Today’s Headlines: Jackson Dropped From The Hobbit; James Cameron Talks Terminator’s Real Daddy; Happy Feet Rekindles The CG Blockbuster; Hollywood VFX Train Firefighters; Two More TRANSFORMERS Movies?; Monsters Inc. Goes High Tech For DisneyWorld; Owen Gunning For Sin City 2; Oklahoma firm sues Disney over ‘Cars’; Superman To Face Off With Brainiac; Special Effects Can Breath New Life Into Any Stale Old Premise;
Jackson Dropped From The Hobbit
(scifi.com) Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and his partner, Fran Walsh, won’t be tackling a film version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit or a second proposed Rings prequel film after New Line told them the studio would be seeking another director, Jackson and Walsh told fans on the OneRing.net Web site. Jackson said that New Line producer Mark Ordesky told Jackson’s manager, Ken Kamins, that the studio was moving ahead with the project without Jackson and Walsh because the pair declined to agree to do The Hobbit as a condition of settling a lawsuit against New Line to recoup income from the Rings films.
“We have always said that we do not want to discuss The Hobbit with New Line until the lawsuit over New Line’s accounting practices is resolved,” Jackson and Walsh wrote. But Michael Lynne, co-president of New Line Cinema, insisted that Jackson and Walsh commit to the project before the studio would settle the suit. When Jackson and Walsh declined, “Mark Ordesky called Ken and told him that New Line would no longer be requiring our services on The Hobbit and the LOTR ‘prequel,'” Jackson and Walsh wrote. “This was a courtesy call to let us know that the studio was now actively looking to hire another filmmaker for both projects.”
Jackson and Walsh added: “Given that New Line are committed to this course of action, we felt at the very least, we owed you, the fans, a straightforward account of events as they have unfolded for us. … This outcome is not what we anticipated or wanted, but neither do we see any positive value in bitterness and rancor. We now have no choice but to let the idea of a film of The Hobbit go and move forward with other projects.” Those include a film version of Alice Sebold’s supernatural novel The Lovely Bones.
James Cameron Talks Terminator’s Real Daddy
(film.guardian.co.uk) I can count on the fingers of one hand the people who have really made a difference to me in my life as a film-maker. These are the ones who, in addition to becoming lifelong friends, have also inspired, mentored, partnered and challenged. Stan Winston is one of these.
I met Stan in 1983 when I was looking for someone to realise the effects and makeup for The Terminator. I was a young punk who wanted to set the world on fire, with a folio full of sketches and a lot of ideas for how to do effects on the cheap. Stan had been recommended by another makeup artist, who warned me that Stan was “a little crazy”. At our first meeting this proved to be correct. Stan was crazy in exactly the way I love. He was passionate about his work, larger than life, funny in a way that challenges you to step up and play, full of frenzied energy like a mad scientist.
He liked my drawings, despite the fact that he could have easily designed the character himself, and we immediately started brainstorming how we might accomplish something that had never been done before: to create the ultimate robotic character. Not a guy in a robot suit, but a highly credible “endoskeleton” powered by servos and hydraulics. It was the holy grail of movie robot characters, and in an age before CGI seemed almost impossible to pull off, especially on a low budget. But Stan was game. Not daunted, but excited by the possibilities.
Stan and his team did an amazing job on a pinched budget, and created one of film’s iconic fantasy characters. What I didn’t expect, and what I came to admire more than the artistry and technical wizardry, was Stan’s most amazing gift: the ability to lead a team. Running a team of young artists is like herding cats. Stan is somehow able to inspire people to do the best work of their lives, while still maintaining a firm grip on command.
Stan is a gifted artist and sculptor himself, but artistic ego can often make a team leader ineffective by blunting the creativity of those under him. While nobody could accuse Stan of lacking an ego, he manages to lead by example without eclipsing his guys.
In fact he has always honoured and celebrated them, letting each shine in their own way, while still serving the greater cause of the movie and Stan Winston Studio.
I worked with Stan and his team again on Aliens in 1985-86, then again on Terminator 2: Judgment Day and later on T2-3D. They are working with me as I write, designing characters for my new film Avatar, 23 years later. Aliens brought Stan a well-deserved Oscar, and he got another one for Terminator 2. There is nothing more satisfying than collaborating with friends, and having that collaboration lead to success for them. Stan and I are still best friends. We ride motorcycles on Sunday mornings, and talk about new ideas for cool creatures and characters. Stan retains the same twinkle in his eye that I was so struck by when I first met him.
