“Captain Planet” Comes To DVD via Shout! Factory and Cartoon Network Enterprises

Move over Iron Man, Spider-Man and Batman, the world’s first environmentally-conscious superhero on the block plans to offer kids action-packed adventure and a chance to help save the environment. He’s Captain Planet, the ever-changing eco-hero from within our Earth, who, with the help of five young people from around the globe called Planeteers, fights a never-ending battle against eco-villains out to destroy the world. Arriving just in time for this year’s Earth Day celebration, Shout! Factory, in association with Cartoon Network Enterprises (CNE), will unleash the long-awaited Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Season One DVD set in stores nationwide on April 19, 2011. Passionate fans can pre-order this DVD set now.

Offering rich animation and engaging storytelling, season one of Captain Planet and the Planeteers is sparkled with all-star voice cast comprise of some of the biggest names in Hollywood and video games, including David Coburn (Captain Planet), James Coburn (Looten Plunder), LeVar Burton (Kwame), Joey Dedio (Wheeler), Whoopi Goldberg (Gaia), Janice Kawaye (Gi), Scott Menville (Mai-Ti), Frank Welker (Suchi), Meg Ryan (Dr. Blight), Martin Sheen (Sly Sludge), Kath Soucie (Linka), Dean Stockwell (Duke Nukem), Jeff Goldblum (Verminous Skum), Sting (Zarm), among others. Featuring all 26 action-packed episodes and a wealth of bonus content, this collectible 4-DVD box set boasts a specially designed eco-friendly packaging made of 100% recycled paper. It is priced to own at $29.93 SRP.

Poised to attract an audience of kids, as well as the parents and educators who grew up with the television series in the 1990s, each episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers finds the Planeteers on a new quest. Whatever the problem, from garbage dumping to rainforest destruction, the Planeteers are ready to take action. With the aid of rings given to them by Gaia, the Spirit of Earth, they each control one special element of nature – Earth, wind, water, fire and heart. The Planeteers use their powers to take on environmental disasters created by the eco-villains. “You must have faith in yourselves,” Gaia tells her newly recruited Planeteers. “You’re fighting for the good of the whole world.” When the situation becomes critical, they join their powers together to summon Captain Planet.

Captain Planet and the Planeteers work together to prevent the eco-villains from looting and polluting the Earth’s resources. Once the problem is under control, Captain Planet returns to the Earth, leaving this message for Planeteers everywhere — “The power is yours!” Each episode ends with a 30-second tag including tips on how people can be a part of the solution.

This acclaimed animated series motivates today’s youth to get involved in saving our planet and explores the profound impact of environmental activism, and relating it to issues that face all of us today. Go Planet!

Executive producers of Captain Planet and the Planeteers are Andy Heyward, Robby London, Barbara Pyle and Nick Boxer. The series is directed by Will Meugniot. The idea for Captain Planet was originated by R.E. Turner.

As excitement builds for Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Season One DVD release, Shout! Factory will announce additional activities and events for fans in the forthcoming months.

Radio Station’s homage to Tex Avery (1980)

This one is new to me. Back around 1980 there was a radio station (KTNQ) in L.A. branded “10-Q.” Apparently they commissioned a 30-second TV spot animated in the style of Tex Avery. Reader Mike Clark sent it in to us, saying:

“The animation was dead-on to Tex’s style and I taped a copy off the air on Betamax. Lately I’ve been dubbing the old Betamax tapes to DVD and found the 10-Q spot. Please share it with your readers.”

Call For Submissions: Stop and Go 3-D

Stop & Go is a program of innovative stop-motion animations by contemporary visual artists and filmmakers, touring and screening internationally since 2008. The program showcases animations that use stop-motion techniques to explore visual language, tell stories and make poignant social commentaries. New animation work is being sought for the third installment of the program called Stop & Go 3-D . The program will screen hand-rendered stereoscopic and anaglyphic experiments that explore traditional 3-D animation produced using stop-motion. Animations that experiment with geometrical elements, pieces that are highly optical or those that comment on the current 3-D craze will also be reviewed. Please note that stop-motion techniques must constitute a significant portion of the work. Both narrative and experimental works will be accepted to this program. The audience will view most of the show through bi-colored red and blue spectacles.

