In 2010 Russia’s Centre of National Film gave the world Space Dogs, a CGI animated feature that celebrated the memory of Strelka and Belka (the first animals ever to survive a trip rocketing into orbit) by re-imagining them in a science fiction adventure. Now one of the same directors (Inna Evlannikova) has returned to bring us their further adventures in Space Dogs 2, also known as Space Dog: Adventure to the Moon. Epic Pictures has picked up international distribution rights for the film. According to their web site, the plot goes like this: “When the world’s most precious monuments disappear before everyone’s eyes, an unlikely team of two legendary Russian canine astronauts named Belka and Strelka, a heroic American monkey named Bonnie, and Belka’s brave teenage son Pushok jet off to the dark side of the moon to investigate the mystery.” The site also has a link to the trailer. Here’s another Russian film that is slowly making its way around North America in specialty screenings, so look for it. (It’s also available on DVD at least some places, apparently.)
Here’s something for Thanksgiving: More birds! Now it’s Quackers, a new CGI animated film on its way from Russia’s Rome Animation and Film Studio. (Rome or not, it’s from Russia.) “A conflict flares up between local Mandarin Ducks and the Military Mallards who land on the Chinese island, mistaking it for Hawaii. While the fathers fight and argue, Longway, the Emperor’s son, and Erica, the commander’s daughter, meet and become friends. The kids must ally all the ducks to battle their foe, the daunting Ms. Knout, who seeks to destroy the Sun.” Got all that? Directed by Viktor Lakisov and due in 2016, Quackers has its own official web site, as well as a preview video up on Vimeo.
From Variety: “Wrekin Hill Entertainment has acquired all North American rights to Christian De Vita’s 3D animated feature Yellowbird from TeamTO and Haut & Court. The film… is written by Antoine Barraud and Guilhem Lesaffre with Cory Edwards and based on artwork by Benjamin Renner (Ernest and Celestine).” Seth Green (Greg the Bunny, Robot Chicken) stars as the voice of Yellowbird, “…a teenage bird so scared to venture out into the world that he nearly misses the fun of discovering who he really is.” Other voices include Dakota Fanning (Charlotte’s Web), Danny Glover, Elliott Gould, Jim Rash, and Christine Baranski. The distributors have been slowly trickling the film out to North American theaters, so take a look around for it — or else visit the Yellowbird Facebook page. Meanwhile, the English trailer is up on YouTube.
It seems to be a hot time to re-imagine 1980’s toy and cartoon lines for a the new millenium. Next up? Popples. Here’s the pitch from the masters themselves, Saban Brands: “Popples are fun, lovable, brightly-colored and adorable creatures that transform from fluffy balls to furry friends and back again. Saban Brands will re-launch the franchise with a fresh and modern look for a new generation of kids. The launch will be paired with a line of consumer products including apparel, accessories, plush and more. Popples made its original debut in the U.S. in 1985 with a Saturday morning television show, followed by a successful toy line.” Saturday morning, eh? Are they gonna try to bring that back too? Either way, look for it at a TV or toy store near you in 2015.
More from MIPCOM. Aurore Damant is a former Gobelins student (if you don’t know who they are, every animation fan should!) who is now a professional character designer and art director. His latest project is called Zip Zip, produced in France by Go-N Productions. The premise is simple: A group of forest animals see that human civilization is encroaching on their habitat, and they figure if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. And so they conspire to disguise themselves as regular domestic house pets using zip-up costumes. Easy, yes? The show has debuted in France and it’s currently looking for international buyers to distribute it. Mr. Damant has several screen shots up on his blog to see.
MIPCON is taking place in Europe, and that means there are several new animated TV series looking for distribution in, among many other places, North America. And of course many of them are more than a little bit anthropomorphic. One of the ones that is generating a lot of buzz is called Zafari, from Ink Global. This is from Animation World Network: “Zafari is the brainchild of David Dozoretz – an animation visionary who worked alongside George Lucas on the Star Wars prequels and also contributed to major movies such as Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, Moulin Rouge, X-Men 3, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. With a multi-million euro budget in place, this sumptuous animation tells the story of a group of animal friends who live together in Zafari – a land that’s home to a collection of unique inhabitants who have all been magically born with the skin of other animals. The series follows the adventures of Zoomba – a little elephant with zebra stripes – as he explores and makes sense of the world. Zafari concentrates on the themes of inclusivity and friendship, inspiring kids that everybody is unique in some way and that our differences should be celebrated.” Currently there isn’t a lot on the Zafari home page, but still if you go there you can see the proposed opening credits.
DinoFroz is a 2D animated TV series created by Orlando Corrati and animated by Mondo TV Studios in Italy. “The series depicts the adventures of Tom, a 12-year-old boy and his friends who, after playing a board game, are teleported to a world where they can transform into dinosaurs using stones called Rockfroz.” And more importantly, they can use their new-found dinosaur powers to try and defeat an army of evil magic dragons who are determined to rule all worlds — including ours! All of this also (hopefully) serving in the sales of tie-in toys. You can see both show and toys advertised and summarized over on YouTube. DinoFroz is currently seeking distribution in North America.
The European artist Peyo (real name, Pierre Culliford) is well-known (or is it infamous?) as the creator of The Smurfs. But he also wrote and illustrated the adventures of a cat, known simply as Pussycat, for Spirou comics magazine. Now Papercutz (well-known as the publisher of Geronimo Stilton) have brought together Pussycat’s comics in one full-color hardcover collection. “This cat isn’t exactly the noble hunting type– he’d rather play a game of kickball with the resident mouse than chase after him– and most of the humor originates from his clever, yet often foolish ways of trying to get what he wants (e.g. milk and snacks).” You can pre-order Pussycat over at Barnes & Noble, and look for the book to hit stores this coming February.
Years ago, underground cartoonist Hunt Emerson made a name for himself with a comic strip known as Calculus Cat which… well, let’s just say it’s not about a cat who’s good at math. “”Calculus Cat’s home life is locked in an intense, argumentative relationship with his TV set, which bedevils him with commercials for Skweeky Weets – the world’s most asinine breakfast cereal. His ‘job’ is no better. He is forced to run thought the streets sporting his famous grin as The Public shout abuse and throw rubbish. His world is graphic, black and white, jagged, full in, weird, speedy and loud – everything a comic should be.” You heard it here. Long ago there was a compilation of Calculus Cat comics published, but it has long since gone out of print. Now after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Knockabout Comics have released a brand new expanded collection in trade paperback, featuring brand new pages and a collection of Calculus Cat art by the likes of Dave McKean, Gilbert Shelton, John McCrea, Kevin O’Neill, Kate Charlesworth, and Rian Hughes. Find out more over at Previews. The collection is in stores now.