Monday, September 15, 2014

Worth a mention - 09/15/14

Guardians of the Galaxy Crosses $300m For North America

(              The sixth Marvel Studios movie to cross $600m (£370m) worldwide was dethroned by the Idris Elba thriller No Good Deed, but we all know which one will live longer in the collective consciousness. Guardians of the Galaxy now ranks third after seven weekends and crossed $300m in North America to reach $305.9m, consolidating its status as the highest ranking North American release of the year to date. At this stage in the calendar, it’s a likely bet to become the biggest North American release of 2014, while Transformers: Age of Extinction – far less potent in its country of origin – will round out the year as the top film worldwide on $1.1bn and counting.

These are impressive numbers in isolation, but in the grand scheme of things will probably not save the 2014 box office from dropping against 2013. But watch as 2015 bounces back to become the biggest of all time, thanks to what on paper looks like an unbeatable stack of movies. These things are cyclical and the Hollywood trade press likes to forget this in its stampede to rustle up a little drama on a slow late-summer weekend. Meanwhile, international theatrical box office keeps on swelling. That is good news until it, too, eventually slows down.

Will Avatar Sequels Use New High FrameRate 4K 3D System?

(            James Cameron's Avatar sequels could use Douglas Trumbull's new system for 4K 3D at 120 frames per second.

The filmmaker and inventor has discussed the new system with Avatar series producer Jon Landau, he told The Hollywood Reporter.

Landau has requested a screening of short film UFOTOG, which is being used as a showcase for the MAGI process.

"I know that Cameron admired Showscan [Trumbull's earlier invention of a large-format high-frame rate projection system] and that he is a huge advocate of high frame rates [HFRs]," said Trumbull.

"The use of HFRs for Avatar would be very appropriate and very successful.

"I don't know if Cameron is interested [in using MAGI for the Avatar sequels]. He's in seclusion writing the screenplay for Avatar. I am talking to Jon Landau, and we plan to have a screening [of UFOTOG] soon."

Trumbull has said that he is in talks with other directors about MAGI.

"It delivers extreme fluidity of motion and amazing clarity with no strobing, no double flickering and a viewing experience that far exceeds conventional movie quality," he said during his keynote speech at the IBC Convention in Amsterdam.

The first 3D Avatar sequel is expected to be released in cinemas by Christmas 2016, with the subsequent movies set for 2017 and late 2018 respectively.

Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana will return for the three sequels, which will start filming in 2015.

Best VFX Oscar Buzz Begins

(             The crafts buzz has already started.    As for VFX, "Interstellar" will face stiff competition from Weta's "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," which reaches new photo-real, performance-captured heights with Andy Serkis as simian leader, Caesar. Weta will also have "The Hobbit" finale, "The Battle of Five Armies," boasting the best that Peter Jackson's company has to offer in virtual production wizardry. Other contenders include "Guardians of the Galaxy," featuring the superbly animated Groot and Rocket by MPC and Framestore, "Godzilla" (more MPC greatness), and ILM's "Transformers: Age of Extinction," in which the indestructible Hasbro bots have never looked more powerful and majestic.

But don't discount another potential "Gravity" effect for Christopher Nolan's epic space adventure, "Interstellar," shot primarily in IMAX for maximum impact by Hoyte Van Hoytema ("Her," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"). Judging by the stirring trailers, Nolan has captured the right celestial stuff with Matthew McConaughey leaving behind his daughter and son to find another planet to colonize because ours is dying.

The imagery is stunning for its contrast: There is a barrenness on Earth indicative of a world facing starvation, while glimpses inside the space craft and in outer space look perilous but very organic as well. In fact, it's not surprising that Nolan assembled a modeling unit to stay as practical and as in-camera as possible. And while the wormhole looks like a thrilling light show, the potential alien planets being scouted look alternately glacial and oceanic.

Look for further Oscar potential from composer Hans Zimmer, production designer Nathan Crowley, editor Lee Smith, VFX supervisor Paul Franklin (and Double Negative), sound editor Richard King and re-recording mixers Greg Landaker and Gary Rizzo. All are long-time Nolan collaborators and Oscar winners save for Crowley.

Next Blockbuster You Watch Could be Rendered on Google

(              Google has confirmed its gobble of Zync, a cloud-based special effects rendering service.

"Creating amazing special effects requires a skilled team of visual artists and designers, backed by a highly powerful infrastructure to render scenes. Many studios, however, don’t have the resources or desire to create an in-house rendering farm, or they need to burst past their existing capacity," said Belwadi Srikanth, product manager for Google Cloud Platform, which will absorb Zync.

"Together Zync + Cloud Platform will offer studios the rendering performance and capacity they need, while helping them manage costs. For example, with per-minute billing studios aren’t trapped into paying for unused capacity when their rendering needs don’t fit in perfect hour increments."

Zync, formerly Zero VFX, started out in 2009 as a small rendering studio that farmed out computer processing power to film studios. The company has worked on such blockbusters as Star Trek: Into Darkness, Flight, and Transformers: Dark side of the Moon, and claims to have more than 6.5 million hours of rendering under its belt.

"Pairing this history with the scale and reliability of Google Cloud Platform will help us offer an even better service to our customers - including more scalability, more host packages and better pricing (including per-minute billing)," Zync said in a statement.

"With a friction-free, affordable, and elastic rendering solution, visual designers and artists in the industry can continue to do their best work. Yes, we are excited, and yes, great things are coming. But we most especially want to thank our customers, our partners in the VFX software industry, and our phenomenal team for getting us to where we are today."

Terms of the deal and the purchase price have not been disclosed.

The Hulk Says Another Hulk Movie Is Coming

(            We hope you’re ready for more of The Incredible Hulk, because today’s rumors hint at not only another movie, but a brand new television series as well.

Actor and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno dropped these bombshells at Wizard World Comic Con over the weekend during a brief interview with blog Film Fad. During the course of the chat, the original Green Goliath mentioned that he "think(s) down the road, I think in another year, they’re going to film a solo Hulk movie." He then asked if he thought there’d ever be another Hulk television show, and if there was, who would don the green body paint and purple pants. Here’s Ferrigno’s response:

"Well to tell you the truth, they plan to do a TV series someday, and it will probably be CGI. I don’t think you’ll ever see a human Hulk again. Because with the technology people would rather see something that is a little more animated like CGI."

The catch here is that "someday" part. Hollywood is full of things that might get made "someday" down the road and never come to fruition. We don’t doubt that Marvel and Disney are exploring plans for another Hulk solo project, given that Ang Lee’s version and the Edward Norton take on the character never quite caught on the way Marvel hoped. But the company doesn’t appear to be in any rush to give Bruce Banner and his angry alter ego a third bite at the apple of success, despite what Lou Ferrigno believes.

This is unfortunate, because The Avengers has proven not only that the character is a fan favorite, but that the tandem of Mark Ruffalo and CGI really works well together. The downer is that Marvel is sitting on two fantastic The Incredible Hulk story arcs that would make great films in World War Hulk and Planet Hulk. It’s not hard to imagine a film adaptation of either of those comics becoming a huge hit for the company.

As far as television goes, Pacific Rim filmmaker Guillermo del Toro generated a lot of buzz awhile back when he started talking about a meeting he had with Marvel about bringing the character to television. Del Toro had a script for a new show, and a writer he wanted to bring on board, but the project basically withered on the vine in the wake of The Avengers’ success. Marvel felt the big screen version of the character, as molded by Joss Whedon and Mark Ruffalo, was the right direction and the Del Toro series died before it ever had a chance to live.

Our guess is we may get a Hulk television series at some point, but it could be an animated show on a Disney channel. It seems more likely that we’ll see another Hulk standalone film before we see a regular TV series, because it’s hard to imagine Ruffalo (who is The Hulk at this point) wanting to move from the feature films to television. Stranger things have happened, but at this point, we’d advise you not to get your hopes up for either a new movie or a weekly series. If you love The Hulk, you’ll have to get your fill in The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Legacy Effects Confirmed To Be In Charge Of Live Action Robot Tentpole "The Gundams"

(             The Gundam live action movie trailer was leaked online and a couple of pictures from the alleged trailer has surfaced online.

JapNation AniManga has reported that the Gundam live action movie trailer leaked online and they posted a couple of pictures from the reported leaked Gundam live action trailer as you can see above.

When it was announced that Yoshiyuki Tomino will team up with Hollywood VFX team, Legacy Effects, a lot of people assumed that a Gundam live action movie will be made but unfortunately that wasn't the case as Tomino confirmed that they will work on bringing children's character books to life instead of Gundam. However, it seems that Tomino isn't giving up on the idea of a Gundam live action movie.

Filipino News Website GMA News, claimed that a Japanese production team linked with Legacy Effects have been seen scouting for locations in the Philippines leading to speculation that the rumored Gundam live action movie will be shot in the Philippines.

JapNation AniManga claimed that the Gundam Live action movie would be announced soon and that the Gundam live action movie trailer would be officially released soon!

Source with pics:

Florida Still Feeling the Fallout of Digital Domain Collapse

(              The Tupac hologram wasn't enough.

Back in 2012, New Times brought you a comprehensive post-op on Digital Domain, a California-based special effects company that grabbed a lot of attention after it resurrected hip hop legend Tupac via hologram for the 2012 Coachella music festival.

But at the same time the company was collecting kudos for the stunt, the company was sinking into financial disaster. Six months later, the company declared bankruptcy. South Florida cities are still trying to pick up the pieces.

This week, Port St. Lucie made a move to do just that. Back in the late 2000s, as Digital Domain was picking up speed, the company made a push to kick-start the film industry in South Florida with a high tech studio in the town -- largely because the company's chairman John Textor has South Florida roots.

It was a disaster.

According to Bloomberg, the city originally borrowed $40 million to build the studio. After Digital Domain went belly up, the city's taxpayers began shoveling $3.5 million annually to pay the debt service -- service the company's rent was supposed to pay in the original plan. No one has been interested in buying the 115,000-square-foot building that was supposed to house 500 employees.

This week, the city announced it "plans to issue $33 million of debt to refinance securities" issued for the project, according to Bloomberg.

In July, the state of Florida launched at lawsuit at against the remaining pieces of the company. The legal action claimed that in the late 2000s the Digital Domain sweet-talked the state out of $20 million in seed money for local operations without leveling about their financial difficulties. West Palm Beach was also screwed over by the company, who secured local money for a film school that went south with the firm.

Chinese-Australian Animation Co-venture Rramps Up

(            Shanghai Hippo Animation Design and Australia’s Vue Group are expanding their 3D animation co-venture.

Last December the two entities unveiled plans to co-produce three films with aggregate budgets of more than $57 million.

This week Shanghai Hippo Animation Design CEO Kerr Xu and Vue Group MD Alan Lindsay told IF they will collaborate on four to five films a year. They say they are able to produce 3D animation much faster and far more cheaply than the US studios.

