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GKIDS Acquires North American Rights to “Children Of The Sea”

GKIDS today announced it has acquired the North American distribution rights for the animated feature Children Of The Sea. GKIDS will release the film theatrically in both Japanese and English language versions. The film is the latest feature from Japan’s STUDIO4°C (known for Tekkonkinkreet, MFKZ, Mind Game, Animatrix, Batman: Gotham Knight, and others), and is directed by Ayumu Watanabe, with a score by award-winning composer and longtime Studio Ghibli collaborator Joe Hisaishi (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro). Children Of The Sea is adapted from the manga of the same name by author Daisuke Igarashi, which won the Excellence Prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival. The all-rights deal was negotiated by Eric Beckman for GKIDS and Ayumi Inoguchi for STUDIO4°C.

“We have been super-excited about Children Of The Sea since the first six-minute clip blew us away over a year ago. I am thrilled to be working once more with the incomparable STUDIO4°C and can’t wait to bring this film to North American audiences. The film is nothing short of spectacular.” said GKIDS founder and CEO Eric Beckman

“We have succeeded in expressing a celebration of life through the highest quality of beautifully detailed Japanese traditional hand-drawn animation. This coupled with a beautifully detailed musical score from Joe Hisaishi, one of the most appreciated musicians worldwide, we hope will bring audiences even closer to the film. After more than 5 years since the start of pre-production, it is my pleasure that this very special film will finally be released. With the help of our trusted North American partners at GKIDS, I sincerely hope that the film will greatly resonate with North American audiences.” said the producer and CEO of STUDIO4°C, Eiko Tanaka.

On February 27th, TOHO released the Japanese teaser trailer (above) and announced a June 7th Japanese theatrical premiere date. A North American theatrical release will take place in 2019.

SYNOPSIS
When Ruka was younger, she saw a ghost in the water at the aquarium where her dad works. Now she feels drawn toward the aquarium and the two mysterious boys she meets there, Umi and Sora. They were raised by dugongs and hear the same strange calls from the sea as she does. Ruka’s dad and the other adults who work at the aquarium are only distantly aware of what the children are experiencing as they get caught up in the mystery of the worldwide disappearance of the oceans’ fish.

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FULL TRAILER: “Toy Story 4”

The toys hit the road in Toy Story 4 alongside friends—new and old—foes and, of course, Forky. Filmmakers welcomed Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves and Ally Maki to the toy box today, revealing the three new characters they help bring to life. Check out the new trailer and image!

Among the new faces is GABBY GABBY, an adorable, talking pull-string doll from the 1950s. But unfortunately for her, a manufacturing defect in her pull-string voice box has left her sounding anything but adorable. She has spent more than 60 years forgotten in the depths of a jam-packed antique store—her only companions are a band of voiceless ventriloquist dummies. Gabby Gabby knows someone will want her if only she can find a working voice box to repair hers.

Gabby Gabby is voiced by Christina Hendricks. “It became obvious right away that Christina was the perfect actress to play Gabby Gabby,” says director Josh Cooley. “She has the ability to sound inviting and friendly, then subtly become cold and terrifying in just a few words. It still gives me chills when I see Gabby’s introduction in the film. Also, Christina told me that she preferred playing with ventriloquist dummies over dolls as a kid. That’s when I knew it was meant to be.”

DUKE CABOOM is a 1970s toy based on Canada’s greatest stuntman. Riding his powerful Caboom stunt-cycle, Duke is always prepared to show off his stunt poses with confidence and swagger. However, Woody learns quickly that Duke has an Achilles heel: He has never been able to do the awesome stunts advertised in his own toy commercial. For years, Duke has been sitting in an antique store, constantly reliving the failures of his tragic past.

Duke Caboom is voiced by another great Canadian, Keanu Reeves. “The first time Josh [Cooley] and I talked with Keanu about the role, Keanu became Duke Caboom,” says producer Jonas Rivera. “Keanu was asking great questions that dug deep to find the soul of the character. At one point he stood up on the table in the middle of Pixar’s atrium and struck poses while proclaiming victory. It was so funny. It’s all in the movie and it’s all Keanu.”

In Disney•Pixar’s “Toy Story 4,” Bonnie’s beloved new craft-project-turned-toy, Forky, declares himself trash and not a toy, so Woody takes it upon himself to show Forky why he should embrace being a toy.

GIGGLE MCDIMPLES is a miniature plastic doll from the 1980s Giggle McDimples toy line. Giggle is Bo Peep’s best friend. Small enough to perch on Bo’s shoulder, Giggle is Bo’s confidant, supporter and advisor. “Giggle is Bo’s Jiminy Cricket—we’re able to get insight on Bo through their relationship together,” says Cooley. “Giggle is definitely the smallest toy in the Toy Story universe. She’s been stepped on, vacuumed up, and probably put up a kid’s nose in her time.”

Ally Maki voices the tiny character. “Giggle McDimples literally pops on the screen because of Ally’s personality and infectious energy,” says Cooley. “Nobody can laugh like Ally Maki.”

BENSON is a classic, antique ventriloquist dummy, and Gabby Gabby’s right hand. He leads a small group of ventriloquist dummies that serve as Gabby’s henchmen. With no person to give them a voice, these silent toys patrol the antique store with a looming quietness that is inherently unsettling.

“The dummies are, by far, some of the creepiest characters we’ve ever created,” says producer Mark Nielsen. “Our animators really leaned into the truth in materials for how our ventriloquist dummies move. Dummies’ bodies are soft with no structure, so our dummies’ arms just dangle and their legs bend backwards. Throw in their fixed expressions with their wide eyes and big hinged jaws and they’re nightmare material—in the best way possible.”

U.S. Release Date: June 21, 2019

Voice Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Maddie McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Emily Davis, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, June Squibb, Carl Weathers, Lila Sage, Don Rickles, Jeff Garlin, Maliah Bargas-Good, Jack McGraw, Juliana Hansen, Estelle Harris

Director: Josh Cooley

Producers: Jonas Rivera, Mark Nielsen

NOTES:

• “Toy Story,” originally released on Nov. 22, 1995, was the first fully computer animated feature film and the highest grossing movie of the year. It was nominated for three Oscars® and two Golden Globes.

