Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nickelodeon acquires Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splinter flips rehabbed sewer dojo to Viacom


Turtle power has a new home.

Nickelodeon has closed its $60 million deal to purchase the once iconic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property from The Mirage Group, which has been involved with the Turtles since their creation in 1984 and 4Kids Entertainment, which led a nicely designed and thoughtfully executed re-launch of TMNT in 2002.

Nickelodeon wasted no time in sending a strong message that its ownership of TMNT will have almost immediate impact on the Turtles' profile, announcing plans to develop a CG-animated TV series and a new feature film with Paramount, targeting 2012 for debut of both.

The transaction will put the Turtles in an improved position to regain relevance as the property struggles through its 25th anniversary year in a popularity ebb. Fans of the Turtles are sure to receive news of the sale to Nickelodeon with mixed emotions, as it apparently marks the end of involvement by the Turtles' creators, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, in every medium featuring TMNT except comics.

TMNT episodes that it co-produced by 4Kids and Mirage will continue to air on the CW Network through the end of the 2009-2010 broadcast season.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Toy Story 3 Trailer



Eight months before the planned release of the third Toy Story film, Disney has posted a trailer for Toy Story 3.

The movie will be directed by Lee Unkrich of Finding Nemo and Toy Story 2. Oscar winning writer Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) provides the screenplay, which features Woody, Buzz and gang preparing for their owner Andy's departure for college.

The cast includes Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, John Ratzenberger, and Wallace Shawn.



Friday, July 17, 2009

Family Guy? Best comedy series Emmy nomination shocker!


For the first time since The Flintstones were nominated in 1961 (the Emmy nod eventually went to the Jack Benny Program) has an animated show been a contender for an Emmy for best comedy series.

Does Family Guy deserve it? Debatable. The show has certainly had funnier seasons and not even The Simpsons has been nominated. Family Guy is hilarious, however, and it's nice to see an animated program back in comedy Emmy contention, even if it is going to lose out to 30 Rock.

Other nominees in the best comedy series category are:

"Entourage"
"Family Guy
"Flight of the Conchords"
"How I Met Your Mother"
"The Office"
"30 Rock"
"Weeds"

What do you think? Leave a comment with your Emmy pick.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Otakon says "Ohayo gozaimasu Baltimore!"

For three days, the world of anime and pop culture will revolve around Baltimore.

While Artscape takes over the Station North district this weekend, over 27,000 attendees are expected at the Baltimore Convention Center for Otakon 16, where intricate costumes and a frenetic, festival atmosphere will turn downtown into a colorful display of cutting edge Japanese pop culture.

Guests include voice actors Crispin Freeman ("Hellsing", "Howl's Moving Castle"), Kikuko Inoue (Oh My Goddess, Ranma 1/2), Mike McFarland (Dragonball, Lupin the Third), Tony Oliver (Bleach, Eureka Seven), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Naruto, Cowboy Bebop), director/producers Noboru Ishiguro (Space Battleship Yamato, Macross), Yukio Kikukawa (Legend of the Galactic Heroes), Masao Maruyama, founder of Madhouse Studios (Death Note, Vampire Hunter D, Urusei Yatsura, Red Line), and musical guests MELL and VAMPS.

Those not watching guest panels, attending concerts or mingling with the crowds will have their pick of video game rooms, shopping, crafts, costume contests, role playing games, dances, workshops, art shows and seven screening rooms showing a wide variety of anime and Asian fare, running from 8:30 am to 2:00 am Friday and Saturday, and 8:30 am to 4:00 pm Sunday.

For more info: otakon.com, Otakon events schedule

Plympton to host animated shorts program at Baltimore's Artscape



On Friday, July 17, legendary animator Bill Plympton will host Artscape's Friday Night Shorts program at the Charles Theatre in Baltimore, courtesy of the Maryland Film Festival.