“We don’t need 20 executive producers. We do the character design in- house and I direct, produce and write," Kerr tells IF on a visit to Vue’s VFX facility in Bunbury WA. “We save an awful lot of money.”

The first film from the co-venture, Farm House II - Perfect Friends, will open in 4,500 cinemas in China on October 1. Kerr estimates there will be 15,000 sessions a day for the sequel to Farm House 81, which sees Cluck Norris ruling the roost as a soldier with unique superpowers.

Enemy spy Annie infiltrates Farm House 81 to learn the secret of Cluck's power and uses this knowledge to steal the moon's energy and to morph into the monster Anka, who is intent on destroying Farm House 81.

Kung Fu Style, a comedy-adventure which follows Kung Fu kid Dodo Lee, who dreams of being a star at Oscar Lei’s movie studio but is stuck as a puppeteer in his father’s show, will be launched in January during Chinese New Year, a peak cinemagoing period.

When Dodo encounters superstar Kitty Mo, dreams and reality clash and the pair find themselves in a fight between good and evil orchestrated by the power-crazed Oscar.

The Vue Group handled the VFX sequences for both films and is recruiting the voice casts for the English-language versions.

Kerr aims to conclude worldwide distribution deals for Perfect Friends at the American Film Market in November and says he is weighing offers from US studio.

The next production is The Water Planet, the story of aliens who steal the Earth’s water and a family’s attempts to retrieve it; Kerr says that will be shot in 3D and 4D, the latter involving simulated physical effects which can include rain, wind, strobe lights, and vibration synchronised with the film.

That will be followed by The Galactic Storm, an outer space adventure based on a popular Chinese novel whose English title is The Skeleton Fairy. Kerr likens the narrative to a cross between Star Wars and Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers.

Those two projects will cost almost twice as much as the first three, Kerr says, financed partly by the Western Australia/China Film Fund he set up.

Japan's Anime Industry May See Shift To CGI

(             Yasuhiro Yoshiura's Patema InvertedWhen Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement from feature filmmaking in September last year, it was hardly unexpected: the septuagenarian co-founder and resident genius of Studio Ghibli had been retiring and returning for years. But once it became clear that this time he meant it, the tectonic plates in the Japanese animation business shifted, although the tsunami of change has not come - yet.

In July, as it had done almost annually for more than two decades, Studio Ghibli released an animated feature, Hiromasa Yonebayashi's When Marnie Was There. Based on a 1967 children's novel by British author Joan G. Robinson, this film about a life-changing friendship between two girls received generally positive reviews - but its projected box office take of about 3.6 billion yen (HK$262 million) was less than a third of the 12 billion yen earned by The Wind Rises, Miyazaki's last film, released the summer before.

The likely competition to do what anime does, to compete at a more domestic, perhaps even consciously 'Asian' level, is going to come from China
jonathan clements

Its disappointing performance, at least by Ghibli standards, has prompted speculation that When Marnie Was There will be the studio's last film, fuelled by a blogger's mistranslation of remarks made by Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, on a Tokyo Broadcasting System documentary show last month. Suzuki's comment that Ghibli might temporarily shutter its production department while it assessed its future direction became an announcement of the studio's imminent demise.

Despite the corrections that soon appeared, as well as a statement by Suzuki that Miyazaki was thinking about directing a short film, it is now clear Japan's animation industry has entered not just a post-Miyazaki but a post-Ghibli age in the eyes of many. At the same time, however, industry insiders are quick to stress that the anime business is not so much dying as it is changing, even evolving.Stand By Me Doraemon, by Takashi Yamazaki, is a 3D CG reboot of a long-running television series.

"Miyazaki's retirement is important for people at the studio and for the market … but the animation industry as a whole, us included, is not affected," is how Shuzo John Shiota, president and CEO of Polygon Pictures, a digital animation house with a three-decade history, puts it.

One reason: the industry has long expected the 73-year-old Miyazaki - who will be presented with an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement on November 8 - and his 78-year-old fellow Ghibli co-founder and master animator, Isao Takahata ( Grave of the Fireflies; The Tale of Princess Kaguya), to fade from the scene.

For another, the industry, says Shiota, is already "moving in a new direction" towards 3-D computer animation, a direction that Miyazaki and much of the anime old guard have long resisted, favouring instead the traditional, hand-drawn 2D style.

Anime away: The Wind Rises, Hayao Miyazaki's final filmThat change, however, is not coming immediately. Ronia the Robber's Daughter, an animated television series Polygon is making with Miyazaki's son and heir apparent Goro Miyazaki, in co-operation with Studio Ghibli and other partners, is a melding of 3D digital techniques with a 2D hand-drawn look.

But what Shiota describes as "mental barriers" erected by the Japanese audience and industry to full 3D computer animation are eroding. One sign is the enormous success in Japan of Frozen, with the Disney animation earning about US$243 million, the third-highest box office total of any film ever released in Japan.

The all-time leader, Miyazaki's Spirited Away, recorded US$293 million in 2001.

Hayao Miyazaki, father-figure of the anime industry, retired last year.The American film's appeal to its Japanese audience, however, may lie less in its 3D computer graphics (CG) animation than in its popular theme song Let It Go, which was re-recorded in Japanese. "Disney did a great job of adapting the film to the local market and making it accessible," Shiota says.

A more telling indicator of the industry's direction may be Stand By Me Doraemon, a 3D CG reboot of a long-running 2D animated series featuring a robot cat from the future and his bumbling boy companion. Directed by live-action hit maker Takashi Yamazaki ( The Eternal Zero; the Always: Sunset on Third Street series) and Ryuichi Yagi, the film earned nearly US$9.6 million in the first three days following its August 8 release and is now expected to finish with US$50.5 million.

Despite this success, the changeover to digital has been slow, notes Jonathan Clements, an expert on Japanese animation and author of Anime: A History. "It involves massive re-skilling and investment in software and hardware," he says.

Television series Tron: Uprising But the anime industry has also long relied on labour in other Asian countries such as South Korea and Vietnam - especially for the simpler jobs - while keeping the more creative, high-end work in Japan. Now, however, this division of labour is shifting.

As the Japanese master animators who began working in the 1960s anime boom follow Miyazaki into retirement, a market gap is appearing that the so-called "new Miyazakis" - such as Makoto Shinkai (The Garden of Words), Mamoru Hosoda (Wolf Children), Keiichi Hara (Colorful) and Yasuhiro Yoshiura (Patema Inverted) - are only partly filling, despite their critical acclaim.

"The likely competition to do what anime does, to compete at a more domestic, perhaps even consciously 'Asian' level, is going to come from China," Clements says.

The Garden of Words by Makoto Shinkai, one of the "new Miyazakis" "The Chinese animation business has a lot to learn, and much of its output is highly derivative. But it is generating an animation labour base bigger than Japan's every year."

Shiota, however, doesn't believe the Chinese animators will pose a threat to their Japanese counterparts any time soon. "More of what they're doing now is good technically, but it's not original," he says. "I'm sure that someday they'll make something they can call their own, but I don't see it yet."

He contrasts China's relatively regimented social and political system, which he believes stifles creativity, with Japan's more open society. "We get stimulus from a variety of sources," he says, citing everything from manga to cosplay.

But with Japan's population greying and shrinking, the standard industry strategy of appealing first and foremost to the home audience, with the world market taking second place, means steadily losing ground to more globally minded rivals, beginning with Hollywood.

Studio Ghibli's When Marnie Was There disappointed at the box office this year Shiota has positioned his company, Polygon, as a bridge between Japan and Hollywood, with credits that include Tron: Uprising, a series made for Disney Television Animation, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a series produced for Lucasfilm Animation.

His ultimate ambition, however, is to make feature films that he describes as "basically Japanese, but marketable internationally" - like those of a certain studio that's long been the country's anime leader.

As for Studio Ghibli, its future, Clements says, may lie less in feature production, and more in managing the rights of Miyazaki and other studio creators. "Ghibli was lightning in a bottle," he says.

"I think what people forget was just how lucky Disney was that Pixar could show up at the right moment and completely revitalise its output with fresh ideas and fresh technology and real talents.

"Ghibli doesn't have that. Ghibli doesn't have a powerful competitor it can embrace and merge with."

Pixar is Benched for 2014 Oscars

(              With just a few months left on the 2014 Oscar calendar, Warner Brothers' "The Lego Movie" is the early favorite to claim the Best Animated Feature prize, according to Gold Derby's official racetrack odds. But, hey, not so fast: What about Pixar Animation Studios?

Don't forget, Pixar has won the most Oscars for Best Animated Feature — seven — since the category was created in 2001, making it a force to be reckoned with year after year. Surely "The Lego Movie" can be stopped by whatever film Pixar has up its sleeve this year, right?

Who got Best Actor Oscars boost from TIFF:
Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, ...?

Wrong. Pixar announced last year that it would not have a film ready to go in 2014, making this the first time since 2005 that the animation giant skipped the Oscar derby. (The next Pixar film scheduled for release is "Inside Out" in June 2015, starring the voice talents of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling.)

With Pixar benched for the 2014 Oscars, the bulk of our predictors are throwing their support to the well-received "The Lego Movie." This animated feature has the backing of 13 Experts, four Editors and most of Gold Derby's Users, giving it first-place odds of 13/8. The current runner-up is "How to Train Your Dragon 2" with 7/2 odds, followed by "Big Hero 6" in third place with 5/1 odds, "The Boxtrolls" in fourth place with 15/2 odds and "The Book of Life" in fifth place with 20/1 odds.


Visual effects studio Worldwide FX has release a video showcasing the breakdown of the digital effects that they produced in The Expendables 3.

In THE EXPENDABLES 3, Barney (Stallone), Christmas (Statham) and the rest of the team come face-to-face with Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), who years ago co-founded The Expendables with Barney. Stonebanks subsequently became a ruthless arms trader and someone who Barney was forced to kill… or so he thought. Stonebanks, who eluded death once before, now is making it his mission to end The Expendables -- but Barney has other plans. Barney decides that he has to fight old blood with new blood, and brings in a new era of Expendables team members, recruiting individuals who are younger, faster and more tech-savvy. The latest mission becomes a clash of classic old-school style versus high-tech expertise in the Expendables’ most personal battle yet.

VIDEO - Take a look:

The 10 Most Amazing Things About Laika, the Studio Behind 'The Boxtrolls'

(            A few weeks ago, we were whisked away to the magical land of Portland, Oregon, for the sole purpose of visiting Laika, the animation studio whose dazzling new stop motion confection "The Boxtrolls," opens later this month. As you can imagine, it was downright magical and while we were there, for a few short hours, we tried to soak up all we could from the place – the sets, the people, the vibe – so we relay that special feeling to you. It was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime treat, to the point that we had to actively wonder if we had come down with some incurable disease and they were whisking us there as a dying wish.