• “Toy Story 2” is the first film ever to be entirely created, mastered and exhibited digitally. It was also the first animated sequel to gross more than its original, breaking opening weekend box office records in the U.S., UK and Japan, becoming the highest grossing animated release of 1999. It won the Golden Globe for best motion picture – comedy or musical. It won a Grammy® for best song written for a motion picture, television or other visual media (Randy Newman, “When She Loved Me”).

• Released in 2010, “Toy Story 3” won Oscars® for best animated feature film and best achievement in music written for motion pictures, original song (Randy Newman/“We Belong Together”). The film also won a Golden Globe® and BAFTA for best animated film. It was the second Pixar film to be nominated for the best picture Oscar. It’s also Pixar’s second highest-grossing film of all time behind “Incredibles 2.”

• The 2015 short “Riley’s First Date?” was helmed by director Josh Cooley and produced by Mark Nielsen.

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Toy Story 4 | Official Trailer

Toy Story 4 | Official Trailer
On the road of life there are old friends, new friends, and stories that change you. Watch the new trailer for Toy Story 4 now, in theatres June 21.

Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy. Directed by Josh Cooley (“Riley’s First Date?”) and produced by Jonas Rivera (“Inside Out,” “Up”) and Mark Nielsen (associate producer “Inside Out”), Disney•Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” ventures to U.S. theaters on June 21, 2019.

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Inside Out: Riley’s First Day of School | Pixar Side by Side

Inside Out: Riley’s First Day of School | Pixar Side by Side
Turn our major emotion picture inside out, from storyboard to final frame.

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REVIEW: Paramount’s “Wonder Park”

Cameron “June” Bailey is an irrepressible young girl who, by age 10, proves capable of mentally designing an amusement park that Disney’s Imagineers would envy. Her parents admire her creativity; Mom whispers June’s suggestions into the ear of Peanut (a monkey with a magic pencil) and a magical ride appears in June’s imaginary “Wonderland”. (Makes me wonder: The Park is never once referred to as “Wonder Park”. It’s called “Wonderland” throughout the entire film).

When Mom becomes seriously ill and relocates to a distant medical facility, June becomes despondent, dismantles her models of Wonderland and burns the blueprints. A fragment escapes the flames and leads June to the ruins of the Park, now in the process of being dismantled by an evil cloud called “the Darkness.” The Darkness’ minions, an army of souvenir toys called chimpanzombies, have the original stars of Wonderland on the run.

These refugees consist of oft-feuding beaver brothers Gus and Cooper, A narcoleptic blue Bear named Boomer, Greta, a canny wild boar, and Steve, a raffish porcupine who pines for Greta. Peanut, the grandmaster of the park, has disappeared and presumed to be a victim of the minions. It’s up to June and this offbeat crew to start up a crucial ride and thus restore Wonderland to its former glory.

Newcomer Briana Denski, who beat out 1500 hopefuls for the role, voices the perky and determined June in fine form. Veteran Actors Matthew Broderick and Jennifer Garner turn in good performances as well. Keenan Thompson (Gus) and Ken Jeong (Cooper) are fine as brotherly cutups. (Makes me wonder: was this a sly nod to co-producer Nickelodeon’s Angry Beavers?) Mila Kunis turns in a surprisingly nuanced performance as Greta, and John Oliver nearly steals the show as the voice of Steve. Ken Hudson Campbell does well enough as Boomer, but Norbert Leo Butz sounds a bit too serious for the role of Peanut.

The animation, handled overseas by Spain’s Ilion Animation studios, is dazzling. Animation Director Javier Abad and Visual Effects Supervisor Javi Romero led a team reportedly consisting of a mere fifty people. None of the animation effects are simple, and the faults are few. The final victory over the Darkness (thanks to magical bendy straws) is a masterpiece of color and frenetic action. Wonder Park is a visual showpiece for the new Paramount Animation division, producing the film in collaboration with Nickelodeon Movies. Multiple trailers and teasers aired on Nick and elsewhere, making for a huge promotional push. In fact, some commercials for the film featured clips that were not in the movie.

Paramount’s start-up animated feature succeeds despite its bumpy ride en route to theaters. Originally titled Amusement Park, the movie began production five years ago, and during that time its release date was either moved up or pushed back five times. First time Director Dylan Brown, a Pixar graduate, was fired as the film neared completion. Nickelodeon veteran David Feiss stepped in to tie up the production.

There are strong echoes of Pixar’s Inside Out in the film. Both feature a fantastic mindscape that exists in the mind of a despondent young girl. The difference is that Ashley is unaware of the entities operating in her mind while June created hers by animating her stuffed animals and interacting with them. The main problems with the film are the ones that Inside Out manage to avoid. The screenplay, written by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, is at times inconsistent and confusing largely due to June’s awareness of her own imagination.

For example, how many manifestations of the Park are there? Why would its ruins be located in the middle of an unfamiliar forest when June finds it? Peanut appears to be helpless to control his magic pencil because June’s mom is not whispering in his ear, so whose imagination was more instrumental in creating the park, June, Mrs. Bailey, or Peanut?

We learn that June created both the Park and the Darkness that is destroying it, but what is the animating spirit behind the crucial piece of paper that eventually helps restore the park? June’s Mom? Some residual spark of June’s imagination that survived her grief? Was it guided by the desperate animals? Eventually June takes Mom’s place and whispers inspiration to Peanut, but why didn’t she do that that several scenes earlier when she came across Peanut on the zero gravity ride?

Makes me wonder: Several scenes portray June as an excellent scale modeler, yet she enlists most of the neighborhood kids in building a huge jury-rigged amusement ride that takes off from her roof, vaults into a city street, and nearly kills her and her best friend Banky. Why didn’t she build a smaller prototype and let Barbie test it out? Her parents, in the same house, seem unaware that all this noisy construction is even happening. After the debacle, her concerned but adoring parents issue no punishment. Most kids who nearly leave their parents childless and hung with the liability of killing another couple’s kid would at least do time on the Grounded-For-a-Month-No-Thrills Ride.

But that’s for reviewers to wonder about. Kids won’t care about any of that. Wonder Park, despite story inconsistencies, is a sturdy piece of entertainment that will likely do well even without the Disney/Pixar imprimatur. In the end June’s mother comes home cured, Wonderland thrives in its imaginary state (and also in June’s backyard), Steve wins Greta’s love, and Nickelodeon will soon launch a CGI TV series based on Wonder Park.

