Monthly Archives: December 2012

Angry Birds Bigger Than Disney?

Angry Birds

Angry Birds

Mikael Hed, chief executive of Finnish gaming company Rovio, says the company is going ahead with a 2016 feature film based on his company’s famous avians, the Angry Birds. But Hed is not happy just making a feature film, he plans on taking the giant of children’s animation, Disney.

The Rovio chief executive told AFP that the animated 3D film- which will not be released until the summer of 2016- could lead to the company setting up an animated movie studio that would compete with California-based Walt Disney Animation Studios.

“If this goes very well, that is what is going to happen. Certainly we are structuring this in a way so that it’s possible for us to continue to produce more movies after this one,” he said.

Rovio seems to be starting out right… they have brought in John Cohen, producer of computer-animated comedy “Despicable Me” to produce it, and David Maisel, former chairman of Marvel Studios, as an executive producer.

And animated films are not the only front Rovio is taking on the animation giant. The company already has two theme parks, on in Finland and one in Great Britain. They are building a third Angry Birds Land in Asia next year at a site near Shanghai.

Rovio has also partnered with children’s cable network Nickelodeon for a series of Angry Birds specials, including Angry Birds – Wreck The Halls and  Angry Birds Space.

Is that enough to take on Disney? Only time will tell… but it does seem that Rovio is aiming high for a one-trick pony.


Cartoon of the Day: The Emperor’s New Groove

The Emperor's New Groove

The Emperor’s New Groove

I am REALLY on the fence about The Emperor’s New Groove. Sure, it has it’s moments… it has Eartha Kitt… it also has Patrick Warburton and Wendie Malick. On the down side, it does have the barely one-dimensional David Spade in the lead role, and it was directed by Mark Dindal who was still perfecting the art of really screwing up an animated film here (his Masters thesis was Chicken Little in 2005, easily the worst film ever from Disney.)

The Emperor’s New Groove began life as the much more serious in tone and epic in scope Kingdom Of The Sun. Originally, the music was done by Sting, and Roger Allers was the director. Sort of a Prince and the Pauper story at first, Allers just could not bring the story to life.

To breath new life into the project, Disney execs hired Mark Dindal, who brought in the comic element. This resulted in a very uneven production… half light and half dark. In the summer 1998, under a time crunch for a 2000 release date, Allers was forced off the film. Dindal retooled the film, dropped the Sting songs, and retitled the film.

In this comedy, the vain and cocky Emperor Kuzco is a very busy man. Besides maintaining his “groove,” and firing his suspicious administrator Yzma, he’s also planning to build a new water park just for himself for his birthday. However, this means destroying one of the villages in his kingdom. Meanwhile, Yzma is hatching a plan to get revenge and usurp the throne. But, in a botched assassination courtesy of Yzma’s right-hand man Kronk, Kuzco is magically transformed into a llama. Now, Kuzco finds himself the property of Pacha, a lowly llama herder whose home is ground zero for the water park. Upon discovering the llama’s true self, Pacha offers to help resolve the Emperor’s problem and regain his throne- only if he promises to move his water park.

So what do you think? Would you like to have seen Allers original film, or do you like the comedy version by Dindal?

Concept Art From Animated Frozen



The rumors of Disney on ice are true, at least as far as the studio’s 53rd full-length animated feature full-length animated feature is concerned. Frozen, due in theaters in a little less than a year is that ice-cold project, and Disney has just released their first peak at the art from the film.

The image shows dwarfed impressions of heroine Anna and her companion Kristoff against a bleak and frigid background of desolation and ice.

The film begins when a prophecy traps a kingdom in eternal winter, Anna, a fearless optimist, teams up with extreme mountain man Kristoff and his sidekick reindeer Sven on an epic journey to find Anna’s sister Elsa, the Snow Queen, and put an end to her icy spell. Encountering mystical trolls, a funny snowman named Olaf, Everest-like extremes and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction.

The film is directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee from a story by Lee and Shane Morris. It will also feature original songs by Tony-award winner Robert Lopez (“The Book of Mormon,” “Avenue Q“) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (“In Transit“).

The film is currently slated for release on November 27, 2013.

Frozen Concept Art

Frozen Concept Art

Combustible Heats up Japan Media Arts Festival

Hi No Yojin (Combustible)

Hi No Yojin (Combustible)

Katsuhiro Ohiro’s short film  Hi No Yôjin (Combustible) has won the Grand Prize in the Animation Division of the 16th Japan Media Arts Festival, organizers announced Thursday.

