Oct. 04, 2013 | 1:20 p.m.

Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Simpsons’ couch gag pays homage to horror

The Simpsons, Guillermo del Toro (featured image)
Guillermo del Toro’s couch gag for “The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXIV” is nothing less than a love letter to the horror genre. Del Toro directed the show’s trademark opening sequence for this year’s Halloween special, and he pays homage to more horror franchises than we could count. Among the references in the opening, which runs just under three minutes, are tributes to Alfred Hitchcock, H. P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe and more. In addition to Cthulhu, Godzilla and a horde of zombies, Klaatu from “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “Nosferatu’s” vampire Count Orlok make appearances. In one scene, Bart Simpson scrawls, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” the proverb made infamous in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” Attentive viewers will spot the house from “Psycho,” the winged attackers from “The Birds,” Frankenstein and […]
Sept. 27, 2013 | 11:56 a.m.

‘Star Wars’: Animated open letter to J.J. Abrams makes four demands

Star Wars, J. J. Abrams (featured image)
A new animated video calls on J.J. Abrams, director of the upcoming and highly controversial sequel “Star Wars: Episode VII,” to handle the beloved franchise with care. Created by Prescott Harvey with the creative agency Sincerely, Truman, the animated open letter offers the director four rules “to make ‘Star Wars’ great again”: 1. The setting is the frontier; 2. The future is old; 3. The Force is mysterious; and 4. Star Wars isn’t cute. “I’ve spent most of my recent years wondering why the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy was so awesome, and the new movies were so terrible,” Harvey told sci-fi site io9, which debuted the video. “I took an empirical approach, determining what elements were in the original movies that differed from the prequels. My first major epiphany was that, in the originals, the characters are always outside somewhere […]
Sept. 16, 2013 | 3:43 p.m.

‘Legend of Korra’ creators, star talk about show’s Eastern morality

'The Legend of Korra' (featured image)
Korra and the rest of Team Avatar returned to television Friday with the second season premiere of “The Legend of Korra.” Back on Nickelodeon after a 15-month hiatus, the animated series picks up with “Book 2: Spirits” — a new season that offers a look into the mysterious world of spirits first introduced in the show’s predecessor, the Emmy-winning “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” The premiere revealed an uneasy relationship between Korra’s father Tonraq (James Remar), leader of the Southern Water Tribe, and his brother Unalaq (Adrian LaTourelle), chief of the Northern Water Tribe. Unalaq’s offer to become Avatar Korra’s new trainer in spiritual techniques results in conflict between the brothers, between Korra and her family, and, it would seem, between the tribes. Hero Complex sat down with “Legend of Korra” and “Avatar” co-creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, as well as actress Janet Varney, who […]
Aug. 22, 2013 | 2:24 p.m.

‘Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.’: Fred Tatasciore on playing primal

Fred Tatasciore, a longtime voice actor, has been the voice of the Hulk on numerous cartoons, video games and TV shows for years. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Fred Tatasciore is a fun-loving guy, but he’s best known in Hollywood for bringing to life a creature fueled by rage: the Incredible Hulk. A voice actor, Tatasciore has been playing the Hulk consistently for almost a decade — working on at least six different film, TV and video game projects this year alone. He’s currently in Disney XD’s “Marvel’s Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H,” which launched in early August. Channeling the roars, grunts and howls required to give voice to the Hulk takes a special type of actor. A big one. “It’s a physical workout and requires my voice to open up a bit, but it lets me get a chance to do what a lot of others can’t,” said the tall, burly Tatasciore. “Hulk’s a good guy at heart but gets launched into a very primal, animal […]
July 16, 2013 | 8:00 a.m.

‘Marvel’s Avengers Assemble’: Disney XD series gets behind the mask

Falcon is the newest member of the lineup in "Marvel's Avengers Assemble," which otherwise features the same group that played well onscreen in Joss Whedon's "The Avengers." (Disney XD)
Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers 2″ won’t reach theaters until 2015, but fans looking for more from the heroes that made box office history in 2012 can catch the group — plus one new member — in animated form in Disney XD’s series “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble.” The new show, which premiered July 7, isn’t the first animated series to feature the crime-fighting team, but it is the first to use virtually the same roster of characters that appeared in Whedon’s film, the $1-billion-plus hit that inspired critics like The Times’ Kenneth Turan, who described the movie as “smartly thought out and executed with verve and precision.” The character Falcon joins the Whedon lineup for the new show. It’s one of the very few changes made by the creative team, and it plays into what’s happening in the Marvel cinematic universe without […]
July 10, 2013 | 8:01 p.m.

