Saturday, February 24, 2007


One of my favorite comics is W.I.T.C.H. It is the tale of five ordinary high school girls who discover that they are the guardians of Kandrakar - a mythical palace in another dimension that holds the balance within the universe. The comic stands for the girls in the group: Will, Irma, Taranee, Cornelia and Hay Lin. Their powers are not original (fire, water, earth and air, can we say Captain Planet and the Planeteers?) but the stories are pretty good.

Eric and Hay Lin

Taranee in Fire Form

Friday, February 09, 2007

Joining the world of Bloggers

Hello Technorati

Technorati Profile

And in happier news...

Google decided to revamp Blogger, thus enabling all of us in the Blogger blogosphere to revamp our musings into cool customized colors.

Hope you like the new look.

And as always, if you've got a lead on a breaking story in the world of animation - share!

News Flash! Head of Cartoon Network Resigns!

Jim Samples, head of Cartoon Network, stepped down earlier today after a tumultous two weeks. Parent company Turner paid a whopping $2 million dollars to settle a dispute with the city of Boston following an advertising promotion for "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" that went horribly awry, causing the shut-down of roads and bridges and bringing in bomb squads and units from Home Land Security.


Fri Feb 9 2007 13:56:11 ET

To: Colleagues
From: Jim Samples

I am sure you are aware of recent events in which a component of an Adult Swim marketing campaign made Turner Broadcasting the unintended focus of controversy in Boston and around the world. I deeply regret the negative publicity and expense caused to our company as a result of this campaign. As general manager of Cartoon Network, I feel compelled to step down, effective immediately, in recognition of the gravity of the situation that occurred under my watch. It's my hope that my decision allows us to put this chapter behind us and get back to our mission of delivering unrivaled original animated entertainment for consumers of all ages. As for me, there will be new professional challenges ahead that will make the most of the experiences I've had as part of this remarkable company. Through my 13 years at the company I have found myself continuously in awe of the talented artists and business people surrounding me, from those who realize their vision in creating a cartoon to those who so brilliantly deliver the animation to viewers. I will always cherish the experience of having worked with you. I appreciate the support that you have shown me. As a friend and a fan, I also look forward to seeing your best and most personally fulfilling work yet. Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Boomerang and each of you deserve nothing less.

Check out the links for more info and late breaking news:

Cartoon Brew

The New York Times

Yahoo News;_ylt=AleR1weCC8bwYyeh5ZYdYihH2ocA

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Fabulous Evening with Heather Kenyon

Dateline: New York, Feb. 7, 2007

Heather Kenyon, Senior Director of Development Original Series, took time out from her busy schedule at Cartoon Network in L.A. to present a series of lost pilots at the School of Visual Arts.

Presented this evening, in order of appearance were:

"Koi Pond" featuring Periwinkle by Aaron Springer

World traveler Periwinkle the platypus tries to do a good deed with disasterous results.

"Kenny and the Chimp" by Tom Warburton

A pre-cursur to the ridiculously successful smash hit "Code Name: Kids Next Door" (now in its 7th season) the tale of Kenny and Chimp is told in Mr. Warburton's now famous style.

"Larry and Steve" by Seth McFarland

A surreal - and very funny - film mainly because of the eerie similarities between the two main characters and "Family Guy," this is the story of how a dog and his stupid man came together.

"Utica Cartoon" by Fran and Will Krause

A hilarious example of how a hot dog eating contest can go horribly, horribly wrong.

"Jeffrey Cat" by Mark O'Hare

Detective Jeff Cat investigates a bizarre crime of man bites dog. Literally.

"Squirrelboy" by Everett Peck

The pilot that would become a series, Rodney squirrel inadvertently sabotages a father/son kite-off.

"Plastic Man" by Andy Suriano

Goofy to say the least, Plastic Man swears to renounce crime by saving the world from a watery menace.

"Welcome to Wackamo" by John McIntrye

A family of moles (I think - I won't lie they were cute but I couldn't tell WHAT they were) experience wacky hijinks when they try to install a fridge in their house...on the VERY high hill.

"Gondola" featuring Periwinkle by Aaron Springer

Periwinkle returns, this time to wreck havoc on unsuspecting vacationers in Venice.

After feasting on these animated delights Ms. Kenyon fielded questions from the eager animators in the audience, and what an audience it was! Those in attendance included Will and Fran Krause, David Levy, Bill Plympton, Nina Paley, Candy Kugel, Linda Beck, Don Duga and (of course) yours truly. Ms. Paley, creator of "Sita Sings the Blues" wondered what the differences were between today's 6 - 11 year olds and small children of previous eras. To everyone's surprise, Ms. Kenyon answered that kids today are more conservative than their predessors. She believes this to be the result of modern parenting techniques, where adults and parents are seen more as friends than authority figures. Children are encouraged to "use their words" and "express their feelings" more openly.

They are also more sensitive to other's feelings, Ms. Kenyon pointed out. As an example, the focus group for the "Squirrelboy" pilot felt that the father was entirely too mean to Rodney, and they also did not understand that he was a pet, not the best friend, which opened up a bizarre series of questions such as "how can a squirrel be a pet?" "Where do you get a pet squirrel?" "Do you know anyone who has a pet squirrel?"

