Tuesday, June 15, 2010

News - 06/15/10...

Shrek ends his box office reign

After three straight weekends on top, DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek Forever After has finally ended its box office reign, beaten by the larger than expected debut of the Jackie Chan Karate Kid remake. The animated comedy has grosssed $210 million against a $160 million budget, making it a pretty big hit for the studio. Meanwhile, on the international marketing front, a new Korean poster for the film with a World Cup theme has been revealed over at the Internet Movie Poster Awards

Skechers Promotes Zevo-3 with Shoebox DVD Preview

Skechers Entertainment is set to promote its new animated TV series Zevo-3 with promotional DVDs inserted in one million Skechers shoeboxes for the back to school season.

Zevo-3 is the debut TV show from Skechers Entertainment, and is set to premiere this fall on Nicktoons. The comedy-action series is about three teen heroes given powers to fight the villain Stankfoot. Twenty-six 22-minute episodes of the series are in the works, produced as 2D animation with 3D CGI effects.

“We will leverage the marketing and promotional power of the Skechers brand at retail to raise the visibility of Zevo-3 in a truly impactful way,” said Kristen Van Cott, VP of creative development for SKECHERS Entertainment. “We are confident this will result in enhanced viewership once the series takes to the airwaves.”

Zevo-3 is a Skechers Entertainment production in association with Moonscoop. Van Cott and Elizabeth Daro are co-executive producers. The show is based on characters created by John Masse.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Online Auction to help the Gulf

Venture Bros. artists Tom Bayne and Carly Monardo are having an auction of original animation production drawings, among other things, to raise money for the Gulf Cleanup. All proceeds go to The Colbert Nation's GULF OF AMERICA FUND. You can read about this charity here.

Check them out and help the cause:

Here's Tom's:

Here's Carly's:

Carly and Tom are also accepting original art donations. They can be contacted via the links.

Creator of Thailand's 1st animated film remembered

Thailand's National Film Archive (Public Organisation) will host a memorial service Saturday afternoon for Payut Ngaokrachang, who drew the country's first animated film.

Members of the public are welcome at the service, to be held at the Film Archive compound in Salaya.

Frail and almost blind, Ngaokrachang died May 27 at 81.

Ngaokrachang premiered his 12-minute Hed Mahatsajan (The Amazing Incident) at Chalermthai Theatre in 1955. The hand-drawn cartoon centers on a man's encounters as he walks down Ratchadamnoen Avenue.

He also directed and wrote the 1979 animated film Sudsakorn, also known as Sudsakorn Adventure and The Adventure of Sudsakorn. The 82-minuted fantasy, based on the epic poem "Phra Aphai Mani" by Sunthon Phu, tells of how the son of a mermaid and a minstrel prince goes on a quest.

Born in 1929 in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, he studied art at Bangkok's Poh Chang College. In July 1955, he showed Thailand's first cartoon to the press before the screening of a feature-length Thai film.

Virtually alone in his field, Ngaokrachang was hired to draw cartoons for many Thai TV commercials. He drew his creations frame by frame.

In 1976, he and his daughter, 1970s actress Nantana Ngaokrachang, started drawing Sudsakorn, the first feature-length Thai animated film. It was completed two years later.

His daughter, a longtime United States resident, returned to Thailand for her father's funeral and will join the memorial Saturday.

Sudsakorn was the only feature-length Thai cartoon for almost 30 years until computer animators came on the scene. The little-seen Pang Pond was released in the early 2000s, and Kompin Khemkamnerd's Khan Kluay came out in 2006.

Ngaokrachang's eyes weakened over the years; he had nearly lost his eyesight from his intense labors on Sudsakorn.

The Thai Film Foundation named its annual animation contest the Payut Ngaokrachang Award in 1998. The man for whom it was named would show up at every year's ceremony to give the trophy to winners -- usually students.

During Saturday's memorial ceremony, poet Jiranan Pitpreecha will read a poem she composed for the occasion. After Ngaokrachang's students and relatives offer their memories of the animator, the archive will screen Hed Mahatsajan.

THIS FRIDAY IN NYC: The Twisted Animation of Patrick Smith

This Friday, June 18, NY indie Pat Smith will be presenting a screening of his short films including the world premiere of his latest film Masks. Also on the program: a behind-the-scenes mini-doc directed by Lizz Lyons. Pat, Lizz, and Karl von Kries, the composer of Masks, will be available for a Q&A session after the show. The screening begins at 8pm at the 92Y in Tribeca (200 Hudson St.). Tickets, which are $12, can be purchased ahead of time at the 92Y website. Also be sure to check out Scribble Junkies, the blog that Pat co-authors with Bill Plympton.

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

MORE Looney Tunes character designs

The photo above is one I snapped of the wall of the Warner Bros. booth at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas last week. The hype for the new Looney Tunes Show was there in full force, with Jessica Borutski’s character designs taking front and center in the promotion. Several Brew readers sent in the following scans (below), which were apparently given out to licensees. The more I see of these, the more I like.

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

"Bolts & Blip" Joining Teletoon on June 27

Teletoon will add Bolts & Blip, a CG-animated action-comedy set in the year 2080, to its lineup, the network said today.

The title characters are misfit robots who are accidentally inducted into the Lunar League, a robotic sports circuit that winds up having to defend the Earth and Moon from evil forces. The network boasts that the series comes with an eco-friendly twist and conveys messages about teamwork.

Bolt & Blip will premiere on Monday, June 28, at 9:25am (ET/PT) and air on weekdays with an encore presentation on Saturdays at 7:00am. Episodes will also be available on Video on Demand and via the teletoon.com video player.

"SpongeBob: Clash of Triton" Premiering on July 5

The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "The Clash of Triton" will premiere on Nickelodeon on Monday, July 5, at 8:00pm (ET/PT), the network said today.

The half-hour special drags SpongeBob into a royal family quarrel as he tries to repair the frayed relationship between King Neptune and his son. Celebrity guest stars include John O'Hurley as King Neptune, Sebastian Bach of Skid Row as Triton, and Victoria Beckham as Queen Amphitrite.

The premiere and encores will be simulcast on Nickelodeon Mobile, and it will be available on download-to-own platforms following its premiere. It will be released to DVD on July 13.

Nickelodeon also says it will air all-new SpongeBob episodes during the rest of the week at 8:00pm (ET/PT).

Michel Ocelot Turns Two Dimensions Into Three With DRAGONS AND PRINCESSES

Oh, now this is intriguing.

French animator Michel Ocelot burst on to the international scene with his Kirikou And The Sorceress several years back, that feature being a traditionally animated foray into the world of African folklore. And while Kirikou was rightly hailed as a masterwork it only hinted at the diversity of Ocelot's style, the animator having previously worked extensively with paper cutouts and silhouettes. Some of this work is now available on DVD but audiences are soon going to get the chance to see it on the big screen.