Starting at 7:00 pm, the 90 minute "Cartoons from Hell" collection will show, including:

Fantaisie in Bubblewrap - Arthur Metcalf
Lupo the Butcher - Danny Antonucci
Puppet - Patrick Smith
Santa: The Fascist Years - Bill Plympton
The Box Man - Nirvan Mullick
Son of Satan - JJ Villard
Seventeen - Hisko Hulsing
Bar Fight - Christy Karacas
Ah L'Amour - Don Hertzfeldt

Rounding out the weekend will be a selection of animated shorts reflecting the Maryland Film Festival's reliably brilliant taste in assembling animated short subjects.

Schedule and short film descriptions courtesy of the MMF website:

Saturday
Noon: Program One - Animation
1 PM: Program Two - Avant-Garde
2 PM: Program Three - Comedy
3 PM: Program Four - Documentary
4 PM: Program Five - Narrative
5 PM: Program One - Animation
6 PM: Program Two - Avant-Garde

Sunday
Noon: Program Three - Comedy
1 PM: Program Four - Documentary
2 PM: Program Five - Narrative
3 PM: Program One - Animation
4 PM: Program Two - Avant-Garde
5 PM: Program Three - Comedy
6 PM: Program Four - Documentary

CARTOONS FROM HELL (90 minutes)

Fantaisie in Bubblewrap - Arthur Metcalf

A whimsical jaunt through the world of bubblewrap..

Lupo the Butcher - Danny Antonucci

The story of a psychotic butcher, who swears at his meat and has a huge temper when the smallest things go wrong. He eventually gets angry to the point that he cuts off his own thumb, his body falls apart, and a fountain of blood is unleashed.

Puppet - Patrick Smith

A sadistic sock puppet turns against it's creator. Through an escalating series of torture, the possessed sock puppet takes embodiment of fear, chaos, and willful self-destruction.

Santa: The Fascist Years - Bill Plympton

An dark and outrageous look at Santa Claus' hidden past, featuring a voiceover by actor Matthew Modine.

The Box Man - Nirvan Mullick

Suspicion, theft and murder in this dark tale of envy. Stop-motion short film about a man's encounter with a cardboard box. inspired by a Kobo Abe novel.

Son of Satan - JJ Villard

Bukowski would be proud of this twisted illustration of his poetry. A raw, urgent punk scream against the pain of abuse, bullying and the cyclical nature of violence and stands firmly against those who believe that animation must be clean, precise, polished and oh so f-ing sweet.

Seventeen - Hisko Hulsing

A shy seventeen-year-old construction worker tries to hold his own in the macho world of roofers. A dark tale about growing up, losing innocence, and settling into a sick cycle of hell.

Bar Fight - Christy Karacas

A simple bar fight erupts into an all out war of the worlds. It's every man for himself!... and a few other creatures.

Ah L'Amour - Don Hertzfeldt

A stick figure protagonist experiences not only the joys of newfound love but the woes of losing it -- along with his head, his arms and legs, and yes, his skin, too.

PROGRAM ONE - ANIMATION (24 minutes)

Trepan Hole – Andy Cahill, 6 minutes

Squiggling, spastic, rail-thin creatures with clay souls and throbbing heads bounce off each other for six minutes.

Enough To Drive You Mad - Karen Yasinsky, 3 minutes

A short work inspired by Robert Bresson's 1966 film Au Hasard Balthazar. Enough to Drive You Mad begins with line drawings of a familiar cartoon character interacting with Balthazar, the abused but soulful donkey, before erupting into abstract composition.

Death of a Matriarch - Takuro Masuda, 3 minutes

Based on an episode of "Kana'ti and Selu," a Native American folktale, this animated story explains how the Cherokee Nation believes farming was brought to Mankind.

The Realm of Possibility - Gerald Guthrie, 7 minutes

A digital animation based at the intersection of absurdity and logic. Deductive reasoning, as found in the syllogistic form (A is B, B is C, therefore A is C), becomes a vehicle to validate concepts that might not necessarily be true. The structure of the narrative is meant to parallel the premise of a syllogism. Many men use libraries; many libraries reference aviation; therefore, many men are pilots. In the end, navigation to another planet becomes a curious byproduct of flawed logic.