Deadline: November 15, 2011 – Postmarked

For further information and a downloadable application please visit www.stopandgoshow.com

Call For Entries: The Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival

The Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival is proud to announce the official opening of its call for entries for the Festival’s third edition that will take place on October 21, 22 and 23, 2011, at Concordia University’s J.A. de Sève Theater (1453 Mackay Street, Montreal). The second edition of the festival showcased more than 66 films from around the world, all created using Stop Motion Animation.

Now, the festival is inviting all filmmakers of this unique art form to submit their latest masterpieces in any of the three competitive categories: Independent, Academic, and Professional. Please refer to the entries section on our website for answers to your questions concerning eligibility, dates, accepted formats, and new rules. Deadline for film entries is September 26, 2011. For more information: www.stopmotionmontreal.com

“Mural Man” by Patrick Jean

No doubt inspired by the graffiti animation of artist BLU, Patrick Jean (Pixels) directed this commercial for UK’s Passion Pictures, for client Credit Confidential. The live action was shot on location in Buenos Aires.

Director: Patrick Jean
Producer: Anna Lord
Live Action: Producer: Debbie Crosscup
VFX Supervisor: Neil Riley
CG Production: Manager Aline Ngo
2D Animation: Jerry Forder, Edward Hall
2D painting: Steven Lall, Alan Henry, Tony Clarke
Modelling: Ian Brown
Editor: Jamie Foord
Mural Design: Matt W Moore
Character Design: Yann Benedi and Celine Desrumaux
Music: Eclectic TV
Voice over: Kenneth Crannam

DreamWorks Announces U.S. Tour for Kung Fu Panda’s Po Balloon from Macy’s Parade

DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (Nasdaq: DWA) and Macy’s today announced that Kung Fu Panda‘s Po will embark on the first-ever U.S. tour of an official Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® balloon, beginning this Friday, April 15th. Po is scheduled to make a six-city, cross-country tour of awesomeness, culminating in his debut visit to Los Angeles to mark the opening of Kung Fu Panda 2 this Memorial Day weekend.

Po is scheduled to visit the following cities: Miami, FL on April 16th; St. Louis, MO on April 22nd; Dallas, TX on April 30th; Chicago, IL on May 6th; Phoenix, AZ on May 14th; and Los Angeles, CA on Memorial Day weekend. At 42-feet tall, 46-feet long and 34-feet wide, the Po balloon is truly larger-than-life and is posed in one of Po’s signature martial arts moves from the DreamWorks Animation feature film. Po’s appearance in each city will coincide with a day of family-friendly festivities, all open to the public, which will include an opportunity to take a picture with Po, as well as see an official Kung Fu Panda martial arts presentation. The day will also feature coloring, airbrush tattoos and face painting stations, as well as special prize giveaways.

Said Anne Globe, head of Worldwide Marketing for DreamWorks Animation, “We are thrilled to join forces once again with our friends at Macy’s, who have done an incredible job of bringing our character of Po to life as a giant balloon for audiences to enjoy at the annual Macy’s parade and now in cities across the country. This first-ever premiere event is an exciting way to help kick off the summer movie season.”

“With his debut at last year’s Macy’s Parade, DreamWorks Animation’s giant Po balloon became an instant spectator favorite,” said Amy Kule, executive producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “This special tour will bring Po closer to fans nationwide and is a great way to launch the highly anticipated sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2.”

In Kung Fu Panda 2, Po is now living his dream as The Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, The Furious Five. But Po’s new life of awesomeness is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret, unstoppable weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu. Po must look to his past and uncover the secrets of his mysterious origins; only then will he be able to unlock the strength he needs to succeed.

