Monday, April 26, 2010

News - 04/26/10...

Dragon retakes No. 1, Losers tanks

The animated How to Train Your Dragon reclaimed the top slot at the box office in its fifth weekend of release, taking in $15 million and vanquishing newcomer The Losers.

How to Train Your Dragon opened in first place in late March, then dropped back but has remained strong among a slate of lukewarm new movies, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The sci-fi-ish action movie The Losers debuted in fourth place on the April 23 weekend with an estimated $9.6 million domestically.

The Magic of Mary Blair

No one admires the work of Mary, Lee and Preston Blair more than we do. Now Mary’s nieces, Maggie and Jeanne, have just sent word of their new Mary Blair website that does the family proud. The site features photos, stories, merchandise and news about Mary, along with a few other surprises. Loads of gorgeous, inspiration pieces. Bookmark.

(Thanks, Andrew Farago)

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

A Tale of Two Animation Departments

I bopped through several cartoon plants this week, and here are two stories I picked up. They present kind of "Ying" and "Yang" situations, so I recount both of them here:

Story One: The late-working, under-compensated artists:

"Everybody in the department is working 'On Call'*. We've got tight schedules and nobody can make the deadlines without working late nights and coming into work Saturdays. Only nobody gets authorization to come in on Saturdays, so we work the Saturdays for free.

"And everybody is afraid of getting on [the producer's] shit list so nobody speaks up or rocks the boat. But the schedules are getting worse. A lot of us don't get to see families much. I don't know how much more we can take ..."

What do I do when I hear this? (And I've heard variations of this story for freaking years.) I offer to file grievances. Offer to come in on weekends and see who's working and take names, then file a grievance for non-compensation. ("Just call me up, and I'll drive over ...")

So far, nobody's taken me up on my proposal.

(I've also suggested that people work 5% or 8% over scale so they can't be "on call." Nobody has bit down on that one either. The artists tell me they'll be laid off at the end of the season if they do ...)

Story Two: The eight-hour per day crew.

"There's a lot of designers and board artists around here who get pressured with deadlines, get intimidated into working free overtime, and do work it for free.

"But not us. Everybody in our department has talked and has an understanding. And when a production manager comes around and says, 'The deadline's been moved up,' we politely say 'then you're authorizing overtime?' And if the production guy says no, we tell him, 'Sorry, we can't do it.'

"We've drawn that line and the production people know it. And we don't get hassled. But the people out in the other room? They get manipulated and pressured and work free o.t. all the time. But that's their problem ..."

Two different shows at two different studios (and of course I'm not going to name them, for obvious reasons.)

And two different groups of people with different approaches to dealing with management. Group #2 isn't afraid to draw a bright line in the sand and declare "no uncompensated o.t.," Group #1 is. I can't sit here and tell you that Group #1 is totally unjustified in their fear of possible layoffs if they don't "hit the deadline" without asking for authorized overtime, but I do know that their fear is overblown.

But what I believe to be true doesn't matter. I'm not the artist with his job on the line. And if everyone's perception is that they'll get canned if they don't falsify timecards and don't charge for the Saturday worktime, then that becomes the reality.

Everybody knuckles under, everybody keeps their head down and slaves away, and everyone is unhappy.

Sadly, I can't solve this fustercluck, because I can't guarantee that nothing bad will happen if people stop working for free. I can't take their fears away. I can't wave a magic wand and bend production managers to my will.

All I can do is be a squeaking wheel, nudge, cajole and stir the pot where it's stirrable, and try to convince people if they stop working long hours for free, the sky won't crash down. And I intend to go right on trying, because Mom always said I was the most trying son she had. And I don't want to disappoint Mom now.

* "On Call" is a clause in the TAG contract that's been there since way before my watch. It's basically a paragraph that creates semi-salaried positions for animation employees who don't have to be paid on an hourly basis under state or federal law. If the employee agrees to be "on call," and is more than 10% above minimum scale, they can work above and beyond an eight-hour workday without additional compensation. However, if they work a sixth or seventh workday (usually Saturday or Sunday), then they'll be paid "1 1/2 times one fifth of their minimum weekly rate."

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Pixar 2012: Brave and Monsters Inc. sequel

Box Office Mojo reports that Pixar will be releasing a sequel to Monsters Inc. in November 2012 and that The Bear and the Bow has been renamed Brave and pushed back to June 2012.

A sequel to Pixar's "Monsters, Inc." is scheduled for release on November 16, 2012, new Disney chairman Rich Ross announced Thursday afternoon.

The original Monsters, Inc., directed by Pete Docter, grossed $525 million around the world after its November 2001 release.

This will be only the third Disney-Pixar film to get a sequel. The first, Toy Story (1995), will have a threequel this summer. And a sequel to 2006's Cars will reach theaters next year.

A story about archery and royalty, Brave features the voices of Reese Witherspoon and Billy Connolly. It's directed and written by Brenda Chapman, making this Pixar's first feature film directed by a woman.

It tells about an impulsive princess (voiced by Witherspoon) who wants to become the world's first great female archer, even if this means she's no longer royal.

Ross observed that Toy Story 3, to appear in 3D on June 18, will feature several new toys and voices. Leads Tom Hanks and Tim Allen will return in the film, which will be seen over a decade after 1999's Toy Story 2.

Disney will release Gnomeo And Juliet, the animated musical produced by Elton John for Miramax, in early 2011 through the Touchstone banner, he added. Tim Burton's stop-motion film Frankenweenie, about a boy's revival of his lost dog, will also be seen next year.

