Jul 27, 2004

An Anime Network Is Born

Today, July 27, the first 24/7/365 all-anime network in the USA, The Anime Network, officially begins its broadcast reign. People (myself included) thought that such a network would ever happen in this country, and the lineup, mostly ADV Films productions, has begun.

Of course, on the heels of the launch, other anime distributors are wondering whether or not they should start their own all-anime networks. Viz made public their plans a few months ago while FUNimation announced their ambitious plans last week. This is good and all, but all parties are going to learn that they have a long road ahead of them.

Anime is popular in this country right now, but it's not as popular as some distributors believe. Middle America still sees animation as a children's media and there are those in the bible belt that sees anime as a tool from a godless land to corrupt the nation's youth (and yet, one of the first anime series many people have seen in my generation was Superbook and Flying House, two shows that chronicled a pair of kids going back in time to biblical times with a robot guide [you can't make this stuff up]). ADV was ambitious in doing the unthinkable in actually creating the first anime channel. They're creating a precedent similar to the one Cartoon Network created when they launched the world's first all-animation channel.

An unwieldly task, that's for sure, but the truth is that The Anime Network will be the litmus test if such a network could work. It's kind of unfair, but hey, you can't be the first without facing obstacles. Funny thing is that FUNimation and Viz are thinking about creating their anime networks because they want a place to showcase their uncut properties, and a few outside acquisitions. That's kind of what The Anime Network is doing now, building their network with their own properties with a few outside shows. That's also how Cartoon Network launched their network.

ADV Films, Viz, and FUNimation all have diverse libraries and all have an idea on what to put in an all-anime network. ADV has implemented their ideas. Viz and FUNimation are planning how to execute their ideas.

You know what I'd like to see happen? I'd like to see ADV's Anime Network execs talk to Viz and FUNimation, kind of like what HBO and MTV did over 13 years ago. Thirteen years ago, HBO and MTV launched all-comedy channels at the same time. HBO launched The Comedy Channel while MTV launched HA! The Comedy Network. Seeing as both networks were serving the same market and same audience with identital programming, they decided to merge their networks into one unique comedy-oriented channel. They called their merged outlet Comedy Central, and the rest is history. This merger actually made sense, unlike the recent G4-TechTV merger which basically became G4 with a few TechTV shows.

I feel that perhaps instead of creating three individual all-anime networks, they should create a superstation, anime from three of the biggest names in the game, uncut for the masses. This is an anime channel I want to see in my lifetime, and I feel that if FUNimation and Viz are serious about their plans to create anime channels, perhaps they should find solace with ADV and merge all of their energies to create a single dominating anime network.

This is an Anime Network I'd like to see. Until then, The Anime Network is something that . . . I'd like to see around here.

Jul 24, 2004

I Know A Site That'z Full of Rage! (or,Stop Using Z in the Place of S)

Well, not really, but I've got to get something off my chest.

You know, I've been online for a little over six years now, still with the same old machine (please send money, if you can). I also singlehandedly run a website, also for about six years. I have a reason for my mistakes, and I know that I make them often.

I'm only one person.

I make no excuses for my mistakes and delays on my site. There's a reason for everything. I'm human. I make errors. I sometimes slack off, which isn't always my fault (this week, I've been taking care of my sick mother, who had stomach problems). Still, I do end up working on my site.

And yet, there are some sites that are crammed with workers that claim to have workers at all times, and yet their professionalism and reputations are questionable. I've seen one site that has an alright selection of news items, unabashedly ripped from more professional outlets, and yet they claim that every site that finds their news must copyright the news item to this site (it's funny that they now understand the concept of the term copyright after using my site's earlier logo many years ago, confusing some folks that they were associated with my site), even though the site just reposted the news from another site rather than use real writing skills to make the story their own (this one site I'm talking about is copying interview questions from a FUNimation representative from the official Adult Swim forums, which are clearly owned by Cartoon Network [they're on the site that they own], thus, they're refusing to acknowledge somebody else's copyright when they're asking someone to acknowledge theirs). It's like they regurgitate the news verbatium without digesting what the story is or why it was written in the first place.

Also, I know that my copyright knowledge is limited at best, but I do know a little something about it. You can't copyright a site a year ahead of when you're posting the site, i.e. you can't copyright something for 2005 if the calendar year's still 2004, which it is for a few more months at least.

