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Making its premier at WonderCon this year (in Anaheim, California, of course!) was Termites, a new animated film concept by Matthew G. Hill, Barrett Kime, Tighe Damron, Melanie Makaiwi, and Tom Wentworth. The crew have started up a Kickstarter campaign to finance their project. Simply put: What would happen if a colony of termites in a fancy home got wind (sorry, sorry…) that the house is about to be fumigated? “Through the eyes of young Termite hero, Larkin, we dive into both the fascinating narrative world (4 arms, anybody?), the exquisite landscape of artistic possibility, and the raw emotion of a tragic, yet inspiring story”. The campaign is running on Kickstarter until May 17th.

image c. 2014 The Colony

image c. 2014 The Colony

Newly published: Fred Patten's 'Funny Animals and More'

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Funny Animals and More Funny Animals and More: From Anime to Zoomorphics, based on Fred Patten’s weekly columns from Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Research animation website, was published March 26 by Theme Park Press. It is available in paperback and digital formats, and on Amazon.com.

The book is about animation and comic books rather than specifically anthropomorphic animals, but cartoon and CGI funny animals are a major theme. Topics include anime cat girls; Pokémon and Monster Rancher; Astro Boy and Atomcat; how a popular 1970s anime TV series led to the import of thousands of baby North American raccoons into Japan as pets, whose descendants are ruining thousand-year-old Buddhist and Shinto shrines today; animated Summer Olympics mascots like Misha the bear cub, Sam the eagle, Hodori the tiger, and Cobi the sheepdog, from 1972 to 2012; Patten’s favorite childhood comic-book funny animals like Amster the Hamster, Doodles Duck and his nephew Lemuel, Nutsy Squirrel, Dunbar Dodo, and SuperKatt, and how he would still like to see them animated; Crusader Rabbit; rats in animation; Reynard the Fox in animation; and Disney’s forthcoming 2016 Zootopia.

Korean cinema: Toilet-paper Merlin turns pianist into cow, who's saved from incinerator by com-sat in robot girl form

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Korean animation looks enough like Japanese animation that it is usually lumped together as anime. But I don’t think that even the Japanese have made an animated feature like The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow, directed by Jang Hyung-yun and released in February in Seoul.

Jerry Beck’s Animation Scoop announces this South Korean release about a pianist (male), transformed into a cow (female) by Merlin the Magician in the form of an anthropomorphic roll of toilet paper, and pursued by a villainous incinerator that wants to incinerate him/her; while a communication satellite falls from space, becomes an Astro Boy-like robot girl, and saves the cow from the incinerator and its secret agents. It falls into the you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it category -- and Jerry has the trailer, so you can see 1'22" of it.

Read more: Review at TwitchFilm.com

Animation: 'The Polar Bears'

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A 7’21” movie? Well, they don’t say “feature”. And it is produced by Ridley Scott, directed by John Stevenson (Kung Fu Panda), and CGI animated by Animal Logic, the Sydney studio that produced the two Happy Feet movies and Legend of the Guardians: The Guardians of Ga’Hoole. This is supposed to reinvigorate the Coca-Cola Polar Bears, but at least it’s free of the commercial message.

IMDb and YouTube say that this was released on December 31, 2012. ADWEEK says that it was commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company through the Creative Artists Agency (adv’t agency) of Los Angeles for an online commercial. So this has been out for over a year, but I haven’t seen it mentioned on Flayrah yet. Let’s rectify the omission.

Animation: 'Sonic Boom' first look

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Jerry Beck’s Animation Scoop has a first look at SEGA’s and OuiDO! Productions’ Sonic Boom CGI TV series, coming to the Cartoon Network (also French TV) later this year.

Sonic the Hedgehog is best-known as a SEGA computer game series, but this announcement – with a 2’50” trailer – shows what Sonic, Tails, and Dr. Eggman look like as fully animated CG characters.

Review: 'Kairos. T.2/3', by Ulysse Malassagne

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Kairos, book 2 Kairos, volume 2 of 3, is out! (My thanks again to Lex Nakashima for making this review possible.) Volume 1 was published in France in April, with an animated cartoon trailer for the whole series by the author at his new Studio La Cachette. Niils and his mysterious girlfriend Anaëlle (whom he is trying to talk into becoming his fiancée) are camping out in the French countryside. She is kidnapped by anthropomorphic dragons dressed as Medieval soldiers, and taken “home” through a dimensional portal to the world that she apparently came from in the first place. Niils follows to rescue her, and is met in the countryside by two friendly inhabitants; Kuma, a dragon monk, and Koyot, a brown, beaky peasant.

