“Kung Fu Panda 2″ talkback

Betsy Sharkey in The Los Angeles Times says: “This is the first movie in a long time that you won’t mind paying for the glasses because what’s on the screen is multidimensional magic.

However, A.O. Scott in New York Times was less pleased, saying “…the studio worked up this sequel, which accomplishes the depressingly familiar mathematical trick of being both more and less than its predecessor.

Today’s the day – and its your turn. If you’ve seen the movie and want to state your opinion, please share it in our comments section below.

“Chaplin” By Seagulls Fly

Don’t litter, talk or smoke at the movies… that’s the message beautifully communicated in this Chaplin trailer (created in 2009) by Rio De Janeiro-based Seagulls Fly:


Directors: FlavioMac and Alan Camilo
Animators: Gabriel Loques, FlavioMac, Fabrício Moraes, Alan Camilo, Fernando Reule, Gustavo Duval, Raoni Nery, Felipe Lobo, Luiz Felippe Azevedo
Storyboard: Marco Potter
Concept Art: Paulo Visgueiro, Marco Potter
Producers: Luciana Jordão and Juliana Ferreira

(Thanks, J.M. Urbina)

Richard Williams “Silent Stars” logo

Animation legend Richard Williams animated a 30-second signal film for last year’s Pordenone Silent Film Festival, and now that piece will be screened by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences during their forthcoming Summer of Silents film series.

In the film, not yet online, Williams animated many of the great actors and comedians in silent films – morphing one into another – beginning with Chaplin and ending with Buster Keaton. Over twenty actors in all. It will be screened on the first night of the season: June 13th with Humoreque and with The Big Parade on July 18th.

(Thanks to Mo Sutton for sending us these images from the logo – click thumbnails below to enlarge)

Aardman Alum Darren Robbie Does Animated Short To Raise Awareness About MS

Aardman director Darren Robbie, who was a lead animator on the classic film Chicken Run and now runs Chopsy Animation, has produced a stunning short animated film called You’re Fired for the MS Society which graphically and powerfully depicts the reality of living with MS.

Launched during MS Week (23-29 May), it is hoped the 35 second film, an MS Society first, will go viral and raise awareness of the condition.

The viral drives traffic to the MS Society’s website www.mapms.org.uk where people can record films and join the new MS Register — a new groundbreaking research tool.

Darren has directed almost 50 commercials for a wide variety of companies and has taken time out of his busy schedule to make the film for free for the MS Society (a film which would normally cost tens of thousands of pounds to produce) in memory of his sister who died as a result of complications relating to MS a couple of years ago.

He said: “I really wanted to do something to help the MS Society and this was the best way for me to highlight how debilitating this disease can be; hopefully the film will be useful for many years to come. The disease has affected my family in a terrible way; we all deeply miss my younger sister who had progressive MS and hope that some kind of cure can be found in the near future. Thankfully I had a great bunch of people supporting and helping me in the making of this film, especially Di Tansey and Rachel Foley at Irish International BBDO; Gavin Little at Echolab; and a whole host of folk at Aardmans in Bristol (who really are too numerous to mention).”

Malaysian Animated Movie “SeeFood” Picks Up Distribution Deals at Cannes

Golden Network Asia Limited has confirmed during the 10 day Marche du Film in Cannes, France that Malaysian-made Feature Animation — SeeFood has successfully signed multiple distribution deals worldwide, worth over USD 2 Million.

Golden Network Asia has officially reported to the Malaysian Pavilion in Cannes, which is hosted by the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) in association with the Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) and managed by the Global Creative and Media Agency (GCMA) at Marche du Film that their cumulative total so far since its introduction in the American Film Market towards the end of last year has concretized distribution deals worldwide to multiple nations in Asia, Latin America and Europe.

These include: Select Media Holdings for India, China Lion (Beijing) Cultural Media and Beijing Bona Film & Television Culture co. for China, Ciptu Mutu Entertainment for Indonesia, K& Entertainment for South Korea, Wild Side for France, Splendid for Germany, Duka Film for Turkey, California Filmes for Latin America, Luxor for Russia and former CIS regions, Kino Swiat of Poland, MT Entertainment of Indonesia, etc. Golden Network is in talks with distributors from other regions worldwide in Cannes and expect to secure more deals later this week.

SeeFood, supported partially by Malaysia’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), is an animated feature film co-produced by Silver Ant (Malaysia) and Al Jazeera Children’s Channel (JCC), and was only recently launched in April during MIPTV 2011. This high-quality 3D animation production is 100% Made-in-Malaysia. This will mark JCC’s second major co-production with Malaysia, after its co-production with Malaysian Government-owned Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) on Saladin: An Animated Series.

The story follows the adventures of a bamboo shark named Pup. When human poachers steal egg sacs from him reef, Pup makes it his mission to save his brothers and sisters — and ends up leaving the sea and entering the beautiful but dangerous world of humans.

Carrie Wong, Managing Director of Golden Network Asia said: “This is my first time distributing Malaysian contents and I was impressed by the refreshing, novel and high quality animations that were produced by Malaysian talents. In the near future, I would be honoured to represent many more Malaysian programs, both animation and live action contents, as it has proven that Malaysian contents are acceptable worldwide.”