I don't know what to think about guys like that. I'm just one man who has a site with a few broken links (I'm working on it).

Jul 20, 2004

Interesting Press Release Making Me Wonder If I Backed The Right Pony

Nicktoons TV is going to present an international animation festival on television. This is exactly something Cartoon Network should have done since its inception. If (when?) it succeeds, perhaps this will be the catalyst Nicktoons need to become a serious animation network. They're already doing a better job showcasing the creative process of animation, something I don't recall Cartoon Network doing on a regular basis. I hope it's successful.

Here's the press release:

Nicktoons, Nickelodeon's digital channel for animation, has teamed with Frederator Studios and ANIMATION MAGAZINE to present The Nicktoons Film Festival. The first on-air festival of its kind, The Nicktoons Film Festival, will showcase independent cartoon filmmaking by animators from around the globe. Fred Seibert, president of Frederator Studios will serve as exec producer of the festival; Rita Street, publisher of ANIMATION MAGAZINE and Eric Homan, vp of creative affairs for Frederator Studios will be the festival producers and Christina Vann of Nicktoons will serve as executive in charge of production.

"There's so much great talent in the world of animation and we're excited to give people the opportunity to have their work seen by experts and on Nicktoons' air," said Keith Dawkins, vp/gm, Nicktoons. "Nicktoons is the place to be for animation lovers, which is why we're forming a sort of 'creative lab' for a new generation of cartoon hits."

Animators from around the world can download entry forms on www.nicktoons.com with the deadine being Sept. 10. Submissions should be animated shorts no longer than seven minutes that combine a unique look, great character designs and a funny plot. A selection of shorts chosen by a pre-selection jury will broadcast on Nicktoons as part of a 13-episode compilation series launching this fall. One winner will be chosen by a grand jury and awarded $10,000.

"Our partners will make The Nicktoons Film Festival the premier event for cartoonists," said Seibert. "Nicktoons' reputation for spotlighting creative talent and experimentation made them the perfect partner for a pioneering film festival. In addition, ANIMATION MAGAZINE's unparalleled relationships with the worldwide filmmaking community make them the ideal producers."

"Traveling the world for ANIMATION MAGAZINE, I get to see so much great animation that's not accessible to most audiences," said Street. "Now we'll get to share this animation with Nicktoons' viewers and maybe even find the next big cartoon hit."

The pre-selection jury will be an assembly of Frederator Studios and ANIMATION MAGAZINE staff. The grand jury members will be announced on the Website throughout the festival competition. Other festival prizes will also be announced on the Website throughout the competition.

Frederator makes cartoons for television and the movies. Since its 1998 founding by former Hanna-Barbera Cartoons president Fred Seibert, Frederator Studios has become one of the industry's largest and most prolific independent cartoon studios. For more information, visit www.frederator.com.

ANIMATION MAGAZINE is a trade publication devoted to the coverage of the business, technology and art of animation. For more information, visit www.animationmagazine.net.

Whatever Happened To Christmas In July?

It's funny, the one thing that never made sense to me when I was a kid was the whole Christmas In July concept. All the commercialized Christmas characters like Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty, and The Grinch selling everything from electronics to cars to, well, everything. Stores used to put the commercial side of the Christmas holiday in all of their ads, and cable networks used to show Christmas programming around the weekend of July 25. It was a whoot seeing The Grinch, Yogi's First Christmas, Twas The Night Before Christmas, and all of those kitschy-but-cool specials around this time. Heck, they even showed the ultimate Christmas crossover, Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas In July (little known fact, although the stop-motion characters were made in the good ol' US, a lot of those Rankin-Bass specials were animated in Japan, kind of like their last major project, Thundercats, were).

This year . . . nothing. It's strange that this weird commercial concept that has been a part of our culture has disappeared all of sudden. Perhaps it's best that Christmas programming will only air in December, post-Thanksgiving at the earliest. Still, it seems as if another part of my childhood has gone away.

So, if you dare to comment, what was your favorite Christmas special?

