FX Movie News: 10-25-06

Today’s Headlines: MGM Seeks Rights To Hobbit Prequels; Disney Snaps Up ‘Animated American’; Why Is Microsoft Still Pushing For A Halo Movie?; Tom Cruise To Join STAR TREK; Shrek Exec Coming To Cornell; Universal Acquires Rights To Comic COBALT 60; DreamWorks Animation “Neutral Weight”; Pixar’s Ed Catmull Talks “Crisis in Production”; David Cunningham To Direct THE DARK IS RISING; Oceana Honors James Cameron; Yet Another Delay For Sony Blu-Ray Player; An Epic 3D Bow For Beowulf; SGI Sues ATI for Patent Infringement; Flushed Makers Tackle CG


MGM Seeks Rights To Hobbit Prequels

(cinescape.com) MGM is attempting to acquire the full rights to produce two prequel films to THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

The news came from MGM’s chief operating officer Rick Sands at the ShowEast Icon Awards. There is no information about how far along or likely a deal is, only that MGM is in discussions with New Line Cinema.

Disney Snaps Up ‘Animated American’

(Variety) Disney have acquired rights for ANIMATED AMERICAN, a film which is said to combine live action and animation. The trade says that the film will illustrate the difficulty teens experience trying to fit in.

Robert Zemeckis and Jack Rapke will produce along with Bob Cooper’s Landscape Entertainment.

Zemeckis, of course, directed the most famous live action/ animated fare of them all, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?

Why Is Microsoft Still Pushing For A Halo Movie?

(gigaom.com) So it looks like Master Chief will have to keep waiting in the lobby a bit longer. The gruff cyborg hero of the Halo series (the crown jewel of Microsoft’s Xbox consoles) was set to star in a film adaptation produced by Lord of the Rings auteur Peter Jackson, in a deal Microsoft signed in 2005 with both Fox and Universal Studios.
(In a display of adorably geeky charm– or total ballsy arrogance– Microsoft put their approved screenplay up for bid by sending copies through couriers dressed up in Master Chiefu2019s gleaming battle armor, who’d then sit uncomfortably in the studio foyer, waiting for executives to finish reading the script.) In a statement released last Friday, Microsoft reported that Universal wanted to renegotiate financial terms, and rather than do that, Microsoft trudged out of the deal altogether, sniffing (with a hint of hurt peevishness), “We are already in discussions with potential partners who recognize the value of the ‘Halo’ brand.”

That Universal balked is no suprise: with an estimated budget already pegged at $145 million, the project would have to earn over $350 million at the box office, to break even. (Rule of Hollywood thumb: a movie needs to gross 2.5 times its budget, to become profitable.) The economic track record for game adaptations is unrelentingly mediocre (except for the first Tomb Raider movie), and the Halo movie’s closest precedent, 2005’s Doom, took in a pathetic $55 million worldwide.

The real mystery is why Microsoft is still plowing ahead. Has anyone bothered to tell them a Halo movie must be one of the most ill-inconceived film projects ever?

I say this as someone who still enjoys playing the PC version of the first game, but as a movie project, the plot is basically Aliens slapped on top of several Star Trek: Next Generation episodes (just with cooler, Biblical-sounding names), and little appeal outside its hardcore fanbase. And that’s not even the worst of its problems, to wit: The protagonist is a faceless killing machine with no personality who wears an opaque helmet through the whole thing. It’s as if Microsoft decided that basic, time-tested Hollywood storytelling rules don’t apply to them. (For example, that a hero should be likeable, sympathetic, and someone that an A list star would want to play– which usually involves, you know, being able to see their face.)

There has to be an explanation for Microsoft’s stubborness, other than a desire to go Hollywood (a common affliction among game developers, many of whom secretly yearn to see their work cross over into the more respected, glamorous medium.) The most likely explanation, I think, is that box office success is not Microsoft’s main goal with the Halo movie; instead, they need the movie to promote the Xbox 360.

Think about it: Set for release in Summer 2008 release, the Halo movie would come out a few months after Halo 34 (scheduled to go on sale in the 2007 holiday season), with the DVD available just in time for the 2008 holidays. All this would come at a time when Xbox 360’s current head-start advantage in the next generation console wars had long ended. A Halo movie would keep the Xbox momentum going at that most crucial time, while providing promotion and content throughout. (Think Halo movie trailers and excerpts downloadable only on Xbox Live, the Halo movie DVD packaged with Halo 3, and so on.)

If that theory is right, it doesn’t matter that much to Microsoft if the only people who watch a Halo movie are Xbox gamers, and it loses money at the box office. For the most part, the console market is already a loss leader competition; all Microsoft has to do is find a studio gullible enough to help them fund and distribute it. That, and an actor who’s willing to wear a face-obscuring outfit for a cult sci-fi project with limited mass market appeal.

Tom Cruise To Join STAR TREK

(cinescape.com) Tom Cruise is in negotiations to play a cameo role in the upcoming J.J. Abrams STAR TREK film. Cruise and Abrams recently teamed together for MI3.