Fruitless Efforts - Fruit of the Womb - Andrew Chesworth & Aaron Quist, 5 minutes

Apple is trying to lead a normal life, but is being held back by his friends.

PROGRAM TWO - AVANT-GARDE (27 minutes)

Xologola - Michael Robinson, 1 minute

Abstract animation created using scans and pictures of branches, broken and scratched glass, and digitally painted textures.


Dahlia – Michael Langan, 3 minutes

A moving portrait of the bustle and permanence of a city, Dahlia juxtaposes the stable forms and patterns of life with the frenetic behavior of humanity, set to a driving score of vocal percussion.

He Hates To Be Second – Kelly Sears, 3 minutes

Excavated fragments from a 1963 article about Robert Kennedy and images and advertisements from similar 1963 publications are used to create this piece which focuses on revealing, rather than suppressing, illuminating moments from our past. Layers of tigers, vintage wallpaper, coiffed ladies, and alpha males are collaged as a visual portrait of the time. The majority of the article is blacked out to highlight key phrases that speak to aggressive gestures that marked this era as a result of building tensions of the Cold War. The text functions as an antithesis to the practice of blacked out government documents that hide sensitive information.

Sea of Breath - Cloud of Ground - Michael Robinson, 5 minutes

Four animated vignettes/movements combine to relate an abstract narrative.

Life With Ghosts – Allen Moore, 3 minutes

A visual and auditory exploration of layers of light and sound, using double 8mm and 16mm film processes transferred to video.

Evolution of an Idea - Grey Adkins, 5 minutes

Panoramic views taken with multiple video cameras show average views in a whole new way. First prize winner in City Paper's Shoot – Score - Baltimore short-film contest.

Doxology - Michael Langan, 7 minutes

This humorously allegorical animation explores the relationship between the terrestrial and the celestial via singing tennis balls.


PROGRAM THREE - COMEDY (28 minutes)

Bustout - Kenneth Price, 3 minutes

If there's one thing the Superkiiids! love more than the Back To The Future trilogy, it's high-fives! And if there's one thing they love more than high-fives, it's BUSTIN' OUT OF STUFF!!!!!!!!!! But don't take our word for it...

Goldthwait Home Movies - Bobcat Goldthwait, 7 minutes

The cast of the classic short Goldthwait Home Movies reunites to record the audio commentary for the 40th anniversary DVD.

The Douser - Stephen W. Brandt, 8 minutes

When Kelly grows weary of dating jerks, a wine-making gay couple helps her transform into a superhero that helps jerks find their more sensitive sides.

Politics of Preschool - Heidi Van Lier, 6 minutes

A preschool girl attempts to gain social status and happiness through a materialistic strategy, only to find she’s been trumped. She sets out to destroy the competition by any means necessary.

Santa: The Fascist Years – Bill Plympton, 4 minutes

In this animated newsreel, we learn that jolly ol’ St. Nick has a dark, hidden past rooted in greed and politics. A new short from Academy Award© nominee Bill Plympton, featuring narration by Matthew Modine.

PROGRAM FOUR - DOCUMENTARY (26 minutes)

Wrecking Ball – Karl Merton Ferron, 5 minutes

During the summer of 2008, workers used a 4-ton wrecking ball to knock down an 80-year-old cold-storage warehouse on Baltimore’s east side. Throughout the 8-week period of the demolition, Karl Merton Ferron trained a camera on the work site from a window in the Baltimore Sun’s newsroom. The camera shot one frame every 10 seconds. Ferron also made several trips to the work site throughout the summer to record scenes of workers, equipment, debris, and the reactions of onlookers.

Out Of Print – Danny Plotnick, 4 minutes

A sweet little ode to the counterculture of the 80s and 90s, a pre-internet time when unearthing quality non-mainstream culture was a real treasure hunt.