A retelling of Winnie the Pooh with hand-drawn animation is another future Mouse House project.

Malaysian Islamists want apology from "South Park"

Malaysia's conservative Islamic PAS party demanded Friday that the makers of the satirical cartoon sitcom South Park apologize to Muslims around the world for its portrayal of the prophet Muhammad dressed as a bear.

Comedy Central deleted all references to the prophet Thursday after the show's creators were threatened by a radical Muslim group.

"Even though they have added the audio bleeps, South Park's producer and broadcaster should apologize to the Muslims, as this is a sensitive issue," said PAS vice-president Mahfuz Omar. "The show itself spells of bad intention, and the depiction of the Prophet is provocative. It creates religious tension."

Over 60% of Malaysia's 28 million population are Muslim Malays, and Islam is the country's official religion.

The New York-based group Revolution Muslim warned that SP creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker could share the fate of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered by a Muslim extremist in Amsterdam in 2004.

"We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show," the posting said. "This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them."

A photo of Van Gogh's body lying in the street appeared with the original posting, which could not be seen by some Web users since news of the threat broke.

In an April 14 episode of the series, Mohammad was shown wearing a bear mascot costume in order to avoid his image being shown. This was the second of two episodes slated to feature the religious founder in a bear costume.

Comedy Central would not comment on the Revolution Muslim blog post or say if it was taking any precautions because of it. However, Parker and Stone made no secret of their displeasure of the network's censorship.

"In the 14 years we've been doing South Park, we have never done a show that we couldn't stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central, and they made a determination to alter the episode," Parker and Stone wrote in a statement posted on their Web site.

The customary closing speech from one character "didn't mention Muhammad at all, but it got bleeped too," they said, noting that -- ironically -- it was to be "about intimidation and fear."

"We'll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different, and we'll see what happens to it," they observed.

Comedy Central censored the producers' plans to depict Muhammad in the 2006 "Cartoon Wars" episodes of the series. "It's just sad," Stone said of his employers in an interview with

Ironically, he pointed out, CC continued airing episode from an earlier season in which Muhammad is depicted and speaks, along with such religious leaders as Jesus of Nazareth and Buddha. "It was before the Danish cartoon controversy, so it somehow is fine," Stone said. "After that, [network self-censorship was] "the new normal."

Although UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh expressed sympathy with Comedy Central's dilemma, he said that by the way it handled the threat, the network may have given other extremists encouragement.

"The consequence of this position is that the thugs win and people have more incentive to be thugs," said Volokh, who teaches free speech and religious freedom law. "There are lots of people out there who would very much like to get certain kind of material removed, whether religious or political. The more they see others winning, the more they will be likely to do the same. Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated."

Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, described Revolution Muslim as a relatively small fringe organization.

There are about a dozen members of Revolution Muslim, which was established in 2007. Its Web site has hosted angry and often threatening remarks, including a poem during the High Holy Days last October asking God to kill all the Jews. Its members have also called for a more fundamentalist form of Islam when protesting in front of New York mosques.

Segal doesn't expect Revolution Muslim's warning to lead to the huge protests that followed the controvery of Danish cartoon depictions of Mohammad. However, he said that the group's remarks must be taken seriously.

"You don't know what crazy person is going to respond. This is in context of a relatively silly, funny show, but a threat is a threat," he said.

The FBI declined to comment, although it is aware of the threats. The bureau does not "monitor people or groups, we investigate criminal activity.," Special Agent Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman in New York, said in a phone interview.

"The FBI will investigate threats that occur over the Internet to determine if there is a potential for the threat to be carried out. However, in most cases these are First Amendment issues, and the FBI vigorously defends people's First Amendment rights."

The New York Police Department was "aware of the threat, and we've looked at it," said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. "We don't think that this threat, as is currently assessed, rises to a crime right now."

Police investigators have met with Comedy Central staff and "made arrangements to address security concerns," said a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the continuing investigation.

"This group definitely crosses the line, or is right on the line, in terms of what is acceptable speech," Segal said. "There is no direct link between this group and violence yet. But by posting this type of information, you never know who is going to take it seriously."

Revolution Muslim member Younus Abdullah Muhammad repeated the group's claim that the post was a prediction, not a threat.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, he said that the post on the group's blog "was intended in a principle that's deeply rooted in the Islamic religion, which is called commanding the good and forbidding the evil." He linked the group's complaints about the cartoon series to bigger concerns about American support for Israel and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee was the blogger who posted the warning about South Park. The ADL has identified him as former George Mason University student Zachary A. Chesser, a Virginia resident who has increased hit activity with Revolution Muslim in recent months.

"May Allah kill Matt Stone and Trey Parker and burn them in Hell for all eternity. They insult our prophets Muhammad, Jesus, and Moses," he wrote April on one of his Twitter accounts:

He later posted a clip from an interview of Stone and Parker with the site, in which the host asked if they worried about bombing for depicting the prophet Muhammad on their show. "Perhaps they are not, perhaps they should be, only time will tell," Al-Amrikee commented.

Revolution Muslim is "an extreme fringe group that has absolutely no credibility within the Muslim community," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights and advocacy group based in Washington.

"In fact, most Muslims suspect they were set up only to make Muslims look bad," Hooper said. "We just have very deep suspicions. They say such outrageous, irresponsible things that it almost seems like they're doing it to smear Islam."

Although Hooper knows about the South Park depiction of Muhammad, CAIR has not issued any formal statement because the organization doesn't want to publicize the show any more, he said: "People are pretty tired of this whole 'Let's insult the prophet Muhammad thing.'"

