FaceRig promises 'instant digital cosplay' for the masses

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Facerig Fancy video chatting or recording a digital movie using an avatar of your fursona which mimics your facial expressions, powered by an ordinary webcam and a large-latte-priced software licence? Internet startup FaceRig aims to provide such a service; and ultimately affordable, studio-quality, immersive virtual reality.

The full version of what FaceRig describes as a Digital Alter-Ego Framework might be a long way off, but the initial webchat application is currently in development and seeking backers on crowdfunding site Indiegogo. Almost $200,000 has been raised to date, with 33 days to go.

Licences for home and commercial use will be available, with prices starting at $5 during the crowdfunding phase and a predicted eventual cost of less than $15 for home users. More heavyweight versions of the software will incur a greater cost. There are also plans for mobile versions on iOS and Android.

Animation: The 'Boonie Bears' are coming from China

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Boonie Bears Amid Amidi reports on the Cartoon Brew website that China’s first CGI feature, the 70-minute Boonie Bears: Homeward Journey, is coming to the U.S. on January 6.

Didn’t China already produce a CGI feature, 2011’s Kung Fu Panda ripoff Legend of a Rabbit? Apparently nobody wants to talk about that. (Totalitarian nations are very good at rewriting their history.)

If three days sounds like very short notice, it’s because Boonie Bears: Homeward Journey will not be a theatrical release. It’s coming direct-to-DVD. What’s more, this was not even a theatrical release in China. It was a Chinese TV special last Spring.

Fursuiting and copyright: an important issue for fandom

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New powers to patent animals (including unrealized hybrids that populate furry fiction) burst into the news on 11/13/13, when activist organization Wikileaks revealed a draft of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Analysts have called it "a major power grab for large patent and copyright industries," with powerful implications for the future of intellectual property.

With a lead like that, I have to apologize for faking you out. I couldn't resist. Now let's do a 180, and turn back to the furry level of life, where copyright concerns are much more personal. Consider this scenario that happened to fursuiters Sakura Fox and Mercury on their trip to New York City:

You're walking through Central Park, and see some panhandlers begging for change. They're wearing badly made, unsightly costumes of Sesame Street characters. You shouldn't hang around them in fursuit, because a pimp Elmo might come smack you off his corner!

Elmo waving a gun and knife It's an unauthorized misuse of trademark for profit. It could make the copyright owners look bad, and they wouldn't like it. It's probably too trivial for them to hear about, or hire lawyers to stop it- but you never know. In a famous 1989 action, Disney forced the removal of murals featuring their characters from three Florida day care centers. It helped earn their "reputation as an extreme copyright hawk -- there's a reason 'Disney lawyer' is a term all its own". (On the more friendly side, consider Hasbro's relationship with Bronies.)

What The Fur releases information about 2014

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What The Fur has finally announced the dates and venue for their 2014 event. After some speculation about what was happening to the Canadian event, the release of information comes just before Christmas. The convention will be held in Montreal, Quebec from the 23rd to the 25th of May, 2014, and will be taking place at the Sheraton Montreal Airport.

The Cunning Little Vixen at The Boston Conservatory

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Opera is an art form infrequently covered here on Flayrah. While it may not have the widespread appeal of The Lion King, if you have the chance, seeing The Cunning Little Vixen is quite an experience.

The Cunning Little Vixen The Cunning Little Vixen was written in 1923, and was based upon a novella, which itself was based off of a comic strip. The story follows a forester who finds an abandoned fox kit in the woods. Time passes, and their stories develop in parallel, with the vixen eventually escaping the forester’s protection and thriving in the woods, while the forester begins to understand the cycles of life.

The story is far slower paced than more modern stage musicals, which takes a bit of getting used to. However, there are numerous light-hearted moments and situations that make it quite entertaining. For example, in one scene Sharp-Ears forces the badger out of his home by calling him a capitalist, and in another she tries to rouse the “working-class” hens to rise up against the rooster. Although Janáček wrote some very dark themes into the opera, it is still primarily a comedy.

'Lucid's Dream' – an interview with Ookami Kemono

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Lucid's Dream Some years ago, I received a collection of furry art from a friend. Within it were a number of black and white images, with a huge amount of emotion, that drew me in.

Those pictures were drawn by Ookami Kemono. Since then, he has continued to entertain his thousands of watchers and, on 31 August this year, began a webcomic entitled Lucid's Dream. I got in touch with him to talk to him about his art and his latest project.

Review: 'My Little Pony: The Magic Begins', by Lauren Faust and Justin Eisinger

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My Little Pony: The Magic Begins I feel that reviewing this is like preaching to the converted, but here goes.