He’s busy these days not only, as always, creating the most amazing fantasy characters for movies, but also designing his own line of toys and comic books. He’s a kid who never grew up, and he inspires me every day in something which I believe is critical for anyone plying their trade in the worlds of fantasy or science fiction – staying in touch with your inner adolescent.
ï¿½ The Winston Effect: The Art and History of Stan Winston Studio (Titan Books) is published on November 24
Happy Feet Rekindles The CG Blockbuster
Happy Feet, the computer-animated penguin musical, took the top slot at the Nov. 17 weekend box office, with about $42.3 million, the Associated Press reported. Casino Royale, the 21st James Bond film, opened in second place, with $40.6 million, according to studio estimates. The two films were close enough that their rankings could change when final numbers are released on Nov. 20, the AP reported.
The last Bond movie, Pierce Brosnan’s Die Another Day, holds the franchise record for an opening, with $47.1 million in November 2002.
Hollywood VFX Train Firefighters
(toledoblade.com) Firefighters and students at Owens Community Collegeï¿½s Center for Emergency Preparedness will be able to learn without being burned, thanks to a new computer game now being developed.
Courtesy of a $100,000 grant from the Ohio Board of Regents, staff from Ohio Universityï¿½s Game Research and Immersive Design Lab videotaped controlled fires yesterday at Owensï¿½ four-story emergency training center.
Along with 4,000 pictures taken in June, the video will help game designers build a photo-realistic computer simulation of extinguishing dangerous flames shooting out of a kitchen, bedroom, or office.
ï¿½If theyï¿½re familiar with it in a simulated environment, they should be able to master the face-to-face skills,ï¿½ said Bruce Busby, Owensï¿½ vice president of academic services.
A video game distributed by the Army to recruit soldiers inspired the project. Once completed, Owens will let students access the game via a password-protected Web site and is considering further distribution by compact disc.
Students and firefighters would play it before and after a session at the Emergency Preparedness Center, located near the collegeï¿½s Toledo area campus in Perrysburg Township. Mr. Busby said the game would reduce lecture hall time.
Made with the same software that produced special effects for the films Spiderman and Lord of the Rings, the game can reproduce the vaporous texture of smoke, but not the feelings of heat and pressure a fire causes.
ï¿½Using displays on the game, we can show that the user is getting too much heat or too much smoke in the lungs,ï¿½ said John Bowditch, the gameï¿½s lead developer at OU. ï¿½We have to cheat at that.ï¿½
The game will duplicate a first-person perspective, which can be intimidating for players. With its windows latched shut, the training center is pitch-black in overlapping shadows. Players shuffle up grated staircases blindly.
ï¿½That simulates what you actually find in a burning building,ï¿½ said Thomas Pack, the centerï¿½s director. ï¿½The smoke obscures the light.ï¿½
Weta & Police Eye 3D Scanner
(stuff.co.nz) Industrial Research has developed a hand-held scanner that quickly creates realistic 3D models of crime scenes, movie sets and large objects, garnering interest from the police and Weta Digital.
The Scene-scanner can be waved over a scene or object like a can of spray paint, going slowly over areas of interest to create high-resolution images, and quickly over other areas to create a rough picture.
The scanner, still a prototype, uses a digital camera coupled with an on-board laser to calculate the distance between the object and scanner, cross-referencing readings with targets that are placed around the scene to tell it where it is in the room.
The scan can be rendered on a computer while it is under way, letting the user decide whether to go into greater detail, or redo parts of it.
The end result is a 3D computer image, true to colour and texture, that can be rotated or used to create “fly-throughs” of a room.
The scan of the mannequin (pictured) consists of more than one million geospatial data points mapped to about 2400 digital photos.
It took about two minutes to produce. Other 3D scanners are either built for imaging small models or are fixed in place, meaning they must be repositioned several times to scan large objects. The Scene-scanner will be the first that can be moved freely around an object or room to get into nooks and crannies, Industrial Research says.
