Tuesday, May 4, 2010

News - 05/04/10...

Grim Natwick's home town honors him with Boop fest

The town of Wisconsin Rapids -- population 18,435 -- is playing host to the inaugural Betty Boop Festival Wisconsin, set for August 5 to 8.

And for good reason: it's the home town of Grim Natwick (1890-1990), creator of the Fleischer Studios heartthrob. The festival includes a Grim Natwick Festival of Animated Films.

"Grim Natwick was undoubtedly one of the most influential animators who ever lived," said Stephen Worth, director of the International Animated Film Society in Hollywood.

Natwick started working in animation in 1917; his career spanned seven decades.

He was the lead animator on the character of Snow White while working on the 1937 Walt Disney Studios feature film Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.

However, Natwick never forgot his home town. He kept in contact with old friends and family from Wisconsin Rapids through his lifetime. He returned to visit the Historical Museum of South Wood County, where he made fast sketches of Betty Boop for local kids.

One highlight of Betty Boop Festival Wisconsin will be screenings of 2008 feature film Sita Sings The Blues. Animation director Nina Paley will be in town to present the award-winning movie.

Festival organizers are looking for Wisconsin animators show up for screenings of their films, as well as for panel discussions and informal meetings.

The festival invites submissions in two categories: a Local Animators section, open to artists from central Wisconsin, and a Wisconsin Animators section, open to those from or working in the state.

June 1 is the submission deadline. General guidelines and application forms are available on the Betty Boop Festival Wisconsin's Web site, www.bettyboopfestivalwi.com.

Rainmaker announces original animation projects

Rainmaker, the Vancouver-based animation and visual effects studio formerly known as Mainframe Entertainment, has revealed its first slate of original animated feature films.

The studio has mainly been known for servicing other companies. It produced animation and visual effects for Mattel's series of animated films starring Barbie.

Company president and executive producer Catherine Winder says that Rainmaker hopes to release its first feature in two to three years, with a feature coming out every 12 to 18 months. The company is now trying to sell its forthcoming features to distributors.

Winder, a former Lucasfilm executive, was hired by Rainmaker last year to transform the company into a producer of original feature films.

Two projects are seeking distribution and/or creative attachments, said Winger.

In Ogo, a little girl learns that there's really such a thing as the legendary Ogopogo, a monster in British Columbia's Lake Okanagan. Former DreamWorks animator and independet filmmaker Jacob Medjuck has been attached as its director-writer.

Another would-be film, Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, is based on the 1939 children's book by DuBose Heyward (who also wrote the play that was adapted into the musical Porgy & Bess). Oscar-winners Alison Snowden and David Fine (for the short Bob's Birthday) are attached as consulting directors, while Bernice Vanderlaan (Life With Derek) is writing the script.

SpongeBob Maneuver helps girl save friend's life

Thanks to a "SpongeBob Square Pants" episode depicting the Heimlich Manuever, a 12-year-old Long Island girl was able to save her best friend's life when she choked on a piece of gum.

Long Beach Middle School music teacher Sanford Mauskopf was saying something funny when seventh-graders Allyson Golden and Miriam Starobin had just finished practicing songs. Maybe too funny... the two girls fell off their chairs.

"I was chewing gum, which I shouldn't," said Allyson. I was laughing hysterically and suddenly I realized I'm not laughing any more. I can't breathe. Then Miriam goes, 'Ally, Are you choking?'

"I can't speak. So my arms are around my neck. I'm turning purple and my legs are flailing," Allyson said.

"Miriam pulls me off the ground. She gives me the Heimlich three or four times and the gum, comes shooting out onto the ground five feet in front of me."

Miriam recalled that when she was a small girl, she saw a SpongeBob Square Pants involving neighbor Squidward. "It was like a flash right in my eyes. I saw in my head Squidward with his clarinet lodged in his throat and then SpongeBob does the Heimlich Manuever and the clarinet comes flying out of his mouth," she said.

"I had no clue what I was doing until it was done," she added.

When she realized that she couldn't breathe "it was the scariest moment of my life," Allyson said. "I was thinking 'I'm going to die. What will my parents think?'"