Set in mid-18th century Edo (the old name for Tokyo), Combustible centers on Owaka, a merchant’s daughter, and her childhood friend Matsuyoshi. Though the two are attracted to each other, Matsuyoshi’s family has disowned him, forcing him to make a living as a fireman. But just as their relationship is starting to bloom, Owaka’s family begins to move forward with plans to find her a husband. Unable to forget Matsuyoshi, in a fit of crazed passion, Owaka causes a huge fire to break out, burning down the town. The two lovers happen to cross paths again in the midst of this blaze.

The backdrop for this spectacle is one of the great fires that frequently occurred in the metropolis of Edo. Using traditional Nihonga (Japanese-style) paintings as a motif for the animated images, the work meticulously recreates the manners, implements, and lifestyle of Tokyoites some 300 years ago. In addition, by combining hand-drawn animation with 3D computer graphics, the creators have sought to develop an innovative form of expression through moving images.

Excellence Awards were given to the animated feature films Asura (George Akiyama and Keiichi Sato; Asura Film Partners), The Life of Budori Gusuko (Gisaburo Sugii; The Movie Committee) and Wolf Children (Mamoru Hosoda; “Wolf Children” Film Partners), as well as the short film The Great Rabbit (Atsushi Wada; Sacrebleu Productions/CaRTe bLaNChe).

New Face Awards were given to the short film Futon (Yoriko Mizushiri), the TV animation Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (Sayo Yamamoto; Monkey Punch/TMS Entertainment Co., Ltd. and the Belgian short Oh Willy… (Emma de Swaef and Marc James Roels).

The following were jury selections in the Animation Division. All are from Japan unless otherwise specified:

Feature films: Afterschool Midnighters (Hitoshi Takekiyo), Berserk Golden Age Arc II: The Doldrey War (Toshiyuki Kubooka), Friends Naki on Monster Island (Ryuichi Yagi and Takashi Yamazaki), FUSE -Memoirs of the Hunter Girl (Masayuki Miyaji), Rainbow Fireflies (Konosuke Uda)

Short films: awaiting (Hakhyun Kim; South Korea), crazy for it (Yutaro Kubo), Deposit of Sentiment (Saori Suzuki), Grain Coupon (Xi Chen; China), Harbor Tale (Yuichi Ito), I am alone, walking on the straightroad (Masanori Okamoto), I’m also a bear (Tsuneo Goda), KiyaKiya (Akino Kondoh), Love Games (Yumi Yound; South Korea), My socks (Ikuo Kato), New Tokyo Ondo (Misaki Uwabo), No Rain No Rainbow (Osamu Sakai), Nyosha (Liran Kapel and Yael Dekel; Israel), Possessions (Shuhei Morita), Recruit Rhapsody (Maho Yoshida), Sunset Flower Blooming (Yuanyuan Hu; China), The Sakuramoto broom workshop (Aya Tsugehata), The Sardine Tin (Louise-Marie Colon; Belgium), Yonalure: Moment to Moment (Ayaka Nakata and Yuki Sakitani), 108 prayer beads (Han Han Li; China)

TV animations: Carefree Fairies (gdgd-partners), Kids On the Slope (Shinichiro Watanabe), tsuritama (tsuritama partners)

The Japan Media Arts Festival honors works of excellence in a diverse range of media — from animation and
manga to games and media art. This year, a record number of 3,503 works were submitted for the festival, including 1,502 works from 71 countries and regions around the world. More applications had been submitted for this, the 16th festival, than in any year since its inception in 1997.

The Exhibition of Award-Winning Works will be held from February 13 to 24 at the National Art Center in Tokyo and other venues.

Five Animated Feature Films Up For Golden Globes

Golden Globes

Golden Globes

Five movies each have been nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced Thursday.

Three of the five were distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.

The five are Brave (Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios; Walt Disney Pictures), Frankenweenie (Walt Disney Pictures; Walt Disney Pictures), Hotel Transylvania (Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation; Sony Pictures Releasing), Rise of the Guardians (DreamWorks Animation LLC; Paramount Pictures) and Wreck-It Ralph (Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios; Walt Disney Pictures).

For Best Motion Picture – Drama, the nominees are Argo, Djanjo Unchained, Life of Pi, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty.

Nominees for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical are The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Les Miserables, Moonrise Kingdom, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and Silver Linings Playbook.

The Golden Globes will be handed out January 13 on NBC.

Cartoon of the Day: A Very Merry Cricket

A Very Merry Cricket

A Very Merry Cricket

One of Chuck Jones’ specials from the 1970’s, A Very Merry Cricket featured Les Tremayne as Chester C. Cricket and Harry the Cat and Mel Blanc as Tucker the Mouse. Chuck wrote and directed this sequel.