Mahyidin Mustakim, Director General of FINAS said: “Over the past 3 to 4 years, Malaysia has successfully made its name for its world-class animated TV series such as Bola Kampung, Supa Strikas, Mustang Mama, Flea-Bitten, Upin & Ipin, Boo & Me, just to name a few, and now the Malaysians can proudly say that we are also starting to be successful in animated features.” WhenSeeFood is released this summer, it will be the third Malaysian animated movie ever to be completed and released, after Les’ Copaque Production’s Geng: The Adventure Begins, which was a hit in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, India, etc and Animasia Studio’s & Cartoon Network Asia’s Bala Bowl (70 mins tele-movie). The other Malaysian animation features to look out for would be Tripod Entertainment’s War of the World: Goliath, expected to be released during ComicCon 2011 (San Diego, CA) in July and Shock3D’s Alamaya: Garden of Beautiful Creatures, expected to be completed later this year as well.

Adam Ham, Executive Director of GCMA, the agency appointed by the Malaysian Government to create marketing campaigns for the Malaysian Creative Content Market Access Trade Mission programs worldwide, also added: “As a result of this, I am pleased that Malaysia has reached yet another milestone for its Creative Content Industry, where SeeFood managed to penetrate so far 50% of the world population and we now hope that this will open the international market for other Malaysian animation producers with quality Malaysian contents.”

Arc Productions (Formerly Starz Animation) Signs Representation Deal with Paradigm

Arc Productions, the studio that animated the recent smash hit Gnomeo & Juliet is extending its successful animation and VFX service business by developing their own IP and investing in selected projects developed by independent producers as part of an aggressive growth strategy.  This effort is being led by a group of new Canadian owners, who recently purchased majority control of the company from the Starz – Liberty Group.

As a significant part of that strategy, Arc Productions announces today that it has signed with Paradigm for representation.  The LA based agency will expand the studio’s profile in all its core areas of for-hire service as well as supporting its proprietary investment and IP projects.

Gnomeo & Juliet, our fifth major animated feature in as many years, and the television ratings hit Camelot, our most recent VFX success, are examples of what we can achieve for our clients” said Jeff Young, an Arc veteran who was recently appointed President and C.O.O. of the renamed company. “Our new owners have refocused and reenergized the company.  We will build on our hard earned reputation for delivering high quality, cost effective productions on time and on budget,” he added.

“Paradigm is excited to welcome Arc Productions into our family of clients,” said Andrew Ruf.  “Arc has tremendous expertise, an experienced management team and a solid track record in what is a very fast growing and lucrative part of the business.  Their new ownership group has tremendous financial resources and a plan to expand their footprint in the business aggressively and strategically and we are thrilled to partner with them and confident that we can help them realize their goals.”

Zinkia Expands “Pocoyo” Distribution To New Retail Outlets In the United States

Pocoyo, the popular multi-platform children’s entertainment brand from Zinkia Entertainment, will expand its presence at retail nationwide, offering Pocoyo DVD titles from NCircle Entertainment at new retail outlets Kmart and 7-Eleven, as well as Redbox video kiosks.

“NCircle has been a phenomenal partner in building a strong brand presence for Pocoyo in the U.S. home entertainment marketplace, and we are delighted to continue the expansion of the brand nationwide with these significant retail partnerships,” commented Maria Doolan, Managing Director, Brand and Business Development, Zinkia Entertainment.

“We are very excited by the positive responses we are receiving from retailers on the Pocoyo DVD releases,” said NCircle’s Senior Vice President and General Manager Debbie Ries. “It’s clear to us that this brand’s performance in the U.S. is going to surpass our expectations.”

Among its new retail partners, Kmart and convenience store chain 7-Eleven introduce the Meet Pocoyo DVD in May. And in June, the May 3rd DVD release Let’s Party will be included in Redbox kiosks.

Existing retail partners continue to expand their Pocoyo line, adding new DVD titles:

Toys”R”Us stores will feature Let’s Party! in June in its new release fixture; while Fun and Dance and Pocoyo and Friends continue to have out of department placement with the Pocoyo toy line from Bandai.

Safeway will carry Meet Pocoyo starting from June. The grocery chain first stocked Super Pocoyo in January and February 2011.

Albertsons/SuperValu stores will feature Meet Pocoyo this summer, and continues to offer Meet Pocoyo and Super Pocoyo DVD titles.

Kroger Southwest stores continue to carry all of the Pocoyo DVD titles in NCircle’s dedicated in-line space with special signage.

Nordstrom, the upscale department store chain, continues to offer all of the Pocoyo DVD titles upon street release dates, most recently stocking the Lets’ Party DVD release.

Additionally, Walmart features Meet Pocoyo, in its check lane program; and Sears also carries the brand.

Ingram Entertainment, a leading wholesaler of home entertainment products, continues to provide heavy support to all of the Pocoyo DVD titles through its category management program. Ingram maintains Pocoyo DVD products among a wide variety of outlets ranging from mom and pop rental stores to national chains.

