It’s quite possible that Mickey Mouse could well be that — though, of course, Bugs Bunny could also be considered a serious contender. Still, The Mouse has been around the longest, and author Garry Apgar decided to take a look what possibly accounts for Mickey’s world-wide appeal in a new hardcover book. “Since his modest debut in 1928, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse has evolved into arguably the world’s most recognized and beloved fictional figure. Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit is the illustrated biography of a unique cartoon character, his life and times, and his impact and influence around the world in art and literature. Part art history and part cultural study, Apgar’s Mickey Mouse narrates how the character was initially developed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, how his irrepressible spirit grew to huge popularity during the Depression, and how he became a politically charged cultural icon of international reach.” You can order the book at Midtown Comics. It’s coming later this month from Simon & Schuster.
Italy appears to be the latest country vying to jump into the international animation pool — and it’s doing so with animated animals. According to an article in Variety, Ambi Pictures (currently producing a live-action film with Al Pacino called The Humbling) have announced their first animated feature, Arctic Justice Thunder Squad, directed by Matthew Lyon and animated in his native Canada. “The tale turns on a sinister walrus who plots to accelerate global warming and melt the Arctic Circle. A rag-tag group of inexperienced heroes, led by a fox, must come together to foil his nefarious plan and save the Arctic.” The producers, Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi, are currently in America looking to secure funding and distribution for the film. So far, no word on a possible completion date for it.
Perfect Square and the makers of Bravest Warriors have teamed up to bring us two new hardcover books aimed at young readers — though grown-up fans of that Internet phenomenon are certain to find some surreal and interesting stuff as well. The star of it all? Catbug, “everyone’s favorite dimension-hopping adventurer”. In The Search for Catbug, we find that “Catbug ate some weird new cubes of food that caused him to lose what little control he already had over his jump abilities! Now he’s careening through dimensions, unable to stop! Help the Bravest Warriors travel the galaxy and find Catbug. Just don’t eat any of those cube snacks or you might end up lost too!” Simon & Schuster have a web site for it too. Meanwhile in Catbug’s Treasure Book “…we see the world from his perspective. A kind of scrapbook, the pages are filled with memories and souvenirs of his adventures with the Bravest Warriors, along with his playtime imaginings. There are also allusions to past episodes (Danny’s eyebrows taped to a page, for example), and hints at secrets not yet revealed.” We found this one over at Booksamillion.
John Stevenson co-directed the first Kung Fu Panda movie (along with Mark Osborne), and for that he received an Annie Award and an Oscar nomination. Now a relatively small film company, Unified Pictures, has hired Mr. Stevenson to direct their first foray into CGI animation: A feature film inspired by the story of Noah’s ark. According to an article in Variety, “The animated comedy adventure tells the story from the point of view of the animals and follows an outcast aardvark who becomes the reluctant leader of a ragtag group of misfit animals”. (Hmm, have these folks heard of El Arca?) The as-yet-unnamed film is being written by Philip LaZebnik (Disney’s Mulan and Pocahontas) and Glen Dolman (a writer of several TV series). It’s currently slated for completion in 2016.
Another one of those “How did we miss this?” things. We’ll just put up the official description of Dog & Scissors for starters: “Harumi Kazuhito was the ultimate bookworm, spending days at a time with his head buried in his beloved books, and little could make him happier than perusing the pages of his favorite author, Kirihime Natsuno. Unfortunately, Harumi’s life goes to the dogs – literally – when he gets himself killed while trying to stop a robber! Thanks to the power of a true bookworm, however, Harumi inexplicably finds himself reincarnated as a dog… which might not be so bad if dogs could read. Or if the woman who adopts him didn’t have twin predilections for playing with scissors and tormenting her new pet! But what truly makes this strange reincarnation the worst of all possible worlds is that she’s also his favorite author!” Based on the light novel series written by Shunsuke Sarai and illustrated by Tetsuhiro Nabeshima, all 12 episodes of Dog & Scissors the anime series have been released to DVD by Crunchroll. They’re also streaming the episodes on line at their web site.
We found this recently, over at Animation Scoop: “Shout Factory is mounting a theatrical release of Thunder and The House of Magic, directed by Ben Stassen (Fly Me to the Moon, Sammy’s Adventures: Escape from Paradise) and Jeremie Degruson (A Turtles Tale: Sammy’s Adventure), in select theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, San Francisco and Washington, DC., beginning September 5th. The 85-minute film, budgeted at $34 million, was produced by Brussels (Belgium) based nWave Pictures in association with StudioCanal and media fund Anton Capital Entertainment. The story concerns Thunder, an abandoned young cat, who seeks shelter from a storm, stumbles into a house owned by an old magician and inhabited by a dazzling array of automatons and gizmos. But when the magician lands in the hospital and his scheming nephew puts the mansion up for sale, our young hero and his new friends join forces to save their magical home.” The Scoop article also has a first look at the film’s trailer.
At this year’s San Diego Comic Con there was a 30 year celebration of Usagi Yojimbo — created by Stan Sakai, of course. One of the items featured during the event was a screening of Usagi Yojimbo: The Last Request, an animated short film created by Lintika Films (using both 2D and stop motion techniques) and directed by Roel Robles. The big news is that Mr. Sakai was impressed enough with the project that he has allowed the studio to use Last Request as a proof-of-concept film for a possible Usagi feature. Now they’re out seeking funds to work on that project. Over at Cartoon Brew they have an article about the project that also includes a link to the short.
Chris Callahan is a writer and artists who has worked for several years in the animation industry. Evidently, he has something to say about it… Check out his new comic book creation, Robochuck: “With the introduction of computer-generated characters, the World Of Entertainment”s population is now sharply divided between two types of cartoon characters: the Flats and the CGs. In Flattown, Robochuck is the only CG character most of his neighbors know. He dreams of restoring his city to its glory days, when flat toons like his adoptive father, Inksplat MaGee, were the world’s biggest stars. However, one person in the World of Entertainment will do anything to keep that from happening. As Chairman of Piczar, Don Masshurter developed the computer technology that changed the landscape of animated entertainment, and he will stop at nothing to protect his new reign…” Nope, no reflection on the real world here at all, nope. So go ahead, check out the Robochuck web site. We won’t tell anyone!
Well okay, the middle of summer, but hey… Llyn Hunter is an Emmy Award-winning storyboard artist, also known for her humorous illustrations and poetry. Many of those have been collected over the years in her Little Book series (like A Little Book of Monsters, reviewed here previously) put out by her own Bobcat Publishing. Her latest work is called Punnies — a collection of pun illustrations (cat fish, duck tape, cow bell…) each accompanied by a verse. She’s started up a Kickstarter campaign to help her fund publishing the book in a large-size coffee table format. The campaign is up from now until the end of September. Also make sure to visit her home page to see samples of the many other projects that she’s worked on over the years.