Makes me wonder: Are they going to call it Wonder Park or Wonderland?

from Animation Scoop http://www.animationscoop.com/review-paramounts-wonder-park/
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Stoopid Buddy’s “Blark & Son” Now Available on Comedy Central Originals

Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, the studio founded by Seth Green, John Harvatine IV, Matthew Senreich and Eric Towner, announced today that the studio’s live-action puppet comedy, Blark & Son, is now exclusively available on the recently launched Comedy Central Originals YouTube channel. Created by Ben Bayouth, and developed with Head Writer Adam Aseraf, the entire first season of the Webby Awards-nominated series is available now.

“Comedy Central has a long history of championing original voices in comedy which makes us proud to be a launch partner for the new Comedy Central Originals channel,” said Chris Waters, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios’ Head of Animation Development. “The response to Blark & Son has been amazing and we’re already cooking up ideas for the second season.”

Blark & Son, which originally debuted as self-contained 30-second episodes on Instagram, is based on the hilarious relationship between a cantankerous father and his unamused, awkward tween son. Blark (played by Bayouth), is the gruff, yet clueless devoted single father of Son, his 12-year old gamer-obsessed, troll-in-the-making boy (voiced by How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World star Christopher Mintz-Plasse). One generation and many tech and social worlds apart, Blark and Son work to navigate life in the modern world and life with each other to laugh out loud results. Deborah Baker Jr. (Stan Against Evil), Donald Faison (Scrubs), Justin Roiland (Rick & Morty), Jim Rash (Community), and Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille) round out the cast.

Blark & Son is produced by Stoopid Buddy Stoodios. Adam Aseraf, Seth Green, John Harvatine IV, Matthew Senreich, Eric Towner and Chris Waters serve as Executive Producers.

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Warner Bros. New “Looney Tunes Cartoons” to Debut During Opening Ceremony at Annecy

Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the Looney Tunes are back! The classic characters from Warner Bros. Animation return in Looney Tunes Cartoons, a series of new shortform cartoons, debuting at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in June 2019. The next chapter of the iconic Looney Tunes story, featuring a cartoonist-driven approach to storytelling, will have its world debut on Monday, 10th June, as part of the Opening Ceremony festivities, with Looney Tunes Cartoons shorts playing in front of the previously announced opening film, Playmobil: The Movie.

The Looney Tunes Cartoons shorts will also be a part of the open-air screenings on Monday, 10th June, so the general public can also enjoy the fun with Bugs Bunny and his pals.

On Wednesday, 12th June, during a Looney Tunes Cartoons session, when Peter Browngart (Executive Producer), Alex Kirwan (Supervising Producer), Audrey Diehl (Vice President, Series, Warner Bros. Animation) and Sam Register (President, Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Digital Series) will screen more shorts and present a behind-the-scenes look inside the production of one of the studio’s most iconic franchises.

Looney Tunes Cartoons is a series of new short form cartoons starring the iconic and beloved Looney Tunes characters. With a crew of some of the premiere artists working in animation today, each “season” will produce 1,000 minutes of all-new Looney Tunes animation that will be distributed across multiple platforms — including digital, mobile and broadcast.

The new series echoes the high production value and process of the original Looney Tunes theatrical shorts, with a cartoonist-driven approach to storytelling. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and other marquee Looney Tunes characters will be featured in their classic pairings in simple, gag-driven and visually vibrant stories. Each cartoon will vary from one to six minutes in length and, from the premise on through to the jokes, will be “written” and drawn by the cartoonists, allowing their own personality and style to come through in each cartoon.

The cartoons will feature veteran Looney Tunes voice cast members including Eric Bauza, Jeff Bergman and Bob Bergen.

Peter BROWNGARDT

Peter Browngardt serves as executive producer on the upcoming Looney Tunes Cartoons. Browngardt was the creator and executive producer of the Emmy® Award–winning series Uncle Grandpa, as well as creator of the Annecy & Emmy® Award–winning series Secret Mountain Fort Awesome. Previous credits also include work on a number of Cartoon Network shows, including Chowder, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack and Adventure Time. Browngardt studied character animation at CalArts and began working professionally on Futurama at age 19, followed by Industrial Light & Magic and MTV Animation.

Alex KIRWAN

Alex Kirwan serves as supervising producer on the upcoming Looney Tunes Cartoons. Kirwan is an Emmy® Award–winning designer, art director, writer, visual development artist and producer who has worked in the animation industry for more than 20 years. Previous credits include My Life as a Teenage Robot for Nickelodeon; Wander Over Yonder, Mickey Mouse Shorts and the new Duck Tales series for Disney; and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends at Cartoon Network. He has been nominated for five Annie awards and three Emmy® Awards.

Audrey DIEHL

Audrey Diehl serves as Vice President, Series, at Warner Bros. Animation (WBA). In her position, Diehl develops new animated programming for the Studio, with wide-ranging oversight of creative and production matters for animated content. Diehl also serves as programming executive and manages the day-to-day production activities and creative affairs for current WBA series including Looney Tunes Cartoons, Animaniacs for Hulu and Harley Quinn for DC UNIVERSE. Prior to WBA, Diehl served as Vice President, Animation Development, at Nickelodeon.

Sam REGISTER

Sam Register serves as President, Warner Bros. Animation (WBA) and Warner Digital Series, overseeing creative efforts related to the development and creation of animated programming, for broadcast television, home entertainment and digital platforms. Under Register’s leadership, WBA is currently in active production on 14 animated series for multiple networks, including Teen Titans Go! and DC Super Hero Girls for Cartoon Network, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz for Boomerang, Harley Quinn for DC UNIVERSE, Animaniacs for Hulu, and Green Eggs and Ham for Netflix.

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The Dentist Scene from Finding Nemo | Pixar Side by Side

The Dentist Scene from Finding Nemo | Pixar Side by Side
Clown around with your favorite fish in this Finding Nemo side-by-side.

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Toronto Animation Arts Festival International Announces Award Winners

Today, the Toronto Animation Arts Festival International (TAAFI), the premiere destination for animated arts in Toronto, announced award winners for the TAAFI 2019 Film Festival at the Hot Doc Ted Rogers Cinema, which ran on February 15 – 17. Following a successful weekend of artistry and excitement, the film festival celebrated and showcased animated talent across the globe from shorts to feature films.

