Tuesday, May 11, 2010

News - 05/11/10...

Famed comics illustrator Frank Frazetta dies at 82

Legendary comics artist Frank Frazetta, generally regarded as one of the premiere illustrators of the latter half of the 20th Century, died Monday afternoon at a hospital near his Boca Grande, Florida home. He was 82.

Frazetta, who suffered a stroke on Sunday, maintained an art studio on Boca Grande, an island off Florida's southwest coast.

Born in Brooklyn on February 9, 1928, he also owned a home in the Poconos community of Marshalls Creek, Pennsylvania, where his family operated a museum displaying his works.

Specializing in fantasy and science fiction, Frazetta co-produced the 1983 animated feature film Fire And Ice. He also created many of its characters and most of the story, and was responsible for costume design.

However, the movie performed poorly at the box office -- a fact that has been attributed to the difficulty of adapting Frazetta's work to the screen with the animation technology at the time. Frazetta soon went back to painting and pen and ink illustrations.

Fire and Ice was released as a limited-edition DVD set in 2005. The package includes the documentary Frazetta: Painting With Fire.

Movie studios sought him to work in animated films when his reputation became well-known. However, he turned deals down when he learned that others would have most of the creative control, and that he would be credited in name only. The Fire and Ice project allowed him most creative control, which is why he accepted it.

Frazetta was perhaps best known for his illustrations on the covers of the 1970s Conan paperbacks for Lancer Books and the 1960s Warren Magazines (Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella, Blazing Combat). He worked closely with EC artists Al Williamson and Angelo Torres, as well as on various solo efforts for that and other publishers. He worked on The Shining Knight for DC Comics and the oft-reprinted jungle feature Thun'da, created by Gardner Fox.

Frazetta spent years as Al Capp's assistant -- often, ghost -- on the newspaper strip Li'l Abner at the height of its popularity, where he first visualized the astonishingly sexy character Moonbeam McSwine. He went on to draw his own short-lived newspaper comic strip, Johnny Comet, and served as an assistant to Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder on Playboy's Little Annie Fanny. Kurtzman once referred to Frank as "drawing sexy muscles in places where women don't ordinarily have muscles."

Frazetta's work has been gathered in numerous collections and calendars. His work continues to be licensed for poster reproduction and for adaptation into comic books.

This year, Frazetta sued his oldest son, Alfonso Frank Frazetta Jr. (known as Frank Jr.) for infringing on his trademark rights and running an unauthorized Web site that sold works related to the artist. However, Frazetta agreed late last month to drop a trademark infringement lawsuit against his son. The family met for two days with a federal mediator and their attorneys to resolve the case before it went to trial.

The family also said that it would not pursue theft charges against Frank Jr. In December, he was charged with stealing about $20 million in artwork when he broke into his father's Marshalls Creek museum using a backhoe.

"All the litigation surrounding his family and his art has been resolved. All of Frank's children will now be working together as a team to promote his remarkable collection of images that has inspired people for decades," the artist said in a statement.

Frazetta's artwork was recently moved to another location, and will be put on tour at some point in the future.

Frank Frazetta was predeceased last July by wife Eleanor "Ellie" Kelly, whom he married in 1956. He is survived by second wife Lori, sons Frank Jr. and Bill, and daughters Holly Frazetta and Heidi Grabin.

Funeral arrangements will be announced shortly.

Here's a series of Videos showing off some of Frank's work... It really is the way to discover his brilliance.

Extn. 21 by Lizzie Oxby

In 2007, you’ll recall Madame Tutli Putli’s disturbing and effective use of live action eyes composited onto the animated puppets.

A few years earlier, British filmmaker Lizzie Oxby combined stop-motion animation, live action performance (placing a live action head on a stop-mo puppet) and digital effects for her film Extn. 21. The results are equally effective — a bit creepy, but totally intriguing.