While we tried to cram as many anecdotes and notes as we could into our trip, but we were also working (see our adorable interview with Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who voices Eggs, a small child raised by the titular underground gremlins), but we will try to make it feel like you too have visited the wonderful realm of Laika. Hope you enjoy the tour, as we countdown the ten most amazing things about Laika.

Take a look: 

Oculus CEO Donates $31M To Build VR Lab

(            Brendan Iribe dropped out of University Of Maryland his freshman year to launch a startup before going on to form Oculus. But now inspired by Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropy and made rich by Zuck’s company buying Oculus for $2 billion, Iribe is donating $31 million to build the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation at University Of Maryland (UMD), plus set up a CS scholarship.

The building will include labs for virtual reality, augmented reality, robotics, computer vision, and artificial intelligence. Iribe tells me he believes the virtual reality industry “is about to completely take off, and to put a building in place that’s largely focused on this…will help inspire a lot of students and incredibly brilliant engineers to become part of the industry and solve the next set of difficult problems.”

The scholarship will be in the name of Andrew Scott Reisse, the Oculus co-founder who was tragically killed as an innocent bystander in a police chase last year.

Along with Iribe’s $30 million for the building and $1 scholarship fund, his mother Elizabeth is giving $3 million to set up two endowed chairs in the school’s computer science department. And Oculus co-founder and chief software architect Michael Antonov is donating $3.5 million to the CS building and another $500,000 to fund scholarships, though unlike Iribe, he actually graduated.

“I dropped out to pursue a dream” Iribe tells me. “But we dropped out and then dropped back in on the local area and set up the company right next to campus. I still established a lot of relationships with my best friends for life at college, and hired one of our professors at the time. I was born and raised in Maryland and attended the public school system. It just felt like the right thing to do to give back to a state school and public school, I’m a really big fan of public education.”

Oculus’ new parent company Facebook’s CEO showed Iribe the way. Zuckerberg famously donated $100 million to the New Jersey public school system, signed the giving pledge to give away most of his fortune, has taught a class a public school near Facebook’s headquarters, and was recognized as the most generous American in 2013 after donating $990 million worth of Facebook stock to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Iribe explains “Mark Zuckerberg was a big inspiration for me personally on this. He’s an incredible person and incredible donator”. Iribe cites Elon Musk and Bill Gates’ philanthropic efforts as also driving him to give back to UMCP. “I’m really fortunate to finally be in a place to make these donations and make a difference. Mark was very personally excited about it and supportive.”

Iribe will do some educating himself next week when Oculus puts on its Connect developer conference, where he’ll give the keynote and reveal its latest innovations. The company recently began shipping its DK2 developer kits, and just unveiled the mobile VR rig it built for Samsung which uses the Galaxy Note phablet as the screen.

Full article:

Warner Bros. Registers Four Superhero-movie DomainNames

(                 Warner Bros’ explicit attempt to conjure up their own superhero-movie mega-franchise has led to a summer of tantalizing hints and possible red herrings. Is Dwayne Johnson playing Shazam…or is he playing Shazam’s nemesis? Will the Aquaman movie feel 300-y or Castle-ish? If Guillermo Del Toro talks about a movie, does that mean it’s definitely happening or definitely not happening?

Possible clarity about WB’s DC plans comes from the news, initially reported by TechTimes, that the studio has registered four key domain names that auger big things for some major DC characters. The domains are:

GET EW ON YOUR TABLET: Subscribe today and get instant access!

Currently, going to any of those URLs takes you to Warner Bros. website. But it seems likely that, soon enough, they’ll take you to the homepages of the four movies WB will release after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Wonder Woman always seemed like a natural choice, given all the hullabaloo around the casting of Gal Gadot as the Amazon in BvS: DoJ. And it’s been widely rumored that Jason “Khal Drogo” Momoa will have some kind of appearance in the movie as Aquaman, a character who is totally awesome and completely deserves a spinoff no matter what your douchebag older brother says.

The fact that WB is inching forward on a Shazam movie is probably the most surprising–although Johnson practically talked more about Shazam this summer than Hercules, so maybe it’s not surprising. Keep in mind that these are just domain names and actual announcements could be months/years away. But now we know decisively that Warner Bros. isn’t not making an Aquaman movie.

Judge Grants John Textor Emergency Restraining Stemming from Jackson hologram Controversy

(            MARTIN COUNTY — A Martin County judge has issued former Digital Domain CEO John Textor an emergency restraining order for protection against a California man who claims Textor stole his patented technology to create a virtual Michael Jackson that performed at an awards show earlier this year.

Full article:

Disney Planning New Star Wars Attraction For Paris Park

(            Euro Disney, the theme park complex on the outskirts of Paris is planning to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2017 by making major investments including the installation of a new attraction themed to the Star Wars movie series.

It would be the first significant expansion of the Star Wars brand at The Walt Disney Company’s European outpost since the American media giant bought its parent company Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012. The plans coincide with the filming of the seventh instalment of the Star Wars series which is currently underway at London’s Pinewood Studios and is due for release next year.

Euro Disney is Europe’s most-visited tourist attraction with its two theme parks attracting 14.9 million visitors last year. Its flagship Disneyland Paris was the first of the two parks to open and features a Star Wars-themed simulator ride called Star Tours which is now more than 20 years old.

“We are looking at updating Star Tours at the moment,” says Bj√∂rn Heerwagen, show design and production manager for Euro Disney’s design division which is known as Imagineering “We are looking at rehabilitations of the first gate. It’s been there for 20 years. We want to do some special stuff for the 25th anniversary as well.”

It follows Disney chief executive Bob Iger saying last month that “when we grow ‘Star Wars” presence, which we will do significantly, you will see better bets being made that will pay off for us than were made in the past.”

The design decisions are down to the Imagineers as they are the wizards who create Disney’s theme park attractions. Imagineering was a term coined by Walt Disney and formed from imagination and engineering. Although Mr Heerwagen is an Imagineer, his work is far from abstract. In fact, he is responsible for making Disney’s magic become reality.

“We go through the creative process and we get the attraction up to what we call schematics. I then take over from that point and complete it. I have to make it such that we can actually build the thing. I have to take some crazy ideas and think about how to make them realistic.”

Mr Heerwagen is in charge of 40 divisions which range from animated props, themed paint and special effects to the relatively more mundane fields of graphics, media and video projection.

“I bring all of the stuff in and start the installation process. I make it look pretty, make sure that it stays within the theme and tells the story that we want to tell.” Mr Heerwagen says that the next step is to synchronise everything which sounds easier than it actually is.

As Forbes has reported, the newest ride at Disneyland Paris features cutting-edge trackless simulator cars which move through huge indoor sets themed to the Oscar-winning Disney movie Ratatouille. The cars move in time to the events on giant 3D screens to give the impression that the riders are the size of rats which are being chased through a restaurant. The synchronisation process involves such exotic steps as making sure that fake rats’ eyes flicker from behind crates whilst a smell of bread is pumped in when the ride car enters the pantry scene.

“Then we run the attraction for 72 hours non-stop for reliability before going into soft opening and the grand opening.” Mr Heerwagen adds that he is already planning rides which will open decades in the future and there is good reason for this.

“Ratatouille is a fantastic example. At one point, three months after ground-breaking for Ratatouille we had a very serious question posed to us about moving it somewhere else in the same park. We studied it, we were going to do that and it would have fit. We would have just flipped it. Eventually while we were looking at it they re-looked at some different stuff, re-jigged it and said ‘leave it where it is it’s actually fine.’ We have to look up to 20 years forward because if you take something like Ratatouille, it took five years to make from start to finish.” It goes to show that although the rides may seem like magic it takes more than the wave of a wand to pull them off.


(              Following the success of last year’s inaugural Certificate in Character Animation, Aardman and The NFTS are running the course again this year to meet the growing demand for animators in the UK.

The exciting three-month Certificate in Character Animation course will be taught by industry professionals and led by Loyd Price,Head of Animation at Aardman (Nightmare before Christmas, Chicken Run, The Curse of the WereRabbit, Flushed Away and Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists).

The 12-week intensive course, a scheme which is part-funded by Creative Skillset’s Skills Investment Funds,will take place at Aardman’s Bristol headquarters and provide the core practical skills needed to become professional animators. The majority of the course is practical with participants working on animation exercises to improve their skills, knowledge and experience. This will also be supported by animation theory. It culminates in a short character animation sequence – pre-planned and boarded – to showcase the skills learnt during the course.

To further enhance the experience, Aardman have secured a number of industry partners who have signed up to offer workplace internships, which is fundamental part of the investment in and development of animation talent in the UK.Following completion of the course, students will be given the opportunity to apply for practical placements within some of the country’s leading animation and post production companies which include; MPC (Life of Pi, Godzilla, Man of Steel, Guardians of the Galaxy), Factory Transmedia, Lupus Films and Jellyfish. Following the 2013 course, Aardman hired five of the graduates in a variety of different animation roles and hope to have the same caliber of graduates again in 2014.

Loyd Price, Head of Animation at Aardman said: “The first course that we ran here proved very successful with many of the students going on to find work, both here at Aardman and at other UK animation companies. We are now starting to see more animated productions happening in the UK, in both stop-frame and CG and we are continuing to develop the course to allow students to take advantage of the opportunities that this will offer.”

-H         For Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) Zoe Saldana wanted to portray Gamora through makeup rather than computer-generated imagery or performance capture.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Worth a mention - 09/12/14

Godzilla Was Only In 8 Minutes Of Godzilla

(             Wow. Gareth Edwards' new Godzilla movie got pretty solid reviews, but I don't think people realized how little the Big G was actually on screen during the film. As this video compiled by John Nemesis reveals, it's less than eight total minutes — yeesh.

According to Wired, that accounts for less than 7% of the total film. Let's hopes that number rises substantially for the sequel, Godzilla 2: The Legend of Megalon's Gold.

VIDEO - Take a look:

How To Train Your Dragon 3 Flees From Pixar's Finding Dory

(             Though not as buzzed about as other summer blockbusters have been, How To Train Your Dragon 2 has been a rousing success this summer. To keep the momentum going, DreamWorks is bumping the release date of its sequel back for proper box office domination.

Coming Soon reports How To Train Your Dragon 3 has flown away from its original release date of June 17th, 2016 all the way to June 9th, 2017.

Its former debut date had the sequel facing off against the Shane Black-directed, Russell Crowe-fronted The Nice Guys as well as Pixar's Finding Dory, the long-awaited sequel to 2003's Finding Nemo. On its new summer home in 2017, How To Train Your Dragon 3 is currently uncontested. However, that season is set to be ripe with animated competition. The sequel to The LEGO Movie will be hitting on May 26th, 2017. Then the week following How To Train Your Dragon 3's debut, Pixar will unleash a new title, though which one is currently unclear.

But does How To Train Your Dragon 3 have reason to fear? It seems not.