Ocelot's next project has just been announced and it's a big one. Initially launched with the intent of getting back to the simplicity of his roots, the upcoming Dragons and Princesses is now pretty comfortably the largest project of his career, one which will exist in both television and feature incarnations with the feature screening in 3D. Using the silhouette style he developed with his earlier Princess and Princesses, the television series will feature five short films based on international fairy tales. One of these segments is due to screen at the Annecy Festival this week. For the feature, the existing five stories will be joined by a sixth, with the feature screening in 3D.

This, of course, begs the question of how you make a silhouette movie 3D, and I can only assume that they're going to use the technology to really separate the layers and create true depth of field. And this, to me, is a perfect use of the technology.

(Thanks Twitch)

If Anybody Ever Makes An Animated HP Lovecraft Feature, It Should Be Tom Werber.

Not only should Werber be given the chance to do it, I hereby submit that we should bully him into submission until he does. Don't make me come over there and smack you, Tom....

(Thanks Twitch)

New Teaser From Studio Ghibli's ARRIETTY!

Anything new from famed animation house Studio Ghibli is a cause for celebration, even more so when the new material is a new feature marking the directorial debut of one of Miyazaki's key animators based on an award winning and much loved book.

The film is Karigurashi No Arrietty - The Borrower Arrietty in English - directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the key animator on Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away and Ponyo. Based on Mary Norton's The Borrowers the story revolves around a family of tiny, but otherwise normal, people who live hidden in the house of normal sized people, surviving by 'borrowing' lost and discarded items that they can use themselves.

Slated for a late summer release a new teaser for this has just arrived. So what do you think? Is it another classic or another Cat Returns for Ghibli?

(Thanks Twitch)

(Ed. note: Personally, I thought The Cat Returns was great.)

First Teaser for Stephen Chow Produced CJ7: THE CARTOON

A few weeks ago, our first look at Stephen Chow-produced/Toe Yuen-directed CJ7: The Cartoon comes in the form of some screenshot images but now we get a chance to see these images put into animated form with the debut of the teaser trailer. Just like the first installment, more wacky situation ensues and there's even a funny nod to Shaolin Soccer.

The animated sequel opens in mainland China theaters on July 6th. You'll find the teaser trailer embedded below.

(Thanks Twitch)

PepperMelon Kicks Off World Cup With Gola Mondo

PepperMelon animated this new spot that promotes the coverage of the World Cup in the UK newspaper The Guardian. The ad is titled Gola Mondo, and PepperMelon’s Tomas Garcia directed, while Martin Dasnoy, Julio Velazquez and Franco Carlesimo animated. The agency on the job was Wieden + Kennedy, London. A peek into the character design process is cataloged at the PepperMelon site.

Two More Annecy Signal Films – Junk Space and Red River Bay

The 2010 Annecy Festival has released two more signal films from the students at Gobelins. The first, Red River Bay, takes us to a beast-filled swamp, and the second, Junk Space, fuses baseball, junk and some metaphysical energy cloud thing. Not sure what it all means, but damn is it beautiful.

Red River Bay – directed by De Rémi Bastie, Nicolas Dehghani, Rachid Guendouze, Maxime Mary and Jeremy Pires

Junk Space – directed by De Marion Delannoy, Jonathan Djob Nkondo, Paul Lacolley, Kevin Manach and Nicolas Pegon

More Student Shorts From The Animation Workshop

Strong work continues to emerge from The Animation Workshop in Denmark. Here’s two more shorts:

Alpha – directed by Nicolai Slothuus, Matthías Æ. Bjarnasson and Christian Munk Sørensen

Leit Motif – directed by Jeanett Nørgaard, Marie M. T. Tørslev, Marie Jørgensen and Mette Ilene Holmriis

Watch 90 Seconds of the Rebirth of Futurama

Like Family Guy, Futurama has risen from the dead. Starting on June 24th, 26 new episodes will begin airing on Comedy Central. The series has been dead longer than I’d recalled. Family Guy was dead for only a couple years, but Futurama was put to rest 2003. Then in 2008, four made-for-DVD projects were split into episodes and aired on Comedy Central. Here’s 90 seconds from the new episode, Rebirth, which airs at 10pm/9c on Thursday, June 24th.

This sequence was actually teased at Supercon in animatic form last year:

New Trailer for Adult Swim’s Frankenhole

Some footage has emerged from Dino Stamatopoulos’ (Moral Orel) new series Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole. The stop-motion project is set to begin on Adult Swim on June 27th, and it will be hosted by both Stamatopoulos and Andy Dick. Whu?

Here’s more proof that Dick has penetrated the Adult Swim force field:

'The Dark Knight' Director Is 'Not A Huge Fan of 3-D'

Earlier this year, it was officially announced that Christopher Nolan will return to direct a third "Batman" film. And while there has been speculation that the follow-up to "The Dark Knight" would be filmed in 3-D, Nolan recently made his feelings on the subject crystal clear.

"I'm not a huge fan of 3-D," said Nolan during an appearance at the Los Angeles Times Hero Complex Film Festival. "There are a lot of problems with [shooting in 3-D]. The idea of shooting a whole film through a massive beam-splitter and so forth — there are enormous compromises. Post-conversion technologies probably, for me, are definitely the future, but really it is up to the audiences what they want to see and how they want to watch their films."

However, Nolan also added "There is no question if audiences want to watch films in stereoscopic imaging, that's what the studios will be doing, and that's what I'll be doing."

The report also indicated that Nolan's third "Batman" movie will begin filming early next year. The film is scheduled to be released on July 20, 2012.

Back in March, Nolan indicated that his next "Batman" will wrap up the storyline he started with "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight."

"I’m very excited about the end of the film, the conclusion, and what we’ve done with the characters,” said Nolan. "Unlike the comics, these things don’t go on forever in film and viewing it as a story with an end is useful. Viewing it as an ending, that sets you very much on the right track about the appropriate conclusion and the essence of what tale we’re telling."

Nolan also recently confirmed that The Joker would not be recast or used in his third "Batman" movie.

More 'Thor' Revealed: First Look At Jaimie Alexander As Sif

Back in March, actress Jaimie Alexander posted an update on Twitter about her role in "Thor," saying she had to "get even more fit" to play the Asgardian warrior Sif.

Now it looks like we have our first look at Alexander in costume, courtesy of Entertainment Tonight's recent "Thor" set visit. Over at SuperHeroHype, they've posted a trio of low-res screenshots from the broadcast featuring Alexander in the midst of some wire-work on the set.