(Thanks, DeK)

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

Briefly: "Up" Gets Key Arts Noms; "Pat" Gets New Deals; Execs Get New Jobs

* Up has earned 19 nominations for the Key Arts Awards, which honor creative contributions in the marketing of movies and DVDs. [The Hollywood Reporter]

* Classic Media has secured or extended a number of licensing deals for Postman Pat, including pacts with Character Options, VMC, TV Mania, Smiffy's, and Flamingo Land. [Kid Screen]

* Square Zero has named Alexi Wheeler, formerly of E1 Entertainment, as development producer. [World Screen]

* Rick Ungar, president of Marvel Character Group, is joining newly organized 41 Entertainment as head writer and executive producer. [c21 Media]

4Kids Losses Widens; Company May Get Buyer

Losses widened and revenues fell at 4Kids Entertainment during its latest financial quarter, the company said today. It also warned that its market capitalization has slipped below the minimum required by the New York Stock Exchange and that its shares could be delisted by the Exchange at any time.

Losses for the three months ended March 31 rose to $3.5 million from $2.0 million as revenues dropped to $4.2 million from $9.3 million. The company blamed the results on lower licensing and television advertising revenues.

The company's market capitalization has also dropped below $15 million. The New York Stock Exchange requires that companies maintain a capitalization of at least that much to remain listed on the Exchange.

4Kids also says it has received a "non-binding indication of interest" from a party interested in acquiring 4Kids, and that its board of directors has authorized management to give this party due diligence information regarding its assets and operations.

Ning Animates a Beastly Moonshot

We’re starting to see some of the final student films from Europe now. Here’s La bête ne change jamais d’idée (The Beast Never Changes His Mind), a CG short by Zhang Ning that centers around a primate who eyes a trip to the moon. Ning is a student at Supinfocom in France.

Sheridan Grad Seddon Answers Timeless Question

Congrats to recent Sheridan graduate Dan Seddon, who leaves us by solving one of the oldest questions of them all: Why did the chicken cross the road? Excellent design and animation work in the short he titled Ducking Around.

Watch redonkulous new Shrek Forever After trailer

Ready to go green again? Then follow Shrek and crew as they enter a twisted, alternate reality version of Far Far Away after the gruff green giant foolishly wishes to become a "real" ogre once more.

Shrek Forever After, starring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas, hits theaters May 21, 2010.

Teletoon, Bejuba! Develop The Sherlock Legacy

Teletoon Canada and Bejuba! Entertainment are teaming up to develop a hybrid live-action/CGI series for tweens based on the original book The Sherlock Legacy.

The book, written by kids programming exec Terry Kalagian and Geoff Skinner, follows 15-year-old Leo Sherlock, who is heir to a secret order that has kept the world safe from such villains as Dracula, Grendel and Moriarty.

“We are delighted that Teletoon has seen the enormous potential this story has to offer,” said Bejuba! Entertainment’s president, Tatiana Kober. “These stories will easily translate into exciting and funny entertainment for today’s teen audiences.”

“We are thrilled to be working with Bejuba! Entertainment again,” said Carole Bonneau, VP of programming for Teletoon. “The numerous possibilities presented by the classic villains, intricate mysteries and supernatural action in this new series makes The Sherlock Legacy a good candidate for development.”

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Independent TV Fest Seeks Pilots, Web Series

The Independent TV Festival is looking for animated entries for its fifth annual outing.

The festival, which last year gave its top animation honor to the Australian series Wentworth & Buxbury, is accepting both pilots and web series.

Deadline for entry is this Friday, May 14. For details on submitting, visit the festival online at www.itvfest.org.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Vancouver actress Babz Chula dead of cancer at 63

Beloved, award-winning Vancouver actress Babz Chula, a voice performer in numerous DiC Entertainment series, died peacefully Friday at home, surrounded by her family and listening to Van Morrison. She was 63.

A performer on the stage and screen as well as both live-action and animated TV series, she had been fighting two forms of cancer since 2002.