Mauskopf recounted that he was at the piano listening to a student perform. His view of the girls was blocked by a music stand.

Suddenly, he saw "a wad of white gum fly out of Allyson's mouth. It went about five feet.

"And I said what's going on?" he remembered. Miriam told him, and Mauskopf replied, "Do you realize what you've just done? You've saved Allyson's life. You're a hero."

The producers of SBSP said they felt flattered that Miriam took action. However, they said, she must have viewed a real Heimlich Maneuver elsewhere.

The Art of Harvey Comics, Fleischer and Famous Studios

Starting next week, the touring exhibition From Richie Rich to Wendy, The Art of Harvey Comics will make a stop in L.A. with rare comic book and animation artwork on display (and some for sale) at the Van Eaton Gallery. On view for only one week, Saturday May 8th through Saturday May 15th, Van Eaton will augment the Harvey exhibit with a wealth of rare material from Paramount’s Famous Studios (the creators of Casper the Friendly Ghost, Little Audrey, Baby Huey, Buzzy the Crow and Herman & Katnip) and its predessesor, Fleischer Studios. There will be rare model sheets, pencil animation art, and cel set ups from Casper, Popeye, Superman, Color Classics, Noveltoons, Little Lulu and others.

There’s an opening reception on Saturday night (May 8th, 7pm -10pm) and I wouldn’t miss it. Schedule permitting, veteran Harvey editor Sid Jacobson may be joining us. The reception is open to the public, but they would prefer you RSVP at (818) 788-2357. The Van Eaton Galleries are located at 13613 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, CA. For more information on Harvey Comics, check the Facebook page.

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

Lomax Shapes Another Short For Swarovski

Last summer, we posted one of Courtland Lomax’ animated films for Swarovski crystal. Another released this week, titled City Park. The animators on the project were Jennifer Hager, Jules Soto, Destiny Wood, Matt Pugnetti and Philip Vose.

More 2010 CalArts Animated Films

With next week’s Producer’s Show inching closer, handfuls of CalArts animated shorts are finding their way to the internet. Two of my favorites are below, with the exception of Kris Anka’s A Bear Film, which we posted last week.

Crater Face by Skyler Page

Bothered Bot by Jennifer Harlow

Foreign Horse Races in May

Iron Man Deux knocks them dead in foreign venues.

Marvel Studios' "Iron Man 2," this year's opening summer tentpole, lit up the foreign theatrical circuit with a five-day overseas launch bagging $100.2 million from 6,764 sites in 53 markets for a sparkling per-screen average of $14,814.

Distributor Paramount Pictures International says the sequel to 2008's Marvel original starring Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow finished No. 1 in 52 of the opening territories, beating
"Iron Man's" opening overall numbers by 26% in local currencies ...

And another Paramount release ran over the $200 milion trip-wire.

Fourth was DreamWorks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon," generating $6.7 million from 5,687 situations in 60 markets. Distributor Paramount says the overseas gross total has surpassed $200 million ($203 million). ...

Since Dragon will likely accumulate $200 million in the U.S. and Canada in the next few days, (it's at $192.4 million now) I think we can judge the feature a success, can we not?

Meanwhile, Tim Burton's reworking of the Lewis Carroll story (Alice in Big Bucks Land) closes in on a billion worldwide dollars. Tim has traveled a looong way from the first-floor of the Disney Animation Building ...

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Cheaper, Faster

The mainstream media picks up on the fact that Mr. Meladandri's company Illumination is trying to change the usual business model for theatrical animation:

Neither Universal nor Meledandri is interested in parroting the business of Pixar and DreamWorks, which spend more than $150 million on their productions and huge sums on screenplay development. "We needed to create a model of efficiency," Meledandri says. "We can't afford to have a lot of trial and error." ...

The idea: Develop only a handful of scripts and look for unusual (meaning cheaper) places to make them ... If money is saved by not perfectly animating every single blade of grass, Meledandri says he won't skimp on storytelling

As far as I know, Illumination freelances out scripts, boards and design, then finds an overseas animation company to do the production work. They've got an ambitious slate of films beyond Despicable Me, with different production facilities on different continents involved with various films. No big, fixed facility with a permanent crew, no meddlesome I.A. fringe benefits, just sub-contractors as far as the eye can see.

