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'Billu Gamer': Unfortunately the tiger and elephant don't sing and dance

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Okay, here’s another stealth movie.

Billu Gamer, a 90 plus minute live-action/animated Hindi comedy-fantasy feature from director/producer/writer Pankaj Sharma at Astute Media Vision, coming in India in May 2016. Sharma says that it’s slightly over half VFX and 3D animation.

Patty is a live-action teenage boy at a school where a lot of Bollywood-style singing and dancing goes on. When he’s depressed from being bullied, the animated Billu from his favorite video game comes to life to be his best friend. Everything seems great, until the video-game villains follow Billu into the real world. Patty and Billu have to team up in the video world to win. The first half of the trailer is live-action; then the animated Billu and some dog-headed humans appear, and there are an animated tiger and an angry elephant. There’s more information at The Hans India.

Impressive fish: 'Big Fish and Begonia'

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The Chinese aren’t finished with releasing animated anthropomorphic features almost on top of us – in China, anyway. Big Fish and Begonia (Da Hai), 100 minutes, directed by Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun, produced at Studio Mir (maker of The Legend of Korra) in Seoul, South Korea in traditional cartoon animation, and distributed by Enlight Media, is scheduled to be released in China on July 8.

The story is from a traditional Taoist legend, taken from Zhuangzi. The gods – or celestial beings, anyway – control time, tides, and the changing of the seasons of the Middle Kingdom (a.k.a. our Earth). When the young Chun is 16 years old, she is turned into a dolphin to experience our world at first hand. She is engulfed by a storm and gets caught in a fishing net, from which she is rescued by a human boy at the cost of his life. Chun is moved by his sacrifice and determines to restore him to life. To do this she must give his soul rebirth as a tiny fish, and protect him as he grows. Over time Chun grows to love the fish, but when he is grown, she must release him to become human once more.

The synopsis does not say where the story is set, but the boy is noticeably blond, implying that the feature is intended for international audiences.

'Rock Dog' still exists

Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

Good news, everyone! Rock Dog is not dead! It even has a release date, again, at least for China; July 8. The movie still doesn't have a North American release date yet (though IMDB has some further international dates); however, the movie is a Chinese/American co-production, and features a cast of Americans with an American director (Ash Brannon), so the plan has always been to release the movie in America, apparently. Eventually. Probably.

If it does get that American release date, it will be the fourth confirmed fully anthropomorphic animal world movie released here in 2016, counting (fellow Chinese/American co-production) Kung Fu Panda 3, Zootopia and Sing (with Spark and Sly Cooper bringing the possible total up to six, if they, like Rock Dog, could be bothered to get a release date out there).

Review: Welcome to 'The Jungle Book'

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

thejunglebook2016.jpgLet us not forget, Disney is a corporation. To a certain extent, we hold the 55 (and counting) full length animated movies produced by the Disney Animation Studios to a different standard than, say, the 32 (and counting) full length animated movies produced by DreamWorks Animation, or even the 16 (and counting) full length animated movies produced by Pixar, despite the fact that there really isn't much reason to, at this point. Just the fact that the brand is much older maybe should count for something, but, let's face it, just because it is so old, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has less in common with Zootopia than Kung Fu Panda 3 does (even when factoring out the furry aspects and the use of CGI).

We still treat many of those early animated Disney movies almost like sacred texts, despite the fact that Disney never has. Disney has always treated them like what they are; products to be sold. So, you've got annual theatrical re-releases for most of last century, a practice that only died when home video became a thing. To combat that, they introduced the "Disney Vault", which basically extended the "re-release" strategy indefinitely even with home video. Then came the direct-to-video sequels; finally, when those became a bit too damaging to the brand, the live action adaptations began. And the most recent movie to get that treatment is Jungle Book.

Whine all you like about originality and creativity, but Disney's got a business to run. This strategy is pretty much a brand-strengthening exercise, but at least part of the branding is based on "quality," so at least they're going to try and do right by the old movie (if not exactly Rupyard Kipling). And, hey, most of the older Disney movie's are based on properties that are public domain; if Disney doesn't do it, someone else will (and in fact, Warner Bros. has its own Jungle Book movie planned). And its not like Disney hasn't done this before (or, for that matter, that they were even the first movie studio to adapt The Jungle Book). If you want originality from Disney, go watch Zootopia again.