Getting stuck on a single element of a show can be the death of a pilot, even if that element seems relatively simple to adults, thus throwing the whole show into a lurch that the creators and executives never imagined. As another example, one of the reasons that "Plastic Man" failed to connect with kids was because they thought of plastic as hard, ala Tupperware, rather than something with stretchable properties. A weird hang-up for adults, but one that makes sense given the fact that the core audience for the program was born in 2000.

Ms. Kenyon explained the process that goes into a show's creation as well. Once a show is pitched and optioned, it is sent to the legal department, who may spend up to a year working and reworking the contract (the longest Kenyon ever saw was 3). A bible, outline, scripts, boards and a pilot are then created, which can take between eight months to a year themselves.

This means that any cartoon currently on the air is like looking at a time capsule, a view of the world from two years ago. I asked Ms. Kenyon, given the long lead time to create a program, how she is able to tell what will be a viable show in two year's time. She responded that a great idea + a talented person (often someone the network knows well who can create good work) +
excellent execution (i.e. great writing that can sustain a series) will remain standing after the development process is complete.

Which lead to the next topic, a character driven show creates great episodes. A person with a so-so premise can succeed if the characters are interesting and the episodes are noteworthy.
Sustainability is the key here. Network executives are pitched the same ideas over and over, so the ones with good character will stand out (the year they accepted "My Gym Partner is a Monkey" Ms. Kenyon heard close to 22 pitches for shows with monkeys). Needless to say, she's not looking for anymore shows with monkeys! Or aliens or clowns. But she added that one day someone might come in with a show about monkeys in space that work at a circus, and it could be an excellent pitch. The trick, she said, is to not worry so much about what is on now - again, we're looking at the past when watching TV - but to simply ask executives what they want NOW. And what CN wants are character-driven funny shows that appeal to boys ages 6 -11.

At the end of the evening, Ms. Kenyon described trends that she sees in animation, at least pertaining to Cartoon Network. Even today most of the shows on TV are 2-D, primarily because of budget. Also, cartoons will continue to be animated predominatly overseas in countries such as Korea, Taiwan and the Phillipines, again because of hours and budget. But some of the jobs that remain in the U.S. include script writing, boards and directing - a very good thing for future creators like myself.

Out of all the ASIFA events, this one was by far the most entertaining and informative one that I have attended. Ms. Kenyon will return May 6th for the 2007 ASIFA-East Animated Film Festival. When you see her, say hello and enjoy the films and food.

Just don't mention monkeys.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

ASIFA EAST - Be there!

Arthur and the Invisibles

Arthur and the Invisibles is a movie you really want to like.


It has the whole Joseph Campbell spiel going for it-
young protagonist must leave home and go on a fantastic journey, meets colorful and goofy sidekicks, defeats the bad guy, and returns to the real world, thus saving his home from the clutches of a greedy old guy.

But there is one huge problem. Unfortunately, the movie is boring. And not just boring.
Painfully slow. The problem stems not from the cast, an odd conglomeration featuring the talents of Madonna, Jimmy Fallon, Robert De Niro and David Bowie (yes, he of the tight pants and glam 80s hair fame of Labyrinth) but from the condescending way it narrates the heart and soul out of the tale.

The story begins with 10-year-old Arthur (Freddie Highmore ) who is living with his Grandma (Mia Farrow) in a quaint old house in the Conneticut countryside during the summer of 1960. We learn from the much over-used narration that Arthur's Grandfather, a colorful explorer who once lived in Africa, disappeared without a trace three years ago. Arthur's absentee parents (are there any other kinds in these types of films?) are in the city, desperately trying to earn a living, but miracously have found a way to send their son to boarding school in England for the summer. Insert logic here for that one.

The trouble begins when a greedy developer arrives, threatening to kick Arthur and Grandma out of the house for failing to pay their bills. Unless Grandfather arrives by noon on Sunday to sign the paperwork, the family will lose their home.

Arthur, being the adventurous child that all children must be in kiddie fantasy movies, sets off to find a treasure hidden in the backyard by his Grandfather before his disappearance. Using clues left behind by the old man and a mystic ritual performed by Africans who literally appear out of nowhere, the plucky kid finds himself shrunk to diminutive stature and joins a group of elvish-like creatures called the Minimoys. But the Minimoys have problems of their own. The Evil M (Mr. Bowie himself) threatens to take over the three kingdoms and the princess needs help retrieving a magic sword out of a rock, etc. etc.

There is literally nothing in this story that we have not seen before, or seen better, in other movies. The animation is spectacular but like ALL recent CGI movies, save for Pixar films and Shrek, this one fails because it assumes that small children must be pandered too and cannot understand story structure unless it is rammed down their throats.
Elements are thrown in for comic relief (a scene in a local bar where Snoop Dogg in Minimoy form jams at the turntables is midly amusing) but overall I looked around to see the primary audience falling asleep in their chairs. Even Bowie, who reprises his type-cast role as Overdressed Weird Guy sitting in a large chair - albeit one made of rubies - can't save this snooze fest.

It's a noble attempt by director Luc Besson. But while The Fifth Element, an equally kooky film, managed to connect everything together at the end with at least a mild semblance of humor, emotion, and common sense, this poor film simple falls flat.

A for effort, D for execution.