Jul 17, 2004

A Diamond Ad That Isn't A Diamond Ad

I'm getting into the comic business on my site this September, but I'm in the process of making a few teaser ads for the titles I'm going to put at The X Bridge. I'm working on four myself, and I got a great team working on another title. At The X Bridge, I posted a teaser for my Doctor Diamond title, but instead of showing the lead character, I'm showcasing a villian (probably because I've got the main villian designs finalized, and the main hero's eventual costume needs to be tweaked up a bit). Is that strange? Probably. What's stranger is that in the ad, I spend most of the time explaining what kind of story I'm going to tell and why I'm telling it. You'll have to see the ad to see what I mean.

Part of the reasoning for telling why I'm telling the story is due to a strange situation I read about in the independent comic community. You see, a particular term that many felt was a generic term is jointly owned by a pair of notorious rival publishers. When one popular indy title decided to use the term in title of a book, the two publishers that own the term got riled up and threatened to do something for using this word that usually describe a particular genre of comic title (you know, the genre that has spawned several supermen, avengers, titans, invaders, and leagues that fight for justice). So, the creator of the indy book dropped the term from the book. That kind of action infuriated me, and it's what led me to write a minicommentary in an ad.

Just check out the ad, and tell me what you think.

Didn't They Do "I Love The 90s" A Little Too Soon?

Now that I've seen most of VH1's "I Love The 90s," I can officially answer a question that's been plaguing my mind since the thought of a 90s retrospective entered my thoughts.

Did we really need an "I Love The 90s" special now? No, we didn't.

Let me explain.

Half of the specials were very nostalgic for me. 1990 - 1995, maybe 1996 were probably the best of the series for me because it did seem like it took place a long time ago. The latter half were pretty dang recent to me and not really worth the trip back in time. By looking at the, ahem, celebrities and their reactions to the latter half, it did seem that they were almost forced to wax nostalgic about 1996 - 1999, considering it wasn't that long ago. I feel that maybe in another three or four years that they could have done an I Love The 90s (and yes, I'm aware that the BBC, who created the frnchise, did a 90s retrospective pretty recently as well). 2004 was just a little too soon to remember fondly about the 90s.

From a cultural perspective, they had pretty much everything covered. From an animated perspective, it lacked a lot (to be honest, aside from Pokemon, it seemed very Viacomy). The thing about the I Love The 70s and 80s specials were that the most of participants were actually kids and teens at the time and remember the good old days. In the 90s, most of the participants were adults. They wouldn't have remembered stuff like Pete and Pete, Salute Your Shorts, X-Men, Fox Kids, Animaniacs, Cartoon Network, Pinky and the Brain, Batman: The Animated Series, Rugrats, Rocko's Modern Life, Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, Dexter's Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls, and countless others that we remember in our teenhood (and in most cases, childhood). Heck, where were Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, the finest Disney movies to come out. They covered Toy Story, but that was it. In about four years, they really could have done a great I Love the 90s interviewing folks that actually watched those shows.

Instead, this trip back to the 90s was a little underwhelming. It's like the writers' minds were just trapped by adults of that era.

Jul 13, 2004

Whatever Happened To Donovan Cook

For some reason today, I wondered whatever happened to Donovan Cook. Back in the day, I really, really enjoyed his two big shows, 2 Stupid Dogs and Nightmare Ned.

Now, a lot of people dismissed 2 Stupid Dogs as a strange ripoff of The Ren and Stimpy show, but those people are idiots. Yeah, Big Dog and Little Dog were a big and small duo not unlike the dopey fat cat and the bruatl asthmatic chihuahua, but that's where the similarities ended. Big Dog and Little Dog were dumb and dumber long before Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels took on the roles of Lloyd and Harry, going on numerous idiotic adventures where they encountered mundane events, the oafish Hollywood, cats (ahh, cat!! woof. eee!), and the Red trilogy, which totally twisted the Little Red Riding Hood story with a heroine as loud and abrasive as the one in that Bugs Bunny cartoon was. It was silly and stupid, and that's what made it so fun. Well, that and the Super Secret Secret Squirrel shorts which totally changed the dynamics of the classic HB shorts, which put Secret and Murocco Mole in an anthromorphic world. This show was one of the first places to showcase the works of Genndy Tartakofsky and Craig McCracken.

In 1995, Donovan Cook went back to Disney (where he originally worked on The Little Mermaid and The Prince and the Pauper, where he developed and produced “Nightmare Ned,” which chronicled a little kid's vivid imagination and his anxieties about the world we live in. Brilliant show. Shame the studio didn't even give it a real chance to gain an audience.

