Monthly Archives: August 2012

Disney puts brakes on Selick’s stop-motion movie

Henry Selick

Henry Selick

The Walt Disney Company is not proceeding with Henry Selick’s still-untitled stop-motion animated film, crew members on the project were told Tuesday afternoon.

Known only as “Untitled Henry Selick 3-D Project,” it was scheduled for release October 4, 2013. About 150 San Francisco-based artists were ready to complete work on the movie, which started shooting last summer.

“I’d heard it just wasn’t coming together in a manner that pleased the studio,” said Deadline New York writer Mike Fleming.

Despite the project’s scrubbing, Selick is being allowed to shop the project to other studios.

Other animated films directed by Selick include The Nightmare Before Christmas(1993), James And The Giant Peach (1996) and Coraline(2009).

He still plans to direct an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s children’s fantasy novel The Graveyard Book. Disney acquired the award-winning book in April for a prospective film.

NFB animation spotlighted at Montreal festival

montreal-world-film-festival

montreal-world-film-festival

Animation by the National Film Board of Canada will be showcased at the 36th Montreal World Film Festival, which runs from August 23 to September 3.

The event will screen three NFB animated short films in their French versions, including MacPherson, by Martine Chartrand. MacPherson will be unveiled at the opening of the WFF, making its world premiere screening before the feature film, in the World Competition category.

Works by young filmmakers are also in the program. Two more NFB animated shorts, The Banquet of the Concubine (Folimage/Foliascope/NFB/Nadasdy Film), by Hefang Wei, and It’s a Dog’s Life (Folimage/NFB), by Julie Rembauville and Nicolas Bianco-Levrin, have been selected for the World Competition and Focus on World Cinema sections, respectively.

The 36th WFF selection marks the comeback of Chartrand, a seasoned filmmaker recognized for her artisanal paint-on-glass animation shot with a 35mm camera. Chartrand’s works have been widely acclaimed the world over.

Her most recent film, Black Soul, received 23 awards, including a Golden Bear in Berlin in the Short Film category (2001) and a Jutra for Best Animated Short (2002). She is back in full force this time with MacPherson, a tribute to the friendship between poet Félix Leclerc and Jamaican engineer Frank Randolph Macpherson.

In Quebec during the early 1930s, poet Félix Leclerc befriended Frank Randolph Macpherson, a Jamaican-born chemical engineer. He inspired Leclerc to write a song about the log drives; the poet entitled it “MacPherson” in honour of his friend. Somewhere between documentary and fiction, MacPherson, inspired by the famous song, depicts turning points in history and, with great sensitivity and lavish imagery, evokes the deep feelings shared by the Jamaican engineer and one of the poet’s sisters. A film brimming with exuberant, colorful images. Produced by Marcel Jean and Bertrand at the NFB.

Making its world premiere, Hefang Wei’s The Banquet of the Concubine deals with jealousy, and pays homage to calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting.

Emperor Li is giving a banquet to celebrate the beauty of Yang, his favourite concubine. However, the evening does not provide the pleasures that had been anticipated. Unsatisfied whims, suspicions of infidelity and an unbridled imagination lead Yang to bitter extremes that nothing can appease, not even the delicious lychee. An erotic animated film about jealousy, The Banquet of the Concubine recounts one of Imperial China’s most famous love stories. Produced by Pascal Le Nôtre at Foliascope, Emmanuel Bernard at Folimage and Julie Roy at the NFB.

It’s a Dog’s Life displays a whimsical cartoon-like style. Aimed at young audiences, it’ll have its North American premiere at the festival.

Fifi the dog dreams of interstellar travel and discovering planets as he does whatever it takes to make Mom, Dad and the kids happy. At mealtime, the sharp-witted pooch gets pushed around from all sides. He would give anything to be left alone in his basket with his nose buried in a newspaper article. But the family is too wrapped up in its own activities to pay attention to Fifi’s emotional state, leaving the poor dog no choice but to make the best of the situation. Produced by Jacques-Rémy Girerd and Corinne Destombes at Folimage and Roy at the NFB.

The Banquet of the Concubine and It’s a Dog’s Life are both winners of the Folimage Artist in Residence Program, in which the NFB has been participating for 10 years now.

The three films selected for the 2012 WFF demonstrate the vitality of the productive partnerships that the NFB enters into each year with renowned international institutions, such as France’s Folimage animation studio.

