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INTERVIEW: The Supermen Behind the “Reign of the Supermen”

Reign of the Supermen is the latest DC Universe animated movie and the follow-up to last year’s “The Death of Superman”. It’s based off the popular 1992-93 comic book storyline. Earlier this week, both films screened in more than 500 theaters in North America through Fathom Events. I recently caught-up with the cast and crew at “Reign”‘s World Premiere.

Director Sam Liu always envisioned this story to be told across two films. “10 years ago, we did “Doomsday”, and it was supposed to be this movie,” he said. “But the whole “Death of Superman” saga took place in at least a year’s worth of comics over multiple comic books. So it was hard to tell that story within one movie. Inherently, it is two parts. It’s his death, and then these four superman show up. To tackle all that in one movie, structurally, as far as how people take in stories, I think would’ve been difficult.”

Writers James Krieg and Tim Sherdian faced the dilemma of balancing the well-known source material with the ability to take creative liberties. “The thing I think we try to do on this and all the properties we adapt from the comics is that we try to give you the movie you remembering reading – rather than it beat for beat,” Krieg told me. “So we try to collect all the moments that are iconic – as many as we can.”

“There’s no way to do beat for beat”, added Sheridan. “There’s just no way to do it. And by the way, it’s already been done. If you love it beat for beat, panel for panel: go read the comics again. They’re wonderful.”

“Reign” is the second act of an emotional saga for the Man of Steel – a character that has been a lifelong influence on several cast members. Tony Todd (the voice of Darkseid) loved flipping through the comics as a kid. “My aunt would give me $2 a week, and I would end-up spending it at a newsstand buying 80-page DC comics for 25 cents a pop. And that was my early reading material.”

Jackson (left) with writers James Krieg and Tim Sheridan

Emmy-winning character designer Phil Bourossa (“Young Justice”) is a superhero animation staple. “Every kid likes Superman… I think,” Bourassa said. “The first imagery I saw of him was probably the old George Reeves serial playing on TV at my grandmother’s house. And I remember loving the artwork of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. He did the primary design work for the Kenner Super Powers.”

Actress Toks Olagundoye (“DuckTales”) lends her voice to Cat Grant. She vividly remembers seeing the Christopher Reeve “Superman” films as a girl in Nigeria: “I watched the first three films over and over and over again.”

Cameron Monaghan, the voice of Superboy, has altered his position on Superman over the years. “I was always the kid who was a little more of the Batman kid. My best friend was the Superman and Aquaman kid.” As Monaghan got older, he began to understand the light and dark side balance in the superhero world. “The symbol of hope, I think, is very important in these character archetypes with someone like Superman,” he said. “So when I got into my late teens, I started getting more into that character. And with this film, I was able to brush up on my history of the characters a bit and dig into Superboy.”

And then there’s Jerry O’Connell. Voicing Superman, without question, is one of the highlights of his career – right up there with marrying wife Rebecca Romijn (who voices Lois Lane) and having their kids. “I’m in awe of what DC Animation does,” he said, sporting a Superman T-shirt. “They’re the best as far as I’m concerned.”

Jerry O’Connell (right) with Jackson Murphy

As for working with his wife and embodying iconic characters, O’Connell told me, “We try and do something a little different with Lois and Clark. With characters that have been done a few times – and done very well – you want to bring your own thing to it, but you don’t want to change it up too much, because you don’t want anyone in the comments section to get freaked out.”

Reign of the Supermen is the latest in a string of animated superhero hits, including Best Animated Feature Oscar frontrunners Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Incredibles 2. For Sam Liu, this is the golden age of cinematic superhero stories. “When I was a kid, we had to wait five years before one would, potentially, come out. And that’s all we got. And now, there’s a handful of them, at least, coming out every year. In animation, it’s sort of the same way. When I was doing series work, I would tell people that if I was a kid right now, my mind would be exploding. There’s so much good stuff out there.”

You can watch Reign of the Supermen on digital right now. It will be released on DVD on January 29th. As Tony Todd put it to me bluntly, “Hopefully people will just go out and spread the word. Tell people! There’s another comic book company besides… the other one.”

from Animation Scoop


GKids Acquires “Funan” for Spring 2019 Theatrical Release

GKIDS, the acclaimed producer and distributor of animation for adult and family audiences, announced it has acquired the US distribution rights for the animated feature Funan, the inspiring and emotionally-searing debut from filmmaker Denis Do, based on his own family story, which won the top prizes at the Annecy Int’l Animated Film Festival and the Animation is Film Festival. GKIDS will release the film theatrically this spring.

Funan follows Chou, a young woman living in the chaos of 1975 Cambodia, amid the arrival of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. When she and her husband are separated from their 4-year-old son during a forced exile from their home, Chou remains determined to reunite her family – even if it means risking everything.

“Denis Do has created a truly remarkable and personal film,” said David Jesteadt, GKIDS’ President. “Funan is the perfect example of animation’s ability to tell all kinds of stories, for all kinds of audiences. I can’t wait to share this special film with as many people as possible.”


Cambodia, April 1975. Chou is a young woman whose everyday world is suddenly upended by the arrival of the Khmer Rouge regime. During the chaos of the forced exile from their home, Chou and her husband are separated from their 4-year-old son, who has been sent to an unknown location. As she navigates her new reality, working in the fields day and night under the careful watch of soldiers, and surviving the small indignities and harrowing realities of the increasingly grim work camps, Chou remains steadfast in her determination to reunite her family – even if it means risking everything. Winner of the top prizes at the Annecy Animation Festival and the Animation is Film Festival, Funan is a searing and remarkable debut from filmmaker Denis Do, who uses his own family history as inspiration for a thrilling story of love, loss and enduring hope in the most trying of times. Featuring the voices of Bérénice Bejo (The Artist) and Louis Garrel (The Dreamers).

from Animation Scoop


Guests Announced For The 4th Annual GLAS Animation Festival

The 4th Annual GLAS Animation Festival is fast-approaching (mark your calendar now – its March 21-24 in Berkeley, CA) and soon they’ll be announcing competition selections, curated programs, additional special guests, and the complete festival schedule.

In the meantime, feast your eyes on the GLAS 2019 Signal Film directed by Manshen Lo and featuring music and sound by Skillbard.

GLAS has unveiled their first round of guests – a group representing a wide spectrum of independent animators, artists, educators, show creators, curators, and distributors.

The GLAS Animation Festival takes place March 21st-24th, 2018, just a quick ride away from San Francisco. GLAS introduces new ideas and expands the scope of animation by bringing new voices, new talents, new themes, and a new generation of independent filmmakers and curators to the United States. They highlight fresh voices in independent animation while curating special programs of the most significant periods of animation history that serve as an inspiration for contemporary animators.

The festival takes place at six venues including Landmark Shattuck Cinemas, California Theater, Hotel Shattuck Plaza, David Brower Center, East Bay Media Center, Berkeley Art Center, and Berkeley Public Library, all within walking distance in the heart of Downtown Berkeley.

Full festival passes are available and those admit you to the parties – or separate admission tickets to each program is also an option. Students and ASIFA members get discounts. Do not miss this incredible opportunity to have the world of animation at your feet!

More info on tickets and festival events HERE. Go!

from Animation Scoop


INTERVIEW: Vic Mignogna on the New, Improved Broly; “Dragon Ball Super: Broly”

He has muscles upon muscles … a rage beyond reason … flaming green hair … and a desire to smash. The longer he fights, the more powerful he becomes. The Incredible Hulk? Not in the Dragon Ball universe. This is Broly, the legendary Super Saiyan from Planet Vegeta. Woe to those who get in front of his fists.

But this time, in Dragon Ball Super: Broly, he is shown to be more than just a killing machine. Dragon Ball’s creator, Akira Toriyama, has endowed him with a back story that helps justify why he’s a threat to our Saiyan heroes, Goku and Vegeta.