After that show, I haven't heard from Donovan Cook. While Genndy and Craig got big with Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and Powerpuff Girls, Donovan just disappeared. Kind of like the Tremblay Brothers, who created the other big HB show at the time, SWAT Kats, and needless to say I was shocked when I discovered they created the abysmal Mega Babies.

So, what did I find Donovan Cook doing? Co-directing the Peter Pan cheapquel Return to Neverland and directing what may be the last traditionally-drawn Mickey Mouse film, The Three Musketeers, making sure the last great adventure is the best. I'm just glad to see that he hasn't fallen completely off the face of the earth as I had feared.

Now, I'm curious what happened the the Tremblays . . .

Jul 6, 2004

A Period of Inaction And A Web Slinger Returns

The mothership is undergoing a period of inaction for the next couple of days. For those just coming from the front page and haven't been here before (or experienced some technical difficulties as I have as of late), welcome.

Now, I want to talk about Spider-Man 2. Yes, I'm the king of the segueways, or at least the court jester of the segueways. Warning, I'm going to spoil a few things. Not a lot, like the last moments of the film, but some to whet your whistle.

If you haven't seen this movie, I hope you've enjoyed your slumber from beneath that huge rock. We have a lot to catch up on. For starters, the producers were wise to recap the events of the first movies in the opening credits, not unlike the second Superman movie (you know, the best one). Unlike Superman II, which had clips from the first movie in the opening credits, the producers of Spider-Man 2 relied on the skills of Alex Ross to visualize key scenes from the first movie in his own inimiatble fashion (this was probably a bulk of the audience's first time seeing his work). The movie picks off right at the spot where the first film ended, or at least a few months afterwards.

Mary Jane is a fashion model plastered all over New York and Broadway actress performing in "The Importance of Being Earnest." Harry Osborn is a chip off the old block, inheriting Osborn Industries from his father. He has also developed a major chip on his shoulder, still believing that Spider-Man killed his father. Speak of the devil (whoops, that's another guy), I mean the webhead, he has created a following amongst Manhattanites as a hero to some and a menace to others. Peter Parker still struggles with trying to make ends meet, as does his Aunt May. As a result, his grades at the university are suffering. His professor, Dr. Curt Connors, realizes Peter's potential and wants to push him even further, which leads him to set up a meeting with Dr. Otto Octavius, a scientist on the threshold of creating a powerful, yet infinite energy source.

Peter sees a lot of what he could become in Dr. Octavius. Here was somebody with a brilliant mind, a beautiful wife, and an overall good life, free of stress and distractions. On the day of the actual experiment, Dr. Octavius reveals his tools for the experiment - - four mechanical arms fused to his spine with nanotechnology and controlled by a tiny chip on the outside. As if on cue, something strange and tragic happens during the experiment. At one moment, Dr. Octavius loses everything . . . including his humanity as he's now a slave to the serpentine machines.

Did I mention that Spider-Man is having bouts of limited powers during the course of the movie? At first, his webbing appears to be limited. As the movie continues, more of his powers are disappearing, adding to the fact that he has to deal with his feelings towards Mary Jane, which are also slowly disappearing, leading Peter to ponder one question . . . does the world really need a Spider-Man?

We discover the answer about the halfway point, when Peter tries to live a normal life. Meanwhile, Dr. Octavius, whom J. Jonah Jameson has dubbed Dr. Octopus, begins to rebuild his project, seeking Harry's help. Harry is willing to help for only one favor - - - he wants Spider-Man so he could kill him.

Yes, I am just skimming through the plot and not talking in depth about the action scenes. The words I would write about the action in Spider-Man 2 are unwritable and wouldn't do them justice. Like X2, Spider-Man 2 has increased the action factor over the original. Origins are out of the way, and the real storytelling can begin. The fight scenes are eyecatching and very fluid. They don't look like blatant computer animation sequences like the first one did, and you feel like you're witnessing a real fight. The only thing missing is the smell of the buildings.

The actors of the film feel more at ease this time around, and Alfred Molina, who plays Dr. Octopus, has done a spectacular job as the lead villian. Like Batman: The Animated Series' Mr. Freeze, he played a very sympathetic villian that had factors he couldn't control. You had to feel sorry for him. J.K. Simmons' portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson is also worth mentioning. Limited with a few lines in the first film, Spider-Man 2 really showed off what a great character JJJ really is, from schmoozing with local celebrities to barking orders at his Daily Bugle employees.