It’s not known what role Cruise might play, but a Starfleet Academy instructor seems to be a likely choice.

According to other reports, Abrams is currently auditioning actors for the roles of a young Scotty and young Bones in the film.

Shrek Exec Coming To Cornell

(theithacajournal.com) Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation and co-founder of DreamWorks Studios, is coming to Cornell University Monday.

“A Conversation with Jeffrey Katzenberg: The Future of Computer Animation” is sponsored by the Faculty of Computing and Information Science (CIS) and the Program of Computer Graphics at Cornell The event takes place at The Statler Hall Auditorium on the Cornell campus at 2 p.m. The event is open to the wider Cornell community and affiliated educational partners. Seating may be limited, so early arrival is recommended, according to a university announcement.

Among DreamWorks Animation films are “Antz,” Academy Award-winning “Shrek,” “Shrek 2,” “Shark Tale,” “Madagascar” and “Over The Hedge.”

Before becoming CEO of DreamWorks Animation and co-founding DreamWorks Studios in 2004, Katzenberg was chairman of Walt Disney Studios and president of Paramount Studios.

In another DreamWorks-Cornell connection, Cornell CIS graduate Yekaterina Isichenko was among six graduating computer students from across the country chosen to participate last summer in the “DreamWorks Animation Effects Challenge.” Isichenko and the other participants were chosen to spend six months working in a rigorous, hands-on effects training curriculum at the PDI/DreamWorks campus in Redwood City, Calif. The program focuses on developing effects animation problem-solving skills. All classes are taught by DreamWorks special effects developers and artists.

Universal Acquires Rights To Comic COBALT 60

(cinescape.com) According to the Hollywood Reporter, Universal has acquired the rights to the cult comic book COBALT 60 and attached Zack Snyder to direct the adaptation.

The comic takes place in a post apocalyptic world inhabited by mutants and fantastical creatures, the story follows the masked hero Cobalt 60, who embarks on a quest to avenge his parents, who were murdered by the evil Strontium 90.

No writer is currently attached. The comic was originally created by Vaughn Bode in 1968 and lasted only one story, but Bode’s son, Mark, revived the comic in the 1980’s.

DreamWorks Animation “Neutral Weight”

(newratings.com) Analyst Katherine Styponias of Prudential Financial maintains her “neutral weight” rating on DreamWorks Animation (FKP.ETR). The target price is set to $25.

In a research note published yesterday, the analyst mentions that the companyu2019s upcoming movie, Flushed Away, would face stiffer competition during its second weekend from the release of Happy Feet. The sales expectations could be reduced in case the movie faces a weak opening weekend, the analyst says.

Pixar’s Ed Catmull Talks “Crisis in Production”

(animatedbuzz.com) Things just keep getting more exciting here at Calarts.

We had the privilege of having Ed Catmull from Pixar talk to us on Thursday about “Crisis in Production” and how to deal with it. He talked about Pixar’s history and how they faced problems with some of their feature films. Toy Story 2 was supposed to be a direct to video release. Pixar appointed two animators to direct the film. The story wasn’t coming along too well but since it was a direct to video, the assumption was that it didn’t have to be very good anyway. About a year before the expected release date, John Lasseter saw the existing story reel and decided that it wasn’t working at all. The studio decided to scrap the entire script and start over again even though Disney, their distribution partner told them it was impossible. Ed Catmull explained that Pixar didn’t want to lower their standard of quality not even for a direct to video release. The studio had only eight months to finish the film.

Several of their employees were hospitalized and one of them permanently injured a hand and had to retire because of it. They were working day and night but it was worth it because Toy Story 2 ended up being a huge success. Pixar makes it all look so easy but they didn’t become successful without going through hard times.

Here is a list of other significant comments that Catmull stated. They’re paraphrased:
– It’s extremely easy to learn 3d if you’re a good 2d animator. Don’t stress yourself out trying to learn 3d programs before you learn how to animate! Pixar hired a bunch of the animators who lost their jobs at Disney, Florida. Catmull says that they’re doing very well in their training program.

– It’s important, as a student, to make sure you finish 1 film every year. Repeating the process every year pushes you and stretches you…….and I forgot to write down the rest but you get what he means. I learned so much last year from that first film. It’s frustrating as hell but I’m glad I get to tackle some of the same problems again this year.

– The key of making a good film is creating your world and the character of that world.

– There are certain things that are more rapidly taught in 2d animation like poses, silhouette, timing, expressions. All of these can translate over to 3d. Pixar highly supports Calarts and the traditional training we get here. Our program actually added some CG elements this year and supposedly Pixar wasn’t too thrilled about it.

– become great artists

– He also mentioned that most of the people at Pixar came from Calarts.

Much more:

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2 Responses to “FX Movie News: 10-25-06”

  1. Cybergosh says:

    Wow.  Beowolf will rule next year.  I love (and need)these updates!  Thanks!

  2. Nmancer says:

    I can’t say a lot about Beowulf because I’m involved in the project. But I can tell you that it’s definitely going to be a very “adult” film. As it stands right now, some of the stuff I’ve seen would probably put it at an NC-17 rating.

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