If you want to watch a good movie, well, actually, watching Zootopia again is okay, but do take some time to watch this version of The Jungle Book. It's actually really good.

What live action adaptation of a Disney animated talking animal movie should they do next?

Coming in August to Japan: 'Rudolph and Ippaiattena' ... and Godzilla?

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Toho Films has just released an aw-it’s-cute trailer for its August 6 CGI theatrical feature adaptation of author Hiroshi Saitō’s children’s book Rudolph and Ippaiattena. But Toho has also added a mention of one of its other big summer releases, Godzilla: Resurgence. Japan still has theatrical monopolies, so these features released by Toho Films will only play in the Toho Cinemas theatrical chain.

Anime News Network has news on the film’s voice actors, Saitō’s original children’s book series, and a translation of the trailer’s text.

Retrospective review: 'Chicken Little'

Your rating: None Average: 4.6 (5 votes)

chickenlittle.jpgSo, anyway, earlier this year, a movie came out called Zootopia. We, uh, might have mentioned it. Despite being anticipated, or even known, by just about nobody who wasn't a furry or, perhaps, a major Disney fan, the movie managed to become a rare hit at both the box office and with professional critics (though gathering up Flayrah reviews, the consensus was more in line with Metacritic's "good, but whatever" score, because furries, am I right?).

One thing that was repeatedly and pointedly not mentioned by anyone involved with the movie was another movie a little over a decade old, called Chicken Little. Lots of interviews, and even a semi-independently produced 45-minute making of documentary, all went on at length at how this Disney's first fully anthropomorphic animal world since Robin Hood, and the first set in the furry equivalent of a modern world, despite the fact that it, well, wasn't. Chicken Little became the animated equivalent of a "disappeared non-person" in some sci-fi dystopia.

Which makes it incredibly interesting, in a weird kind of way; in a company that mines its past productions for nostalgia like there is no tomorrow (only yesterday, repeated), Disney has gone out of its way to avoid reminding anyone this movie exists. And this is actually a fairly important movie in the history of the company; it was the first full length computer animated feature by Disney (and not Pixar). So, is it really that bad?

Yes. Yes it is really that bad.

What animation studio would you most like to see do a furry movie?

Furry v superheroes; box office in early 2016

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batmanvjudy.jpgAccording to box office tracking site Box Office Mojo, Zootopia has just passed Deadpool to become the highest grossing movie of 2016. It's still early in the year, and Zootopia will most likely have relinquished the crown by 2017, but the beginning of the year has seen furries and superheroes battle it out for dominance at the box office.

As of press time, the current weekly box office champ, on its second weekend, is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a superhero showdown of franchise-launching proportions; when the dust settles, it will probably come out ahead of Zootopia, though some film pundits have sensed weakness. The film, while doing massive box office by any standards, has still underperformed compared to predictions both weeks, and has had massive box office drops both from day to day and week to week. Zootopia, while never as massive an opener, has sustained smaller drop-offs and consistently overperformed compared to box office pundit predictions.

But the story of 2016's box office hasn't just been Batman v Superman v Zootopia; as noted, the previous biggest box office of the year was Deadpool, while a look back at the weekly charts reveals its been furries versus superheroes since nearly the beginning of the year.

Review: 'The Boy and the Beast', anime film

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A bear and a human boy stand dramatically in the street.The Boy and the Beast (aka Bakemono no koEnglish trailer) is a 2015 animated film from Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda, who directed the film Wolf Children in 2012. Both are of furry interest; this one even more so!

Ren is a 9-year-old boy who runs away to the busy streets of Tokyo after his mother dies. He has no way of contacting his father, whom his mother divorced, and has no love for his mother's relatives who want to take him in. Angry and upset, he wanders by accident into a parallel Earth, the beast world, where everyone is an anthropomorphic animal.

In the city of beasts, the current Grand Master (a rabbit) intends to transcend and reincarnate into a god, with two possible successors: a bear named Kumatetsu, or a boar named Yozen.

Yes, but are eldritch horrors furry?