I always liked the character of Doc Ock, so I knew I was going to enjoy Spider-Man 2. THIS is the movie the first one should have been, and by far this is one of the greatest comic book films ever made. Check it out and escape into the world of the Spider-Man.

Jul 1, 2004

Wow, I'm Impressed

Spider-Man 2 has made $40.5 million in one day, the biggest opening day in movie history.

I'm going to see it this weekend anyway, and I've been avoiding everything that might be spoilerish, including behind the scenes shows, comic adaptations, even commercials. Needless to say, I'm impressed.

I'm just glad Doc Ock isn't a Power Rangers reject like the Green Goblin was in the first film.

Come On!

It seems that Astro Boy can't get a break. Sure, it's not the 60's classic nor the 80's revival (that wasn't really seen in the North American market), but the current Astro Boy is well-animated (it's very fluid unlike a lot of anime out there, which rely on closeup shots, still frames, and other forms of limited animation, which is like 85% of the anime titles out there now) and well-produced, especially considering we're looking at a Westernized version of the series.

However, there are strange minds that rely on ratings to judge a show's performance. Anybody who has ever read my regular site knows what I feel about the Nielsen ratings system (and apparently, large metropolitan areas around the country are now feeling the same way, as evident in the delay on Nielsen's People Meter ratings gathering system). Also, in private conversations, I learned that certain ratings are made just to attract advertising dollars. Regardless, Astro Boy must not be doing so well and effective immediately, the series is dropped from the Toonami lineup. A shame really. It's a really great series. So, what's going to air in its place?

Teen Titans.

Yeah, the show that comes on two times a day on Mondays through Thursdays and every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon. Sure, new episodes are coming to Toonami by the end of the month, but in the meantime, we're going to be barraged with reruns and reruns from now until then. Teen Titans is a good show, I won't deny that. It's like what a superhero version of FLCL, a visual treat for the cross-genre fanatic. BUT, if you're going to add repeats in a timeslot, you have to remove repeats from another. If I was Cartoon Network (and I'm not), I'd put Teen Titans on Toonami, keep the primetime airings, and take Teen Titans off of Miguzi.

*GASP* Actually make a programming change on Miguzi?!? Blasphemy! What would I put on instead of Teen Titans?

Astro Boy.

Why not? Astro Boy worked alright the last time it aired on afternoons during Toonami. It was filler, sure, but at least Cartoon Network gave it a decent chance to air the episodes Kids' WB wouldn't until much much later after its Toonami run. Now, unless Astro Boy is coming back to the KWB afternoon lineup, and by the looks of things, it isn't, Cartoon Network should strip the series to weekdays during the Miguzi lineup. It'll fit that block like a glove.

Both Teen Titans and Astro Boy are cut from the same cloth. They were both based on comic book properties created in the 60s, they were both revamped in the 80s, and they both have occasional comedic moments in the heart of the action overtones. I won't say that they're both interchangable, but I could see why they're making the move.

Still, I wonder what Sony feels about the changes. Wonder if the constant changes would convince them to bring Animax stateside (or develop a reasonable facsimile) . . .

Happy Canada Day

Head over to the Beaver Lodge, then make a quick jaunt to DeGrassi High, and relax your mind in front of the TV watching Kids in the Hall, You Can't Do That On Television, Ed, Edd, and Eddy, Tripping the Rift, and the other fine shows to come out of the Great White North.

It's Canada Day, a time to reflect on the wonder and greatness that is our neighbors to the north. Pop in an Ocean or Optimum dubbed series (either an anime masterpiece or an American series like X-Men) and give props to the fine actors who spent a lot of their time giving an English voice to popular shows.

Man, it'd be nice if Comedy Central reran the Conan O'Brien in Toronto episodes back to back in honor of this great day. Chug a Clearly Canadian and enjoy the day.

(Americans . . . our day is on Sunday, but a lot of fun is to be had on Monday around these parts).

In the meantime, check out Zannen, Canada, a site dedicated to create anime awareness in Canada. Canadian culture is nice and all, but to completely create a xenophobic atmosphere on the television screen is scary, and dangerous. See what Pepperidge is talking about and support the cause.