This past year I’ve been working with CBS Video and Paramount Home Entertainment on compiling the Ralph Bakshi/John Kricfalusi Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures complete series DVD set — and now you can pre-order it on Amazon.com. It’ll be released on January 5th 2010 and bonus materials include commentary by John Kricfalusi, Tom Minton, Mike Kazaleh and Kent Butterworth; three original Terry Toons cartoons (1943′s He Dood It Again with original “Super Mouse” titles, the 1945 Oscar nominated Gypsy Life, and one of the first cartoons Bakshi ever animated on, from 1961, Mysterious Package); and a bonus behind the scenes documentary, Breaking the Mold: the Re-Making of Mighty Mouse with Ralph, John K., Bruce Timm, Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Vicki Jenson, Libby Simon, Mike Kazaleh, Kent Butterworth, Tom Minton, etc.
The 1987-88 series has been beautifully restored and will be released uncut, and the documentary contains much rare behind-the-scenes footage and commentary. Take it from me – this is a must-have. Mike Kazaleh designed the wrap around cover(above, click image to see it larger).
If you are a member of Asifa Hollywood, this is a killer week: you can meet Henry Selick, Peter Docter and Wes Anderson and see their films at free screenings in Los Angeles. And at each one, yours truly, Brewmaster Jerry Beck will conduct a Q&A with the filmmakers (that’s my mug above with two puppets from Coraline from my session with Henry Selick last week in Ottawa). If you haven’t RSVP’d yet – do it now. Info is posted here.
Tonight at 7pm is the screening of UP with Pete Docter at the Chinese Theatre (6925 Hollywood Blvd.) in Hollywood. I know this is short notice, but they’ve opened it up to all members of the Animation Guild, students from Cal Arts and readers of Cartoon Brew. But you have to RSVP. If you can make it, call (818) 560-4350 right now to reserve your seat – it’s FREE!! See you there!
Dave Way directed this commercial, Light of Mine, another beauty from New Zealand animation collective Watermark – the same gang who produced the beautiful Greg Johnson I Got Candy video we mentioned a few weeks ago.
Brooks sent a letter to every current Simpsons employee, and all the former ones he thought mattered, asking them not to speak to me. The writers’ agents sent denial after denial for interview requests and eventually stopped responding altogether…There was one “D’oh!” in James L. Brooks and the Gracie Films master plan: Many people don’t like James L. Brooks. No one gets as successful as Brooks in Hollywood without making enemies, but people carry a special dislike for the man whose power and smart media control has managed to project an image of an avuncular, loveable neurotic for the better part of 50 years.”
Reviews of the book–Entertainment Weekly, NPR–have generally been positive, with the biggest complaint being that it falls apart towards the end. This is an almost inevitable byproduct of writing a book about a studio or show that is still in progress. David A. Price’s otherwise well-researched The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company also suffered towards the end when it attempted to put newer Pixar efforts into context without the participation of key figures.
I’m still curious to read Ortved’s book for its documentation of the early years. No doubt, there will be many more histories of The Simpsons in the years to come. This is only the first, and it appears to be a solid start towards chronicling the most successful animated TV series of all time. If you’ve read the book, please share your thoughts in the comments. The book can be purchased on Amazon for the discounted price of $17.82.
Since 2007, Vanessa Morrison has been President of Fox Animation Studios. Morrison started as an intern at 20th Century Fox fifteen years ago and climbed the ranks, eventually overseeing the live action Fat Albert and Garfield movies and the live-action-computer animated hybrid Alvin and the Chipmunks. Today she works with Blue Sky Studios and filmmakers like Wes Anderson to bring their animated features to the screen.
Each week, the L.A. Times profiles a different Southern California executive in their Weekend Business section. Yesterday, the Sunday Times ran this piece about who she is.
Imagi, an animation studio that thought it could compete with the big boys, has suffered a major blow after the abysmal opening of Astro Boy which debuted in 6th place with barely over $7 million. UPDATE:The actual opening weekend box office gross for Astro Boy was $6.7 million.
Hong Kong-based Imagi entered the animation industry with grand ideas, but little production know-how and the uninspiring idea of applying TV production models to CG animated features by preparing the pre-production in the US and animating the films in Asia where labor is cheap (well, cheaper, since Astro Boy still cost a ridiculous $65 million). The company’s first film, TMNT, debuted modestly with $54 million in 2007. Astro Boy will have difficulty matching even half of that figure.
