Monthly Archives: January 2012

It’s okay to say gang suspect looked like a Smurf


Smurf (Not the actual one)

A robbery suspect may be feeling blue after an appeals court said Tuesday that a Yakima County, Washington judge could allow testimony that he was dressed like a Smurf.

Ernesto Ruiz Cervantes, 21, is currently serving eight years in prison for attacking another youth in Wapato in a 2009 robbery.

The victim testified that he was riding his bike home just after midnight on New Year’s Day when a car roared up behind him, causing him to crash.

A young man he knew as “Smurf” jumped out the vehicle and, holding a knife, demanded, “What do you bang?”

The unnamed victim denied being in a gang. He testified that “Smurf” robbed him of his iPod and other possessions and punched him in the head. Cervantes was prosecuted after the victim later identified him as “Smurf.”

Besides being identified with the cartoon Smurfs, blue is widely associated with Sureo gang members.

Cervantes complained in his appeal that testimony about his nickname and blue clothing was prejudicial. Superior Court Judge Michael McCarthy allowed it, thus, he lamented, constituted an abuse of discretion.

Usually, gang affiliation would be protected free speech, but might not be it it went to motive, said the Division III Court of Appeals in Spokane.

Prosecutors used the testimony about Cervantes being called “Smurf” only to establish the identity of the robber, the court added.

The victim and the police alike knew Cervantes as “Smurf.” He seems to dress like one as well, with blue shoes and a blue belt. Mushrooms similar to those in Smurfs engraved on his belt buckle.

“The fact that the defendant was also dressed in Smurf attire when arrested further established the identity of the robber,” appeals court Judge Kevin Korsmo wrote.

“The evidence was admissible and highly probative. The prejudicial impact was comparatively slight,” he added.

Oscar-nominated “Rango” set for limited re-release



The now Academy Award-nominated “Rango,” from director Gore Verbinski and starring the voice of Johnny Depp, saddles up for a one-week limited engagement at the ArcLight Hollywood beginning this Friday, January 27.

The original animated comedy-adventure from Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies, which takes moviegoers for a walk in the Wild West, was nominated Tuesday morning for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.

Rango is the winner of the National Board of Review and Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Animated Feature, while top critics’ groups around the United States — including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — have declared it the best animated film of 2011.

A chameleon living as an ordinary family pet, Rango dreams of being a fearless hero and is challenged to become just that when he inadvertently becomes the sheriff of a lawless desert town called Dirt.

Written by John Logan and directed by Gore Verbinski, Rango earned more than $230 million worldwide. The film also features the voices of Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone and Timothy Olyphant.

Customers Wanted (1939) – Popeye the Sailor Theatrical Cartoon Series

Customers Wanted (1939) - Popeye the Sailor

Customers Wanted (1939) - Popeye the Sailor

CotD: Even back in 1939, studios would release “best of” compilations as new material. “Customers Wanted” not only was made from 2 previous cartoons, but was remade itself in 1955!

Customers Wanted (1939) – Popeye the Sailor Theatrical Cartoon Series

Bluto and Popeye own competing penny arcades that show scenes from their past cartoons, but no customers are stopping in! Wimpy strolls by, and each tries to bribe Wimpy (their only customer) into watching their great cartoon moments. Naturally, Wimpy has the nerve to borrow the necessary penny and promises to gladly “pay Tuesday.” The rivalry between Popeye and Bluto gets out of hand to the point where they start battling each other so fiercely that the enterprising Wimpy goes outside and charges a dime to see “the fight of the century” inside the arcade!

Come see “Customers Wanted” on video at Big Cartoon DataBase

Feature “Back to the Sea” opens Friday in Canada

Back to the Sea

Back to the Sea

The animated feature film “Back to the Sea” will open in theaters across Canada in both 2D and 3D on Friday, January 27, IndustryWorks Pictures announced.

Back to the Sea is a tale of adventure that follows Kevin, a young flying fish, who lives in New York Harbor. He dreams of leading his family back to Barbados — the mythical kingdom of the flying fish.

One fateful day, his adventurous nature finds him captured by a fishing ship and delivered to the fish tank of a Chinese restaurant in New York City’s Chinatown, where he meets a quiet young boy who also longs for excitement and adventure. The two become friends and begin a daring quest to get Kevin back to the sea. Battling furious chefs, evil thieves and hungry diners, the two heroes discover the true meaning of friendship, family, and the importance of following your dreams.