Two animated features named winners at Fantasia

Fantasia International Film Festival

Fantasia International Film Festival

Asura,” by Keiichi Sato, and “A Letter to Momo,” by Hiroyuki Okiura, tied for the Audience Award for Best Animated Feature at the 16th Fantasia International Film Festival, which ended Thursday in Montreal.

The L’Écran Fantastique Prize went to the animated Blood-C: The Last Dark, by Naoyoshi Shiotani. “The amazing editing and horrifying Lovecraftian bestiary, as well as attention to textures and lighting, make this production a great animation film which caters as much to fans of fantasy horror as Japanese animation,” the L’Écran Fantastique jury said.

The King of Pigs, by South Korea’s Yeon Sang-ho, won two awards.

The First Feature Jury gave the film a Special Mention: “The jury wanted to highlight this rewardingly intense, merciless and grueling look at bullying and violence that provides a powerful message that’s still sadly relevant today, in any culture.”

And the Animation Jury gave The King of Pigs the Satoshi Kon Award for Achievement in Animation “for its shocking and haunting narrative, finely tuned screenplay and confident visual style, punctuated with acidic hallucinatory visions. A distinctive and powerful vision of school-as-hell, and its devastating effects on later life.”

It’s Such A Beautiful Day, by Don Hertzfeldt, was named Best Animated Short Film by the Animation Jury “for its perfect marriage of form and content — an amazing trip of a film that creatively uses animation to explore memory, mortality and all of those little fears about our lives that sneak up in the early hours of the morning when we can’t sleep.”

Patrick Bouchard’s Bydlo scooped the Special Award for Technical Accomplishment in the Animation category. It was the second award in a week for the animated short, which has been selected to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Produced by Julie Roy of the National Film Board of Canada, Bydlo offers a terrifying vision of humanity inspired by the fourth movement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. To create his film, Bouchard sculpted, modeled and animated over 500 kg of Plastiline, an earth-toned modeling clay.

The Animation jury was composed of filmmakers Robert Morgan, Patrick Doyon and Erik Goulet.

Bydlo also won the special Coup de cœur (animation) award following the Fantastique weekend du court métrage québécois, the Fantasia Film Festival’s yearly tribute to short films made in Quebec. The film had the honor of opening the festival July 19.

The Quebec shorts jury consisted of filmmakers Chloé Robichaud and Benjamin Lussier and actor Daniel Thomas. The award was the first to be won by Bydlo, which premiered June 7 at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France.

Director Brenda Chapman leaves Pixar for Lucasfilm

Brenda Chapman

Brenda Chapman

The first American woman to direct an animated feature film from a major studio has left Pixar to become a consultant for Lucasfilm Animation.

Brenda Chapman, a director of DreamWorks’ The Prince Of Egypt (1998), left Pixar as of the end of July.

She began at Pixar when Cars was in production, and created the story behind this year’s Brave. She was Brave‘s first director, letting Mark Andrews take on the job in the final stages of production.

Story supervisor for 1994’s The Lion King, she provided story work for Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Fantasia/2000 (1991). As well, she did additional story for Chicken Run (2000).

Chapman was unable to provide any details about the project that Lucasfilm Animation is working on.

Essayist and journalist David Rakoff dies at 47

David Rakoff

David Rakoff

Canadian-born essayist, journalist and actor David Rakoff, a writer for The New York Times Magazine and many other publications, died Thursday evening. He was 47.

Rakoff was in the voice cast of the 2009 Williams Street animated pilot Snake ‘n’ Bacon. Based on the creations of American cartoonist and illustrator Michael Kupperman, it aired on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim channel.

Born in Montreal on November 27, 1964, he was a graduate of Columbia University. He obtained dual Canadian-American citizenship in 2003, and lived in New York City. His brother Simon is a stand-up comedian.

His essays appeared regularly in Vogue, Salon, Wired, Conde Nast Traveler, Outside, and GQ, for which Rakoff served as a writer-at-large. He also was a frequent contributor to the radio program This American Life on Public Radio International.

Rakoff’s essays were collected in the books Fraud and Don’t Get Too Comfortable, and are largely autobiographical and humorous. Both collections were New York Times best-sellers in non-fiction and received Lambda Literary Awards for Humor.

He was openly gay, and his writings have been compared to those of essayist and friend David Sedaris. Rakoff was even mistaken for Sedaris once while performing in a storefront window; both authors wrote about this incident in their books.

