Selick to Direct Gaiman’s ‘Graveyard Book’ for Disney

  Henry Selick

Acclaimed director Henry Selick will direct a stop-motion adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book for Disney, says Deadline.com. The Newberry Medal award-winning book is a ghostly take on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, about a young boy who is raised by ghosts in a graveyard.Selick directed the Oscar-nominated stop-motion feature Coraline, which was also based on a Gaiman children’s book. Graveyard was original optioned by U.K. vfx studio Framestore with Neil Jordan attached to direct. Disney’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach were also directed by Selick. The talented director is also working on a project for Pixar, but little has been revealed about the feature. Selick is repped by The Gotham Group.


Veteran Animator Jim Hiltz Dies at 85

The Animation Guild Blog reports that veteran animator, director and teacher Jim Hiltz has passed away at the age of 85. Best known for directing Jay Ward’s Rocky and His Friends, The Bullwinkle Show, Super Chicken and George of the Jungle TV series and the 1980 Oscar-nominated short History of the World in Three Minutes Flat, Hiltz had a long career working at production studios such at TerryToons, FilmFair, Bill Melendez Studios and Michael Mills Studios.
He directed the 1965 TV series The Beatles and worked as an animator on the 1968 feature Yellow Submarine. His animation credits also include the TV movies The Raccoons on Ice (1981), The Racoons and the Lost Star (1983) The Care Bears in the Land Without Feelings (1983) and The Care Bears Battle the Freeze Machine (1984), and the series The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin (1987), The Raccoons (1985-1987), The Smoggies  (1989) and The Little Flying Bears (1990). During the 1990s, he worked on The Legend of White Fang, Spirou, David Copperfield, The Busy World of Richard Scarry and The Country Mouse and the City Mouse Adventures.

Emmy-winning director Eddy Houchins who worked with Hiltz in the beginning of his career recalls, “As a young ani­ma­tor, I got my first ‘real’ job at Michael Mills’ place in 1980 and imme­di­ately met Jim who took me and all the other young ani­ma­tors under his wing. In those days, we had not just respect, but down­right AWE for the older guys who had ‘been there.’ We hung on his every word and stud­ied his pen­cil tests frame by frame, soak­ing up his draw­ing skills and tim­ing finesse. At night, after he’d go home, we’d slip into his office and sit and flip his draw­ings on a light table just to study ‘the real thing.’ I learned more about ani­ma­tion from my three years work­ing under Jim as my direc­tor than I ever learned in school or on any other job.

After his stint at Mills, he free­lanced and taught at Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­sity for awhile, and, I sup­pose, even­tu­ally retired.” Houch­ins adds. “I remem­ber I was at the Ottawa [Inter­na­tional Ani­ma­tion] Fes­ti­val with him in 1983, and June Foray and Bill Scott were there and per­formed a Rocky and Bull­win­kle script live to our delight. After­wards, I was stand­ing with Jim in the lobby and when June walked out, he said to me, ‘Hang on, I have to say hello to an old friend.’ He walked up to June, said, ‘Remem­ber me?’ and she screamed, ‘JIM!!!’ and prac­ti­cally jumped into his arms. Maybe you guys can break the news to her. I sure can’t


Plot and Cast Announced for ‘Smurfs’ Sequel

Sony Animation began production on the sequel to its 2011 hit The Smurfs today. Most of the cast and crew from the original movie, which made over $560 million at the global box office, are coming back for the second outing, which will be released on July 13, 2013.The plot of the live-action/CG hybrid feature finds the evil Gargamel hatching up another scheme, this time involving the creation of mischievous Smurf-life creatures called Naughties. According to the press release, “when he discovers that only a real Smurf can give him what he wants — and only a secret spell that Smurfette knows can turn the Naughties into real Smurfs — Gargamel kidnaps Smurfette and brings her to Paris, where he has been winning the adoration of millions as the world’s greatest sorcerer. It’s up to Papa, Clumsy, Grouchy, and Vanity to return to our world, reunite with their human friends Patrick and Grace Winslow, and rescue her!”Returning from the first film are director Raja Gosnell, producer Jordan Kerner, exec producer Ezra Swerdlow, and stars Neil Patrick Harris as Patrick Winslow, Jayma Mays as Grace Winslow, Sofia Vergara as Odile, and Hank Azaria as Gargamel. Brendan Gleeson joins the cast as Patrick Winslow’s stepfather, Victor Doyle. The voice cast will feature Katy Perry as Smurfette, Jonathan Winters as Papa Smurf, Alan Cumming as Gutsy, Fred Armisen as Brainy, George Lopez as Grouchy and Anton Yelchin as Clumsy; in addition, John Oliver, who took a cameo voice role as Vanity Smurf in the first film, returns to voice his now primary role. Christina Ricci and JB Smoove will voice the new Smurf-like naughty characters, Vexy and Hackus, respectively.The screenplay is by J. David Stem & David N. Weiss and Karey Kirkpatrick and Jay Scherick & David Ronn, based on the characters and works of Peyo.