The latest SP episode, aired Wednesday, displayed some self-censorsihp by Parker and Stone. The character of the Prophet Muhammad, was hidden beneath a "CENSORED" graphic, and an audio bleep was heard when his name was said.

However, Comedy Central has further censored the episode, said a message Thursday morning on, the Web site of Stone and Parker's company. "After we delivered the show, and prior to broadcast, Comedy Central placed numerous additional audio bleeps throughout the episode," said the message.

The show's creators said that CC isn't letting the episode be streamed on the Web site, where they usually appear after being aired on the network.

A network spokesman confirmed Thursday that Comedy Central had added more bleeps than were in South Park Studios' version, and that it wasn't allowing the episode to appear on the studio's Web site. Instead of its customary midnight repeat of the new South Park episode, Comedy Central showed a previous episode from this season instead.

Growing Up As A Cartoon Fan in Australia

Cat Piano co-director Eddie White, who is also an owner of Adelaide-based People’s Republic of Animation, is writing a series of blog posts about the different “flavors” of imported foreign cartoons they enjoyed while growing up in Australia during the eighties and early-nineties. His first post is about the colorful American product:

They were soooo cute and soooo colourful and happy that it sort of made you want to scream at the TV with happiness. It was an anxious, sugar high happiness that made you want to run around the block laughing. The cartoons were also really tight like a well drilled pop rock group. They were fast, dynamic, pulsating with energy and usually had an element of wit or slapstick humour so they never really depressed. You wanted to hug the TV when they came on and you felt like these cartoons were hugging you back and grabbing your hand and pulling you in to play in their world.

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

David Arquette & Ariel Winter Join "Jake and the Never Land Pirates" Cast

Disney has announced that David Arquette and Ariel Winter will join the cast of their new show Jake and the Never Land Pirates. Arquette will play Skully, a parrot who is the lookout for the title character and his friends. Winter (Modern Family) will play Marina the Mermaid. The series is set to debut in 2011.

Toonzone at the Cartoon Network 2010 Upfront: Brief Impressions

The structure of a network upfront interests me. Particularly, the transition over the years from a series of number-focused presentations to getting attendees excited about the line-ups and how the presented shows and movies align with their own goals. Presentations that focus only on numbers can be deadly dull. On the other hand, you do want a little information. If there's nothing extra to be learned in-person and all of the information is available via press release, it's difficult to justify being in attendance. CN's upfronts typically strike a nice balance between the two. They're well-organized and polished.

Guests at this year's upfront included Andrew W.K. of Destroy Build Destroy, cast members from Dude, What Would Happen and NFL Atlanta Falcons Tight-End Tony Gonzalez. Andrew W.K. was a lot of fun to watch on stage. One of the props he had to work with was an ignition switch on a Radio Flyer wagon. He was going to use it to "destroy" the stage until Executive Vice President and General Manager for Cartoon Network Ad Sales & Marketing, John O'Hara stopped him. This, understandably, made Andrew W.K. sad and he left the stage with his little red wagon.

The Dude, What Would Happen guys pulled a not-so-much-volunteer from the audience, strapped him to a chair that had balloons tied to it. When they found it was too heavy to float, they tied more on and the volunteer floated off to the lights above and out of sight.

The entire event ended with Andrew W.K. "blowing up the stage" and then rocking out. One of the dudes ran around with a basketball hoop strapped to his back while people chased him with mini-basketballs, periodically taking shots. Madness, I tell you. (And just a tiny bit unnerving when you're sitting in the second row. Remnant neurosis from gym as a child, I suppose.) My favorite part, though, was the small child dressed as Finn, running across stage and flailing his arms about in an adventurous manner.

The aforementioned shenanigans took place between short speeches made by the executives. They kept the speeches short, relying more on clips to build excitement. And what blog post would be complete without someone making entirely arbitrary judgments on shows based on tiny snippets of video? Here we go!

The Looney Tunes Show: The clip shown featured CG renditions of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner in a chase across an arctic landscape. I bet you're wondering how that ends! It was cute, but predictable. I mean, the bit has long since become a parody of itself. I understand their choice to go CG on Coyote and Road Runner shorts, but I don't have to like it. I'll watch it anyway. The Bugs and Daffy designs from the press kit are adorable. Damn you and your inherent likability, Looney Tunes! (Press Summary)

Generator Rex: They seem to be positioning this show to be their next big franchise, a la Ben 10. Admittedly, it does look pretty awesome. I'm feeling pretty psyched about this one. (Press Summary)

FireBreather: Of the clips shown, this was the least exciting. It had all the classic issues you'd find in a CG show. I'm tired of watching characters that move like puppets and come with a plastic sheen. To make matters worse (for me), it was set in high school. I didn't find the character designs all that intriguing and the interactions between Duncan and the other students did nothing for me. But, I'm also 32 years old. It's been awhile since I've attended classes as a student with a classmate capable of breathing fire. (Press Summary)

Sym-Bionic Titan: Conversely, the inclusion of a high school setting in this show doesn't bother me in the least. Hypocritical? Probably. But, between Tartakovsky's track record of awesomeness and the inclusion of comedy, this seems like I could not only sit through this, but enjoy it. The clip shown included a mix of shots of the three teenagers in their high school setting and in action. Giant robots. Genndy Tartakovsky. What more could you want? (Press Summary)

Mad, Regular Show, Robotomy, Secret Mountain Fort Awesome: I'm grouping these together because they were presented as series of clips inter-cut with one another. They moved along very quickly and because they were so tightly packed together it is difficult to make an individual assessment for each show. It was refreshing to see such distinct visual styles for each show, and they included some clever jokes from each one. I wasn't expecting to hear a Mamma Mia joke in one of the Robotomy clips. (Press Summary: Mad, Regular Show, Robotomy, Secret Mountain Fort Awesome)

(Thanks ToonZone)

Remember Carl Macek

The localizer of Robotech and co-founder of Streamline Pictures passed away last weekend.