The images don't seem to indicate much correlation between the live-action Sif's costume and that of her comics counterpart, with the character's winged helmet (a recurring element in her costume over the years) being the most notable omission.

However, it looks like Sif will indeed be dressed to kill — literally — which certainly stays true to the character.

In comics history, Sif is an Asgardian warrior with a longstanding love for Thor, who frequently accompanies him into battle. alexander was announced in the role back in September 2009, and has commented publicly on several occasions about her intense "Thor" training regimen.

Men In Black III Big Willie Style Teaser Clip

Announced at last year's ShoWest, Men in Black III will be the latest chapter of alien fighting agents Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

At the Sony 3D TV launch event, they showed a clip of Will dressed in his MIB gear, talking about how awesome he is. What a shock. More from Sonyinsider.com:

While Smith has officially signed on to return as Agent Jay, Jones is in advanced negotiations to return as Agent Kay. Josh Brolin is also in talks to play the younger (1969) version of Kay. Others rumored to have parts in the film include Sacha Baron Cohen and Jemaine Clement. It was later confirmed that Clement had landed the role of Boris (formerly named “Yaz”). Production of the sequel is tentatively set to begin during the 2010 Fall season and will welcome back producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. Steven Spielberg is also set to return as executive producer.

Check out the clip below.

(Thanks Latino Review)

Warners hires writers for 'Green Lantern 2' and 'Flash' (exclusive)

“Green Lantern” is a year away from release, but Warner Bros. already is starting development on a sequel.

The studio has hired Greg Berlanti, Michael Green and Marc Guggenheim, all of whom worked on the “Lantern” screenplay, to write a treatment for the second installment.

The trio has also been tapped to pen the treatment for the silver-screen incarnation of “The Flash.”

Under the deal, they would then go on to write the screenplay for one of the two projects, though which one has not been determined.

“Lantern” is shooting in New Orleans under the direction of Martin Campbell with Ryan Reynolds starring as the emerald ring-wielding DC Comics superhero who is part of an intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps.

Development on a second installment this far out from a movie’s release date is rare, signaling the studio’s confidence in what it sees so far.

It also appears to be the first moves the studio is making under its newly configured relationship with DC.

In September, DC was reorganized to bring it closer to Warners, with Diane Nelson named president of newly created DC Entertainment. In February, artist Jim Lee and executive editor Dan DiDio were named publishers of DC Comics. Star writer Geoff Johns was appointed chief creative officer of DCE, with the aim of bridging the comics and filmed entertainment sides.

With new Batman and Superman films in the writing stages and “Lantern” filming, the team thought “Flash” was the next logical hero to tackle.

Development on a feature version of the scarlet speedster has gone through several false starts over the years, but the character is close to Johns’ heart. The writer recently brought back to prominence one version of the character not seen since the mid-1980s and is working on a relaunch of the series.

The “Flash” film will take inspiration from Johns’ recent work and will feature the Barry Allen incarnation of the character. (In comics lore, several names have wielded the Flash mantle, though Allen, created in 1956, remains by far the most popular.)

Berlanti, creator of “Everwood,” recently directed the feature “Life as We Know it,” starring Katherine Heigl, and is an exec producer on ABC’s “Brothers and Sisters.” He co-created “Eli Stone” with Guggenheim, who is exec producing ABC’s upcoming superhero drama “No Ordinary Family.” Berlanti co-created "Family," which stars Michael Chiklis.

Green worked with Berlanti on “Everwood” and created NBC’s “Kings.”

(Thanks Heat Vision)

Monday, June 14, 2010

News - 06/14/10...

Sylvain Chomet interview

Sylvain Chomet, director of Belleville Rendez-Vous and now The Illusionist. Photograph: Paul Cooper

Sylvain Chomet talks about his new film "The Illusionist" HERE -

The biggest problem [in making the film] was finding the animators. Like the music-hall acts in the film, animators had become convinced by Hollywood that their time had passed.

"A lot of animators, basically people who can draw, got scared by these wankers from Disney saying that 2D animation is dead, that it was only going to be 3D and Pixar from now on. It is just typical shit by people in ties who don't know what they are talking about. Are they saying that Aardman is dead, too, then? I mean how stupid are these people? Saying 2D is dead is like saying that a car race is the future of the Tour de France."

"We had trouble because the fantastic animators we found had got really stressed because they thought after our film there was not going to be any 2D any more. Some were driving buses or retraining. People really had been made to believe that the end had come. The truth is that animation is always mixing things up: pen and paper, stop motion, puppets, 3D. Suddenly this bizarre competition has been created. What it is, one more time, is this American reflex to kill off the competition, to say that you can only do it one way and destroy everything else that went before. The whole society is like that. They destroy what they have to build something new. They end up with no roots to draw on, nothing to compare their work with to see if it is good or not. American culture is in real danger of starving itself to dead. You just have to see what Hollywood is producing to see how narrow it is getting."

(Thanks David Nethery)

Upcoming in North America (and Other English Speaking Territories)

Following news of a Voltron anime TV series producers Richard Suckle and Ted Koplar told MTV Splashpage a live action movie is still in the works


Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot, the localized, live action Giant Robo is being offered by MGM DVD on Demand


An animated Batman: Year One might be in the pipeline

Bandai Entertainment

Upcoming in Japan

Summer anime previews, via AnimeNation
part one
part two


Seitokai Yakuindomo
Utawarerumono OVA 3
Welcome to the Space Show
Panty and Stocking
Gothic & Lolita Psycho
Kimi ni Todoke
live action adaptation
My Mean Sempai - the live action work directed by Yutaka Yamamoto (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star, Kannagi)

The new Anne of Green Gables compilation

summer preview

Nausicaa.net reports
Studio Ghibli blogger Nishioka announced that painting and filming work on Ghibli's Arrietty: The Borrower were completed on May 29. Voice recording has already completed and sound production is scheduled for completion by the end of June.

The movie will hit Japanese theatres July 17.

Tatsuya Fujiwara (Death Note's Light) has been added to the Arrietty cast.


The Japanese site for Warner Brothers' live action show Super Natural will feature an animated "special project."

Madhouse will be producing it with Shigeyuki Miya (Lupin III: Green vs Red, Aoi Bungaku Series, Buzzer Beater) and Atsuko Ishizuka (Aoi Bungaku Series) co-directing.

Warner Home Video will release Supernatural the Animation on Blu-ray and DVD in Japan on January 12, 2011.

The anime will be a 22-episode season that will cover the storyline of the live-action version's first two seasons.

Naoya Takayama (Night Head, Liar Game) is supervising the series' scripts, and Takahiro Yoshimatsu (Trigun) is designing the characters.


In an interview with ANN, Gainax anime studio co-founder and acting president Hiroyuki Yamaga revealed Gainax's next project (beyond Panty & Stocking) will be based on a novel set in 1920s England and revolves around a boy and a girl who collect magical books.