NCircle has also included Pocoyo DVD titles in its latest initiative with Video Products Distributor (VPD), another leading home entertainment wholesaler, and Recorded Books, an educational and professional publisher, whereby select NCircle DVD titles are offered to libraries nationwide at a special discounted rate.

Brew Flashback: “The Man Called Flintstone” (1966)

Not The Flinstones finest hour (or more precisely, an hour and twenty-seven minutes), but I thought we’d take a moment to acknowledge the 45th anniversary of the Hanna Barbera feature film, The Man Called Flintstone. I gathered together some material (including several rarely seen newspaper ads, below) to remind us of how the original prime time series (and feature) were initially aimed at adult audiences – so perhaps Seth MacFarlane’s forthcoming revamp won’t be so far off, after all. Or so we would hope.

Anyone have any particularly fond (or painful) memories of this film? Let us know in the comments section below.

PIXAR Premieres Logo for “Toy Story Toons”

Editor’s Note: Christian over at the excellent German PIXAR Blog caught a screen capture of this logo at the end of the Cars 2 International trailer. With the success of the Cars line of animated shorts and the impending release of the Toy Story short film Hawaiian Vacation in tandem with Cars 2, this logo makes it official that PIXAR will be doing a series of shorts for Woody, Buzz and the gang. A second short is rumored to be shown with The Muppets in November.

Call for Submissions: Animate OPEN – Digitalis

Animate Projects is pleased to announce a call for its first online exhibition selected from an open submission.

We are looking for works that – in a broad sense – explore, question, subvert or confound our expectations of art and the ‘digital’. Or which might be ‘anti’ the digital, emphasising the handmade, physically crafted.

The Animate OPEN is part of Digitalis, a strand of activities for 2011 that have a focus on the potential of the digital space as a site for artistic production.

Animate Projects champions experiments and creative risk taking in animation across a broad spectrum of practice. We are the only UK organisation dedicated to commissioning and exhibiting innovative animation online and on digital platforms. animateprojects.org has an international reputation as a place to encounter outstanding work by British artists and receives more than 24,000 visitors each month.

The Animate OPEN is for complete works by UK-based artists, animators and filmmakers, produced since January 2009.

A Jury will select up to ten films for exhibition and there will be two cash prizes – one awarded by the Jury (£1000), and an Audience Prize (£300), open to a public vote. Each artist included in the exhibition will be paid a £100 fee.

Selected films will be presented online at animateprojects.org, along with short interviews with the artists. Selected films and artists will be featured in a ‘newspaper’ catalogue and may also be included in Animate OPEN: Digitalis screenings and events.

Animate OPEN: Digitalis will be online from July 2011.

For submission guidelines, visit http://www.animateprojects.org/opportunities

Call For Entries: Clermont-Ferrand Festival 2012

24th International competition

Registration Deadlines :
- July 15, 2011 : for films made in 2010 (after July, 1st)
- October 14, 2011 : for films made in 2011

Registration fee : no fee

1) Films completed after : July 1, 2010
2) Maximum Running Time : 40 minutes
3) Origin : Worldwide, France excepted
4) Festival screening format : 35 mm, Beta SP Pal or Digital Betacam Pal

For further information :
Christian Guinot: [email protected]

27th Short Film Market

Registration Deadline: November 10, 2011

Registration fee: no fee

Only films entered at the 2012 Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival can be registered at the 27th Short Film Market.
For further information: Roger Gonin: [email protected]

11th Lab competition

There is no registration for this competition since the films will be chosen from those entered into the International or National competition.
For further information: Calmin Borel: [email protected]

Registration site (www.shortfilmdepot.com)

Moving Picture Co. Hires Key Staff For Opening of New York Studio

MPC will be opening the doors of its new creative studio in New York with a complete range of integrated services.  In addition to the world class Visual Effects work the company is known for, the studio will tap into the global MPC network of creative talent and resources to provide Color Grading and Digital, Design and Production Services across the US markets.

The new studio will occupy 13,000 sq ft of purpose-built space on the 8th and 9th floors of a stunning turn-of-the-century renovated shoe factory in the heart of SoHo.

VFX Services will provide Flame/Nuke, Maya/3D studio Max, Motion Graphics, FX Design, Animation and Data-Lab services.  The New York studio will also continue to provide the US market with access to MPC’s world-renowned Color Grading talent, including Mark Gethin, Jean-Clement Soret, Paul Harrison and George K, both locally and through remote services.

Digital and Design Services will encompass interactive and experiential work, web and graphic design, and bespoke software solutions and platforms.  Recent examples of MPC’s innovative digital work include [Z]ink, the 3D stereoscopic interactive painting tool developed for the Creators Project; and the incredible Ralph Lauren 4D experiential piece shown simultaneously in New York and London.  MPC Creative, currently based in London, will expand to offer Production Services through the New York studio.

The addition of the New York office will further strengthen MPC’s global ventures in the advertising industry, particularly in the States.  MPC’s US Creative Director, Alex Lovejoy will be responsible for the creative output of the studio and oversee the vision of the team; Executive Producer Justin Brukman will head the New York studio.