As the festival came to a close, TAAFI announced the winners within its competitive categories where it welcomed 1664 submissions, this year. This year, the festival awarded HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD director Dean DeBlois as the Animated Person of the Year.

The animation festival hosted an early screening of the third highest grossing film in 2019, DreamWorks Animation’s HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD, including a Q&A with director Dean DeBlois and voice actor Jay Baruchel. Additionally, TAAFI hosted screenings for Sony Pictures Classics’ RUBEN BRANDT, COLLECTOR; Shout! Factory’s TITO AND THE BIRDS; and GKIDS’ MFKZ.

With four feature length films and 83 short films in three days, many contenders were up for this year’s awards, especially for the coveted Audience Choice Award, determined by audience votes throughout the festival. With a tight running, SPACE BETWEEN STARS, created and directed by Samuel W. Bradley and produced by Guru Studio, won the Audience Choice Award.

Other awards were given in the following categories: Best International Film, Best Canadian Short, Best Kids Short, Best Student Short, and Best of Fest Grand Prix.

Full list of awards, winners and jury who selected the recipients are:

Best International Film – AMERICA
Nadav Arbel
Israel

Best Canadian Short – SPACE BETWEEN STARS
Samuel W. Bradley
Guru Studio

Best Kids Short – HILDA: THE BIRD PARADE
Andy Coyle
Mercury/Netflix

Best Student Short – GIANT CHILD
Camila De Guzman
Seneca College

Best of Fest Grand Prix – HILDA: THE BIRD PARADE
Andy Coyle
Mercury/Netflix

Audience Choice – SPACE BETWEEN STARS
Samuel W. Bradley
Guru Studio

Animated Person of the Year – DEAN DEBLOIS

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Disney Channel Announces Key Executives to Lead Development of Animated Programming: Joe D’Ambrosia to run Disney Junior

Joe D’Ambrosia has been promoted to general manager, Disney Junior, broadening his current role of senior vice president, Original Programming, and rounding out another benchmark period of growth for the preschooler brand. He will now oversee all extensions of the Disney Junior experience on- and off-screen, and will continue to be responsible for all development and production of Disney’s original programming content for kids 2-7 as well as acquisitions for the preschooler demographic. The announcement of his promotion was made today by Nancy Kanter, executive vice president, Content and Creative Strategy, Disney Channels Worldwide, to whom he continues to report.

A highly-regarded creative executive, D’Ambrosia joined Disney in 2011 and played a crucial role in steering Disney Junior channel to be the #1 preschooler network for the past six years (2013-18). In 2018, he led the development of a 120 show tour, Disney Junior Dance Party On Tour, the first of its kind for Disney Junior. It was nominated for a Pollstar Award honoring top achievers in live entertainment.

Joe D’Ambrosia (pictured), Vice President, Original Programming, Disney Junior. (DISNEY/BOB D’AMICO)

Furthering Disney’s investment in the Development team for animated content, Kanter also announced the realignment of key roles under the leadership of Meredith Roberts, senior vice president, Animation Strategy, and a fourth role that will continue Disney’s commitment to diverse programming while further strengthening Disney Junior’s learning-focused programming.

Three talented executives — Emily Hart, Shane Prigmore and Alyssa Sapire – will lead the development of animated programming for Disney Channel, Disney Junior and the upcoming Disney+ platforms. They are:

Emily Hart, vice president, Original Programming, who will lead development on Disney animated content for kids 6-11. Hart joined Disney in 2003 and oversaw the Emmy Award-nominated “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “Fancy Nancy,” “The Lion Guard,” “The 7D,” “Miles from Tomorrowland” and “Jake and the Never Land Pirates.” She will report to Roberts.

Alyssa Sapire, vice president, Original Programming, who will spearhead Disney animated content for kids 2-5. Since joining Disney Junior in 2016, she shepherded hits including “Muppet Babies” and “Vampirina” and the upcoming “Monsters, Inc.” series. Prior to Disney, she was vice president, Development and Programming for FremantleMedia Kids & Family Group, overseeing both live action and animated series. She will report to D’Ambrosia and work closely with Roberts.

Shane Prigmore, vice president, Creative and Artistic Development, who will lead creative development across animated programming for both kids 2-5 and kids 6-11 demographics. The Annie Award winner joined Disney in 2014 to develop and serve as co-executive producer on “Tangled: The Series,” before moving into the role of vice president, Creative, shepherding shows including “DuckTales” and the upcoming “Amphibia.” His credits include “The Iron Giant,” “The Lego Movie,” “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Coraline.” He will report to Roberts.

In addition, Vicki Ariyasu has been appointed vice president, Educational Resource Group, and Diversity and Inclusion, Disney Channels. She joined the company in 2013 and led the formation of the Disney Junior Educational Resource Group to ensure all content incorporates the best practices in early childhood education and development. She also helped establish the Disney Junior Advisory Board, a council of prominent academics that further guides Disney Junior’s curriculum. She will continue to report to Kanter.

In making the announcement, Kanter said, “It’s more important than ever that the people we have leading our creative and strategic content development are the best in the business and that they are empowered to seek out the most exciting talent and innovative storytelling. Joe has been integral in growing the Disney Junior brand and establishing our position as the #1 preschool network. His impeccable instincts for story and character along with a genuine interest in impacting the lives of young children make him the perfect person for me to hand over the reins and lead us into the next stage for Disney Junior.”

Kanter continued, “Emily, Alyssa and Shane share a genuine commitment to outstanding storytelling and they’re each widely-regarded by the creative community. Vicki is a trusted resource who we will rely on to ensure our programming continues to reflect and accurately depict our diverse world. With these leaders and their teams in place I am excited to move into the next phase of our business and content development.”

from Animation Scoop http://www.animationscoop.com/disney-channel-announces-key-executives-to-lead-development-of-animated-programming-joe-dambrosia-to-run-disney-junior/
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ANIME REVIEW: “Samurai Champloo: The Complete Series”

When Cowboy Bebop concluded in 1998, viewers waited eagerly to see what Shinichiro Watanabe would do next. After directing two short films for the anthology feature The Animatrix in 2003, he released the broadcast series Samurai Champloo in 2004. It was worth the wait.

Although it was a science fiction series about a “space cowboy”/bounty hunter, Bebop offered a jazz-inflected, alienated homage to the great film noir movies. Champloo (which comes from the Okinawan word for “stew”) is an edgy, anachronistic mix of violent martial arts combat, slapstick comedy, period adventures and hip-hop irreverence.

