At Comic-Con International, fans were treated to the animated short movie Major Damage. The film is a technological marvel, not just for it's cool CGI animation, but also for the two-year, global development effort it took to make the film.
Comics2Film chatted with the character's creator, Chris Bailey, about the process of turning his comic book concept into what he calls "a modest 2 1/2 minute garage project representing animation talent from around the world."
Bailey is Director of Animation at the F/X house Cinesite. Prior to that he was executive producer and director on Disney Channel's show Kim Possible. Bailey professes to be a long-time comic fan with a fondness for humor books.
After directing the Oscar-nominated Mickey Mouse short Runaway Brain as well as additional shorts for Disney's theme parks, Bailey decided he wanted to work on something that was his own. "While I had great experiences with Disney directing projects, I wanted to do something personal," Bailey said.
So he turned his attention to a pet project, an eight-page comic about a little boy named Melvin who is given by space aliens the powers of his favorite comic book hero Major Damage. "I conceived it as sort of an amalgam of Big and Shazam and X-Files," Bailey told C2F.
Bailey cites early Marvel comics as having a major influence on the concept.
"The biggest [influence], I gotta tell you, was Stan Lee and Jack Kirby monster comics. I love giant tikis," Bailey enthused. "My entire animation career I've wanted to animate a giant tiki-god coming out of the center of the earth and trying to smash somebody. So I figured I'm going to make my own short film, by God it's going to have a giant tiki-god."
It wasn't just monsters though, one look at Major Damage's exaggerated features should reveal another Marvel comics influence: Marie Severin's Not Brand Ech.
"These silly guys dressed in wool tights and towels wrapped around their necks and big chicklettes for teeth, damn there's just something appealing about that," Bailey said. "When we modeled Major Damage in the computer, I actually took a couple of panels of some Marie Severin work where the characters were screaming...and they just had these big ol', honkin' teeth. I said, 'I want his teeth to look like this.'"
Bailey first storyboarded the film as a garage project for himself to work on. "I wanted to do it CG but the technology wasn't quite there for me to be a one-man show," Bailey said. As luck would have it he then served on an animation panel discussion with Kellie-Bea Cooper, a producer who had recently finished her own short The Physics of Cartoons. He mentioned Major Damage and Cooper became interested in collaborating with him on it.
Bailey said she and partner/husband Doug Cooper, who served as CG Supervisor, were instrumental in getting the movie made. "Without them, the project would surely have died. Kellie-Bea provided the enthusiasm and organization and Doug the technical magic," Bailey said. "Major Damage was not a one man show by any means."
Cooper started lining up a crew of animators and made arrangements with Hewlett Packard and Alias Wavefront to sponsor the project with hardware and software licenses. However, even with the team in place, Major Damage proved to me a major undertaking.
"Originally there were eight of us. We just went through our friends and colleagues in the animation business," Bailey said. "It became very clear within a few months that we were going to need more help."
Bailey used the power of the internet to assemble an international team that numbered around 100. He put a call out to CG-Char, a forum for CG Characters animators. The project received submissions of CG modeled props and designs in exchange for a credit and a T-Shirt.
"When it came time to send out the T-Shirts I realized we had people contributing from Costa Rica, Australia, The U.K., South America," Bailey said. "It never dawned on me that we were an international garage production until that time."
Coordinating with a legion of contributors scattered throughout the world was a daunting task only made possible by the internet. Doug Cooper came up with the idea of establishing a file depot to augment communicates via phone conversations and e-mails. Many changes were communicated with before and after PhotoShop images. "I tried to work visual as much as possible since it wasn't an option to be in the same room," Bailey told C2F.
Another innovation in their online studio was the "scene browser." "It showed the first middle and last frame of every scene in the entire cartoon," Bailey said. He could discuss the film on the phone while both parties viewed the same visual reference.
"The biggest thing that I found gratifying about the whole process is finding out how many people out there want to support independent filmmaking, from my colleagues in the business to hobbyist to professional actors and people in post-production," Bailey said.
Many of the hobbyists surprised the director. "My favorite story in that regard is this one guy, Tim Ryan, who was an exterminator," the director said. Ryan took a class in computer animation and began working with Cooper doing low-end technical work on the film. Eventually Bailey let him work on models for the show.