When How To Train Your Dragon 2 opened in the US, it was considered a disappointment, coming in #2 behind 22 Jump Street. These were not the kind of numbers that inspire stockholders, and this mediocre debut cost DreamWorks an 11% drop in its stock in just a day.

But since then, How To Train Your Dragon 2 has steadily filled coffers. Now the $145 million movie has earned $174 million domestic, and another $424 million overseas. That's a grand total of $598 million worldwide, and enough to earn this sequel the title of highest grossing animated film of the year. That's a pretty incredible accomplishment. Not only has it out-earned the critically scorned Rio 2 ($495 mil worldwide), but it's also bypassed the critically heralded The LEGO Movie ($468 million worldwide). (Note: The LEGO Movie is still the highest domestic grossing animated movie, with $257 mil in the U.S.)

The key to breaking this worldwide record lies in China. THR reports that How To Train Your Dragon 2 pulled in $5.6 mil on opening day there, which pushed it above the $500 mil mark. And that number just keeps growing, which is good news for How To Train Your Dragon 3. The better its predecessor does, the more likely How To Train Your Dragon 3 will get a bigger budget, and a wider, more spectacular world of storytelling.

The second film took audiences far beyond the Viking island of Berk, where a mysterious dragon rider lurked along with a dangerous band of poachers. Where will Hiccup and Toothless wind up in How To Train Your Dragon 3? Well, we'll have to wait until 2017 to find out.

Blackmagic Enters VFX Business With Acquisition of Eyeon

(            Blackmagic Design is stepping into the visual effects business. On Friday, it announced the acquisition of Eyeon Software; both companies are privately owned and terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Eyeon is the maker of the Fusion compositing system, a well-known tool in VFX that has been used on recent tentpoles including Maleficent, Edge of Tomorrow and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. According to Blackmagic, Fusion was also used by Douglas Trumbull on UFOTOG, his latest project made for his new MAGI system in 3D, 4K at 120 fps.

The acquisition is the latest step in some bullish growth from Blackmagic. Five years ago, the company entered the color grading market with the acquisition of Da Vinci and its popular Resolve grading system. And two years ago, it made that surprise announcement that it was going into the camera-making business.

Eyeon employees including founder Steve Roberts will continue to develop Fusion out of Eyeon’s Toronto headquarters.

Blackmagic also acknowledged ties between users of Fusion and Blackmagic's grading system, Resolve. While plans are not yet finalized, some sort of R&D to bring these toolsets together more closely could be expected.

Lego Movie Helps Boost Toy Maker's Profits by 12%

(          Danish toy maker Lego has seen its profits boosted in the first half of the year helped by strong sales of products linked to the Lego Movie.

Net profits rose 12% to 2.7bn Danish Kroner (£290m) after Lego Movie kits "exceeded expectations", the firm said.

Revenue increased by 11%, helped by growth in other Lego product lines such as Lego Technic and Lego Star Wars.

Consumer sales grew by double digits in Europe, the Americas, and Asia, the firm added.

"We are thrilled by the reception of the Lego Movie products that provided a significant boost to our sales during the first half of 2014," said Lego chief financial officer John Goodwin.

Lego Movie products were launched with the release of the film in early 2014.

"It remains to be seen how the line will continue to develop behind the highly anticipated launch of the Lego Movie on DVD in the second half of 2014," Mr Goodwin added.

The firm is controlled by Denmark's richest man, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, who is the grandson of Lego's founder.

Dreamworks Getting Serious About Live-Action Ghost In The Shell Movie

(               The Wolf of Wall Street's Margot Robbie is in talks to lead DreamWorks' live-action adaptation of the 1995 hit anime movie Ghost in the Shell, to be directed by Snow White and the Huntsman's Rupert Sanders. Which makes it sound like DreamWorks is finally getting pretty serious about making this film.

The Wrap summarizes GitS as:

A live-action film based on the popular Japanese manga created by Masamune Shirow, the story follows the exploits of a member of a covert ops unit of the Japanese National Public Safety Commission that specializes in fighting technology-related crime.

Which is not inaccurate. It doesn't mention how lead character Motoko Kusanagi — a name that I have my doubts will survive in the American script — fights that technology-related crime primarily in lingerie, but I suppose it'll be good to save some surprises for the movie itself.

New Studio Bringing Computer-Generated Films to South Carolina

(             Over the past 10 years, many of America's classic, most human films have featured no actors at all. With the rapid advancement of digital technology, companies like Pixar and Dreamworks have revolutionized the filmmaking industry, and now, one local company is looking to establish the region's first major digital animation studio right here in the Lowcountry.

Fresh off a $250,000 investment from SCRA Technology Ventures' SC Launch, Moondog Animation Studio announced that they plan to bring more than 150 jobs to the area over the next 18 months with the creation of South Carolina's only feature-length film computer animation studio.

Founded by CEO Bryan Ransom and Mount Pleasant residents Jean-Marc Khayat and Ben Davis, Moondog Studio plans to make a big splash both locally and abroad.

“We're definitely the first in South Carolina to ever do this, if not the region,” said Ransom. Born in Georgetown, South Carolina, Bryan was instrumental in bringing the studio to his home state.

“I pushed my colleagues to start looking at Charleston. They really fell in love with the artistic community. The tech initiative that's really been driving over the past couple of years has really made it a neat place for us because mixing that art and tech is phenomenal,” Ransom said. “So that mixed with quality of life and cost of living, it just made a lot of sense to come here.”

While the team has yet to pin down a permanent location for their offices, the company plans to attract skilled artists to the area as well foster local talent.

“The animation industry is a tad nomadic. … It's people working for a two- to three-year stint and then they move on,” Ransom said. “That's why Charleston was so important, because they like moving here. It's is a great place to draw them to us and they're more than willing to make the distance from L.A. to here or New York to here.”

While establishing the Charleston area as a hub for computer animators from across the world, Moondog has also begun working with schools all over the Southeast to create a steady flow of new artists and provide a local career option for students.

“In the Southeast area, even though there's not a huge animation industry, there are still students coming out,” Ransom said. “We'd really like to build a new node of animation here and link up with the schools.”

According to Ransom, the studio is currently in communication with Clemson University, the University of South Carolina, Trident Tech and SCAD to build up the animation programs offered by these schools and provide students a source of employment following graduation.

“They want to stay here. They want to be in South Carolina, and having a place like us here allows them that opportunity to make the choice to stay here,” Ransom said.

So as the studio works to marry the distinct local worlds of art and technology, Ransom sees this as the beginning of something much larger. “We really want to spark an industry where we have television series animated here and other animated content,” said Ransom. “We really believe that by kicking this off, we can spark other industries around us.”

Marvel's Guardians Just Out-Earned the Last Superman Movie

(            Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was the top-grossing movie for the fourth weekend in a row. That’s no great surprise. Last weekend was the slowest for Hollywood in two years—at the end of a summer that has been the worst for the movies since 2006— and Guardians has been one of the few theatrical bright spots.

The weekend numbers should be especially unnerving to Marvel’s (DIS) chief competitor: Warner Brothers (TWX), owner of DC Comics.

Guardians has now grossed $294 million in the U.S., according to Box Office Mojo. That’s more than last year’s Man of Steel, Warner Brothers’ expensive 2013 Superman relaunch, which took in $291 million domestically. Box Office Mojo sees the triumph of Guardians over Man of Steel as “noteworthy given the discrepancy in pre-existing fan bases for these two superhero movies.” To put it another way: The most famous superhero of all time has been dispatched by a once-negligible team of Marvel characters barely known even to avid comic-book fans before the film’s opening.

Story: Those Comics in Your Basement? Probably Worthless

The multiple-weekend victory of Guardians is telling, too. Few movies have such staying power. Box Office Mojo says they include Avatar, the Hunger Games series, and the Dark Knight, Warner Brothers’ Batman franchise. Who would have expected such a formidable performance from Guardians, a team of characters that include a wisecracking raccoon and a lumbering humanoid tree?

What does this mean for Warner Brothers? DC is full of wonderful superheroes. But with the exception of Batman, the studio hasn’t been able to turn many into sequel-spawning franchises, as Marvel has done with the Avengers and its most popular members, Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. Warner Brothers is hoping to make a splash in 2016, when it releases the Zack Snyder-directed Batman and Superman: Dawn of Justice. But earlier this year, it rescheduled the film’s opening from May to March so that it wouldn’t go up against Marvel’s third Captain America movie. Since its April release, The Winter Soldier, Marvel’s second Captain American film, has taken $260 million in the U.S.

Full article:

Moviemaking Tech Pushing Workers Onto Unemployment Lines

(             Technology is a wonderful thing, but that's not likely the view of workers in the moviemaking industry as tech advances are prompting less job opportunities and, in some cases, eliminating job roles entirely.

Anyone who has fiddled around with HD iPhone video in iMovie or Adobe Premiere likely isn't surprised movie studios are increasingly adopting such tools and opting to let server farms and powerful software handle more of the workload that full-time production workers once did.

Sung Sohn, a professor of economics at California State University, says the decline in movie production jobs reflects what has been a consistent trend.

"Today, a lot of it can be done through technology," Sohn says of movie production. "You can have just a few people sitting around a computer and produce a movie."

Movie and sound production jobs in California are said to have dropped by approximately 19 percent between 2012 and 2014, yet employment remains rosy for production staff that doesn't work in the editing room. Those being displaced by new computer technology are increasingly moving to other states and into academia.

Richard Crudo, president of the American Society of Cinematographers, said studio migrants from California are finding better opportunities in other states, where tax incentives are more lucrative for new production companies

Full article:

Douglas Trumbull Screens 'UFOTOG,' Makes Case for Immersive Filmmaking

(            Filmmaker and legendary special-effects guru Douglas Trumbull gave a special demonstration at the Toronto Film Festival, screening 10 minutes of UFOTOG, his high-intensity, 3-D immersive work-in-progress that he filmed at 120 frames per second. Most Hollywood movies are filmed and projected at 24 frames per second, the industry standard for almost 100 years, even though digital camera and projector technology has opened the door for much greater speeds. In 2012, Peter Jackson filmed The Hobbit at 48 frames per second—and though the film grossed more than a billion around the globe, many viewers flinched at the film’s “soap-opera” look.

Trumbull, who famously worked with Stanley Kubrick on 2001, as well as Blade Runner, Star Trek, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, has long been an advocate for faster frame rates that reduce blurring and enhance the viewer experience of big-screen spectacle. (In the 1970s, he developed Showscan, which used 70 mm film at 60 frames per second.) With TV currently whipping movies at its own game, Trumbull believes it’s essential that the industry differentiate itself from its small-screen cousin—and smartphones and tablets—by creating a deeper experience, one that is bigger, crisper, and more visually immersive. The industry has resisted the newer technologies—even though most all theaters upgraded to high-speed digital after James Cameron’s 3-D blockbuster, Avatar—and Trumbull resorted to making UFOTOG in his home studio in western Massachusetts as a kind of work sample that he hopes will persuade influential directors to get on board. “I just want to screen this for a lot of people and just kind of get out of the way,” he says. “Say, ‘Would you like to make a movie this way? Be my guest.'”