Rakoff was featured in the This American Life episode 305, the holiday show, on December 23, 2005, and episode 156, “What Remains,” broadcast 21 March 2000. He is the only individual to host in place of Ira Glass a This American Life episode (Episode 248 – “Like It Or Not”). Rakoff made several appearances on The Daily Show, and voiced the reading part of Thomas Jefferson for Jon Stewart’s America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction.

Rakoff’s acting roles included the Off-Broadway comedy play The Book of Liz, authored by friends David and Amy Sedaris; the film Strangers with Candy, also co-written by Amy Sedaris, and a cameo in the film Capote.

He received the 2011 Thurber Prize for American Humor. His writing also appeared in Details, Harper’s Bazaar, Wired, New York Magazine and The New York Observer.

As an actor and director, he appeared in Cheryl Dunyé’s film The Watermelon Woman, portrayed Lance Loud on stage, Vladimir Mayakovsky on public television, and Sigmund Freud in the window of Barney’s department store.

He guested on The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brian and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Rakoff wrote the adaptation for and starred in the 2010 Academy Award-winning short film The New Tenants.

ALF ready to touch down at Sony Pictures Animation

ALF

ALF

Having just completed a deal to acquire rights to the 1980s sitcom ALF, Sony Pictures Animation will turn it into a feature film combining CG animation and live action.

Jordan Kerner, producer of last year’s similarly hybrid The Smurfs, is now on board.

Kerner will produce the project with series creators Tom Patchett and puppeteer Paul Fusco. Fusco is ready to repeat his TV role as the voice of the extraterrestrial houseguest.

In the original series, ALF stood for alien life form. The sitcom aired for 102 episodes from 1986 to 1990. The creature — whose name was later revealed as Gordon Shumway — was a friendly furry puppet who crash-landed on Earth, moving to the home of the suburban Tanner family. The sarcastic ALF liked to eat cats and was pursued by government forces.

DiC Enterprises and Saban Entertainment co-produced a cartoon  ALF series, which ran for 26 half-hour episodes in 1987-88. Fusco said in a May interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he hoped an ALF movie would finally be made.

The executive producers of the new movie are Ben Haber of Kerner Entertainment Co. and Kenneth Kaufman. Neither a director nor a writer has been attached.

Kaufman, Patchett and Fusco run Alien Production and have the rights to ALF. A former TV-movie producer, Kaufman is a former producing partner of Kerner’s. Their business partnership helped spark the upcoming feature film.

A longtime producer, Kerner has worked on the feature films Charlotte’s Web, The Mighty Ducks and Inspector Gadget. His most recent movie, The Smurfs, grossed over $563 million around the world.

Kerner and SPA have just completed production on The Smurfs 2, set for a July 31, 2013 release.

Animation on view during “Short Cuts” in Toronto

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto International Film Festival

The Toronto International Film Festival is set to present 44 world-class Canadian short films, including four with animation, in this year’s Short Cuts Canada program.

With a lineup as diverse in themes and cultures as the country itself, six engaging programs will represent the styles of both accomplished and emerging directors from across Canada. From strong social statements to deadpan humor, Short Cuts Canada programmers Alex Rogalski and Magali Simard received nearly 700 entries — the most submissions to date for the program — indicating steady growth in film talent in Canada.

“Programming Short Cuts Canada is more and more challenging each year because of the level to which Canadian filmmakers are elevating the quality of short films,” said Simard. “It is a very exciting time for us as programmers, and the future never looked brighter for Canadian shorts.”

“Films in this year’s program have global reach and will appeal to audiences worldwide,” said Rogalski. “This year’s films are short in length, but long on impression.”

Films in the Short Cuts Canada program are eligible for the Award for Best Canadian Short Film. This year’s jury includes journalist and author Matthew Hays, journalist Katrina Onstad and filmmaker Reginald Harkema.

Among the films being screened:

Aubade (L’Aubade)
Carla Susanto, Ontario
2 min.
World Premiere
Engravings from century-old medical textbooks become an animated backdrop to a man’s loving goodbye during his final moments. The fleeting flicker of the monochromatic images resonates with the narrator’s quickening journey as he transitions from one world to another.