(Sort of an upscale version of what the Weinsteins did with Hoodwinked. In ten weeks or so we'll see how it works.)

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Thor trailer

Here’s an exclusive first look at one of the big movies of 2011: Thor.

No, not the upcoming Kenneth Branagh Marvel Comics super hero movie. This is Thor, The Edda Chronicles, a new feature from Iceland’s CAOZ animation studio, Germany’s Ulysses Films and Ireland’s Magma Films. This is also coming out in 2011. The last time I criticized a Europeon production, I was raked over the coals. So I won’t say a word this time… I’ll let you be the judge:

And if the trailer doesn’t give you enough information check this clip on You Tube.

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

Funtastic Circus

Don’t deny it, you love this cartoon.

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

Lomax Shapes Another Short For Swarovski

Last summer, we posted one of Courtland Lomax’ animated films for Swarovski crystal. Another released this week, titled City Park. The animators on the project were Jennifer Hager, Jules Soto, Destiny Wood, Matt Pugnetti and Philip Vose.

More 2010 CalArts Animated Films

With next week’s Producer’s Show inching closer, handfuls of CalArts animated shorts are finding their way to the internet. Two of my favorites are below, with the exception of Kris Anka’s A Bear Film, which we posted last week.

Crater Face by Skyler Page

Bothered Bot by Jennifer Harlow

Iron Man, X-Men and Classic ’80s Toons Arrive on DVD

It’s a good week for fans of Marvel animation — both new and vintage.

With the release on Friday of the new live-action movie Iron Man 2, fans have a chance to catch up on the adventures of young Tony Stark in Iron Man Armored Adventures: Complete Season One (Vivendi, $29.93). Meanwhile, the Golden Avenger’s previous animated outing gets collected at last on Iron Man: The Complete 1994 Animated Series (Disney, $29.99)

If mutants are more your speed, then this week brings Wolverine and the X-Men, Vol. 5: Revelation (Lionsgate, $14.98). Unfortunately, Marvel recently announced this series won’t be back for a second season, so check it out while you can. Here’s a preview clip:

Older X-Men fans also will finally be able to complete their collection of the popular 1990s series that started it all, with X-Men: Vol. 5 (Disney, $23.99).

Fans of vintage TV cartoons can revisit the decade of MTV, New Wave and Ronald Reagan with Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s (Warner Bros., $26.99). This follows on successful similar releases for the 1960s and 1970s, and features episodes from 11 popular animated series, including Goldie Gold & Action Jack, Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos, The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley, The Flintstone Kids, Mister T, The Biskitts, Monchhichis, Galtar and the Golden Lance, Dragon’s Lair, Thundarr the Barbarian and the Kwicky Koala Show.

For the kids, four episodes of the popular preschooler series are collected on Go Diego Go: Great Panda Adventure (Paramount, $16.99). Also new for kids this week are Wow Wow Wubbzy: Escape From Dino Island (Anchor Bay, $14.98), Care Bears: Share-a-Lot in Care-a-Lot (Lionsgate, $14.98) and Sid The Science Kid: Weather Kid Sid (NCircle Entertainment, $12.99)

Anime fans better like Dragon Ball, as this week’s releases are Dragon Ball Season 4 (FUNimation, $49.98) and Dragon Ball Z: Dragon Box 3 (FUNimation, $59.98).

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Pixar Releases Tractor for Managing Render Farms

Pixar Animation Studios has released Tractor 1.0, its software package for running distributed processing in render farms.

Tractor, derived from Pixar’s experience in managing the world’s largest render farms through its RenderMan and Alfred applications, is a completely new solution engineered to ensure performance and scalability for farms with tens of thousands of processors.

Tractor consists of three primary components: the Engine, the Blade, and the Dashboard. The Engine maintains the central job queue and dispatches tasks, the Blade consists of a Python-based execution server running on each remote node, and the Dashboard is a customizable web browser user interface providing centralized control.