In Japan, Broly is voiced by Bin Shimada. In America, Broly’s English voice comes from the multi-talented Vic Mignogna (pronounced “Mig-yon-a”), perhaps best known for his live action performances as Captain James T. Kirk from Star Trek: Continues (2013-2017). But a look at his listings from and My Anime List reveals hundreds of voiceover roles, including Shogo Yahagi from Megazone 23 (ADV dub), Hikaru Ichijo from Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (ADV dub), Shigeru Aoba from Neon Genesis Evangelion (2004 Director’s Cut), Hiroki Takasugi from Princess Nine, Dune and Folken Fanel from Escaflowne: The Movie (Funimation dub) and what he regards as his signature role, Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist. For Dragon Ball Super: Broly, Mignogna’s reprising a role he began 15 years earlier in Dragon Ball Z: Broly—The Legendary Super Saiyan, followed by two movies (three including the new one) and 16 video games.

On December 12th, a day before Broly’s Hollywood premiere, Mignogna discussed his role during a roundtable discussion at the W Hollywood Hotel, along with Joshua Sexton of Geek Impulse.

Joshua Sexton: What is the biggest take away for this film for you?

Vic Mignogna attends the premiere of ‘Dragon Ball Super: Broly at TCL Chinese Theatre on December 13, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for Funimation)

Vic Mignogna: My biggest take away is going to be the same one that the fans are going to take away, and that is, that this is such a wonderful take on the character of Broly. From what I understand, the original Broly was not Toriyama’s Broly. He didn’t have anything to do with those movies. So, my understanding is that this Broly is Toriyama’s vision for the character and I gotta tell ya, from the moment that I watched it, I loved the added depth and the added dimension to the character that did not ever exist.

Broly is a favorite fan villain, but he has such limited back story. He had no real development at all. So, that was one thing that I always wished were there and this movie scratches that itch very well. So, I think the people that were always fans of Broly are going to love this Broly even more because he’s got more dimension. I think you’ll actually feel for him, for why he is the way he is and what he does. And the fans that may not have been Broly fans will really enjoy him too.

JS: So with that being said—without giving away the movie obviously, unless you want to give the story away?

VM: No, I don’t want to do that. You don’t want to get killed before the movie comes out.

JS: Of course. Is it just because of Toriyama’s take on it, or, does Broly’s character develop into the years?

VM: Well, I mean, the character of Broly to this point in time is basically just a killing machine, a fighting machine.

JS: Yes.

VM: He just wants to fight, fight, fight, destroy, destroy, kill, kill, “Kakarot,” “Kakarot,” “Kakarot,” right? And while there might be some fun entertainment value to that, it does leave you wondering, “What’s this guy’s story?”

JS: Is there more?

VM: Why? Why is he the way he is and what drives him? Where’s he from? Something more than, “Oh, there was a baby crying in a cradle next to him.” Remember that? I mean, that’s a little lame. So, as much as I love him and was honored to play him, there wasn’t much more than that, and that was always something the fans would say to me. So, I think that the extra dimension and depth that they give him of his background and his history is going to be incredibly moving and compelling. You know, I think the fans are just going to love him and feel for him in a way that they never would have before because there was no backstory really before.

JS: You kind of touched on it a little bit, but how do you really feel personally the fact that Broly is going to be a part of the main story?

VM: I’m thrilled beyond words. When they contacted me 15 years ago to play Broly. I was excited to be a part of Dragon Ball. Dragon Ball is iconic. Probably one of the few anime series that was responsible for bringing anime into the mainstream. I was honored and humbled to get to play anybody. My one regret was that he wasn’t part of the real canon of the show and you know, that there wasn’t much story to him and he wasn’t part of the prime universe. So, now that this movie is coming out, I am thrilled that he isn’t just some shallow, big muscle-bound oaf who wants to fight, but a character you will actually feel for and connect with.

Bob Miller: What anecdotes can you share about your recording sessions?

VM: Oh, wow. Many years ago, I was doing an event appearance in New York and I’m pretty sure Caitlin Glass and Laura Bailey and Colleen Clinkenbeard—all Fullmetal Alchemist actresses—we were all there signing. Had a big long table and a girl came up to the table who had a prosthetic limb. She had lost her leg in an accident and she just started sobbing and telling me how much Fullmetal meant to her because she discovered it at the time she lost her leg. The same thing had happened to Ed and he kept moving forward.

It moved me so deeply … and that was the first time. There’ve now been at least two or three other people over the years that came to see me at an autograph signing who had a prosthetic limb. All of which, you know, had a great love for Fullmetal Alchemist because of what it meant to them. And I mean, you can’t buy that kind of an experience, you know what I mean? There’s no dollar value that you could ascribe to that, to that kind of privilege to be a part of something that moves people.

I’ve a room in my house that’s full, literally, of thousands of drawings and paintings and sculptures and stories that are all gifts from fans. And every time somebody hands me something that they drew or painted or sculpted I look at it for a minute, and I look at them, and I imagine them sitting in their room, for hours at a time drawing this thing or painting this thing with the expectation that they’re going to give it to me and this is that moment. They probably anticipated this moment for all the months it took them to do that thing—and I’m so humbled by that.

I know what other people in my life have done to influence me. Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, things that somebody somewhere wrote or created or acted in that inspired me and it never occurred to me that I might get the chance to be one of those people who would go on to inspire others in some way. Inspire them to try acting, inspire them to push through a sickness or a loss, overcome a relationship or an illness or a hardship. Inspire them to paint or draw or sing or write. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that, I don’t think, and I don’t want to ever take that for granted. I want to make sure that every single person who comes up to meet me at an event knows that I’m just as grateful for their kindness as I was 15 years ago when I met somebody then. I hope it never gets old. I don’t think it will.

Forbes magazine reports that in Japan, Dragon Ball Super: Broly earned the equivalent of $18 million in its first 11 days of release. Broly is slated to have its U.S. theatrical release this week, on Wednesday January 16th.

Thanks to Steven Kunz and Jennifer Cruz of Rogers & Cowan for Funimation.

from Animation Scoop


Introducing Pixar SparkShorts

Introducing Pixar SparkShorts
Introducing Pixar SparkShorts, an experimental storytelling initiative that welcomes new creative voices at Pixar Animation Studios to share their stories.

“Purl” hits the YouTube channel on Feb. 4, followed by the YouTube and YouTube Kids debuts of “Smash and Grab” on Feb. 11, and “Kitbull” on Feb. 18.

Copyright: (C) Disney•Pixar

View on YouTube


Pixar Studio Stories: Pixarpalooza | Disney•Pixar

Pixar Studio Stories: Pixarpalooza | Disney•Pixar
Once a year, Pixar employees transform from animators into rockstars and host a “battle of the bands” event. The results are totally wicked.

Visit Disney Movies Anywhere for more!




Copyright: (C) Disney•Pixar

View on YouTube


Interview With The Dreamworks Director Trio on “Bilby”

After years of producing award-winning feature-length films, DreamWorks Animation announced they were getting into the “shorts” business in November 2017. And this year their first two short films have made it onto the finalists list for the Best Animated Short Film Oscar. One of the entries is Bilby, which emerged from the DWA feature “Larrikins”, a casualty of Universal’s purchase of DWA in 2016. The trio of directors of the short reflect on their amazing journey with this story of two unlikely friends.

Jackson Murphy: Congrats on being on the Top 10 shortlist.

JP Sans: I don’t know how it feels yet. I’m still numb about it. I’ll let you know when it kicks in.

Pierre Perifel: It’s amazing. And we’re really looking forward to the 22nd, because that’s when we know about the nominations. Hopefully… we can get in there. Fingers crossed. But super exciting.

JM: A few years ago, there was DreamWorks animated film in development called “Larrikins” – an Australian outback musical. Production was cancelled on that, but yet – out of it – came this short, Bilby. So Liron, take me from that point of the cancellation of “Larrikins” to being able to start up and make “Bilby”.

Liron Topaz: The three of us worked on “Larrikins”. We worked on it for quite a bit of time. Pierre, for example, from the very beginning – from the ground up – was building and developing all these characters and this entire world. And at one point, the studio decided to stop production on this film. And these things happen. There’s a lot of different factors that go into these things, and we understand this.

