pros & Cons

With multiple sources confirming Joss Whedon for "The Avengers," it's all but guaranteed that the "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" creator will take the reins on Marvel Studios' flagship franchise.

It's a major coup for Whedon's fans, many of whom are still reeling from the disappointing cancellations of shows like "Firefly" and "Dollhouse." Such disappointment isn't likely here, as it would take a colossal disaster to derail the carefully laid track for "The Avengers."

Although the job is his to lose, it's worth wondering whether or not Whedon is the right director for "The Avengers" in the first place. In the spirit of fairness, let's run down some of the pros and cons of Whedon scoring the director's chair on the highly anticipated superhero team-up flick.


1. Fan-Friendly — There's no arguing that Whedon has his fair share of fans, thanks to his work on shows like "Angel," viral sensations like "Dr. Horrible" and even comic books like "Astonishing X-Men" and "Runaways." Clearly, the man has street cred.

2. Ensemble Experience — If there's one thing that "Serenity" proved, it's the fact that Whedon knows how to handle an ensemble. One could argue that he's demonstrated this ability across all of his live-action outings. Given the movie's reliance on a core group of heavy hitters, Whedon's skills as a character juggler will come in handy on "The Avengers."

3. Expert Storytelling — While we may end up lacking in quantity, we're bound to see an increase in quality. Whedon is at his best when he's fully devoted to a single project. By investing all of his creative energy into "The Avengers," there's no question that we're going to see a powerful story tying Marvel's heroes together.


1. Few Feature Films — While Whedon has gotten behind the lens for his various television endeavors, his feature film experience is relegated to "Serenity." Although a major hit with "Firefly" fans, the movie failed to secure widespread critical or commercial success — two things that "The Avengers" absolutely needs.

2. Shifting Focus — One of the biggest drawbacks of Whedon's new job is that he's likely to scale back his other commitments. It's too early to know how "The Avengers" will effect the "Buffy" comics, a "Dr. Horrible" sequel and other projects, but it's a safe bet that Whedon's going to have to reduce his involvement at the very least. Bummer.

3. Questionable Interest — Maybe the biggest problem of them all with Whedon and "The Avengers" is the director's interest level, as an old interview indicated that he wasn't particularly wild about the franchise. Hopefully, Whedon's script revisions will revitalize the characters in his eyes, but if he can't assemble some passion, Whedon's "Avengers" might not be so mighty after all.

'Jonah Hex' Movie 'Doesn't Seem To Be Finished,' Says Mastodon Singer

If you're wondering why a trailer for director Jimmy Hayward's "Jonah Hex" movie hasn't been seen yet, you're not alone.

According to New York Magazine, Warner Bros. is insisting that the trailer will finally debut on April 30, in front of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" remake. Hayward even wrote in to add that "[The] trailer and film are looking great!"

However, Mastodon guitarist and singer Brent Hinds — who was hired last fall to score the movie with his band — has a somewhat different take on the film's status.

"What I’ve seen so far doesn’t seem to be finished to me," related Hinds. "I’d heard a little rumor: 'This sh-- ain’t gonna be ready.' But then again, Warner Bros. is such a f---ing bastard. They’re like, 'The sh-- comes out on the day it’s supposed to.' But what do I know? I’m just the dude to whom they’re like, ‘Hey, play some crazy f---in’ music!'"

Back in January, Josh Brolin, Megan Fox and other "Jonah Hex" cast members were brought back for reshoots of existing scenes as well as at least 12 new pages of scripted material, following rumors that Warner Bros. was unhappy with the previous cut of the film. "I Am Legend" director Francis Lawrence was also brought in as a "consultant" to Hayward.

Hinds also revealed that he had to rescore a significant portion of the movie after composer Marco Beltrami was brought in to replace John Powell.

"I totally had to go back and start over again," said Hinds. "We’re still working on it. We wrapped a little of it today; we’re doing a little more tomorrow. Tomorrow is enough for me. I was finished months ago. We had such short notice to work on the thing."

"I blew my wad over there," add Hinds. "It was some of the best sh-- I’ve ever written in my life. Now I’m just trying to finish with as much patience as possible."

The article also speculates that if the "Jonah Hex" trailer isn't ready by April 30, the film's June 18 release date may be in jeopardy.

'Kick-Ass' Deleted Scenes... Revealed!

If there's one problem with director Matthew Vaughn's action-packed adaptation of "Kick-Ass," it's that there's just too much ass to kick. The filmmaker found this out the hard way when he had to cut nearly 20 minutes of footage from the final version of the film.

"There is about 18 minutes of [deleted] footage, which is really good stuff," the director told MTV News. "If the film is a hit, I'll do an extended cut."

According to Vaughn, the deleted 18 minutes weren't necessarily problematic, but he worried about over-stuffing the "Kick-Ass" experience.

"The problem about this movie is that I was trying to make it snappy and short, because I think a lot of movies have become way too long," he explained. "I had a cut that was 20 minutes longer and I went, 'You know, this is just indulgent. Let's do a film that's fresh and energetic, and if people want to have more, then I'll put more in.'"

As for what was left on the cutting room floor, Vaughn revealed that "three Hit-Girl and Big Daddy scenes" didn't make it into the final version of the film.

"It was really tough to get rid of them because they're so popular," Vaughn confessed, adding that another deleted scene involved "the funniest groupie sex scene with Red Mist and Kick-Ass basically behaving like Mötley Crüe with two girls — it was really funny to film and to watch but, again, it wasn't right for the pacing of the film."

'Kick-Ass' Is What 'X-Men 3' And 'Thor' Could've Been, Says Matthew Vaughn

With director Matthew Vaughn's live-action adaptation of "Kick-Ass" arriving in theaters this weekend, we finally get a look at what the filmmaker might have done with comics-inspired projects like "X-Men: The Last Stand" and "Thor," with which he was previously attached but departed.

When MTV News caught up with Vaughn on the red carpet at this week's L.A. premiere for the film, he explained the part played by past experiences with the third "X-Men" film (which was ultimately directed by Brett Ratner) and "Thor" (which is now being directed by Kenneth Branagh). According to Vaughn, the new film is his "post-modern love letter to superhero movies."

"I tried to put all the ideas that 'X-Men' gave me into it and then working on 'Thor' [as well]," he said of the film. "I've been thinking about doing a comic book movie for a long, long time, and I was just bored of nearly doing it and not doing it. ['Kick-Ass'] is like an explosion of everything coming together."

Asked about those lessons he learned from the "X-Men" experience, Vaughn said he would've injected more emotion into Marvel's mutants — something he made sure to include plenty of in his "Kick-Ass" cast.

"No offense to Ratner, but I just felt that ['X-Men: The Last Stand'] needed more heart," he said. "That's what I thought was missing. I was a little bit shocked when I saw it."

"That sort of thing makes an audience really fall in love with the characters," Vaughn said of the need to make audiences feel for the superheroes they see onscreen rather than just root for them.

However, he added that he's fortunate to have a cast of characters audiences are less familiar with when they buy a ticket.

"[It helps] when you don't know who they are, and the first time you meet them is on the screen and you have no preconceptions about what they should be," he said. "The rawer the process is, the better it can become."

Amazing Star Wars figures as samurai warriors

Star Wars fans know that George Lucas based his story in part on Akira Kurosawa's classic The Hidden Fortress, so artist Sillof (about whom we wrote earlier) has asked: What if Kurosawa himself reimagined the movie as a samurai epic? It might look something like this, above and below.

The artist has come up with a line of figures imagining what Star Wars characters would look like in Kurosawa's Samurai Wars movie.

Here's how he describes them:

Samurai Wars is a line of custom figures that imagines what a Star Wars movie directed by Akira Kurosawa would look like. George Lucas has said publically what a fan he is a Kurosawas and also the influence that Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress" had on Star Wars. At the bottom of the page is a fake write up that I did for a convention that claims this is a real movie.

Here's his fake movie description:

Last year you may recall reading or hearing about a discovery that shook the cinematic world to its foundations. The famed Ekafama Auction House in Yokahama announced its astonishing discovery, pictures. However, these were no ordinary pictures, they were in fact stills from a movie a half a century old that was not supposed to exist.

The film was a movie that even the most wishful cinephile thought was an urban legend. The movie was Mononofu Woza: Ryu-Mikomi by acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Very little has been written about the film over the years as very little was known. The facts are hard to come by as the story and legends surrounding it grew substantially over the years until the entire project entered an ethereal state.

The facts that can be confirmed by the limited studio records that survive are few. It was to be something of mega project unheard of in its day. The film was budgeted to be the most expensive film in Japanese history and boasted a veritable who's who of Japanese cinema and Kurosawa regulars (see inset table below). It began filming in 1955 and would have been released the following year in 1956. Most of the principal photography had wrapped when tragedy struck. A fire broke out in the offices at the famed Toho Studios. The arson investigation ruled newly installed faulty wiring as the cause of the blaze. The studio decided the project could not be restarted due to the numerous commitments of its many stars to other films, many of which Toho studios was also overseeing.

Click over to see a lot more.

We'd buy these. Would you?

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