Tractor 1.0 will replace Pixar's Alfred and Alfserver. To aid in the transition for Alfred users, Tractor is designed to be fully compatible with previous Alfred scripts, and is available to customers of those products on current maintenance, as a free upgrade, on a one-to-one basis.

For details on pricing and availability, visit:

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Debert Signs on to Mothership, Digital Domain

Digital Domain sister firm, production company Mothership has added director Aladino Debert to its roster.

The job also will include Debert, a veteran visual effects supervisor, working as a creative director with Digital Domain’s commercial division.

"Aladino is a multifaceted creative talent who has built a portfolio of work that demonstrates an ability to be as adept and nimble behind a workstation as behind a camera," said Mothership president Ed Ulbrich. "He's exactly the kind of artist we're looking for to build the Mothership roster - a conceptual director with a great talent for using all of the storytelling tools available to him."

Debert previously worked for Digital Domain on such feature films as The Time Machine, Star Trek: Nemesis and Adaptation. He most recently worked as a creative director at Radium on commercial campaigns for such clients as Target, Pepsi, BMW, Honda, Coca-Cola, Renault, Bridgestone, Dolby and Boeing.

Said Debert, "I'm very excited to join Mothership and the impressive global roster of talent that Ed and executive producer Tanya Cohen have curated. They've built a truly breakthrough business model that creatively nurtures filmmakers and artists while providing them with the infrastructure and tools of one the industry's top visual effects companies, Digital Domain. There's no better place for me to be right now."

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

SIGGRAPH Asia Fest Issues Call for Entries

The SIGGRAPH Asia 2010 Computer Animation Festival is open for submissions and is seeking cutting edge and innovative animation and visual effects from around the world.

The submissions are expected to have been completed on or after Jan. 1, 2009, and should be computer-generated or include aspects of computer-generated production.

The festival accepts submissions in the following categories:

• Animation Shorts (narrative, character, abstract, experimental, etc.; most animations should be in this category)
• Animated Feature Films (selections or montages)
• Commercials
• Music Videos
• Real-Time Visualization (games, mobile animations)
• Scientific Visualization or Research
• Visual Effects (short films, sequences, live-action feature films, etc.)

Submissions for Panels & Talks: All topics are eligible including, but not limited to, "behind-the-scenes", story development, character designs, and sound designs. Please submit a proposal for a Panel (multiple presenters) or a Talk (single presenter) about your project's content and relevance.

The festival includes two main screening programs: An official competition section that consists of the Electronic Theater and the Animation Theater, selected by the festival jury. Work presented in the Electronic Theater is eligible for the festival awards.
The invited section consists of special presentations of pieces invited by the festival committee, from short subjects to feature films, that represent world-class achievement.

Deadline for completing submissions, including uploading files, is midnight on July 15. For details on submitting, visit the festival site at http://www.siggraph.org/asia2010/content/presenters/computer-animation-festival.

The festival also is seeking proposal for presentations and panels. Ideas can be submitted online at http://sis.siggraph.org/cgi-bin/SIS_Asia.py. All submissions must be received by July 15.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Cartoon Networks Takes Beyblade: Metal Fusion for a Spin

Having been sold into markets around the world, Beyblade is returning to the United States.

The new series Beyblade: Metal Fusion is set to debut June 26 at 7:30 a.m. ET/PT on Cartoon Network.

Produced by Nelvana and d-rights, the new series consists of 51 new episodes using a mix of 2D animation and CGI spinning tops.

The series, which began as a popular toy line for boys, was revived in 2008 by Tomy Co., with the new episodes of the animated series starting to air in Japan about a year ago. The series debuts on Canada’s YTV on May 15 at noon.

Toys from Hasbro are set to arrive on store shelves in North America this fall.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Pearlie Gets Australian DVD Release, Hot Nick Timeslot

The hit animated Australian TV series Pearlie is getting bigger all the time.

The series, produced by Sticky Pictures, is coming to home entertainment in Australia with distributor Madman Entertainment releasing two volumes, Hurly Burly and Magic in the City, on May 5. A third volume, Twirly Whirly, will be released June 30.

Sticky also announced that the series will debut in the high-rating 8:30 a.m. timeslot on Nickelodeon Australia starting May 3.