Lovejoy joins MPC NY from The Mill NY where he was Senior VFX Supervisor.  Prior to his time at The Mill, Alex spent ten years as an established and well-respected member of the MPC London creative team.  During this time, he played a key role in establishing MPC as a market leader in Commercials VFX.  Recent credits include ESPN Invincible for Rupert Sanders and W+K NY, and GE Clouds for Traktor and BBDO NY.  Previous credits include work such as the infamous VW Golf commercial Singin’ in the Rain, Guinness Redemption, and campaigns for Audi, 3 Mobile and Levi’s.

Lovejoy comments, “I am extremely excited about the creative opportunities that lie ahead.  We have a stellar team and everyone is raring to go.  I am keen to encourage the team to push creative boundaries and collaborate with talented teams in all our MPC sites.  We are looking forward to the journey.”

Brukman moves to New York after eight years with MPC London, where he established himself as a prolific Senior Producer.  Most recent credits include Creative Circle Award-winning Virgin Atlantic 001 directed by Traktor, and a fully stereoscopic-acquired 60’ commercial for Sky Television.  In addition to his strong VFX background, Brukman brings with him the energy and vision to drive the studio further into the fields of Digital, Design and Production services.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be in at the beginning of something very special.  Both myself and the team we have brought over from the mother-ship in London, and our new recruits from New York, are extremely ambitious and focused on creating the most inspiring and outstanding creative content for the US market.  MPC is known for its ground-breaking work in VFX — our aim is to prove that we can do more than create photo-real CG creatures and paint breathtaking digital images; we can also contribute at any point in the creative process, whether it be Digital, Design or VFX,” says Justin Brukman.

Lovejoy and Brukman will lead an international team of MPC’s award-winning VFX artists and Production talent, who will work together alongside world-class US talent.  The founding team from London includes Vicky Osborn, Head of 3D; Dean Robinson, Senior CG Artist; Drew Downes and Marcus Wood, Senior VFX Artists; Alex Harding, Nuke and Stereographic Artist; and Andrew Montague, Senior Motion Graphics Designer.  Brukman will also be supported by Head of Production, Louisa Cartwright, who joins the team having recently spent time at MPC LA and five years at MPC London.

The team will be joined by exciting local NY talent.  Head of Digital Content Wayne Robins joins having recently worked at Y&R in New York and draft FCB New York.  Wayne brings with him a wealth of experience in the digital arena covering all aspects of digital advertising, from website to experiential events to building projections.

Lovejoy and Brukman will be working closely with MPC LA’s newly-appointed Managing Director Andrew Bell to reinforce the company’s presence and offerings in the US market overall. Both studios will continue to research and develop with the MPC team worldwide, the innovative technology and software solutions making up the creative and production pipeline that is the backbone of the global MPC organization.

The US team will also coordinate with MPC London’s specialist Feature Film and Advertising R&D teams, to maintain and develop the consistent quality of MPC’s VFX work that has established MPC as a market leader in the global Film and Advertising VFX business.

Disney’s “Prep and Landing” Arrives on DVD November 22, 2011

This coming holiday, Disney invites audiences of all ages to make Prep & Landing (the all-new modern classic Christmas tale) part of their family’s “must own” holiday-viewing collection! Arriving to DVD on November 22, 2011, Prep & Landing is the perfect blend of Christmas spirit, humor and entertaining characters that will keep the entire family grinning from ear-to-ear. Complete with two new bonus shorts – Tiny’s Big Adventure and Operation Secret Santa (which features Betty White as the voice of Mrs. Clause) — Prep & Landing will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.99 in the U.S. and $24.99 in Canada. It’s the perfect stocking stuffer for all ages! For more information on this release, please visit www.Disney.com/PrepAndLanding.

Prep & Landing is an adorable holiday story about a high-tech team of elves who ensure homes around the world are properly prepared for their visit from Santa. After working for a tireless 227 years, an elf named Wayne (voiced by Dave Foley) is upset when he doesn’t receive an expected promotion. Instead he is partnered with an idealistic rookie elf named Lanny (voiced by Derek Richardson) to execute a special Christmas Eve mission. While on their journey, Wayne and Lanny encounter unexpected challenges that push them to their limits and ultimately threaten Christmas for children around the world. But in the end, these two elves work together to guide Santa through a raging snowstorm in order to save Christmas.

Prep & Landing, which first debuted in 2009 as ABC TV’s first animated television special produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, features the voice talents of Dave Foley (Disney●Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Cars) as Wayne, Derek Richardson (TV’s Men in Trees) as Lanny, Sarah Chalke (TV’s Scrubs and Roseanne) as Magee, Mason Vale Cotton (TV’s Desperate Housewives) as Timmy Terwelp, David DeLuise (Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverley Place) as Dancer, Peter Jacobson (TV’s House M.D., Transformers) as Waterkotte, Lino DiSalvo (Disney’s Bolt) as Gristletoe Joe, William Morgan Sheppard (Transformers, The Prestige) as The Big Guy, Nathan Greno (Disney’s Bolt, Meet The Robinsons) as Dasher, Hayes MacArthur (Life As We Know It, She’s Out Of My League) as Thrasher and Kasha Kropinski (Fame, Big Fish) as Miss Holly.