“It’s almost like an artistic experience,” says project leader Robert Valkenburg. “Ultimately what we wanted is an experience like painting.” The prototype has been used to scan movie sets for Wellington visual effects studio Weta Digital, create exhibits for Auckland Museum, model interiors of aircraft for Air New Zealand and create animation models for Auckland’s Virtual Spectator, part of the alliance that created animations for the America’s Cup.
Police are interested in using the technology to scan crime and accident scenes, says Industrial Research’s Chris Bowman, who is in charge of commercialising the technology. Auckland 3D software specialist Right Hemisphere wants to use the scanner to quickly create virtual 3D models of real objects, currently made by people using computer-aided design programs.
“There are lots of opportunities and we probably can’t pursue them all at once,” he says.
The goal is to sell the scanner internationally, but it is still two years away from market. The prototype needs to be wired to the computer that renders the 3D image, but Mr Valkenburg hopes the finished product will be wireless. Industrial Research showed off the prototype at the Springboard event in Auckland.
Two More TRANSFORMERS Movies?
(filmthreat.com) The first “Transformers” film isn’t even out yet, but Superherohype has reported that Shia Labeouf has signed on for two more “Transformers” films. He calls it his “Lord of the Rings”, um yeah sure Shia…
Monsters Inc. Goes High Tech For DisneyWorld
(orlandosentinel.com) Visitors to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom might find themselves walking in on a new Monsters, Inc. comedy act being rehearsed in Tomorrowland by Walt Disney Imagineering.
The new attraction, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club, is supposed to open in mid- to late January but is far enough along that Disney is occasionally “test playing” its routines before audiences over the next few weeks.
The new attraction is taking the place of the old Timekeeper experience in a pavilion shared with the Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin ride. Disney has remodeled the room as a 400-seat theater.
The new show, based on Pixar’s 2001 animated movie Monsters, Inc., uses technology that was first tried at Disney World at the Turtle Talk with Crush show at Epcot to create an interactive dialogue between the audience and projected animated characters from the movie, led by Mike Wazowski, the one-eyed hero.
In the attraction’s story line, Mike, having realized in the movie that laughter is many times more powerful than screams as a power source, has opened the comedy club to collect laughs that will generate power for the future.
Disney still has not announced an opening date for the show, but officials last week confirmed the play tests mostly with visitors who are invited in. Currently, the attraction is not marked with signs.
Owen Gunning For Sin City 2
(sci-fi.com) Clive Owen, who played Dwight in Sin City, told SCI FI Wire that he plans on doing Sin City 2, but he has no idea how or when. He also declined to comment on rumors that Angelina Jolie will play his character’s love interest in the sequel based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel series.
“I honestly don’t know what’s happening there,” Owen said during interviews for his upcoming SF film Children of Men. “Everyone has talked about it. It’s been announced a few times that it’s happening, but I have no idea what’s happening there. I don’t know where they’re going to do it, who is doing it. I have no idea.”
Owen said that he does know that Miller will co-direct the movie, along with Robert Rodriguez, as he did with the first one. Much of the story will come from Miller’s second book, A Dame to Kill For. Owen’s character, Dwight, figures prominently in the book with his love interest, Ava. “Oh, yeah, I know that [book], but that’s been talked about and is floating out there as an idea,” Owen said. “But no one has talked to me about it.”
Owen laughed when told that Rodriguez had confirmed much of the information himself and said that filming may start next summer. “He [Rodriguez] told me what he was doing, but I have no idea when and what’s happening with it,” Owen said.
Owen added that he’s happy to be involved with the next Sin City when it does happen, no matter who he has to kiss or kill. Children of Men is scheduled to open nationwide on Dec. 25.
Oklahoma firm sues Disney over ‘Cars’
(mickeynews.com) An Oklahoma toymaker has put up a roadblock against media giant The Walt Disney Co. and its hit movie “Cars,” alleging trademark infringement.
In a federal lawsuit filed last month in Oklahoma City, Collectible Promotional Products Inc. of Woodward, Okla., claims Disney and toy company Mattel Inc. incorrectly used a similar trademark to its “Real Cars” line of collectible toy cars.
CPP said it has been using a chevron design with the words “Real Cars” above it since 1994. The company applied for a federal trademark, which was granted in 1998. CPP contracted with Mattel to make and package limited numbers of Hot Wheels toy cars such as the Carroll Shelby Limited Edition 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C.
