Animation Scoop – Animated News, Reviews and Commentary

Cinefamily’s Halloween “Spook-tacular”

My annual Halloween “Spook-tacular” screening and party is on in Los Angeles next week – on Halloween – and you’re all invited!

Yes, that’s right. While everyone else is “trick-or-treating” all over town, I’ll be screening Halloween cartoons on the big screen – with rare film prints AND digital restorations from the “vaults”. I cannot reveal what I’m showing for various legal reasons – but if you are all partied out, filled with candy and just need to “chill”

Join me at The Cinefamily, 611 N. Fairfax in Hollywood, California, on Monday October 31st, Halloween, at 7:30. More details and advance tickets on sale here.


Disney Begins Production on New “Muppet Babies” Series for 2018

Disney has begun production on a reimagined Muppet Babies television series, which chronicles the playroom antics of the beloved Kermit the Frog, Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Animal and Miss Nanny. A co-production between Disney Junior, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media’s (DCPI) Content & Media group, and The Muppets Studio, the CG-animated series is slated to debut on Disney Junior in early 2018.

Tom Warburton (“The 7D”) will serve as executive producer and Emmy Award-winner Eric Shaw (“SpongeBob SquarePants”) is story editor.

Nancy Kanter, Executive Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide said, “We are proud, and a little bit giddy, to begin production on our new version of the much-loved Muppet Babies. Parents will delight in seeing their favorite Muppets in the mixed animation style they remember from the original series, and kids will be introduced to this warm and zany world made just right for the Disney Junior audience.”



World Animation & VFX Summit Announces 2016 Animation Hall of Fame Recipients

Animation Magazine has unveiled its list of this year’s distinguished Animation Hall of Fame award recipients. The honorees will receive their awards at the World Animation & VFX Summit Gala on November 1st, 6:30-10:00 p.m. at the beachside Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica.

Fifth annual gala event will honor Cartoon Network’s founding president Betty Cohen, Fairly OddParents creator Butch Hartman, Nelvana and Teletoon founder Michael Hirsh, Laika president and CEO director Travis Knight, VFX visionary Ellen Poon and Cyber Group Studios chairman/CEO Pierre Sissmann.



ANIME REVIEW: “The Empire of Corpses”

The first feature based on a novel by Project Itoh (the nom de plume of Satoshi Ito), The Empire of Corpses (2015) is a striking, if often baroque, zombie adventure. The plot seems far more complicated than it needs to be, but the cyberpunk designs, which bolster the film’s curious premise, are stunning.

The Empire of Corpses takes place in a world where re-animated cadavers perform manual labor and provide cannon fodder for imperial armies, making them both useful servants and a major financial resource. But the zombie-laborers lack consciousness. They run on “necroware,” complex programs written on punch cards, based on the ones introduced to automate looms in early 19th century Europe.




REVIEW: “The 18th Annual Animation Show of Shows”

On Monday, October 17th, I attended the ASIFA-Hollywood screening of Ron Diamond’s annual 18th Animation Show of Shows, at the DreamWorks Animation Campanile Theater at the studio in Glendale.

The Show of Shows is different this year in that fewer films than usual are actual winners of an award at a previous international film festival. In fact, some are too recent to have been shown at an international animation festival, and at least one was shown in advance of its theatrical release.

The Animation Show of Shows always present excellent films, but the subjects and animation techniques are so varied that each viewer has different favorites. One thing’s for sure, screening these on the big screen – in a movie theater, the way they were meant to be seen – is a real treat. It’s an experience I urge to you partake if you get the chance at a movie house or museum near you.


SNEAK PEEK: Season 3 Netflix “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” Clip

The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show is back and crazier than ever! After last season’s cliffhanger, Season 3 opens with Peabody and Sherman teaming up with alter-ego versions of themselves to defeat an evil cyborg version of Mrs. Hughes and fix the course of history! The zaniness continues when the Penthouse is invaded by neighbors, a slippery mouse, a radioactive meteor, a massive storm flood and a full-blown forest with woodland creatures. They also switch bodies, turn into hideous monsters, and discover a rival late-night talk show. Seasion 3 of The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show is available on Netflix as of Friday October 21st. Here’s a sneak peek:


Alpha Animation Hires Alex Schwartz Head Of Production

Alex Schwartz has joined Alpha Animation as Head of Production, it was announced today by CEO Bob Bacon. In her new role, Schwartz will oversee creative development through production on Alpha’s animated feature slate. The division will produce animated features for worldwide distribution and will look to develop original material as well as leverage existing IP.