Futurama Season 7 Blasts Off in June

Comedy Central is bringing back Fry, Bender, Leela and the rest of the Planet Express crew for a seventh adventurous season of the Emmy Award-winning series Futurama this summer! The two-episode premiere will launch on Wednesday, June 20 at 10 / 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.Futurama was created by Matt Groening and David X. Cohen and follows the adventures of Philip J. Fry, a pizza boy who accidentally cryogenically freezes himself on New Years Eve 1999 and awakens in the year 3000, joining the crew of an intergalactic delivery service. The show won two Emmy Awards in 2011, Outstanding Animated Program and Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for Maurice LaMarche. Also starring are Billy West as Fry, John DiMaggio as Bender the robot and Katey Sagal as Leela.Keep checking in for details as the season premiere approaches!


Annecy 2012

The Annecy Animation Festival has announced a rich program of new animated features from all around the world screening during its 2012 event (June 4-9). Ten features films (in competition) and 8 out-of-competition titles were selected out of a record number of 82 movies submitted for the fest.

Features in Competition

 Arrugas (Wrinkles), Ignacio Ferreras, Spain

 Asura, Keiichi Sato, Japan

 Couleur de peau: Miel (Approved for adoption), Laurent Boileau, Jung, France, Belgium

 Crulic – drumul spre dincolo (Crulic – The Path to Beyond), Anca Damian, Poland, Roumania

Eun-sil-yee (The Dearest), Sun-ah Kim, Se-hee Park, South Korea

Voyage vers Agartha (Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below), Makoto Shinkai, Japan

Le Tableau, Jean-François Laguionie, Belgium, France

 Ronal Barbaren (Ronal the Barbarian), Thorbjørn Christoffersen, Kresten Vestbjerg Andersen, Denmark

 Tad, the Lost Explorer, Enrique Gato, Spain

Zarafa, Rémi Bezançon, Jean-Christophe Lie, France, Belgium

Features Out of Competition

Anima Buenos Aires, Argentina, Spain 9

 Delhi Safari, India

Berserk: Ougon Jidai-Hen I “Haou No Tamago” (Berserk: The Golden Age Arc I “The High King’s Egg”), Japan

Jean de La Lune (Moon Man), Germany, France

 Momo e no Tegami (A Letter to Momo), Japan

 Selkirk, el verdadero Robinson Crusoe, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay

 The King of Pigs, Sang-ho Yeun, South Korea

Zambezia, South Africa

For more info about this one-of-a-kind event, visit www.annecy.org


Weinstein Tags 3 Toons for Theaters

2013 is going to be a busy year for The Weinstein Company as the studio focuses on multiple family-friendly toons set for theatrical release next year. In addition to the much-buzzed about Escape from Planet Earth, TWC co-chair Harvey Weinstein has announced the release dates for SantApprentice, The Trick or Treaters and Leo the Lion.The break-out success of newcomer studio hits has inspired the renewed animation focus, Weinstein related in his announcement:

“Following the success of The Lorax, Rango and the continued achievements of some of the industry’s most successful animated filmmakers, we are producing animation with comedic stories that the entire family can enjoy. Escape from Planet Earth already boasts a great cast including Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Alba, Brendan Fraser, James Gandolfini, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry. We will be utilizing all of our relationships with top talent across the board to deliver the appropriate comedic tone and entertainment.”

Weinstein will release Escape from Planet Earth February 14, 2013; the CG comedy produced in association with GRF sees an astronaut trapped by a dangerous alien race. Next up will be Leo the Lion (August 30, 2013), which centers on an outcast vegetarian lion. The Trick or Treaters (Oct. 25, 2013) is about a group of villains who changed their ways thanks to a young orphan girl. SantApprentice (Dec. 6, 2013) features another orphan—this one tasked with becoming the new Santa Claus when the old one retires.