If you have somehow missed out on the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic TV animation phenomenon so far, here is a good place to start. This book – and it is a cute little booklet, appropriate to the TV cartoon series; only 6.8” x 5” and brimming with color on glossy paper – is a graphic-novel adaptation of the two-part Friendship is Magic pilot episode broadcast on October 10 and 22, 2010. The story is by Lauren Faust, MLP:FIM’s creator, adapted into graphic-novel form by Justin Eisinger. Other credits are on the title page. This booklet consists of stills from the two TV cartoons with speech-balloon overlays; about as close to putting an animated cartoon onto paper as you can get. If you do not have a videotape or DVD of the first two episodes, this will enable you to have them.

IDW Publishing is the publisher of the MLP:FIM regular comic book, but this booklet is not a regular comic book. It is a cross between a standard American comic book and a Japanese tankōbon paperback, shrunk to about half-size, in glossy full-color on slick paper; more like the paperback photo-novels of Doctor Who, Star Blazers, or Star Trek episodes than a collection of comic-book issues.

“My Little Pony: The Magic Begins”, by Lauren Faust (author) and Justin Eisinger (adapter).
San Diego, CA, IDW Publishing, October 2013, trade paperback $7.99 (124 pages).

Fans fret as Fur Affinity nears fifth day of read-only mode

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Nearly five days have passed since Fur Affinity entered read-only mode, and despite ongoing staff efforts, the interruption has led many users to mull alternatives.

The unheralded change, initiated in an attempt to resolve slowdowns during peak hours, caused consternation among artists, many of whom rely on the site for their income:

The problem is, this was unplanned downtime. […] If it was planned […] people would have had time to get things together. Such as commissioners, contests, bids, etc. and where to get in contact or if the bids/auctions are postponed while the site is down.

[…] at first I was worried that I wouldn't be able to make any money for christmas, but now I'm starting to worry that FA will be down so long that I won't be able to make enough for rent. […] it's so very disheartening when it was supposed to be a nice holiday season...

Operations team lead yak began an attempt to clear backlogged database transactions on Monday afternoon "as fast as the RAID10 array of 15k drives allow". A day later, FA status forum poster Raptros reported that the database would be transferred to a different server.

Staff then reported "waiting on two new hard drives to come in" to replace failed hardware, which they did on Friday afternoon. Advertisers were given ten extra days in compensation.

Update (15 Dec): An announcement posted on Sunday morning:

The last of the data is importing, and we'll be standing by to finish the upgrades. ETA should be tonight.

Update 2 (16 Dec): Oversized notification tables were cited by FA coder net-cat as both the source of delays and a reason for the slowdowns:

[The current method of notification handling] is not scalable and quickly becomes unsustainable for sites with 10^5 and 10^6 users.

Staff have rewritten queries, tweaked database settings, and intend to prune notifications older than 90 days soon after the site returns.

Update 3 (17 Dec): Fur Affinity came online for a few minutes before stalling and returning to read-only mode, "unable to handle a flood of users while rebuilding the RAID arrays". The site returned eight hours later, with mass notification clearing options disabled.

Users flooded social networks to complain about the disruption and compare alternate sites; primarily Inkbunny, SoFurry and Weasyl. On FA's forums, a 20-page thread was locked after discussion degenerated; it was soon replaced, while fans clamoured for software upgrades.

Mike Rugnetta talks fan communities at XOXO Festival

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At the 2013 XOXO Festival, Mike Rugnetta of the YouTube/PBS Idea Channel delivered a really interesting talk about the Internet, specifically how it's helped us develop new ways of constructing our self-identities, due to the discovery of new ideas and interacting socially online, amongst other things. He hops from topic to topic very rapidly, and doesn't really get started until about two minutes into the video.

Interestingly - if you jump to the 10:15 mark - he discusses fandoms. Good fandoms have lots of opportunities for interaction, sharing creativity, and finding ways for the fans to relate to one another. In fact, the fans may relate to each other more than they might relate to the original theme that caused them to gather in the first place! What matters is the energy within the fan community, the bonds between fans. (This reminded me of Anthrocon 2007's guest of honor Mark Evanier, who noted that furries seemed to be "fans of each other".)

Mike asks his audience if there's a fandom without canonical media for fans to gather around? A fandom which would instead subsist mainly by the interaction of the fans, without devotion to a specific TV show, movie, or comic book series? Yup! Furry!

Animated film 'Dawgtown' seeks crowdfunding

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Dawgtown poster Dawgtown is a work-in-progress feature film created with traditional 2D animation. It tells the story of Max, a young pit bull who is separated from his owner and forced into the brutal world of Dawgtown, where underground dog fights are arranged.