Tome 2 begins with Niils, Kuma, and Koyot coming to a peasants’ market town, where a big political argument is in progress between the supporters of the dragon royal family and those who accuse it of becoming tyrannical, weak, and no longer in touch with the people.

Roubaix, France, Ankama Éditions, October 2013, hardcover €11.90 (64 pages; on Amazon.fr).

Voting begins as 2013 Ursa Major Awards ballot released

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Ursa Major Awards banner by EosFoxx Here is the final ballot for the 2013 Ursa Major Awards. The voting is among the five titles in each category getting the most nominations. In several categories, there are six finalists because of ties for fifth place. In the Best Short Fiction category, only four finalists are listed because of too many ties for fifth place.

Voting is now open. Due to a technical issue, nominators will need to acquire a new key. The deadline is April 30.

As is not unusual, there were so many nominations for the fourth, fifth, and sixth place nominees in most categories that one more nomination could have made the difference between a title’s getting on the final ballot or not. Please nominate next year.

The 2013 Ursa Major Awards will be announced and presented at a ceremony at the CaliFur X convention, May 30-June 1, 2014, at the Irvine Marriott Hotel, 18000 Von Karman Avenue, Irvine, CA 92612.

Animation: 'The Nut Job' is full of crunchy goodness

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'The Nut Job' poster On January 24, my sister Sherry took me in my wheelchair to see The Nut Job at the Pacific Theatres 18-Plex at the Glendale Americana at Brand “shopping community”.

The movie was released on January 17, and for over a week I had been reading reviews on animation-community websites that were uniformly negative. They did not just pan it, they hysterically reviled it. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 12% favorable professional rating:

Hampered by an unlikable central character and source material stretched too thin to cover its brief running time, The Nut Job will provoke an allergic reaction in all but the least demanding moviegoers. (RT critic consensus)

“Anyone who doubts the truth of the bromide that January is the time studios trot out films that would otherwise be unreleasable should take a look at The Nut Job, a CG feature that has all the originality and individuality of a Dixie Cup,” begins Charles Solomon’s review on Animation Scoop. “[…] Numerous, predictable contretemps ensue […] the storytelling is simply inept […] The animation is unimpressive at best. […] The Nut Job was made in Canada and Korea, reportedly in association with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea - probably because sitting through the film makes the 12-hour flying time between Los Angeles and Seoul seem brief.”

Conversely, the box office of The Nut Job has been good – fortunately, or I would have wondered whether the critics were talking about the same feature that I saw.

2013 Ursa Major Awards nominations about to close

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Ursa Major Awards Nominations for the 2013 Ursa Major Awards, for the best anthropomorphic movies, novels, comic strips, games, etc., will close on February 28. Voting for the winner will begin on March 15th and will close on April 30. The awards will be presented at CaliFur X on May 30 to June 1, at the Irvine Marriott Hotel, Irvine, California.

If you have not nominated yet, you have only a few more days to do so. All titles first published or released during the 2013 calendar year are eligible. The awards are given in eleven categories: Motion Picture, Dramatic Short Work or Series, Novel, Short Fiction, Other Literary Work, Graphic Novel, Comic Strip, Magazine, Published Illustration, Website, and Game. The final ballot includes the top five titles nominated in each category.

To nominate (by February 28), and to vote (March 15–April 30), go to ursamajorawards.org. The 2014 Recommended Anthropomorphics List will be posted after March 1.

'Animation Breakdown Roundup!' comes to LA on March 8

Your rating: None Average: 4.8 (4 votes)

Animation Breakdown Roundup!, a one-day 90+-minute animation festival of 25 brand-new animated experimental shorts, will play on Saturday, March 8 at 9:30 p.m. at The Cinefamily, a.k.a. The Silent Movie Theatre, 611 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036; (323) 655-2510. Tickets are $12.

Co-curator Alex MacDonald says to expect something like past compilations such as Spike and Mike’s Festival of Animation, The International Tournée of Animation, or The Animation Show. Animation Breakdown Roundup! will feature “over 90 amazing minutes of animation filled with world premieres and exclusives.”