But we put so much of ourselves into this process – and we put so much of our hearts and souls into this development – that we felt very heartbroken. We really wanted to make something out of it. For me, personally, it was such an amazing world that we really wanted to show everybody what this world could be.

So when they decided to cancel it, at the same time the studio opened the shorts program. And we thought, “Wouldn’t this be a great idea to utilize these bad things that happened into a great thing?” We pitched the idea. And actually at that point we already had the story – we wanted to tell our new story through these characters and this world. And we basically pitched a full running animatic to the development team. And they really liked the idea of doing a short with it, and they really liked the story.

We got the green light, and we started. I think we were the last pitch in the program, but I think we were the first one to go into production. And it was amazing. Basically, we just wanted people to see this – to see this world and these characters.

JM: Wow. That’s an incredible story. Pierre, how does it feel to get a second chance with these characters, this concept – getting that opportunity?

PP: It was… Liron really instigated the whole thing. JP and I were more… we had been working on “Larrikins” for a long, long time, so when that got stopped it was hard for us. We kind of decided to move on. And then [Liron] came and he was like, “Guys – I’ve got an idea of making a short film with it. Would you be up for it?” And at first we were like, “Oh, no, man. It was too hard.” And then he pitched the idea of “Bilby”, and we were like, “Oh, dude. It’s great. Let’s do it.”

And that felt awesome – because then it was the three of us working for a couple weeks in order to make that deadline for the last pitch of the short film program. So we worked around the clock, basically in the same little room, like three students who were back at school. Ideas, drawings, storyboards… cutting it together with sound. It felt very energetic and pumped us up big time, once again to get back on our feet. And the fact that we got green lit and that we could go ahead and being able to showcase these characters and give them a new life. Actually, we kind of changed their personalities quite a bit. But that energy was just really beneficial to us.

JM: It’s so cool and great that you guys got the chance to do this. And out of all the animated shorts I’ve watched over the past year, this has to be the sweetest of them all. JP, describe the sweet relationship between Bilby and the Baby Albatross.

JPS: When [Liron] pitched us this original concept, I got hooked right away because we’ve been on this project for so long, and we’ve been building these characters, that we fell in love with who these characters could be. The idea of creating something for the world to see – what so many people worked so hard on – was already exciting enough. But at least for me, on a personal level, I connected to what the idea could be.

We’re all fathers. We’re all parents. And we would do anything for our child – absolutely anything. And instantly I connected with that – even though the story grew from that. From the beginning, the idea of this character, Bilby, living in this world which is so dangerous and inhabitable in a way – and meeting this really cute baby bird who really has no hope of living. [Bilby] has sort of lived by himself because that’s the only way you could survive in this world – and having to just go out on a limb and try to help this baby bird that will absolutely die if he walks away… for us it was such a great contrast to tell that story.

To showcase how a character, even though from the very beginning he’s taught to survive by being alone and a little bit selfish – to open his heart and what great things can come out of it. And at the end, it was really important for us to show that out of this deed of helping this baby bird, he became a parent. He became his best friend and a long life family because of it. To me, that’s such a great story aspect – and the growth of these two characters, especially Bilby.

JM: I love the relationship. And you’re right – it’s very dangerous in the Australian outback. There’s a sequence in “Bilby” that blew my mind. It’s a continuous shot/montage – the two of them are running trying to get out of all these dangerous situations. Liron, how did you create that specific sequence?

LT: The funny thing is, when I first thought about the idea, I actually wrote it down – a rough outline of the story. And at that point, I think I wrote, “And then there’s a montage of a lot of dangerous animals – one after another – and it gets shorter and shorter.” But besides that, we didn’t really know what’s happening at that moment. So, we knew we needed that for the story… and the relationship, to get closer and for Bilby to start caring about this bird (because he starts off in the montage wanting to get rid of the bird, and at the end, he’s protecting the bird).

So there’s a big shift in their relationship through that montage. But the idea was to show how ridiculously dangerous this world could be. So we basically started brainstorming – hours after hours – of animals and environments we could use. (At one point we ran out of animals.) Fire? Water? Different elements? The big trick was: how could we connect them together? How do we tell something that feels chaotic and very dangerous, but also is very clear and easy to follow?

As we start progressing in the montage, it becomes faster and faster. And their space – how we transition from shot to shot – they become closer and closer… until at the end they’re almost at the exact same point. And at that point, it becomes almost like an animation flipbook. And I think that’s what people really like about that idea. You start getting all these ideas without really realizing what you’re looking at. We thought it was a lot of fun – and probably the part that changed the most from beginning until the end. We just kept editing it and kept iterating and changing it until it was just right for us.

JM: It is really well done. Definitely one of the highlights of “Bilby”. Purple is my favorite color, so seeing the purple eyes of the Baby Albatross was great. Pierre, tell me about choosing purple eyes for the Baby Albatross.

PP: Her eyes were [originally] blue, but I think we wanted something a little more whimsical. We make films for children, so I think we can afford a bit more fantasy. I kind of like the idea that it comes from anime influences.

JPS: I remember the bird’s eyes were kind of originally baby blue, and we talked about, how could there be more of a whimsical, magical thing to her? I remember on Friday, at the very last minute, we told our art director, “Is there any way you could shift the eye color? Let’s just brainstorm.” Over the weekend, we made four different images – with four different eye colors. Literally, it was from blue to purple. I don’t think you could tell the difference. A, B, C and D looked almost exactly the same. But all weekend… we were like, “No, B. No wait – wait – C.”

PP: I think we also wanted to make a baby girl. With blue – you didn’t really know. And for me, it was actually a baby boy. It’s very charming, I think.

JM: Yeah, perfect choice. And whimsy is the right word for that. JP, there’s a lot of epic music in “Bilby”. Tell me about getting the right person for that. And since “Larrikins” was going to be a musical, was there any consideration about doing a song in “Bilby” as well?

JPS: Great question. The main we wanted to do was no dialogue because we wanted to keep this short very universal for everybody. And also from being in animation, having no dialogue really gave us a lot of freedom for what we like the most in animation, which is acting out with the physical aspects of the expressions, emotions and poses. We knew that the music was going to be absolutely very important because it would tie everything together.

We also wanted the music to really involve a theme between the two of them and when they connect and make this bond. We were really lucky to get Ben Wallfisch. He was in talks with the studio at the time. And he was coming off a really project. We were allowed to pitch him the idea of what the short would be and see if he was interested in doing it. And he had been toying with something in animation – he had been wanting to do something.

We pitched him the same pitch we did for development, and as soon as it was over, he got it right away. Immediately. He was actually, at the time, he was going to have a baby as well. He got the relationship between the parenthood – and about the love of a family and doing anything it takes for them. And as soon as he got it, we knew he was the right guy. He started talking to us and brainstorming on very similar things that we were looking for in the music. We feel so honored that someone like Ben Wallfisch wanted to work on this short because he brought so much of the emotion that we wanted to tell through these characters.

And on the “Larrikins” side, what was great about “Larrikins” – that musical aspect of it. We love that project because it was very unique in that way. Because of the short and because of the story we wanted to tell, it had to be our own thing. I don’t think we thought, ever, of a song in this short. Because we didn’t want any dialogue, I think it lends itself to a score that Ben Wallfisch wrote for us.

PP: And we started with temp music that was very Australian inspired. Didgeridoos and drums. Very high-paced rhythm. We took that and made it so… epic.

JM: Yeah, it’s epic. It’s grand in scale. Australia is known for its laid-back, positive, fun vibe. Would you say working on “Bilby” was as laid-back and fun as it could get, or were there also some tough days working on this?

JPS: It was so much fun. I think the great thing about this experience… was that everybody was very excited to work on this short. And we wanted to make sure that the people that were excited about it would work on it. We got so lucky to have incredible artists work on it but also the energy and inspiration they had for it – and how much they put themselves into it. It was an honor for us. As artists, we know that as important as it is to have a really good story and a really good film, it’s also important to have a lot of fun in the project. It feels like that’s when you put your best foot forward.

