Former Fox Animation and Marvel Exec Grant Gish to Join ViacomCBS Adult Animation Unit

ViacomCBS announced Marvel Studios and former Fox Animation executive Grant Gish will lead its new adult animation unit as SVP of adult animation, entertainment and youth brands, overseeing linear and streaming animation, effective Aug. 31.

Gish joins ViacomCBS on the heels of its expansion into adult animation, driven by such shows as “South Park” and upcoming reimaginings such as Mike Judge’s “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “Jodie,” based on the classic MTV series “Daria.”

Gish helped develop the Emmy Award-winning animated series “Bob’s Burgers” and oversaw the Emmy-nominated “American Dad” during his tenure at Fox Animation. He joins ViacomCBS from Marvel Studios, where he launched the adult comedy and animation group within the former Marvel Television division. Gish spearheaded Marvel’s foray into half-hour comedy and adult animation with upcoming Hulu series “M.O.D.O.K.” and “Hit-Monkey.”

“Grant has incredible instincts and a supercharged passion for animation,” Nina L. Diaz, president of content and chief creative officer for ViacomCBS entertainment and youth group, said in a statement. “Along with his extraordinary reputation and impressive successes with some of the biggest hits in the genre, from ‘Bob’s Burgers’ to ‘American Dad’ — his vision is exactly what we’re looking for to lead our adult animation unit.”

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“I grew up on MTV’s Animation Studios content where I’d run home from school to watch ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ eating pretzels on my couch,” Gish said in a statement. “With access to such a vast library of IP that will enable us to break through the clutter coupled with the opportunity to create a fresh slate, I couldn’t be more excited to join the E&Y Group that’s growing in droves under Chris and Nina’s leadership.”

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“We are thrilled to have Grant lead our new adult animation unit as we expedite the rapid expansion of our adult animation content,” Chris McCarthy, president of ViacomCBS entertainment and youth group, said in a statement. “Adult animation is an incredibly powerful asset that truly works on every platform and around the world. It’s also pandemic-proof, which is why we are reimaging many of our beloved iconic IPs, unlocking incredible value.”

Cartoon Network’s ‘We Bare Bears: The Movie’ on DVD Sept. 8

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release We Bare Bears: The Movie on DVD Sept. 8. The movie is currently available to own through digital retailers.

Based on the hit Cartoon Network series “We Bare Bears,” the TV movie finds the bears’ love of food trucks and viral videos catching the attention of the menacing Agent Trout from the National Wildlife Control, who pledges to restore the “natural order” by separating them forever. Seeking refuge in Canada, the Bears embark on an epic road trip filled with new friends, dangerous obstacles and massive parties.

Bobby Moynihan and Demetri Martin return as the voices of the bears, with recurring guest stars including Patton Oswalt, Ellie Kemper, Charlyne Yi and Jason Lee.

Bonus features include commentary, the movie pitch, deleted scenes, early sketches, and animatics and pencil tests.

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“We Bare Bears” premiered in 2015 and has earned numerous awards including a BAFTA Children’s Award, a Jury Award for Best TV Series at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, and several Annie Awards.

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Warner Releasing Animated ‘Batman: Death in the Family’ Interactive Movie Oct. 13

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Oct. 13 will release Blu-ray Disc and digital editions of Batman: Death in the Family, a compilation of animated shorts based on DC Comics characters that includes the studio’s first interactive film presentation.

The centerpiece of the compilation is the extended-length Death in the Family, based on the landmark 1988 Batman comic book storyline in which readers were given a chance to vote via telephone poll about whether or not to kill off the second Robin, Jason Todd.

Produced, directed and written by Brandon Vietti, the interactive Blu-ray presentation allows viewers to guide the storyline through their remote control, with numerous plot twists and several possible endings. Viewers can also choose to allow the story to tell itself, as there is an option to let the Blu-ray decide its own path.

Batman: Death in the Family

Batman: Death in the Family is essentially a comic book come to life,” Vietti said. “We’ve paid homage to the 1988 interactive experience of DC’s ‘A Death in the Family’ comics release by giving fans a unique opportunity to craft their own story through a branching tool that can lead in multiple directions. The viewer gets to choose these characters’ paths, and each choice paves an alternate future for all of the characters and, ultimately, the story.”