Grand Teton – Julia Kim Smith, 5 minutes

A video portrait of a first-generation Korean-American family in transition. Director Julia Kim Smith films her family assembling once again for a group photo in the same spot where they had stood 35 years earlier in Grand Teton National Park. Through juxtaposition of photography and video, Smith documents the process of assimilation, and challenges the racial and cultural boundaries of what it means to be “American.”

Dick-George, Tenn-Tom – Gideon C. Kennedy & Marcus Rosentrater, 12 minutes

In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon visited Mobile, AL for 104 minutes, during which time he shook 100 feet of hands, lost a cufflink, and shared a stage with his biggest political rival, Governor George Wallace. Dick-George, Tenn-Tom is a sardonic look at their rivalry, the creation of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, and the attempt on Wallace's life less than a year later.

PROGRAM FIVE - NARRATIVE (27 minutes)

Far Out – Phil Mucci, 5 minutes

In 1972, a flamboyant producer's Hollywood party takes a strange turn when an uninvited guest comes for more than sex and drugs. Imagine Beyond the Valley of the Dolls made as a Hammer horror film. Consider your mind blown!

A Catalog of Anticipations - David Lowery, 5 minutes

A foreboding fairy tale about a little girl and her collection of dead things. Insects, flowers, animal bones - she has a strange affinity for all things deceased. Her perspective on mortality is shaken, however, when she makes a truly unsettling discovery in her backyard.

Address to Silas on the Occasion of the Retreat at Los Angeles County - David Harris, 7 minutes

The emotional landscape of a recently broken-up couple plays out as a civil-war battle that destroys both of their apartments.

The Song of the Mermaid – Troy Morgan, 13 minutes

Roselyn and William live a tranquil life in their cliffside aquarium, playing music and collecting exotic sealife. When Roselyn begins to have mysterious dreams about living underwater, their lives take a strange and unexpected turn. One night, Roselyn disappears, leaving nothing but a note explaining that she has returned to the sea. Believing that he can still find her, William embarks upon an epic search for Roselyn. He fishes everything he can out of the ocean, until he finally encounters an unearthly creature that will change his life forever. Utilizing a variety of classic cinematic techniques such as miniature sets, puppetry and animation, The Song of the Mermaid takes the viewer through an enchanting filmic experience with dreamlike images and a haunting musical score.

For more info: The Charles Theatre, 1711 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD (410) 727-FILM, Artscape www.artscape.org/

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Voice of Mickey Mouse, Wayne Allwine, dies at age 62

See my entry on Wayne Allwine's passing here at Examiner.com.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Ricky Gervais 2-step plan: visit the White House in pajamas, get an HBO animated series

It's an auspicious few days for British comedian Ricky Gervais, the man behind "The Office" and "Extras". While in Washington, DC for the premiere of his latest film "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian", Gervais, along with co-star Ben Stiller was invited to visit the White House. Problem was, according to his blog, all his "smart clothes were at the hotel dry cleaner."

Not about to miss out on his White House invitation, Gervais donned pajama pants, a black t-shirt and off he went to Casa Obama.

On the heels of that proud accomplishment, HBO announced today that it has green-lit an animated series based on Gervais's wildly popular podcast, one of the most downloaded on the Internet.

"The Ricky Gervais Show" will feature Gervais, his comedy partner Stephen Merchant and their oddball friend Karl Pilkington in 13 half-hour episodes that will use audio from the trio's podcast.

Wildbrain, creators of Emmy-nominated "Yo Gabba Gabba" will co-produce the show, which is expected to start on HBO by the end of the year.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Beatles' Yellow Submarine at the Senator Theatre in Baltimore

The Beatles' Yellow Submarine, the classic 1968 film featuring animated likenesses of the Beatles on a surreal mission to defend the residents of Pepperland from malevolent Blue Meanies, will be on the big screen at the Senator Theatre in Baltimore this weekend. Show times are Saturday and Sunday at 1 PM.