Harry tells of Chester, a famous cricket who plays the violin to soothe everyone. With all the hustle and bustle about New York around Christmas, it’s become commercialized. Tucker and Harry have to find Chester in order to put the spirit of Christmas back into the citizens.

This TV special was a sequel to “The Cricket in Times Square.”

Sitar Maestro, Composer Ravi Shankar Dead at 92



Legendary sitarist and composer Ravi Shankar died at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, the Ravi Shankar Foundation announced. He was 92.

Over the past year, Shankar had suffered from upper-respiratory and heart problems. He was hospitalized last Thursday after complaining of breathing difficulties. Although heart-valve replacement surgery was successful, recovery proved too difficult for him, the foundation said.

Years before the Beatles made him famous, Shankar helped provide improvised music for the partly animated 1957 National Film Board of Canada short A Chairy Tale, a fairy tale in the modern manner, told without words by film artist Norman McLaren. In the film, a chair (animated by Evelyn Lambart) that declines to be sat upon and a young man perform a sort of pas de deux. A struggle ensues, first for mastery and then for understanding.

“The short film was completely edited before sound of the animation was considered,” said Karin Gunn of the Teach Animation site. “At that time, the distinguished composer-performer sitarist, Ravi Shankar, had come to Montreal. After being invited to view the silent film, he expressed a keen interest in composing the music.”

A Chairy Tale was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject, Live Action Subjects. It won the Canadian Film Award for Best Arts and Experimental, and a Special Award at the BAFTA Awards.

Shankar was India’s most esteemed musical ambassador, and a singular phenomenon in the classical music worlds of East and West. As a performer, composer, teacher and writer, he did more for Indian music than any other musician.

He was well-known for his pioneering work in bringing Indian music to the West. This, however, he did only after long years of dedicated study under his illustrious guru, Baba Allaudin Khan, and after making a name for himself in India.

Always ahead of his time, Shankar wrote three concertos for sitar and orchestra, the last in 2008. He also authored violin-sitar compositions for Yehudi Menuhin and himself, music for flute virtuoso Jean Pierre Rampal, music for shakuhachi master Hosan Yamamoto and koto virtuoso Musumi Miyashi-ta, and collaborated with Phillip Glass (Passages).

Former Beatle George Harrison produced and participated in two record albums, Shankar Family & Friends and Festival of India, both composed by Ravi Shankar.

Shankar also composed for ballets and films in India, Canada, Europe and the United States — the last including the movies Charly, Gandhi and the Apu Trilogy.

In the period of the awakening of the younger generation in the mid-1960s, Shankar gave three memorable concerts: the Monterey Pop Festival, the Concert for Bangla Desh and the Woodstock Festival.

An honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Shankar was a member of the United Nations International Rostrum of composers. He received many awards and honors from his own country and from around the world, including 14 doctorates, the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan, Desikottam, Padma Bhushan of 1967, the Music Council UNESCO award 1975, the Magsaysay Award from Manila, two Grammys, the Fukuoka grand Prize from Japan, the Polar Music Prize of 1998 and the Crystal award from Davos.

In 1986, he was nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house of Parliament.

Deeply moved by the plight of more than eight million refugees who came to India during the Bangla Desh Freedom struggle from Pakistan, Shankar wanted to help in any way he could. He planned to arrange a concert to collect money for the refugees.

He approached his dear friend, Harrison, to help him raise money for this cause. This humanitarian concern from Shankar sowed the seed of the concept for the Concert for Bangla Desh. With Harrison’s help, this concert became the first magnus effort in fundraising, paving the way for many others to do charity concerts.

His recording Tana Mana, released on the private Music label in 1987, brought Shankar’s music into the “New Age” with its unique method of combining traditional instruments with electronics.

In 1989, he celebrated his 50th year of concertizing, and the Birmingham Touring Opera Company commissioned him to do a Music Theatre (Ghanashyam – a broken branch), which created history on the British arts scene.

He was born Robindra Shankar on April 7, 1920 in Varanasi, India, and was the youngest of four brothers,

“Ravi Shankar has brought me a precious gift, and through him, I have added a new dimension to my experience of music. To me, his genius and his humanity can only be compared to that of Mozart’s,” Menuhin reflected.

Harrison once said: “Ravi Shankar is the Godfather of World Music.”