The animated Death in the Family short is based not only on the original comic book run, but also Vietti’s 2010 Batman: Under the Red Hood animated movie, which is based on a comic book storyline in which Jason Todd returns.

“From the very first navigation card, we wanted to give the audience an impression of what they’re getting into, but then also give them something unexpected — maybe even something they’ll regret, so they have to think twice about every future choice they make,” Vietti said. “Branched storytelling has to be stronger than just the gimmick of the choices — it has to be rewarding and offer new and worthwhile insights into the characters. It needs to involve you, and keep you searching for the next twist. So we sought to subvert expectations and do something very different.”

‘Batman: Death in the Family’ interactive menu

The digital version of Death in the Family is presented in a non-interactive format pre-assembled under the title Under the Red Hood: Reloaded, and three other non-interactive versions as bonus features: Jason Todd’s Rebellion, Robin’s Revenge and Red Hood’s Reckoning. Considering the various configurations, the Blu-ray also offers approximately five minutes of story content not included in the digital version.

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The Death in the Family Blu-ray and digital editions will also include four additional “DC Showcase” animated shorts that were previously released in 2019 and 2020 as bonus material with earlier DC Universe animated movies: Sgt. Rock, Adam Strange, Death and The Phantom Stranger.

Originally attached to Batman: Hush, Sgt. Rock finds battle-weary Sgt. Rock (Karl Urban) thinking he has seen everything that World War II can dish out. But he is in for the surprise of his life when he is assigned to lead a company consisting of legendary monsters into battle against an unstoppable platoon of Nazi zombies.

Inspired by Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman,” Death tells the story of Vincent, an artist with unresolved inner demons who meets a mysterious girl who helps him come to terms with his creative legacy and eventual death. Death was originally included with Wonder Woman: Bloodlines.

Attached as a bonus feature on the release of Superman: Red Son, The Phantom Stranger finds the enigmatic DC mystery man (voiced by Peter Serafinowicz) simultaneously playing both omniscient narrator and active character in a story of supernatural comeuppance for evil doers set in the 1970s.

Adam Strange, originally released with Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, tells the story of a rugged asteroid mining colony where the town drunk turns out to be legendary space adventurer Adam Strange, whose heroic backstory is played out in flashbacks as he struggles to save the very people who have scorned him for so long.

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The ‘R’-rated Blu-ray Disc will include audio commentaries by “DC Daily” hosts Amy Dallen and Hector Navarro on Sgt. Rock, Adam Strange, Death and The Phantom Stranger, plus the Under the Red Hood: Reloaded version of Death in the Family.

‘Solar Opposites’ Most-Watched Hulu Original Comedy Premiere to Date

The new Hulu Original adult animation series “Solar Opposites” is the most-watched Hulu Original comedy premiere to date and became the No. 1 SVOD title on the service since launching May 8, according to a Hulu release.

The series was the No. 2 most-watched title on Hulu throughout the entire seven-day week ended May 9, after only being on the service for two of those days. “Solar Opposites” was also Hulu’s most-watched adult animation title over the weekend.

Co-created by Justin Roiland (“Rick & Morty”) and Mike McMahan (producer “Rick & Morty,””Star Trek: Lower Decks”), “Solar Opposites” centers around a team of four aliens escaping their exploding home world, only to crash land into a move-in ready home in suburban America.

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Additional highlights, according to the service:

  • Fans of “Solar Opposites” devoured the full season over the weekend — more than 40% of viewers who started the series binged all eight episodes within two days of launching.
  • “Solar Opposites” has been certified Fresh with a 96% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • More than half of Hulu subscribers have watched adult animation over the last year and nearly 40% of Hulu viewers watch adult animation every month.

Warner Releasing ‘Lego Shazam’ Movie Digitally April 28, on Disc June 16

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the new full-length animated feature film Lego DC: Shazam! — Magic and Monsters through digital retailers April 28, and on Blu-ray Disc and DVD June 16.