Yamaga noted that he was having difficulty pinning down the setting for the book, which requires both a '20s feel and cars.


Aniplex and Bones are launching a new mecha anime called Star Driver Kagayaki no Takuto (Star Driver: Radiant Takuto) with Takuya Igarashi (Soul Eater, Ouran High School Host Club) directing, written by Yoji Enokido (Revolutionary Girl Utena, Aim for the Top! Gunbuster 2) is writing the scripts. Misa and Hiroka Mizuya are collaborating on the original character designs, and Yoshiyuki Ito (Fullmetal Alchemist, Soul Eater) is adapting the designs for animation and overseeing the animation. Satoru Kousaki (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Bakemonogatari) is scoring the music.


A third StiTch! anime (based on Lilo and Stitch) called Stitch! ~Zutto Saiko no Tomodachi~ (Stitch! Always the Best of Friends) is scheduled to premiere on Japanese TV in July


Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood will end with episode 64, scheduled to Air in Japan on July 4th. The manga ended in the July issue of Square Enix's Monthly Shonen Gangan. Sengoku Basara will takes in time slot on July 11


The first episode of the Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood OVA will air on various Japanese television stations between June 26 and 29. Osaka's MBS station will air a long "TV Edit" version of the episode on June 26, while seven other stations will show a short "TV Edit."


Monthly Shonen Magazine have confirmed that the anime adaptation of Alive - The Final Evolution, released in North America by Del Rey, is a dead project. The anime fell through after Gonzo was delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The Anime Business

FUNimation parent company Navarre report its fourth quarter and fiscal year 2010 financial results.

Net sales were $138.3 million, as compared to net sales of $147.1 million for the same period last year, a reduction of $8.8 million or 6%.

Operating income during the fourth quarter was $3.8 million, as compared to operating income of $2.3 million in the prior fiscal year, an increase of 68%.

Net income increased to $9.2 million, or $0.25 per diluted share, versus net income of $3.2 million, or $0.09 per diluted share in the prior year. This year's fourth quarter includes the impact of a $6.4 million, or $0.18 per diluted share, non-cash income tax benefit arising out of the partial reversal of a valuation allowance recorded against deferred tax assets.

EBITDA before share-based compensation expense was $5.4 million, as compared to EBITDA before share-based compensation expense of $4.3 million and adjusted EBITDA of $7.4 million in the prior year's fourth quarter. Adjusted EBITDA does not include the impact of impairment and
restructuring charges.

Debt at March 31, 2010 was $6.6 million; as compared to debt of $24.1 million on March 31, 2009, a reduction of $17.5 million or 73%.

The company also spoke to its intention to sell Funimation

"Our recent announcement regarding the Company's engagement of Houlihan Lokey to evaluate strategic alternatives for FUNimation Entertainment is an important element in our strategy. Although we believe that FUNimation has a bright future, its growth initiatives include original co-productions, social networks and digital broadcasting. Those projects have limited synergies with our other businesses and we believe are best executed with ownership that has assets or expertise in those areas," continued Deacon.


Rumors filtering around concerns problems for Gainax

Two prominent members of GAINAX who manage the Evangelion movie copyrights have left and formed a new company called Ground Works to manage those rights. GAINAX's name has been left off of a huge portion of new Eva materials and merchandise, replaced by Ground Works. Thus, GAINAX and the recent Evangelion films may be splitting up. It's not like Hideki Anno's anger helped, either.


Anime News Network reports Production IG parent IG Port plans to acquire an 11.2% of Tatsunoko Productions (Gatchaman, Karas, Spped Racer) In addition, I.G President and CEO Mitsuhisa Ishikawa will serve as a part-time director for Tatsunoko.

Anime on North American TV

Syfy will hold off on the final episodes six of Monster until August while it airs Requiem from the Darkness

The Pokémon Company International announced the newest Pokémon animated series -- Pokémon: DP Sinnoh League Victors is now running on Cartoon Network

Worth Checking Out...


May animation retrospective

First Teaser for Stephen Chow Produced CJ7: THE CARTOON

Akira/Speed Racer homage in Shorties Watching Shorties
here - here

Judd Winick Talks Writing The "Batman: Under The Red Hood" Animated Feature

Warner Home Video has released a new studio-conducted interview with Judd Winick, writer of the upcoming direct-to-video Batman: Under the Red Hood animated feature.

The World's Finest presents the latest in a series of studio-conducted interviews, provided by Warner Home Video, for the Batman: Under the Red Hood direct-to-video animated feature. Continue reading below for the latest installment featuring writer Judd Winick.


Judd Winick has returned to Gotham City with a vengeance. The award-winning cartoonist has successfully transitioned one of his benchmark storylines from comic book pages to animated film with the upcoming release of Batman: Under the Red Hood, the latest entry in the popular series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies.

Born and raised on Long Island, New York, the University of Michigan graduate gained national fame as a cast member of MTV’s
The Real World, San Francisco in 1994. In the wake of the death of his Real World roommate and friend, AIDS activist Pedro Zamora, Winick embarked on a national AIDS education lecture tour. Later, the lecture and his friendship with Zamora was documented in his award-winning graphic novel Pedro And Me.

Winick next created his original comic book series,
Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius, and then began a long running stint as one of the top writers on mainstream super hero comics. Winick has scripted such titles as Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Trials Shazam, Green Arrow and Outsiders (for DC Comics), Exiles (for Marvel) and Star Wars (for Dark Horse). He also was the creator and executive producer of Cartoon Network’s animated series The Life and Times of Juniper Lee.

He is currently developing live action television and animation, writing the new bi-weekly comic title for DC Comics
Justice League: Generation Lost, as well as the monthly Power Girl.

In 2005, Winick presented his Red Hood storyline in the Batman comics and it was met with tremendous sales alongside powerful waves of controversy. He has evolved that story into the script for the all-new DC Universe film,
Batman: Under the Red Hood. In celebration of the film’s July 27 street date, DC Comics will distribute a six-issue mini-series, Red Hood: The Lost Days. Written by Winick and drawn by Pablo Raimondi, the mini-series offers greater insight into the back story of the title character.

From the producing triumvirate of Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation, Batman: Under the Red Hood will be distributed by Warner Home Video as a Special Edition version on Blu-Ray™ and 2-disc DVD, as well as being available on single disc DVD, On Demand and for Download.

Winick is thrilled with the way his words have transitioned from comic/graphic novel to screenplay to animated film in the form of
Batman: Under the Red Hood, and is only too happy to talk about the end result. Here are some of his thoughts …

QUESTION: What was the greatest challenge in taking your graphic novel to script format?

