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White Bear in a Golden Cage

According to Cartoon Brew, Lionsgate Features is set to release their next animated feature, Norm of the North, on January 15th, 2016 — which would put it in direct competition with the planned release of The Nut Job 2. Lionsgate, of course, is best known in animation circles for the Alpha & Omega films as well as (shiver!) the infamous Food Fight! movie. This time around they present the story of Norm, a polar bear who travels to New York City to try and save his arctic home from development… but winds up distracted by the glamour and glitz all around him. (Sort of “The Bear Who Fell To Earth”.) Directed by Trevor Wall, Norm of the North stars the voice of Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo). The article at Cartoon Brew includes the first trailer.

image c. 2015 Liongsgate

image c. 2015 Liongsgate

Step Into The Cartoon

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.

image c. 2015 Oculus Story Studio

image c. 2015 Oculus Story Studio

Two Adventurous Mice

More from the MIPTV convention, as reported by Animation Magazine: “Global entertainment company DQ Entertainment and Foothill Europe Limited have announced an agreement to develop, co-produce and distribute CG-animated buddy comedy Raz & Benny… The stereoscopic-3D CGI show is created by U.K.-based director Simon Hodgkiss of Rockkiss DME and follows two mice whose ambitions are bigger than their brains, but whose good luck is as endless as their friendship. With their eccentric pal Lilly, dare-devil Raz and cautious Benny are always off on one adventure or another–whether posing as international spies, scuba-diving submarine rescuers or jungle explorers.” Vimeo has a preview video that includes an animatic of Foothill’s development work.

image c. 2013 DQ Entertainment

Prehistoric Pals with Pluck

Playing in theaters now (in front of several movies) is the trailer for Walking With Dinosaurs: The Movie, produced by BBC Earth (of course) and coming to theaters this December. Interestingly, the producers are taking a somewhat anthropomorphic angle for this 3D CGI film: It’s actually narrated by the dinosaurs themselves as they go about their daily lives. In this story, we meet a young frill-head dinosaur, who is something of a runt in his herd — but who will grow up to be a great leader who will guide them through a dangerous world. The film is directed by Barry Cook (Mulan, Arthur Christmas) and Neil Nightingale (Enchanted Kingdom). Check out the trailer at Animation Scoop.

image c. 2013 BBC Earth

It’s Spring! Here Come the Rabbits!

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve just gotten word that the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic live-action feature film has been green-lighted! We’re also pleased to announce that today is April 1st…

Speaking of April, our thoughts turn to … the Easter Bunny!

Dreamworks Animation have just released the first official trailer for Rise of the Guardians, which is coming to movie theaters this November. Based on the novel by William Joyce (who also helped to create the script), this 3D CGI movie tells what happens when The Boogieman — known as “Pitch” — threatens to cover the world in a veil of fear.  The guardians of children everywhere — Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, Jack Frost, and (yes!) the Easter Bunny — join up to defeat him. The Easter Bunny — here known as “Bunnymund” — is voiced by none other than Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman (whom, you might recall, was also the voice of the hero’s father in the original Happy Feet). Other voices on hand include Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Isla Fisher, and Jude Law. Rise of the Guardians is directed by Peter Ramsey, who previously served as head of story on Dreamworks’ Monsters vs. Aliens.

image c. 2012 Dreamworks Animation

Black to the Moon

Black to the Moon is a 3D CGI animated feature film from Europe, which recently premiered at the Cartoon Movie event in Lyon, France. Originally known as Blackie & Kanuto, it was directed by Francis Nielsen and produced in France, Spain, Italy, and Belgium (!). Currently it’s looking for distribution in North America. Here’s the storyline according to the Internet Movie Database: “Blacky, a black sheep, is the terror of the farm. And she is obsessed with going to the Moon. Kanuto, the sheepdog, gets tangled up in her plans while failing to hide his love for her. They get swept away in an adventure where they meet an opera-singing cow, a fashion designer wolf, illegal sewing spiders, a weird couple of birds from some famous singing TV reality show contest, and a peculiar pack of dogs, the ‘Pastrinos’, who have a rocket ready to launch. And of course, Pinky, the Godzilla-sized sheep, with a bad attitude of lunar proportions.” Seriously.  Maybe it’ll make more sense when you see the English-language trailer on YouTube. But then again, maybe not.

image c. 2012 Art'Mell

From Africa to Europe

The trailers have begun to arrive for Madagascar 3, Europe’s Most Wanted, coming next June in 3D from Dreamworks Animation (of course). It’s directed by Eric Darnell (who co-directed the first two Madagascar films) and Conrad Vernon (Monsters vs. Aliens). Here’s the plot as described by the Wikipedia entry for the film: “Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), and Gloria the Hippopotamus (Jada Pinkett Smith) set out to return to New York after escaping to Africa. Dependent on the mechanical know-how of the notorious monkeys and penguins, their plan inevitably goes awry and they find themselves stranded in Monte Carlo, where they try to escape Europe from animal control by joining up with a traveling circus by chance. Led by the venerable tiger Vitali, the animal-centered circus has seen better days. During the course of a tour through a series of European cities that ends in a fabulous big top in the heart of London, Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria help Vitaly, Gia the jaguar, and Stefano the sea lion, rediscover their passion for show business and reinvent circus performance.” In other words, they show them how to move it, move it…

image c. 2011 Dreamworks Animation

The Lion Roars — Again

It’s all over the news, and now it’s here too:  Not only did the 3D re-release of Disney’s The Lion King top the box office this weekend; not only did it double movie industry expectations… it also did more business than the three new big-studio releases for the weekend did combined. This new infusion of box-office cash raises the biggest hand-drawn animated film of all time from #25 to #17 on the list of all-time biggest domestic box office. Of course, the film is only going to be in theaters for two weeks, all in anticipation of the new Blu-Ray release of The Lion King on October 4th — and yes, that will include the 3D version for your home. “It means more furries… for the rest of our days…”  Well, we can only hope.

image c. 2011 Walt Disney Pictures

Battle Bears!

It’s a game series, a comic book, a collection of plushies, an animation project in the works… It’s Battle Bears! It tells the story of a well-armed little bear named Oliver — and his well-armed companions — who crash-land on an alien world populated by cute pink teddy-bears called Huggies… who, if they get your mitts on you, will promptly hug you to death! Fortunately Oliver has guns to spare — he’s well-prepared to blow off the huggies’ heads, at which point rainbows shoot out of their necks. Yes. It’s all the creation of one Benjamin Vu (a graduate of the animation program at Cal Arts) and his company, SkyVu Pictures. Seriously, this just scratches the fuzzy surface of what SkyVu is up to. Visit their Battle Bears web site to find out more about new games and other projects they’re still busily developing.

Battle Bears at San Diego Comic Con. Photo by your ever-lovin' Ed-Otter