Based on the series of best-selling books by Wendy Harmer, Pearlie is about a fashionable urban fairy who lives in Jubilee Park, a magical oasis in a large city.

Pearlie is produced by Sticky Pictures in collaboration with Canadian animation company Nelvana, and was commissioned by Australia’s Network Ten and YTV in Canada. It airs in a number of countries worldwide, including Canada, United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, South Africa and New Zealand.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

New Green Lantern Concept Art Might Not Be What You Think

Some new Green Lantern concept art is floating around on the internet, including GL's uniform, glowing ring constructs, and more. Is it early art for the movie, starring Ryan Reynolds, a tie-in video game, or something else? See for yourself.

The Movie Insider has a collection of images, which were labeled "Production Works." While they are all a little blurry, the ideas are fantastic. But upon further inspection, we're getting a "video game" vibe from this art. They're clearly not as impressive as the previously leaked concept art. But we're not entirely sure: photoshops from the Green Lantern online game, or real movie art? Can that possibly be planet Oa? You be the judge.

(Thanks io9)

Jon Favreau Says Joss Whedon Is A 'Great Choice' To Direct 'The Avengers'

Last month, reports emerged that Joss Whedon was in final negotiations to direct "The Avengers," the highly anticipated film which will bring Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Hulk together for the first time on the big screen.

And while Whedon's involvement with the film has yet to be confirmed by either Marvel or Whedon himself, "Iron Man 2" director Jon Favreau has offered a ringing endorsement of the "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," "Angel" and "Firefly" creator.

"If it ends up being Joss Whedon, I think it's a great choice," Favreau told MTV News. "Because he's got a great sense of humor [and] he has a deep knowledge of the whole universe which I think 'The Avengers' would require because you're weaving a lot of different mythologies and storylines together."

While Favreau stressed that he didn't know for sure if Whedon would helm the film, he did offer additional reasons why he believes Whedon is the right director for "The Avengers."

"[Whedon] has a really fun sense of action," said Favreu. "I think if you look at 'Firefly' and 'Serenity' and 'Buffy' and his background in small movies, I think that he could up the ante on his action quotient. I think that will come with the bigger budget and good people around him and working with Marvel, as it did with me."

"I think that [he has an] ear for dialog and he has a good fun story sense of how to reveal and unfold a story [that] I think is great," continued Favreau. "I think it will attract a great cast. If it works out with him, it would be wonderful."

Favreau also revealed that he has not yet read the current draft of "The Avengers.'

"No, I haven't read that ['Avengers'] script," said Favreau. "I've had my hands full, if you hadn't noticed. I had to finish writing this script before ['Iron Man 2'] was in theaters."

"Iron Man 2" lands in theaters this Friday, May 7, while "The Avengers" will finally assemble in 2012.

You Could Be Iron Man, Too... With A Few Billion Dollars

Oh, rich, fictional, billionaire superheroes... How you taunt us with your gadgets and dashing looks! Why can’t we be just like you?

But wait, why can’t we?

Regular Joes don’t need to plunge ourselves into vats of radioactive materials in order to save the world. All we need is a few billion dollars — and maybe a couple of degrees in physics and engineering, too.

Iron Man is one of the most believable superheroes out there simply because he isn’t actually “super.” Tony Stark used science and technology to give him his “powers.” And as Marvel Comics discovered in a recent interview with super smarty-pants Ryan Haupt, there will be some very real science on display when "Iron Man 2" hits theaters this week.

Of course, Iron Man wouldn’t be Iron Man without his armor. Still, Haupt points out what everyone probably forgets: the armor isn’t actually made out of iron.

“Iron as a viable metal was discarded in the comics less than a year after the character's creation,” he said. Instead, he suggests a combination of three materials; nickel-titanium (nitinol), carbon-carbon composite and single-crystal titanium. Nitinol can actually be repaired after being heated to a certain temperature.

“This property could come in extremely handy when making repairs after being hit by many bullets," he explained.

Even if you are able to create Iron Man armor for yourself, how do you go about powering it?

Haupt told Marvel that Tony’s chest reactor is very similar to a Tokamak fusion reactor from the Cold War era.