An extensive Space Station Liberty interview can be heard here

The official Robotech site collects remembrances

Upcoming in North America (and Other English Territories)

Nickelodeon is apparently staffing up for more Avatar animation


Independent Computer Animated Sci-Fi Film "Race" will be released on DVD on May 25

Director, Robert Brousseau, has previously helmed numerous projects, including episodes of the animated "Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles" and "Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century," for which he was nominated for an Emmy.

Screenwriter, Rhonda Smiley, has written for countless live action and animated television shows, including the Rick Springfield series, "High Tide," "Tarzan: The Epic Adventures," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation," and "Totally Spies!"

Editor on the film and voiced the lead character James Hereth produced the television movie, "The X-Team," starring Eric Mabius, and acted in the series, "Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book."

Section 23
New releases include

Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 325 min.
Street Date: 7/13/2010
Format: DVD
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: His targets never see it coming and he's never caught. If there is a witness to the kill, that poor SOB winds up dead too. People say he's a ghost. A machine. A monster. He's Golgo 13, the most feared assassin in the world, the professional's professional, the killer of killers. And now he's back with 13 targeted missions that will keep you glued to the screen (and away from the windows). Load up for high-powered, bullet-riddled action with Golgo 13!!

UDON Entertainment
UDON Entertainment will release The Art of Resident Evil 5 in July 2010

The Art of Resident Evil 5 showcases the 3D models, character designs, environments, storyboards, and promotional art.

Upcoming in Japan

adaptation of Tezuka's Buddha
Digimon: Cross Wars - scheduled to hit Japanese TV in July
Kure-nai OAD
Onobori Monogatari - adaptation of the autobiographical manga


Via, the latest blogged status of Ghibli's Arrietty production status is

Key animation: 970 cuts (97.5%)
Chief animator check: 813 cuts (81.7%)
Animation: 751 cuts (75.5%)
Animation check: 740 cuts (74.4%)
Painting: 658 cuts (66.1%)
Background painting: 833 cuts (83.7%)
Completed cuts: 634 cuts (63.7%)

The Business

ICV2's state of comic white-paper reports manga sales in the U.S. and Canada suffered through a second straight year of double digit declines in 2009 with sales falling 20% from an estimated $175 million in 2008 to $140 million in 2009. This drop-off comes on the heels of a 17% decline from manga’s high point in 2007 when sales reached their peak of $210 million, which means that manga sales declined by a third from 2007 to 2009.

Interestingly in 2009 the drop-off in manga sales was more pronounced in the bookstore channel than it was in the direct market, with the weakest titles taking the biggest hits. The number of volumes of manga released, which hit an all-time high of 1513 in 2007 fell to 1115 in 2009 and is projected to plummet to 968 in 2010, thus mirroring the more than 33% decline in manga sales since 2007. While most of the major manga publishers have simply cut back on the number of their releases, the pressure of declining sales has forced a number of mid-level publishers, including Aurora, Go-Comi, and Dr. Master, to inactive status.

For the first half of fiscal 2010, ending in February, animation studio Madhouse's revenues were 74 million yen less than originally projected

A Tokyo man was arrested on charges of insider trading on former Gonzo animation studio parent GDH

Anime on North American TV

Magical DoReMi, 4Kids' localization of Ojamajo Doremi, will air on CW4Kids Saturdays starting April 24th.

Worth Checking Out...


ANNCast spoke to Nmerichi Umennachi, a Ph.D candidate at the prestigious Tokyo University of Technology's animation program about the problems facing the Japanese animation industry

Patrick Macias' 5 best Godzilla movies of all time

Colony Drop on the spring anime season

a look at something different Dome Animation

interview with Satoshi Nishimura, director of Trigun: Badlands Rumble

Heat on Last Airbender casting apparently hasn't abated

The Guardian reviews Sky Crawlers


More yoshitoshi ABe iphone drawing

On Catsuka player, Kunio Kato's short for Sekisui Heim's 40th anniversary

manga artists at work

2010 is 1980: Mothra vs. Godzilla re-issue poster by Leiji Matsumoto
Godzilla: Visual reference for ?War of the Giant Monsters? event flier

vs King Ghidorah

more Godzilla art

Akira: color versus monochrome

Cyborg 009 x Monty Python

Advertising Becomes Anime in Nike's Sister One Effort


IMAGINASIAN Cliff Chiang Gatchaman Condor Joe original charity auction

The highschool that served as a reference for Haruhi Suzumiya is tired of tresspassers

Ufotable Draws Poster for Japanese Self-Defense Forces Recruiters

Lightsaber wielding Domo-kun joins Anakin Skywalker in new “Star Wars: Clone Wars” TV Spot

Star Wars: Attack of the Pokemon

Tezuka Mural in Takadanobaba
more shots

a look at the Ghibli Museum

Bandai Opens its first Gundam Café in Akihabara

Evangelion-themed Convenience Store “Lawson Tokyo-3 Shop” Opened in Hakone

Melazeta Pairs Gabriella & Gedeone For New Series

Italian artists Federico Guidi and Matteo Stanzani directed this pilot for a cartoon series about an old lady and a ostrich. Enjoy Gabriella & Gedeone, produced by Melazeta:

A New Animated Feature! From Overseas!