Kung Fu Panda 2 will be distributed by Paramount Pictures nationwide on May 26th and features the voice talents of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, James Hong, Michelle Yeoh, Danny McBride, Victor Garber, Dennis Heysbert and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

“George the Hedgehog” (Jez Jerzy) trailer

Here’s what looks like the Polish version of Fritz The Cat: Jez Jerzy (aka George The Hedgehog). It’s based on a comic by RafaÅ‚ Skarżycki and Tomasz LeÅ›niak, and is now an adult feature directed by Wojciech Wawszczyk, Jakub Tarkowski and co-creator Tomasz LeÅ›niak. Animator Leah Shore saw it at SXSW in Austin and couldn’t believe her eyes:

“Its crazy. It used to be a comic book but they turned it into this weird graphic insane feature. Basically its about a hedgehog that drinks a crap load, skate boards, and does a lot of women. Then there’s this neo nazis that work for a scientist that want to kill and clone George to make the ultimate superstar. It bizarre. There’s a lot of bouncing boobies, pustular things and humping of intimate objects.”

Here’s the NSFW trailer:

“My Last Day” by Studio 4ºc

Here’s something a little different for fans of violent anime: My Last Day, a nine minute animated short commissioned by The JESUS Film Project and animated by Japan’s Studio 4ºC – the production house behind The Animatrix, Genius Party, Tekkon Kinkreet and Mind Game – depicting the crucifixion of Christ through the perspective of one of the thieves killed with him. Anime News Network says this was written by Barry Cook – the director of Disney’s Mulan and Aardman/Sony’s forthcoming Arthur Christmas. It’s a far cry from Cook’s previous shorts, Trail Mix-Up and Off His Rocker.

(Thanks, Aleks Vujovic via Twitch Film )

“Neomorphus” by Animatorio

Sao Paulo, Brazil-based Animatorio created this stunning piece of stop motion animation. There’s some CG effects thrown into the mix too. I’ve posted the description of their short below, but honestly, it’s such a visceral feast for the eyes that no written description will do it justice:

Transformation trough mutations stages. Evolution as a function gain is called neo-morphic. Imaginary creatures adapt into an Ecosystem and the transformation of these habitats for these creatures generates a fantastic cycle. The mutation symbolism is part of our experiences in that trajectory, changing places, finding a new spectrum, a new phase, evolving.

UPDATE: A ‘making-of’ vid posted by the Animatorio crew:

“Rio” talkback

Congratulations to our friends at Blue Sky. Bravo! Well done! 72% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, nice reviews in the New York Times and the L.A. Times – and I personally think it’s the Connecticut studio’s best film since the first Ice Age. Carlos Saldanha’s Rio opens today in the U.S.

It’s a traditional audience pleasing adventure comedy, with an assortment of colorful characters, set in a spectacular location. The art direction, voice acting and animation are first rate. The use of 3-D is pretty good too. Is it the most important animated film of the year? Probably not, but I had a few laughs and enjoyed the ride. What did you think?

As usual, our talkback section below is open to those who have seen the film. C’mon, let everyone know what you think.

Lucasfilm Breaks Ground On Singapore Facility for ILM, LucasArts & Lucasfilm Animation

Micheline Chau, President and COO of Lucasfilm, Ltd is joined by Guest of Honor, Leo Yip, Chairman of the Singapore Economic Development Board and Manohar Khiatani, CEO of JTC Corporation, to officially break ground on Lucasfilm’s state-of-the art facility at JTC’s one-north Singapore. Named “The Sandcrawler Building,” in playful reference to the structure’s visual similarities to the famous vehicle seen in Star Wars: Episode IV, the building will house Singapore divisions for Industrial Light & Magic, LucasArts and Lucasfilm Animation — producing digital animated content for film and television, visual effects for feature films and multi-platform games.