Another project, Cricket in Times Square, is in development with a script by animation vet Evan Spiliotopoulos (The Lion King 1 ½, The Jungle Book 2).


Marvel Fever Hits Home Entertainment Market

In anticipation of the May 4 release The Avengers movie at the box office, Lions Gate Home Ent. is releasing a special three-movie package featuring Planet Hulk (2010), The Invincible Iron Man (2007) and Doctor Strange (2007). Although, these direct-to-DVD movies have been previously available on the market, this new package is a great way to pique fans’ appetite for the eagerly anticipated movie directed by Joss Whedon. The 139-minute, 2-disc DVD can be yours for $19.95. The package is also available as a Blu-ray release.


Adobe Announces $1M Scholarship Fund

The Adobe Foundation is donating one million dollars to establish the Adobe Foundation Creativity Scholarships, a new global initiative intended to unlock the creative potential of students. Offered to high-school seniors who participate in the Adobe Youth Voices program, the scholarship will help them continue their education, pursue creative careers and find innovative ways to improve their communities.Students from the Adobe Youth Voices (AYV) network, which includes more than 800 sites in 52 countries, will be eligible to apply for the scholarships. AYV is Adobe’s signature global philanthropy initiative focused on teaching youth from underserved communities the power of creative self-expression and global citizenship. The first scholarship application cycle is expected to begin in spring 2013, with awards distributed for the start of the academic year beginning in fall 2013.

“The urge to create has never been stronger, and the ability to create is unprecedented, yet a new global study shows that most people feel they are not living up to their own creative potential,” says Shantanu Narayen, president and chief executive officer, Adobe. “We challenge the notion that creativity is reserved for an elite few, and believe that no matter what you do, everyone has the potential to be creative.”

The Adobe Foundation Creativity Scholarships will be focused on youth who plan to pursue an academic program or career in a creative field at an accredited college, university or certification program. Scholarships will be based on financial need, academic performance and potential. Individual scholarship amounts and lengths will vary based on country, curriculum and other factors.

Additional details about the application process will be announced later this year.
For more information visit  www.youthvoices.adobe.com


Al Jazeera Clicks with Gruppo Alcuni's SLASH

Italian animation shop Gruppo Alcuni, the studio behind toons such as Pet Pals, Symo and Rose and Leonardo, has found a new home for its action adventure toon SLASH:// on Al Jazeera’s Children’s Channel. The 26 X 20 series has also been sold to RTP, Canal Panda, Klub 100 and NOGA.Aimed at 7-to 12-year-olds, SLASH:// follows the adventures of five kids from around the world who can physically travel through the Internet using a magical stone. Their fun is usually foiled by the evil Cobra who is intent on stealing and destroying some of the most important works of art on the planet. Exploring different themes in art, music, technology and nature, the show offers young viewers a window to the world, with episodes set in Florence, Paris, Barcelona, Lisbon, London and Los Angeles.


Disney Chairman Rich Ross Steps Down

Disney Studios’ Chairman Rich Ross has resigned as what many believe is the direct result of the disappointing performance of John Carter at the box office.

“I no longer believe the Chairman role is the right professional fit for me,” Ross said in a statement released by Disney on Friday. “For that reason, I have made the very difficult decision to step down as Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, effective today.”

Ross was hired by Disney CEO Bob Iger in October 2009. Insiders believe that his choice of marketing execs, projects and the failure of this year’s John Carter at the box office might have led to his resignation. The pic’s underperformance led to a $200 million write-down for the Mouse House and was a letdown for Disney/Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter.

Iger released this statement today
“For more than a decade, Rich Ross’s creative instincts, business acumen and personal integrity have driven results in key businesses for Disney, redefining success in kids and family entertainment and launching franchises that generate value across our entire company. His vision and leadership opened doors for Disney around the world, making our brand part of daily life for millions of people. I appreciate his countless contributions throughout his entire career at Disney, and expect he will have tremendous success in whatever he chooses to do next.”