Even more embarrassing, Astro Boy is a big flop in its home country of Japan, where it barely made it into the top ten on its opening weekend, and dropped out of the top 10 in its second week. Perhaps the lesson to be learned is that when you attempt to Westernize a distinctly foreign product, you end up alienating everybody. The more important lesson is that just because you’re basing a film around an existing property doesn’t guarantee a hit. The other part of the equation is that you also have to make a good film that people actually want to see. Then again, it also helps if the property you’re remaking isn’t an obscure mid-century relic that no normal human being under the age of 35 (and definitely no teenager) has heard of.
As readers may recall, Imagi was experiencing major financial difficulties late last year, which resulted in the loss of many of their top talents in the LA studio. They were given a temporary reprieve after Chinese investors stepped in at the last minute. The tradeoff, according to The Hollywood Reporter, was that the company had to revamp its production slate (Tusker was dropped), and begin searching for a “hero concept of Chinese origin” to produce as an upcoming feature. (Their next feature, Gatchaman, was already well into production, and is still slated to follow Astro Boy.) The Chinese are keeping Imagi on financial life support for the time being, but it’s becoming obvious that they lack the vision and passion for animation that results in films that audiences will pay to watch.
I don’t know if these will be as exciting as CN’s unaired Cartoonstitute pilots we featured a while back, but Canada’s Teletoon network is releasing shorts from its pilot program, The Detour, one a week, every Friday online and on air. The first one up is Cal Brunker’s Ninjamaica, produced by Lenz Entertainment.
But I’m particularly looking forward to next week’s Angora Napkin by Nick Cross and Troy Little. Here’s why:
How did this happen? Well, I cannot say for sure. But the rumor going around is that when the previous CEO left, they brought in a woman to run the company. She was a TV producer down in LA and her big bright idea was to shutter the SF office. Supposedly she put the kibosh on any incoming projects, just to guarantee there was no work to support the studio.
The woman in question who was brought in to run the company is Marge Dean, and I’ve heard a similar tale from my sources that corroborates this version of the story.
Equally enlightening is a reader comment from the same post. It was written by an anonymous person who worked at Wild Brain in its earliest days. The comment is worth reposting in its entirety:
I guess the saying might be that they always took the opportunity to do the wrong thing, but that might be a bit harsh. They had, in the start, an esprit de corps, since I was one of the original 7 or so with the company.
“We few, we merry few…”
And yes, we took chances, we got creative, and we got things started and done since it was all of out asses on the line. Once it got too big, once money came into the picture, then you really could see the divisions, especially during the Dot-Com blizzard of cash and idiocy. Once the bottom fell out, so did all barnstorming and chance taking. The joy was sucked out of it. Wounds never healed. Backs remained stabbed.
We need that kind of company in the Bay Area again, like the early days of Colossal or the ‘Brain. Small enough to take chances and try new approaches, but egalitarian enough to avoid the layers of fat and mindless loyalties.
UPDATE: Reader “Judas P. Foxglove” offers another perspective in the comments about what’s happening at Wild Brain:
Wildbrain was not “shuttered” in the traditional meaning of the term. The studio moved to Los Angeles, the recognized epicenter of animation in this country. Anyone who is bemoaning a prudent business move (during a recession mind you) is probably someone who has a lot of sour grapes. All things change and everyone who lives and breathes in this world has suffered the consequences(or reaped the benefits) of change around them.
For what its worth, and what isn’t mentioned in this post, is that Wildbrain Studios in Los Angeles is as vibrant and creative a place as any that I have ever worked for – and I’ve been in the industry for over ten years in three different cities. And when the productions we are working on are released they are going to knock your socks off.
I was a consultant to the Cartoon Network shortly after it launched in 1992. Somehow back then I acquired a copy of this 1991 presentation video, which Ted Turner used to pitch the idea to cable operators and potential advertisers. It’s interesting to revisit this piece today — the channel’s current agenda is a far cry from its original stated goals. Also note, this was before CN created their checkerboard logo.
Cartoon Network held great potential — and still does. Perhaps posting this video will give someone the idea to revive it.
Flying into 3,014 U.S. theaters this weekend, the kiddie-skewing Astro Boy movie could gross anywhere from $10 million to… who knows? If you’ve screened it, tell us what you thought. The comments section below is open only to those who have actually seen the film.
UPDATE: The actual opening weekend box office gross for Astro Boy was $6.7 million.
Here’s a shocker: people aren’t willing to spend their hard-earned money to see a Broadway musical with a lead character that looks like this:
Variety reports that DreamWorks is shuttering Shrek the Musical early next year. Despite Katzenberg’s best efforts to milk the Shrek franchise, the musical has only been filling about 60% of audience capacity and dipping to as low as 49% capacity last month.