Also joining the ceremony is Lucasfilm, Ltd’s Colum Slevin, Vice President and Head of Studio Operations, Xavier Nicolas, General Manager of Lucasfilm Singapore, and Angelo Garcia, President of Lucas Real Estate Holdings.

Call For Entries: TAIS AniJam

In honour of the TAIS mascot and this year’s Chinese zodiac sign, we are proud to announce that this year¹s theme for the TAIS AniJam, ten second animations that will screen in rapid succession at the TAIS Showcase in June, is … BUNNIES! (Rabbits, hares, Thumper and Bugs, bucks, does, energizers, playboys, and any other idea you may have related to voracious procreators and twitchy noses.)

Create a ten-second long animated film that somehow encompasses our “bunny” theme. Use any animation technique you want. Submit it to TAIS and we’ll edit the submissions into a Bunny AniJam film that will screen at the TAIS Showcase in June 2011 in Toronto!

Bunny Jam submissions are eligible for awards and prizes!

Submit your film as a QuickTime file using by CD/DVD, via ftp, file hosting site or link to your webspace with attached submission form, a brief bio and two 2 x 3 stills (high res jpeg) from your film. Format of all Bunny Jam submissions should be a 1280 x 720 QuickTime/24 fps using our preferred codecs ProRes or Photo Jpeg with 48kHz sound. Bunny Jams should not be any more or less than 10 seconds. If submitting by DVD, please ensure you make a data file DVD (not instantly playable).

Submission form available at: http://www.tais.ca/bunnyjam_submission_form.pdf

Submission deadline is May 15, 2011.

Send your submissions to:
Toronto Animated Image Society
Bunny Jam Submission
60 Atlantic Ave. Suite 102
Toronto, Ontario M6K 1X9

If you want to submit your film digitally via file hosting or ftp link, send info to [email protected].

For more info, visit www.tais.ca

DreamWorks Animation Employees Donate $400,000 to Save The Children for Asian Rim Earthquake Relief

Save the Children today announced that it has received $400,000 from employees of DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (Nasdaq: DWA) to provide relief to children and families affected by the disaster in Japan and earthquake in New Zealand.

“The generosity of the Dream Works Animation employees is much appreciated,” said Charles MacCormack, the President and CEO of Save the Children. “This money is going to help thousands of Japanese children return to school and their families rebuild their lives in the months and years to come.”

“On behalf of everyone in the DreamWorks Animation family, our hearts go out to the people of Japan and New Zealand. DreamWorkers from across the studio came together in a meaningful show of support the moment we put the word out about our Company-wide fundraising efforts to aid these two countries,” said Dan Satterthwaite, Head of Human Resources for DreamWorks Animation. “We truly hope that our monetary gift is able to make the dire situation a little bit better as individuals and organizations around the world continue to lend aid to these recovery efforts.”

Save the Children has worked in Japan for 25 years. An estimated 74,000 children remain displaced as a result of the disaster in Japan. Many children and families are staying in over 2,000 evacuation centers, some of which have no electricity or running water. Save the Children has set up 15 “child-friendly” spaces in evacuation centers. The organization is also planning to distribute 500 kits to families so that they can attend to hygiene needs, as well as 5,500 education kits to provide to children who lost all of their possessions, including school supplies.

Save the Children is also helping children and their caregivers in New Zealand recover emotionally from the February earthquake. The organization’s programs help New Zealanders reestablish a sense of trust, security and self-esteem, all factors in reducing or eliminating anxiety and the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

Donate now to support Save the Children’s relief efforts and responses to children’s ongoing and urgent needs.

Donations can be made to Save the Children’s “Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children in Emergency Fund” www.savethechildren.org/japanquake or by calling 1.800.728.3843. Or Text “JAPAN” to 20222 to donate $10 to Save the Children for Japan earthquake relief (U.S. Only, standard message rates apply). Please donate to the New Zealand Children in Emergency Fund and help the Organization in its response.