‘Wolverine: Origin’: Logan’s tragic tale gets animated

Wolverine is probably the most popular mutant in the Marvel Universe, and maybe one of the most popular characters ever — but there was a time when the X-Men’s resident slasher-turned-headmaster was a total enigma, his story as shrouded in mystery as his missing memory. Then came “Wolverine: Origin,” which spelled out a lot of Logan’s back story. The Shout! Factory has teamed up with Marvel once again to give the comic book an animated treatment in Marvel Knights Animation’s “Wolverine: Origin.” The story tells the tale of Logan as a boy, the circumstances of his somewhat privileged early life and how his powers tragically manifested — hundreds of years ago. It goes on to show his always-tempestuous relationship with Sabretooth, his service in many armies, his adventures from the Canadian wilderness to the back alleys of Japan, and other […]
June 19, 2013 | 1:39 p.m.

‘Frozen’ trailer spotlights comedic characters in Disney feature

Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff) rides Sven in "Frozen." (Disney)
In Disney’s upcoming animated musical “Frozen,” fearless protagonist Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) teams up with mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) to find Anna’s Snow Queen sister Elsa (Idina Menzel), who has trapped their kingdom in endless winter. As epic as their journey may be, the first trailer focuses instead on a comedic battle between reindeer Sven and snowman Olaf over the latter’s carrot-nose. “Frozen,” out Nov. 27, features songs by “The Book of Mormon” composer Robert Lopez and his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez. The film is directed by Chris Buck (“Tarzan”) and Jennifer Lee, a screenwriter for “Wreck-It Ralph” and, with “Frozen,” the first woman to direct a feature at Disney Animation. Buck first pitched the idea to John Lasseter, Disney Animation’s chief creative officer, in 2008, proposing an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Snow Queen.” “One of […]
May 28, 2013 | 6:00 a.m.

‘Mickey and the Magical Map’ redraws Disneyland plans

Mickey Mouse with the wizard on the video screen in the premiere of "Mickey's Magical Map." at Disneyland. (Mickey Mouse with the wizard on the video screen in the premiere of "Mickey's Magical Map." at Disneyland. (Paul Hiffmeyer / Disneyland / Associated Press)
Eastern philosophy is not the first thing one associates with the Disneyland Resort, but the message of the Fantasyland Theatre’s new and quite splendid stage show “Mickey and the Magical Map” is decidedly, and surprisingly, Zen. Or as Zen as a show can be in which young men and women in rustic fantasy-wear sing and dance their way through some of the studio’s greatest hits in front of a gorgeous three-tiered screen awash in animated wonder. Like many characters of his demo, Mickey Mouse is, above all, a seeker of enlightenment. In “Mickey and the Magical Map,” he’s back in Sorcerer’s Apprentice mode, trying to prove himself by filling in the final empty space on his master’s map. The black spot, which does not want to be painted, comes to life and takes Mickey on a magical, musical, multimedia tour. […]
May 20, 2013 | 8:41 a.m.

‘Star Wars Rebels’ animated series to premiere in fall 2014

Dave Filoni talks "Star Wars Rebels."
“Star Wars” fans let out a collective howl of anguish earlier this year when it was announced that one of the casualties of Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm was the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” But though that fan favorite series was canceled without a satisfactory conclusion, there’s still a chance to get an animation fix. Lucasfilm is now working on a new animated series, “Star Wars Rebels,” set to premiere in fall 2014 on the Disney Channel with a one-hour episode and then move to Disney XD. Set in the two decades between “Episode III” and “Episode IV,” the series will follow the adventures of the Rebel Alliance as they attempt to evade the growing might of the Empire. Simon Kinberg, writer of one of the upcoming “Star Wars” spinoff films, will serve as an executive producer of […]
May 16, 2013 | 3:58 p.m.

Studio Ghibli’s ‘Totoro,’ ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ coming to Blu-ray

A scene from "My Neighbor Totoro." (Studio Ghibli / Disney)
Two classic Studio Ghibli films are getting the Blu-ray treatment. Disney is releasing Hayao Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Howl’s Moving Castle” on May 21. This year marks the 25th anniversary for “My Neighbor Totoro,” which follows sisters Satsuki and Mei (voiced by Dakota and Elle Fanning, respectively, in the Blu-ray’s 2005 Disney dubbing) as they move to the countryside and discover their new neighbor, a furry forest spirit named Totoro. Only children can see the strange animal ghost — “a seven-foot forest spirit who looks like an outsized cross between a bunny rabbit and a fuzzy throw pillow,” critic and historian Charles Solomon wrote in his 1993 Times review of the film. “Guided by their supernatural friend, the sisters share a series of adventures, soaring over the landscape while Totoro’s roars make the winds blow,” Solomon wrote. “But the story […]
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