The latest entry in the direct-to-video line of Lego DC Comics movies features Shazam (Sean Astin) becoming the newest member of the Justice League. But to join, he must reveal his true identity as Billy Batson, a 10-year-old boy granted the power of the gods when he says his name, a gift bestowed upon him by a wizard (Ralph Garman). While fighting off the evil Mr. Mind and Black Adam, Billy learns that he must trust others — and that nothing creates trust like helping those in need.

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The cast also includes Troy Baker as Batman/Bruce Wayne; Nolan North as Superman and Alfred; Grey Griffin as Wonder Woman and Lois Lane; Christina Milizia as Green Lantern Jessica Cruz; James Arnold Taylor as The Flash and Dummy; Imari Williams as Black Adam and Teth Adam; Fred Tatasciore as Lobo and Oom; Zach Callison as Billy Batson and Jimmy Olsen; Dee Bradley Baker as Jeepers, Dr. Sivana and Crocodile Man; Jennifer Hale as Mary Batson and L.N. Ambassador; Tom Kenny as The Penguin and Perry White; Jonny Rees as Mr. Mind; Erica Lindbeck as a greeter and a farmer; and Josh Keaton as Terrance and an executive.

The Lego Shazam! Blu-ray and DVD will include three cartoons from the Warner Bros. Animation vault: The “Teen Titans Go!” episode “Little Elvis,” and the “Unikitty!” episodes “Spoooooky Game” and “Pool Duel.”

For a limited time, the disc versions of the move will include a Shazam minifigure.

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Netflix Orders Dark Animated Comedy Series ‘The House’ From Nexus Studios

Netflix has joined forces with BAFTA award-winning Nexus Studios on “The House,” a stop-motion animated dark comedy.

The project centers on a house and the surreal tales of three generations of families who made it their home.

Nexus is behind Academy Award-nominated short This Way Up and the Emmy- and Annie- nominated Back to the Moon.

Three of the leading directors in independent stop frame animation will direct episodes.

Emma de Swaef and Marc James Roels will direct one chapter of “The House.”  The Belgian creator’s most recent film, This Magnificent Cake!, was an official selection at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, Toronto International Film Festival, Telluride and Animation Is Film Festival and received an Annie Award nomination, the André-Martin Award at Annecy and the top feature animation prize at the Ottawa Animation Festival.

Swedish director and animator Niki Lindroth von Bahr will direct one chapter. Her 2017 short film The Burden received top prizes at Annecy and the Toronto International Film Festival among others. Von Bahr was named one of the Top 10 Animators to watch by Variety in 2018.

Paloma Baeza will direct one chapter. The creator behind BAFTA and Annie award winning short film Poles Apart, she was also named one of the Top 10 Animators to watch by Variety in 2018.

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“The House is a collection of cinematic stories that are intelligent, witty, inquisitive, warm and yet packed with offbeat humor,” said Charlotte Bavasso, co-founder and producer, Nexus Studios, in a statement. “For this project, Nexus are bringing together, for the very first time, three of the most unique and multi-awarded voices in independent stop motion animation today in Niki, Marc & Emma and Paloma. This production is an organic collaboration between brilliant and like-minded storytellers. We’re thrilled to have found in Netflix such a perfect home for The House.”

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“Nexus Studios has a remarkable history of working with the best animators from all over the world,” said Mike Moon, head of adult animation for Netflix. “We’re thrilled to partner with Nexus and their incredible directors to bring The House to life.”

Netflix Signs Team Behind ‘Big Mouth’ to Multiyear Deal

Netflix has signed Brutus Pink, the newly formed animation production company from Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett — the creative team behind adult animated series “Big Mouth” — to a multiyear deal to produce animated series and films for its members worldwide.

“Big Mouth” is an Emmy nominated adult animated comedy about puberty. Inspired by Kroll and Goldberg’s childhood, it follows a group of friends and their hormone monsters as they navigate adolescence, human sexuality, and coming of age. Season three returns this fall and under the new deal Netflix has greenlit three more seasons of “Big Mouth.”