Bonus Features:

  • Prep & Landing Stocking Stuffer Shorts:
    • Tiny’s Big Adventure — The assistant to the North Pole Christmas Eve Command Center is trying to make a pot of coffee and in the process, accidentally ruins the elves’ break room
    • Operation Secret Santa — Lead elves Lanny and Wayne are sent on a special assignment by Mrs. Clause (voice of Betty White) into Santa’s office
  • Prep & Landing Kringle Academy Training Videos — Entertaining Elf training videos shot in Santa’s workshop
    • Elfdate.com/The Fruitcake Factory/Spa Navidad
    • Welcome to Kringle Academy
    • Kringle Academy Equipment Training
    • Academy Do’s and Don’ts

Disc Specifications:

STREET DATES: November 22, 2011
Direct prebook: September 27, 2011
Distributor prebook: October 11, 2011

Release Format: 1-Disc DVD
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 U.S. / $24.99 Canada
Feature Run Time: 22-minutes
Rated: TV-G (bonus material not yet rated)
Presentation: 16×9 Widescreen
Audio & Languages: English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French Canadian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Latin Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: French & Spanish

DirectTV Channel Punch TV Launches Animation Division, Hires Leo Sullivan

In keeping with its company goal of providing original programming suitable for the entire family, Punch TV is pushing an aggressive plan to expand its animation programming.

Punch Television Network announced today that they have signed former Far East Disney Studio Production Manager Leo Sullivan to head-up its new animation division. Mr. Sullivan will be working closely with all Punch TV departments to create new and exciting animation projects. He will also be reviewing current animation programming for possible renewals, improvements, updates or possible cancellations.

A majority of the new animation projects will be geared to children, but with the success of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, Punch TV is also hoping to offer new innovative animated series for adult viewers.

“We are thrilled to have Mr. Sullivan join the Punch TV family, said Punch Television CEO Joseph Collins, “his pedigree in animation is unmatched in today’s television landscape. I look forward to seeing what creative shows result from our collaboration.”

Mr. Sullivan has worked for most of the major studios including Warner Brothers, Bob Clampett, Hanna Barbara, and DIC before moving onto form his own production studio. For 10 years his company produced animation and educational videos. In 1992 it reopened to resume multimedia production and distribution. Mr. Sullivan’s work includes involvement with the groundbreaking Fat Albert series and Beany and Cecil from the 1960’s.

Punch Television Network is committed to providing quality television suitable for the entire family. Punch Television Network serves over 80 million homes on Direct TV Channel 341.

“Slimtime” from Supinfocom Arles

With style to spare, Slimtime, a 2010 graduation film by four students at Supinfocom Arles, the CG animation school based in the south of France, is charming treat. Directors Bertrand Avril, Pierre Chomarat, David Dangin and Thea Matland were influenced by the films 2001 A Space Odyssey, Playtime by Jacques Tati, and Space Age fashion designer Andre Courrège.

New Animated Series “Voltron Force” Premieres on Nicktoons June 16

Nicktoons, the fastest growing kids’ network, brings the iconic franchise Voltronâ„¢ to a new generation with the brand new animated series, Voltron Forceâ„¢. The series will launch as a commercial-free presentation of the 90-minute movie, Voltron Force: New Defenders Trilogy, Thursday, June 16, at 8:30 p.m. (ET). The half-hour series, which features an all-new theme song produced and recorded by Grammy Award®-winning producer and artist Swizz Beatz, follows the adventures of a new class of recruits as they join forces with the original team to fight evil by forming Voltron, the legendary super robot. The first original Voltron content in 10 years, this new iteration from World Events Productions in association with Classic Media and Kickstart Productions will feature never-before-seen Voltron configurations when the team’s Lions unite. The series will regularly air Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. (ET) on Nicktoons.

Voltron Force stays true to the concepts that made the original such a success, but also takes the action, adventure and fantastical robotic creations to the next level,” said Keith Dawkins, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Nicktoons and TeenNick. “As a fan myself, it’s exciting to see the saga continue and for our network to be part of the brand’s legacy.”

“I’m truly excited to be involved in the re-emergence of this classic cartoon,” said Swizz Beatz. “I enjoyed watching Voltron as a child and now can enjoy it with my own kids.”

The original robot-action show, Voltron: Defender of the Universe, has become a massive pop-culture success since its launch in 1984. The series’ signature maneuver of combining forces to attain a common goal has resonated with many, earning references on television shows (such as South Park, The Fairly OddParents and Lost), by hip-hop artists (Swizz Beatz, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Wu Tang Clan, among others) and by athletes (like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Amar’e Stoudemire, Laurence Maroney and Chris Paul). The series also has a loyal Hollywood following of celebrities such as Jonah Hill, Megan Fox, Seth Green and Zach Galifianakis, to name a few.

Set five years after Voltron: Defender of the Universe, Voltron Force follows three new recruits — Daniel, Vince and Larmina — as they get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to train alongside their heroes — Keith, Lance, Hunk, Pidge and Allura — and learn to fly incredible robot lions. The series will journey to new planets, discover new powers and unearth ancient secrets. Voltron will be needed once again to combat a rising evil in the galaxy and a tyrant from within. Bonds will be formed, friendships will be tested and plenty of laughs will be had as the Voltron Force gels together as a team in an epic battle of good versus evil.

