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October, 2013:

All Your Favorites from Dreamworks

Dreamworks Animation have created a special tie-in compilation book called Dreamworks Heroes Annual 2014. In spite of that title, it’s already available in hardcover from Pedigree Books. “DreamWorks Animation has created some of the best loved animated feature films and TV shows of all time. They have released a total of 26 feature films, including Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon, grossing nearly $11 billion worldwide. This Annual brings all your favorite DreamWorks characters together for the first time in this unique DreamWorks Heroes Annual 2014.” Check it out at Amazon. The advertisements are kind of hard to follow: Apparently this publication is also available as Dreamworks All-Stars Annual 2014, with a different cover.

image c. 2013 Pedigree Books

These Are The Monsters In Your Neighborhood…

In celebration of the 25th anniversary (!) of Hayao Miyazaki’s popular animated fantasy My Neighbor Totoro, Viz Media have released a new hardcover edition of the My Neighbor Totoro Picture Book, written and illustrated by Mr. Miyazaki himself. You can order it now at Barnes & Noble. “The companion book to the beloved animation classic My Neighbor Totoro by legendary Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki. Featuring artwork taken directly from the movie, this updated edition will allow parents and children to relive Totoro’s magical adventures with scene-by-scene illustrations and character dialogue. Eleven-year-old Satsuki and her sassy little sister Mei have moved to the country to be closer to their ailing mother. While their father is working, the girls explore their sprawling old house and the forest and fields that surround it. Soon, Satsuki and Mei discover Totoro, a magical forest spirit who takes them on fantastic adventures through the trees and the clouds — and teaches them a lesson about trusting one another.”

image c. 2013 Viz Media

Going to School with Four Hooves

No, it’s not another My Little Pony thing. Seven Seas  Entertainment is releasing A Centaur’s Life, a new digest-sized black & white manga series written and illustrated by Kei Murayama. It was previously released in Japan as A Centaur’s Worries. “Being a teenager is never easy… especially for a centaur! Himeno is a sweet, shy girl, who like many teens her age, struggles with the trials and tribulations of attending high school. The difference is she’s a centaur; but she’s not alone. In fact, all of her classmates are supernatural creatures, sporting either horns, wings, tails, halos, or some other unearthly body appendage. Yet despite their fantastical natures, Himeno and her best friends-the dragon-winged Nozomi, and Kyoko with her spiraled horns-are down-to-earth, fun-loving teenagers who grapple with issues of life and love in a mostly normal daily school setting.” So you say! Look for A Centaur’s Life at your local comic book or manga store, starting in November.

image c. 2013 Kei Murayama

Hang Out With Your Loser Friends

Night in the Woods is a 2D video game created by Alec Holowka and Scott Benson. It’s… different, to say the least. And it involves a lot of funny animal characters. “All Mae wants to do is run around with her friends, break stuff and hang on to a life of aggressive aimlessness. She dropped out of college and returned home to her crumbling old mining town to do just that, but she’s finding that nothing is the same anymore. The old town seems different. Her old friends have grown in their own directions. Mae herself is undergoing some sudden and unexplained changes, giving her mysterious abilities that grant her access to a side of town she never knew existed. The world is changing, things are ending, and the future is uncertain. Up behind the park at the edge of town, back in the trees by the old mine- there’s something in the woods. And it could mean no future at all.” The game creators have had a very successful Kickstarter campaign; already they’ve earned pledges way beyond what they were asking for and they still have nearly a month left, as of this writing. Check out the Kickstarter page to see a video preview of the game as well.

image c. 2013 Alec Holowka / Scott Benson

The Horse Returns

Neil the Horse was a funny animal comic strip written and illustrated by Katherine Collins, starting in the late 1970’s. Throughout the 1980’s it was one of the most popular funny anthropomorphic comic books going, adored by classic funny animal fans and underground comic aficionados alike. Equally a tribute to old fashioned comic books, classic Hollywood musicals, and children’s books, Neil and his friends largely disappeared after the 1990’s. Now Hermes Press have announced that the dancing equine’s comic book adventures will finally be re-released in Neil the Horse: The Complete Comics Stories. Collecting Neil issues 1 – 15 and featuring a historical essay by Trina Robbins (a comic book legend in her own right), this hardcover collection will ship this coming December — but Amazon is taking orders now.

image c. 2013 Hermes Press

A Dog and His Boy, with Glasses

Dreamworks Animation released the first set of stills from their upcoming feature film Mr. Peabody & Sherman in a recent article in USA Today. Cartoon Brew reprinted the images as well. The film (about a time-traveling dog and his young human assistant) is of course based on the original series of short cartoons that was part of The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show. This new CGI version is directed by Rob Minkoff (he of The Lion King and the Stuart Little movies), and it’s set for release in March of 2014. There had been rumors going around for some time that the Mr. Peabody movie was going to be done live action, with a real kid playing Sherman and Mr. Peabody being a CGI-enhanced real dog. That idea did not go over very well with classic animation fans, but fortunately it turns out that Dreamworks is making it much more traditionally — just with a computer.

image c. 2013 Dreamworks Animation

Guess Who??!

According to Animation Scoop, veteran director Bill Kopp (known for Eek! The Cat, Schnookums and Meat, Dan Vs., and more) has been tapped by Universal Pictures to revive none other than Woody Woodpecker — in his original manic glory. In the article Mr. Kopp says that currently an animated feature and a new short cartoon are in development. Long a mascot of Universal Pictures, Walter Lantz’ most famous creation originally appeared in cartoons from 1940 until 1972. According to Animation Scoop, “A new Woody Woodpecker feature was first announced two years ago by Illumination Entertainment, then developing the film with co-writers John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky – who were planning to ‘modernize the character for contemporary audiences’. ” That didn’t sit well with classic animation fans — including Bill Kopp, who has insisted that these new cartoons will feature Woody in his original silliness.

image c. Universal Pictures

A Dragon for Your Sign

Sixth Leaf Clover (also known as the artist Christina Yen) has made quite a name for herself with her paintings of fantastically-colored dragons. She’s even written a book about her coloring techniques. Her latest project is a calendar for 2014 — full color of course, featuring a new and different dragon design for each sign of the Western Zodiac. She’s taking pre-orders (and showing samples) at her web site right now.

image c. 2013 Christina Yen

Control Those Animals!

Jordan Reickek is an animator and storyboard artist with a long and storied career to his name: He worked on the original Ren & Stimpy series as well as The Simpsons early on; he directed the pilot episode of Invader Zim for Nickelodeon; and he worked on storyboards for DreamWorks films like Monsters vs Aliens, Megamind, and Kung Fu Panda. Cartoon Brew recently interviewed Jordan, and he spoke about his newest creation: Animal Control, which he produced for Cartoon Network Asia. The series follows the adventures of a pair of hapless and not-too-bright game wardens as they try to keep a lid on the silliness of their animal charges. The premier episode is up on Vimeo as well. Recently Jordan re-launched his production web site, Perky Pickle, which includes production art from many of the projects he’s worked on over the years.

image c. 2013 by Jordan Reickek