Imagi might be kaput, but there's a newer animated feature from Hong Kong:

Local 3D animation feature “Little Gobie” is set to launch a new Christmas character in North America through The Weinstein Company at the end of the year. Producers are now in negotiation with distributors in Hong Kong and China for a December 2010 release ...

“Little Gobie” tells the story of a reindeer’s adventure to find his lost pet dragon through a series of Christmas-themed locales ... The filmmakers intend to create a series based on the “Little Gobie” characters with new releases every two years. In the meantime, T-Films will launch a new animated character at the upcoming Cannes market for a second series to alternate between “Little Gobie” releases.

The Weinstein Co. has been involved with Asian animation for some time now. They had good results with Hoodwinked Uno back in the day, but Hoodwinked Deux, according to people who worked on it, sits on a shelf awaiting release. ("The Weinsteins didn't have the dough to release it theatrically," claims one of the artists who worked on it.)

If the LA Times is to be believed, there might be some truth to that:

Kanbar Entertainment is feeling hoodwinked by the Weinstein Co.

The San Francisco-based movie producer has filed a petition in Superior Court to try to force the Weinstein Co. to begin arbitration proceedings to resolve disputes between the two companies over the production and release of the animated movie
"Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil." The movie was originally going to be released Jan. 15, but in December the Weinstein Co. said it was postponing the release to February at the earliest. Since then, no new date has been unveiled.

Undaunted, the Weinstein Co. presses on. And here we are with yet another cartoon from abroad, going for the big brass ring of "Worldwide Hit." Will Little Gobie have that magical something?

Welll ... the great highway of animation is littered with the road kill of cartoon features with high aspirations and minimal box office. In fact, the subject came up recently with some artists working on Tangled. We talked about foreign animated features, and the ever-present question, "Is all the production work going to India?" cropped up.

I allowed as how most of it wasn't going there because:

1) Foreign job shops are in the business of quantity and lower cost, not quality. There's little financial incentive for Indian or Korean or Brazilian subcontractors to do the job better, but large incentives for making it cheaper. Therefore that's the way they roll.

2) Because it
is quantity over quality, foreign contractors often lose their most talented employees, who desire to work on more ambitious and upscale projects and so jump ship, moving on to higher-end studios. (Can you say DreamWorks? Can you say Pixar? I knew you could!)

3) In theatrical animation, quality counts in the performance of feature films.

4) Ipso facto, because it is a
quality issue, animated features created in foreign job shops often fail to make big bucks.

In the time I've been doing the biz rep thing, I've seen lots of animated productions pass through studios, and the high-end stuff (IMO) remains stateside because A) this is where a lot of the talent that delivers high-grossing product resides and B) it does companies little good to produce a $30 million CG feature if it only grosses $20 million.

Conglomerates, as lumbering and dense as they sometimes are, know that it's better to make a $100 million feature that grosses $500 million ... and as a result keep the production here.

So Brothers Weinstein? Good luck with Little Gobie, and I hope the Hoodwinked kerfluffle works itself out. But as for the low-end, foreign stuff hitting big at the box office, I'm not holding my breath.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Beautiful Grim

Leif Jeffers, an animator at DreamWorks, wrote in to tell us of an auction that went live on ebay today. It’s called Beautiful Grim. Here is the the description of the auction from the website:

“My name is Daarken and I am a concept artist and illustrator working for Mythic Entertainment. My friend Leif Jeffers, an animator at DreamWorks, and I are organizing an art auction fundraiser.

Earlier this year my girlfriend, Cat, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 25. On November 3rd, 2009, she had a bilateral mastectomy after going through 16 weeks of chemotherapy. As you can imagine it has been hard for her, not only mentally and physically, but financially. In order to help alleviate some of her medical bills Leif and I wanted to throw an art auction. The proceeds that are left over after her medical bills have been paid will go to a breast cancer related charity.

We currently have artists contributing that hail from all regions of the industry: concept artists, animators, photographers, sculptors, fine artists, illustrators, you name it. The theme for the auction is “Beautiful Grim.” The interpretation of “Beautiful Grim” has been left up to the artists.”

Here is the most recent info on the first group of artwork that went on sale today. Over 200 professional artists and animators, including Nico Marlet (above) and Emmanuel Shiu (below), have contributed to this cause with some amazing work - and you can check it all out here. And here’s a direct link to the ebay page.

Help spread the word.

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

The Weekend Linkorama

Charles Solomon writes of a one-woman animation studio:

Nina Paley wrote, directed, drew and bought the music rights for her feature, based on an ancient Hindu epic.

Paley completed
"Sita Sings the Blues" in three years on a budget of about $200,000: $80,000 in production costs and $120,000 "for food and rent and things like that." ... [C]ommentators believe that "Sita" represents a new paradigm: Computer technology has become so powerful and affordable that an individual with sufficient talent can make a full-length film. ...

Mr. Ted Petok, Academy Award winning cartoonist, dies.

Ted Petok, a metro Detroit cartoonist and illustrator who won an Academy Award for an animated film about a shaggy feathered bird, died Tuesday of coronary artery disease in Rockville, Md. He was 93. ...

"The Crunch Bird," an animated short about a cranky bird with a voracious appetite, was less than three minutes long and was produced and directed by Mr. Petok ...