That was equally important as to telling to the story. We wanted to make sure everybody felt like it was their own short – their own story. It wasn’t just ours, it was everybody’s. I feel like because of that, we had so much fun. And every single artist, from the technical to the artistic, put so much of their voice into it. And I think it made the short what it is. And because everybody was having so much, I can’t remember laughing so much in a 9-month span. We would go to tears sometimes… just crying… the jokes and the energy that was in the room.

PP: The cool thing was that the studio actually gave us complete creative freedom. There were barely any notes coming from the direction of the studio or the executives. So we went to town to it.

JM: After all you guys went through with “Larrikins”, for them to give you total control and freedom on everything, that’s wonderful.

from Animation Scoop


FRIDAY at MoMA: George Griffin presents “Lineage” and a History of British Animation

This Friday, January 11th, at MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art), award-winning animator George Griffin presents Lineage, his smart and funny mash-up of animation history, documentary self-portraiture, and conceptualism. Drawing (literally) upon an entire century of animation techniques. Griffin will also introduce a program on the history of British animation.

This special animation program is part of To Save and Project: The 16th MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation. The Griffin presentation begins at 4:00 p.m. at Titus 2 (Floor T2, Theater 2). The full list of films being screened is below.

Lineage. 1979. USA. Directed and animated by George Griffin. New digital preservation courtesy IndieCollect.

A History of British Animation, 1906–94

Take a whirlwind tour of British history through this stirring selection of recently preserved animated films from the BFI National Archive. Selected by Jez Stewart, the program encompasses turn-of-the-century trick films and anti-Nazi cartoon propaganda, psychedelia of the 1960s and post-Thatcherite class satire. All films preserved by the BFI; descriptions by Jez Stewart. Program approximately 105 min.

Sorcerer’s Scissors. 1907. Directed and animated by Walter Booth. Mixing live-action, cut-out animation, statue smashing, and dancing scissors, this is one of the earliest animated films in the BFI National Archive.

Animated Doll and Toy Town Circus. 1912. Directed and animated by G. A. Smith. Stop-motion film using toys and dolls. A female doll smokes. Circus scenes with horses and clowns.

Ever Been Had? 1917. Directed and animated by Dudley Buxton. The man on the Moon meets the last Englishman on Earth, in a clever mix of propaganda, science fiction, and comedy, with a killer punchline.

Booster Bonzo; Or, Bonzo in Gay Paree. 1925. Britain’s answer to Felix the Cat hitches a ride to Paris, chats up a barmaid, and goes a little overboard on vin rouge.

Shadows. 1928. Directed and animated by Joe Noble. Sammy and his dog Sausage were a cartoon double act of the 1920s, but they costarred with their creator,  the innovative animator Joe Noble. Cleverly interacting with his pen-and-ink creations, in this episode Joe comes off worse in a bout of shadowboxing.

Fox Hunt. 1936. Directed and animated by Hector Hoppin and Anthony Gross. A Technicolor follow-up to the modernist masterpiece Joie de Vivre (1934), traveling from the English countryside to its new suburban towns.

Adolf’s Busy Day. 1940. Directed and animated by Lawrence Wright. Wright was an architect who turned his hobby into a vocation, using animation to take Herr Hitler down a peg or two in this comic propaganda cartoon.

Do It Yourself Cartoon Kit. 1959. Produced by Biographic. An irreverent but affectionate poke at the pretensions of the industry, enlivened by the creative spirit and offbeat humor of Bob Godfrey.

Transformer. 1968. Produced by Trickfilms. All aboard the psychedelic steam engine. Key creatives from Yellow Submarine (1968), including Heinz Edelmann, produced this stunning animation festival trailer.

The Ladder. 1967. Directed and animated by George Dunning. This Dunning short sees his art pared back to the barest of brushstrokes. Simple daubs of color make up our cast of characters in a stark tale that elevates cartoon logic to a fine art.

Mr. Pascal. 1979. Directed and animated by Alison De Vere. A spiritual tale of remarkable humanity, going beyond religion to show faith in the value of small gestures of kindness.

Night Club. 1983. Directed and animated by Jonathan Hodgson. A vicarious night out lived through an animated sketchbook, offering a boiling, colorful study of human behavior laid down to a hypnotic post-punk beat.

Britannia. 1993. Directed and animated by Joanna Quinn. A concise, caustic history of the British Empire, which sees the British bulldog let off the leash but brought firmly to heel.

Queen’s Monastery. 1998. Directed and animated by Emma Calder. An acrobat returns from the military to the woman who loves him, but comes back a changed man. Love and war played out to the music of Leos Janácek in a strikingly unique watercolor style.

from Animation Scoop


Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse” Wins Golden Globe Award

The infamous Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced their winners tonight – and included in the mix was the winner for Best Animated Feature. Sony’s Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse won the top honor. Producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller accepted the award and spoke – and thanked everyone including Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. They were accompanied on stage by directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman and producers Amy Pascal and Avi Arad. The Golden Globes were awarded in a ceremony from the Beverly Hilton.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller accept on behalf of the 800 person crew.

Congratulations Spiderverse – and to all the nominees. Now, onto the Annies – and the Oscars!

Left to right: directors Rodney Rothman, Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti

from Animation Scoop


Season Two Trailer: DreamWorks “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle”

From executive producer Scott Fellows, the world-famous talking moose and flying squirrel are back in season 2 of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, a serialized comedy divided by unique arcs about two goofball best friends who routinely find themselves thrust into harrowing situations but end up saving the day time and again. The series was recently nominated for three Annie Awards, two for Character Design in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production and one for Production Design in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production.

DreamWorks The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle premieres January 11th on Amazon Prime Video. Here’s the new trailer:

The first arc of the season, “Almost Famoose” has Rocky & Bullwinkle go viral as famous rock stars followed by their lofty treasure hunting plans in “The Legends of the Power Gems” arc, and last but not least the duo embarks on their biggest adventure yet in and as “Amazamoose and Squirrel Wonder!” As always Rocky and Bullwinkle’s innocent and silly ambitions end up dovetailing with Fearless Leader’s sinister plans to take over the world, our heroes are set on a collision course with notorious super spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. The thirteen episode season also includes special voice guests Mark Hamill, Mario Lopez, Weird Al Yankovic and Lil Rel Howery!

from Animation Scoop


Restored Classic Animation Highlights 2019 ‘UCLA Festival of Preservation’

This year for the first time, the bi-annual UCLA Festival of Preservation will be presented as a long weekend event, instead of one spread out over a whole month, as in previous years. For three days next month, February 15-17, the archive will present – from 9am to midnight each day – a large selection of newly preserved (most presented in 35mm) features, shorts and television broadcasts the archive has restored over the last two years. Many of these films are rare – or have not been seen in this format and condition in decades. The festival is held at the Billy Wilder Theater in the Hammer Museum, in Westwood, California.

Classic cartoons will be showcased in a special screening beginning at 11am (10:56am to be precise) on Sunday February 17th. A majority of the program is material funded by Asifa-Hollywood – these include a trio of rare 1930s Terrytoons, a duo of Technicolor George Pal Puppetoons and a classic Max Fleischer Betty Boop cartoon.

Jasper Goes Hunting (1944)

Restoration funding provided by The International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood.

George Pal won an Honorary Academy Award in 1944 for the development of “novel methods and techniques in the production of short subjects known as Puppetoons.” His achievement was the creation of “replacement animation”—a method still employed by puppet animators today. Jasper Goes Hunting perfectly illustrates this effect as little Jasper daydreams of elephant hunting through a Technicolor Congo. This short is notable for an unusual cameo using (spoiler alert!) Warner Bros. cartoon star Bugs Bunny (voiced by Mel Blanc, animated by Bob McKimson) in a Paramount short—the sort of cross-studio, once-in-a-lifetime team up that literally never happened again—until Who Framed Roger Rabbit 44 years later!—Jerry Beck

35mm, Technicolor, 7 min. Production: Paramount Pictures. Distribution: Paramount Pictures. Producer: George Pal. Director: George Pal.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive. Laboratory services by YCM Laboratories, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Inc., UCLA Film & Television Archive, Fotokem. Special thanks to Paramount Pictures Archives.