Ravi Shankar is survived by wife Sukanya, daughter Norah Jones, daughter Anoushka Shankar Wright and husband Joe Wright, and three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Cartoon of the Day: Go Away Ghost Ship

Go Away Ghost Ship

Go Away Ghost Ship

From the ORIGINAL Scooby-Doo series, Go Away Ghost Ship first aired on this date in 1969 on CBS-TV. When Frank Sinatra sang “Strangers in the Night,” did he know he would inspire the name for the longest-running cartoon on network TV? Probably not. Nonetheless, that Great Dane named Scooby-Doo (as in “dooby dooby doo”) has appeared on television under no less than twelve titles.

When the 300-year-old ghost of Redbeard The Pirate and his pirate ghost ship come out of a spooky night’s fog and raid a channel freighter, the reluctant Scooby-Doo and the teen sleuths find themselves in another baffling mystery. Pursuing the ghost ship, our kids’ boat is sliced in two, and Shag and Scooby are captured by pirates and made to cook dinner. The gang uncovers the Ghost Of Redbeard for what he really is: C.L. Magnus, the raided freighter’s owner who’d been raiding his own ships and selling the goods for the insurance money, and using an ancient revenge to cover up his scheme.

This story was adapted in Issue #6 (10252-106, June 1971) of Gold Key Comics’ Hanna-Barbera Scooby Doo, Where Are You! (“The Ghost Of Redbeard”).

And I woulda gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for those rascally kids…

Washington, D.C.-area Film Critics Like ParaNorman



ParaNorman” was named Best Animated Feature of 2012 by the Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Association on Monday morning.

The movie defeated fellow nominees Brave, Frankenweenie, Rise of the Guardians and Wreck-It Ralph.

WAFCA honored a wide sweep of films, ranging from musicals to science fiction. And while only three films garnered more than one award, it was clear that historical/political dramas resonated most with the critics from America’s capital.

Zero Dark Thirty, the account of United States intelligence specialists’ and Army special forces’ pursuit and elimination of terrorist Osama bin Laden, won Best Film. In 2009, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to ever win the WAFCA prize for Best Director for her Iraq War film, The Hurt Locker. Just three years later, Bigelow has won the same award again for Zero Dark Thirty.

“In a year full of strong films,” said WAFCA president Tim Gordon, “director Kathryn Bigelow’s bold and audacious vision, represented in our Best Picture winner, is the perfect political story for our members in the District of Columbia. This story, told with steely, cold effectiveness, is a worthy entry into WAFCA’s Best Picture canon and a cinematic achievement that we are proud to honor.”

Zero Dark Thirty also netted Jessica Chastain her first Best Actress award. Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor for his riveting portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln in the year’s other outstanding historical drama, Lincoln. Best Supporting Actor went to Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master, and Best Supporting Actress went to Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables, which also scooped the Best Acting Ensemble.

The screenplay awards covered two very different films: Best Adapted Screenplay went to David O. Russell for his story of love and shared neuroses in Silver Linings Playbook, and Rian Johnson won Best Original Screenplay for his time travel mind-bender, Looper.

The award for Best Documentary went to Bully, while that for Best Foreign Language Film was presented to Michael Haneke’s Amour. Best Art Direction went to Cloud Atlas, while Claudio Miranda won Best Cinematography for Life of Pi, and Jonny Greenwood took Best Score for The Master.

New this year, WAFCA proudly instituted The Joe Barber Award for Best Youth Performance, named in honor of beloved D.C. film critic and longtime WTOP arts editor Joe Barber, who died just over a year ago. The award, which highlights the best performance from an actor or actress under 20, went to Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild.

“It’s a shame Joe was not able to see Quvenzhane’s fierce and compassionate performance in this gem of a film,” said Gordon. “It’s exactly the sort of role Joe would have loved, and we are so thankful to be able to remember him going forward with this very special award.”

The Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Association is comprised of nearly 50 film critics from TV, radio, print and the Internet based in the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland. Voting was conducted from Friday to Sunday.

Cartoon of the Day: Tokyo Mater

Tokyo Mater

Tokyo Mater

Release with the Disney feature Bolt, Tokyo Mater was part of Pixar’s Cars Toons series based on the characters from the hit movie Cars. This series of short cartoons feature the characters Mater and Lightning McQueen in various theatrical shorts.

In Tokyo Mater a routine towing assignment lands Mater in Tokyo where he is challenged to a drift-style race against a nefarious gang leader and his posse of ninjas. With the help of his friend, “Dragon” Lightning McQueen, and some special modifications, Mater attempts to drift to victory and become “Tow-ke-O Mater, King of all Drifters.”

Premiered on The Disney Channel on March 12, 2010.

The fourth released in the “Cars Toons” series. The “Cars Toons” shorts debuted in October 2008 and reached 78.3 million unique total viewers in 2009, including 26.6 million among target age group kids 2-11.