UFOTOG is a small portion of a much larger story that Trumbull is ultimately hoping to direct himself, about a savvy techie (Ryan Winkles) determined to photograph and prove the existence of extraterrestrial life (a mission, by the way, that Trumbull himself is nerdily interested). The viewing experience is extremely promising, more evolutionary than revolutionary. The glossy soap-opera motion problems that plagued Peter Jackson on The Hobbit are not evident—though Trumbull has said that certain types of films and genres are better suited for the high-intensity technology—and the highest compliment I can pay UFOTOG is that watching it isn’t jarring. Its 3-D immersion and crystal clarity are more subtle than you might expect, and it lured me in—as if I was putting eyeglasses on for the first time—rather than distracting me with its bells and whistles. One regret is the short’s settings, a dark apartment and a starry sky; a brighter, more vibrant scenario may have better demonstrated the technology’s more dynamic potential.

Full article:

DreamWorks Animation, Disney & Sony Slapped With Class Action Over Wage Suppression Deals

(             A former DreamWorks Animation effects artist is taking on the ‘toon studios with a class action lawsuit over the anti-poaching agreements they allegedly had. DWA, Disney, Pixar, Sony Pictures Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks and Lucasfilm are all called out and named as defendants in the jury seeking legal move from Robert Nitsch. “The conspiracy deprived Plaintiff and other class members of millions of dollars which Defendants instead put to their bottom lines,” says the filing in federal court here in California today. “It did so at the same time that the films produced by these workers achieved world renown and generated billions of dollars in revenues in the United States and abroad.” With a classification motion certain to follow, this suit could conceivably grow to thousands of claimants.

“The Defendants themselves have explained the purpose of the conspiracy and in doing so, articulated the harm and injury caused by it to their workers. George Lucas explained under oath that the purpose of the non-solicitation agreement was to suppress wages and keep the visual effects industry out of “a normal industrial competitive situation,’” says the highly detailed 27-page filing (read it here). “The agreement was explicitly intended to avoid ‘a bidding war with other companies because we don’t have the margins for that sort of thing.’”

The studios involvement in this illicit behavior came to light in a Department of Justice investigation into tech companies Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe and Intuit over their agreement to not snag each others employees and to keep wages at a certain level. That now settled 2010 investigation by the DoJ lead to a 2011 class action suit by 64,000 tech employees against the companies. Lucasfilm and Pixar paid out $9 million in that action this spring but a greater $325 million settlement was rejected by a federal district judge as no enough. Apple and the other tech companies are appealing the ruling by Judge Lucy Koh.

Not long after the involvement of the studios and seemingly damning emails from execs like Disney’s Ed Catmull and then studio chairman Dick Cook were revealed in the discovery process, the Animation Guild started making noises among its membership for a potential legal action of their own. At the Guild’s recent membership meeting in late July, lawyer Dean Harvey spoke to the gathering about seeking more info for a possible suit. Regardless of if the Guild makes a move on the legal front, you can be damn sure that this will come up in next year’s negotiations for a new 3-year contract with the studios.

Brent Johnson, Daniel Small and Jeffrey Dubner of the D.C. offices of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC are representing Nitsch, who worked at DWA from 2007 to 2011 and at Sony Imageworks in 2004.

"Space Battleship Yamato" Feature Film Edges Closer

(       The Hollywood live-action film adaptation of the hit 1970s anime series "Space Battleship Yamato" (aka. "Star Blazers") has been a long time coming, mostly due to some thorny rights issues regarding the work.

In late 2012, filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie told Dark Horizons that after years of talks, the last few issues were being worked out regarding the rights to the property. At the time he said: "Yes, the longest rights negotiation of planet Earth. I think we're very very close to finally… there's one last piece in the chain that needs to be worked out and when that's done I would immediately be able to start writing that."

It sounds like that has happened as the Sports Nippon newspaper (via Anime News Network) reports that McQuarrie will shoot the project next once he wraps his work on the currently filming "Mission: Impossible 5".

Skydance Productions and Voyager Entertainment are producing the project and the newspaper quotes McQuarrie, saying: "My favorite characters are Captain Juzo Okita (Abraham Avatar ) and Earth Defence Force's Commander Hajime Saito (Webb Knox). I am extremely honored to be entrusted with a wonderful work such as this. I cannot wait to present it in (Yamato's homeland) Japan. I'm looking forward to meeting everyone."

The story of the English dubbed version entitled "Star Blazers" is set in a time when Earth's atmosphere has been obliterated by a distant alien race. The survivors have one year before radiation will reach their underground refuge and wipe out what's left of humanity.

Using a form of alien technology, a small crew is sent across the universe to secure a means to stave off extinction and restore the planet. The series was the first popular English-translated anime that had an overarching plot and storyline that required the episodes to be shown in order.

'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,' 'Maleficent' Among Postproduction Award Nominees

(         Oscar visual effects contenders Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Maleficent will compete against last year’s Academy Awards juggernaut Gravity and Oscar nominee The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at the 9th annual Hollywood Post Alliance Awards.

The HPA announced the nominees in its 12 craft categories on Wednesday. The winners will be revealed during a ceremony on Nov. 6 at the Skirball Cultural Center. The entry period ran from September 2013 to September 2014, meaning that some of last year’s Oscar nominees and winners will go up against some of this year’s hopefuls.

Awards categories include color grading, editing, sound and VFX. Gravity received three nominations in the feature categories, followed by best picture winner 12 Years a Slave and this year’s Captain America sequel, which received two apiece.

Netflix original House of Cards leads the field in television with four nominations, followed by Game of Thrones with three.

In the feature VFX category, Weta Digital and its senior VFX supervisor, four-time Oscar winner Joe Letteri, are double nominees for Apes and the Hobbit sequel. A team from Framestore is nominated for Gravity; Industrial Light & Magic snagged a nomination for Captain America; and MPC artists were cited for Maleficent.

Outstanding Visual Effects – Feature Film

Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Max Solomon, Paul Beilby and Stuart Penn // Framestore

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Chistopher White and Eric Reynolds // Weta Digital

Adam Valdez, Seth Maury, Kevin Hahn, David Seager and Carey Villegas // MPC        

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
Russell Earl, Steve Rawlins, Johan Thorngren, Francois Lambert and Daniel Pearson //
Industrial Light & Magic

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Erik Winquist, Keith Miller and Paul Story // Weta Digital

Full nominations listing:

In Movies, CGI is Best When You Don't Even Notice It

(               Cinema screens are huge, which is odd, because the eye can only focus on a small portion of what's in front of it at any one time. That's what prompted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to team up with neuroscientists from Birkbeck, University of London, who in turn recruited eye-tracking firm Tobii. The trio embarked upon a project to determine where people concentrated their gaze. Then, by using Tobii's hardware, were able to create a heat map that was overlaid on the frame, much in the same way that SMI analyzes sports matche. The conclusions from the research found that the best use of CGI isn't to make big robots at the front of the frame, but to fill in all of the spare detail that you're not looking at.

Analyzing a scene from Iron Man 2 with director Jon Favreau, he commented that the audience's attention was always concentrated on the action. That is, the obvious things like faces, movements and the model F1 car that was blown up for the sequence. Everything else in the set-piece, from the background crowds to the sweeping vistas of Monaco, however - the stuff that people aren't paying attention to - was all digitally added in afterwards. In fact, none of the principal cast even visited the principality, as the scene was shot in a car park in Downey, California.

Of course, while this does mean that there is now proof that practical, old-school effects won't ever be crowded out by CGI, we can probably expect a lot more movies to fill in their backgrounds with digital matte paintings in the future. As for foreground CGI, it's an issue that Favreau is wrestling with on his forthcoming remake of The Jungle Book. At the same event, he commented that motion capture films -- like The Polar Express and The Adventures of Tintin -- don't work because people don't believe CGI facial expressions. That's why he's going to be using real actor's heads to help the audience not feel too unsettled. If you're curious to see the clip with heat map and commentary, it's the first one down at the source.

The 22 Biggest Special Effects Milestones

(            Today marks not only the 20th anniversary of Robert Zemeckis’ Best Picture winner Forrest Gump, but also a banner re-release, placing the blockbuster into IMAX screens for the first time. Forrest Gump was, it must be immediately recalled, the biggest hit of 1994. It was a Summer release, and played for months, earning over $300 million (and that’s in 1994 dollars!), beating out The Lion King and Speed. Only one other film was talked about more that year, and it was Pulp Fiction. I miss the days when noisy sci-fi and action blockbusters weren’t the highest earners.

Forrest Gump not only marked a high point in bold, Hollywood sentimentality, but it was also a watershed moment for film special effects. Forrest, played by Oscar winner Tom Hanks, famously visited several presidents throughout the course of the film, and this was achieved not with lookalikes or stand-ins, but by superimposing Forrest directly into film strips with the late Commanders in Chief, interacting with them, and giving them their own dialogue. These techniques earned Forrest Gump the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, beating True Lies and The Mask.

 Check Out: How To Use Special Effects RIGHT, Damn It!

When we think of visual effects these days, we tend to think fantasy; i.e. What filmmaker can create a fantasy environment, fantasy gadget, or fantasy character the best? And while creatures and environment have long been the purview of VFX technicians, it seems to be particularly fantastical in recent years. How strange, then, that something as relatively “straight” as Forrest Gump can blow The Mask out of the water. People may not recall this in 2014, but there was a time when then nation was dazzled – dazzled! – by JFK saying new things.

To commemorate Forrest Gump‘s amazing special effects, we here at CraveOnline have compiled the following list of 22 other essential feature films that presented the world with important watershed moments in visual achievement. These 22 are by no means the only important films in VFX history; there are far too many dazzling and important movies that broke new ground in film visuals. But these are most certainly the 22 best and the most essential – not to mention still the

Full article:

Activision's "Destiny" Tops $500M First Day Sales

(            Activision has announced that they have generated more than $500 million in revenue from Day One sales of the video game "Destiny" which was released in retail stores and online on Tuesday.

This makes the game the biggest new video game franchise launch in history. The company however did not close the sell-through figures (ie. how many copies sold). "Destiny" launched at over 11,000 midnight openings around the world.

Kubrick ‘Did Not Deserve’ Oscar For 2001 Says FX Master Douglas Trumbull

(             Stanley Kubrick did not deserve the only Oscar he ever won, the prize for best visual effects he received in 1969 for 2001: A Space Odyssey, according to Hollywood special effects giant Douglas Trumbull.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Trumbull made it clear he felt the UK-based film-maker should have won many more garlands from the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his writing and directing work over five decades. But he said Kubrick had not been involved in creating the effects for 2001, one of his best-known films.