I had to take two years of story and boil it down to 75 minutes of film, and that’s a challenge and liberating at the same time. It forces one to cut out all the fat and get to the heart of it. It’s about making a movie. And for those who know anything about movies, it’s about putting one foot in front of the other, building from one scene to the next to the next and so on. There are no cul-de-sacs or crossovers – it’s all about getting the story to its essence.

QUESTION: Were you disappointed with what you needed to cut out?

Actually, I was thrilled about what went in. I’m really, really happy that the emotional core of the story is still there. We don’t really get to tell stories like this in animation. The opera of it all is usually reserved for live action. This story is about characters actually emoting and dealing with horrible situations. Animation usually gets just the action and the visualization, and not the characters actually feeling anything. So it was nice we got to do that.

QUESTION: Can you describe the gratification of watching your words come to animated life?

: It’s great. And I don’t mean to take anything away from writing for comics, as this is just a different form of story telling. One of the fun parts of writing for film is that it allows you the freedom for your characters to just shut up and fight. We can’t do that in comics – there always has to be some banter or internal monologue. More importantly, it’s gratifying to see the words and action come to life in all the ways film affords – through incredibly talented actors giving the words all that emotional impact; and to see the characters actually fight and run and yell and shout and cry. They become living, breathing beings. That’s a very exhilarating experience for a writer.

QUESTION: Do the voices of Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, Neil Patrick Harris and John DiMaggio match what you had in your head while writing the dialogue?

I’ve been writing these characters for years, and it’s remarkable the job those actors did. Greenwood is about as Batman as you can get – which is exactly what you want. You don’t want to be surprised – as soon as he speaks, you want to say to yourself, “That’s Batman.” Nightwing is exactly as I’ve had him in my head – Neil Patrick Harris couldn’t possibly do it better. I’d like to do an entire feature with Bruce Greenwood as Batman and Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing.

Red Hood is funny for me because I thought I’d written this character in this incarnation more than anyone else, but I had no clue what he’d really sound like. And yet, when Jensen speaks, that’s the right tone and timbre. As far as Joker, that is one of the truly great characters that I think needs to be left up to interpretation. There’s only been a handful of people who have created Joker – Mark Hamill set the standard for animation, then you’ve got Jack (Nicholson) and Heath Ledger. But John (DiMaggio) has such versatility, he could go anywhere with it, and he made it totally his own. He really gives a very big and gruff and masculine performance, so deep and throaty and bass. He’s wonderfully scary and really gets the job done.

Wade Williams as Black Mask absolutely cracks me up. He’s like a lion. Honestly, what came out in the animation came directly out of his performance. Wade made him into a caged animal who might go off at any second. He’s constantly roaring, which is an entirely different take than I anticipated and that’s awesome. That’s an actor making decisions and making it his own and really hitting the mark.

QUESTION: Executive Producer Bruce Timm says your pitch was unorthodox in that it was over the phone and yet was absolutely perfect and completely sold him. How’d you pull that off?

I’d given a rougher pitch to Gregory Noveck (DC Comics’s Senior Vice President of Creative Affairs) and he loved it, but we had to pitch it to the gang. The schedule worked out that I had to be in San Francisco, and they had to be in Burbank. That’s not the ideal way to pitch, especially for me – I like to jump around a lot, shout a lot, wave my hands and be theatrical. That’s especially true for this pitch because it’s a very emotional script. I kind of sold the idea in the first five minutes of the pitch, which was essentially describing the first five minutes of the movie.

I thought this would be a cool animated feature, but to really tell this story, we had to find a way to show Robin dying. We had to get the history in quickly to start the movie with that emotional smack. So I’m on my head set, going through this scene, talking about Batman barreling down the street of Sarajevo, the Joker beating Robin to death,. I’m banging my hands on the desk, yelling as loud as I can, and by the time I said “Fade to black, cue to opening credits,” it was just dead quiet on the other end of the line. I said, “Is everybody still there?” And they said, “Yeah, that was awesome.” Done. Sold.

QUESTION: How did you first enter the Batcave as a fan?

Like many people of my age, I’m sure I was reading the comics but I remember watching the TV series more – and not really liking it. It didn’t quite feel right. I know I enjoyed it more like watching Super Friends, but I really gravitated toward the comics more than anything. The series wasn’t dark enough. It didn’t have the edge I wanted in my Batman. Ultimately, the TV show gave me a sense of what I didn’t want Batman to be, even back then.

QUESTION: For The Real World fans out there … do you have any inclination to do another reality show?

I would say NEVER. (Laughs) Doing reality was like elective surgery. I got the nose job, it worked out just fine. I don’t need a touch up, and I don’t need another one. When they started to do the follow-ups, we just kept saying “No” until they stopped asking us. We have jobs and responsibilities and really don’t need the money or the humiliation. And most importantly, we had a fairly extraordinary and terrible experience during the show and still came out positively. We are very lucky in that way, and I would not assume to tempt fate and do anything like it again.

QUESTION: Do you feel Batman: Under the Red Hood fits into Batman’s current live-action film tone?

I’d say Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight was sort of the catalyst. After seeing that film, it got my juices going thinking that we could do something like that with a Red Hood arc. At the time, I didn’t even know what Warner Premiere was working on. It all started with a quick email to Gregory (Noveck) asking if they were looking for any more Batman features. Comics and film present very specific camps for the characters and the stories. Animation should be its own genre that straddles between the two that can give comic fans the product their hoping to see, and provide a new vision for the fans who only know these characters in the most mainstream way.

QUESTION: Do you like presenting your stories in animated form?

I really do. I’m a cartoonist. I don’t draw for money, and mostly what I do is the writing. But that’s how I view myself more than anything else – as a cartoonist. I grew up on animation, and I always loved knowing that the cartoons on the page could actually come to life. I worshipped at the alter of Chuck Jones, and realized at a very young age that one guy did all the things I love best. I love it as a medium and I love how it’s evolved. Animation features have exploded – there is more high-end animation being produced now than ever before, and I think that’s great.

Glee Star To Voice Dorothy of Oz In New Animated Film

Variety reports Glee actress Lea Michele will star in Summertime Entertainment's CG animated musical Dorothy of OZ as the lead character, Dorothy. Other actors attached to the project include Jim Belushi as the Lion, Dan Aykroyd as the Scarecrow and Kelsey Grammer as the Tin Man.

The songs are being written by Bryan Adams, who also wrote the songs to Dreamworks' Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and Jim Vallance, who had teamed up with Adams previously on hits like "Heaven" and "Summer of '69".

Summertime plans on completing the film by the end of next year, although distribution is not set.

The Animation of the Brothers Warner

Part of the morning of Your Faithful Servant was spent at the Warner Bros. Animation facility on the picturesque Warner (formerly Columbia) Ranch, located in the San Fernando Valley hamlet of Burbank ...