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Furry fans who have long been debating whether Cthulhu, Shub-Niggurath, Nyarlarathotep, and the other often-squiddly “indescribable horrors” of author H.P. Lovecraft’s dark imagination count as “furry”, will find their arguments heating up in October when the animated feature Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom is released in Canada.

Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom, written, directed and produced by Sean Patrick O’Reilly and currently in production by Arcana Studios, to be distributed by The Shout! Factory (a company known more for its DVD releases than for theatrical distribution), is adapting the movie from the popular comic book written by Bruce Brown and illustrated by Renzo Podesta. It was reprinted as a 96-page trade paperback by Arcana in February 2010 that is still in print.

Here comes Mr. Fuzzypants

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The movie Nine Lives with Kevin Spacey as a cat – “Kevin Spacey as you’ve never seen him before” – will be released on August 5, 2016. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and produced by EuropaCorp, also starring Jennifer Garner, Christopher Walken, Robbie Amell and Malina Weissman.

This is not a reincarnation fantasy. Spacey plays Tom Brand, a ruthless businessman who becomes trapped in the body of his 11-year-old daughter Rebecca’s pet adult cat, Mr. Fuzzypants. The article/press release in the Independent describes him as “a talking CGI cat”, but this first trailer shows him as a non-talking live cat, though with lots of VFX. Maybe he’ll talk and become CGI in later trailers. None of the publicity gives the name of the trained cat.

This will be a nice contrast to all of the CGI animated talking animal movies of 2016.

'Chuck Chicken' is getting a movie

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Here is another anthro-animal animated movie that America probably won’t get. The Hollywood Reporter reported on March 14 that:

Malaysia's Animasia Studio has inked a deal with China's Zero One Animation to produce the CGI-animated feature film Chuck Chicken — The Movie.

The $8 million movie is being adapted from the successful television series Chuck Chicken a.k.a. Kungfu Chicken. Production will take place in China, but animators from both countries will work on the project. The film will premiere first in China, as the original TV series was particularly popular there, having gained 300 million views within six months of its launch on the country's VOD platform iQIYI.

chuckchicken.jpg

The Malay Mail Online says that the movie will be finished in 2018. There are several furry fans in Malaysia including prominent new author MikasiWolf and artist Silverfox5213. Can any of them tell us anything about Animasia Studios?

Can 'The Wild Life' get any wilder?

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Anthro animal animated features are sneaking up on us faster than we can announce them.

Here is the trailer for the 90-minute The Wild Life, due for American release on September 9, 2016. It’s very loosely based on Robinson Crusoe from the island's animals’ point of view; Tuesday the parrot, Carmelo the chameleon, Scrubby the goat, Rosie the tapir, Pango the pangolin and others. The animals decide to “help” the human castaway and his dog. Ha, ha.

This has already been released throughout Europe in February as Robinson Crusoe, and it will have been seen in most of the rest of the world by the time we get it. If nWave Pictures is involved, it’s a Belgian production. nWave’s animation studio is in Brussels. It does good work. nWave produced the 2013 The House of Magic, which was scheduled for an American theatrical release – it’s set in Boston – up to the last minute. It ended up as a direct-to-DVD kids’ release.

Let’s hope that The Wild Life has better luck.

'Storks' - can they really compete with FedEx?

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Warner Bros. has just released its first “official trailer”, as opposed to the teaser (which is funny but offers no clue to the movie’s plot), for its forthcoming CGI animated feature, Storks, due September 23, 2016; directed by Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland, with the voices of Andy Samberg, Kelsey Grammer, Keegan-Michael Key and more. The story begins to be revealed.

Storks used to deliver babies. They are famous for delivering babies. But this image is obsolete. They modernized some years ago, and now specialize in delivering commercial packages for giant Cornerstore.com; a competitor to FedEx, on a worldwide scale. Junior, the top delivery stork, is about to be promoted upstairs into the executive ranks when he accidentally activates the old Baby Making Machine and produces an adorable baby human girl.

Desperate to get rid of the baby before his goof is discovered, Junior and his assistant Tulip, the only human (female) on Stork Mountain, find a human boy who has wished that he had a younger brother. They try to persuade him to take a baby sister instead. And what must the hapless parents think of this?

We’ll find out in September.