In Dawgtown, Max meets other dogs, including Athena the two-time champion, and Mauler ("the meanest battledog in the pit"). Athena sees something different in Max, and together they plan a revolution, with the hope of breaking out of Dawgtown and finding a better life.

The project's creator, Justin Murphy, has animated several shots in the opening sequence, and pencil-tested and storyboarded others. He is now seeking crowdfunding on Indiegogo, to hire actors to record the film's dialogue, and storyboard the rest of the film.

With six days to go, the project has received $10,092 in pledges, of a goal of $10,000.

Religion: Satan is a Furry

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Happy Science: Satan1 We’ve all heard the charge that Furry fans are fetishists who dress up in fursuits just to have sex with each other.

Have you heard that Satan is a Furry; a cat-man from the Large Magellanic Cloud, responsible for all the evils on Earth?

That might be funny if over ten million people did not believe it.

That is one of the revelations made in The Laws of the Sun by Ryuho Okawa, one of the Bibles of the Happy Science religion.

November 2013 Newsbytes archive

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Contributors this month include crossaffliction, dronon, Fred, Green Reaper, Higgs Raccoon, mwalimu, Rakuen Growlithe, RingtailedFox and Sonious.

Fur Affinity bans 'Spam to Win' journals, reposted promos

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Furries are pretty creative. Where conventional companies will pay advertising companies, we find new way to promote our products and selves to others. Independent artists in the fandom have to use less conventional means of promotion. Two such staples that have become popular in the fandom over the past year are "Your Character Here" auctions and "Repost a Link" schemes. However, with their increased popularity, users began to criticize abuse of these methods and expressed annoyance at their side effects.

On November 21, after a link-reposting "giveaway" promising the winner $1,111 had saturated the site, Fur Affinity staff decided that what once started as a small advertising scheme had entered the realm of the intolerable, calling the methodology "Spam to Win". They also re-addressed an issue where artists would repost YCH auction template pictures, annoying watches and browsers alike.

In this Flayrah exclusive we will focus on the new journal rules, explain their implications to average furs and furry organizations, and how these type of prize giveaways could evolve under these new regulations and maintain a level of effectiveness.

Teaser trailer: 'Mr. Peabody and Sherman' (also in Russian)

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At the moment, this story just repeats information already in last year’s “Animated Anthropomorphic Features in 2013” story and its followup comments. But it is time for Mr. Peabody and Sherman, the DreamWorks Animation feature directed by Rob Minkoff, based on the TV feature by Jay Ward, now due for a March 7, 2014 release, to have its own story.

The first theatrical teaser trailer was released on October 25. DreamWorks has also released a Russian trailer that is totally different. Too bad it is only available in Russian. [YouTube's attempt at English translation of the automatic captions is, however, hilarious.]

News of FurFright closure emerges through leaked email

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Connecticut furry convention FurFright is no more, according to a now-deleted journal post reprinting an email supposedly from Belic Bear and K'gra Leopard (also received by Wag):

We had every intention of keeping FurFright going for years to come. At this year's Closing Ceremonies we dispelled unfounded rumors and told you we'd be back in 2014 and beyond. That was always our intent.

Since that time the Con Chairs have experienced a devastating turn of events in their personal/family life, making it impossible for the convention to continue. All our time, energy, and resources need to be spent healing and coping with the challenges we face. So due to circumstances beyond our control, FurFright has come to an end. 2013 was our final year.

This news was not confirmed through official channels as of Saturday night. However, the convention's website contains no information on future events a month after FurFright 2013, and no response had been made to questions regarding 2014 on Facebook.

Update: Bios (FurFright 2013's Dances coordinator) has tweeted that he is "now personally working with Crowne Plaza Sales Dept signing contracts for #furfright" and that "due to personal reasons Furfright will change a hand [sic] in con chairs for 2014".

Update 2: FurFright has posted the original message on LiveJournal and Facebook, mentioning the possibility of continuing the event with a different name:

There is a small movement right now by FF staffpersons to hold an event in the same timeframe, which is being bandied around on twitter #furfright However, the FF name will remain with the Con Chairs so this new event will also have a new name, should it come about (which we would certainly love to see!).

It is official #furfright will retire its name, but our passion and love for this fandom will live on for 2014 with a new look and name! [Bios]

Update 3 (Dec 4): Voting is proceeding on suggested names for the "New England Furcon". Over $850 in donations have been raised through an offer of a 10% pre-reg discount.

Update 4 (Dec 4): The new convention's staff have terminated voting "due to infighting amongst the community over name choices":

The name will instead be chosen by board decision tonight, using all previous submissions as a guideline. While vote counts will be considered, they will not determine the winner.

From the Yerf Archive