Animated Shorts: Sell or Give Away for Free?

Watch the Birdie

Last year I wrote about how the family of British animation legend Bob Godfrey was uploading his films to YouTube. Now they’ve removed the films and are selling them on demand at Godfrey’s official website. A handful of his films are currently available including Do It Yourself Cartoon Kit, Henry 9 ’til 5, Instant Sex, and the super-rare Watch the Birdie. Films cost around a buck, but purchasers can only view the films and do not receive a permanent digital copy.

Godfrey’s family explains the reasons for switching from free YouTube videos to pay-per-view: “The answer is very simple. Digitising the videos, cleaning-up the soundtrack and picture and encoding for the web and then hosting the videos all costs money. Unfortunately the ad-funded videos on YouTube only generated £11 in 9 months, nowhere near enough.”

Some thoughts and questions:

1. Should the public be expected to pay for animated shorts today that were available to view for free when they first debuted fifty years ago?

2. Isn’t there more value to keeping Bob Godfrey’s name relevant on major sites like YouTube than the few extra bucks that could be earned by hiding his work behind a paywall? On the Internet, indie filmmakers can compete with the big boys, but hiding one’s films isn’t a competitive plan when studios like the National Film Board of Canada give away their shorts for free through mobile apps and websites.

3. What are other ways that a classic filmmaker could earn money from shorts? Why not make them available in the highest quality possible on an ad-free site like Vimeo, and then sell original art from the shorts? Or how about a Bob Godfrey iPad app with his films as well as interviews, photos and supplementary materials — the contemporary version of a coffeetable book.

Historically, shorts have never been an easy way for filmmakers to earn money, and filmmakers who make a living from shorts hardly represent the majority. In the case of a still-living animation legend like Godfrey, cementing his legacy within the pantheon of animation greats would be a more effective plan in the long run than attempting to exploit his work for nickels and dimes.

Ward Kimball on a 1970s Game Show

The don’t-miss clip of the week: a 1970 appearance by “casting director” Ward Kimball on the NBC daytime game show Lohman and Barkley’s Namedroppers. Bob Cummings, Ruth Buzzi and Bob Newhart also appear. Ward’s appearance was in conjunction with his short It’s Tough to be a Bird and took place sixteen years after his appearance on You Bet Your Life:

(Thanks, Bill Storts)

“Junk” trailer

Here’s the exquisite trailer for Kirk Hendry’s new short, Junk, which has been selected for competition at Annecy this year. The film was produced at London-based commercial studio th1ng, where Hendry works as a house director.

The film took two years to complete and tells the story of a boy with an obsession for junk food – literally – and the importance of following your “gut instinct”!

A Letter from Grim Natwick (1931)

Collector Martin Almeyer sent me this curious piece from his animation collection: a 1931 letter (in a Fleischer Studios envelope, above) by Grim Natwick to his Toledo, Ohio friend Matt Zimmer, about his plans to leave New York and join a studio on the west coast. Natwick would land at Ub Iwerks shop and later went onto Disney (on Snow White), back to Fleischer in Miami (on Gulliver), then to Lantz and UPA in Los Angeles.

The letter, posted below, written on a piece of Fleischer animation paper and dated “Lincoln’s Birthday”, isn’t significant – but to animation history junkies like me, its just one more piece of the puzzle and another sliver of insight into the real person behind the pencil.

Hand-drawn “Abilify” commercial

Feelin’ down about the state of hand drawn animation? I was watching my favorite news channel and spotted this modest, but nicely animated, commercial for the anti-depressant prescription drug, Abilify – and it perked me right up! It was apparently produced out of th1ng (pronounced “thing one”) in London and directed by Neil Boyle (Roger Rabbit, Space Jam), with animation by the talented team of Mike Shorten (Arthur Christmas, The Illusionist), Geoff McDowall and Sam Taylor. Forget the drug – watch this and maybe the animation will cheer you up too:

Director: Neil Boyle
Animators: Mike Shorten, Geoff McDowall and Sam Taylor.
Assistant animators: Alan Henry, Ange de Silva and Ed Roberts.

