Dec. 11, 2014 | 9:00 a.m.
“The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness,” a documentary that offers a rare behind-the-scenes look at the famed Studio Ghibli in Japan, is out on digital platforms this week. Hero Complex readers get an exclusive first look at a scene from the film, which depicts the inner workings of the animation studio behind the acclaimed films “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Princess Mononoke” and the Academy Award winner “Spirited Away,” among others. In “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness,” director Mami Sunada (“Death of a Japanese Salesman”) follows legendary director and Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki (“The Wind Rises”), co-founder and director Isao Takahata (“Grave of the Fireflies”), and producer Toshio Suzuki over the course of a year. Sunada documented the studio’s rush to complete Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises” and Takahata’s “The Tale of The Princess Kaguya,” both released in 2013. The exclusive clip […]
Nov. 11, 2014 | 10:36 a.m.
“Strange Magic,” a musical animated feature film inspired by William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” is coming to theaters in January, Disney announced Tuesday. The news comes after much speculation that the film would be a sequel to Disney’s record-breaking blockbuster “Frozen.” The rumor mill appears to have gotten it wrong, with nary a snowman in sight. Instead, the project — from Lucasfilm and Touchstone Pictures — is inspired by Shakespeare’s magical comedy and based on a story by “Star Wars” mastermind George Lucas, and will feature modern-day pop songs (Electric Light Orchestra, anyone?). Here’s the official description from Disney: “Strange Magic” is a madcap fairy tale musical inspired by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Popular songs from the past six decades help tell the tale of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps, and their hilarious misadventures sparked […]
Oct. 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m.
Before the directors of the new Walt Disney Animation movie “Big Hero 6″ settled on their story, they created the world in which it’s set: a jammed, vibrant place called San Fransokyo. A mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo set in the not-too-distant future, San Fransokyo is a dense, hilly city with cable cars and cherry blossoms, Victorian row houses and glittering neon billboards. The filmmakers’ idea — never stated in the film — is that in a parallel universe after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the city split off and an influx of Japanese immigrants helped rebuild it. San Fransokyo is a quintessential example of the craft of world building, the process of constructing a wholly imaginary universe for films, television, video games and other media, that involves creating the look of everything from buildings, vegetation and vehicles to […]
Oct. 20, 2014 | 10:57 a.m.
Walt Disney Animation Studios has revealed a first look at “Moana,” an animated feature slated to hit theaters in late 2016. Billed as an “epic comedy-adventure,” the CG-animated movie will transport Disney fans to the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, where spirited teenager Moana sets sail in search of a fabled island. “Moana” is directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the filmmaking duo behind “The Little Mermaid,” “The Princess and the Frog” and “Aladdin.” The tale follows Moana, a born navigator, and her hero, the legendary demigod Maui, as they set off on an impossible mission to fulfill Moana’s ancestors’ quest. Along the way, they encounter enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore, according to Disney. “Moana is indomitable, passionate and a dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean itself,” Musker said in a press statement. […]
Sept. 05, 2014 | 7:45 a.m.
Animated characters are often inspired by animals, toys or fairy-tale princesses. But in “The Book of Life,” an animated fantasy due Oct. 17, writer-director Jorge Gutierrez found his muses in an unexpected and vibrant new place — the world of Mexican folk art. The Mexico City-born Gutierrez, best known for creating the Emmy-winning Nickelodeon series “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera” with his wife, Sandra Equihua, sets his story during the Mexican Day of the Dead, when it’s said that spirits can pass between worlds. Best friends Manolo (voiced by Diego Luna) and Joaquin (Channing Tatum) battle for the affection of Maria (Zoe Saldana), and two spirits, the motherly La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) and fearsome Xibalba (Ron Perlman) bet on who will win. Gutierrez, making his first feature film with the help of producer and mentor Guillermo del […]
April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m.
Batman’s 75th anniversary celebration kicked into high gear at WonderCon in Anaheim last weekend with an all-star panel that included superstar artist and DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee, definitive Dark Knight voice actor Kevin Conroy and voice actor/writer/Adam-West-“Batman” super-fan Ralph Garman. Before heading upstairs to entertain a capacity crowd in a Bat-cavernous room, Lee (“Batman: Hush,” “All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder”), Conroy (“Batman: The Animated Series,” “Batman: Arkham” video games) and Garman (co-writer of the upcoming “Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet” comics miniseries) sat down with Hero Complex to talk about getting in Batman’s head, memorable adventures in their years with Bruce Wayne, and the powers of the artists drawing Caped Crusader comics now. Hero Complex: The three of you have worked or are working on quite different versions of Batman. For each of you – to […]
April 07, 2014 | 1:12 p.m.
The second installment in Hayao Miyazaki’s memoir is out Tuesday, offering a glimpse into the legendary animation director’s career of more than three decades, and Hero Complex readers get an exclusive sneak peek. “Turning Point: 1997-2008,” from Viz Media, traces the Japanese director’s most successful years, which saw the release of “Princess Mononoke,” the Oscar-winning “Spirited Away,” “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Ponyo.” During this time, Miyazaki’s work received critical acclaim and began to garner an international audience. The 452-page tome includes Miyazaki’s essays about Japan’s animation culture, the differing perspectives of children and adults, and his memories of youth, among other topics; interviews with various publications and panels, including one with Roger Ebert; illustrations for Studio Ghibli holiday cards and films; and even poetry, written to aid composer Joe Hisaishi. “Turning Point” is the companion second volume to 1996’s “Starting Point: 1979-1996,” which […]
Feb. 25, 2014 | 1:42 p.m.
The Emmy-nominated third season of “Adventure Time” is out on Blu-ray and DVD today, and Hero Complex readers get an exclusive first look at a video clip from the bonus features. The massively popular Cartoon Network series, created by Pendleton Ward, follows Finn, a human boy, and Jake, his magical shape-shifting dog, as they fight monsters and rescue princesses in a whimsical, post-apocalyptic candyland called the Land of Ooo. The third season’s home video release includes episode commentaries for all 26 episodes, an interview with Ward and an alternate show introduction, not to mention a custom slipcase which transforms the video box into a figurine of BMO — Finn’s sentient video game system, camera, alarm clock and, of course, loyal friend. Hero Complex readers get an exclusive look at a bonus video clip (watch it above), featuring storyboard artist and […]
Feb. 20, 2014 | 1:16 p.m.
“The Wind Rises” opens in select U.S. theaters Friday before an expanded release next week, and a new clip has been released, spotlighting a scene from what legendary animation director Hayao Miyazaki has said will be his last film. The Studio Ghibli film, which is up for an Academy Award next month, tells the story of real-life Japanese engineer Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who designed the Zero fighter plane. Inspired by the work of Italian aeronautical designer Caproni (Stanley Tucci), Jiro grows up dreaming of flying and designing beautiful planes. After his nearsightedness keeps him from realizing his goal, he instead becomes one of the world’s most innovative airplane designers. The tale follows Jiro through key historical events including Japan’s devastating 1923 earthquake, a tuberculosis epidemic and economic troubles that preceded the nation’s plunge into World War II. […]
Oct. 04, 2013 | 1:20 p.m.
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 […]