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.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Disney/Pixar have announced that the CGI animated feature The Good Dinosaur is back in production — and back on track for release in the winter of 2015, according to an article over at Cartoon Brew. After Disney removed director Bob Petersen from the project (he had co-directed Up and played the voice of Dug the dog) we didn’t hear much about Good Dinosaur for a while, as Disney/Pixar began advertising their next big project Inside Out. Now Disney/Pixar have announced that the new director of The Good Dinosaur will be Peter Sohn. He’s well known behind the scenes at Pixar, having worked in the art and story departments on several projects and directed the short film Partly Cloudy. He’s also known for his voice acting (he was Emile in Ratatouille and Squishy in Monsters University) and for being the body model for the character Russell in Up. Yes, really. With this announcement it now seems that Disney/Pixar will actually have two releases in 2015: Inside Out in June and The Good Dinosaur in November. Which puts the latter film right up against Kung Fu Panda 3, by the way. If you haven’t heard, The Good Dinosaur follows the adventures of a talking dinosaur family in modern times — on an alternate Earth where the great beasts never died out.
In anticipation of the upcoming Penguins of Madagascar animated film, we present… a tie-in comic book miniseries! (Bet that shocked ya, huh?) “DreamWorks Animations’ Penguins of Madagascar are getting their own brand new 4-issue comic series! Yep, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private are jumping from the big screen to the comic page! Written by comedy genius Alex Matthews (Phoenix, Dandy) with eye-popping art from Lucas Fereyra, feathers are set to fly in this unique and exciting – and very funny – new series.” You might recall there was previously a Penguins tie-in comic based on their Nickelodeon TV series, but that was published by Kizoic Comics and featured a completely different creative team. This one is published by Titan Comics, and it’s coming to stores this November.
It had to happen, perhaps: A feature film based on a phone app. Of course, it is one of the biggest phone apps of all time: Angry Birds. According to an article over at Neon Tommy, Rovio and Sony Pictures have teamed up to announce the cast and crew for the upcoming Angry Birds movie. (In case you couldn’t guess, it’s going to be CGI.) “Cast as the lead roles in the animated movie, Saturday Night Live alums Jason Sudeikis (We’re The Millers) and Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids) will play Red and Matilda, alongside Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage, who will be playing Mighty Eagle. Some other big names that will be joining the cast include Josh Gad (Frozen), Bill Hader (Skeleton Twins), Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live), and YouTube stars Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla of Smosh. Behind the scenes, John Cohen (Despicable Me) and former Marvel Studios president David Maisel will be producing the film, while Clay Kaytis (Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph) and Fergal Reilly (Spider-Man 2) have been announced as directors.” The birds will fly in July of 2106.
Here it is, straight from Previews: “From the bestselling video games, leading cartoon on Nickelodeon, hot toys from McFarlane Toys, now bursting into comics: playful, clueless, curious, mischievous, and completely unpredictable, the Rabbids find fun everywhere and with everything, creating havoc wherever they go! In their first graphic novel, the Rabbids invade museums, horse races, and even play golf on the moon with a series of non-stop gags that showcase their charmingly surreal stupidity out amongst the rest of the world. ” Watch out! They’re coming next week from Papercutz. Rabbids Volume 1: Bwaaaaaaah! was written by Thitaume with artwork by Romain Pujol.
Over the past 15 years Blue Sky Studios have made a name for themselves with wildly successful animated features like Ice Age and Rio and their sequels. Now The Art of Blue Sky Studios: Ice Age to the Digital Age (edited by Jake S. Friedman) brings together numerous never-before concept art pieces and early sketches from all those years into one deluxe hardcover coffee-table book. “With exclusive access to Blue Sky’s archives and the exceptional artists who have made characters like Ice Age’s Scrat and Rio’s Blu and Jewel household names, this book takes an in-depth behind-the-scenes look at one of animation’s greatest success stories.” It’s available to order on Amazon, and coming to stores this October from Insight Editions.
Disney/Pixar have launched their new Studio Artist Showcase series with Over There, a full-color hardcover book for young readers written and illustrated by Steve Pilcher. “Shredder is a little shrew who lives by himself, and while he loves his forest home, he gets a bit lonely. There must be something more, he thinks. So when he sees a ‘silver line twinkling in the distance,’ he decides to find out what it is. He discovers a beautiful stream, but then he gets caught up in the current! Luckily, a mole named Nosey saves him. As they explore, Shredder begins to miss the forest, so he and Nosey return together, and Shredder realizes that all he really needed was a friend.” Over There is available later this month, and it’s been reviewed over at Publishers Weekly.
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.
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.