After his Oscar success, Mr. Petok formed a distribution company and went on to make dozens of animated shorts, including 1974's
"The Mad Baker." It starred a mad scientist and his creation, a monstrous chocolate cake. ...

The Times of Los Angeles details the censoring of South Park:

... [A]fter an ominous threat from a radical Muslim website, the network that airs the program bleeped out all references to the prophet Muhammad in the second of two episodes set to feature the holy figure dressed in a bear costume. The incident provides the latest example that media conglomerates are still struggling to balance free speech with safety concerns and religious sensitivities, six years after Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was slain for making a film critical of Islamic society. ...

And the same newspaper lists the big summer movies, many of which appear to be of the animated variety:

May 21: "Shrek Forever After" ( DreamWorks Animation). The fourth — and promised last — installment in the mammoth ogre franchise could well be one of summer's most popular releases. ...

June 18: "Toy Story 3" (Pixar/Disney). Tom Hanks and Tim Allen's first talking plaything movie launched the computer animation revolution in 1995, and the third film in the series is the first in the franchise to be designed, made and exhibited with 3-D in mind ...

July 9: "Despicable Me" (Universal). The first animated movie from the new alliance between Chris Meledandri's Illumination Entertainment and Universal Studios, it's among the very few original 3-D movies this summer. Steve Carell plays Gru, an accomplished thief whose plans to steal the moon are altered after he meets three orphan girls ...

July 30: "Cats & Dogs 3: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" (Warner Bros.). ... A sequel to a 2001 movie about talking animals, the new "Cats & Dogs" combines the spy antics of "G-Force" with the preternaturally loquacious creatures of "Babe." ...

Mr. Kennedy offers "A Kick in the Head, Part !V" ... also the drawings (one directly above) handed out by animator Glen Keane at a Cal Arts lecture.

... [A] drawing that works three dimensionally is always more solid and will always be a stronger drawing ... Obviously, if you're animating in 2D it's extremely important because as you animate your character needs to feel like its sitting in real space and if you can't draw your character from every angle then you'll never be able to turn them around as they move. But as more and more people animate in 3D this is becoming a lost discipline, I fear. ...

And director/animator Will Finn offers a related tutorial:

... Silhouette is one of those rules that is so important, so fundamental, that it isn't just important to animation: it is essential to clarity in all graphic art, including painting, sculpture and photography. I confess like many "bullheads" when I first heard about it: I immediately questioned whether it was 100 per cent valid in every circumstance. After all, when we are animating, we will have to draw many angles of a figure and many phases of action. ...

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Avatar Breaks More Records

Get James Cameron another house! Fresh on DVD and Blu-ray, Avatar annihilated the records for most single-day Blu-ray copies sold — besting previous champ, The Dark Knight, 1,500,000 to 600,000 — and single-day home video sales total. It also sparked a run on Blu-ray player sales, as retailers said that many customers purchased Avatar and a player simultaneously. No truth the rumor that the Blu-ray disc also turned water into wine, but 20th Century Fox does have to save something for the special edition. Be patient!

'Alien' Prequel Will Investigate The 'Space Jockey,' Says Ridley Scott

FROM MTV MOVIES: It isn't overstating things to say that Ridley Scott is among the greatest filmmakers of all time, and "Alien" is among the greatest films of all time. So how could anyone not be eager to learn every little detail about his prequel to the 1979 classic?

On Thursday (April 22), we caught up with the "Robin Hood" director to speak with him for next week's MTV Summer Movie Preview. And when he mentioned that he was feasting his eyes upon the latest "Untitled 'Alien' Prequel" script pages, we couldn't help but ask some questions.

What followed might be the most revealing interview Sir Ridley has given thus far on the top-secret project. Read on for exclusive details concerning the prequel's plot, creature design and the woman — not named Sigourney Weaver — who will soon be kicking alien ass.

Continue reading Exclusive: Ridley Scott Reveals 'Alien' Prequel Details at

'The Last Airbender' To Be Released In 3-D

Director M. Night Shyamalan's "The Last Airbender" will be joining the ever-growing ranks of 3-D films scheduled to hit later this year.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount is working with Stereo D — the company used by James Cameron for "Avatar" — on the 3-D conversion of "The Last Airbender," which will not be pushed back from its original release date.

Shyamalan was reportedly in favor of converting "The Last Airbender" to 3-D from the start, before finally convincing the studio to make the leap after 3-D tests were completed. "The Last Airbender" will be the first 3-D conversion released from Paramount.

"The Last Airbender" is a live-action adaptation of the massively popular anime-influenced animated series "Avatar: The Last Airbender" that aired for three seasons on Nickelodeon.

The film stars Noah Ringer as Aang, a young boy who must learn the art of "bending" the elements in order to confront the war-like Fire Nation. Dev Patel also stars as Prince Zuko, with Nicola Peltz as Katara and Jackson Rathbone as Sokka.

Last month, Shyamalan spoke at length about the film's use of CGI effects, including one scene in particular where a character "uses water like nunchucks."

Shyamalan also revealed that many of the heavy-effects scenes would be filmed using single, prolonged shots — which the director has become known for — rather than the quick-cuts style favored by other directors.

"The Last Airbender" will be released on July 2.

Scarlett Johansson Steps Into The Ring In New 'Iron Man 2' Clip

Meet Natalie Rushman. She's fluent in French, Italian, Russian and Latin, she's held modeling gigs in Tokyo and she's also quite capable in the boxing ring.