“’Big Mouth’ brilliantly captures the most awkward phase in a person’s life, puberty, in a hilarious yet heartwarming way,” Mike Moon, head of adult animation for Netflix, said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to continue our relationship with Brutus Pink and bring more stories, more humor, and more hormones to Netflix members around the world.”

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“Netflix has given us the best creative experience imaginable, and we’ve been able to build an amazing community of talented writers, actors, producers and artists. We’re thrilled to be continuing with everyone for years to come,” the Brutus Pink team said in a statement.

The four creators are set to receive an award for comedy writers of the year at Just for Laughs this coming weekend. The annual festival held in Montreal is the largest international comedy festival in the world.

Disney+ Streaming Service to Offer Original Shorts from Walt Disney Animation Studios

Walt Disney Animation Studios (Disney Animation) has launched an internal program enabling animators at the company to pitch their own short films to stream on the parent company’s Disney+ subscription streaming video service bowing in November.

Dubbed “Short Circuit” experimental films, the program’s selected content will begin streaming on Disney+ in early 2020.

Initial titles include “Jing Hua” from Jerry Huynh, who reportedly worked as a technical director on Disney animated theatrical/home entertainment hits Moana and Ralph Breaks the Internet, among others.

“Just a Thought” from Brian Menz, whose credits include Bolt, Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Zootopia, Moana and Ralph Breaks the Internet.

And finally, story artist Natalie Nourigat’s (Ralph Breaks the Internet) short film, “Exchange Student.”

All three films have their debut June 14 at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France — the same venue that premiered Moana in 2016.

Batman: The Complete Animated Series — Deluxe Limited Edition

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Warner;
Animated;
$112.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Voices of Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Bob Hastings, Robert Costanzo, Loren Lester, Mark Hamill, Arleen Sorkin.

The classic “Batman: The Animated Series” has never looked better thanks to a remastering that makes the series shine in high-definition. Although designed to be dark, the show nonetheless presents a dazzling array of color that gives new life to these heroes and villains of comic book legend.

This is an essential addition for any Batman fan’s collection.

The show was developed in the early 1990s to take advantage of the popularity of the Tim Burton “Batman” movies. While it shares some music and a darker edge, the show really stands on its own, and is considered by many to be the definitive on-screen adaptation of the character. About the only limitation it faced was that the network sensibilities for shows aimed at younger viewers at the time precluded how the show depicted violence, and restricted the depiction of blood and gun use.

The distinctive style is reminiscent of the Fleischer “Superman” shorts from the early 1940s, and itself spawned an animation franchise that came to include new “Superman” and “Justice League” cartoons, not to mention the cult-classic “Batman Beyond” reinterpretation of the character. (Thus far, the “Justice League” has been the only other DC Animated Universe series released on Blu-ray.)

The set includes 109 episodes from the series spanning four seasons, including the final 24 that were produced under the “New Batman Adventures” label with a modified design aesthetic. As a bonus, the set includes the theatrically released Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and the direct-to-video spinoff Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (the discs are the previously released Blu-ray versions of each).

In addition to a bevy of legacy bonus content that includes audio commentaries and making-of featurettes from the previous DVD releases of the show, the new Blu-ray also comes with a bonus disc containing the new hour-and-a-half “Heart of Batman” retrospective documentary, in which the show’s creators and cast reflect on developing the series and the qualities that gave it such an enduring legacy.

Netflix Announces Animation Content Slate

Netflix Nov. 6 announced a slate of animated movies and TV series targeting children and families streaming over the next three years.

The six projects, together with Netflix’s previously announced titles, comprise a line-up that features a variety of animation styles – including CG (Kris Pearn’s The Willoughbys), 2D (Nora Twomey’s My Father’s Dragon), and stop-motion (Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio).

The programming is designed to meet tastes of every family member – from preschoolers (Rajiv Chilaka’s “Mighty Little Bheem”) to kids (Craig McCracken’s “Kid Cosmic”) to parents and their children together (Jorge Gutierrez’ “Maya and the Three”).

“We know that there is no one type of family. We embrace all kinds of creators, so we can tell unique and diverse stories that resonate with each and every Netflix family,” Melissa Cobb, VP of kids and family at Netflix, said in a statement. “With our slate of global original animated feature films and series, we want to give families more moments to share the laughter, wonder and connection that comes from being immersed in a great story.”

