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.
Word has gotten around that Dreamworks Animation has pulled a switch: The aliens-land-on-Earth comedy Home, originally scheduled for release this winter, has been pushed back to 2015, while the Penguins of Madagascar movie has been moved up to this coming November. To that end Dreamworks has just released the first trailer for the penguin movie. It seems that our military-style black and white team meets up with a secret agency known as The North Wind, a collective of high-tech armed animals from the arctic. The film is directed by Eric Darnell, who of course directed all three of the Madagascar movies. Fine, fine, but what we wanna know is: Will Marlene the otter be in the movie too??
Not content to have the (as should be expected) “art of Rio 2“, Blue Sky Studios instead bring us The Art of Rio: Featuring a Carnival of Art from Rio and Rio 2. My, now that’s a title! “From 20th Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios, the creators of Ice Age and Horton Hears a Who!, the musical adventure comedy Rio told the story of how rare Blue Macaws Blu and Jewel met and fell in love in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival. In Rio 2, the pair journey with their 3 chicks to the amazon jungle in search of their wild roots. With over 300 pieces of concept art, character sketches, storyboards and digital paintings, along with interviews with the key animation talent, this book reveals the artistry behind the 2 colorful movies.” It’s put together by Tara Bennett (who’s written and edited several movie tie-in books of the sort), with an introduction by Carlos Saldanha (the director of both films). Look for it at Amazon, where it’s available now in hardcover.
More from the folks at Cartoon Brew: Dreamworks Animation have announced three new CGI animated series they will be producing as part of their mega-distribution-deal with Netflix — and guess what? All three of them are anthropomorphic, in one way or another. King Julian of course follows the adventures of the crazy lemur from the Madagascar movies and the Penguins of Madagascar TV series; Puss in Boots, who needs no introduction; and Veggie Tales in the House, a new iteration of the well-known faith-based animated TV show. All of this follows the 2D animated series Turbo F.A.S.T., which Dreamworks premiered on Netflix last December. The three new series will be available before the end of 2014.
Over at Cartoon Brew they recently put up an article about a new CGI animated feature film conceived and created by Kirby Atkins (who previously worked on Jimmy Newtron: Boy Genius). It’s called Beast of Burden, and it’s currently in production at Huhu Productions in New Zealand. Not to be confused with the Dark Horse comic Beasts of Burden by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, though: That’s being developed for animation by Reel FX. Mr. Kirby’s project involves an endangered farm-labor animal called a thoriphant — who discovers that there may just be more to their species than anyone has imagined before. To secure financing, the creator and his crew put together a proof-of-concept animated short — you can watch it over on Vimeo. Now, with the backing taken care of, they’re shopping the project around for distribution.
Head out to the movies lately and you’re likely to see the teaser trailer for the new live-action film Paddington — featuring a world-famous little bear in a blue overcoat and a floppy brown hat. For those not familiar with the star of Michael Bond’s beloved series of children’s books (started in 1958), Paddington is a small, human-speaking bear who travels from the wilds of Peru to England — where he hooks up with a nurturing human family, who name him after the train station where they found him. Paddington has appeared in TV series before (both animated and puppetry), but this is his first feature film. It’s produced by David Heyman (who produced all eight Harry Potter films), and written and directed by Paul King, best known for Britain’s The Mighty Boosh (which, you may recall, had its own fair share of furry content). The movie adaptation stars Colin Firth as the voice of the CGI little ursine star. Check out the article at Yahoo Movies to find out more — and see the trailer. The film comes to theaters in North America this December.
If you’ve got to get the bad news (or maybe good news if you’re lucky) about this crazy weather that we’re having, why not get it from a cute little bunny? “Weather Rabbit is a unique combination of weather app and virtual pet that rewards you for keeping your rabbit happy by dressing it in different clothes to match the current weather conditions. It features accurate, up-to-date, local information using your GPS and weather data sourced from Wunderground.com. You can earn new outfits for all four seasons plus more seasonally themed costumes.” This animated app (available on Google Play and The App Store) was created by Rabbx, with character design by Tracy Reynolds. You can find it at the Rabbx web site, too.
According to an article in Variety magazine, Disney Animation has given the green light to produce a live action Chip and Dale movie. Yes. What’s more, the film’s plot is an origin story for the Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers. This means we get to see not only Chip and Dale but Monterey Jack, Gadget Hackwrench, and the fly known as Zipper all portrayed as CGI characters in the real world, a la The Smurfs or the recent spate of Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. The film is being written and directed by Paul Rugan, previously best known as a director of TV commercials. No word yet on a planned release date or any cast members.
Your humble ed-otter and his mate were honored to once again attend the 2014 Annie Awards, honoring the best in animation from the year 2013. The event at UCLA’s Royce Hall (on Saturday the 1st of February) was hosted by Patrick Warburton, best known as Kronk from Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove but also appearing as a voice in the upcoming Peabody and Sherman movie. Though Disney’s Frozen won Best Feature and Best Directing (it was a favorite for both), no film or TV series really seemed to dominate the awards that night. Instead the honors were spread out over a wide swath of projects. Several furry projects — or projects with anthropomorphic characters in them, at least — were honored, which is good when you’re honoring a year like 2013 that, let’s face it, had rather a dearth of heavily furry works — especially compared to 2012. Overall Disney was one of the big winners of the night — no, not Pixar. Disney. Not only did Frozen take home the feature-length honors for Best Picture, Directing, Music, Production Design, and Voice Acting (Josh Gad as Olaf the snowman); but the Disney Mickey Mouse series of shorts won in TV/Broadcast categories for Editing, Character Design, and Music. What’s more, the popular Disney cartoon Get A Horse won the Best Short Subject award. Pixar was represented as well of course, both in feature awards (as Monsters University won for Storyboarding and Editing) and TV/Broadcast (where Toy Story of Terror took home awards for Storyboarding, Character Animation, and Directing). Dreamworks Animation’s biggest winner of the evening was The Croods, which took home feature awards in Character Design, Effects Animation, and Character Animation. In television Tom Kenny received the award for Best Voice Acting for his role as The Ice King in Adventure Time, and the show itself was honored as the Best Production for Children. Some popular furry projects were nominated in several categories but unfortunately the did not win any awards. Among them were the TV series Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness and Dragons: Riders of Berk, as well as the French feature film Ernest & Celestine. The Annie Awards are administered by ASIFA-Hollywood, the Southern California branch of the International Animated Film Society (ASIFA). You can visit the Annie Awards web site to see pictures and videos from the event as well as a full list of all the winners for 2013.