“Alex brings a wealth of experience, great talent relationships, and a proven ability to identify and develop great ideas into great films,” said Bacon. Alpha Interactive Entertainment Division Chief Executive Officer, Chen De Rong added, “Alex will be key to helping Alpha Animation achieve its goal of becoming a destination for filmmakers and artists looking to produce globally-appealing feature animation in a supportive and creatively-driven environment.”



Is Space Jam so Bad it’s Actually Good?

Space Jam occupies an unusual place in the lexicon of hybrid animated/live-action films. Not nearly as expensive (or as polished) as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it nonetheless became massively successful thanks mainly to its animated cast. As a kid, Space Jam was downright awesome for many reasons, yet as an adult (and fan of animation,) it’s borderline unwatchable. Yet it’s so hard to ignore Space Jam despite its flaws. Since it’s being shown in theatres again in November, in honor of its 20th anniversary, it’s time to consider whether the film really is so bad, it’s good.

Space Jam is a complicated movie to analyse. Especially when it holds a certain amount of nostalgia for many people (including this writer) who were a certain age when it came out, and who also thought it was the ‘bestest movie ever’ after seeing it on the big screen. Paradoxically, to kids, Space Jam is a great movie. It’s got aliens, humour, cartoon characters, some big dummy called Michael Jordan, and an overall concept is easy for a kid to grasp. All these reasons combined to make it a hit film in 1996 and have kept it simmering in the public’s subconscious ever since, including going so far as to create satircal oral histories.


Midwell – 2






Checklist of U.S. Animated Feature releases in 2016

1. NORM OF THE NORTH (1/15/16) Lionsgate. D: Trevor Wall

2. MONSTER HUNT (1/22/16) Film Rise. D: Raman Hui. (Live action/Animation)

3. KUNG FU PANDA 3 (1/29/16) Dreamworks/20th Century-Fox. D: Jennifer Yuh Nelson; Co-Director: Allesandro Carloni.

4. SNOWTIME (2/19/16) Shout Factory. D: Jean-François Pouliot.

5. THE BOY AND THE BEAST (3/4/16) Funimation. D: Mamoru Hosoda. (anime)

6. ZOOTOPIA (3/4/16) Disney. D: Byron Howard, Rich Moore.

7. RACHET AND CLANK (4/29/16) Focus Features. D: Jerrica Vleland, Kevin Munroe.

8. THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE (5/20/16) Sony. D: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly.


10. FINDING DORY (6/17/16) Disney/Pixar. D: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane.

11. THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS (7/8/16) Universal (Illumination). D: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney.

12. PHANTOM BOY (7/15/16) GKIDS. D: Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol.

13. ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE (7/22/16) 20th Century-Fox. D: Mike Thurmeier.

14. THE LITTLE PRINCE (8/5/16) Netflix. D: Mark Osborne.

15. SAUSAGE PARTY (8/12/16) Sony. Sony. D: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon.

16. KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS Focus/Laika. (8/19/16) D: Travis Knight.

17. SPACE DOGS: ADVENTURE TO THE MOON Epic Pictures Group. (8/26/16) D: Mike Disa.

18. THE WILD LIFE Lionsgate. (9/9/16) D: Vincent Kesteloot, Ben Stassen.

19. STORKS (9/23/16) Warner Bros. D: Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland.

20. LONG WAY NORTH (9/30/16) Shout Factory. D: Rémi Chayé.

21. MISS HOKUSAI (10/14/16) GKids. (anime) D: Keiichi Hara.

22. TROLLS (11/4/16) Dreamworks – 20th Century-Fox. D: Mike Mitchell.

23. THE RED TURTLE (11/18/16) Sony Pictures Classics. D: Michaël Dudok de Wit

24. MOANA (11/23/16) Disney. D: Ron Clements, John Musker.

25. NERDLAND (12/16/16) Samuel Goldwyn. D: Chris Prynowski.

26. SING (12/21/16) Universal (Illumination). D: Garth Jennings.

Release Dates TBA

• MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI – GKids. D: Claude Barras. (submitted by Switzerland as its official nominee for Best Foreign Film, 2016)