NYC’s Dusty Film & Animation Festival Announces Presenters & Schedule

The 22nd Annual Dusty Film and Animation Festival–taking place May 6 – 10–culminates with an awards ceremony, Tuesday, May 10 at 6:30pm at the SVA Theatre (333 West 23rd Street) and features a full roster of names from the world of film and animation. More info: www.sva.edu/dusty

Presenters include director/actor Edward Burns (Tribeca Film Festival 2011- Newlyweds, Saving Private Ryan, The Brothers McMullen) presenting the Outstanding Achievement in Directing Award; Academy Award-nominee and Sundance Grand Prize-winning director Tim Hetherington (Restrepo, Cameraman – The Devil Came on Horseback, Liberia: an Uncivil War) presenting the Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Award; Academy Award-winning production sound mixer Chris Newman (The Godfather, Amadeus, The English Patient) presenting the Outstanding Achievement in Sound Award; Academy Award-nominated editor Andrew Mondshein (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat, The Sixth Sense) presenting the Outstanding Achievement in Editing Award; SVA alumnus and animator Aaron Augenblick (Daria, Ugly Americans, Superjail) presenting the Animation Awards; New York Women in Film & Television President Alex Levi (managing partner, Element Financial Group) presenting the New York Women in Film & Television Award; cinematographer Declan Quinn (Leaving Las Vegas, Rachel Getting Married, Pride and Glory) presenting the Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography Award; writer/actor Tom McCarthy (Win Win, Up, The Station Agent) presenting the Outstanding Achievement in Screenwriting Award and director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Fair Game) presenting the Outstanding Film Award. (Current presenters names are confirmed as of press time, additional presenters will be announced at a later date).

“We are happy to announce this year’s list of Dusty presenters,” said Reeves Lehmann, chair of the BFA Film, Video and Animation Department at SVA. “With these awards we celebrate the many successes of our illustrious class of filmmakers and animators, as well as a stellar roster of SVA friends and allies from the world of film and animation.”

The Dusty awards are presented to the winning thesis students from the BFA Film, Video and Animation Department at the School of Visual Arts. The award winning films and animations are chosen from over 100 thesis students’ works. The awards ceremony is part of the Dusty Film and Animation Festival–May 6 -10–which includes screenings of short films, videos, and animations, all of which are FREE and open to the general public.

The 2011 Dusty Film and Animation Festival is produced by film producer and SVA faculty member Annie Flocco, with co-producer Meredith Engstrom. This year’s Dusty awards will be hosted by radio personality Valerie Smaldone and SVA animation faculty member Sheila Evans.

2011 Festival Schedule
Friday, May 6 – Monday, May 9: Screenings*
SVA Theatre
333 West 23rd Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues)
Screening schedule will be available on the SVA Dusty Web site in late April.

Saturday, May 7: Screenwriters Night
SVA Theatre, 6pm

Sunday, May 8: Animation Screenings*
SVA Theatre, 7 – 11pm

Tuesday, May 10: Awards Ceremony
SVA Theatre, 6:30pm

RSVP is required for the Awards Ceremony and for Screenwriters Night. For public inquiries regarding tickets, please contact 212.592.2124. Events marked with an asterisk * above are free and open to the public. Updated event information will be available on the SVA DUSTY Web site: www.sva.edu/dusty

Past Dusty Awards presenters have included SVA alumni, industry notables and award-winners such as Patricia Clarkson, James Gandolfini, Phil Donahue, John D. Dilworth, Chris Newman, Stephen Rotter, Nancy Schreiber, James C. Strouse, Danny Aiello, Ellen Burstyn, Sean Combs, Wes Craven, Griffin Dunne, Harvey Keitel, Kevin Kline, David Koepp, Mira Nair, Bill Plympton, John Patrick Shanley, Bryan Singer, Treat Williams and more.