A WBA staffer told me:

"Other studios are doing lots of CGI shows. We're doing Green Lantern, and we'll probably be doing more CG series in the next few years. But we'll also keep doing hand-drawn shows. I don't think hand-drawn series on television are going to go out of style. Hand-drawn is beautiful ..."

Would that more executives felt this way.

My thinking is that every studio doing t.v. animation will be wading deeper into CGI episodics as the decade goes on. It just seems to be the trend now, after the false start back at the turn of the century. (Remember Starship Troopers? I didn't suppose you did.)

The conundrum for the conglomerates: CGI isn't cheap, and if higher ratings don't result from the CG rendering, then the extra money spent might have been pointless.

Meanwhile, the production board crew for Looney Tunes is settled in and moving briskly along. And delighted to be working. "May this show last multiple seasons ..."

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Back at Starz

A large part of my later afternoon was spent at the Starz Media building, where there are now multiple studios residing within ....

The Hasbro Studio has moved in its administration but as yet no artists. Hasbro execs inform me they come over from Beverly Hills (where they have temporary digs) at the end of the month.

Marvel is working on super hero shows in another part of the building ...

In yet another area story development on Dan Vs. is going on. (Board artists, directors and designers busily working away.) And the [deleted to be on the safe side] ...

And of course The Simpsons takes up a major chunk of square footage, where many have come back from hiatus and a highly placed person today told me:

"I don't see how this show [Simpsons] doesn't go several more seasons. Fox wants to keep its Sunday night Animation Domination block together. [The Yellow Family] might be as potent as it used to be, but their still an anchor to the whole thing ..."

I pointed out (as I generally do), that if Fox stops making original Simpsons episodes, the whole franchise (merchandise, syndication deals, DVDs, foreign markets, etc.) being winding down. And Fox is unlikely to want that to happen.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Cleveland Times Three

Fox Animation over on Wilshire is going to have its full complement of shows in production during the coming year:

... On Thursday, the Fox network said that it had ordered a third season of “The Cleveland Show,” the cartoon comedy spun off from its animated hit “Family Guy.” ...

For Season 3, [actor and producer Mike] Henry said, the goal is to
“take things to the next level. Now that we’ve established our form, we want to break the form. More guest stars, more music, more high energy. We just want to pack more into our shows.” ...

This leads me to believe that Fox wants to keep its Animation Domination Sunday night block together. Which means that the other two MacFarlane shows, along with The Simpsons, will keep on trucking into new seasons.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)


Not the boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, but an award in the Middle Kingdom.

... [A]t the closing night of the 16th Shanghai Television Festival ... the Magnolia Award for Best Animation went to Toonmax Media for its popular "Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf," a series whose characters are widely known and merchandized around China and one that runs on Nickelodeon's dedicated regional channel for Chinese animation.

I keep hearing about "Pleasant Goat" but haven't ever seen it. I'm starting to think I live a cloistered life.

I wasn't even up on the Magnolia Awards. If you'd have asked me, I would've guessed they took place somewhere in Van Nuys.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

The Fox

It might not have done much at the box office, but Mr. Anderson's stop motion opus has done splendidly in the critical hosannas and awards departments.

Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" outfoxed the competition at the 50th Annecy International Animation Film Festival with the film taking top prizes the Cristal for best feature and the Audience Award as the festival ended its six-day run on Saturday night.

The French, God love them, always march to their own drummer.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

It's the Conglomerates' World ...

... we just live in it (wherever we are):

Big Films Cost [New Zealand] Millions

Attempts to woo Hollywood film-makers have lost New Zealand tens of millions of dollars, confidential ministerial briefings say.

Now, critics are accusing Government ministers of having stars in their eyes.

A Cabinet paper prepared by Treasury in February and released to the Herald on Sunday under the Official Information Act, said subsidies for films such as
Avatar and King Kong could not be economically justified. ...

"It's a transfer of wealth from the average New Zealander to the rich beggars of Hollywood," [Act finance spokesman Sir Roger Douglas] said. ...

Gee. This "Transfer of Wealth" thing, it sure is going around. Would Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner and Larry Summers be moonlighting with the New Zealand guvmint, do you think?

And thanks to the visual effects guy for e-mailing a link to the article.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Dutch Team Readies Pecker For Theaters

Pecker is an upcoming stop-motion short set to releaes in 70 Dutch theaters in July of this year. The trailer below gives you just a momentary glance at the production, which looks like a helluva lotta fun. It was animated by Patrick Raats and Erik van Schaaik, who was also the writer and director.

Variety IDs 10 Animators on the Rise

Variety released a story today titled Tomorrow’s Toon Talent, which lists “10 animators poised to become household names.” Here’s who they list – anyone you think they left out?

David O’Reilly
Chris Butler
Arthur De Pins
Headless Prods
Patrick Jean
Michael Langan
Stephen Neary
Teddy Newton
Mamoru Hosoda
Pendleton Ward

Oh, Hello Animation Greets SIFF Attendees

For this year’s Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), which is running through ’til June 13th, the production company known as Oh, Hello produced this bumper. It’s an ambitious piece of animation, zooming through space and time at a breakneck pace.

HBO Ends "Life & Times of Tim"

HBO has cancelled The Life and Times of Tim, Deadline Hollywood reports.

The website says that producer MRC is trying to interest Comedy Central, Adult Swim, or TBS in picking up the show, but negotiations are being complicated by the need to fashion a package that would include the current 20 episodes plus new seasons.

Cool Stuff: Leiji Matsumoto's Bohemian Rhapsody AMV

This fantastic and strange music video was produced by the famed anime & manga creator Leiji Matsumoto (Galaxy Express 999, Captain Harlock, Space Battlship Yamato) and released in Japan to commemorate the 18th anniversary of Freddie Mercury's death. The footage apparently uses some characters and concepts from Out of Galaxy Koshika, a digitally-distributed manga by Matsumoto about a young boy that joins the crew of a dimension-traveling spaceship on a quest to save the Earth--naturally!

Turner to Take Arab Programming International

Turner Broadcasting and Rubicon Group will partner to develop, co-produce, and broadcast worldwide kids' programs from Middle Eastern producers, The National reports.

The agreement covers three series, Ben & Izzy, Tareq wa Shireen and Pink Panther & Pals, and includes merchandising programs related to the former pair.

Ben & Izzy and Tareq wa Shireen will be rolled into European, Asian, and North American territories over the next nine to twelve months. Pink Panther & Pals is already broadcast internationally.

Rubicon is based in Jordan.