In the 90-minute movie premiere, Voltron Force: New Defenders Trilogy, Daniel and Vince are recruited into an underground resistance movement led by former members of the Voltron Force to recover the keys to the lions. They soon meet fellow classmate Larmina, and the three cadets are introduced to their Voltcoms, an advanced wrist device that acts as an activation key to the lions. Their Voltcoms are also capable of generating unique weapons and powers based on personality and fighting styles. As the new cadets explore the Castle of Lions and uncover clues to Voltron’s origins, the original Force gets their groove back to form Voltron once more, determined to take on the duel-threat of King Lotor’s Robeast and Sky Marshal Wade’s war machine.

On Nicktoons.com, a dedicated Voltron Force show page will feature video clips, full episodes, flipbooks, characters profiles, a dedicated message board and exclusive weekly printables. A new printable, featuring exclusive character art, will become available every Thursday during premiere episodes. Additionally, on May 27, Nicktoons.com will launch a new game, Voltron Force: Ultimate Victory, which will allow users to play as all five Lions and transform into Voltron. During the on-air premiere of Voltron Force on June 16, the network will also offer a Game Code that unlocks the bonus and unlimited “blazing sword” in the game.

DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda 2″ Teams with Zynga for First-Ever In-Game Integration in “CityVille”

DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (Nasdaq:DWA), Paramount Pictures and Zynga today announced a new in-game item and quest for players of the popular game CityVille to promote the opening of Kung Fu Panda 2, which debuts in theaters on Thursday, May 26th. This is the first-ever in-game integration within CityVille, Facebook’s largest and most popular application.

Starting today, CityVille’s more than 88 million monthly players (according to AppData) will be able to place a Kung Fu Panda 2 themed drive-in movie theater in their city. Players who place the theater will also receive collection items, members of Kung Fu Panda’s Furious Five: Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey. When all five items are collected, an exclusive Po the Panda statue will be unlocked and available to players as a reward for completing the Kung Fu Panda 2 quest.

“Nearly a third of all Kung Fu Panda fans on Facebook have also played CityVille, so the integration is a natural fit and something we think our players will love,” said Manny Anekal, Global Director of Brand Advertising at Zynga. “It’s important that we collaborate with innovative brands like DreamWorks Animation that resonate with and are meaningful to our players and enhance their game play.”

“Our exclusive integration of Kung Fu Panda 2 in Zynga’s CityVille gives millions of players a fun and deeply interactive way of connecting with Po and the Furious Five,” said Jason Alex, Head of Online Marketing at DreamWorks Animation. “Po journeys on a memorable kung fu quest in the movie and through this online challenge we’re able to reward fans for further engaging with the characters they love.”

The Kung Fu Panda 2 quest begins today and runs through May 31st on CityVille.

This announcement follows recent Zynga movie-themed integrations with Paramount Pictures to bring Rango into the untamed wilderness of FrontierVille and with DreamWorks Animations on Megamind, where Megamind launched his very own “Mega-Farm” within FarmVille. In the first 24-hour promotion period more than 9 million people engaged with the “Mega-Farm.”

FUNimation To Release New Animated Movie “Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos”

FUNimation ® Entertainment has acquired the second film based on the popular Fullmetal Alchemist franchise, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos (also known as Fullmetal Alchemist: Milos no Sei naru Hoshi), which is set to premiere in Japan on July 2nd, 2011.

Longtime partner Aniplex, Inc. has awarded the U.S. theatrical, home entertainment, digital and broadcast rights to the animated feature-length film to American distributor FUNimation.

The movie is produced by studio BONES and directed by Kazuya Murata.

FUNimation will release the English dub version of Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos in theaters in early 2012 and on DVD and Blu-ray in the Spring.

Famed J-rock band L’Arc-en-Ciel will perform the theme song for the movie. Their song “Ready Steady Go” had been the opening theme song for the smash-hit TV animation series “Fullmetal Alchemist” in 2004, and “Link” was the theme song for the Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa” in 2005.

Fans can see the Japanese trailer including a preview of L’Arc-en-Ciel’s new song on the official website of Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos:

U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association Does Event For “Gnomeo and Juliet” DVD Release

To celebrate the May 24th release of Gnomeo and Juliet on Blu-ray â„¢ Disc and DVD, the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association (the organization that turned a weekend chore into a national competitive sport!) continued their 2011 STA-BIL racing season with the Gnomeo & Juliet “Mow-down Showdown.”

Riders dressed as the film’s iconic red and blue feuding gnome families raced for the right to be crowned the winner and present The Berrien County Michigan Farm Bureau Young Farmers with a donation earmarked for agricultural education in Berrien County schools.

The world of lawn mower racing gathers new mowmentum as this high octane sport continues its complete season of lawnmower races across the country with 140 sanctioned races in 37 states. Featuring seven classes of mowers, participants will compete against one another for the right to be named turf titan!

FILM SYNOPSIS: From a director of Shrek 2 comes your chance to step into the secret world of garden gnomes – Gnomeo & Juliet. Perfect for the whole family, this fresh and funny makeover of one of the world’s most timeless stories features music from Sir Elton John, and the voice talents of Emily Blunt, James McAvoy and Sir Michael Caine. Caught up in a feud between neighbors, Gnomeo and Juliet must overcome as many obstacles as their namesakes. But with flamboyant pink flamingos and epic lawnmower races, can this young couple find lasting happiness?