A Hatful of Dreams (1944)

Preservation funding provided by The International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood.

George Pal’s stop motion Puppetoons were peopled with all types of characters. Two of his most popular were a pair of lovestruck kids named Punchy and Judy. Here, down-on-his-luck Punchy obtains a magical straw hat from a plucky talking horse and transforms himself into Aladdin and, with the official permission of DC Comics, Superman. Hoping to impress Judy, Punchy’s delusions of grandeur only land him in jail. The talking horse is a witness at Punchy’s trial and cajoles the judge, arresting Officer Moriarty and members of the jury to test the hat, causing their secret selves to emerge inbound, a hilarious spectacle as their unfettered dreams and desire hold sway. —Jerry Beck

35mm, Technicolor, 7 min. Production: Paramount Pictures. Distribution: Paramount Pictures. Producer: George Pal. Director: George Pal.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive. Preserved from the 35mm nitrate Technicolor successive exposure camera negative and an a 35mm acetate track positive. Laboratory services by YCM Laboratories, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Inc., UCLA Film & Television Archive, Fotokem. Special thanks to Paramount Pictures Archives.

The Old Man of the Mountain (1932)

Preservation funding provided by David Stenn.

The Fleischer Brothers’ third and final pairing of Betty Boop and Cab Calloway, The Old Man of the Mountain (preceded by Minnie the Moocher, 1932, and Snow-White, 1933) opens with Calloway and his orchestra performing a brief version of “Minnie the Moocher” in live action. That’s the last we see of Calloway on screen but he voices all of the characters to come, except for Betty, who’s voiced by Bonnie Poe. Things get animated as the country animals raise a musical alarm, warning of The Old Man on the Mountain, to the melody of Calloway’s composition. Her vacation interrupted, Betty hikes to the peak where she confronts the bearded hermit who, at first, comes off like a misunderstood hepcat: “You’ve got to kick the gong, to get along with me,” he sings in “You’ve Got To Hi-Di-Hi.” When he turns lascivious, Betty makes a break for it and is saved by the animals who race to her rescue. —Jerry Beck

35mm, b/w, 7 min. Production: Fleischer Studios. Distribution: Paramount Pictures. Producer: Max Fleischer. Director: Dave Fleischer. Cast: Cab Calloway and his Orchestra.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive. Preserved from the 35mm nitrate picture and track negatives a 35mm nitrate dupe negative. Laboratory services by YCM Laboratories, Audio Mechanics, Simon Daniel Sound, DJ Audio, Inc., Special thanks to Paramount Pictures Archives, the British Film Institute. A complete list of the program is below.

Pink Elephants (1937)

Preservation funding provided by The International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood.

In this absolutely lunatic chase comedy, Paul Terry’s most enduring character, Farmer Al Falfa, is run out of his bed and through the house by pink pachyderms conjured when his pet goat eats a few beer cans during a midnight stroll (a scene censored for later Saturday morning kidvid television). The herd of spectral, dipsomaniacal elephants, evoking hi-dee-ho man Cab Calloway along the way, torment Al Falfa until the clever farmer plots his revenge. This is the only Terrytoon co-directed by talented Dan Gordon and the last cartoon at the studio to feature the work of future animation superstars Joe Barbera, Jack Zander and George Gordon, all of whom would leave Terry to reboot MGM’s cartoon studio in Culver City.—Jerry Beck

35mm, b/w, 7 min. Production: Terrytoons. Distribution: Twentieth-Century Fox Film Corporation. Director: Paul Terry and Dan Gordon.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive. Preserved from the 35mm nitrate camera negative and a 35mm nitrate print. Laboratory services by Fotokem, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Inc., UCLA Film & Television Archive. Special thanks to Paramount Pictures Archives.

The Banker’s Daughter (1933)

Preservation funding provided by The International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood.

Releasing a new cartoon to theaters every two weeks, producer Paul Terry had the idea to create an animated movie serial parodying 1890s melodrama. This was the proposed first installment with four more “chapters” to be released over the next two months. The concept didn’t catch on, but the characters and tropes did—zaftig Fanny Zilch, the damsel in distress, pursued by mustachioed villain Oil Can Harry in his opera hat and the dashing (albeit effeminate) hero Strongheart. The cliffhanger situations and operetta format became a Terry studio staple over the next 20 years, including the return of Oil Can Harry himself, tropes later adopted by Terry’s 1940s-50s “Mighty Mouse” cartoons. Here’s where that all began.—Jerry Beck

35mm, b/w, 6 min. Production: Terrytoons. Distribution: Audio-Cinema, Inc. Director: Frank Moser. Screenwriter: Paul Terry, Frank Moser. Music: Philip A. Scheib.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive. Preserved from a 35mm acetate composite fine grain master. Laboratory services by Fotokem, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Inc., UCLA Film & Television Archive. Special thanks to Paramount Pictures Archives.

Caviar (1930)

Preservation funding provided by The International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood.

The first release from Terrytoons, a new studio run by animators Paul Terry and Frank Moser, formerly of Van Beuren’s popular silent-era Aesop’s Fables. Obtaining a contract from Educational Pictures (“The Spice of the Program”) for 26 sound cartoons a year, Terry made ‘em fast and cheap—but they are not without their charms. In his first year, every cartoon was named after a food that would suggest a setting for the gags and musical score. In this case the gags revolved around life in the USSR; the music, a symphony of pseudo Russian melodies. Note, that’s composer Philip A. Scheib seen in silhouette in an opening prologue.—Jerry Beck

35mm, b/w, 7 min. Production: Terrytoons. Distribution: Educational Film Exchanges, Inc. Director: Paul Terry, Frank Moser. Screenwriters: Paul Terry, Frank Moser.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive. Preserved from a 35mm nitrate print. Laboratory services by Fotokem, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Inc., UCLA Film & Television Archive, Special thanks to Paramount Pictures Archives.

Freight Yard Symphony (1963)

Preservation funding provided by the National Film Preservation Foundation.

This early UCLA student film by noted visual effects pioneer Robert Abel (1937-2001) employs a mixed media approach to distill the kinetic energy of an industrial train depot into bold graphic elements. With a jazz score, Piet Mondrian-inspired lines and Oskar Fischinger-style movement, the highly-accomplished animated short evokes the modernist works of Saul Bass and Ray and Charles Eames.

16mm, color, 6 min. The Motion Picture Division, Department of Theater Arts, U.C.L.A. An Animation Workshop Film. Director: Robert Abel. Story and Design: Robert Abel. Music: Victor Feldman.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive. Laboratory services by FotoKem, Audio Mechanics, Simon Daniel Sound, DJ Audio, Inc. Preserved from 16mm original A/B positives, 16mm mag track and 16mm print.

The cartoons will be followed by a program (at 1:11pm) of newly restored Laurel and Hardy shorts, featuring Perfect Day (1929), which was restored thanks to an incredibly successful UCLA Spark crowdfunding campaign, The Battle Of The Century (1927), Hog Wild (1930) and Brats (1930).

This event is at the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, California. Admission to the Festival of Preservation is $50. for blanket admission to all shows, all three days. Advance tickets for just the animation program is $10. click here – or $9 at the box office on the day of the show.

For more information on this festival – click here.

from Animation Scoop


FIAF Announces 2019 “Animation First” Festival

Celebrating France’s rich tradition as a pioneer of animation, the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) announces the 2019 Animation First festival. Building on its wildly successful inaugural year, the second edition of Animation First showcases the vast history, enduring ingenuity, and diversity of France’s renowned animation studios and schools. This year’s schedule includes 17 premieres, provoking feature-length films, exciting shorts, immersive exhibits, video game demonstrations, panels with filmmakers, a special spotlight on the City of Bordeaux’s animation industry, and much more. It will take place from Friday, January 25th through Sunday, January 27th, 2019, at FIAF. Tickets are available at

Legendary director Michel Ocelot is this year’s guest of honor, and the festival will open with his groundbreaking feature, Kirikou and the Sorceress, celebrating its 20th anniversary. When it was first released in 1998, this enchanting film fusing African myth, stunning imagery, and a sophisticated sensibility that attracted both adults and children, broadened the scope of what animation could accomplish on screen.