Oh, and one more thing — she's a top secret super spy better known as the Black Widow.

Moviefone has posted a new clip from director Jon Favreau's "Iron Man 2" showcasing the unassuming Natalie, played in the film by Scarlett Johansson. In the clip, Johannson's Natalie — also known as Natasha Romanoff — is brought before Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) for the first time, fueling some transparent jealousy on the part of Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).

"She is from legal," Pepper describes Natalie to Tony, "and she is potentially a very expensive sexual harassment lawsuit if you keep ogling her like that."

Apparently, Tony is in need of a new assistant now that Pepper is the new CEO of Stark Industries, and Natalie seems to fit the bill — and, of course, it doesn't hurt that she's drop dead gorgeous. Too bad for Tony that Pepper doesn't approve of his choice, but when did her approval ever stop the arrogant multi-billionaire?

As the two debate over Natalie's qualifications, the redhead herself steps into the boxing ring with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), Tony's driver, bodyguard and good friend. Happy is clearly skeptical of Natalie's skills as a fighter, but given the character's comic book history, it's a safe bet that Tony's would be assistant has more than a few deadly moves up her sleeve.

'Green Hornet' Release Date Pushed Back To January 2011 For 3-D Conversion

Director Michel Gondry's adaptation of "The Green Hornet" is being pushed back from its original December 22 release date.

According to Deadline, the delay will allow the studio to convert the film into 3-D — though Sony is branding the changes as "3-D enhancements" that will be added once the visual effects are completed by Sony Imageworks.

While rumors have begun to swirl that the studio was unhappy with the tone of the film and Seth Rogen's performance as the Green Hornet, Sony Pictures Vice-Chairman Jeff Blake officially denied the reports.

"We're investing more in the film to have it 3-D," said Blake. "We've seen part of the movie. We love it. We believe in it. Whoever is spreading these rumors has not seen it. We're going to finish 'Green Hornet' in 3-D and take 9 months to do it right."

Earlier this month, "Green Hornet" producer Neal Moritz first hinted that the film might go 3-D after revealing that 3-D test footage had already been completed. Moritz also revealed that Sally Menke ("Inglourious Basterds") has been hired to edit the film.

"[Menke] showed us the first hour, myself and the studio on Friday," related Moritz. "We’re thrilled at what we’re seeing. Obviously taking a combination of two genres action/comedy… super hero comedy and bringing them together."

"The Green Hornet" will be released on January 14, 2011 with Rogen, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz, Edward Furlong, Edward James Olmos, Tom Wilkinson, and Jay Chou as Kato.

James Cameron reveals Battle Angel Alita plans

Fox Film Entertainment chairman and chief executive Jim Gianopoulis (from left), CCH Pounder, James Cameron and Tom Rothman plant a tree

Director James Cameron said his own daughters were the inspiration for his proposed adaptation of the Japanese manga Battle Angel Alita at an Earth Day ceremony Thursday at 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles to mark the debut of his Avatar Blu-ray and DVD.

"I just love the character," Cameron said in a group interview. "Maybe it's from having daughters. I have three daughters, and thinking about what it's like, the main character is this little girl that everybody kind of ignores. She's got such a heroic heart on the inside, I've always loved that character."

Cameron, Avatar producer Jon Landau and voice actor CCH Pounder were on hand Thursday to plant a tree to mark a partnership between Fox and Earth Day Network for the "Home Tree Initiative," which will plant 1 million trees native to each region in 15 countries by the end of this year.

Landau said that his Battle Angel movie would look at the humanity from a new perspective. "Battle Angel, I think, is a science fiction movie that begs the question 'What does it mean to be human?'" he told a group of reporters. "It takes place in a future world, a world that has cyborgs, but are you human if you have a mind, if you have a heart, if you have a soul? It's a journey of a young girl who tries to discover herself and what she learns upon that journey."

Battle Angel Alita would certainly follow in Cameron's tradition of strong female protagonists, including Terminator's Sarah Connor, Aliens' Ripley and Avatar's Neytiri. "Another strong female character," Landau continued. "I think the idea of this journey that Alita goes on is something that people can really identify with, the sense of self-discovery."

Twentieth Century Fox, the studio where Cameron made Avatar, Aliens, The Abyss, True Lies and Titanic, would produce Battle Angel should Cameron decide to make it next. Fox Film Entertainment co-chairman and chief executive officer Tom Rothman was at the ceremony on Thursday and said he has no preference between a new Cameron story in Battle Angel and a follow-up to the blockbuster Avatar.

"My preference is only that he makes another great movie for us," Rothman said in a group interview. "We've seen a lot of the stuff on Battle Angel over the last year, so we're very fired up about it. Look, James Cameron and 20th Century Fox have been in business together for over 25 years, one of the most successful partnerships in the history of the movie business, so that's something obviously that will continue."

It seems like Cameron has a thing for mecha-like robot walkers, judging from Aliens and Avatar. Could Battle Angel provide him another metal walker fix?

"What's wrong with metal walkers?" Cameron joked. "Metal walkers are cool. You'll just have to wait and see. Metal walker fans of the world, stay tuned."

'Definitely possible': An Iron Man Black Widow spinoff

We just left the press conference for Iron Man 2 in Beverly Hills, Calif., about which we'll be posting more in days ahead, but one tidbit of info that came out of it was confirmation that Marvel Studios would love to do a spinoff movie centering on Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow character.

"Definitely possible," said Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige in response to the question. "Yes, absolutely."