A brawl in a rural tea house brings together three misfits in Edo-era Japan. Rebellious and rude, Mugen (Steve Blum) sports a mop of frizzy hair, earrings and tattooed wrists and ankles. Swap his getta for the latest Nikes and he could star in YouTube videos. When he fights, he incorporates break dance spins and flips, which confuse his opponents, who expect the disciplined movements of a trained martial artist.

In contrast to the rowdy Mugen, the ronin Jin (Kirk Thornton) embodies the icy discipline of the ideal samurai. Every movement is calculated, practiced and polished. In combat, he suggests a dancer performing a deadly recital. Mugen brags about his low-life lack of ethics; Jin lives by a rigid code of honor.

In return for helping them escape execution, Fuu (Kari Wahlgren), a waitress from the tea house, demands Jin and Mugen stop fighting until they’ve helped her find an unnamed samurai “who smells of sun flowers.” Initially, the ditsy Fuu seems like comic relief, but as the series progresses, she reveals unexpected depths and complexities.

Although Champloo is set in the mid-17th century, the stories abound with offbeat anachronisms. When a US clipper ship arrives more than a century before Commodore Perry, a nascent crisis over trade gets resolved in a baseball game. Abner Doubleday makes a surprise appearance–almost 100 years before his birth. Mugen wins a place in sports history as the first man to pitch a no-hitter in getta. In other episodes, characters carry boom box-like cases and rap into microphones long before electricity reached Japan.

“I’ve been interested in hip-hop since it first appeared: the fact that it was born not in the music industry but on the street, the idea of using a turntable as an instrument, singing vividly about reality instead of typical love songs, and its links to graffiti and dance,” Watanabe said in an email interview. “I believe samurai in the Edo period and modern hip-hop artists have something in common. Rappers open the way to their future with one microphone; samurai decided their fate with one sword.”

Watanabe’s interest in hip-hop is showcased in Episode #18. While Mugen gets belatedly reading lessons from an angry elementary school teacher, Jin attempts to settle the rivalry between twin brothers who inherited his former instructor’s dojo. The result is an outrageous graffiti contest that features Tokugawa-era rap lyrics, ink-brush tagging, Hiroshima homeboys and a clothing designer who’s a caricature of Andy Warhol. Only Watanabe could blend these anachronistic hijinks seamlessly.

But Champloo has a darker side: “The series also deals with ethnic and racial discrimination in Japan,” Watanabe added. “In addition to Okinawans and the way they’ve been persecuted by mainland Japanese, there are episodes about the Ainu, a gay man from the Netherlands, and Christians, who were persecuted during the Tokugawa era.”

As an outlaw and a native of Ryuku, Mugen is doubly an outsider in 17th century Japanese society. Watanabe plays his childhood flashbacks against an Okinawan folk song to stress the character’s alienation. Fuu, Mugen and Jin risk execution to escort gay Dutch trader Izaak Titsingh on a tour of Edo. Izaak tries to pass himself off as Japanese–despite his red hair, blue eyes and Ah-nold-esque accent. At the Kabuki theater, he falls in love with an onnagata, a male actor who plays female roles.

Fuu’s search for the mysterious “Sunflower Samurai” takes the trio to the southern island of Kyushu–and into the smoldering animosities left by the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637-38. They find themselves caught up in the Tokugawa persecution of the remaining Christians in Japan, which precipitates the violent final story arc.

Like Cowboy Bebop—and all Watanabe’s other series—the last episode of Samurai Champloo leaves the viewer unhappy to see the story end. Mugen, Jin and Fuu are interesting, complex characters who could easily share additional adventures. But unlike many American animators, who keep bringing back characters long after they’ve worn out their welcome, Watanabe knows it’s better to leave the audience wanting more.

Samurai Champloo: The Complete Series
Funimation: $49.98, 3 discs Blu-ray

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Anime Review: “Mazinger Z: Infinity” – A Robot Reunion

With a name like Dr. Evil, you just know he’s up to no good. Especially when he allies himself with do-badders Baron Ashura and Count Brocken. But they want more than world domination. This time, they want to replace our universe with one of their own. How? By activating a massive robot just discovered at Mt. Fuji: Mazinger Infinity. To this end, the villains and their many mechanical contraptions capture two photon power supply stations—one in Texas and the other at, coincidentally, Mt. Fuji.

Thankfully, Koji Kabuto is around to stop them with his own super-robot, the famous Mazinger Z. The result is a tour-de-force in heavy mecha action, in which the battle scenes are pumped up to a frame rate “on ones.” Backgrounds are intricately detailed, as are the robots themselves—cg models skillfully blended with hand-drawn characters. Between battles, we spend time with the cast of the Great Mazinger series some ten years after it ended. A new character, Lisa, is the key to operating Mazinger Infinity, and she becomes involved with our hero, Koji, in an unexpected way.

Disclaimer: There is some brief nudity, and a team of Mazin Girl robots fire missles from their breasts.

Warners Entertainment released Mazinger Z: Infinity in North America on Blu-ray and DVD on February 19th, 2019. For those unfamiliar with Mazinger Z lore, the disc comes equipped with menus that allow subtitles in both English and Japanese audio, which come handy in identifying terms like “scrander,” “bust teedle” and “pilder” and character name spellings. The bonus materials include a message from the creator, Go Nagai; plus interviews with director Junji Shimizu and key crew members, an art gallery, the opening song by Ichiro Mizuki (and it’s a catchy tune, I might add), English opening and credits, original Japanese trailers, and trailers to Tiger & Bunny, Lagrange, Gargantia and One-Punch Man from Viz Media. The English voice cast includes Wayne Grayson as Koji Kabuto, Mike Pollock as Dr. Hell and Dan Green as Tetsuya Tsurugi, pilot of Great Mazinger.

Mazinger Z fans will probably love it. Others might want to stream or rent this first before buying. Available on Blu-ray and as a Standard Edition DVD. The Mazinger Z: Infinity Blu-ray’s MSRP is $24.98 U.S. / $29.99 CAN; the Standard Edition DVD’s MSRP is $19.98 U.S. / $24.99 CAN. Audio featuring English and Japanese dialogue options along with English subtitles are available on both formats. A production of Toei Animation.


Special thanks to Erik Jansen of MediaLab.