Ocelot’s work will be surveyed through screenings of two other feature films: Azur & Asmar: The Princes’ Quest (2006) and Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess (2016). In addition, Ocelot will pay homage to the filmmaker Isao Takahata, a co-founder of Japan’s legendary Studio Ghibli who passed away earlier this year. He will introduce a screening of Takahata’s feature film Only Yesterday (1992). Ocelot will also curate a program of influential shorts and participate in a discussion about his body of work.

This year’s Animation First festival will present no fewer than eight US and nine New York premieres, from feature-length films to award-winning shorts. Denis Do’s Funan, which won the Cristal Award for best feature at the 2018 Annecy International Animation Film Festival, will receive its anticipated New York premiere. This harrowing and semi-autobiographical film, set during the Khmer Rouge uprising in Cambodia, follows a young mother whose 4-year-old son was taken away from her.

Animation First will also present a selection of notable and award-winning shorts from Annecy, the most prestigious animation film festival in the world, as well as a program featuring all of the animated shorts nominated for the 2019 César Award in that category.

Continuing on last year’s successes, several programs will showcase the breadth of French animation, including provocative works geared toward more mature audiences. Erotic shorts return after a sold-out screening in 2018. In addition, the Late Night Chills program looks at the wealth of science-fiction and suspense shorts currently being produced. Other screenings will bring together noteworthy short films in documentary and humor genres.

Animation First will also look back to France’s historic contributions to the form with a special focus on the pinscreen instrument. Developed by the husband-wife team of Alexandre Alexeïeff and Claire Parker starting in the 1930s, the pinscreen is a device composed of thousands of holes in which pins slide back and forth. As they slide in and out of their holes, the pins cast shadows of varying length on the screen, which create unique and exquisite textural effects that cannot be reproduced digitally. Traditional stop-motion techniques are then employed to animate the images. A screening of short films, from 1933’s Une Nuit sur le mont chauve to 2018’s Etreintes, demonstrate the striking effects produced by this painstaking method. Further exploring this medium, Animation First will present a panel discussion with pinscreen artists as well as two workshops demonstrating how the device works.

Clair Parker in front of her pin screen

In conjunction with Animation First, Times Square Arts will present the short film I was crying out at life (2009) by artist Vergine Keaton as its nightly Midnight Moment throughout January. Keaton is one of at least 16 female filmmakers whose work will be screened throughout the festival.

In addition to the film screenings, FIAF will explore myriad facets of France’s prolific animation industry through exhibits, panels, discussions, and hands-on workshops. Visitors will be able to play a selection of French video games, including a demonstration of Assassin’s Creed organized in partnership with the City of Bordeaux, and experience an augmented reality exhibit through a special app in FIAF’s first-floor gallery.

In a special program, co-directors Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec will present an exclusive look at the work-in-progress The Swallows of Kabul, based on Yasmina Khadra’s novel about life under Taliban rule, and discuss their collaboration on this upcoming feature.

“It is thrilling to bring Michel Ocelot to New York audiences. The release of Kirikou and the Sorceress is among the most transformative moments in French animation from the past several decades,” said festival co-curators Delphine Selles-Alvarez, FIAF’s Film Curator, and Catherine Lamairesse, Director of Special Projects at FIAF. “But Kirikou is only one example of artistic innovation in French animation that Animation First will explore, from the invention of the legendary pinscreen instrument to contemporary works in augmented reality and video games.”

This year’s festival was conceived in partnership with the City of Bordeaux. In recent years, the region has become a burgeoning market for animation, gaming, and virtual reality, attracting the Cartoon Movie and new Ubisoft studio. Seven films and two video games from Bordeaux Games were produced in the city and will be featured in this year’s edition.

“It’s an honor to be able to showcase Bordeaux’s talented artists and filmmakers on this side of the Atlantic,” said Alain Juppé, the mayor of Bordeaux. “It has been a priority of mine to support the creative industries within our region, so I am delighted that they will be presented as part of FIAF’s Animation First festival.”

Highlights include:

• Michel Ocelot, trailblazing filmmaker, to be Guest of Honor
• 20th Anniversary Screening of Ocelot’s landmark film, Kirikou and the Sorceress, opens festival
• More than 17 US and NY Premieres, including Funan by Denis Do
• Works by 16 emerging and established female filmmakers
• Focus on 85 years of Pinscreen Animation through screenings and workshops
• This year’s César-nominated films and the Best of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival anchor shorts programs
• Extraordinary shorts spanning sci-fi, suspense, documentary, erotic, humor, and more genres
• Isao Takahata of Japan’s Studio Ghibli honored
• Special work-in-progress presentation of The Swallows of Kabul
• Interactive exhibits illuminate worlds of virtual and augmented reality, video games, and the history of French animation
• Times Square Arts Midnight Moment features rising French filmmaker Vergine Keaton
• Partnership with City of Bordeaux shines light on its animation industry
• Panels, discussions, workshops, and much more

For more information – Visit the 2019 Animation First website.

from Animation Scoop


ANIME INTERVIEW: Jason Douglas, the Voice of Beerus in “Dragon Ball Super”

When Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama continued his franchise with the movie Dragon Ball Z: Battle of The Gods (2013 Japan; 2014 U.S.), he introduced a character whose powers exceeded our Super Saiyan hero, Goku. His name: Beerus, god of destruction. Woe to those who rouse his temper. With but a wave of his claw, a whole planet could poof out of existence. Luckily, Beerus was impressed by Goku’s battle tenacity to go no further than a sparring match, while his taste buds were appeased by Earth’s culinary delights—like pizza.

The purple feline popped up again in a sequel movie, Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection of ‘F’ (2015), followed by regular appearances in a TV series, Dragon Ball Super (2015-2018), and now another movie, Dragon Ball Super: Broly (December 14, 2018 Japan; January 16, 2019 U.S.).

Beerus’s Japanese voice is provided by Kōichi Yamadera, while his English voice comes from Jason Douglas, who records in Texas for Funimation. Douglas is an accomplished actor known in live action as Satan in Preacher (2018) and Tobin in The Walking Dead (2015-2018). His voiceover work has surpassed 200 TV series, including such characters such as Il Palazzo in Excel Saga (1999-2000), Major Miles in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009-2012), Aokiji in One Piece Film Z (2012), Miche Zacharius in Attack on Titan (2013-2017), and Tomomi Masaoka in Psycho Pass (2014). For Dragon Ball Super: Broly, in addition to Beerus he reprises King Cold, whom he earlier voiced in Dragon Ball Z Kai.

During Anime Expo 2017, Douglas had described Beerus as “a force of nature. His reactions, his idiosyncrasies, the way he fights, his personality, that’s really sort of a sort of a sentient face on something that’s beyond persona. It’s the ultimate destructive force, like what we would think of as a hurricane or an earthquake.” How has Beerus changed since then?

Jason Douglas

Douglas discussed his high-profile role in an interview on December 12th, 2018, a day prior to the English language premiere of Dragon Ball Super: Broly in Hollywood.

Bob Miller: At Anime Expo, you had said that Beerus was like a force of nature.

Jason Douglas: Sure.

BM: Now you’ve seen Broly, how has he evolved, if at all?

JD: When we met Beerus for the first time, we got to see him full-force fighting Goku. We also got to see him at kind of the height of his angstiness and some of his rage, and we’ve seen his destructive power. And I think as the franchise has evolved throughout the movies and as well as Super and now into Broly, I think we’ve now seen a more—dare I say—human side of Beerus, a vulnerable side. For me, I think he’s evolved as a character that has greater depth than we might have originally anticipated.