PlayStation Network Adds Marvel Toons to Lineup

The PlayStation Network has added seven new animated Marvel series to its lineup, including The Super Hero Squad Show; X-Men: Evolution; Wolverine and the X-Men; Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes; Iron Man: Extremis Motion Comic; Spider-Woman: Agent of SWORD Motion Comic; and Astonishing X-Men: Gifted Motion Comic.

The Network also says that those who buy the “Director’s Edition” of the Iron Man: Extremis series in comic book shops will be able to download the corresponding episode free from PlayStation Network when it is released.

Shows are available in SD or HD by navigating TV Shows> Networks> Marvel within the PlayStation Store.

Scurfield Exits Disney for Coolabi

U.K.-based animation production company Coolabi has hired former Disney executive Zoe Scurfield as is head of development and production.

Scurfield will be in charge of development and expansion of Coolabi’s TV production in both animation and live action. She will be the company’s executive producer on all projects and serve as the main liaison with broadcasters and production partners.

Coolabi has in the past year become a major independent production house in the United Kingdom. Its projects include the animated series The Large Family, airing on CBeebies and TF1 in France, and live-action series Dead Gorgeous, showing on CBBC and ABC Australia. Its next project is the animated series Poppy Cat for Nick Jr.

Scurfield previously worked for the Walt Disney Co. for 13 years. Her most recent position was executive director of programming for Disney Channels U.K., Scandinavia and Emerging Markets.

“Coolabi is a fast-growing and dynamic company with a fantastic portfolio of exciting and diverse properties,” says Scurfield. “This new role puts me in a great position to make full use of my experience to help drive Coolabi’s rapid expansion as content producers, and I am looking forward to working with key broadcasters in the development of existing properties, while discovering and nurturing new ones. I’m delighted to be joining such a talented and strategic team at this exciting time.”

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Xeth Feinberg Joins Pitch Party Judges’ Panel

Animator Xeth Feinberg, the director and founder of Mishmash Media, has joined the panel of judges for Animation Magazine’s ninth annual Pitch Party!

Feinberg founded Mishmash in 1997 as a boutique studio in New York. His credits include the animated series Queer Duck, 24: Day Zero, Blue Sky Studios, Vanity Fair.com and Classic Media.

The annual Pitch Party opens up a section of Animation Magazine to anyone who wants to pitch an idea for the next great animated series. The winner gets the chance to pitch their idea to the judge/animation executive of their choice.

Deadline for entry is June 7, so get cracking! To enter, contact our sales staff by phone at (818) 991-2884, Ext. 104, or email at sales@animationmagazine.net. Entry fee is $375

So who else is judging the event? Read on:

• Brian Jones - Manager, Action Adventure Series, Cartoon Network
• Kim Manning - Director of Programming and Acquisitions, Adult Swim
• Alan Gregg - Director of Original Content, Teletoon
• Michael J. Vogel – Head of Boys Animation, Hasbro Studios.
• Kevin Gamble - Vice President, Development, Disney Television Animation
• Sharon Levy - Executive VP, original series and animation, Spike TV
• Barbara Uecker - Head of Programming and Acquisitions for ABC Children’s TV, Australia
• Scott Landsman - VP, Development, Comedy Central
• Ellen Goldsmith-Vein - President and Founder, Gotham Group

The winner of the Pitch Party also gets additional editorial coverage and the cost of your entry reimbursed. The second and third place winners get editorial coverage. The winners of our staff pick and online readers poll also will get editorial coverage as well as copies of Toon Boom's Storyboard Pro software.

Winners will be announced in our August issue, which hits stands around July 1. Winners also will be hyped on our website during the week of Comic-Con International: San Diego, July 22-25.

For more information, go to www.animationmagazine.net/pitch_party_2010.html.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Has 'Captain America' Found Its Dum Dum Dugan?

Joe Johnston's "Captain America: The First Avenger" movie could be classing up its cast with Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan if rumored talks produce a job offer for the "Desperate Housewives" actor.

McDonough would join an already impressive roster that recently added Tommy Lee Jones in a mystery role.

McDonough's conversations with Marvel Studios have not been officially acknowledged, according to Deadline.com, but he may be the leading candidate right now to pick up a bowler hat, mustache and cigar for one of Nick Fury's most dedicated S.H.I.E.L.D. troops.

In a list of credits that includes Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, Hugo Weaving as Red Skull, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Sebastian Stan as Bucky and Toby Jones as Arnim Zola, McDonough would be in good company.

Assuming Marvel sticks to Dugan's classic look, he would at the very least be one of best dressed. Captain America got a sleeker, wingless, movie-friendly update, but my best guess would be that they'll leave Dugan's core costume elements alone for the most part, save augmenting his S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform.

Jeremy Renner To Join 'The Avengers' As Hawkeye?

Reports pegging Jeremy Renner as a contender to play Hawkeye in "The Avengers" were apparently right on target, as "The Hurt Locker" actor is nearly set to make his Marvel.

According to Heat Vision, Renner is in final negotiations to join "The Avengers" as Clint Barton, the bow-and-arrow wielding hero better known as Hawkeye. Renner would be joining an impressive cast consisting of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

Renner's possible involvement in "The Avengers" dates back to November of last year when the actor suggested that he might make a cameo appearance as Hawkeye in "Thor," with an extended role in "The Avengers."

"If I was a betting man, I would bet that Hawkeye would probably show up in Thor, and then be in The Avengers," he said at the time. "But do I know for sure? I can't say. But I'd love for that to happen. It'd be fun."

Renner later spoke to MTV News about the possible casting, saying that he thinks Hawkeye is a cool character because he lacks superpowers.

"I liked it because he wasn't a superhero," he said. "He's not a guy in tights doing his thing, he's actually just a regular dude with a highly trained set of skills. I think I can actually connect to that. Not just flying around with a codpiece on or something."

CONFIRMED! First Promotional Art of the Green Lantern Movie Costume and Ring Revealed!

The call is going out once again to our ComicBookMovie freelance investigators: Is this recycled comic book art or have we finally gotten our first look at Hal Jordan's movie duds?

If this image below, which was released last night at Variety.com, looks familiar to you, you're very right. It appears to be a variant of a comic book cover created by Simone Bianchi for Geoff Johns' Revenge of the Green Lanterns mini-series.

Upon closer inspection, the differences are fairly obvious: Angle of the mask, transparency over the eyes, the ring design, glove texture and the CGI-esque green "flames."

[Green Lantern movie logo from the film's set]

After browsing over every Green Lantern comic book cover from 1998 to present, including variant covers included in trade paperback collections, I have yet to see this image duplicated or in larger format. Why would be this be a hint at the movie costume or ring? The context of the Variety piece was to promote Green Lantern movie merchandise, which will premiere at next week's Licensing International Expo in Las Vegas, NV.

