The world of Virtual Reality entertainment keeps moving ahead. (By leaps and bounds, or by steps and stumbles? Depends on who you talk to.) Recently Cartoon Brew put up an article about Henry, “an Immersive Virtual Reality short”. “On the surface, Oculus Story Studio’s new 12-minute short film Henry is a sweet story about a lovable hedgehog who just want to make friends, but can’t stop spiking whatever he hugs. ” But actually, it’s one of the first animated films ever created for the environment of the Oculus Rift head-set. Once “inside”, viewers can either watch Henry’s story — as he attempts to hug flying balloon-puppies with disastrous results — or explore the levels and rooms of Henry’s tiny home. Or both. There’s a non-Oculus “making-of” video that explains it more.
When anthropomorphic characters aren’t the star of the show, the most common place to find them is as a human character’s sidekick. Such is the case with two more pre-school animated TV series on their way to Netflix in the near future. First up there’s Kazoops (from Cheeky Little studio) in 2016, which “…follows the inquisitive young boy Monty and his best friend, a pig named Jimmy Jones, as they seek answers to the questions children routinely ask about everyday life.” There’s a teaser trailer over at Cartoon Brew. Then in 2017 look for True & the Rainbow Kingdom from Guru Studio: It stars a young girl who “…with the help of her best friend Bartleby the cat navigates the magical Rainbow Kingdom using her creativity and ingenuity in search of harmony and love for all.”
According to our friends at CartoonBrew, in addition to the four new animated TV series announced recently by Netflix (and discussed here as well), the network has added an additional three new animated shows that are squarely aimed at the preschool set. One of them, at very least, is especially anthropomorphic: “Arriving worldwide in 2016 exclusively on Netflix is the Jim Henson Company’s Word Party. Produced through Henson’s digital puppetry studio, Word Party’s 11-minute episodes follow the adventures of four baby animals, whose singing and dancing aims to help build the vocabulary skills of its preschool viewers. Jim Henson Creature Shop’s digital puppetry innovation ‘allows puppeteers to perform digitally animated characters in real-time, enabling the animation to be more lifelike and spontaneous.'” Watch for it next year.
The future can be scary — and welcome to it! Writer Brian Ashcraft notes in an article at Kotaku.com that he’s not very thrilled with the re-design of the characters for the upcoming CGI feature version of Ganba no Bouken (also known as The Adventures of Ganba). If you didn’t know, Ganba no Bouken was originally an anime TV series in the 1970’s about a rat and his rodent companions who sail off on adventures while trying to avoid a terrifying white weasel. In the 1980’s the series was made into a popular 2D anime feature as well. The article includes a trailer for the CGI version. See what you think.
CartoonBrew.com made note that the fourth feature-length animation in the Open Season series is in production and scheduled for release on home video in the spring of 2016. “Directed by Cow and Chicken creator David Feiss (who was also head of story on the original Open Season) and produced by The Simpsons’ John Bush, Open Season’s fourth installment [Open Season: Scared Silly], animated by Canada’s Rainmaker Entertainment, centers on the mystery of the Wailing Wampus Werewolf, who reportedly haunts the Timberline National Forest that serves as the setting for the franchise. Its possible existence so intensely scares the crap out of Open Season’s domesticated grizzly bear Boog that he elects to skip summer camp, which inspires his companions, led by the one-antlered mule deer Elliot, to bombard their ursine pal with exposure therapy to cure his fears.” No word yet on who’ll be voicing Boog and Elliot this time.
ComingSoon.net recently ran an article summarizing an article in USA Today (the Internet is so circular sometimes…) about Disney Animation releasing a preview image from their upcoming 2016 CGI feature Zootopia. The new picture gives us the first glimpse of lead characters Nick Wilde (fox, voiced by Jason Bateman) and Judy Hopps (rabbit, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) as they’ll actually appear in the finished film. For those who don’t know, “The story involves these two characters who don’t get along at first but must work together when Nick needs Judy’s help getting out of a jam as she’s trying to crack a big case. [Co-director Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph)] describes the film as the story of ‘two animals who would naturally never hang out or like one another in the beginning, but over the course of the movie develop a relationship and become friends.’ So apparently, it’s a buddy comedy via anthrapamorphic Disney cartoon characters.” And apparently, the writer for ComingSoon.net doesn’t know how to spell “anthropomorphic”. Anyway, the film’s other director is Byron Howard (Tangled) and it’s set to be released in March of next year.
Today at Cartoon Brew there was an announcement about new developments for the much-anticipated upcoming Ratchet & Clank feature film. (Based on the popular Playstation video game series. Do we even need to say that?) Now the film has a distributor (Focus Features, also the home of Laika films) and a planned release date: April 29, 2016. Which is close to the time that Insomniac Games plan to release a new Ratchet & Clank adventure for the PS4. “The movie will be directed by Kevin Munroe (TMNT) and co-directed by Jericca Cleland. The film’s voice cast, also announced this week, includes Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Rosario Dawson, and Sylvester Stallone, with Ratchet, Clank, Nefarious, and Captain Qwark voiced by the same actors as in the games. The script was developed with former Insomniac Games and Ratchet & Clank senior writer T.J. Fixman, with original Ratchet & Clank character designer Dave Guertin and weapon/vehicle designer Greg Baldwin also working on designs.” In other words, they’re putting a lot of effort into this thing!
There’s been a lot in the news lately about the new video game Yooka-Laylee (get it?). It’s the flagship product of a new company called Playtonic Games, which features a lot of the creative staff from Rare. And this new game is considered to be a spiritual successor to the wildly-popular Banjo & Kazooie series. But that’s not what’s got people talking. This is: Playtonic put up a Kickstarter campaign to finance the game… and they reached their initial multi-thousand British pound goal in less than 40 minutes. That’s got to be some kinda record, we think. “Yooka-Laylee (yes, like the tiny guitar) is a 3D platformer starring Yooka, a bipedal lizard-like dude, and Laylee, a purple “wisecracking lady-bat.” They have unique abilities, such as Yooka’s tongue-grapple and Laylee’s tactical sonar blast, and together these best buds explore five worlds filled with weird characters and feisty bosses. Also, one of the abilities is a “giant fart bubble.” Playtonic knows the way to its players’ hearts.” And their pocketbooks, it would seem. Head on over to Engadget to find out more.
A recent article in Variety notes that Beast of Burden is now set to shoot as the first China / New Zealand co-production animated feature film. “Written and directed by Kirby Atkins (Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron), the story sees a species of now-extinct creatures called Thoriphants rebel against their life of servitude to mankind and embark on a treacherous journey.” You may recall that we previously discussed the film on this very web site. As a reminder, we’ll give you the link to Mr. Atkins’ original proof-of-concept short film, which helped him to secure the production deal for his first solo feature.