He’s excited about the potential of an existential challenge to his status as a destructor. But he also gets excited about tasting a new food, or filling his belly and refilling it. And there’s something about Beerus that is not quite satisfied to merely sit on the throne of immortality and occasionally hakai an offending planet. And so to me, that’s one of the most interesting things about how Beerus has evolved, is we’re seeing a much softer side to him, which I think makes him fascinating.

For the audience, I think it makes him intriguing and fascinating. But I also wonder if it doesn’t present a vulnerability as a destructor.

BM: And more satisfying to you as an actor.

JD: Well, it is satisfying because he’s not just a flat character. He has these levels. At one moment he seems like a malevolent force. Another minute, he’s stumbling over himself because he’s just so enamored by these flavors of something that Bulma has created, or he’s thrown into a fit of rage because he’s denied the opportunity to be the first to taste something or to get to it in time. So hitting all of those notes while still maintaining a core of who the character is certainly the challenge of the actor, and it’s what makes it, I think, most interesting.

BM: Now how do you approach the voice itself of that character? How would you describe it?

JD: Well, when I’m on my way to the studio, and particularly when I get into the booth, I sort of start swallowing in here, and then I sort of find a place that’s more in the back of my throat, and in my head a little bit. So I dip down into a lower register, and then I also found this idea that it’s not that he’s British, but sort of mid-Atlantic. So he’s clipped his diction as perfect as it needs to be, and very direct. It’s very erudite. His vocabulary I think is often the smartest on the show, and we find places sometimes where there’s room to interpret how to translate something. I always lean into the idea that, let’s have him sound smart. Let’s really lean into the idea that he’s a thinker, and he has a kind of dignity that you would expect from a king or somewhat of royal lineage, but he’s not someone that is—you can’t say that he’s either malevolent or benevolent. He sort of transcends that idea of good versus evil.

That’s where the idea of him being a force of nature comes from, is that he serves a kind of higher purpose. He doesn’t need power for power’s sake. He’s not trying to satisfy some lust for power, like some big noble climber. He’s not. He’s the opposite of Frieza, who just lusts for power for power’s sake. He has it, he’s not terribly impressed with himself because of it, you know what I mean? I think there’s this idea that he does recognize the dignity and the necessity and the sense of purpose that his office has. But I just think that he’s been at it for so long that he’s hungry. We see that literally, he’s hungry all the time, he’s completely insatiable. But I think that’s a stand-in for something, for a bigger idea, that absolute power is ultimately not on its own. It’s not a thing unto itself. So I find it interesting, the idea that the show—at least as far as Beerus’ character arc—is gently exploring. We really haven’t dived into that philosophy yet.

I think if we ever did a story on Beerus or a side story where we got to know a little bit more about him, that may be something that we get into. But yeah, my approach to the voice was originally like I do any character, which is to find something that resonates with what I’m seeing, and also it’s something that connects me. So when I do the Beerus voice, it connects me, the actor, to what I’m seeing on the screen, and it makes sense. When there’s a disconnect— sometimes as an actor you walk away from a show, particularly if it’s a lower budget show and they don’t have the budget, they don’t have the time, they might bring you in at the last minute on a character, and you’re just there and you do your best to do the lines, which you may not connect with the character in the way that you want to, and you might leave the studio feeling unsatisfied. We never felt like that was an option for this character, or for this show.

It had to be something that we all felt like, “Oh yeah, that’s right. That’s it. That’s the character.” By now, I’ve done Beerus enough that it’s easy to slip into his voice, and I do it for fans all the time when I meet them in person as they want to hear me say something as good, but it wasn’t as if it just came easily or naturally. It was something that was really discovered through a process early on.

Forbes magazine reports that in Japan, Dragon Ball Super: Broly earned the equivalent of $18 million in its first 11 days of release. Broly is slated to have its U.S. theatrical release on January 16th, 2019.

from Animation Scoop


ANIME REVIEW: “ReLife: Final Arc”

The 13-episode broadcast series ReLife (2016) felt like it ended prematurely, with the main characters’ stories unfinished. The four-part Final Arc OAV (2018) brings the story to a satisfying conclusion.

Arata Kaizaki (voice by Micah Solusod), had been a promising high school student. Warm and caring, he brought out the best in the people around him. But he wasn’t prepared for the brutal corporate world he entered after graduating from grad school. At 27, Kaizaki quit his first full-time job after only three months—something almost unheard-of in Japan, even in the post-Bubble economy.

Although he supported himself with a part-time job and subsidies from his parents, he’d essentially become a NEET: someone Not in Education, Employment or Training. The term was coined to describe underemployed or unemployed young Japanese men who are perceived as not contributing to the economy or society. The term hasn’t really caught on the US, although many people here are in comparable situations.

Things were looking pretty bleak when Ryo Yoake (Josh Grelle) told him the ReLIFE Corporation would support him for one year, if he’d take a mysterious capsule that would make him look like a 17-year-old–and go back to high school for another senior year. Although he didn’t realize it, the ReLIFE company was using him to test a therapy designed to turn NEETs into happy, productive citizens.

In Back to the Future, Marty McFly tried to correct his life by re-working his parents’ past. Kaizaki found himself in a new school, trying to deal with new kids who were actually 10 years younger. He also struggled academically, as it had been 10 years since he’s done high school math. (How do you calculate the surface area of a cone?)

But Kaizaki persevered. The kind-hearted man the business world nearly destroyed re-emerged: His thoughtful encouragement led his new friends to find better solutions to their problems. As the series neared its end, he helped bright, repressed Chiziru Hishiro (Jeannie Tirado) emerge from her shell and make the friends for the first time.

The Final Arc OAV picks up in the spring of Kaizaki’s relived senior year. As the school cultural festival approaches, he becomes increasingly aware that his time is limited. Kaizaki has bonded with several of his classmates, and is saddened by the knowledge that ReLife will erase their memories of him. Ryo assures him that his friendship will have a positive impact on the other students’ lives, even if they don’t remember who led them in the right direction. But that’s cold comfort: Who wants to become the face no one can identify in an old photo?

Kaizaki’s projected disappearance serves as a metaphor for the fate of the real NEETS. Having failed to find a berth in the new economy, they no longer have a place in society. Their limited financial projects make it virtually impossible for them to marry or have children. Few young Japanese women are willing to sacrifice their increasing freedom and salaries to wed a loser with no prospects. Many NEETS have effectively disappeared from the social scene.

As they work on the cultural festival and stumble into a maladroit courtship, Chiziru begins to suspect that Kaizaki is a ReLife subject—as is she. Her handler, An Onoya (Kristen McGuire) refuses to confirm her suspicions. Onoya reminds Chiziru that ReLife participants also have their memories erased and they’re forbidden to contact their high school companions when they return to adult life.

Both Kaizaki and Chiziru prove to be successful test subjects. Their return to high school enables them to overcome their personal problems and live more productive lives. But they’re both haunted by vague memories of a romance, until a pair of phone strap charms triggers a reunion that will remind viewers of Your Name.

On one level, the ReLife and Final Arc are examples of the high school romance, a popular anime genre. But the series stands out for its handling of the NEETS, an increasingly marginalized population who have little hope of obtaining anything approaching the middle class life they knew as children. Unlike their American counterparts, Japanese animators are depicting real social problems spawned by the rapidly growing economic inequality.

ReLife: Final Arc
Funimation: $29.98 2 discs, DVD and Blu-ray

from Animation Scoop


Interview: Animator/Director Isamu Imakake and Producer Hisaaki Takeuchi talk “The Laws of the Universe”

Humans come from Venus. Earth has a primary god, Alpha, married to a mother goddess, Gaius. Under their guidance, plus cycles of reincarnation and evolution and good behavior, one can achieve enlightenment. Meanwhile, five university kids are endowed with powers to fight evil space reptilians who, as it turns out, may have the capacity for love.

Such is the scenario painted by The Laws of the Universe (UFO Gakuen no Himitsu), a series of four films from Japan’s H.S. Pictures Studio, distributed in the U.S. by Eleven Arts. Part Zero premiered October 10th, 2015. This year, Part One premiered at the Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles on October 6th. The producer, Hisaaki Takeuchi and director, Isamu Imakake , came to Los Angeles in December to promote the film for Oscar consideration.