"He was fast and the work was great and he ended up modeling all my face shapes for Melvin and the Tikis so they could make facial expressions and speak," Bailey said. "He got hired by Dreamworks right after our cartoon to essentially do the same thing there. A year earlier the guy was crawling under houses looking for termite infestations!"
The film also had support from seasoned professionals. Space Ghost voice actor Gary Owens did the opening animation. Gary Rizzo at Skywalker sound set Bailey up with some studio time for sound editing. Jim Venable of Powerpuff Girls fame composed the music.
Currently Major Damage can only be seen on the film festival circuit, but Bailey plans to have a feature-packed DVD ready for fans later this year. In the mean time the original eight-page comic will be published in October as part of Mike Manley's Two-Headed Monstrosity. "We'll have two covers on the comic. One will be Major Damage and one will be Monster Man."
Bailey tells us he also hopes to do a Major Damage feature film, along with more comics and short cartoons on a regular basis.
For a sneak peek at the current film visit Major-Damage.com.
THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN
Torrential rains lead to catastrophic floods washing over the city of Prague in the Czech Republic last week. The city, one of rich, untainted history, has become a coveted destination for filmmakers in recent times, playing host to such productions as From Hell, Blade 2, xXx and the currently filming League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Don Murphy producer of League and From Hell gave Comics2Film an account of the devastation suffered by the city and the effect it will have on the film's production.
"We had to shut down shooting Tuesday at 10:45 Czech time. Sixty percent of the crew were in the Hilton which was evacuated after the lobby became filled with a foot of water," Murphy said. "The Nautilus set, quite possibly the most beautiful set I have ever laid eyes on, was very close to the river and we cannot get to it but is likely to be waterlogged.
"Many of the actors were in beautiful apartments by the river that had to be evacuated on Monday. The remaining actors were in the Four Seasons which was evacuated late Monday. The rains continue. The film is definitely not shooting until next week at the earliest."
Of course, the damages to the League set are just a small part of a major catastrophe.
"The saddest part is that Prague, by virtue of the Germans just seizing it without a fight during WW2, is arguably the most beautiful city in Europe," Murphy continues. "There are castles and churches and buildings in it that are over a thousand years old- that's FIVE times as old as our country. And these sections, like the Old Jewish Quarter and Mala Strana, are also now evacuated and covered in eight foot high piles of sandbags as residents struggle to protect their heritage.
"Restaurants where I and the cast ate just a week ago, like the beautiful Kampa Park two story restaurant right on the Vltava River, are now completely under water. The damage to the city is easily in the BILLIONS with a 'B.'
"One gets the sense as you see people evacuating while loudspeakers and police lead them out that the scenes must be similar to when both the Germans and later the Russians invaded and millions fled. Food is almost impossible to get," Murphy said.
A report from CNN indicates that over 100 people have died in the floods throughout Europe. Floodwaters are now said to be ebbing and the cleanup process is underway.
Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro told Comics2Film that in spite of disastrous weather in Prague, he accomplished his objectives during a recent trip there.
"We scouted, we found really great locations," Del Toro said. The director told C2F that 90% of the location scouting is done.
Although the devastating floods in the city didn't prevent the Hellboy crew from getting their work done, they did encroach on the scouting expedition. "We evacuated the hotel in the middle of the night, because it did get flooded," Del Toro said, "but that was the last night we stayed in Prague."
Although no new casting has been done on the film, Del Toro said things that with the location scouting done and the design work underway things are shaping up nicely.
"We start shooting in March, the main body of the movie," the director told us, adding that reduced unit shooting will take place in February. "Everything is going according to plan."
Back at Comic-Con in San Diego, Del Toro said "We wanted to give you something that we, as a geeks, would lust after." It appears he wasn't kidding around.
Fans who attended the convention were able to pick up a free copy of the Hellboy movie teaser poster. Those who were willing to wait in line were able to get those posters autographed by Del Toro, creator Mike Mignola and star Ron Perlman.
Now, less than three weeks later, the poster is selling like hotcakes on eBay. A quick scan of the venerable auction site reveals over a dozen copies of the collectors item selling at high speculator prices. At the time of this writing one autographed copy was going for over $76, although many more were available for less.