Bydlo
Patrick Bouchard, Quebec
9 min.
Toronto Premiere
Inspired by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” Bydlo is a staggering visual rendering of the lumbering wooden Polish ox-cart picture. Technically complex (Bouchard animates plasteline) and artistically fiery, Bydlo depicts the cycles of life, the power of man and beast, and both the beauty and horror of labor.

Joda (Apart)
Theodore Ushev, Quebec
4 min.
World Premiere
Poetic and political, Theodore Ushev’s latest animated work cultivates his incredible talent to call for the liberation of imprisoned Iranian filmmakers and to focus attention on the plight of Jafar Panahi. Drawing inspiration from raw footage of the Green Wave uprising to compose densely layered rotoscoped images embedded with Farsi text, the result is a powerful piece of activism that is both personal and profound.

Let the Daylight into the Swamp
Jeffrey St. Jules, Ontario
35 min.
World Premiere
The St. Judes origins in the lumber camps of northern Ontario lead to a splintered family and a spotted history filled with questions and half answers. With a mix of animation, re-enactments and archival evidence, Jeffrey St. Jules assembles a three-part 3-D documentary collage that explores the consequences of parents who make the difficult decision to give up their children.

The Festival offers the TIFF Choice five-screening Canadian Pack, including features and shorts ($80 for adult, $68 student and senior). Purchase Festival ticket packages online 24 hours a day at tiff.net/festival, by phone from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET weekdays at (416) 599-TIFF or 1-888-599-8433, or visit the box office in person from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

The 37th Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6 to 16.

Profit at Disney’s movie studio leaps to $313M

Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios

Strong ticket sales to such films as “Brave” helped third-quarter profit at Disney’s movie studio zoom to $313 million from $49 million a year ago.

But studio revenue rose only 0.3 percent to $1.63 billion, off from the $1.77 billion that analysts expected. A major factor was smaller revenue from DVD and Blu-ray disc sales than a year earlier.

Disney reported an overall profit of $1.83 billion ($1.01 a share) for the quarter ended June 30, up from $1.48 billion (77 cents a share) a year earlier. Revenue rose 3.9% to $11.09 billion.

Meanwhile, Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger said that attendance at Disney California Adventure made up about half of the visits to its Anaheim, California parks, up from only a quarter in 2011. The increase came shortly after the June unveiling of an overhaul costing at least $1 billion that included the addition of an area based on Pixar’s Cars.

Revenue in the parks and resorts sector was up 9 percent to $3.44 billion, aided by a full quarter of operations of the Disney Fantasy, its newest cruise ship, greater Disneyland attendance and higher ticket prices. Parks results were hurt last year by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Net income for the three months ended June 30 rose 24 percent to $1.83 billion, or $1.01 per share. That beat the 93 cents per share expected by analysts polled by FactSet. Revenue rose 4 percent to $11.09 billion, well short of the $11.32 billion expected by analysts.

Iger said that he thinks Disney’s movie studio will see better results.

“We feel good about our slate. We do believe were going to continue to improve returns on that business led by the franchises and the big brand power of our films,” he said Tuesday in a conference call with analysts.

Barclays analyst Anthony DiClemente said that the studio’s strong results and good expectations for its upcoming lineup are important because movie profits are usually unpredictable.

“It’s the gift that’s going to keep on giving. The more optimistic view is to look at this studio-driven beat as being higher quality than it would normally be,” he said.

Disney’s shares fell 44 cents to $49.39 in after-hours trading. They closed in regular trading up 16 cents at $49.81 before the report.

Kung Fu Panda 3 to be U.S.-Chinese co-production

King Fu Panda 3

King Fu Panda 3

The third installment of DreamWorks Animation’s Panda series, “Kung Fu Panda 3” will be made in China as a co-production with DWA, a new Chinese joint venture announced Monday.

This is the first time that any major Hollywood animated feature film has been co-produced with a Chinese firm.

Kung Fu Panda 3, set for global release in 2017, will be the first animated feature to be produced by Shanghai-based Oriental DreamWorks. The entertainment firm was launched in February to develop and produce Chinese animated and live-action material for distribution in China and worldwide.

“Without question, China has what is needed to make great animation film…. this is a perfect fit for us at DreamWorks,” DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg told a news conference.

Oriental DreamWorks is a joint venture between Glendale, California-based DWA and China’s three largest media companies, China Media Capital, Shanghai Media Group and Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd.

Major Hollywood co-productions with China include the live-action The Expendables 2 and the upcoming Iron Man 3 from Disney/Marvel Studios.