“This reactor is a nice fit for Iron Man because it incorporates the various functions the reactor must fill,” he said. “It generates a buttload of power, incorporates magnetic fields and is shaped like a donut.”

And according to Haupt, the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) will give you the thrust you need to get airborne.

Now for the really amazing part.

The reactor and rocket need plasma and hydrogen to work, and Haupt suggests Tony Stark himself would be able to fuel them.

“An adult human male carries about five liters of blood in their body. A little more than half of that blood is plasma,” he said, “Plasma is 90 percent water. Water has two hydrogens right there for the taking, with the help of a little electrolysis.”

So Tony just has to make sure to drink his liquids — and not the alcoholic kind.

Iron Man isn’t the only superhero that could easily be brought to life in the real world, either. With no powers, Batman has had to rely on his training and gadgets alone, too — and his are even more plausible.

Nowhere is this more evident than the recent films “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” where creators spent countless hours and cash making sure Bruce Wayne’s accoutrements were as real-world based as possible.

Jon Favreau Explains Olivia Munn's Changing Role In 'Iron Man 2'

Back in March, "Attack of the Show" hostess Olivia Munn revealed that her original part in "Iron Man 2" had been cut due to a shift in the film's tone before she was called back in for an additional role. Although Munn had originally stated that she would not be portraying a reporter in the film, her character in the sequel is Chess Roberts, a reporter who has briefly appeared in the "Iron Man" comics.

And while there has been speculation that Munn's original role may have been one of Marvel's premiere heroines — like the Wasp or the Scarlet Witch — Favreau was quick to deny those rumors before revealing more details about Munn's first part within the movie.

"She did a very funny comedic take on a girl that [Tony] was with at his birthday party," Favreau explained to MTV News. "She pops up again later in his bedroom. But the way the scene went down, that part of the movie didn't want to have comedy because it was starting to get a little bit serious and started to bump tonally."

"As a scene it was great," continued Favreau. "But when we put the whole movie together, that's one of the things that happens. It's happened to me many times as an actor, but we called her up and said, 'There's another thing that we're shooting now, we'd love to have you in the film.'"

Favreau also indicated that Munn's original scenes will be included on the eventual "Iron Man 2" DVD.

Why new Nightmare director tells fans to 'get a life'

The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street is a hit, but it's not faring well among hardcore fans or critics, who slam the movie mercilessly.

Our own reviewer, Michael Marano, called it "a nightmare," and some of you seem to agree: commenter Lordmoon said, "This movie had nothing going for it."

The movie rated a measly 15 percent on Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer.

So what does director Samuel Bayer say? In essence: Screw you. Speaking with Fangoria, he said:

"Look, I'm gonna catch a lot of heat for this," he begins. "But some of these fans on the web should just get up, stretch, breathe, go outside and get some fresh air, maybe get a girlfriend and just get a life. They should see the movie and make up their own minds."

Sorry, Sam. Looks like a lot of them have.

What do you think of Bayer's comments?

A Nightmare on Elm Street is now playing.

Rare 1979 Alien pics reveal greatest theater display EVER

I wasn't lucky enough to have lived in L.A. in 1979 to see Alien during its opening weekend at the Egyptian Theater, but I just learned that if I had, I'd have been able to touch the actual "space jockey" from the film as part of what has to have been the greatest theater display ever.

Stoker Award-winning horror writer Lisa Morton was there and recently shared the photos she took of the amazing exhibit.

According to Morton, to enter the theater, you first passed a row of alien eggs, then had to walk through an actual corridor from the Nostromo (above), after which you'd come face to face with H. R. Giger's original, full-size alien "space jockey" (below).

Amazingly, as Morton notes, "It wasn't even roped off or guarded."

If they ever get that time machine perfected, I know where I'm headed!

For more photos from the 1979 premiere, check out Lisa Morton's blog.

Sadly, Morton reports that:

The "Space Jockey" was gone by Tuesday. One story I heard was that it fell victim to an arsonist in the early hours of Tuesday morning. I'd like to think that wasn't true, but that glorious sculpture has never been seen again, so sadly I believe that story may be factual.

Any sci-fi detectives out there know for sure?

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