Thursday, June 12, 2008

Summertime Links

Linkage you can use ... if you're focussed on toonage.

The Smurfs are soon coming (maybe) to CGI land. Me, I'm a man of simple ... and retro ... tastes. I think we should start a letter-writing campaign to get DreamWorks to make a 3-D feature starring Quickdraw McGraw.

... the genesis of the current project began during a holiday conversation with Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman-CEO Michael Lynton, who grew up with "Les Schtroumpfs" in the Netherlands. "He relished them as I do and suggested that it should be a live-action/CG film," he said. "(Studio topper) Amy (Pascal) felt equally that there was potentially a series of films in the making."

Well, there was nine years worth of teevee entertainment. Why not "a series of films"? ...

The scotsman gives us a profile of sound designer Ben Burtt, who has worked on Indiana Jones, a host of Star Wars epics... and now Wall-E:

Burtt has spent much of the past two years holed up on his own in a concrete bunker at Pixar's studios, recording the sounds made by toothbrushes, household appliances, miniature jet planes, army tanks and his own voice. "I went to a newspaper printer overnight and recorded all the gigantic scanners and presses," he says. "There are sounds in the movie I recorded when I was a kid from my grandfather's shortwave radio. I would tune it between stations and tape the weird electronic noises. I've used something from those original recordings in every science-fiction movie I've worked on."

And the Boston Globe rolls out a feature article on the directors of K.F. Panda, John Stevenson and Mark Osborne:

... "People don't really understand how much directing there is in an animated film. . . . The whole thing took four years," Osborne said. "We have to have meetings about every issue. What level is the water? What is the shape of the bottle? What is the carpet like? Do we show the dent in the carpet?"

"It's very Zen," Stevenson said ...

Daniel Holloway at the Huffington Post as an interesting think-piece on the state of animation, hand-drawn and otherwise:

The argument against hand-drawn animation is based not on financial realities, but on the poor performance of a few features made back when Disney was gnawing off its own animation arm ...

Since then, the few films made with American pens and ink haven't exactly suffered. The Simpsons Movie earned $183 million at the domestic box office, making it the 17th highest-grossing animated movie in U.S. history. Kid-friendly Curious George earned a respectable $58 million in 2006, a hair less than CGI Oscar nominee Surf's Up would earn a year later.

Meanwhile, foreign audiences continue to throw down their favorable currencies to see old-school cartoons. Japanese import Howl's Moving Castle earned $230 million internationally -- more than Bee Movie, Happy Feet, Ice Age or Cars ...

ASIFA Hollywood's Archives has some dandy stuff up the last couple of days. The Archives' Ren and Stimpy storyboards are fun, also Boris Artzybasheff's political artwork centered on Adolph and his shills, along with the implements of war.

This hasn't yet come out as a paperback at Barnes and Noble, but here is the condensed version of DreamWorks for Dummies:

* 1994: Steven Spielberg founded DreamWorks with Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen (forming the SKG present on the bottom of the DreamWorks logo)

* Next fourteen years, Spielberg directed eight films under his new studio (Amistad-Munich

* DreamWorks won three consecutive best picture Academy Awards starting in 1999 with American Beauty (followed by Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind).

* [DreamWorks founders] sell the studio to Viacom, the parent company of Paramount Pictures, in February 2006. The deal was valued at approximately $1.6 billion ...

* The founders became increasingly unhappy about their arrangement with Paramount, believing that Viacom was not sufficiently appreciative of their contributions.

* Viacom announced it would not renew DreamWorks’ contract.

* On June 10th 2008 Spielberg announced that he hopes to raise more than $1 billion in third-party financing to reinvent DreamWorks as an independent company ...

While we're on the subject of DreamWorks, the Motley Fool details some of the collateral benefits to other companies of KFP's gold-plated opening:

... Exhibitors like Regal (NYSE: RGC) and Cinemark (NYSE: CNK) are tickled to have a family-friendly flick to draw young patrons to the movie house. Disney's (NYSE: DIS) The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian could have been that film, but it has stumbled badly after a respectable opening last month. Disney has a cleaner shot with Wall-E later this month, but the Jack Black-voiced panda will do the trick until it's time to pass the baton.

Another big winner is IMAX (Nasdaq: IMAX). The big-screen-experience enabler has a deal in place with DreamWorks Animation. After a string of duds in The Spiderwick Chronicles, Shine a Light, and Speed Racer getting the IMAX makeover treatment, IMAX exhibitors finally have a hit that patrons will welcome paying a premium to see ...

We'll end with an animation story from the other side of the world. Thailand is ready to sell its first 3-D animated teevee show to the wider world:

Shellhut Entertainment Co, a local animation producer, aims to launch Thailand's first 3D animated TV series Shelldon, in worldwide markets, hoping to earn at least 500 million baht within three to five years.

Shelldon features the adventures and friendships of Shelldon, a shell hero and his marine friends ...

After eight years of production with a total investment of 83 million baht, the Thai animation series is scheduled to be launched first in Thailand on Channel 3 in October.

This production appears to be Thailand's answer to SpongeBob Squarepants. For those of you living on the outskirts of Barstow, one baht equals three cents.

Add On: proves that all it takes is a keyboard, a computer and a modum to be an expert. DB's list of "Ten Greatest CGI films" is nothing if not ... ahm ... eclectic:

8. The Polar Express

...landing completely on the other end of the literary spectrum from Beowulf, we have The Polar Express, Robert Zemeckis' adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg's classic children's picture book. Before you say anything, yes, the dead-eyed little Amtrak passengers totally freaked us out upon our first viewing, but grab any five-year-old in America, mention the movie, and watch their eyes light up as they run to grab you their Polar Express DVD, train set, and pop-up book, all while screaming "Hot Chocolate, oh, Hot Chocolate!" to the high heavens ...

Yes. But is it the 8th greatest CGI feature of all time? Now ... let's all sprint hard to the oncoming weekend and make our Mommies proud


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