• THE GIRL WITH NO HANDS – GKids. D: Sébastien Laudenbach


NOTES: Limited-release theatricals (movies going Direct-to-Video (DVD, VOD but getting a theatrical billboard) began this year with theatrical showings of YELLOW DAY, a faith-based live action/animation feature, directed by Carl Lauten, which opened in L.A. on January 8th 2016 via the Alabama-based Idyllic Entertainment Group. Funimation released the anime feature THE EMPIRE OF CORPSES, directed by Ryoutarou Makihara, for two days on April 19th and 20th. Momentum Pictures released the Korean produced BLING!, directed by Kyung Ho Lee and Wonjae Lee, to select theaters on May 6th. Aniplex America released anime feature CLASSMATES (Doukyusei) by Shoko Nakamaura on May 6th. Funimation released the anime feature HARMONY, directed by Michael Arias and Takashi Nakamura, animated by Studio 4°C and based the novel of the same name by Project Itoh, for two days on May 17th and 18th. Shout Factory released the Russian made QUACKERZ, directed by Viktor Lakisov, on June 3rd. NUTS, a documentary by Penny Lane, that uses much animation to illustrate its true story, had its theatrical premiere in New York on June 22nd. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Fathom Events partnered to give BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE, a special one-night big screen release on Monday, July 25th in select cinemas across the country. Shout! Factory Kids released the CGI Australian feature BLINKY BILL: THE MOVIE on October 7th in Los Angeles. Barajoun Entertainment released BILAL: A NEW BREED OF HERO in Los Angeles on October 7th. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Fathom Events partnered to give BATMAN: RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS, a special one-night big screen release on Monday, October 10th in select cinemas across the country. Animated documentary 25 APRIL, directed by Leanne Pooley, opened theatrically in LA for an Oscar qualifying run on October 21st.


BLU-RAY REVIEW: “Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Season 2”

For those unfamiliar with Star Wars Rebels – the Complete Season 2 was released recently on blu-ray – this review begins with a friendly warning: watch Season One first. Season Two literally begins with a bang, and it’s helpful to know who’s shooting at each other, and why.

The rebellion against the evil Empire is still in its formative stages. Our heroes are a band of hit-and-run marauders who fly a ship called, simply, the Ghost—no fancy names like Rand Ecliptic or Millennium Falcon for these guys. They’ve joined another rebel group led by a veteran of the Clone Wars, Ahsoka Tano, who happens to have been the apprentice of Anakin Skywalker, former Jedi knight, now the dastardly Darth Vader (reprised by James Earl Jones!).



TEASER: Dreamworks’ “The Boss Baby”

Opening next March 31st 2017, DreamWorks Animation and director Tom McGrath (Madagascar) invite you to meet a most unusual baby. He wears a suit, speaks with the voice of Alec Baldwin, and stars in the animated comedy, DreamWorks’ The Boss Baby. The film is “a universal story about how a new baby’s arrival impacts a family, told from the point of view of a delightfully unreliable narrator, a wildly imaginative 7 year old named Tim”. Have a first look:


TRAILER: “25 April” – Opens This Week In LA

Opening in Los Angeles this Friday (October 21st – for Oscar consideration) at the Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino, is 25 April – an animated documentary based on the tragic 1915 Gallipoli Campaign of WW1 – told through the perspective of six New Zealanders who were involved. Here’s the trailer:


Taschen’s Disney Book: “The Walt Disney Film Archives. The Animated Movies 1921–1968”

This isn’t a review – but an unabashed plug for one of the most exciting animation book releases of the year. The Walt Disney Film Archives. The Animated Movies 1921–1968 is the first volume in Taschen’s illustrated history of Disney animation. Having some 1,500 images and essays by eminent Disney experts (including our own Charles Solomon), this oversized book traces Mr. Disney’s complete animation journey from the silent film era, through his first full-length feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and the pioneering artistic experiment Fantasia (1940), right up to his final films Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966) and The Jungle Book (1967).

With extensive research conducted via the Walt Disney Archives and Disney’s famous Animation Research Library, as well as private collections, editor Daniel Kothenschulte curates some of the most precious concept paintings and storyboards to reveal just how these animation masterpieces came to life. Masterful cel setups provide highly detailed illustrations of famous film scenes while rare pictures taken by Disney photographers and excerpts from story conferences between Walt and his staff bring a privileged insider’s view to the studio’s creative process.