Directed by Thom Lu, the film is voiced by, among others, Christian Slater (Breaking In, Interview with the Vampire, Pump Up the Volume, Robot Chicken) as Jack, the bad guy and robber. Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Wild Thornberrys) lends his voice to play Eric, Kevin’s father. Mark Hamill, best known for his leading role as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, plays Bunker the wise old octopus, while Tom Kenny (Spongebob SquarePants) provides the hilarious voice of Ben the Life Coach.

This is IndustryWorks Pictures’ first theatrical animation film, as well as its first co-production with China.

“This is an important step for Canada, and a huge feat for the Vancouver-based independent film company to enter into a partnership with a studio like Glory & Dream Digital Animation. They are one of the top companies in animated films in China, as is The Jiangsu Broadcast Company, the second-largest broadcast company in China. The experience has been something quite incredible,” the company said.

The 96-minute film is produced by Calvin Yao; Ming Sun, Kathryn Griffiths, Evan Tylor and Tom Raycove are the executuve producers. Music is by Gordon McGhie.

Longtime television actor James Farentino dies, 73

James Farentino

James Farentino

Television actor James Farentino, one of Universal Studios’ last contract players in the 1960s, died Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a long illness, his family’s spokesman said. He was 73.

Farentino took on almost 100 TV roles, including recurring gigs in such shows as Police Story, Dynasty and the original Melrose Place. He was well-known for playing George Clooney’s character’s estranged father on ER.

The Brooklyn-born actor provided additional narration in the 2001 animated TV-movie The Apostle Paul: The Man Who Turned the World Upside Down. He voiced Grungy in the 1994 Aaahh!!! Real Monsters episode “Monsters, Get Real“/”Snorched If You Do, Snorched If You Don’t.”

Married four times, Farentino had a private life that proved scandalous. Following a five-year, on-and-off relationship with Frank Sinatra’s youngest daughter, Tina, he pleaded no contest in 1994 to stalking her after being charged with 24 misdemeanor counts of stalking, making harassing phone calls and violating a restraining order.

He was sentenced to 36 months’ probation, and was made to take psychological and alcohol counseling. Some in the industry treated him differently afterward, Farentino said.

“My behavior was appalling — feeling so hurt and rejected that I was the victim when I really wasn’t,” he told the Los Angeles Times in a 2003 interview. “So you inflict your pain on someone else to make them identify with you.”

Born on February 24, 1938, he went through Brooklyn’s parochial school system befoer studying acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He won the Theatre World Award for recreating the role of Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire in 1973.

In 1991, while filming a TV-movie, Farentino was arrested in Vancouver after Royal Canadian Mounted Police intercepted a package containing 3.2 grams of cocaine being sent to his hotel room. Charged with cocaine possession, he was released on bail.

James Farentino’s first three marriages ended in divorce: to actress Elizabeth Ashley from 1962 to 1965, actress Michele Lee from 1966 to 1982, and Debrah Farentino from 1985 to 1988.

He is survived by his fourth wife, Stella Farentino, whom he married in 1994 — and from whom he filed for divorce — and sons David and Saverio. Michelle Lee is David’s mother.

Always Kickin’ (1939) – Color Classics Theatrical Cartoon Series

Always Kickin' (1939) - Color Classics

Always Kickin' (1939) - Color Classics

CotD: Fleischer Studios semi-regulars Hunky and Spunky got their start in “Always Kickin’” in the Color Classics Theatrical Cartoon Series.

Always Kickin’ (1939) – Color Classics Theatrical Cartoon Series

Mother donkey Hunky tries to teach her son Spunky how to exercise his back kicks to kick like a “man,” but he doesn’t take it seriously. All that Spunky wants to do is sing along with his little birdy friends. He even tries to fly, but the birds discourage this folly. Suddenly, an ugly hawk swoops down and kidnaps one of the baby birds from its nest. Spunky summons all his courage to climb up a mountain to the hawk’s lair, to confront the bully. Hunky tells Spunky to use his kicking, and Spunky manages to knock the bad bird out cold so that good donkeys and good birds can live happily ever after.