We asked the director what his reaction was to the phenomenal response. "It's insane," del Toro exclaimed. "They were for free!"
Only 2004 copies were printed, a number matching the year the film will be in theaters.
Look for more Hellboy movie news tomorrow on Comics2Film.
Thanks to SmoovyG for the lead.
Top Cow President of Production Spike Seldin told Comics2Film this week that another of the company's comic book properties is headed for the small screen. Top Cow is finalizing a deal with Showtime to develop a TV pilot based on Fiona Avery's comic No Honor.
The comic tells the story of a jewel thief who steals an ancient katana and inadvertently releases the spirit a Samurai warrior and is forced to share his existence with him.
Brent Friedman (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation) is attached develop the pilot script with Avery. Gale Anne Hurd's Valhalla Motion Pictures is producing.
Last Friday Comic Book Resources broke the news that Chaos! Comics had filed for bankruptcy. The company's unfortunate financial situation let to filling Chapter 7, which differs from the more common Chapter 11 in that there is no attempt to reorganize or recover the company. Chaos! comics assets, including intellectual properties are to be liquidated immediately.
Chaos! director of operations Adam Goldfine talked to CBR about the future of the Lady Death animated feature, the first art of which was previewed last month at Comic-Con International. Goldfine said, "We're not sure at this point. We're doing what we can to make sure it can continue ."
Comics2Film followed up this week with ADV Films, the producers of the movie, to see how things looked on their end. A spokesperson for ADV told C2F that as far as they knew the bankruptcy proceedings would have no effect on the project.
They are proceeding forward with production as scheduled. To that end, director Carl Macek and producer/art director Andy Orjuela are in Korea overseeing the animation process. ADV's spokesperson said that the pair should be back stateside next month and will possibly have some animation clips to show to fans.
MORT THE DEAD TEENAGER
Over at UGO.com "G.I. Journalist" Dan Epstein chatted with G.I. Joe scribe Larry Hama. In the extensive interview Hama talks about a variety of subjects regarding his career as a comic writer, one of which is Mort The Dead Teenager, a Marvel comic that is currently in development as a movie.
Hama told Epstein that he created the concepts specifically for adaptation. "Basically, I was thinking about how many Marvel comic book characters had been optioned for film and TV. But not many movies were happening. I went in and came up with some new stuff that wasn't really a superhero, that somebody could do fairly cheap," Hama said. "A youth market-type thing. I came up with Mort the Dead Teenager, and all I had was the title. They said OK [laughs]. So I had to come up with a story to fill out the title."
Hama also revealed that he wrote the first script for the movie years ago. However the property has changed hands many times and seen a number of rewrites.
The film was initially set up with Steven Spielberg at Dreamworks. In 2000 it was sold to Artisan as part of of a package deal with Marvel. Recent reports from earlier in the summer indicate that Mort The Dead Teenager is now at Dimension Films with Quentin Tarantino and Lawrence Benders executive producing and Madonna's Maverick Films involved as well. Dean Paraskevopoulos (Too Smooth) is reportedly on board as director.
Sir Ian McKellen (aka Magneto) gave fans an X-Men 2 update at his official site yesterday. Under his E-Post section the actor answered various and sundry questions from mutant moviegoers.
"Everyone who reads the script for the new film comments on how much action there is in it," McKellen told one fan. "This may not end up being the dominant feature of the finished movie, rather that descriptions of action in screenplays tend to be long-winded and excitingly written-up a) to satisfy those like me who can't easily translate a script into images and b) to give the stunt department detailed warning of what will be required of them."
When asked if X-Men will suffer the quality degradation that is often seen as movie franchises run on. He pointed to several cases where sequels outshone the original. "Although Two Towers and Return of the King aren't sequels at all, they point to the truth that the creator might get better with a second go and perhaps, as in the case of X-Men2 a bigger budget," McKellen said.
"Bryan Singer is back with the old team in front of and behind the camera. All will be more than well," the actor assures readers. "After this one why not a series of movies centering, as the comic books do, on separate mutants? There is no reason why X-Men should ever decline into being just a franchise and branding for toys."