Sometimes credited as Babs Chula, she was in the voice casts of DiC's G.I. Joe and Captain N The Game Master (both 1989); Captain N and the Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990); Madeline, Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Double Dragon (all 1993); and Action Man (1995).

In 1991, she was in the voice casts of the DiC specials G.I. Joe: The Greatest Evil and Legend Of The Hawaiian Slammers.

She provided the voice of Luba Malloy in Bohbot Entertainment's Yvon of the Yukon (2001). As well, she was Chloe in The Littlest Pet Shop, a 1995 series from Sunbow Entertainment, and was in the voice cast of Christopher The Christmas Tree, a 1994 TV special from Delaney and Friends Productions. In 1999, she was the voice of the Mother Witch in Little Witch, a Studio B Productions special which aired on Fox Family Channel.

Chula was a voice performer in the English dubs of three Saban 1991 "Sugar and Spice" half-hour features. She voiced the Stepmother and Babette in Cinderella, the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, and the Old Woman and the Teacher in Heidi.

She was born Barbara Ellen Zuckerman on March 12, 1947 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the eldest daughter of an amateur actress. (Some biographies have her date and place of birth as March 22, 1946 in Jamaica, a neighborhood in New York's borough of Queens.) She grew up in New York and Hollywood, where she attended Hollywood High.

She and her first husband, Phillip Ciulla, moved to British Columbia's Slocan Valley in 1971.

Moving to Hawaii in 1977, she joined Bing Jensen in a group called Street Hearts. She went on to a singing career with the band.

The group spent a year in California. In about 1980, Chula headed to Vancouver, changing her career from singing to acting. She altered the spelling of her surname to Chula for ease of pronunciation.

Chula starred in The Vancouver Opera's Threepenny Opera. She had regular and leading roles in such Vancouver-shot TV series as Madison, The Commish, Cold Squad and These Arms of Mine (which netted her a 2001 Gemini Award -- the Canadian equivalent of an Emmy -- for Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role).

The queen of independent film, her credits include Bruce Sweeny's Dirty, Live Bait and Last Wedding, Ben Ratner's Moving Malcolm, and Carl Bassai's Mothers and Daughters (which won her a Leo Award, presented for excellence in British Columbia screen work) and Fathers and Sons (which is yet to be released).

She was also in the movies My American Cousin, The Accused, Cousins and Runaway. In recent years, she was on TV's Double Jeopardy, The L-Word and The X-Files.

Chula was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002; in 2005, she was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer. She beat the breast cancer for several years, but in 2008, learned that it had returned.

At that time, a group of her friends formed the Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society, ostensibly to help with Chula's medical expenses, but it was always her wish that the society become her legacy. Recently, the society has undergone changes to allow it to support other artists.

Chula continued to work during her cancer treatment, which encompassed traditional and alternative healing methods. She recently returned from an Ayurvedic healing centre in India, where she had spent six weeks with her friend, filmmaker Anne Wheeler, who filmed the process for an upcoming documentary about Chula's journey.

Ratner was Chula's close personal friend and colleague, and president of the Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society.

"Babz and her family are deeply grateful for the love and generosity the community showed her throughout her illness," he said. "Though we have lost a true artist, friend, mentor and matriarch, our beloved Babz will never be forgotten."

"She died like she lived; with dignity, grace and humor," her son Aviv said on behalf of the family. "We thank her for being an inspiration, and she will be greatly missed and loved forever."

Babz Chula is survived by her husband since 2003, Larry Lynn; her children with Ciulla, daughter Jordana and sons Aviv and Orpheo; two stepdaughters, Electra and Emily, whom she raised with her second husband, Harry Vander Sheel; and her grandchildren, Mason, Devon, Jake and Kyler.

There will be a memorial service to celebrate Chula's life on Sunday, May 23 at the Arts Club Theatre on Granville Island. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society, www.babzchulasociety.org.