The 2011 Dusty Film and Animation Festival headlining sponsors include AbelCine, Act Zero Films, Adorama Rental Company, AJA Video Systems, Animation Magazine, Avid Technology, Inc., Boxx Technologies, CAVA– SVA Computer Store, Eastman Kodak Company, Feature Systems / Kits and Expendables, Foto Care, Gotham Sound and Communications, Inc., National Board of Review, New York Women in Film & Television, Nice Shoes, Panavision New York, SCS Agency, Inc., Sony Electronics, Inc., and Susan Batson Studio.

The Dusty Film and Animation Festival began in 1990 when the BFA Film, Video and Animation Department sought to bring its year-end screenings of student thesis films to a wider audience. With sponsorship, a venue, and the support from the film industry, the event came to life. To pay tribute to School of Visual Arts Founder Silas H. Rhodes, the event was named “Dusty”–after the nickname Mr. Rhodes had as a soldier in World War II.

School of Visual Arts is widely regarded as one of the finest art schools in the United States for its innovative curriculum, unparalleled faculty of more than 1000 creative professionals and its participation in the larger arts community of New York City. BFA Film, Video and Animation alumni have received accolades from such renowned institutions and organizations such as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Sundance Film Festival; International Animated Film Festival in Annecy, France; American Film Institute; Women in Film; National Board of Review and many others. Find more information at www.sva.edu/dusty

School of Visual Arts in New York City is an established leader and innovator in the education of artists. From its inception in 1947, the faculty has been comprised of professionals working in the arts and art-related fields. SVA provides an environment that nurtures creativity, inventiveness and experimentation, enabling students to develop a strong sense of identity and a clear direction of purpose.

New TV Series “The Adventures of Figaro Pho” Announced by Chocolate Liberation Front & Ambience Entertainment

Transmedia production company Chocolate Liberation Front (CLF) together with Omnilab Media’s Ambience Entertainment announce a partnership to produce a groundbreaking new television series The Adventures of Figaro Pho. At the same time, they have inked worldwide distribution partners for the TV property with ZDF Enterprise, ABC Commercial and D360.

The Adventures of Figaro Pho is the brainchild of creator and director Luke Jurevicius, who first introduced Figaro to the screen in 2008 as a series of critically acclaimed shorts produced for ABC TV. The new 13 x 30 mins (39 x 7 min) CGI TV series will follow the charmingly tragic character, Figaro Pho who has every phobia from A to Z.

The new series will be supported through the continued investment of the SAFC and additional investment from Screen Australia and Screen New South Wales.

The project brings together an experienced team including Creative Director Deane Taylor (A Nightmare Before Christmas, Popeye, The Pink Panther, Ren & Stimpy), Animation Director David Webster (Erky Perky series 1-3, Pop Pups) and the return of exciting new writer Matthew Phipps (Figaro Pho, Man Friday Project).

The series is produced by former ABC TV Head of Interactive, Dan Fill (World of Infinite Curiosity, Wild Kratts Interactive, Kids In The Hall, Death Comes To Town Interactive, Angela Anaconda Online) and Frank Verheggen (Immigration Nation, Figaro Pho)  with Executive Producers, Christopher Mapp (The Bank Job, W, Tomorrow When the War Began, Killer Elite) and Michael Boughen (The Loved Ones, Tomorrow When the War Began, Killer Elite).

In further news, ZDF Enterprises has secured distribution rights for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, while  D360 has all rights for Canada. ABC Commercial, which is also the distributor of the original shorts Figaro Pho, holds distribution rights for the rest of the world including the United States, Australia, Asia and South America.

Frank Verheggen from Chocolate Liberation Front says, “Figaro Pho is a landmark property and we are very excited to see it moving forward with Ambience Entertainment as our co-production partner, a real privilege. Figaro Pho is perfect for the international market, particularly as a series without dialogue, and having three big distributors behind us makes for an incredible team.”