Although Magneto will look much as he did in the first movie, McKellen joked about working the comic book costume into the film. "As one who has often worked in tights (made of wool, cotton, a nylon-mix although not as yet Spandex) I regretted that some approximation of the comic book uniforms wasn't attempted in the first film," the actor said. "For the sequel I even suggested that Magneto should be seen either sleeping in spandex or exercising in it his gymnasium or that his underwear under his stylish grey cloak-jacket should look like the super-hero outfit that springs out of the original Marvel illustrations."
McKellen also reveals that the new movie starts in Washington D.C., shortly after the events in the original.
Visit McKellen.com and click on E-Post for his complete August Q&A with fans.
Meanwhile, the Comics Continuum reports X-men 2 producer Ralph Winter is pleased with the film's progress.
"We have reached the halfway point in production and are feeling very good about our story and the production values," Winter told The Continuum. "Everyone is in great spirits."
Look for an update on the official X-men 2 site soon, most likely within the week.
KyrptonSite has a bevy of information on some of the first Smallville episodes for the upcoming second season.
The season two premiere, entitled Vortex, will be airing September 24. But for you hungry fans out there who can’t wait for the main course, Kryptonsite has a nice spread of photographic appetizers for you to feast your eyes on.
The second episode of the season, entitled Heat, will feature a guest appearance by Krista Allen from Days of our Lives.
The fourth episode will be the first written by comic book writer Jeph Loeb. KryptonSite has acquired numerous SPOILERS concerning the episode, entitled Red. To find out more, visit the KryptonSite SPOILERS page.
MAGE, CATWOMAN, QUEEN & COUNTRY, BONEYARD
CHUD.com reports in an interview that screenwriter John Rogers has had his hand in or will have a hand in several projects stemming from comic books, including DC Comics's Catwoman, Matt Wagner's Mage and Greg Rucka's Queen and Country.
Rogers, whose diverse portfolio includes The Core, Jackie Chan Adventures, and USA's new Red Skies, explains his draw as a comics oriented screentwriter, "There's probably me and a couple of other guys. I don't have the big hit like [Blade writer David] Goyer to get my name up there, but I've probably done a broader spectrum of comic books. Plus I've probably worked on or developed or turned down 7 or 8."
Catwoman, according to Rogers, is now being polished for production. Mage has been greenlit by Disney and his now working towards a winter shoot while Roger's adaptation of Queen and Country is currently in the writing process.
The writer also revealed he has his eye on Richard Moore's comic Boneyard. "I might actually come on as producer on that. I can't write it, but I'd love to be there to protect it," Rogers told CHUD. "And they're interested in that, because a writer producer is a useful producer. Most producers can't really fix a script if it goes askew. From my legendary crankiness with Catwoman, I have no problem banging heads against desks if I think something's going wrong on a comic property. To me there are things on a comic property that are integral to the story."
Gee Wow-wee! Look at this picture of the Spider-Man Collector's DVD Gift Set from IGN.com.
We've been telling you for months that this specially-packaged, limited-edition release of the film would feature the widescreen special edition Spider-Man DVD and be loaded with extras including a reprint of Marvel Comic's "Amazing Fantasy" #15 in which Spider-Man was created; an exclusive collectible drawing by former Spider-Man artist John Romita, Sr. and current Spider-Man artist John Romita, Jr.; a collectible numbered film cel from the movie; and more.
And do we spy a copy of Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters & Marvels in there as well? It would appear so.
You can preorder the gift set now from various online vendors.
Remember that lawsuit from last April? Bill board vendors in New York tried to sue Sony over the fact that bill board ads in Spider-Man were digitally replaced with product placement. E! Online’s Mark Armstrong now reports that a federal judge threw out the lawsuit.
BIRDS OF PREY
TV Guide Online reports that the role of Barbara Gordon’s oft-times romantic interest in the new WB series Birds of Prey, will be played by veteran soap opera actor Shawn Christian (As the World Turns).
The WB’s own Birds of Prey site has been updated, complete with new photos and biographies of the cast.
Thanks to Gotham Clock Tower for pointing the way.
MEN IN BLACK 2
DVD File.com reported that Colombia/Tristar home video has announced a street date of November 26th for the DVD of Men in Black II.
The two-disc set will be available in both wide screen and full screen versions. There is no word yet on any extras, but given the fact that it is a two-disc set there are plenty of room for extras. If the number of DVD versions of the first film (3) are any indication there should be plenty of material available.