Imakake has contributed to several significant anime productions throughout his 30-year career, among them Aim for the Top! Gunbuster, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, The Irresponsible Captain Tylor and Cowboy Bebop.

“When I was in elementary school, I saw Uchû senkan Yamato / Space Battleship Yamato (1974),” he recalls. “I got so excited when my brother took me. I was inspired by the universe and the drama between Kodai and Yuki.”

Imakake regards himself as “almost 100% self-trained. Hayao Miyazaki was one of the most inspiring. The first anime that I created was a paper anime. I made holes in the paper, as a high school student. After I graduated from high school, I went to Tokyo, and there I attended a special school for animation.”

The young artist freelanced at Studio Gainax, where he worked on the six-part OVA (Original Video Animation, or direct-to-video) series, Aim for the Top! Gunbuster (1988).

“When I started in this industry, I did a lot of work. The important thing is to create these stories, but the most important thing is, I feel, is a purity—this spirit of oneself. In anime, you have to make that image alive. In order to do that, you need to be pure, and enjoy it. Those are things that I really think are important,” he says.

Producer, Hisaaki Takeuchi (left) with animator/director, Isamu Imakake (right)

Imakake worked as an in-betweener on the six-part OVA series, Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket (1989). “The one thing I experienced with this was I met this person, Mr. Kamoto, and he’s the guy that brought me in to Cowboy Bebop [as a “set designer”]. So our relationship through Gundam was significant in my career.”

On Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (1990), “That was my first animation where I wrote the original genga [key animation],” Imakake says. “I was the head of animation, for the first time. For me, I wrote the genga where they arrived in Paris. Gratan I and Gratan II, I wrote everything. I designed it. Animated.”

On The Irresponsible Captain Tylor (1993), he says, “I did the mecha designs. So the person I worked together with on Tylor, now I’m involved with in The Laws of the Universe as second head director. We’ve had a good relationship since then. So it’s all connected,” Imakake says.

On Cowboy Bebop (1998), “I did set design. But together with the director I worked with creating the total atmosphere, the environments. Backgrounds. I co-ordinated everything. It was a very exciting job. I haven’t done the theatrical version,” he says.

Cowboy Bebop used a handheld camera effect during fight scenes which, according to Imakake, was a “first” for anime. “This was when 3D computer graphics came in. We really developed using these techniques.”

In the mid-90s, Isamu Imakake worked on a controversial TV series that he prefers not be named, where he felt “I spiritually didn’t feel comfortable”—and he consequently left the project. His wife introduced him to Ryuho Okawa, controversial founder of the Happy Science religious group and the Happiness Realization political party in Japan. Okawa enlisted Imakake to help make feature-length anime promoting his religious philosophy.

Says Imakake, “In 2000, I was called in to do The Laws of the Sun as a project. I really really liked it. I felt fulfillment. I felt very comfortable and at the same time, I realized how challenging this anime was. I was fulfilled but like it was like the challenge was going to continue on. So I felt there was a lot of potential in this field of animation.”

By “field,” Imakake is referring to “The state of religious art. Like Michaelangelo, right? He drew the painting on the ceilings. At that time he drew as a painting. He was telling a story through painting. If he had a technical grasp of creating anime or moving story, he probably would be doing a great great job using animation. That’s what I’m trying for.”

Imakake progressed to become a director for Okawa with The Laws of Eternity (2006), followed by The Mystical Laws (2012), The Laws of the Universe: Part Zero (2015) and Part One (2018). Part Two and Part Three are in the works.

“For The Laws of the Universe, I created all the character designs,” Imakake says. “But when I decided on a character, I did not design on today’s style because the theme is so big. So I was imagining, not just 10 years from now, 20 years from now, even a hundred years in the future, or maybe a thousand years into the future, how the people would see those characters and how they would relate to it. A much bigger painting I have in my mind.”

Although Japan’s anime industry switched from paper to digital in 2011, Imakake says he prefers to draw on paper for his animation, which is then digitized for production. “Definitely paper. But, for The Laws of the Universe, the character designs were done by tablet. So getting the ideas out, everything’s on paper.”

In November 2018, Mirai director Mamoru Hosoda mentioned a concern that Japanese feature animation will soon dispense with the traditional hand-drawn approach in favor of 3D CG, like the films of Disney and Pixar. Does Imakake concur?

“Eventually, I think so,” he says. “But CG costs more money, right? So there’s a budget issue. We don’t have as many high-skilled 3D creators in Japan, yet. It’s a time-consuming thing, either drawing by hand or 3D, it’s the same in time constraints, anyway.”

Hisaaki Takeuchi, one of four producers on Laws of the Universe, indicates Part One was made in 2D at a budget of 6 million yen, plus promotional costs, far cheaper than making a 3D CG film. “Even though 3D would be a high budget, we still feel that 2D is more important as you can see with [Studio] Ghibli and Hosoda-san and Dragon Ball. All this history and Japanese culture that we have established is still here. So we want to continue on with 2D for awhile.”

Laws of the Universe is Takeuchi’s first animated project. “I liked Disney animation, like Peter Pan, when I was younger, especially in middle school age,” he says. “The reason is because you can experience the dream work which we can’t experience in reality. I really liked that. Especially with Disney, the themes of love, dreams and happiness.

All these things are expressed through the characters. So, in watching the animation you can become part of the character. You can actually go into the same world together with the character. The music, sound, the character and the environmental—everything comes together. That’s the one big backbone with Disney works. I really like that.”

Who is the intended audience for this film? Takeuchi responds, “Our target is women. The reason is because they can see Zamza, the lady girl, [Queen of the Reptilians] being aggressive. How Zamza’s mindset is changed during the course of the film from imperialistic to realizing the importance of love and harmony. In that aspect, women is one of the targets.

“Also, the theme is the universe. So, many people who are interested in space people as well as the mystical part of the universe. Those are two targets that we have.”

Delving more into the backstory of Laws, Takeuchi says, “There are Venusians living on Venus, but when Venus was destroyed, or vanished (because of the age of the stars; stars vanish, right? Because they get old as well), all the Venusians came to Earth, to start a new life as Earthlings. That’s a myth story.

“There’s probably people who flew in with a spaceship from Venus, but also their spirit, after they died, they flew in to Earth in spirit and born as Earthlings.

“One more thing I would like to say about this movie,” Takeuchi says, “is that there are space people living on the earth today, so how can we understand each other? And also nuture each other? That’s the main thing. What it comes down to is love. Love and understanding and nurturing each other. Even though there are differences in skin, ethnicity, we hope that we all realize through the power of love that we can all come together. That’s the message we want to convey.”

The studio has already started on Laws of the Universe, Part 2, expected to be released around 2020.

(Thanks to H.S. Pictures Studio Marketing Director Yoichi Utebi for translating this interview.)

from Animation Scoop


Don Lusk (1913-2018)

Disney Legend Don Lusk has passed away today at age 105 – reported by his dear friend Navah Paskowitz-Asner (Ed Asner’s wife) on her Facebook page this morning. Lusk was hired by The Walt Disney Company in 1933 and he became an animator in 1938 on Ferdinand The Bull. His animation graced key scenes in Bambi, Song of the South, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty and One Hundred and One Dalmatians. He is best known for his work on the Fish Dance in “The Nutcracker Suite” in Fantasia, Cleo the goldfish in Pinocchio, the title character in Alice in Wonderland and Wendy in Peter Pan.

Lusk left Disney in 1960, but continued to work as an animator during the 1960s and 1970s, on UPA’s Gay Purr-ee (1962), A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969), and freelanced for Bill Melendez and Walter Lantz studios. He spent 23 years at Hanna-Barbera, directing everything from Scooby Doo to Yo Yogi!, working well into the 1990s.

In the early 1990s, Lusk retired after a career that spanned 60 years. He received a Winsor McCay Award for lifetime achievement at the Annie Awards in 2015. He was a friend to many in the industry and a legend in the field. He will me sorely missed.

from Animation Scoop