Ambience Entertainments, Creative Director, David Webster added “Figaro Pho is a marquee brand and the creator Luke Jurevicius is an extremely creative and inspiring artist.  The vision that Luke has for the longer form episodes are incredible and we can see the long term potential of the brand and very much look forward to bringing the series to life.”

Last year the original shorts Figaro Pho was a big winner at the inaugural Kidscreen Awards, claiming three top awards including Best Animated Series in the family category. Along the way it has also picked up  two prestigious awards from the Australian Film Institute, including Best Children’s Television Animation,  as well as nominations at the Banff Television Festival and the Australian Logies.

Figaro Pho is a warm-hearted, curious and mischievous character who just happens to be afflicted with a multitude of weird and wonderful phobias. If he had any friends, his personality and beauty would be infectious. Unfortunately Figaro doesn’t have any friends. In fact he’s afraid of people …  all people. And that is just one of his many fears.

The long-form series will provide an intimate experience with the loveable but tragic character and further exploration into the rich, gothic and cinematic world he inhabits.

“Life in the Analog Age” by Gabe Swarr

Few industry artists I know are as committed to personal projects as Gabe Swarr who’s consistently been making his own work for as long as I’ve known him, which is something like twelve years. He hasn’t slowed down one bit either, an especially impressive feat now that he’s in the middle of producing and directing the hefty 52-episode order of Nickelodeon’s Kung Fu Panda: The Legends of Awesomeness.

For years, Gabe drew Big Pants Mouse — as a comic book, on-line comic strip, and even a pilot at Disney TV Animation (where in typical corporate fashion, they rechristened it Big Shorts Mouse). He retired the character last year to focus on a new pet project Life in the Analog Age.

The tone of Life in the Analog Age — which appears in both comic strip and animated webisode form — is more genteel and introspective than his earlier work. The slice-of-(childhood)-life tales are drawn from his memories of growing up in the late-1970s and early-’80s, which he portrays as a simpler and more innocent time “before digital dominance and information overload”.

His approach is refreshing for its lack of snark and attitude. Watching the shorts brought back plenty of stowed away memories, for example, the mandatory Valentine’s card exchange in grade school (embedded above). Beneath the rose-colored view of such events, Gabe acknowledges the weirdness of childhood rules and rituals. For example, in the Valentine’s Day episode, he observes that the card exchange “was a time to feel liked…a time to feel as if you were part of the class.” But, of course, not really a part of it.

The design of the series has plenty of quirky touches. Some of them, such as the animal-like features on human characters, work better than others, like the stingy color palette of orange and purple, which struck me as too severe for the nostalgic tone of the stories. The animation style is spare but applied smartly to fulfill the need of each story.

The animated webisodes have been released at the pace of one per month, with comics in-between, but beginning next month, Gabe will be releasing two animated shorts per month. I’m looking forward to seeing how the characters evolve as the series moves into a more regular schedule.

Toei Animation Announces Online Steaming of “Toriko”

Toei Animation Co., Ltd., Toei Animation Inc. and FUNimation Entertainment will stream the official English-subtitled episodes of Toriko, an action/adventure anime series for teen audiences. Starting Thursday, April 14th 6:00 p.m. PST, four days after the Japanese broadcast, each episode will be available on www.hulu.com as well as www.funimation.com/video . A new episode will be rolled out weekly as Toriko continues its Japanese television run.

Toriko is an anime series based on the popular manga written by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro and published in Weekly Shonen Jump. Toriko is a legendary gastronomic hero chasing rare ingredients across the world to realize his dream: complete the ultimate full-course menu.

In North America, the manga is published by VIZ Media, LLC. A digital preview of the first chapter is currently available at http://www.ShonenJump.com/. VIZ Media will release the next volume, Volume 5, on June 7th.