“Cars,” which Disney’s Buena Vista studio released in June, so far has made $244 million at the U.S. box office. That makes it the No. 2 movie of the year behind “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”
Disney applied for federal trademark protection for its design a chevron with the word “Cars” inside an oblong shape in late 2004. The company said it would apply the trademark to scores of products, including fruit drinks, jewelry and toy cars.
In conjunction with the movie’s release this summer, Mattel began selling toys licensed from “Cars” characters such as Tow Mater and Lightning McQueen.
A Mattel spokeswoman said the company does not comment on litigation. A spokesman for Disney said the company is reviewing the lawsuit but has no comment.
Lea Knight, owner of CPP, said the company sold six lines of Real Cars collectibles made by Mattel in limited batches of 10,000 each.
“We’ve been using that design on our invoices and Web site for the last few years,” Knight said.
Superman To Face Off With Brainiac
(moviehole.net) If studios are still taking notice of their actors ï¿½ or did that go out the door when ï¿½Waterworldï¿½ crossed the $200 mil mark in ï¿½94? ï¿½ then youï¿½ll see Brainiac in the ï¿½Superman Returnsï¿½ sequel.
Speaking about the recently-announced ï¿½Man of Steelï¿½ ï¿½ thatï¿½s what theyï¿½re calling the next ï¿½Supermanï¿½ pic ï¿½ star Brandon Routh tells IESB that heï¿½d love to see the evil alien get his due.
ï¿½Thereï¿½s a lot of talk about Braniac ï¿½ everyone wants to see [him]. But in the Superman Returns video game you get to play as Bizzaro [the imperfect Superman clone], and Bizzaroï¿½s pretty fun ï¿½ you could have some fun with that [too]ï¿½, says the actor, reportedly keen on getting involved in Legendary Picturesï¿½ ï¿½World of Warcraftï¿½ movie next. ï¿½So Iï¿½m leaning towards one of thoseï¿½.
Special Effects Can Breath New Life Into Any Stale Old Premise
(smthop.com) Lackluster, though still significant box office returns on director Peter Jackson’s high tech remake of the venerable, though somewhat exhausted classic, King Kong clearly illustrates that “you can take any tired old premise that is done to death, jazz it up with hi-tech digital effects, and make a few decent bucks” according to BlueScreen Inc. digital effects artist Austin Globe.
“King Kong and Titanic are just two great examples of a growing, profitable trend of Hollywood classic remakes that are given new life by computer generated effects. Indeed, this is just the beginning. As CGE becomes more powerful and are capable of ever more convincing, dramatically realistic simulations, no premise, regardless of how tired or old, can be tossed aside and labeled as exhausted. Furthermore, cartoon characters, comic book heroes and even fiction novels from the early 19th and 20th century are fair game, as evidenced by The Incredible Hulk, Fantastic 4, Spiderman, and War of the Worlds remakes, each time offering the movie goer with a fresh experience on an old story line.
Globe took several CGE stills from his desk drawer, shuffling through them quizzically.
“The next genre we’re considering attacking is the B grade Sci-Fi movies from the 1950’s and 60’s like Forbidden Planet, The Blob, Reptilicus, The Time Travelers, Plan 9 from Outer Space, and even that cheesy camp classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. The beauty is, with special effects you can make a winner out of any of them, and people will flock to see them for the jazz and jangle of that visual aspect alone.”
Globe scratched his chin and pondered professionally
“Furthermore, the very-near-future holds a new technique involving “sampling” scenes and voice tracks of deceased actors and bringing them back to life. Who wouldn’t pay 8 bucks to see Bruce Lee fight Jackie Chan, or John Wayne back in the saddle again? The only limitations are in our imaginations and technical capability.”
Globe acknowledged that a fair measure of responsibility comes along with any remake, (Godzilla, rendered with the full force of digital wizardry, will still be remembered as a little Japanese guy in a monster suit stomping on toy sky scrapers), and the potential controversies created by reviving the dead (If John Wayne is brought to life again, will the old Indian fighter John Wayne be politically incorrect in today’s multi-cultural climate? And if we decide to resurrect Bruce Lee to fight Jackie Chan, what happens if we decide that Jackie Chan wins?)