Come see “Always Kickin’” on video at Big Cartoon DataBase

Gregg Taylor named head of development for DWA

DreamWorks Animation SKG

DreamWorks Animation SKG

Gregg Taylor has been named head of development for DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc., a role previously held by Alex Schwartz, the studio announced Tuesday.

Schwartz will serve as a producer on the studio’s feature film Mr. Peabody & Sherman, scheduled for release on March 14, 2014. Taylor will oversee the development of all projects at DWA.

“Gregg is an exceptional executive with a wide range of creative experience that will positively influence our future slate. I am confident that he will thrive as the new leader of DreamWorks Animation’s development team,” said DreamWorks Animation chief creative officer Bill Damaschke. “Alex’s exemplary work in development over the years makes her an ideal choice to assume the role of producer on Mr. Peabody & Sherman, and I look forward to her continued creative input and leadership. On behalf of the entire studio, I offer heartfelt congratulations to both Gregg and Alex as they take on their new roles.”

“To be able to make movies with the incredibly talented team of executives and artists at DreamWorks Animation is an absolute privilege,” said Taylor. “This studio is a very special place, and I am deeply grateful to be working alongside Jeffrey, Bill and Ann Daly as we strive to tell great stories and find innovative ways to expand our business.”

“I have enjoyed four wonderful years overseeing development at DreamWorks Animation, thanks in large part to the unparalleled quality of my team, including Gregg, Damon Ross and Chris Kuser,” added Schwartz. “I am eager to take on the next creative challenge of producing Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which has long been a passion project of mine. I am thrilled to be working with the immensely talented director Rob Minkoff and partnering with veteran DreamWorks producer Denise Cascino.”

Taylor previously served as a senior development and production executive, overseeing DreamWorks Animation’s expanding franchise properties, including the upcoming sequel to How to Train Your Dragon, as well as The Penguins of Madagascar and the company’s TV initiatives. Taylor served six years as executive vice-president of development and production for The Kennedy/Marshall Company, during which time the company produced The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Persepolis and The Bourne Ultimatum, among others. His relationship with DreamWorks Animation began with Shrek when Taylor ran Mike Myers’ production company, where he co-produced Austin Powers in Goldmember and executive produced The Cat in the Hat for Imagine Entertainment.

In her role as DreamWorks Animation’s head of development since 2008, Schwartz oversaw the creative group on current and future feature film projects, including Rise of the Guardians, Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Trolls (working title). Prior to joining the company, she served as Walden Media’s executive vice-president, where she was in charge of the creative group and served as executive producer on films including Holes, Bridge to Terabithia, Charlotte’s Web and Journey 3D to the Center of the Earth. Schwartz began her career as an executive at Touchstone Pictures.

Actor Patton Oswalt to host 39th Annual Annies

Patton Oswalt

Patton Oswalt

Patton Oswalt, recently nominated by the Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles Film Critics’ Associations for his performance in Young Adult starring opposite Charlize Theron, will host this year’s 39th Annual Annie Awards on Saturday, February 4 at UCLA’s Royce Hall, organizers announced Monday.

“The Annies are where the real weirdos hang, and it’s a visual feast just to have a drink with them,” says Oswalt, irreverent as always. “I can’t wait.”

Celebrating the best in animation, this annual black-tie evening will begin with a pre-reception at 5 p.m., followed by the Annie Awards ceremony at 7 p.m. and an after-party celebration immediately after the ceremony. All events will be held at Royce Hall.

“Patton’s comedic talent, audacious humor and love for animation will bring great energy and visibility, not to mention fun to this year’s ceremony,’’ says ASIFA-Hollywood president Frank Gladstone. “We are extremely excited to have him aboard.”

Patton provided the voice for Remy the rat in Pixar’s Oscar-winning Ratatouille, and also characters on Word Girl and Neighbors from Hell. He has appeared in countless TV shows, both animated and live-action, and more than 20 films, including Magnolia, Big Fan, Starsky and Hutch and The Informant.

He will be joined on stage by a lively mix of animation luminaries, celebrity presenters and comedic talent, including animation legend June Foray and Judy Greer, JK Simmons, James Hong, Jib Jab founders Greg and Evan Spiridellis, Nika Futterman, Ty Burrell, Kelly Stables, Tara Strong, Daran Norris, Dee Bradley Baker and Logan Grove.