What makes it of interest to us is that half or more of the 25 shorts feature anthropomorphic animals and even Furries, counting the psychedelic duck musicians, the wolfman or werewolf bikers, and indescribable but clearly sentient "things". How many can you find in this 1’07” trailer?

Review: ‘Free Birds’ is a turkey

Your rating: None Average: 4.7 (3 votes)

Free Birds PosterIn movie geek parlance, a ‘turkey’ is a movie that, well, it isn’t very good.

When Free Birds calls itself “the greatest turkey movie of all time,” it’s more than a little self-deprecating. Yes, the movie is about turkeys, but there’s that double meaning right there. That’s the joke, see. Ha ha.

It opens with a disclaimer reminding the audience that this movie is about talking turkeys; though Free Birds is about an historical event (the first Thanksgiving), it indicates that you should probably not take it too seriously.

Gee, the movie just apologized to me twice before I even got to watch it; that’s not a good sign.

Sly Cooper to get own movie in 2016

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (4 votes)

Sly Cooper, the anthropomorphic raccoon star of several video games, is set to get his own movie. Although not due for release until 2016, the movie already has an official website, Facebook page, Twitter account, and a teaser-trailer:

The film will be made by animation studio Rainmaker Entertainment and indie production company Blockade Entertainment. The writer and director will be Kevin Munroe, who previously wrote and directed the CGI Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie of 2007.

'Fantastic Mr. Fox' becomes the second animated movie to join the Criterion Collection

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Fantastic Mr. Fox Criterion CollectionThe Criterion Collection has been around since 1984, making 2014 the thirtieth anniversary for the film collection that all but invented the modern idea of DVD bonuses. During those three decades, as the collection added "important classic and contemporary films," they included a single animated feature, despite releasing nearly 700 movies on Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-Ray.

That changes with the movie with 700 on the movie case's spine in the collection, which will be released Feb. 18. Wes Anderson's adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox becomes the second animated feature to join the prestigious collection.

Criterion Collection, February 18, 2014, dual format Blu-ray/DVD (3 discs, 87 minutes, color, 1.85:1 ratio, English) Criterion store price $31.96

Correction: The original headline implied Fantastic Mr. Fox was the first animated feature in the collection. The Criterion Collection released an out of print Akira Laserdisc, making Fantastic Mr. Fox the second animated feature in the collection. Sorry for the error.

Animation: 'Chhota Bheem' comes to the U.S.

Your rating: None Average: 3.6 (10 votes)

'Chhota Bheem and the Throne of Bali' poster On January 18, the 130-minute Indian animated feature Chhota Bheem and the Throne of Bali came to five Big Cinemas theaters in the U.S.:

  • Peachtree Theatre, 6135 Peachtree Parkway, Norcross, Georgia 30092 (Atlanta)
  • Golf Glen Stadium, 9180 West Niles Road, Niles, Illinois 60714 (Chicago)
  • Dos Lagos Stadium, 2710 Lakeshore Drive, Corona, California 92883 (Los Angeles-San Diego)
  • Movie City 8, 1655 Oak Tree Road, Edison, New Jersey 08820 (NYC)
  • Big Cinemas Fremont 7, 39160 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont, California 94538 (San Francisco)

The notice does not say how long it is playing at each, but probably for one week, so you should have time to see it if you hurry. The news also does not say whether it is dubbed or subtitled in English; it was dubbed in Hindi for its Indian theatrical release last year.

2013 Ursa Major Awards nominations open

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Ursa Major Awards Nominations for the 2013 Ursa Major Awards are now open. The awards, voted upon in 2014, celebrate the best anthropomorphic literature and art first published during the previous calendar year.

The awards are selected by a two-stage process of nominating and voting. Members of the public send in up to five nominations in each of the eleven categories. The top five nominees in each category (more in case of a tie) are then presented on a final ballot for a public vote.

The eleven categories are: Motion Picture, Dramatic Short Work or Series, Novel, Short Fiction, Other Literary Work, Graphic Novel, Comic Strip, Magazine, Published Illustration, Website, and Game.

Many nominations are likely to come from the 2013 Recommended Anthropomorphic Reading List, which has been built up through prior recommendations. However, inclusion on the List is not necessary for nomination if a work is otherwise eligible.

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