Since we've had more false positives on possible Green Lantern concept art than Britney Spears has had on pregnancy tests, the call is being put out to all our resident CBM sleuths to hunt down any previous trace of this artwork.

Confirmation should be made sometime next week with the unveiling of all the Green Lantern movie goodies at the Expo; but us fanboys and girls aren't well known for our patience.

Many thanks to CBM member InterestingJohn for bringing this to our attention this morning!

CONFIRMED! Variety Senior Editor Marc Graser was kind enough to respond to my information request about this image, considering his article was where it first appeared:

This is artwork that Warner Bros. Consumer Products had exclusively reproduced by DC Comics, and was given to him directly from Warner Bros. It’s inspired by Green Lantern #10, Volume 4. Warner Bros. Consumer Products is working in conjunction with Mattel to create Green Lantern movie-based merchandise; some of which will be displayed at next week's
Licensing International Expo.

And there you have it. This image is our first look at part of Hal Jordan's attire for Green Lantern, as well as the ring design for both the film and merchandise.

(Thanks Comic Book Movie)

Video of that awesome 1979 Alien toy that got banned

We have no idea whose bright idea it was to make a kid's toy as a tie-in for an R-rated movie, but whoever it was was a genius!

Not everybody agreed, though.

When Kenner came out with its 18-inch-tall Alien figure in 1979, parents' groups were outraged, and the toothy toy was yanked from the market. The kids in the commercial below don't seem to mind, though.

Thanks to that retail censorship, the toy became fairly rare. Too bad ... 'cause we WANT one!

(via Hero Complex)

7 screen grabs from the 1st Thor footage (Odin revealed!)

ET visited the set of Thor and just released a four-minute video taking us behind the scenes with them. Check out some of our favorite moments below!

Here's Anthony Hopkins in costume as the Thunder God's father, looking all Odin-ish.

Not sure what Chris Hemworth's battle in a tube will turn out to be once the FX guys get their hands on it, but we're hoping for the Rainbow Bridge.

Man, that Chris Hemsworth is frakkin' HUGE!

We assume this must be Asgard ... unless it's that Vegas casino where we lost a couple of weeks' pay!

Did we say he was huge?

Here's a good look at Hemsworth sporting the contemporary Thor's chin fuzz.

And here he is in full Thor regalia!

To check out the complete video for yourself, click below.

Gandalf insists: The Hobbit WILL begin filming later this year

If all the recent depressing Hobbit news has you fearing we'll never get a return visit to Middle-earth, it turns out we have nothing to worry about—not if Sir Ian McKellen is to be believed.

During an appearance on the Fitzy, Claire and Jules radio show in Adelaide to promote his appearance in "Waiting for Godot"—which recently caused him to be mistaken for a tramp, remember?—the actor behind Gandalf expressed confidence that Hobbit filming would begin soon.

Said Sir Ian:

It's in production. The sets are ready, the script's ready and the movie is going to be cast this month. Fans are not to get worried. The films will get made and I suspect we'll start shooting the end of this year.

Of course, McKellen also made public statements back in March about when filming would start, and he first said it would all begin this month, which he later changed to July. So maybe this wizard's prognostications shouldn't be trusted. But still, we can hope, can't we?

As for who would win in a battle between Gandalf and Magneto, on that Sir Ian can be trusted—it's Gandalf!

"Of course!" said McKellen.

(via gordonandthewhale)

Del Toro left The Hobbit to direct ... Van Helsing 2?

With The Hobbit now firmly behind him, director Guillermo del Toro has a stack of backlogged projects he can dive into. And one of the projects the acclaimed filmmaker is developing is a new Van Helsing movie, according to pajiba.

Now before we all scream, "He left The Hobbit for this?", let's take a closer look. The project is apparently NOT a sequel to the (let's just say it) wretched Van Helsing movie from 2004 that starred/embarrassed Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale. Instead, Universal Pictures wants to take an entirely different approach to the famous vampire hunter and archenemy of Dracula, and has enlisted del Toro to write a treatment for what is described as "an action horror story."

Del Toro is also named as a producer on the movie, but there's no word yet on whether he'll write the full screenplay or sit in the director's chair. He certainly has experience with vampires, having directed Blade 2 and having co-written the epic bloodsucker novel The Strain (with two more volumes on the way). Plus his feel for the Gothic might bring some credibility back to the character.

So just like anything else the workaholic del Toro attaches himself to, this one has grabbed our interest even though it's a long way off from actually hitting the screen. The problem is that he has so much on his plate, including adaptations of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dan Simmons' Drood, H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness and possibly a new spin on The Wizard of Oz. And that's just the movies he may direct! He's also producing and/or writing a pile of other pictures, including the spy thriller Champions and the apocalyptic horror story Hater.

What would you like to see del Toro make next? Does a Van Helsing reboot sound good?

Michael Bay plans to KILL some of the Transformers

Okay, he didn't EXACTLY say that, but it seems like director Michael Bay and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura are really, truly going to off some of our beloved Autobots, based on what we learned from a new Transformers 3 article in USA Today.

Here's what the piece had to say:

While Optimus Prime, Megatron and even Sam all have died and been resurrected, di Bonaventura says this film will have no do-overs: Die,and that's it.

Bay hints that there may be a lot of that. "As a trilogy, it really ends," he says. "It could be rebooted again, but I think it has a really killer ending."

There are other changes afoot for the third Transformers flick, which is filming now for a summer 2011 release. Bay and di Bonaventura acknowledge that there were problems with last year's Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, which was blasted by critics and even some fans despite earning $836 million worldwide—second last year only to Avatar.

Bay says it was "very hard" to put the second movie together quickly after the Hollywood writers' strike of late 2007 and early 2008, with di Bonaventura adding, "We tried to do too many things in the second movie, which didn't give enough time in any one of them. We were constantly jumping to the next piece of information, the next place."

So what's different? Well, for one thing, Bay reveals that they're getting rid of "the dorky comedy," meaning that Fallen's tacky and racially insensitive twin robots are "basically gone." Even better, there's a new villain in town: Shockwave, the laser-cannon-wielding Transformer from the original series who is obsessed with overthrowing Megatron and leading the Decepticons in a takeover of the universe.

Perhaps the movie's most spectacular new special effect will be model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who will play a new love interest for human hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) following the departure of Megan Fox from the series.

As for the plot, USA Today says it has something to do with the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, and how the Transformers may have played a secret and dangerous part in it. Bay: "The movie is more of a mystery. It ties in what we know as history growing up as kids with what really happened."

Finally, and perhaps not surprisingly, Transformers 3 will be in 3-D, although it's likely that the movie will be converted in post-production and is not being filmed that way.

Will all these changes make for a better movie? Does this make you psyched for Transformers 3? Let the debate start now!