“Kubrick did not create the visual effects. He directed them,” said Trumbull. “There was a certain level of inappropriateness to taking that Oscar. But the tragic aspect of it for me is it’s the only Oscar Stanley Kubrick ever won. He was an incredibly gifted director and should have gotten something for directing and writing and what his real strength was — not special effects.”

Trumbull, 72, was credited as special photographic effects supervisor on 2001 and has been widely credited for the film’s pioneering use of retroreflective matting for both space sequences and the iconic “Dawn of Man” opening chapter. He described the techniques involved in an extensively detailed interview with American Cinematographer in 1968. Trumbull went on to direct the sci-fi classic Silent Running in 1972.

Douglas Trumbull, director, producer and special effects pioneer, in 2010. Photograph: Andy Cross/Denver Post via Getty Images

Kubrick was nominated for 13 Oscars during his career, including best director and best writing nods for his science fiction epic 2001. He lost out in 1969’s best director category to Carol Reed, who directed the musical Oliver!, while A Clockwork Orange was beaten to best film by The French Connection in 1972, and Dr Strangelove was pipped by My Fair Lady in 1965. Further nominations for the New York-born film-maker came in 1976 for Barry Lyndon and 1988 for Full Metal Jacket.

Kubrick, who was credited as special photographic effects designer and director on 2001, and the only member of the effects team on the Oscar nomination list, did not attend the 1969 Academy awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles to collect his prize. Presenters Diahann Carroll and Burt Lancaster accepted the award on his behalf.

Ancient Flying Reptile Named After From Creature James Cameron's 'Avatar'

(               Some of the most visually stunning sequences from director James Cameron's blockbuster movie Avatar involved graceful flying creatures that were ridden by blue human-like beings facing ecological destruction on a moon called Pandora. It turns out that an animal very similar to those Avatar creatures, called Ikran, actually did exist here on Earth long ago.

Scientists on Thursday announced the discovery of fossils in  China of a new species of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled the creatures from the 2009 Film that they named it after them. It is called Ikrandraci avatar, meaning "Ikran dragon" from Avatar. And this pterosaur is noteworthy for more than just its resemblance to a movie creature. The scientists said it appears that Ikrandraci avatar had a throat pouch similar to that of a pelican. It probably fed on small fish from freshwater lakes, flying low over the water and catching prey by skimming its lower jaw into the water, they said. It may have stored the fish in the pouch, they added.

This Cretaceous Period pterosaur boasted an unusual blade-like crest on its lower jaw like the one on the movie creatures. "The head structure is similar in this pterosaur to the Ikran in 'Avatar,'" said one of the researchers, paleontologist Xiaolin Wang of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. "Of course, nobody and nothing can ride this pterosaur," Wang added.

Another of the researchers, paleontologist Alexander Kellner of Brazil's National Museum at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, joked: "Please, (there were) no blue hominids during the Cretaceous."

Full article:

-H             "Five months after the Lucasfilm sale to Disney closed, the value of George Lucas’s shares had risen by $840 million".    -Chris Taylor’s How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Worth a mention - 09/02/14

Are VFX Artists Now Making Something Better Than IMAX?

(             It was only about five years ago that James Cameron's Avatar changed the world's perspective on the cinematic experience and both IMAX and 3D. And while we've seen some marvelous titles take advantage of both formats in the time since, the reality is that the industry is now regularly looking for a way to stay fresh and innovative. We recently saw the format known as 4DX - which turns the theater into a roller coaster ride of sorts - arrive in the United States, but there's more still on the way. For example, it's time for you to learn about Escape.

Since the beginning of the film medium, theaters have been built to feature a single, central screen, but Escape, a new theater configuration introduced by the projector company Barco, is tweaking that model. Two screens are used on either side of the main central screen in an attempt to create a panoramic image and a more immersive feel. The first feature film that will be available in this new format is The Maze Runner, the new young adult adaptation that's being released by 20th Century Fox and will be in theaters on September 19th.

At this point, I imagine that many of you are asking a very important question to yourselves: if a movie is filmed to be projected on just one normal sized/IMAX screen, how is there going to be footage available to be shown on the two extra screens? As you may have guessed, the answer for now is visual effects. According to The Hollywood Reporter, teams of artists were hired to take what's featured on the screen during any given scene in The Maze Runner and expand the view with CGI. In aid of this process, Barco looked to the gaming industry and actually build their work around a Crytek gaming engine. Even if the job isn't 100% perfect, I wonder if this process will work just well enough given that audiences will mostly be focusing on the middle screen no matter what.

Of course, if Escape turns out to be a real success it could also eventually change the production side of the film industry. THR says that Fox is already looking into ways for films to be shot specifically for the Escape format, "trying various single- and multiple-camera setups." In these tests they've used everything from a Red Epic camera (which was used by Peter Jackson to film The Hobbit movies) to tiny GoPro camera. There has also been some development in the department of conversion and re-release. In 2011, Barco worked on converting the dark true-life drama The Devil's Double starring Dominic Cooper for Escape, and there have been talks about sending it into theaters (while I did enjoy the film, I do wonder if it has a big enough profile for a system this new).

There aren't currently many Escape theaters in the United States, but there are a few - all located in Cinemark theaters. You can see them listed below:

Cinemark 18 & XD at the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center in Los Angeles
Cinemark Paradise 24 & XD in Davie, Fla.
Cinemark West Plano & XD in Plano, Texas
Cinemark @ Seven Bridges and Imax in Woodridge, Ill.
Cinemark’s Redwood Downtown & XD in Redwood City, Calf.

Pacific Rim 2: Guillermo del Toro Returning, Wants to Show us the Monsters’ World

(              A follow-up to the blockbuster 2013 science fiction film Pacific Rim has been announced by Legendary Pictures and director Guillermo del Toro. Pacific Rim featured the story of mankind’s battle with giant alien monsters called the “Kaiju,” with human pilots commanding giant robotic suits in order to fight the invading beasts. The movie was a smash-hit with fans and critics both.

Del Toro stated that he would be scouting for filming locations in 2015. Principal photography will take place later that year, with the director aiming to begin filming in November. Del Toro also confirmed that several main characters would be returning, such as Raleigh Becket, played by English actor Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy fame.

The Hellboy director told the press, “The characters I love will return. Raleigh, Mako, Newt, Gottlieb and who knows, maybe even Hannibal Chau – but we are taking them into a fresh territory that will display amazing sights and battles. The first film set the stage and now we’re ready to have a blast.”

Early rumors speculated that Pacific Rim 2 may actually be a prequel. Actor Max Martini, who played Herc Hansen in the first film, did not deny this possibility and claimed that a prequel would likely focus on his character’s back-story. Del Toro gave some hints about the new installment as well, suggesting that the second movie may give audiences a closer look at the world of the Kaiju.

“You’re asking the right questions but not necessarily the way you think. If you think are we invading their world, we’re not, but we’re showing more of that world,” the director stated. Pacific Rim 2 is still in the very early stages of development, and producers are aiming for a spring 2017 release.

'Transformers 5' Premiere Date - Bay & Wahlberg Walk Away

(                  The "Transformers" film franchise is one of the biggest blockbuster hit franchises and it shows no signs of stopping. The next one is still a few years away, however, most likely during the summer of 2017. That will be the least discomforting news though as the next one will be taking a new direction.

Earlier this month, Michael Bay has confirmed that he won't be directing the next "Transformers" film to pursue other film projects. He made the announcement, half-heartedly at first, a few hours before the premiere of "Transformers: Age of Extinction."

"There's a lot that's unexplored, but that's for the next director to figure out. They're hard movies to do and it takes every day for two years. They're fun, but they're hard," Bay said.

Bay has been hinting about passing the responsibility to another director before but it seems he has made u his mind. Alongside the director, star Mark Wahlberg has also expressed his disinterest in returning to future "Transformers" movies. He has also stated he doesn't like doing direct sequels, preferring stand-alone film projects.

It is still unknown who the new director is and the film's producers will have a hard time looking for a new director who can match Bay's explosive and fast-paced cinematography.

There are also rumors about Megan Fox's return to the franchise, but with Bay moving on from "Transformers" it is highly unlikely especially since she is busy with another Bay franchise, the recently premiered "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

The sequel's – if it could be called a sequel now that Wahlberg's out of the picture – plot is still unknown as well and would have to continue where "Age of Extinction" left off; with Optimus Prime tracking down the so-called "Creators" with the remnants of the Autobots staying behind to protect Earth.

Godzilla Sequel Confirms More Kaiju Coming For Godzilla 2 And 3

(kdramastar  )         The Godzilla 2014 sequel would showcase three of Godzilla's biggest Kaiju rivals but MechaGodzilla could be the final Kaiju antagonist in the series as Legendary Pictures has tweeted that more Toho Monsters would appear on future Godzilla fims after Godzilla 2!

The Godzilla 2014 sequel release date has been delayed to 2018 after it was revealed that the Godzilla 2 director Gareth Edwards would work on the Star Wars Episode 7 spin off before working on Godzilla 2.

According to THR, Godzilla 2014 sequel will not begin filming until after the Star Wars standalone film is completed. In case this information is a little discouraging for Godzilla fans, apparently, as per Legendary Entertainment’s chairman and CEO Thomas Tull, this was always going to be the case:

"Gareth's filmmaking talent makes him one of his generation's most creative and visionary directors. The plan has always been for Gareth to direct a different film before we started on another Godzilla, but who knew it would be a 'Star Wars' installment? We have a great plan in store for 'Godzilla' fans and I am looking forward to seeing Gareth's imprint on the 'Star Wars' universe."

So that means that the Godzilla 2014 sequel release date that was supposed to launch on 2016 got delayed to 2017 AND THEN it got delayed again to the final Godzilla 2014 sequel release date on 2018.

But fans can expect something good from the delay as The Godzilla 2014 sequel could very well be a set up to the biggest Kaiju battle in history if the monsters Godzilla is fighting in Godzilla 2 aren't enough as Godzilla could fight King Kong once "Skull Island" is over.

A lot was revealed at the San Diego Comic Con 2014 and new details about the Godzilla 2014 sequel, creatively titled "Godzilla 2" have been revealed as well as the announcement of the King Kong prequel "Skull Island" has reported all the new details from the Godzilla 2014 sequel aka Godzilla 2:

Godz were shown a teaser reel titled 'Classified Monarch Footage' which appeared as if put together in the '60s with a voiceover from then President John F Kennedy talking about the threats and dangers to humanity.

After informing us that there was one more secret, a message appears on screen: "There were others."

Across the shadow of pterodactyl appears the legend: "CODENAME: RODAN". Following this, an extreme close-up of a giant moth-like creature: "CODENAME MOTHRA". Finally a silhouette with flashed edit cuts around the figure of a dragon: "CODENAME: GHIDORAH".

The footage closes with the warning, "THREAT ASSESSMENT: CONFLICT INEVITABLE" before ending with, "LET THEM FIGHT".