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FIRST LOOK: Nelvana’s First Short “The Most Magnificent Thing”

Nelvana today announced the official launch of the teaser trailer, sneak peek images, and official website for its first ever animated short film, The Most Magnificent Thing. Adapted from author Ashley Spires’ bestselling book, The Most Magnificent Thing, the film features the voices of Alison Pill, Lilly Bartlam, Tony Daniels, and Whoopi Goldberg.

With nearly 50 years of producing children’s award-winning and globally recognized content, The Most Magnificent Thing is Nelvana’s first foray into short films. Most recently premiering at the Toronto Animation Arts Festival International, the short will be screening at various film festivals and markets across the globe over the next few months. Here’s our first look:

“I’m proud to be a part of the journey that brings this beautiful story of a girl tapping into her creativity to life,” says director Arna Selznick. “Much like the girl in the film, the talented team at Nelvana, led primarily by women, set out to create something magnificent and I am incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity to inspire young children to do the same.”

Arna Selznick is an award-winning director and story artist. She is a pioneering female director of animated feature films. She notably directed The Care Bears Movie, distributed by The Samuel Goldwyn Company in 1984, Little Bear (Season 2) and Back To School With Franklin. Additionally, Arna Selznick is known for her story artist work on the feature films The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature, Spark: A Space Tail, and the legendary Rock and Rule; and television shows such as Nerds and Monsters, and the original Inspector Gadget series.

The Most Magnificent Thing is an inspirational story about a little girl with a creative spirit, determined to make great things. Joined by her best friend, her pet dog, the two happily explore the world, doing absolutely everything together. When she receives her very own tool kit, the little girl sets out to make the most magnificent thing for her best friend — but it’s not as easy as she thinks! The Most Magnificent Thing is a timeless tale about learning through perseverance and hard work, the power of love, and selflessness.

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INTERVIEW: For Jodi Benson, Voicing Ariel was the Ultimate Sea Change

Feature animation flipped on its tail three decades ago, when Disney’s The Little Mermaid premiered and ushered in a “second golden age.” Today, the new Walt Disney Signature Edition of The Little Mermaid appears in stores and online, and whether seeing for the first or 400th time, it never ceases to wield its gentle power, an impact that can be felt just as strongly, no matter how much more advanced we may have come technically.

Perhaps no one has experienced the impact of The Little Mermaid more than versatile Tony-nominated Jodi Benson, the Broadway and Hollywood performer whose life was changed forever when she was cast as the voice of “the little mermaid that could.” One of several major new bonus features on the new release reunites Benson with fellow leading ladies Paige O’Hara (Belle in Beauty and the Beast), Judy Kuhn (Singing voice of Pocahontas), Lilias White (Calliope in Hercules) and Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel in Tangled) and their phenomenal composer, multi-Oscar winner Alan Menken.

JODI BENSON: That was a magical day. We shed some tears, had some laughs, because a lot of us have known each other for a really long time. Before Mermaid and long before Disney, we knew each other all from Broadway.

GREG EHRBAR: Mermaids and Disney must have been the last things on your minds back in those days.

JODI BENSON: We were all Broadway girls and no one would have dreamt in a million years that we would be crossing paths as either Disney heroines or villainesses! (laughs)

GREG EHRBAR: Yet in a strange way, these elements were sort of weaving together. You were in a Broadway show called Smile, composed by Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics by Howard Ashman. I will never forget the day in 1986 when you appeared on The Merv Griffin Show to introduce a very special song…

JODI BENSON: “Disneyland.” Yeah. That’s a beautiful song Marvin wrote for me with Howard’s lyrics. In fact, I sing that in concert. Actually my daughter sang it for the first time earlier this month at a state competition, and it blew me away. I sat in the audience while she got up and sang my song. First time I’d ever heard her sing it. She kills it much better than I did, I tell you. I was like, whoa! I was blown away! I love that song. And if it weren’t for Smile, I wouldn’t have been brought into the world of Mermaid with Disney. All thanks to Howard Ashman.

GREG EHRBAR: Yes, because unfortunately Smile was not a success. But it was one of those “good coming out of bad” things, because the auditions for Ariel were a direct result.

JODI BENSON: It was an open audition for Howard because he felt so badly that the show closed so suddenly that he invited all of us girls to audition for Mermaid. So if not for all that, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today!

GREG EHRBAR: Yet the impact of this was still not fully realized, because even though you were cast as Ariel, the cache of doing a Disney animated character voice wasn’t the same as today. You can even tell in the opening credits of the film. The actors are seen in a large list.

JODI BENSON: Animation during that time was not in a good place. Doing cartoon voices or cartoon shows was not considered a good job. It was what you did when your career was on the back half, at the end of your career, especially for Broadway people. They really looked down upon that. Broadway people can be a little bit snobby at times.

I would fly back and forth and do it. People would ask about it, but they’d say, “Well if we’re not going to see you in the movie, then it’s not really a movie, it’s not really a job, it’s just, you know… Just do it, get your paycheck and come back.” The mentality that I had was, “Well I’ll just do this, it’s a great job, it’ll disappear, no one will ever know, and we’ll just move on. I’ll just do another show.” But it changed the course of destiny in my life and my family’s life, that’s for sure. I think sometimes when those wonderful surprises happen, it makes them even sweeter, when you don’t have those expectations.

GREG EHRBAR: So how about all those people who were saying, “Ugh, you’re in a cartoon?” What did they say afterward?

JODI BENSON: (Laughs) They said, “Why didn’t you tell us about this? Oh my gosh, you’re in People magazine!” “Oh my gosh, I saw you on The Today Show or Good Morning America! What’s going on?” I said, “Well, I tried to tell you guys, but none of you thought it was a very big deal, so I just stopped talking about it.”

GREG EHRBAR: Well, those of us who love animation were thrilled about it, and think voice acting is (and always was) important. It was a wonderful aspect of your career, for example when you played Tula on Pirates of Dark Water. That was a great series.

JODI BENSON: Oh, thank you! I loved that series, too. Not too many people know about that show but I did that for three or four years at Hanna-Barbera. I loved working at that studio. We worked as a full cast together. That was so much fun to go to work and just play in the studio and play off of each other. It was great. I really enjoyed doing that series.

GREG EHRBAR: Another thing that I’ve always wanted to talk with you about is the fact that you played a second character in The Little Mermaid: the evil Vanessa.