Yellow Submarine's whimsical art and brilliant use of color remain relevant, impressive and entertaining well beyond its late 1960s aesthetic. Czech designer Heinz Edelmann had never worked in animation before TV Cartoons, the film's production studio, recruited him to help the movie break from the "cartoony" style previously used in ABC TV's The Beatles.
The break was absolute. Upon seeing storyboards of the film already under production, the Beatles were reportedly shocked to see the film's bold use of designs, color and form. Paul McCartney reportedly had expected "a Disney film".


The marriage of Yellow Submarine's creators' spirited creative energy to the Beatles' music resulted in a groundbreaking achievement. The voice acting is particularly impressive. You'll swear you're listening to the the Beatles' actual voices, but you're not. But don't feel like that makes you less of a Beatlemaniac. Variety was fooled, too, when the movie was released.
The chance to see this film in a movie theater with the sound and picture quality of the Senator is an opportunity not to be missed.


The Senator Theatre 5904 York Road, Baltimore, Maryland (410) 435-8338

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Maryland Film Festival 2009 - Animated Shorts Program

Golden Week(end) starts for film afficionados in Baltimore as the Maryland Film Festival opens Thursday night. The MFF continues its commitment to supporting short films with an excellent lineup of animated shorts. This year’s slate runs 79 minutes and will be shown at the Charles Theater on May 8 at 11:30 AM and May 9 at 10:00 PM.

"Animated American" - James Baker, USA, 15 minutes
"The Cave: An adaptation of Plato's Allegory in Clay" - Michael Ramsey, USA, 4 minutes
"Dandelion Will Make You Wise" - Jack Ofield, USA, 5 minutes
"Forestry" – Woodpecker, Japan, 4 minutes
"Fruitless Efforts - Fruit of the Womb" - Andrew Chesworth and Aaron Quist, USA, 5 minutes
"Horn Dog" – Bill Plympton, USA, 6 minutes
"I Am So Proud Of You" – Don Hertzfeldt, USA, 22 minutes
"Mexican Standoff" – Bill Plympton, USA, 4 minutes
"The Realm of Possibility" - Gerald Guthrie, USA, 7 minutes
"Santa: The Fascist Years" – Bill Plympton, USA, 3.5 minutes
"The View from Cleopatra's Knee" - Jack Ofield, USA, 4 minutes

Of the 11 shorts selected for the festival, there are several highlights. Here are my picks:

Former Disney animators James Baker (Mulan, Tarzan) and Joe Haidar (Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast) collaborated to create "Animated American", a mixed live-action/animated tale of a traditionally animated rabbit put out of work by digital animation and a studio executive


"The Cave: An adaptation of Plato’s Allegory in Clay", is a gorgeous, candle lit, stop motion film depicting the “Allegory of the Cave” commentary from Plato’s Republic using John Grigsby’s clay sculptures.



One of three films in the MFF lineup from Bill Plympton, "Horn Dog" is the fourth installation in his guard dog series, and as one would expect, it comes with a healthy dose of dark and twisted raunch.


"I Am So Proud Of You", from one of my favorite animators, Don Hertzfeldt, is the second part of his award winning short "Everything Will Be OK". All of the animators featured in this year’s festival are dedicated artists who are intimately involved with their craft, but Hertzfeldt is a true auteur whose stick figure characters are a reminder of the heart and artistry that can be achieved with pencil, paper and an appreciation for the basic tools and methods of the animator.

For more info: http://www.md-filmfest.com/, (410) 752-8083

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A trip to Krazy Tokyo

The intersection of 47th Street and First Avenue in New York doesn’t look much like the modern megalopolis of Tokyo, but across from the United Nations, inside the beautiful home of the Japan Society is a window into the pop frenzy of Tokyo culture.

Until June 14, KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games, an exhibition originally organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery, will be installed at the Japan Society.While not as extensive as Vancouver’s original exhibition, at the New York show you’ll find a striking architectural space filled with examples of the artistry of contemporary Japan as expressed through anime culture.