But that doesn't stop there as Legendary pictures may have teased MechaGodzilla in their tweets.

Why Are They Making Two ‘Jungle Book’ Movies?

(            Not one, but two star-studded live-action movies of the Rudyard Kipling short story collection The Jungle Book will come out in the next two years, with Warner Bros. betting that audiences will want to see the exact same story with a different cast just a year after Disney releases its reinterpretation of the tale about a young boy raised by wolves in the jungle.

Disney, which created the famous cartoon version of The Jungle Book in 1967, is beating Warner Bros. to the punch. Disney’s Jungle Book is being directed by Iron Man director Jon Favreau and is set to come out in October of next year. Warner Bros.’ The Jungle Book: Origins is being directed by Andy Serkis and is set for an October 2016 release. Both films feature hugely famous casts for the voice roles of the various animals that interact with the young Mowgli, who is raised by wolves after being orphaned and abandoned in the Indian jungle. Both films will use a mixture of live-action and CGI.

The Warner version recently announced its cast members. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Andy Serkis will voice Baloo the bear as well as direct, Christian Bale will voice the fierce but friendly panther Bagheera, Benedict Cumberbatch will be the villainous tiger Shere Khan, Cate Blanchett will be the python Kaa, and Naomie Harris will Nisha, one of the wolves that raises Mowgli. The boy will be played by the young actor Rohan Chand, who will actually appear in the film. Chand acted alongside Jason Bateman in Bad Words.

As for Disney, Bill Murray will voice Baloo, Ben Kingsley is Bagheera, Christopher Walken is the orangutan King Louie, Scarlett Johansson is Kaa, Lupita Nyong’o is the wolf mother Raksha, and Idris Elba is Shere Khan, according to Deadline. Newcomer Neel Sethi will play Mowgli.

The story behind the scenes as to how both adaptations ended up getting made at the exact same time is unknown, but likely both studios ended up putting down money and decided not to back down from making the film.

The original Disney film deviated from the novel by overlooking the book’s dark tone, but was acclaimed for its great soundtrack, animation, and voice cast. Disney has made a live-action version of The Jungle Book before. The 1994 Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book has John Cleese in it and got decent reviews, with a 92 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though again, Disney was criticized for not sticking close enough to Kipling’s work despite using his name in the title. Whether or not Disney will decide to stick to the source material this time is uncertain at this point.

The whole concept of two movies about basically the same thing coming out around the same time isn’t unheard of, but it’s less than desirable for whichever studio’s film lands the better cast or comes out second. Just this year, there have been two different Hercules movies re-telling the story of the demigod. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Hercules stole the thunder of The Legend of Hercules starring Twilight’s Kellan Lutz that came out earlier this year. While Hercules isn’t performing spectacularly with the critics or at the box office, it beat its Hercules rival using the star power of the Rock.

Both Jungle Book adaptations have the most top-notch casts any filmmaker could dream of, so Warner Bros. isn’t going to set itself apart by out-casting Disney. The most likely scenario is that The Jungle Book: Origins will try to go dark and edgy, pointedly erasing much of the good, wholesome family fun the Disney animated feature is known for by playing up the darker side of the Kipling stories. Whether that can convince film-goers to pay to see basically the same movie just a year after Disney’s comes out remains to be seen. Given the title, perhaps Warner Bros. should just promote the film as if it’s a sequel to Disney’s and call it a day.

Cameron to Make Second and Third Avatar Films 'Back-to-Back'

(            The long wait is finally over.

Five years after the release of the box office record-breaking film "Avatar" by James Cameron, people are still talking about the breakthrough technologies that were used in the film. Thus, the viewers are expecting to see a sequel of the highest-grossing movie of all time.

According to reports, lead actor Sam Worthington allegedly said that the second Avatar movie will begin its production in fall 2014.

Speculations about the sequel started when the Wikia page devoted to Avatar allegedly quoted Cameron, who said that Avatar was really intended to become a trilogy.

"I've had a storyline in mind from the start - there are even scenes in Avatar that I kept in because they lead to the sequel," the award-winning director stated. "It just makes sense to think of it as a two or three film arc, in terms of the business plan. The CG plants and trees and creatures and the musculo-skeletal rigging of the main characters - that all takes an enormous amount of time to create. It'd be a waste not to use it again."

Cameron also teased that the original stars from Avatar will return for the sequel.

Sources also said that Cameron is planning to explore the world of Na'vi more in Avatar 2.

In addition, the director and creator of the highest grossing film of all time had confirmed that he is planning to shoot the sequel, as well as its third installment, back-to-back. "I am in the process of writing the next two 'Avatar' films now. We are planning to shoot them together and [edit them in post-production] together, and we will probably release them not quite back to back, but about a year apart," he said.

Sources were saying that Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Joel David Moore, and Sigourney Weaver will reprise their roles in the original Avatar movie in the next installments of the trilogy.

"Pirates 5" Gets Coin To Shoot In Australia

(         The Australian federal government has agreed to provide US$20.2 million of financial incentives in order to attract Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" to film in the country. Federal arts minister George Brandis announced the agreement a few hours ago.

Disney had previously reached an agreement for funding on David Fincher's "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" but that project was shelved. There were reports not long ago that the studio was trying to revive the agreement and extend it to cover a fifth 'Pirates' as well.

Now it has been confirmed that plans to film 'Leagues' in Australia are out, and this isn't so much a new agreement as a transfer of the old one to cover the fifth 'Pirates' instead.

In a statement, Brandis says: "The government is pleased to agree to Disney’s request to enable earlier funding to be repurposed for the production of 'Pirates of the Caribbean 5'. Any decision to film productions in Australia (such as ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ or ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 5’) is a commercial matter for Disney."

Disney sought to have the funding promise re-allocated to the new film and topped up to a figure equal to 30% of its Australian budget. With the next 'Pirates' tipped to cost around $200 million or more, it's still short and it's expected the studio will go to individual state governments to make up the difference.

The studio isn't quite locked yet, as is said to be considering alternative locations including Mexico. Whatever the case, production is expected to begin in early 2015 for a release in 2017.

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern Join New 3D Interactive Ride

(              Six Flags St. Louis and Six Flags Over Texas, in partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products and DC Entertainment, announce the next generation of interactive thrills with the debut of an all-new 3D interactive dark ride attraction, Justice League: Battle for Metropolis.

Slated to open at both Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags St. Louis in 2015, guests will become members of the Justice League Reserve Team, and engage in a full-sensory journey as they battle alongside Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern against Lex Luthor, The Joker and his henchmen.

Traveling in six-passenger vehicles, riders must outsmart Lex Luthor and The Joker and save the city of Metropolis.

“Introducing a dark ride that combines this level of technology and the popular DC Comics brand will bring an unmatched, interactive experience to our guests in 2015,” stated Tom Iven, senior vice president of U.S. park operations for Six Flags.

This addition is another example of the company’s commitment to delivering new and innovative thrills in every park, every year, he said.

The new ride will feature an interactive queue line and loading area where guests will receive instructions, 3D glasses and a stun gun to stop the bad guys.

A story line that unfolds with Lex Luthor and The Joker hacking into Batman’s computer system and uncovering vital information that exposes vulnerability in the Justice League’s defenses. Riders will fight alongside the superheroes to save the world from being infected with The Joker’s special laughing gas.

A nexus of new technologies will put guests right in the center of this interactive battle, including lifelike animatronic super heroes designed by Sally Manufacturing; 3D graphics and film produced by Pure Imagination; Robust gaming elements by Alterface; and the first-of-its-kind, fully programmable, multi-DOF (degree-of-freedom) vehicles that will transport guests through all the exciting twists and turns designed by Oceaneering.

The ride is scheduled to open to the public at both parks in the spring of 2015.

Guardians is North America's Top Movie of 2014

(           The Box Office Report has been updated with studio estimates for the weekend. Click here for the full box office estimates of the top 12 films and then check back on Tuesday for the final figures based on actual box office.

With Labor Day taking place today, it signifies the end of the summer, at least as far as the box office is considered, and it's official that the James Gunn-directed Guardians of the Galaxy from Marvel Studios is not only the big winner of the summer in terms of domestic box office, but it's now also the highest-grossing movie of the year in North America!

"Guardians" had another great weekend at #1 with the largest increase from last weekend thanks to the four-day weekend and most Americans being off school and work on Monday. Its estimated $22.2 million weekend gross was up 29% from last weekend's return to first place, but it really only needed Friday to surpass the $260 million domestic gross of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, previously the highest-grossing movie of the year domestically. By Monday, James Gunn's ensemble outer space epic had grossed $280 million domestically and it's well on its way becoming the only movie of 2014 (so far) to cross the $300 million mark. This gives Marvel and Walt Disney Studios the bragging rights of having the top two highest-grossing movies (domestically) of the year.

Paramount's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, starring Megan Fox, continued its run at #2 with $15.7 million over the four-day weekend (down 6% from last week's three-day weekend) with a domestic total of $166.4 after four weeks in theaters.

Digital Domain Co-Founder Scott Ross Reveals Plan for "Burning Man Meets TED" VFX Festival

(          The Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn international digital artists' gathering is expected to attract participants from at least 37 countries

Scott Ross — co-founder and former CEO of Digital Domain — has been among the most vocal in the effort to bring change to the struggling VFX business. Now he's come onboard as "Ambassador" of a not-for-profit VFX, game and animation festival with a "new format" aimed at inspiring artists and creativity, while also addressing the challenging career path.

Trojan Horse was a Unicorn (THU), slated to take place Sept. 17-20 in Troia, Portugal, is described by Ross as "Burning Man meets TED" and is expected to attract hundreds representing at least 37 different nationalities. This is the second such event, but with Ross now involved and increasing industry support, organizers hope it will grow to become an impactful annual event.

It's art-driven, with this year's speaker highlights including veteran Syd Mead, the conceptual artist behind the look of such classics as Blade Runner, Aliens, Tron and more recently Elysium.

THU also aims to be a global gathering of the VFX industry, having already signed up attendees from Portugal, the U.S., Singapore and even Afghanistan.

The VFX industry is in turmoil, and as Hollywood chases production incentives around the globe, VFX businesses and artists are being forced to make these geographic moves to stay in business. It's a real struggle for artists who are regularly asked to relocate, and it has contributed to industry consolidation and bankruptcies of such leading VFX houses as Rhythm & Hues (which has been acquired by a new owner).

Following the R&H bankruptcy in 2013, Ross wrote a guest column that appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, explaining the VFX business' struggle to survive. More recently, the Association of Digital Artists, Professionals and Technicians (whose board members include Ross) was formed and retained law firm Picard Kentz & Rowe to challenge subsidies in the U.S. Court of International Trade to ask that a mandatory duty be levied against producers who use subsidies, in order to create a more level playing field.