Winsor McCay’s Hell House, Part Deux

This is a follow-up to a story that we first mentioned here a couple months ago about the decrepit state of cartoon legend and animation pioneer Winsor McCay’s home in Brooklyn. Animation director Bill Plympton recently visited the home to see it for himself. He has a report on his blog Scribble Junkies and it’s not pretty:

What a dump. Unfortunately the 3 storied mansion has long been abandoned so it now houses 8 families of hispanic descent. And as we entered the front door the spanish families hurriedly scattered to their respective apartments in fear. Apparently the famed animator’s home is now a multifamily squatters shelter.

Plympton is optimistic and thinks there’s hope: “You can imagine the glory that it once was back in the early 1900’s. All the architectural details are still there and with a lot of work it can be restored to its former glory.”

Don’t hold your breath though. Cartoons and animation, and by extension cartoonists and animators, have never merited respect in the United States as they have in other parts of the world. Yesterday I was reading about the Hergé Museum near Brussels and marveling at how they have preserved his legacy and art. It is befitting of a part of the world that considers cartoons the “ninth art.” American cartoon fans have to make do with McCay’s hell house at 1811 Voorhies Ave in Brooklyn.

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

Why Jack Bauer won't have a happy ending on 24

There's no doubting it's been eight long, long days for Jack Bauer on Fox's 24. And it's been eight riveting seasons for viewers who've watched Kiefer Sutherland's character, Jack, suffer through every heartbreaking emotion possible ... or so we thought. Executive producer Howard Gordon promises that there's more tragedy to come for Jack before the adrenaline-packed series signs off in its two-hour series finale on Monday, May 24.

"I think any number of seasons in years past, season four, season five ... I think even last year could have been a really, really cool series finale," said Gordon in a conference call with journalists. "Only the fact that this was our series finale did it really, I think, have the kind of context that, 'Wow, we're really saying goodbye to this character.'"

Still, there is one difference between this eighth season of 24 and all the possible season finales that came before. "There is a moment, a final moment, that is very, very specific to the series finale. It's not so much a plot moment, but it's a punctuation mark that I think is unique to the series finale," he said.

[Spoilers ahead.]

Gordon (The X-Files, Buffy) admitted that they tried a couple of "very different endings" to see what felt right as a way to end the series. "One thing we tried and didn't work was 'happily ever after' for Jack. What he's done ... forget about the last eight seasons, but what he'll have done in these last [few] episodes which you've not seen yet, leaves him in, once again, in a very compromised place morally and ethically and emotionally. This show's a tragedy, and so to give Jack a happy ending just didn't feel authentic. We gave him a happy beginning, and I really am very pleased with the way we started. And, of course, we gave him something to care about with Annie Wersching (who played Renee Walker) and his own family," he said.

While Gordon wouldn't part with many specifics about the last four hours of the season, "what we can expect ... the things that we're aligning, which is basically Chloe vs. Jack vs. President Taylor," he said. "We're taking all these characters to places that we've never seen them before and we knew it constituted a risk, and one that was frankly challenging to write, and among the actors pretty challenging to play. But it was one really that we think was worth taking, and we think it pays off really well in the end. But in the spirit of trying to take the series to a place where it hasn't been before, we've done this thing. And it's certainly not playing it safe, but it is very emotionally climactic and ... we're pretty excited by it."

As for some of the controversial elements that played out this season, such as killing off Jack's lover Renee or President Taylor's (Cherry Jones) going to the dark side with Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin), nothing quite matches the much-hated character of Dana Walsh, played by Katee Sackoff. However, Gordon said he has no regrets.

"Every season there's something that people seem to fixate on. I got it, and I guess all I kept telling people was to please wait until the story had been told before you commented, and to me I think episode 20 answered that question. I was really, really proud of that episode. And I think what I liked about it too is that for the first time this very complex, and admittedly very labyrinthine and confused and crazy character ... this onion of a character got peeled down to the nub, and you finally really understand, a little bit anyway, who she is. Now, of course, she's a sociopath and, of course, it's kind of an insane story, but to have seen in that moment that she actually really cared about Cole, that she had really done this all to get out of a situation she got herself into."