Thanks to Cinescape for the lead.
Comics Continuum talked with X-men Evolution producer Boyd Kirkland last Thursday, who revealed they are right on schedule for the third season.
"We haven't been given a definite air date yet, but assume it will not be the first Saturday in September ... maybe the second weekend," Kirkland told The Continuum. The WB network later confirmed the Season 3 premiere will air on Saturday, September 14.
"We have footage back on the first two episodes, and they look great! Footage on the third episode is due here tomorrow. Pre-production on the last two episodes of the season is still in-house being finished over the next couple of weeks," Kirkland said.
Also, Angel will be back for Season 3. Want a glimpse of the new civilian look for Storm and Beast? Check out Comics Continuum for front and back designs of both.
SUPERMAN, BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN
According to a source for Corona Coming Attractions, Wolfgang Petersen’s desire to direct the epic Troy, wasn’t the only factor in shelving the Batman vs. Superman project.
The scooper claims that J.J. Abrams has completed and turned in his draft of Superman, to be directed by McG. The script is reportedly close to two-hundred pages in length and is so wonderful that Warner Bros. executives have shoved aside Petersen’s Batman vs. Superman.
For reference, an average screenplay will come in between one-hundred to one-hundred-twenty pages in length. A two-hundred page screenplay, if shot as is and before editing would most likely be between two-and-a-half to three hours long, depending on the dialogue and action content of the script.
However, while Warner Bros. is anxious to get the ball rolling on Superman, the source goes on to say that McG is not yet ready to move ahead with the film. Therefore, WB is looking for a way to get McG to step off the train so a new conductor can take the controls. CCA even has a list of purported potential directors that WB executives are considering.
In no particular order, they are: Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s 11), Michael Mann (Ali), David Fincher (Panic Room), and Rob Bowman (Reign of Fire).
Rest assured, Comics2Film will keep you up to date on any developments surrounding this project.
BATMAN: YEAR ONE, BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN
Christian Bale's name has been bandied about by fanboys with alarming fervor, recently, connecting him to the role of Batman in the upcoming Batman/Superman film. Moviehole recently chatted with the actor, and he gave his feelings on the matter, as well as the rumors connecting him to a role as Agent 007: James Bond.
"No, that's Bateman, not Batman," Bale joked. Referring to his character in the film American Psycho.
"Actually both characters would be a dream come true, wouldn't it? James Bond is every British actor's Holy Grail in many ways - the most recognized British character on the big screen. I've also been a big fan of Tim Burton's Batman movies. His almost gothic approach brought a wonderful cinematic feel to an American hero. I'd love to do either part but I'd also worry about being typecast.
"James Bond in the new millennium has so much potential - in the new movie xXx, the Bond character is skewered as being out of step for our times - Bond is in dire need of updating. And Batman is a wonderful character - the duality between his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, and the dark knight could be a fascinating character study."
Regardless of how Bale feels about the role, his agent told Moviehole, "The word about Batman is that NO ONE has signed on yet as all rumoured participants (Jude Law, Colin Farrell, Christian, Josh Hartnett, etc....) all have various conditions with regard to casting/money/marketing rights.
"For example, actor A may choose to do the movie ONLY if actor B is playing opposite him. If B drops out, A has the option to drop out or insist on Actor D, etc.... Actor C may sign on with a condition that he makes the same dollars as Actor B. If he doesn't get it, he'll walk."
Bale's gent went on to say, "Christian has been approached for a number of Batman projects -including the Darren Aronofsky Batman but all depends on the various conditions I mentioned above. He prefers the Aronofsky project because the script is unique but that project is realistically on hold until BvS is done.
"Don't forget that all-star casting usually drives a budget into over-drive so there's also the X-Men approach to use lesser-known (and less expensive) actors from TV series. So, the dust hasn't settled yet."
In a tidbit from SCI FI Wire this week, actor Wesley Snipes mentioned that while he has no interest in reprising his Blade role for David Goyer's Blade television series now in development at New Line, he would "definitely produce" the show.
Actor Ray Park let a few details drop regarding Artisan's Iron Fist in a recent interview with CHUD.com.