The exhibits, which include art, films, objects, toys, interactive games and comic libraries are accessible to the pop culture uninitiated, but are presented in such a way to hold the interest of J-pop enthusiasts. Don’t miss the artistry of Hisashi Eguchi and Yuichi Yokoyama, nor Ichiro Itano’s iconic mecha designs. Audio clips of Yoko Kanno’s brilliant jazz and blues inspired soundtrack for the quintessential space anime Cowboy Bebop show the extent to which Japanese anime culture has become both a globally influencing and influenced vein.

In addition to the installed art, film screenings are scheduled throughout the exhibition. Of the films on tap, I recommend taking in the movie that introduced anime to many Americans, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira; Masaaki Yuasa's jaw-dropping, abstract absurdity Mind Game; Satoshi Kon’s, haunting, mental maze Paprika; and The Place Promised in Our Early Days, the gorgeous feature-length debut of up-and-coming digital animation virtuoso Makoto Shinkai.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Joost Do It

Video site Joost has added Toei Animation’s anime Slam Dunk to its lineup of free shows. Based on the incredibly popular basketball manga of the same name that sold well over 100 million copies in Japan, the television show was also a huge hit, running for 101 episodes and spawning four movies.

A typical sports anime, Slam Dunk’s episodes breeze by and make for a fascinating watch as animators under the weight of mid-1990s budgets use every trick in the book to animate the game of basketball without relying on computers. Not an easy task. The character design is dated and the aforementioned production on the cheap makes for a sometimes choppy product, but Slam Dunk is a classic and definitely worth a shot (so to speak).

Also worth a look on Joost is a collection of clips from the top five battle scenes from Naruto Shippuden, as picked by the editors of the Naruto Shippuden Collector. Full episodes of the show are available too, but if you're only watching it for the fights anyway, why not maximize your time?

Joost is increasingly distinguishing itself as an excellent source of animation, both classic and contemporary. With partnerships in place with Nippon Television Network, Yoshimoto Kogyo, FUNimation and VIZ Media, Joost has placed itself well as a destination for anime unavailable outside of Japan or premium cable television.
My page at examiner.com is up.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

DreamWorks Animation: "What Recession?"

DreamWorks Animation SKG is weathering the global economic downturn quite nicely, thank you. In its earnings statement released on April 28, DreamWorks reported that its revenue was $263.5 million for the first three months of 2009, up nearly 68% over the same period in 2008.

"This marks the Company's strongest first quarter ever, attributable primarily to the blockbuster performance of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, both at the international box office and in the domestic home video market," said Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, in a statement accompanying the earnings release.

Katzenberg, whose contract was extended through 2014, was likely pleased with the surge in DreamWorks’ share price when the market opened on April 29, given his agreement to work for a salary of $1 per year and stock grants tied to the performance of DreamWorks’ share price. Katzenberg will be compensated richly if shares trade at various levels averaging over $32 per share for a year. DreamWorks shares closed at $23.87 on April 29.

In addition to its box office success, DreamWorks performed well in the home video market as well, with Kung Fu Panda selling over 14 million units and contributing over $34 million of revenue in the first quarter. In a sign that the company has found a successful formula for developing lasting animated feature franchises, Bee Movie and Flushed Away continue to contribute to DreamWorks’ bottom line through the pay and free television markets, two and three years respectively after their theatrical releases. The two films brought in a combined $33.4 million of revenue in the first quarter of 2009.

Monsters vs. Aliens, DreamWorks’ latest feature, is currently the top North American box office draw of 2009, contributing $10.5 million of revenue during the first quarter. While the film has reached over $320 million in worldwide box office receipts, the movie’s draw is disappointing overseas.

In Baltimore, if you’re looking for an unforgettable way to see Monsters vs. Aliens, head over to
Bengies Drive-In, which has now opened for the season. Bengies is showing the film on its gigantic, 6200 square foot screen (albeit in conventional format, not 3-D), and given the movie’s 1950s monster movie flick shtick, a drive-in is the perfect venue to take it in.
After a long hiatus, mostly due to pressure from my real job, I've decided to make a concerted effort to start writing again, time constraints be damned. I've signed on with Examiner.com to cover animation. Hopefully I'll also be able to contribute more to Frames per Second as well.