This year’s Winsor McCay recipients are Walt Peregoy, Borge Ring and Ronald Searle. Searle’s award will be posthumous, as he died late last year at 91.

The Winsor McCay Award stands as one of the highest honors given to an individual in the animation industry in recognition for career contributions to the art of animation. For complete ticket information and up-to-the minute details on the 39th Annual Annie Awards, visit

Gerald McBoing Boing (1951) – Jolly Frolics Theatrical Cartoon Series

Gerald McBoing Boing (1951) - Jolly Frolics

Gerald McBoing Boing (1951) - Jolly Frolics

CotD: The short that kicked off UPA’s first series, “Gerald McBoing Boing” was based on a story by children’s author Dr. Seuss.

Gerald McBoing Boing (1951) – Jolly Frolics Theatrical Cartoon Series

Gerald, who doesn’t speak words but goes “boing boing” instead, finds his talents unappreciated by family and friends, and so he runs away from home. However, a kindly radio station boss is quick to spot his potential…

At age 2, the little boy, instead of starting to talk, produces sound effects. The desperate father calls on Dr. Malone, who, after examining Gerald, declares that there’s nothing he can do. The parents are constantly being scared by Gerald, so they send him to school, hoping that he’ll learn words, but he’s sent home. When he tries to play with boys and girls, he’s rejected.

Depressed, Gerald runs away from home, but he’s found by a radio program producer, who hires him to do sound effects for his programs. As the announcer describes the action, Gerald produces the appropriate sound effects, using a script. He becomes a big hit, signing autographs for his fans, and his now-proud parents accompany him in a gigantic new car.

Come see “Gerald McBoing Boing” on video at Big Cartoon DataBase

The Best In Animated Films

Oscar Statuette, Academy Awards

Oscar Statuette, Academy Awards

Five feature length animated films have been chosen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as the best examples of animation over the past year. A couple wonderful foreign films- and a surprising pair from DreamWorks Animation- head the list.

Une Vie de Chat (A Cat In Paris)- Folimage, Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol directors. When seven-year-old Zoe learns that her cat, Dino, has been using his late-night wanderings to help a kindhearted thief, the little girl embarks on a nighttime Parisian adventure that may help her come to terms with her father’s recent death.

Chico & Rita- Isle of Man Film, CinemaNX, Fernando Trueba Producciones Cinematográficas S.A., Magic Light Pictures, Javier Mariscal, Fernando Trueba directors. When Chico first sees Rita singing in a Cuban nightclub, he woos her with music and then loses her through the messiness of his own romantic life. As the events in their country’s turbulent history alter both of their lives, the attraction between them remains strong throughout the years that follow.

Kung Fu Panda 2- DreamWorks Animation, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, director. Now that he is the Dragon Warrior and the leader of the Furious Five, Po continues to hone his kung fu skills. When Lord Shen, a dangerous and arrogant peacock, attempts to take control of the Valley of Peace, Po’s quest to combat Shen’s dictatorial ambitions leads him to make astonishing discoveries about his own past.

Puss In Boots- Warner Bros. Pictures, DreamWorks Animation, Chris Miller director. As an orphaned kitten, young Puss in Boots suffered a devastating fall from grace engineered by his one-time friend, Humpty Dumpty, who has spent the ensuing years in prison. Puss nevertheless agrees to team up with Humpty and the beautiful Kitty Softpaws to steal three magic beans from a pair of thugs named Jack and Jill.

Rango- Nickelodeon Movies, Industrial Light & Magic, Gore Verbinski, director. When Rango the lizard finds himself stranded in the Mojave Desert, his green skin unable to camouflage him in the inhospitable brown landscape, he manages to pass himself off as a deadly gunslinger. To the desperate, drought-stricken town of Dirt, which is suffocating in the grip of its corrupt mayor, the reptilian stranger soon begins to look like a savior.

Noticeably absent from the nominees list is Disney and sub-studio powerhouse PIXAR.  Their entries this year- Winnie The Pooh and Cars 2- were bounced by the pair from DreamWorks Animation. Also missing was any mention of Steven Spielberg’s motion capture The Adventures Of Tintin: Secret Of The Unicorn which has been raking in awards from all over the world. Perhaps the days of motion capture are over (we can only hope!)