Read Ross’ resignation letter here

For the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to work with incredibly talented people on behalf of the world’s best loved brand. During that time, we’ve told some amazing stories around the world, created successful  TV programming, movies, and franchises that generated new opportunities for the company in the process.I’ve always said our success is created and driven by our people – whom I consider to be the absolute best in the business.  But, the best people need to be in the right jobs, in roles they are passionate about, doing work that leverages the full range of their abilities.  It’s one of the leadership lessons I’ve learned during my career, and it’s something I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to as I look at the challenges and opportunities ahead.I believe in this extraordinary Walt Disney Studios team, and I believe in our strong slate of films and our ability to make and market them better than anyone else.  But, I no longer believe the Chairman role is the right professional fit for me.  For that reason, I have made the very difficult decision to step down as Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, effective today.It has been my honor to work with such incredible teams – at Disney Channels Worldwide and The Walt Disney Studios and the many other Disney businesses I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with.  I know I leave the Studios in good hands and, even on separate paths, I am confident we are all destined for continued success.


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Fei Production Launches Animated Yaya Feature

 French studio Fei Productions is working on a new animated feature based on Patrick Marty’s four-volume graphic novel La Balade de Yaya (The Ballad of Yaya), which has sold 40,000 copies in France.The Franco-Chinese co-production tells the story of a resourceful young girl’s Dickensian adventures who loses her parents during the Japanese invasion of Shanghai in 1937. The 90-minute film will mix 2D and 3D animation and targets family audiences. The script is penned by Marty, Jean-Marie Omont and Charlotte Girard. Golo Zhao, the graphic artist of the comic-book will adapt his own designs for the big screen. Marty will be in charge of production, in collaboration with Xu Ge Fe (editor and producer). French animation veteran Fabrice Beau is overseeing the commercial development of the film.Fei Productions plans to take the The Ballad of Yaya to the Beijing International Film Festival, the Cannes Film Market and MIFA at Annecy in June.


New Dora The Explorer

Nickelodeon’s hit kids show Dora the Explorer has a whole new dimension to experience thanks to Calabash Animation, the award-winning Chicago-based studio led by Wayne Brejcha and Sean Henry. Calabash partnered with Nick to create the show’s new minute-long opening.

Working with character animation created by Nickelodeon’s L.A. animation studio, Calabash imbued all the elements of Dora’s world with new CG life; including environments, lighting, shadows, textures and the cinematic camera moves that sweep viewers through the show’s universe in the open.

"Nickelodeon was looking to take the show open a step further cinematically and make it more engaging,” Henry says. “They gave us a framework of what they wanted, but allowed us the creative freedom to explore in a fun way.”

Blending the 2D Dora, Boots the Monkey, Swiper, Diego, the Pirate Pigs and all the other cartoon pals with the new 3D backgrounds was no easy feat, as animation director Jessica Plummer shared:

“Getting the backgrounds to look just right with Dora and the other characters, while still creating very dynamic scenes, took quite a bit of back and forth and brainstorming. But in the end all those revisions and planning really paid off.”


Nick Scores Ratings Bender With 'Korra'

Nickelodeon’s highly anticipated premiere of The Legend of Korra (Saturday, April 14, 11 a.m. ET/PT) scored a strong 4.5 million total viewers, ranking as basic cable’s number-one kids’ show and top animated program for the week with total viewers. The 2D animated show which continues the mythology of the beloved animated franchise Avatar: The Last Airbender, also posted double and triple-digit increases across all kid and tween demos, averaging a 5.7/1.2 million K6-11 (+36%), 6.3/1.3 million T9-14 (+125%) and 5.5/1.9 million K2-11 (+17%). The Legend of Korra also ranks as the network’s most-watched animated series premiere in three years.

Nickelodeon created “Korra Nation,” an online program for The Legend of Korra superfans clamoring for details and new fans just discovering the property. There was a 750% increase in daily social chatter over the first seven weeks since launch, and the series peaked at 2.2 million mentions on March 24, earning more chatter than the season premiere of Mad Men, according to SocialRadar. The first episode of the series was featured on iTunes, Xbox, Playstation, Amazon, VOD and Vudu in advance of its on-air premiere, and was downloaded and streamed more than 500,000 times. According to Nick, The Legend of Korra has been the number-one kids’ TV season for the past 10 days, and has been in the top ten TV season list on all of iTunes.

The Legend of Korra takes place 70 years after the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender and follows the next Avatar– a girl named Korra who is from the Southern Water Tribe. Korra quickly discovers that the metropolis is plagued by crime as well as a growing anti-bending revolution that threatens to rip the city apart. Under the tutelage of Aang’s son, Tenzin, Korra begins her airbending training while dealing with the dangers at large. The Legend of Korra will air regularly on Saturdays at 11:00 a.m. on Nickelodeon.