Maya and the Three” (2021) is set in a mythical Mesoamerican inspired world, a warrior princess embarks on a quest to recruit three legendary fighters to help save the world of men and gods. Silvia Olivas (Elena of Avalor) is co-writer and co-executive producer, and Jeff Ranjo (Moana) is head of story. 

My Father’s Dragon (2021) is based on the Newbery Honored children’s novels by Ruth Stiles Gannett. It tells the story of young run-away Elmer Elevator, who searches for a captive Dragon on Wild Island and finds much more than he could ever have anticipated. Alan Moloney and Ruth Coady of Parallel Films will also serve as executive producers alongside Gerry Shirren.

“Go! Go! Cory Carson” is an animated preschool series based on the toy line, Go! Go! Smart Wheels from VTech Electronics, Go! Go! Cory Carson follows the adventures of kid car Cory Carson as he navigates the winding roads of childhood in Bumperton Hills. 

“Kid Cosmic” is a show about a young boy who dreams of becoming a hero, and when he stumbles across some cosmic stones of power his dreams appear to have come true! Unfortunately the reality of being a hero vs. the fantasy of being a hero are completely different and this challenge becomes the biggest battle he has to face. The Kid may be the good guy, but he’s really bad at it! 

“Trash Truck” is a free-range, dirt-covered 6 year old boy with a big imagination and an even bigger best pal… a giant honking, snorting trash truck. From learning to fly to going to the dentist, there is no adventure too big or too small for these two best friends.

The Willoughbys is a highly stylized CG animated feature film about four Willoughby children abandoned by their selfish parents. They must learn how to adapt their old-fashioned values to the contemporary world in order to create a new and modern family. Based on the book by Newbery Award-winning author, Lois Lowry. Starring Ricky Gervais, Maya Rudolph, Will Forte, Martin Short, Alessia Cara and Jane Krakowski.

Other Netflix family animated titles that have been previously announced include the following.

Jacob and the Sea Beast (2022) tells the epic story of a charming seafarer who sails into uncharted waters and discovers an unlikely ally in a sea monster. 

When a selfish young postman is assigned to a remote Scandinavian town, his unlikely friendship with a reclusive toymaker leads to the original story of Santa Claus. Klaus (Holiday 2019) is visualized through a unique combination of classical hand drawn animation and cutting edge digital technology. Voice actors include Jason Schwartzman, Rashida Jones, JK Simmons and Joan Cusack. Written by Pablos, Zach Lewis and Jim Mahoney, the screenplay is based on an original story by Pablos.

“Mighty Little Bheem” (2019) will be the first preschool series of the popular Bheem franchise. It is a non-verbal slapstick adventure comedy in which its ultra strong, brave and intelligent hero, Mighty Little Bheem travels through his hometown on crazy adventures, often in search of ladoos (his favorite treat). 

“Motown Magic” (Nov. 20, 2018) brings together 52 newly recorded versions of classic Motown hits from such musicians as The Jackson 5, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and Smokey Robinson, who serves as executive music producer. The series follows Ben, a wide-eyed 8-year-old with a big heart and an amazing imagination, who uses a magic paintbrush to bring the street art in Motown to life.

Over the Moon (2020) is a CG musical adventure about a girl who builds a rocket ship to travel to the moon in order to prove to her father that a legendary Moon Goddess really exists. When she gets to the “other side” she unexpectedly discovers a whimsical world filled with fantastical creatures – some of whom threaten her and others who ultimately help her find her way home.

Pinocchio (2021) is the animated feature film directorial debut of Academy Award winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water). Pinocchio is his lifelong passion project, which he will also write and produce as a stop motion musical. Del Toro has set his retelling of the classic tale of Pinocchio in Italy during the 1930s. 

Wendell & Wild (2021) is an animated feature film about two demon brothers (voiced by Keegan Michael Key and Oscar-nominated director Jordan Peele “Get Out”) who escape the Underworld and find themselves in a town where they must evade a demon-duster teenager, Kat, who is trying to destroy them.