Friday, May 11, 2007

End-of-Week Links

Shrek

No pun intended.

Although Shrek the Third hasn't been released, DreamWorks Animation has rolled out a director for Shrek 4:

Ready to take big project into his hands, Mike Mitchell is engaged in talks to helm Shrek 4 which DreamWorks Animation is keen to develop in its follow-up to Shrek the Third that will open in theaters on May 18 this year.

The fourth installment of the mega-hit toon franchise, the flick will still chronicle the continuing adventures of the titular character, a peace-loving ogre, and his friends. Script initially was penned by Tim Sullivan before getting a rewrite by Josh Klausner, known as a second-unit director for a number of the Farrelly brothers flicks.

USA Today has an article about the revival of hand-drawn animation, and the oncoming Enchanted in particular:

The comeback begins Nov. 21 with Disney's return to the land of traditional make-believe in Enchanted, a long-planned mix of live action and animation.

"Supposedly, people weren't interested in watching hand-drawn animation as much as computerized animation," says Lasseter, weeks after announcing work had begun on The Princess and the Frog. Due in 2009, it's Disney's first true 2-D fairy tale since 1991's Beauty and the Beast. "But what people weren't interested in was watching bad movies. It's as (Finding Nemo director) Andrew Stanton said: 2-D became a scapegoat for bad storytelling."

Enchanted is sprinkled with 14 minutes of hand-drawn romantic adventures that pay humorous tribute to the likes of Snow White and Cinderella. The story of a cartoon princess who is banished to Manhattan and must cope with the realities of urban life might remind audiences how much they have missed Disney fables of yore. "We are tweaking clich├ęs, but it's done with a lot of love," [animator James] Baxter says.

And a website called Mytoons.com is working to become the Youtube of animation:

The three founders of Bauhaus Software Inc. decided to launch a new social networking site focused exclusively on cartoons and animation, but they had a problem.

They needed a name.

Stacey Ford, one co-founder, came up with Mytoons.com.

Paul Ford, her husband and another co-founder, discovered the site registered to an Internet domain squatter, who wanted $8,000 for it. He exchanged e-mails with the guy and eventually got him down to a few thousand bucks.

That was the beginning of San Antonio-based Mytoons.com, which wants to become like the Library of Congress, News Corp.'s MySpace and Google Inc.'s Youtube all rolled into one for animation on the Internet.

"We founded Bauhaus in 2003, and our goal was to bring the professionals and amateur animators together," Paul Ford said. "What we started to realize was that one of the most important parts we were building was the community."

Animated feature fever has reached Canada, where the Vancouver Sun tells us about the big new cgi feature that is taking shape in B.C.:

Vancouver's Rainmaker Animation has jumped into the computer generated image movie business in a big way, attracting two top Hollywood guns to produce and supervise animation for Escape From Planet Earth, Rainmaker's first feature-length film for theatres.

Ed Jones, executive producer of the Academy Award-winning Happy Feet, will produce Escape from Planet Earth, and Steve Nichols, lead animator for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, was named animation director.

Pre-production and storyboarding has begun on the movie, a comedy about aliens making a prison break from Earth, and Rainmaker will have a team of 150 working on the project for the next two and a half years. All work will be done at Rainmaker's Vancouver studio, with the film's release date scheduled for late in 2009.

The Weinsteins, once more grabbing for animation's brass ring, will be financing the film...

Lastly, allow me to link to Jim Hill Media's newer think-piece on The Princess and the Frog, Song of the South, and the current ballyhoo in a teacup about the black villain, the name of the lead character, the complaints of the black community (quick! Get Al Sharpton on the phone!) and the Disney Company's general skittishness over its black animated feature.

This kind of thing isn't new. The Disney Company has long been hyper-sensitive about some of the films in its past. They haven't released Song of the South since 1986. (A film that is, in my opinion, far less offensive than the forever-in-release Gone With the Wind, which is a cash cow for Time-Warner.)

When I was working on The Fox and the Hound, Larry Clemmons wrote the bird characters as black crows (a la Dumbo). Management hit the roof (which I totally understand) and complained to Woolie Reitherman ("Hey! We get angry letters about the crows in Dumbo! Not again!") . The characters were changed.

And now the company is walking on egg-shells once more, with name changes, title changes, character model sheet changes. Given the times in which we live, the egg-shell walking is probably unavoidable.

Have one swell weekend.

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