And as for Sackoff, who played the beloved if equally difficult "onion of a character" Kara "Starbuck" Thrace on Battlestar Galactica, she pulled Dana Walsh off and did it "beautifully," Gordon said. "It really, really was a challenging part, and Katee was just completely game for everything we threw at her. And again, particularly in episode 20, I think that was her greatest moment. I really, really think [it was a] phenomenal and nuanced performance that she gave."

Beyond Dana, whose recent execution by Jack thrilled millions, perhaps the biggest question so far this season has been whether the writers have taken the iconic character of Jack Bauer too far as he seeks revenge for Renee's murder. Can he possibly come back from this particular day, which has driven him to some of his darkest moments yet in all his eight terrible days?

"The answer is ... no. The good part about Jack's character, and I really believe what's been a good part of the show, is that we never press reset," said Gordon. "You feel the accumulated scars of his experience and the weight of his actions for eight years, and Jack's never been able to sort of snap back even when he's happy, even with Audrey in season five. It wasn't like that didn't discount all the tragedy that had preceded it, and just like at the beginning of this year, Jack, for a moment, allowed himself a moment of joy or possibility of human contact with his own daughter and her husband and his granddaughter. You know it doesn't discount what's happened before. I don't think Jack is ever going to recover from what's gone on, and it just adds to the weight and to the complexity and to the darkness of this character. I mean the character is never going [to live] happily ever after. That's just not in his wheelhouse. And the show is ultimately a tragedy, and I think you have to really play that, and you have to honor that."

Despite Jack's tragic ending this season when 24 finally signs off, one thing we do know is that he's not going to die. A 24 movie is in the works, and there's a first-draft script, written by Billy Ray, that is being developed by Sutherland and the producers. However, Fox has not seen the script yet, said Gordon. "It's all very much speculative at this point. I think our preference would be to do it sooner than later, of course, and get Jack back out in front of people within a year or two. But I don't know. That would be just me speaking."

24 airs on Fox on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Captain America's Shield In 'Iron Man 2'? Jon Favreau Explains The Crossover Cameo!

I know some of you are likely to cry "Spoiler!" here, but stick with me, folks — this post is fairly spoiler-free for anyone who's seen the first "Iron Man" and has been following along with our "Iron Man 2" coverage thus far.

After making a nice little cameo in 2008's "Iron Man," Captain America's shield returns for yet another appearance in Tony Stark's workshop during a key scene in "Iron Man 2." While we're going to leave out the details surrounding its cameo, we did make sure to get some thoughts from director Jon Favreau about the iconic shield's place in the "Iron Man" universe — and why it popped up in Tony's workshop to begin with.

"We introduced Captain America's shield briefly in one shot in the last film," Favreau told MTV News. "An ILM artist put it in there as a joke to us for our cinesync sessions, when we're approving visual effects."

"They got a laugh out of it, and I said, 'Leave it in, that's pretty cool — let's see if anybody sees it,'" he explained. "Of course, everybody saw it — so now it really was in his room, so we had figure out how to deal with the reality that the shield was in his workshop."

As for why it's there, Favreau wouldn't divulge any information about the conversations he's had with the filmmakers behind the other Marvel movies — except to say that they've had them.

"We've talked about it," he said. "Let's see what ['Captain America' director] Joe Johnston does."

Way back in September 2008, we speculated about the role Tony Stark's father, Howard, would play in the "Captain America" plot — possibly as the inventor of the super-soldier serum that turns Steve Rogers into the Marvel hero. Favreau later confirmed that Howard Stark would appear in Johnston's "Captain America".

"Part of the history of the Stark family is the super-soldier program," he said.