Oriental DreamWorks announced the co-production during a ceremony marking the opening of its Shanghai headquarters.

The joint venture added that it will invest $3.14 billion (20 billion yuan) to open “Dream Center,” a shopping, dining and entertainment hub, in the Xuhui district of Shanghai. It’s scheduled to launch by 2016. China Media Capital chairman Li Ruigang said he hoped that it would become the Chinese equivalent of New York’s Broadway or London’s West End.

Last year, the Walt Disney Company broke ground on its planned Shanghai Disneyland. The Shanghai theme park is estimated to cost 24.5 billion yuan, with hotels and other facilities costing an additional 4.5 billion yuan.

Rhode Island Film Fest shows off animated short

Rhode Island Film Festival

Rhode Island Film Festival

The Rhode Island International Film Festival hosts an unforgettable showcase from across the globe in “Where Dreams Are Born,” a two-hour collection of animated shorts from Britain, Spain, Australia, Germany and the United States.

Nine animated films will be seen this Saturday, August 11 at The Vets, 1 Avenue of the Arts in Providence. Showtime is 2:15 p.m.

Here’s what will be screened:

The Hunter (6 min.; dir. Marieka Walsh; Australia, 2012)
New England Premiere
A boy goes missing in the snow covered wilderness, feared taken by wolves. A hunter undertakes a journey to find the boy; dead or alive. As the hunter tracks the boy into the mountains, he discovers that his instincts can no longer be trusted. Here, far from civilization he must make decisions that will forever change his relationship with the wilderness he has always feared. The Hunter is a haunting stop-motion sand animation by emerging director Marieka Walsh.

The Boy In The Bubble (8 min.; dir. Kealan O’Rourke; Ireland, 2012)
Rupert, a 10-year-old boy, falls hopelessly in love for the first time. When it all goes terribly wrong, he wishes never to experience heartache again. Turning to a book of magic, he invokes a spell to shield him from emotion forever.

A Tooth Tale (6 min.; dir. Ron Fleischer; U.S.A., 2012)
World Premiere
This traditionally animated short tells the story of Tommy Malloy, a 6-year old boy who loses his first tooth. When he learns that the Tooth Fairy will give him money for it, he hatches a plot to trap and shake her down for all her loot. The rhyming dialogue and art direction pay homage to the cartoons of the 1950s and 1960s.

Cadaver (7 min.; dir. Jonah D. Ansell; U.S.A., 2012)
The whimsical story of a shy, first-year med student (Tavi Gevinson) whose scalpel cut sparks a cadaver (Christopher Lloyd) back to life. When he begs her to take him on a journey to say a last goodbye to his wife, they sneak out of the lab and embark on a road trip, only to discover a truth in death tha tthe cadaver didn’t know in life.

The Man With The Stolen Heart (7 min.; dir. Charlotte Boulay-Goldsmith; United Kingdom, 2011)
A surreal tale about a man who wakes up one day, only to discover that his heart has left. This forces him on a journey of self-discovery as he tries to find his heart.

The Monster of Nix (30 min.; dir. Rosto; Belgium/France/Netherlands, 2011)
Life is good in the idyllic fairytale village of Nix… until an all-devouring monster appears. Young Willy has to fight it. Alone.

Jamón (Ham) (8 min.; dir. Iria Lopez; United Kingdom, 2012)
North American Premiere
Jose is a teenage pig living in a Spanish town, and he is the only pig in his family. One day a new neighbor moves in next door, and Jose starts to come to terms with who he really is.

Rising Hope (10 min.; dir. Milen Vitanov; Germany, 2012)
New England Premiere
All know the way, but few actually walk it. Rising Hope, once the fastest horse in the world, dares to be one of the few.

SNAP (6 min.; dir. Thomas G. Murphy; Belgium/United Kingdom, 2012)
East Coast Premiere
The Water Haggis live an idyllic life in their beautiful underwater cavern. Sadly, for a young Haggis called Snap, life isn’t so idyllic. But when he meets a cool frog called Freddie, Snap makes an unlikely new friend. Together they show that sometimes you to have to think differently to solve a problem and to beat the bullies… smarts are always gonna be better than brawn.

The Rhode Island International Film Festival takes place from Tuesday, August 7 to Sunday, August 12. For ticket information, visit www.film-festival.org/ticketspasses.php.