Complete with hilarious never-before-seen bonus features, Gnomeo & Juliet is an out-of-the-ordinary animated comedy the entire family will love – we just gnome it!

Three Crappy Stories That’ll Ruin Your Monday Morning

Arnold Schwarzenegger

1. 3D Ruins Regular Movies Too
The Boston Globe published a damning exposé about irresponsible theater chains like AMC, National Amusements, and Regal that often leave the 3D projector lenses on for 2D movies, thereby dimming regular movies and draining them of color to the point where they can’t be enjoyed. So why don’t they just switch the lenses on the Sony digital projectors you ask? How about DRM foul-ups:

James Bond, a Chicago-based projection guru who serves as technical expert for Roger Ebert’s Ebertfest, said issues with the Sonys are more than mechanical. Opening the projector alone involves security clearances and Internet passwords, “and if you don’t do it right, the machine will shut down on you.” The result, in his view, is that often the lens change isn’t made and “audiences are getting shortchanged.”

2. Fake Indian Animation Schools
Times of India reports about an epidemic of fly-by-night animation schools in India. Over 10,000 students have been suckered by these schools with the promise of receiving a quality education and jobs:

Anshuman Kaushik, who took admission in 2D animation in Nupur Media, which collaborated with Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University said that he paid Rs 1.6 lakh for the 10-month course which the company terminated after the first six months. “There were 30 students in the class. Just before the company shut down, about 15 students were given offer letters by Nupur Media House. Later we realised that the company was not even registered,” said Kaushik who is now planning to take a regular course in animation from a reputed university.

3. Arnold’s Cartoon Probably Still Happening
After it was revealed that California’s inept ex-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was producing little Latino-American Arnolds with women that were not his wife, the producers of the Governator animated series announced that they “have chosen to not go forward with the Governator project.” That seemed like a prudent and responsible decision by the production companies, until they issued a revised statement that read, “In light of recent events, A Squared Entertainment, POW, Stan Lee Comics, and Archie Comics, have halted production.” Subtle wording change, but big difference. What they’re really saying is, “We’re probably still going to make this show even though Arnold is an awful role model for kids, but we’ll just wait until the whole affair business blows over.” Of course, they’ll have to make some minor changes to the original idea, which according to Stan Lee, would have used “all the personal elements of Arnold’s life. We’re using his wife. We’re using his kids.”

(Thanks, Karl Cohen, for the India link)

John Lasseter Owns Over 1,000 Hawaiian Shirts

John Lasseter

Advice from John Lasseter on how to wear Hawaiian shirts: “Don’t just pick a shirt to wear, but pick the subject matter of the shirt to match what you’re doing in the day.” That is, of course, easier to do when you own over one thousand Hawaiian shirts as Lasseter does, including 374 in active rotation.

Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle received a fun tour of the collection:

New Books you should know about* (*if you don’t already)

Here are several new publications that were sent my way during the past month that I think Cartoon Brew readers will like, or love or at worst, should be aware they exist:

100 Animated Feature Films by Andrew Osmond (BFI/Palgrave Macmillan) is a great read. The animated feature is just coming into its own after decades of following one vision – that of the Walt Disney studio. Now that there are several strong voices to emerge in this medium, British film journalist Osmond has rounded up one hundred notable international animated features, studio and independent, to discuss, compare and contrast. This isn’t a “best-of” list, but a representative selection of worthwhile films culled from the first ninety five years of full-length animated movies. An important book for students of animation history – and anyone wanting to read intelligent commentary on where the field has come, and where its headed.

The Art of Kung Fu Panda 2 by Tracey Miller-Zarneke (Insight Editions). Whatever your opinion of Kung Fu Panda 2, one thing is undeniable: the artwork, art direction, character designs, color keys and all things visual are simply superb. Just based on “looks” this may be the best animated film of the year. We’ll see, but in the meantime Tracey Miller-Zarneke’s book lays it all out and gives credit where credit is due. Raymond Zibach, Nicholas Marlet, and Bill Kaufman are among the dozens of artists work given the lavish “art-book” treatment here – and their work deserves it. And you deserve to own this souvenir of Dreamworks’ summer blockbuster.

Archie: A Celebration of America’s Favorite Teenagers written and designed by Craig Yoe, produced by Clizia Gussoni (IDW Publishing). Do we really need another book about Archie? The answer is YES, if Yoe and his wife Clizia are behind it. There’s been several recent compilation volumes devoted to Archie comics, from Dark Horse, IDW and Archie Publications itself, but this is THE BEST one. This is actually the only book about Archie you really need, as it covers everything about the Riverdale characters, their origins, the artists, writers, the nooks and crannies, including the coolest, rarest art, promotional pieces, photographs… the whole shebang! Yoe has a great chapter about Archie on radio, TV and animated cartoons, another highlighting oddball Archie merchandising – and in another part of the book, he offers a rare printing, off the original art, of the unpublished 1952 Andy Andrews, a serious detective story featuring Archie’s previously unknown cousin! It’s one of those books (like my Hanna Barbera Treasury) that you need to see – and when you see it, you’ll buy it. I love this book – take it from me, it’s really great. Highly Recommended!