Johansson's character debuts in Iron Man 2 and nearly steals the show from Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow in a couple of scenes while showing off her impressive martial-arts skills in others. And she also happens to look fabulous in a black catsuit.

Read more about it in coming days. Iron Man 2 opens May 7.

Expect a Bourne-style Fantastic Voyage

Producer Jon Landau told us that director Paul Greengrass will bring some of his Bourne moves to the upcoming remake of Fantastic Voyage, written by Avatar's James Cameron, should he sign on.

"We had a very good conversation with Paul yesterday," Landau said in a group interview on Earth Day Thursday in Los Angeles, where he was promoting the DVD and Blu-ray release of Avatar. "We're still progressing along that."

The 1966 original Fantastic Voyage depicted the journey of a miniaturized medical team that is inserted into the bloodstream of an ailing patient in a teeny white submarine.

Greengrass has become known for his action-packed directorial style from the films The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, and viewers can expect some of the same in Fantastic Voyage, Landau said, along with new tricks and stylistic flourishes.

Paul Greengrass

"I think for certain scenes [he will use handheld cameras]," Landau said. "What Paul likes about the movie is that it gives him an opportunity to do something that he hasn't really done that much of, designing this world and playing to that. You take Titanic and say, 'Does it give Jim Cameron an opportunity to bring his action sensibility to a period drama?' And it did. So I think Paul bringing that style but adapting it, Paul's a smart, smart guy. He'll do a great job on that movie."

Nothing is final yet for Fantastic Voyage while Greengrass, Cameron and Landau are feeling each other out. "When you hire a director on a movie, it's like a marriage," Landau said. "I think Paul and we want to date a little bit before we put on the ring."

Fantastic Voyage is in development at 20th Century Fox and intended to shoot in 3-D.

Escape from New York prequel is happening. Um ... yay?

Whether we really want to learn Snake Plissken's origin story or not, it looks like we're going to find out how the Escape From New York antihero came to be, because the long-delayed prequel is back on track, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Breck Eisner, who already directed one recent remake, the do-over of George Romero's The Crazies, and also directed 2005's Sahara, is negotiating with New Line to take charge of the remake of Escape From New York.

The studio has had the rights to the remake since March 2007 but hasn't been able to make much progress. At one point it looked as if Gerard Butler would star in the role created by Kurt Russell, with Len Wiseman directing, but both soon left the project.

Now that Eisner has joined New York, do you think the film will finally escape from development hell? And a more important question—do you want it to?


Could this be our first look at one of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

We haven't heard much about the new live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. Latino Review received an image, with no further explanation, that could be our first look at how the Turtles may appear.

(Thanks Comic Book Movie)

Iron Man 2 After-Credits Easter Egg Confirmed

Collider sitting down with Iron Man 2 writer, Justin Theroux, he confirms that there will be something after the rolling credits. Check it Out!

It was rumored not too long ago, that there would be some mention or reference to Thor & Captain America after the rolling credits for the upcoming Iron Man 2. The original film's credits ended with Tony Stark(Robert Downey Jr.) meeting Director of SHIELD, Nick Fury(Samuel L. Jackson).

Now, Collider's Steve 'Frosty' Weintraub, got the chance to sit down with Iron Man 2's writer, Justin Theroux. And they discussed improv and the connection with all Marvel movies, and Theroux confirmed that "you might want to stay through the credits".

Collider: Well for things like Easter egg, is that something that you guys…is that a lot of improv or is that very scripted?

Justin Theroux:
No, that’s got to be very specific because you can’t…if it was all of a sudden Tony opens a tool box and there’s a friggin’ hammer in there, you can’t bone the next guy. You know it’s not like…you want to create possibilities. So that’s a very thought out piece. If the shield all of a sudden just falls out of the sky, whatever it is, whatever that thing is, you want to be very specific about it. So…

I understand.

It’ll be apparent in a week and a half.

I may be wrong, but it seems a little redundant that Thor(Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America(Chris Evans) would show up physically, and I'm pretty sure they won't put anything in that wouldn't fit with a third installment. With that being said, be sure to stay after the credits for Iron Man 2, May 7th. While we wait, speculate on what could it be....

(Thanks Comic Book Movie)

Is stunning short film The Raven the new District 9?

It's now officially a trend: Dazzling sci-fi short movies such as The Gift and Panic Attack! that grab the attention of Hollywood, and the latest is The Raven, a gritty slice of sci-fi Los Angeles, below.

The movie, first posted by Latino Review, comes from Peruvian director Ricardo De Montreuil and had a budget of just $5,000. The website reports that studios have already inquired with Montreuil's representatives about expanding it into a feature film. (The short was conceived as a treatment for a proposed film trilogy.)

Here's the description:

The short follows Chris Black who possesses a power that could lead to the destruction of the current regime, and they will stop at nothing to destroy him.

The chase is on as Chris runs for his life in this sci-fi thriller set in an alternate and futuristic Los Angeles.

Pretty nifty, yes?

New Iron Man 2 Promo Art

Here are some amazing promo art pieces for the highly anticipated Iron Man 2. See Black Widow, War Machine, Whiplash, and of course Iron Man. Check it Out

Marvel's Iron Man 2 is in the midst of our site on the big screen, and we've been hearing nothing but great news as we approach the May 7th release date. Now SpiderMedia has just posted some great promo art for the upcoming Iron Man 2. It includes a closer look at Black Widow, War Machine, and art including a biography of Whiplash and Tony Stark's Mark IV armor.

-Click Images For Full Size-

(Thanks Comic Book Movie)

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