JODI BENSON: Yes, I did. I just copied Pat Carroll’s laugh and cackle. A lot of people don’t know I played that little character, so it’s kind of fun when I get to talk about that because not too many people know!

GREG EHRBAR: Actors often talk about how much fun it is to play villains.

JODI BENSON: It was fun, because I didn’t kind of have to hold back and make things a little more subtle, shall we say, as with Ariel, and tone things down. I could kind of let ‘er rip with that one!

GREG EHRBAR: And 30 years later, The Little Mermaid is a bonafide Disney classic and
you must also be delighted to be an official Disney Legend.

JODI BENSON: Right! That was a huge surprise. I really thought that Disney Legends were inducted after they passed away, or after a 40-45 year career. So when I got the call, I think it was [Disney music executive] Chris Montan, I actually thought I was getting let go! So I thought “Okay, I’ve had my run and they’re going to find a replacement for me and that’s great, that’s totally fine. So when I got the call from his office I just assumed, you know, thank you so much, we really appreciate all your years of service, but we’re going to recast. We’re going to find a soundalike and it’s been great.”

When he called, I said, “It’s okay Chris, I’m good. I know why you’re calling.” And he said, “You do? I was just wondering if we could induct you as a Disney Legend this summer.” I dropped the phone! Then I picked up the phone and I think the first thing I said was, “I thought you had to be dead to get this award or something like that!” And he said, “Oh no, uh, well, will you accept it?” I said, “Yeah! I actually thought you were firing me today, so I’m having to change my mind and get on to the same page that you’re on. So I still have my job? Is that what you’re saying?” He said, “Yes you have your job! I don’t know why you would think that.”

It was, again, a huge surprise! That was a really, really special occasion because it gave me for those five minutes on stage to thank everybody.

GREG EHRBAR: Yet at the point when you thought you might be let go, you were prepared to accept it gracefully and move forward without anger. So let me ask you this. You also voice Ariel in the recent Disney Princess in Ralph Breaks the Internet, which has received all kinds of attention. There’s always talk about the relative strengths of the Princesses. When you were growing up, your favorite was Cinderella. What defines a strong person to you? Is it using karate, or being grim and fierce, or is it having strength of character? Doesn’t it come from inside?

JODI BENSON: I think for me, for Ariel, for the way that I’ve connected with this character and for what I feel like I’ve brought to the table, it’s my ability to be tenacious, my ability to be motivated, to live outside of the box and take chances and fail and get back up and try again.

For Ariel, it’s that she is reaching for something that is completely impossible for her. It’s something that is not obtainable. It’s that unreachable thing that she’s grasping for, something that she’s determined and ready to go for, even to the point of standing up against her father with a stubborn spirit. She speaks up and tells it like it is, for her.

For me, I feel the same way as far as that being a strength of character. If a door closes in my face, I keep pounding. If I can get a crack in the door to push it open one more time, I’ll give it a try until it slams shut. That’s my kind of personality. I’m kind of bound and determined to go moving forward no matter what the obstacles may be.

So when I travel and speak to children, high school students, college students, whatever, I tell them if you have a dream, you need to go for it because you really don’t want to have those regrets later in life. And I can honestly say that I don’t have any regrets. That brings me a lot of peace, and it brings me a lot of freedom to be who I am, in my own skin and not to worry what other people think or what other people say. I think that Ariel also has those types of qualities that are very strong.

Walt Disney Signature Edition of The Little Mermaid

New bonus features include:

• Alan Menken & the Leading Ladies Sing (discussed above)
“What I Want From You…Is YOUR VOICE” – Will Ryan, Buddy Hackett, Jodi Benson, Sam Wright and others in actual sessions.

• Stories From Walt’s Office – Gadgets & Gizmos – Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline and her staff share and tell the stories behind miniatures in Walt Disney’s formal and business office, including mermaids, movie toys and even the mechanical bird that inspired Audio-Animatronics.

Classic Bonus Features include:

• Audio Commentary with Ron Clements, John Musker and Alan Menken

• Deleted Character: Harold the Merman – Ron and John talk about Harold from the original script. Full cast and music reenact the storyboarded scene between Ursula and Harold.

• Under the Scene: The Art of Character Reference – Actual footage of Sherri Stoner, Josh Finkel with Kathryn Beaumont, who acted as a modeling consultant for The little Mermaid. Footage and photos of Snow White, Alice, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty model scenes are included.

• Howard Ashman’s Lecture: excerpt from a landmark in Disney history, when Ashman shared his views on musical storytelling as it applied to the animated feature. A fascinating 15 and a half important minutes.

from Animation Scoop http://www.animationscoop.com/interview-for-jodi-benson-voicing-ariel-was-the-ultimate-sea-change/
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INTERVIEW: Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond choose their destiny on The Dragon Prince

“Destiny is a book you write yourself.”

This is a major theme in The Dragon Prince, the fantasy-adventure series streaming on Netflix. In real life, the theme happened to apply to the show’s creators, Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond. They met while working at Riot Games, makers of the multiplayer League of Legends. Ehasz had been lead writer and director for Avatar: The Last Airbender at Nickelodeon. Richmond had been Game Director at Naughty Dog with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception to his credit.

Then they decided to forge their own destiny. Upon leaving Riot Games, they seized a chance to develop their own properties and form their own studio: Wonderstorm.

Justin Richmond explains: “The three co-founders—Aaron, myself, and then our other co-founder Justin Santistevan—left Riot Games all within a few months of each other and were sort of like, “What’s up next?” And we had this idea for a show and a game company, because we’re making video games, as well. We pretty quickly settled on this (The Dragon Prince) being the first project. So, a bunch of things all happened at the same time.

Aaron Ehasz adds, “Wonderstorm’s first financial and strategic backer is a company called MWM (Madison Wells Media). They’re led by Clint Kisker and Gigi Pritzker, who believed in our vision to build franchises that would have great storytelling, but also gameplay experiences. We’re building a triple-A game along with this.

“And then, the first customer, the first distribution partner, was Netflix, who said, ‘Yeah, we want this show. We love it. We want it on our service.’ So, those are kind of our first two partners that helped us start getting our dream off the ground.”

For the animation, Wonderstorm contracted with Bardel Entertainment, Inc., located in Vancouver, Canada.