Park, who has previously held roles as the Marvel Comics mutant villian "Toad" in X-Men and the evil Sith warrior Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I, is now developing the role of heroic martial artist Danny Rand, better known as Iron Fist, "We're working on that right now so that's going to start some time. I'm training hard for that really."
Park views the role as an opportunity to demonstrate his abilities, "That would be a real chance to showcase my martial arts...I want to come up with some new, innovative stuff."
With preproduction work currently under way, Park says he hopes he can start filming later this year.
SPIDER-MAN, MEN IN BLACK 2
Sony Pictures has shattered it's previous annual box office records, with its year-to-date 2002 take already exceeding the previous top 1997 haul. This is due in large part to the success of comic book adaptations Spider-Man and Men In Black II.
Sony has already raked in $1.29 billion dollars this year, exceeding 1997's record-setting $1.27 billion. The studio has released six No. 1 movies and accounts for 21 percent of the 2002 market share. Of course, the movie season still has over four months to go.
Spider-Man has taken in over $800 million world wide while Men In Black II kicked in $189 million domestically and continues to do well overseas. Along with the comic book flicks, the article points to xXx, Mr. Deeds, Panic Room and Black Hawk Down as major contributors to the record book run.
The original Men In Black helped fuel the 1997 record.
ROAD TO PERDITION
Critically acclaimed comic book movie Road To Perdition continues to hang in the box office top 10 with weekend estimates bringing it in at #8 this week. According to Box Office Mojo the movie contracted an estimated $3.83 million in its sixth week on the charts.
Road bested newer films like Master of Disguise, which finds itself falling to #9 in its third week, and the new Eddie Murphy flop The Adventures of Pluto Nash, which debuted at #10.
Road's total take so far is $90.3 million.
NEXT WEEK ON WITCHBLADE SEASON 2
Ramping up to the season 2 finale of Witchblade TNT is presenting fans with a marathon recap this Sunday. The cable network will air encores of all season 2 episodes starting at noon (ET), followed by the season ender in its regular timeslot on Monday.
Here' the schedule for the marathon on Sunday, August 25th:
Then, on Monday, August 26th Witchblade season 2 concludes with the episode "Ubique".
Sara (Yancy Butler) awakens from a nightmare to discover the Witchblade gone and NYC in chaos after a bizarre homicidal spree. When she finds that the killers recently accessed Cyberfaust.net, she suspects Kenneth Irons. Risking her sanity, she accesses the site. But while helpless under Cyberfaust's spell, Sara comes face to face with her nightmare and finds herself battling against the Witchblade and its diabolical wielder.
"Ubique" airs at 9pm (ET) on TNT with an encore showing scheduled for 11pm (ET).
Thanks to Dex and Ron for the lead!
THIS WEEK ON SABRINA
It's a double dose of Sabrina this week on The WB.
First, Sabrina's (Melissa Joan Hart) birthday doesn't turn out as planned when the terrifying matriarch of the Spellman clan, Aunt Irma (guest star Barbara Eden, "I Dream of Jeannie"), visits from the other realm upon learning that Harvey (guest star Nate Richert) knows Sabrina is a witch. Meanwhile, Roxie 's (Soleil Moon Frye) ex-boyfriend (guest star Isaac Hanson playing himself) surprises her with an impromptu singing performance with his brothers Taylor and Zac. Caroline Rhea, Beth Broderick, Nick Bakay, David Lascher, Elisa Donovan, Trevor Lissauer and Soleil Moon Frye also star. Ken Koch directed the episode written by Adam England.
"A Birthday Witch" airs Friday, August 23 at 8:00 pm on The WB.
Then, Sabrina (Melissa Joan Hart) fears that Hilda (Caroline Rhea) is impulsively jumping into marriage on the rebound, so she uses magic to break it up, resulting in driving away Hilda's one true soul mate and shattering her into pieces. In order to save Hilda from a broken heart, Sabrina is forced to gamble with her own love life. Beth Broderick, Nick Bakay, David Lascher, Elisa Donovan, Soleil Moon Frye and Trevor Lissauer also star. Melissa Joan Hart directed the episode written by Jon Vandergriff.
Watch "I Fall To Pieces" the same night at 8:30 pm.
Thanks to author and comic book movie journalist Andy Mangels for the info.