Green Lantern Villain Hector Hammond Revealed

Take a look at the first image of Peter Sarsgaard in make-up as the villainous telepath Hector Hammond for Martin Campbell's Green Lantern

SkyShowbiz.com has released a spy picture from the set of the DC comics adaptation Green Lantern, which is currently filming in New Orleans, Louisiana. The image is our first look at actor Peter Sarsgaard wearing prosthetics and make-up to portray Hal Jordan/Ryan Reynold's nemesis Hector Hammond:

According to Green Lantern mythos, Hector Hammond was a scientist who was contracted to work with the US government. After accidental exposure to alien technology, Hammond gained exponential telepathic abilities. The growth of his powers inadvertently caused his head to deform and grow disproportionately to the rest of his body. Before the accident, Hammond displayed one-sided affection to Hal Jordan's love interest Carol Ferris.

Sarsgaard will appear in theaters alongside Ryan Reynolds (Hal Jordan), Blake Lively (Carol Ferris), Tim Robbins (Sen. Hammond) and Mark Strong (Sinestro) when Green Lantern hits theaters in June 2011.

(Thanks Comic Book Movie)

Favreau Gets the Mandarin Wrong, Threatens to Ruin Character in Iron Man 3

Iron Man and Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau has wanted to bring the mysterious Mandarin to the big screen for awhile. But two movies into Iron Man's Hollywood career, and apparently Favreau still hasn't done his homework.

So far, Jon Favreau's done well in the eyes of most True Believers. In both Iron Man films, the storyline has been solid, he didn't make a mockery of one of the greatest super villains of all time a la Tim Story's Fantastic Four or Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3. He's cast his character's well (again, unlike Story), and he hasn't needlessly killed off anyone, a la Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand. But based on a recent interview, Favreau is skating on very thin ice.

Fellow comicbookmovie.com writer Brent Sprecher unearths Favreau (during an interview on MTV) commenting about the potential problem of bringing the Mandarin, one of Iron Man's greatest, and most popular foes, into Iron Man 3:

"The problem with the Mandarin is that the way it's depicted in the comic books, you don't want to see that. He has 10 magical rings — that just doesn't feel right for our [franchise]. So it's either tech-based, or the rings are not really rings."

Of course, there's only one problem with what Favreau is saying. All of it is completely, 100% wrong. Perhaps Favreau has been so busy designing technology for Iron Man to use, he hasn't bothered using real technology to surf the internet and find out a little about the actual Mandarin from the comics. The following quotations are direct from MarvelDirectory.com.

"He displayed scientific aptitude at an early age and used his inheritance for education in various sciences in China and abroad."

"The Mandarin then subjugated the villages around the Valley, and, through his science, rapidly became a power that not even the Chinese Army could successfully challenge."

"The Mandarin saw technology as the surest means to achieve his goals."

"Other of the Mandarin's early technological achievements was the launching of a small orbiting satellite whose "death-ray" he aimed at Stark Industries, and the building of Ultimo, a 30-foot android"

"The Mandarin's teleportation technology, derived from Makluan science, enabled him to kidnap people at will"

"The rings' operations cannot be explained by contemporary Earth science, but it is known that they served as near-limitless energy sources for the warpdrive engines of the starship of Axonn-Karr, a dragon-like alien of the Makluan race."

And well, you get the idea. In fact, MarvelDirectory even explains how EVERY ONE of Mandarin's rings are tech-based and not magic based. Kinda sounds like the PERFECT villain just the way he is huh?

And even so, Mister Favreau, who are you to say the supernatural can't exist besides technology? Marvel has been doing it for decades, and all of a sudden you come along and say it can't be done? Tell that to Dr. Strange fighting beside Spider-Man, and Agatha Harkness working with the Fantastic Four. Here's hoping an army of True Believers can set you straight, before its too late and we have another Tim-Story-Doc-Doom on our hands.

(Thanks Comic Book Movie)

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