“The writing and some of the producing is done here at Wonderstorm, and we’re in L.A.,” Richmond says. “And then, there’s a whole group of animators and artists also at Bardel, working on the nitty-gritty, day-to-day stuff in production.”

“We call it a co-production, officially,” Ehasz says. “And we always talk about it internally as a creative partnership. They have said, “Hey, we have all this vision and creative power that we wanna bring to bear,” and we’ve said, “Awesome. Let’s make sure we communicate all the time and that we’re sharing that.” And so, they’ve been fantastic creative partners in building this show.”

One of the amazing things about the production is that the characters are relatively “on model,” their movements suggest real-life acting, and that hand-to-hand combat is dynamically choreographed. Here, Ehasz and Richmond give credit to animation directors Carlyle Wilson and Meruan Salim and their teams.

“Carlyle and Meru are amazing animation leads, and they’re very passionate about these characters,” Ehasz says. “They’re very passionate as storytellers. They ask us tons of questions as creators and writers so they can understand the intent and motivation of the characters at different times. The work they’re doing with their teams is subtle and also just so communicative, and we’re really lucky to have them.”

Chris Browne, CG Supervisor on The Dragon Prince, describing how Bardel creates and builds the environments:

“A lot of the backgrounds and some of the [elements] are actually hand-painted paintings, so they straight-up are two-dimensional,” Richmond adds. “Most of the stuff that moves—not all of it—is actually 3D models. But Bardel did a movie a few years ago [The Prophet] where they used a cel-shading technique that we loved, and then they took that to a whole new level on The Dragon Prince. We’re really proud of the result.

“So, yeah, while they are 3D models, we are designing them so that they will look as close to 2D as possible. And we’re using animation techniques to help that along, as well. Some of [the actual rendering pipeline] was developed internally, and some of it was licensed from a company in Japan,” Richmond says.

“We’re using a lot of 3D and CG processes with cel-shading, but with a lot of artists working together with the engineers and more technical people to make sure there’s a very artful execution of that process,” Ehasz says.

“I think that we loved them initially because we knew they were trying to push the boundaries to make cel-shading feel hand-done and artful. And we know there’s still room to innovate and make it look even better in the future, but we’re really proud of the work they’ve done.”

Polygon Pictures of Tokyo employs a similar cel-shading technique for Star Wars: Resistance, allowing a full frame rate for the smooth movement of its characters. For Dragon Prince, Wonderstorm and Bardel have chosen to lower their frame rate—but not for economic reasons.

“It’s a stylistic choice,” Richmond says. “I think we’re getting much better at it in Season Two than we were even in Season One. It is animated in a way that is probably to mimic what it feels like to animate in 2D. And, so, there’s a bunch of deliberate choices we made with Bardel to get that process to look as good as possible. With Season One, Carlyle and Meru did a pretty good job, and then, in Season Two, I think they really went all-in and doubled down, and it just looks better. It looks super hot. I’m super happy with it, and I’m so proud to work with those guys.”

Remarkably, while the nuanced character movements suggests the use of motion capture, Richmond reveals, “There is no MoCap. It’s all hand-keyed. It’s all animation teams, and artists, and tech guys. So, it’s all hand-keyed up in Vancouver at Bardel. We do the recording first, then we do boards, then we do animatics, then we do animation. So, we do a lot of the stuff the same way you would do it in 2D.”

According to Ehasz, “The storyboard artists and the directors are creating storyboards and deciding where the cameras are gonna go, and how the characters are gonna move within the shot. They’re setting the animators up for success, so that, once the animator’s doing the layout of the scene, and they’re positioning the models where they need to be, and moving them through the scene, and trying to animate them naturally, then they can even add to that.

“When our choreography turns out beautifully, it’s because a lot of artists co-visioned and executed together.”

Since The Dragon Prince’s premiere on September 14, 2018, a fan base has developed for its characters, manifesting on social media venues. Does their response determine the fate of the characters?

“We love our community and we love the fans, and we listen to them,” Ehasz says. “We always have to strike a balance between telling the story that is natural and hearing the fans and what they want. So, you never want to over-err on the side of fan service. That said, when we learn that, ‘Oh, they love this character,’ or ‘They’re interested in this part of the world,’ we go to our meeting, and we’re like, ‘Yeah, we do, too. We should totally explore that more and get in deeper.’ So, I don’t think we’re overly swayed by it, but we do listen, and that informs our discussions and what we’re interested in, as well.”

Regarding the show’s future, pending a go-ahead from Netflix, “We know things many seasons from now that we have not even gotten anywhere near yet,” Richmond says. “We’ve planned way in the future in a crazy way.”

“It’s not to say that we know every detail, and that we have solved for everything that happens in the story,” Ehasz says, “but we have some sense of kind of the broad strokes going out for several seasons into the future.

“As people come into this story and love it, we want them to know we have a lot more of it. And, as long as they’re telling Netflix they love it, we’ll be making more of it,” he says.

Ehasz also points out, “As we write the episodes, and as we go into real production, we discover things that we hadn’t thought of. We fill in the gaps and the details. And we’re even open to big pivots and changes, if we get to a point and we realize, ‘Oh, wait a minute. This actually makes more sense.’

“And, actually, Season Two has a great example of that. When we get to the end of that season, Ezran makes a choice that we did not plan for him to make. But, once we got to the end of the season, Ezran had all the information that he needed to have, based on what we knew about this character and how he was growing up.

“Ezran had to make a very hard choice that was not what we had planned for him, but it was the truest thing that character would do. We let him lead us in a different direction than we were initially trying to take it.

“And we were like, ‘Oh, gosh, well, that’s perfect. It’s taking him on a collision course with certain other things that are going on, and it feels very right.’ But we didn’t know that until we got to that moment with Ezran, and then we followed his lead,” Ehasz says.

In other words, Dragon Prince really is a character-driven show.
“Yes. 100%,” Justin Richmond states.
As for the future of Wonderstorm, the company does have other projects in the works.

Aaron Ehasz says, “Dragon Prince is a lot of our focus, but we have other projects internally. We’re working with creators who we admire and like to help them bring their projects to life at Wonderstorm. We’re only just beginning.”


Click here for Part One of this interview. On February 12th, 2019, the first season of The Dragon Prince won two Kidscreen Awards in the category of Tweens/Teens: Best Animated Series and Best in Class. Season Two began streaming on Netflix on February 15th, 2019.

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