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The Panda is a Little Farther Away

As you may have heard floating through the air in Hollywood lately, Dreamworks Animation has been worrying a lot of people lately(notably investors) with a lack of hit movies. Several of the studio’s offerings over the last two years have not performed as hoped or expected at the box office — and now, Penguins of Madagascar is not exactly on track to set any new records either. Even How to Train Your Dragon 2, which was a blockbuster earlier this year by most standards, was not as much of one as many had expected. All of this seems to have made Dreamworks rather skittish about their upcoming slate of films — especially when it comes to the competition. To that end the studio recently announced that Kung Fu Panda 3, originally slated for release in December of 2015, has been pushed back four months to March of 2016 — presumably to keep out of the way of Star Wars VII, or at least that’s the buzz around town. Interestingly, that move puts the new date for Kung Fu Panda 3 just two weeks after Disney is scheduled to release Zootopia. It seems like 2016 just got a little more interesting — and 2015, perhaps less so.

image c. 2014 Dreamworks

image c. 2014 Dreamworks Animation

Back to the Fish Story

At the recent Comic Con Experience in Brazil, Pixar president Jim Morris chatted up the crowd about Finding Dory, Pixar’s upcoming CGI film scheduled for release in June of 2016. Besides showing them lots of preliminary artwork and other goodies, he also gave the world the first inklings of the new film’s plot.  Following the adventures of Finding Nemo (of course), this new film follows Dori (the royal blue tang who suffers from short term memory loss) as she journeys across the ocean in search of the marine research facility where she was born — and where her parents still live. Once again Dori will be voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, and her friend Marlin the clownfish (Nemo’s father) will again be voiced by Albert Brooks. No word yet if popular characters like Bruce the vegetarian-wannabe shark or Crash the oh-so-radical sea turtle dude will also make an appearance. But check out the article at Animation Xpress to find out what we do know now.

[Thanks to Fred Patten for the heads up on this article]

image c. 2014 Disney/Pixar

image c. 2014 Disney/Pixar

Exotic, Strange, and Beautiful

Brynn Methany is an artist who works in “concept art and illustration” (her words). “I specialize in creature design, fantasy illustration and visual development for publishing, film and games.” At her web site you’ll see many examples of her illustrations of creatures both familiar and fantastic — out of this world, literally. You will also see what became of many of those illustrations later on: Witness the trailer for Dust, an independent science fiction movie for which Brynn did both production art and creature design.

image c. 2014 by Brynn Methany

image c. 2014 by Brynn Metheny

Dogs… in… SPACE!

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.)

image c. 2014 Epic Pictures

image c. 2014 Epic Pictures

Ducks from Russia

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.

image c. 2014 Rome Animation

image c. 2014 Rome Animation & Film Studio

Green is Yellow

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.

image c. 2014 Wrekin Hill Entertainment

image c. 2014 Wrekin Hill Entertainment

Animals of a Different Color: Lots of Them!

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.

image c. 2014 Ink Global

image c. 2014 Ink Global

Dinosaurs are Walking — Again

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.

image c. 2014 Disney/Pixar

image c. 2014 Disney/Pixar

Chimichunga…!

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.

image c. 2014 Titan Comics

image c. 2014 Titan Comics