This business reality will be reflected in the THU program. "Today's digital artist needs to understand that choosing a career as an effects artist is impacted by the fact that they will most definitely need to travel the world as a digital gypsy," Ross told THR. "THU plans on speaking to those issues and preparing new digital artists in understanding the fact that they won't be located in one specific locale. Additionally there will be talks around the cloud, powerful new workstations and the possibility of distance computing whereby artists will be local to their own locale while working on large projects."

The THU program features a series of talks, demonstrations, workshops, 'art battles,' and recruitment and mentoring sessions as well as networking. Talks will include 'making of' sessions along with such topics as created environments, concept art, illustrations and character design. Also scheduled are discussions about working in the VFX business, navigating a career in the entertainment industry, and how online can build a career.

In addition to Mead and Ross, speakers include Pixomondo VFX supervisor Sven Martin, who is scheduled to present the Emmy-winning work on Game of Thrones; MPC's Catherine Mullan, who will give a talk about the VFX in Maleficient; and Framestore's Kyle McCulloch, VFX supervisor on Guardians of the Galaxy, who will give two talks, one on working in the VFX industry and one on the making of Guardians and Gravity. Scheduled speakers include artists from Pixar Animation Studios and Industrial Light & Magic.

George Lucas to Speak at Chicago Ideas Week

(              Star Wars creator George Lucas has booked his first semi-public appearance in Chicago since announcing his plans to build an art museum on the lakefront next to Soldier Field.

Lucas will speak as part of Chicago Ideas Week's Edison Talks on Friday, Oct. 17 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, according to Ideas Week executive director Jessica Malkin.The day's worth of talks are invitation-only, but Malkin said the public can apply to attend online. If an application is accepted, tickets will cost $99.
Malkin said Lucas will speak for about 30 to 45 minutes around midday.

Lucas recently announced the architects and landscape designers for his Museum of Narrative Art, which is expected to be built on 17 acres between Soldier Field and McCormick Place. The land is currently used for parking lots.

Elvis Will Shake His Hips Once Again ... As a Hologram

(            Elvis may have left the building 37 years ago, but he'll be returning to the stage again soon – only this time, as a hologram.

Pulse Evolution, who resurrected Michael Jackson's image for a holographic TV performance at the Billboard Music Awards in May, announced a partnership with The Estate of Elvis Presley Monday, with plans to bring The King of Rock 'n' Roll to live performances and commercials as a hologram, according to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers.

A concept and venue for the 60- to 90-minute live shows has not yet been determined, although Pulse has already begun work on the project, which could take 18 to 24 months to complete, said company executives. The late icon's estate will also decide if the holographic image will resemble a younger or older Presley, Pulse CEO Frank Patterson said.

Jamie Salter, CEO of Authentic Brands Group, which manages Presley's estate, said there are talks of Elvis' holographic image playing four-night residencies in Las Vegas and Macau, and even performing with Michael Jackson's hologram, according to Adweek.

Salter added that Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley support the technology, AdWeek said.

When USA TODAY spoke with Pulse executive chairman John Textor about Jackson's holographic image in May, he mentioned Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Bob Marley as obvious candidates for holographic treatment.

"We're hearing from a lot of estates and promoters saying, 'We're ready for a concert,' " Textor told USA TODAY, before cautioning that "if we're going to bring a Michael or an Elvis back into this form of stage entertainment, it must be story-based. You can't have Elvis sitting on a stool singing 20 songs. That won't work."\

Chinese Visual Effect Maker Wins Emmy Awards

(           Base FX, a Chinese visual effects company in Wuxi's Binhu district, Jiangsu province, which participated in the production of the US TV series Black Sails, recently won the 2014 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Special and Visual Effects.

The good news just followed on from previous news that the blockbuster Tranformers: Age of Extinction, another film participated in by Base FX, made a new record in the Chinese film history, reaching a box office of 1.97 billion yuan ($321 million).

As a leading special effects company in the Chinese film industry, Base FX is the only company that has won three Emmy awards in the country, with the previous winnings in 2010 and 2011.

Since the company settled in the Wuxi Digital Film Industrial Park (or Wuxi Studio), a slew of Hollywood hit films, with the company's participation in production, have screened, such as Pacific Rim, Captain America 2 and Olympus Has Fallen. The company's 4D production - Fury, filmed in Wuxi and directed by Gary Hymes, is expected to hit the screen in 2015.

In 2013, the company achieved cooperation with Lucasfilm, a film-making company founded by George Lucas based in San Francisco, California, with the aim of promoting technological development in the Chinese film industry.

Emmy Awards praise outstanding people and programs in the American TV industry and corresponds to the Academy Awards for film, the Tony Awards for theater, and the Grammy Awards for music.

Disney Animators To Revive 2D Hand-drawn Animation with “Hullabaloo”

(           Disney’s last traditionally animated films were 2009′s “The Princess and the Frog” and 2011′s “Winnie the Pooh.” Before that, decades of history allowed artists to put pencil to paper and create life on the big screen. Now, while computer animation certainly still requires the talent of animators, 2D hand-drawn animation is fading away.

A group of longtime Disney animators is aiming to prevent that from happening.

“Hullabaloo” is described as “a 2D (hand-drawn) animated steampunk film that hopes to help preserve the dying art of 2D animation.” It’s helmed by James Lopez, veteran Disney animator whose 25-year career has included credits such as “The Lion King,” “The Princess and the Frog,” “Pocahontas,” “Hercules,” and the recent short “Paperman,” among many others. He’s currently a teacher at CalArts and has also worked for other studios including Warner Bros. and Dreamworks.

Along with other notable current and former Disney animators including Bruce Smith, Rick Farmiloe, Minkyu Lee, Sandro Cleuzo, and Sarah Airriess, Lopez is fundraising to make his project a reality.

The story of “Hullabaloo” follows Veronica Daring, a young scientist who finds her inventor father missing. She’s quickly joined by a fellow female inventor, Jules, to hunt for her missing father and stop some nefarious villains along the way.

It’s a film that not only aims to keep hand-drawn animation alive, but also features two female leads acting as role models, encouraging girls to enter into the worlds of science and adventure. And on top of all that, it’s drawn with steampunk flair.

Lopez hopes to initially create the “Hullabaloo” short film and, depending on how their fundraising goes, produce more shorts, a web series, and possibly a feature length animated film.

Their indiegogo campaign has already raised more than $33,000 in its first four days, aiming to reach a goal of $80,000.

Cutting Production Costs With Cheaper Previs?

(               At the Siggraph computer graphics conference in Vancouver earlier this month, Method Studios president Marc Weigert declared an ambitious goal: Make previsualization inexpensive enough to use for an entire feature film — more specifically, for the cost of no more than two shooting days.

That would permit complete films to be viewed as a rough animation — as animated features are today — before the actual shooting begins. Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” was previs’d just this way, but the process is now too costly.

“Almost every movie these days has expensive re-shoots, expensive re-doing of visual effects,” Weigert says. “By just doing (previs for the whole feature), you’ll save one or two shooting days. Even if you don’t actually save the shooting days, you’ll save the equivalent in post-production.”

Weigert proposes showing the previs to test audiences to find story problems.

To make his case, he points to an expensive issue that cropped up during test screenings of “2012”: A line early in the film mentioned spaceships being built to save a few people from an impending disaster. The ships turn out to be arks, not spaceships.

Test auds were confused when they didn’t blast off into space, so it became necessary to make a series of changes, and then schedule a day of photography to add a line of explanation.

“All that together could have been close to a million (dollars),” Weigert says. “If we had previs’d the entire movie, we would have gotten these comments (much earlier).”

See Unseen Scenes in New Godzilla Concept Art

(              Did the Gozilla concept art that we saw last week fail to sate your appetite for everything related to the big, mighty-toed King of the Monsters?

Well, if that's the case, then you are in luck, because today we have a Godzilla sized glut of concept art in the run up to the DVD and Blu-Ray release of the Gareth Edwards directed reboot. Check it all out in the gallery below:

As well as all this beautiful Godzilla concept art, we also received some details about the upcoming features on the DVD and Blu-Ray release. We do not have specific information about each feature, but we do have some tentative titles:

MONARCH: Declassified – Discover explosive new evidence not contained in the film that unravels the massive cover-up to keep Godzilla’s existence a secret.

Operation: Lucky Dragon

MONARCH: The M.U.T.O. File

The Godzilla Revelation

The Legendary Godzilla – Go behind the scenes with filmmakers and cast for an even deeper look at the larger than life monsters in the film.

Godzilla: Force of Nature

A Whole New Level Of Destruction

Into The Void: The H.A.L.O. Jump

Ancient Enemy: The M.U.T.O.s

The Godzilla home release stomps into stores on September 16th.

Take a look:,manual#bOxgqj

‘Maze Runner’ on Track for $30 Million Opening

(                  “The Fault in Our Stars” producers could have another hit on their hands this summer — and this time, the boys may join in.

Fox’s “The Maze Runner,” based on the book by James Dashner, is on track for a $30 million opening when it bows on Sept. 19.

That’s quite an impressive feat — not just because the U.S. box office is having its worst summer in nearly a decade, but also because both males and females are saying they will buy tickets, which is unusual for a YA book adaptation. Even action-driven projects like “The Hunger Games” started out with women outpacing men in desire to see the film. And while the “Maze Runner” books are nowhere near as popular as “The Hunger Games” or “Twilight,” appealing to both genders could help the studio launch a movie franchise with the story of a boy whose memory is erased and must try to escape from a maze in which he finds himself trapped.

The studio recently asked “Maze Runner” screenwriter T.S. Nolan to work on a script for the second book in the trilogy, “The Scorch Trials,” but that will, of course, depend on box office results.

“It’s a good start and it’s impressive,” analyst Hal Vogel said of the sci-fi thriller’s early tracking.

Directed by f/x artist Wes Ball and starring “Teen Wolf” actor Dylan O’Brien, the $30 million-budgeted project is currently a “first choice” among men under the age of 25, offering a sci-fi storyline with potential male appeal. Yet the film has largely been promoted toward young women in recent weeks, with ads on ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” and stories on gossip sites like Just Jared. O’Brien is a favorite hunk among teen girls, making it easier for Fox to appeal to both sexes.

As Hollywood learned the hard way with recent YA adaptations like “The Giver,” “Beautiful Creatures” and “Mortal Instruments,” not all movie versions of popular novels strike gold at the box office, so it’s critical for lesser-known properties to cast a wider net to young audiences.

After the $280 million grossing worldwide success of “The Fault in Our Stars,” producers Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen are trying to capitalize on more books with youthful appeal after “The Maze Runner.” Their company, Temple Hill Entertainment, is working on adaptations including Ava Dellaira’s debut novel “Love Letters to the Dead” and Nicholas Sparks’ “The Longest Ride.”

“We’re snatching up a lot of books,” Godfrey recently told Variety.

-H       "Leia follows me like a vague smell."    -Carrie Fisher