The Art of Cars 2 by Ben Queen with Karen Paik (Chronicle Books). To be honest, I’m not revved up about Cars 2. That said, I have no doubt it will be a spectacular international success and huge moneymaker for Disney. Chronicle’s latest Pixar “Art-of” book for Cars 2 follows the formula of the subsequent volumes in this series – and is thus a must-have. There is no doubt that the artists at Pixar are some of the best in the business and, as usual, this book reflects in the incredible talents and passions of their animation pit crew. The book is written by Cars 2 screenwriter Ben Queen with Pixar’s creative development staffer Karen Paik. As they say in Drivers Ed class: Proceed with Caution!

Working With Disney By Don Peri (University Press of Mississippi). God bless the University Press of Mississippi. They are printing more important books about animators and cartoonists than perhaps any other publisher today. Their latest is this compilation of writer Don Peri’s personal interviews with animators, producers and “mouseketeers” including X. Atencio, Marc Davis, Bill Justice, Ollie Johnston, David Hand, Walter Lantz (!), and Frank Thomas among others. I’d never before read any interviews with animator Lance Nolley or assistant director Lou Debney, and never heard of early animator Gilles “Frenchy” deTremaudan until this book. This is good stuff and if you’re a Disney fan, you’ll want it. That said, it doesn’t compare to Didier Ghez’s more thorough Walt’s People volumes – but Working With Disney is a good companion to that series, and a great addition to the ever-growing well of Disney research. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll take all the information on Disney history I can get!

The Bozo Chronicles by Tom Holbrook and friends. This book is a mind-blower. Tom Holbrook has assembled a 600 page scrapbook of EVERYTHING to do with Bozo “The Capitol Clown” from 1946 thought 1956 (the year the clown was sold to Larry Harmon). This includes interviews with creator Alan Livingston, comic artist Dan Spiegle; bios on Pinto Colvig, Sara Berner, Billy Bletcher, Dave Barry, Jack Bradbury, Warren Foster and on and on… all surrounded by tons of merchandising art, reprints of trade magazine articles, rare still photos, album covers – no kidding, everything ever published on Bozo the Clown. This book is a limited edition self-published effort and I have no idea how many copies Tom has left, but if you have any interest in the Capitol Bozo and the people who made him famous, this is a must have item. Order it here.

Constructing Green Lantern by Ozzy Inguanzo (Universe). Last but not least, I just got this behind-the-scenes book on the new Green Lantern movie. I normally don’t review (or buy) these sort of books, but two things about this one – 1. I love the old Green Lantern comics and am actually looking forward to this movie (despite the fact that the trailers are not workin’ for me) and 2. there is apparently A LOT of GC in this film. Author Inguanzo, the films’ on-set Green Lantern expert and “Asset Manager”, didn’t get the memo about writing fluffy movie tie-in books and actually wrote a detailed and intelligent production memoir, loaded with photos from the set, pre-viz art, storyboards and final composite images that at least prove that the filmmakers set out to do the character justice. I have no idea if the film will be any good, but this book is excellent.

Note to publishers: I love books about animation, comics and movies. If you send me your book and I like it, I will tell our readers about it in future posts like this.

Meet Jennifer Yuh Nelson, the director of ‘Kung Fu Panda 2′

Jennifer Yuh Nelson at the Los Angeles premiere of "Kung Fu Panda 2." (Photo:  Tinseltown/Shutterstock.com)

Jennifer Yuh Nelson at the Los Angeles premiere of “Kung Fu Panda 2.” (Photo: Tinseltown/Shutterstock.com)

The Korean-American director of Kung Fu Panda 2, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, is (I believe) the first female Asian director of a major animated feature.

The lack of racial and gender diversity in Hollywood animation, particularly in the upper-tier creative positions, has always been disheartening to me, because the animation that appears in theaters and on TV often reflects the limited experiences and points of view of the people who create animation. It’s encouraging to see a new generation of directors, like Yuh Nelson and Rio‘s Carlos Saldanha, breaking Hollywood’s traditional mold of animation directors. Here’s her official bio from DreamWorsk:

Jennifer Yuh Nelson has lent her talents to four of DreamWorks Animation’s motion pictures: 2008’s Kung Fu Panda (as head of story), 2005’s Madagascar (as story artist), 2003’s Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (as head of story) and 2002’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (also as story artist).

Prior to joining DreamWorks, Nelson worked at HBO Animation, developing various projects and short series. She has worn many hats, serving as director, story artist and character designer for HBO’s animated series Spawn, which won an Emmy Award in 1999 for Outstanding Animated Program.

Nelson’s career in animation has spanned several countries, including Korea and Japan, where she oversaw animation for HBO. Nelson has also worked in Sydney, Australia, serving as a story artist and illustrator for the live-action feature Dark City for Mystery Clock Productions.

Nelson attended California State University, Long Beach where she received a BFA in Illustration. Nelson has also published several independent comic books.

And here’s an interview with her: