Friday, September 30, 2005

Star Wars in Words and Pictures


New Essential Guide To Droids
The New Essential Guide to Droids is due out in June of 2006.

Boasting 224 pages of pure droid bliss, EDITOR’S NOTE: LET’S PAUSE FOR A SEC AND PARSE THAT SENTENCE……. ranging from original trilogy to prequel trilogy, and even tapping into expanded universe droids!


The Star Wars Poster Book: The Lost Chapter
by Pete Vilmur

One of the unfortunate realities of the book publishing world I discovered while working on The Star Wars Poster Book with co-author Steve Sansweet is that content and images must often be submitted months ahead of a book's projected release date in order to meet a publisher's deadlines for printing and binding.

Steve and I were very pleased that Chronicle was able to publish virtually every poster image we threw at them, but to meet our October release date for the book, all images needed to be in the hopper by the first week of March. This effectively kept much of the Episode III poster imagery out of the book, with the exception of the domestic teaser and release posters.

Similarly, much of the concept imagery used to shape the early campaigns didn't make final edit, but not because of deadlines -- there simply wasn't enough room to include them in an already jam-packed 320 pages of theatrical, promotional, event, and commercial posters.

Happily, the latest issue of Star Wars Insider was able to publish many of the early concepts that shaped the New Hope campaign, with those from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi soon to follow in subsequent issues.

Likewise, this Insider Online supplement provides the perfect opportunity to showcase some of those posters which have since emerged in the wake of Episode III, but sadly could not be included in the book.

Of course, there was more activity occurring in the Star Wars universe than Episode III this year -- the second volume of the Clone Wars animated series launched on Cartoon Network in late March, met simultaneously by the DVD debut of Volume I. Additionally, Celebration III hit Indianapolis a month later in April, offering up a rare opportunity for fans to purchase scores of extremely limited posters and prints directly from the artists themselves.

Offered in the accompanying slideshow is a selection of posters showcasing some of the imagery used to promote Episode III, the Clone Wars animated series, and the latest Indianapolis Star Wars Celebration.

We hope that if the poster book should ever go into reprint, some of these great images might finally be included along with, perhaps, others still waiting to be discovered. EDITOR’S NOTE: AVAILABLE TO HYPERSPACE MEMBERS ONLY. BUT WHO LOVES HER DWEEBPALS, EH?!

International Outdoor Posters, Japan, 2005, 20x29 each: The Episode III international outdoor campaign presented passers-by with six stunning images that were designed to deliver two distinct messages: the return of Darth Vader and ample Jedi action. EDITOR’S NOTE: SOME OF MY FAVORITES. GROOVY POSTERS!

British "Now Booking" Poster, England, 2005, 27x38: England printed up pre-booking posters for each of the prequels, which are prized for their relative scarcity and regional interest. This example used the teaser image, inserting the title and booking info.

Modesto Benefit Premiere, United States, 2005, 13x20: Venue-specific posters are occasionally printed for special premieres, and this one carries the distinction of debuting Episode III in George Lucas' home town of Modesto, California.


Flick Magazine, United States, 2005, 27x40: This double-sided one-sheet advertised the premiere issue of Flick magazine in Loews, Cinemark and Carmike theaters nationwide.

Skywalker Ranch Good Charlotte Concert, United States, 2005, 24x32: Lucky guests at the Skywalker Ranch MTV TRL (Total Request Live) event held on May 6 received a rare Good Charlotte print designed by artist Emek. EDITOR’S NOTE: JUST ME, OR IS THIS A TAD DISTURBING?

Celebration III by Matt Busch, United States, 2005, 18x24: Matt Busch designed this striking limited-to-250 poster for fans attending Celebration III in April, 2005. EDITOR’S NOTE: MATT BUSCH IS NOT MY FAVORITE ARTIST. BUT THIS IS A COOL POSTER.

Celebration III by Randy Martinez, United States, 2005, 18x24: This whimsical illustration of a Revenge of the Sith burlesque show was created as a limited-to-250 exclusive by Randy Martinez for Celebration III. EDITOR’S NOTE: GIGGLE.

USA Today Vendor Poster, United States, 2005, 11x17: Iain McCaig 's preliminary sketch for Episode III's Anakin was showcased in a USA Weekend Magazine pullout, as advertised by this vending machine poster. EDITOR’S NOTE: THANKS TO TOP-DRAWER DWEEBPAL PLANOKEVIN (WHO GOT ME ONE OF THESE WHEN WE DETERMINED THAT NONE OF THE HOUSTON PAPERS HAD USA WEEKEND MAGAZINE INSERTS). THIS IS ALREADY FRAMED AND IN MY TV/MOVIE ROOM. GORGEOUS!

Revenge of the Sith Video Game with Premium Poster, United States, 2005, 26x39: Video game posters are among the last to use rendered depictions of characters and scenes, like this premium poster promotion associated with early reservations for the Ep III video game.

Burger King "Choose Your Destiny", United States, 2005, 26x39: This stunner was created as a centerpiece for BK's in-store promotion. The image is actually printed on a metallic foil cardstock, lending a cool dimensional effect to Vader and the fiery background. EDITOR’S NOTE: ANOTHER OF MY PERSONAL FAVES. DIDN’T MANAGE TO SCORE ONE OF THESE. MAYBE THEY’LL HAVE MORE WHEN THEY RE-UP THE BK PROMOTION THIS NOVEMBER?

AU Cellular Transit Poster, Japan, 2005, 40x58: True to form, this large Japanese transit poster for AU, a cellular company, presents it product to consumers in a totally fresh and unexpected way. EDITOR’S NOTE: KINDA TWISTED AND KIDDIE-PORN’ISH, HUH?

Art of Star Wars Tokyo Exhibition, Japan, 2005, 20x29: The design of Anakin's starfighter, which includes styling motifs from both the prequels and the sequels, was the perfect vehicle to suggest the full-saga experience of the Tokyo exhibit

Art of Star Wars Meguro Exhibition, Japan, 2005, 20x29: The flaming background behind Vader heats up this poster for Meguro's Art of Star Wars Exhibition.

Cartoon Network Clone Wars Volume II, United States, 2005, 24x36: The third in a series of Clone Wars posters, the intent of the designer to create a cohesive trio (see next slide) was not fully apparent until this poster was released last March.

Clone Wars Trio, United States, 2003-2005, 24x36 each: Each poster retained the same general composition, but became noticeably darker. The set of three Clone Wars posters from Cartoon Network actually form a nice trio when displayed side by side. EDITOR’S NOTE: I LIKED THEM INDIVIDUALLY, BUT TOGETHER THEY COMPLETELY ROCK! (AND I HADN’T REALIZED THE PROGRESSION FROM LIGHT TO DARK TILL I SAW THEM SIDE BY SIDE!) GOOSEBUMPS!

Clone Wars Anakin , United States, 2005, 27x40: An unusual image of Anakin was used to great effect in this poster offered as a premium for purchasing the Clone Wars Volume I DVD at certain retail outlets. EDITOR’S NOTE: ALSO NIFTY!

Clone Wars Volume I DVD Promotional, United States, 2005, 27x40: The cover art for the first volume of Clone Wars made a fantastic one-sheet poster for in-store display

Clone Wars Volume I DVD, Japan, 2005, 20x29: The Japanese poster used to promote Volume I of Clone Wars also touted the DVD editions of the Droids and Ewoks animated series, as well as the Ewok movies.

Bus Stop Clone Wars , England, 2005, 48x72: This unusual British bus stop poster casts Anakin and Obi-Wan in shadow, with the diminutive Yoda left stealing the limelight. EDITOR’S NOTE: AS HE SO OFTEN DOES, THE PUSHY LITTLE MUPPET.

Behind the Armor: A Clones Primer
by Bonnie Burton

Anyone who has read the novel Star Wars Republic Commando: Hard Contact or played the LucasArts video game Republic Commando knows that not all clones are as identical as they appear. In fact, the Grand Army of the Republic [GAR] may be a sea of Jango Fett faces, but it's their individual quirks, unique training and personality strengths that made them the ideal fighting force.

Hard Contact author Karen Traviss and Republic Commando game producer Ryan Kaufman give their take on everything from the clones' personality traits to the accurate hierarchy of the Grand Army of the Republic in the print edition of Star Wars Insider #84 in the "Guide to the Grand Army of the Republic."

Using her background as a defense correspondent and an armed forces reservist, Traviss gives the clones' background a certain authenticity that most authors can't provide.

"I've tried to do for the organization of the GAR what I did for the clone soldier when I wrote Hard Contact and the upcoming Triple Zero -- to make them real using what I know from the real world," Traviss says. "When I look at a fictional army, my first reaction is to do what I did as a defense correspondent -- try to understand how it works. I need to know how big it is, what its main roles are, how the command structure works, how it deploys, how it keeps itself supplied and so on. Show me an army of three million men and I'm going to ask where their commanders are and what's happening in their ops room. Some people say that doesn't matter in fiction, but yes, it does -- because the more real you make it, the better plots it gives you. And I think it's also important that fiction tries to tell the truth because, like it or not, it affects the subconscious and so influences the way we see the real world."

Kaufman, who also contributed a great deal of background information to the clone and Mandalorian backstory while working on the video game Republic Commando, found himself knee-deep in questions about the clones' weapons, tactical missions and training.

"A lot of the work involved was the simple cataloguing of their lives," Kaufman says. "I had to know their equipment, their weapons, their training, and their mission. And none of that can exist in a vacuum. If the Republic commandos use a special rifle, where did it come from? Who made it? Why? If they got special training who trained them? How did they train?"

"One of the big breakthroughs was when we decided they were raised from childhood in four-man 'pods,' and drew on the analogy of the aiwha hunting pods," Kaufman continues. "That put a lot of the background into perspective and gave some texture to their lives."

This element of being raised in a "family" like brothers gives the clones more of sense of kinship than most soldiers would exhibit. And it was this brotherhood that both Kaufman and Traviss felt needed to be explored further in their storylines and history of the clones.

"Brothers have identity; brothers have heart, and soul, and care about each other," Kaufman says. "If you see a clone die onscreen and you think, 'Meh, dime a dozen;' then the battle scenes of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith will leave you flat. But if you see that clone as a real person dying, a person with brothers all around him, it's a deeper, more moving experience. And when you see them winning, it's that much more rewarding." EDITOR’S NOTE: VERY POIGNANT. UNTIL THAT WHOLE BETRAYAL-OF-ALL-THE-JEDI THING.

"Being raised like brothers is part of being a perfect soldier," Traviss adds. "The bond you have with your buddies is what gives an army its strength. Ask any soldier who's been in action if they had any sense of fighting for the flag or government when they were under fire, and they'll always tell you that it was more about looking out for their comrades and knowing they would be watching their back in return."

As both Traviss and Kaufman tirelessly fleshed out the men underneath the armor, it became clear rather quickly that not all the clones were exactly the same in their thoughts, desires and, sometimes, insecurities.

"I know that personally, as a fan, I love to categorize things in the GFFA [galaxy far, far way]," Kaufman admits. "So knowing which clones are which is sort of like a weird bird-watching activity for me -- 'Ah, observe the unaltered ARC trooper. There were only 100 created in the initial batch... Shhh...You'll frighten him away.' EDITOR’S NOTE: GIGGLE. Seriously, though, it's fun to talk about the differences in the clone army -- some of them are rogues, some of them are totally obedient, most are somewhere in between. And yet... all created from the same guy."

"It's important to see clones as people like you and me," Traviss explains. "They're not fleshbots. Our genes don't dictate the way we behave anywhere near as much as the way we're brought up and what we experience, and clones are no different. If your genes dictated everything you ever did, that means we could typecast people for life by things like race and gender, which is pretty nasty. Small differences dictate the kinds of jobs these men are given, but the training they get really makes the difference."

These differences in character became even more apparent in Traviss' novel Hard Contact, where Traviss chose to focus on in the commando squad demolitions expert Darman, who gets cut off from his group early in the story. But as the reader joins the adventure of the troopers as they problem-solve within the confines of this new, unusual world of Qiilura, one can't help but notice that each clone commando in the squad not only has his own special skills, but also a unique personality. The same was the case for Kaufman as he gave personalities to clone characters in the video game Republic Commando.

"We faced this particular challenge in coming up with personalities for the four commandos of Republic Commando," Kaufman reveals. "I looked at it like: 'These are different facets of Jango's core persona, only they've been broken out into discreet personalities.' So we had a part of Jango that was solitary and deadly -- that became our sniper's entire personality. The part of Jango that could be dry and humorous became Scorch, our wisecracker. The part of Jango who could lead men, that became 'Boss,' our squad leader. It was easy enough, as long as we stuck to parts of Jango Fett we could clearly identify. For instance, there was no clone who enjoyed knitting." EDITOR’S NOTE: DO WE KNOW FOR A FACT THAT THIS WAS NOT A DE-STRESS HOBBY OF JANGO’S IN HIS DOWN-TIME?

Those sparks of individuality aided the clones in bonding further within their ranks. It would also work for (or in some cases against) them when taking orders from Jedi unaccustomed to leading many men into battle.

"I think Obi-Wan had a great rapport with Commander Cody, because he let Cody get on with the job of leading the troops and stayed out of his way when it came to logistical matters," Kaufman says. "Cody, in turn, respected that Obi-Wan needed to do things in his idiosyncratic Jedi way." EDITOR’S NOTE: THEIR BOND WAS GREAT FUN. FOR ALL THE GOOD IT DID WHEN ORDER 66 CAME DOWN.

"However, as for Jedi who had a difficult time commanding, I'd have to point to Ki-Adi Mundi," Kaufman is quick to add. "It's not entirely his fault, as he was saddled with one of the Grand Army's most individual and headstrong clones, Commander Bacara. Ki-Adi was not cut out to be a general, and I think Bacara's way of doing things clashed with his Jedi sensibilities often. But to Ki-Adi's credit, he hung in there until the bitter end." EDITOR’S NOTE: PERSISTANT, THOSE JEDI. UNTO DEATH, IN FACT.

As with any story as large as the Star Wars saga, there are bound to be those characters who gain the most recognition with fans, and those who seem to largely go unnoticed and underappreciated even though they may be key to the plot.

"The Jedi are the rock stars of the Clone Wars, but the clone soldiers are like the roadies and drum techs," Kaufman explains. "They get no respect, but they're the ones that really make the show happen. The movies, novels and comics have done a great job showing us what the Jedi were doing during the Clone Wars; but you gotta figure for every Jedi waving his lightsaber at some droids, there are 9,000 loyal EDITOR’S NOTE: LOYAL? clones behind him, each willing to lay down his life for a Republic he's never even really seen. That's dedication and bravery worthy of some recognition."

"I bristle at the idea that commanders win wars alone," Traviss adds. "Soldiers win wars. The Jedi get so much limelight that you'd wouldn't think they had millions of troops doing the fighting and the dying too." EDITOR’S NOTE: I DON’T KNOW IF THE FANS UNDERSTAND THAT. BUT MOST OF THE JEDI SURE DID. I MEAN, YOU CAN TELL HOW DISTURBING TO YODA AND OBI-WAN AND SOME OF THE OTHER JEDI THE MERE EXISTENCE OF THIS ARMY OF CANNON-FODDER WAS.

Even with the lack of on-screen kudos given to the fighting forces, the "Guide to the Grand Army of the Republic" article does give proper praise of a few of the heroes from the clone army such as Captain Fordo (ARC-77), and Sergeant Fox CT-000/1010 and Commander Bacara "1138."

"My favorite on-screen clone hero is Commander Bacara," Kaufman reveals. "He's got a very cool vibe going on, and -- I hate to admit it -- I've been waiting for someone to gun down Ki-Adi-Mundi since he pooh-poohed the possibility of the Sith returning back in The Phantom Menace. EDITOR’S NOTE: NICE. I THINK THAT WOULD BE THE DARK SIDE?

But my favorite Expanded Universe hero is probably 'Sarge' -- the Republic commando from Clone Wars Adventures Vol. 3 and 4. I created him, so he's near and dear to my heart. But he's been through a lot, seen his squad shot to pieces, but he still carries on fighting for the Republic. It's all he knows -- and, to me, that gives him a kind of tragic nobility."

Traviss, however, is hard-pressed acknowledge just one hero out of the clone masses, since they all play such an important role within the saga.

"I wouldn't name a hero, not even my own Republic commando and ARC trooper boys from my own books, although I do have a soft spot for Ordo and the Null ARCs because of what they went through," Traviss confesses. "All the clones are heroes because they were effectively a slave army -- they had no choice about fighting, remember -- that took a rotten situation and gave it their best without complaint."

Of course, it does help that the clones have some of the best weaponry in the galaxy at their disposal. Creating the supplies to fill the clones' special kits served as a special treat for Kaufman and Traviss who both enjoy a lively discussion about a powerful jetpack or a DC-17 hand blaster.
"Some people love to talk gear and I love to talk gear," Kaufman admits. "There's something fun about listing all the stuff, and knowing what each piece does. But even if you're not interested in the particulars, I think it's interesting to know what to call that weird skirt the ARC troopers wear, why they wear it, and how it ties into a tradition that extends back through history and forward to the snowtroopers."

"The kit dictates to a large extent what a soldier can achieve," EDITOR'S NOTE: HEY RPG'ERS! WE RAMP UP WE GET BETTER TOYS! Traviss adds. "And it's fun! I got a whole cultural background story out of the kama alone."

Unfortunately for the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith (due out on DVD on Nov. 1), it was very apparent that the clone kits had plenty of weaponry to wipe out the entire Jedi Temple, as well as such Jedi Masters as Plo Koon, Aayla Secura and Ki-Adi-Mundi, stationed at various different battlefronts during the war. However, what Traviss and Kaufman find interesting is the emotional reaction they've witnessed from fans when Order 66 is executed without debate from the clones.

"Most people have little concept of living and working in an environment where orders really are orders; fans see Order 66 in the context of their own daily morality and not as part of the Star Wars universe, which is very different," Traviss explains. "Even in the real world, you can refuse an unlawful order but for the rest of the time, you still just have to do what you're told whether you agree with it or not, or else the whole thing falls apart. In Star Wars, the world is different, and Order 66 is lawful. Let's face it; there are plenty of places in our own world where Order 66 type situations might happen for real. Most people also don't like to think they might do the same thing and obey. Humans really do follow orders pretty easily, and that's even without being raised in a closed world like the clones were." EDITOR’S NOTE: YES. PEOPLE, BY AND LARGE, ARE SHEEP. (AND NOT IN ANY CUTE, ‘LAMBIE’ KIND OF WAY). THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT ANY LESS PAINFUL TO WATCH IT HAPPEN IN ROTS.

"It's portrayed as a betrayal; and betrayal evokes a very visceral reaction in people, especially when you're in the middle of the emotional arc of Revenge of the Sith," Kaufman adds. "Karen's gone to great lengths to show how contingency orders work in a real army, and how the clones see Order 66 as something quite different. I think understanding that perspective adds a depth and an additional tragedy to the sequence. In some cases, the clones are being commanded to gun down their trusted friends. Why? How? I'm hoping our Insider article will shed some light on that." EDITOR’S NOTE: IT IS A BETRAYAL. BUT AS MUCH OF THE CLONES AS IT IS OF THE JEDI. IT’S JUST ALL-ROUND TRAGIC. (AND ALL THE MORE SO TO FANS OF THE EU WHO REALLY GET HOW CLOSELY TIED SOME OF THE CLONES AND SOME OF THE JEDI HAVE BECOME).

Even though the clones are perfect fighting machines who follow orders without question, they also have a rich culture with a distinct language and mythos which rounds them out as more then simply merely bounty hunter test tube babies.

"The Mandalorian aspect to the clones hasn't been explored before and it's not just about Jango providing the DNA," Traviss explains. "That's almost a sideshow. The Mandalorian instructors who trained the Republic commandos and ARC troopers thought it was vital for the men to know what their heritage was, and some of that filtered through to rank and file because the Kaminoans thought it made sense to raise the clones in a warrior culture. The average clone trooper didn't have that level of Mandalorian cultural training, but he did get to learn some of the language through the anthems and mottos. The Mando'a language -- which I've developed into a working language now -- is a key part of their identity, and you'll see why in Triple Zero. The Republic is probably too vague a concept for any soldier to get behind, but add a national identity and men can really bond and feel part of a tribe. That's really important in a successful army."

One way the clones find a sense of brotherhood is by singing the army's anthem, Vode An (Brothers All), which helps rally the troops at some of the lowest moments on the battlefield. Even the army's motto Darasuum Kote (Eternal Glory) is also in Mandalorian.

"I'm a big fan of backstory, and especially fictional histories, mythologies and legends," Kaufman says. "We used 'Rage of the Shadow Warriors' which was an anthem written from an ancient poem about the Taung warriors. Originally sung by the Mandalorians, it was adopted by the clones as an anthem of brotherhood -- to give them the culture and shared mythology they lacked (being born from tubes and raised in isolation). Every culture needs myth and story to define itself; why not cultures in the GFFA? I think it makes the universe much richer, for those who choose to seek it out. And I can tell you that Darasuum now has a meaning that Karen and I have worked out, and that has to do with an ancient Mandalorian war legend as well." EDITOR’S NOTE: THOSE NOT INTO THE EU…AND ALL THIS NIFTY BACK-STORY AND MYTHOLOGY….ARE REALLY REALLY MISSING OUT. (OH, SO YOU HAVE A REAL LIFE? PFFTTT).

Even with all the wealth of information about clones and their culture in the "Guide to the Grand Army of the Republic" article, both Kaufman and Traviss had even more information they wanted to include but couldn't due to word count restraints.

"Where do I start? There's enough to fill whole books, to be honest," Traviss laughs.

"Personally, I wish I'd had room to look at the logistics and catering! And the medical training. All the Republic commandos, for example, got basic battlefield first-aid instruction, but some, like Fi, had extra training and could also function as field medics. Not sure that I'd want Fi to do a tracheotomy on me, but he's great with a dislocated shoulder." EDITOR’S NOTE: DO YOU WANT A TRACHEOTOMY DONE BY ANYONE?

"I wanted to include information on Captain Fordo's 'jaig eyes,'" Kaufman adds. "Those students of Boba Fett trivia will note that in Vol. 2 of the Clone Wars Animated Series, Captain Fordo sports a painted design on his helmet. These are 'jaig eyes,' representing the eyes of a Mandalorian hawk known as a jaig'alaar. And they were an honor bestowed upon the best of the clone soldiers for particular acts of bravery. We couldn't fit this into the article due to space, but it was a fun piece of trivia to add."

Another interesting bit of trivia revolves around the rather unusual nickname of "Shiny Boys" that the clones have used to describe the Republic commandos. Traviss has some insight for inquiring minds.

"The armed forces are chock full of nicknames that often pick on areas of friendly rivalry," Traviss explains. "The regular clone trooper has plain white armor, but the Republic commandos' basic Katarn armor is silver-gray and, let's be honest, it's pretty flashy. So it was inevitable that some of the lads would start teasing them about it. (But not to their faces, of course.) You should hear what the commandos call the regular troopers, though."

Those fans eager to learn the various backstories of the Republic commandos Fi, Niner, Atin and Darman (Omega Squad) can read about them in Hard Contact. Kal Skirata, Omega Squad, the Null ARCS, and Delta Squad from the Republic Commando game are in the upcoming novel Triple Zero, also by Traviss, due to hit the shelves at the end of February 2006. The lives of Jedi generals Arligan Zey and Bardan Jusik are also explored in both novels.

And be sure to read Republic Commando stories by Kaufman in the Dark Horse comic books Clone Wars Adventures Volume 3 and the Clone Wars Adventures 4 (due out October 19).

Star Wars Graphic Novels in China

The Star Wars comics reading public has just expanded significantly with the release of Chinese-language titles from Dark Horse Comics.

These books will initially be available in the free Chinese markets of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. With approximately 1.3 billion of the people in the world speaking some form of Chinese as their native language and most major cities harboring significant Chinese-speaking populations, the advent of Chinese-language graphic novels will have a reach far beyond China's borders.

Dark Horse has partnered with Imprezzion, Inc. to publish Star Wars and Hellboy titles in China. The Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith comics adaptation by Miles Lane and Doug Wheatley was the first title released last month, but more are on the way. Star Wars: Clone Wars, Clone Wars Adventures, Star Wars: Empire and Star Wars: Infinities are soon scheduled to follow.


On Stage Three at Fox Studios Australia, Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor move into position for the epic duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Note that the placement of Natalie Portman's body changed in postproduction.

Irvin Kershner arrives to discuss this briefing scene with the principal actors, including Carrie Fisher and John Ratzenberger.

Temuera Morrison and Bodie Taylorsee Ewan McGregor board his starfighter in this blue-drenched still direct from the HD-camera.

Enormous Republic attack cruisers load up full of clone troopers and military equipment in this concept painting by Ryan Church.

In this plate photography of the elevator shaft scene, the safety harness suspending Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) is clearly visible. It would be digitally removed in the final frame.

In a scene cut from the film, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) had to crawl along a rickety set of pipes in the spinning interior of the Trade Federation cruiser.


Chewie Throws A Fast Ball

Chewbacca just threw out first pitch at Fenway Park!!! It was in honor of the new Star Wars exhibit opening at the Museum of Science in Boston.


A tad more Harry

Search begins for Luna Lovegood actress
The casting department for the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix movie are now visiting schools across the United Kingdom in search of someone to play the part of Luna Lovegood in the film.

If you're school is not one of those visited, you can send a photo of yourself, your age and contact details to the following address:

Luna Lovegood Castingc/o Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix
Leavesden Studios
PO Box 322
WD25 7XJ

Please take note that you must be British to apply for the role,EDITOR'S NOTE: AND HERE I WAS THINKING KRAZY KARLA WOULD BE SENDING IN HER CV. (SORRY ABOUT THAT K.K.) no matter how good your accent is!

Additionally, a spokesperson for Warner Brothers has stated that they won't be holding open castings. "We don't automatically do open casting calls. We only do them when it's particularly challenging to find the correct person for a particular part."

New GOF calendar scans (updated with more pics!)
Excellent, high-quality scans from the German 2006 Goblet of Fire movie calendar have been posted on the forums - check them out below! EDITOR'S NOTE: HERE'S A FEW SAMPLE PICS. GO TO EMMAWATSON.NET FOR MORE.

Wrapping up....Friday Dweebing News


Paramount Has EYE for Zellweger
Paramount Pictures has set Renee Zellweger to star in THE EYE. The film is a remake of the Pang brothers' thriller. Hideo Nakata directing.

The new version of EYE is seen as a psychological horror story about a girl who sees more than she bargained for when she regains her vision after a cornea transplant.

Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner acquired remake rights to the movie in 2002 and will produce the film along with Roy Lee and Doug Davison of Vertigo Entertainment.


Renee Zellweger in Potter? (Beatrix, that is)
Renee Zellweger is set to play children's author Beatrix Potter in a new film from "Babe" director Chris Noonan.

Zellweger's "Down with Love" co-star Ewan McGregor is in talks to co-star as Norman, Potter's love interest and publisher. EDITOR'S NOTE: OOOO! THEY ARE TOO ADORABLE TOGETHER. THEIR PAIRING ALONE MAKES A WORTH-SEE.

The film, scheduled to begin on location in the U.K. in March, will tell of the "Peter Rabbit" author's struggle for independence in Victorian England. Apparently Noonan's going to inject some animated elements into the film as well.

Universal Pictures has set Lucas Black to star in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT. He joins a cast that already includes Bow Wow, Brian Tee and Nikki Griffin, Sung Kang, Jason Tobin and Nathalie Kelly.


The film is set in the underground world of Japanese drift racing, where rear-wheel cars speed into turns and "drift" sideways for as long as possible. TOKYO DRIFT revolves around an outsider who, to avoid jailtime, is sent out of the country to live with his military father in a cramped apartment in a low-rent section of Tokyo. When he loses a race to a driver with ties to the yakuza, he has to pay off his debt by going deep into the Tokyo underworld.

Justin Lin will direct. Neal Moritz will produce.

Fox commits to noir pilot from '24' duo
After five seasons of real-time thrills, "24" creators/executive producers Joel Surnow and Bob Cochran plan to slow the pace a bit for their next series project that has just landed a sizable pilot commitment from Fox Broadcasting Co.

The 20th Century Fox TV project will mine the film noir vein in the potboiler-meets-psychological-drama spirit of Curtis Hanson's "L.A. Confidential" and such vintage classics as 1944's "Murder, My Sweet" and 1947's "Out of the Past," Cochran said.

The series is tentatively dubbed "Thirteen" because it is envisioned as a story that unfolds over a 13-episode arc per season, though not in real time a la "24." "Thirteen" will be set in present-day Los Angeles, Cochran said

Cherry, Mancini engage 'Kill Switch' at ABC
ABC has given a script commitment to an hourlong suspense drama from feature writer Don Mancini that would be executive produced by Marc Cherry through his overall deal at Touchstone Television.

Cherry described the project, titled "Kill Switch," as "Touched by an Angel" meets "Quantum Leap." It centers on a woman who is executed for killing her daughter's murderer and then enters a sort of purgatory, wherein every week she finds herself in the body of someone about to be killed. It's up to her to figure out who the murderer will be and prevent it from happening. "Instead of a whodunit, it's a who-will-do-it," Cherry said.

Mancini said he took the project to Cherry because it seemed a good fit with the "Housewives" creator


Cash musical heads to Broadway


He topped Nashville charts, conquered New York publishing and is the subject of a new movie. Now the late Johnny Cash will reach Broadway in February with the opening of "Ring of Fire," a musical featuring the classic songs of the legend known as "The Man in Black."

Producers said the musical, which features 38 of Cash's songs, would begin performances in New York in February, directed by Richard Maltby, who won a Tony Award for conceiving and directing the Fats Waller musical "Ain't Misbehavin'."

The show follows a string of so-called "jukebox musicals" using an artist's song catalog, and comes within months of a biopic about the country legend, "Walk the Line," which was a hit at the Toronto Film Festival this month


Darkness Rises Over California
The Rolling Darkness Revue back on the road

Bookstores that normally welcome customers with armchairs, coffee, and an atmosphere of quiet reflection will be enticing readers with something quite different this Halloween season when they play host to a touring group of writers whose avowed intent is to shiver readers’ spines.

The Rolling Darkness Revue, a traveling fraternity of some of horror fiction’s premier talents, takes to the road this October to deliver thrills and chills in celebration of the genre’s favorite holiday.

Launched last year to enthusiastic reviews and rapidly swelling audiences, the Rolling Darkness Revue is a multi-media experience which incorporates theatrical lighting and live music to provide much more than the usual bookstore reading.

Already gaining brand-name recognition – the Horror Writers Association invited the RDR to give a “command performance” at their annual conference last June – the Revue has established itself as an anticipated Halloween event, receiving glowing notices from the Los Angeles Times and the syndicated NPR show Fine Print.

Joining founder members Glen Hirshberg and Peter Atkins this year are guest stars Michael Blumlein, Nancy Holder, Robert Masello, Robert Morrish, and Tamara Thorne, along with a rotating cast of musicians.

October 15th – Mystery & Imagination, Glendale, CA (Atkins, Hirshberg, Holder, Masello) October 22nd – Lou’s Records, San Diego, CA (an outdoor event) (Atkins, Hirshberg, Holder) October 28th – The Capitola Book Café, Santa Cruz, CA (Atkins, Blumlein, Hirshberg, Morrish) October 29th – Borderlands Books, San Francisco, CA (Atkins, Blumlein, Hirshberg) October 31st – Mystery & Imagination, Glendale, CA (Atkins, Hirshberg, Masello, Thorne) Who Are These People?

Glen Hirshberg: Award-winning author of The Two Sams and The Snowman’s Children. “A writer to watch and treasure.” – Peter Straub. “Stories that are as unsettling as they are scary, as disturbing as they are profound.” – Los Angeles Times.

Peter Atkins: Author of Morningstar and Big Thunder and the movies Wishmaster and Hellraiser II-IV. “Atkins is a brilliant supplier of shudders and splendors” – Clive Barker. “Writes with elegance, wit, and awe-inspiring surprises” – The Times (London).

Nancy Holder: USA Today bestselling author of 200 short stories and 78 novels. Co-editor of Outsiders, an anthology featuring Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite, and others. Her latest novel is Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Queen of the Slayers.

Robert Masello: Prize-winning journalist, TV writer (Charmed, Sliders, Poltergeist: The Legacy) and best-selling author of 16 books, most recently the supernatural thriller Vigil – “As terrifying as The Omen or The Exorcist!” – Jeffrey Long.

Michael Blumlein: Author of The Movement of Mountains and X,Y. Twice nominated for the World Fantasy Award and twice for the Bram Stoker Award. X,Y has recently been filmed. His latest novel is The Healer.

Robert Morrish: Editor of Cemetery Dance magazine and former editor of The Scream Factory. His short fiction has appeared in more than 20 anthologies, including Horrors!, Shivers, and Cold Flesh.

Tamara Thorne: Ghost-chasing author of Haunted, Thunder Road, Moonfall, and many more paranormal thrillers. “One of the best tellers of dark fantasy tall-tales” – Cemetery Dance.

Disney has it Goin ON

Setting the Stage at Disney
Incoming CEO Robert Iger's challenges will include getting all four main units to perform.
By Claudia Eller, Meg James and Richard Verrier
Times Staff Writers
September 28, 2005
Since being tapped as Michael Eisner's successor in March, Robert Iger has taken Walt Disney Co. for a spin as de facto chief executive.

On Saturday, he gets the keys, and with them a chance to exhaustively look under the hood to figure out how to finally get the company firing on all four cylinders.

For years, the Burbank entertainment giant has been unable to get its movies, television, theme parks and merchandise operations working in sync.

Its once-ailing network and cable operation finally roared back, thanks to a turnaround by the ABC network and its ESPN profit juggernaut. But its venerable film studio tumbled into the red and is struggling to regain its perch atop the animation field.

Unlike the moribund studio and theme park company Eisner took over in 1984, Iger inherits a top-tier media conglomerate, albeit one that faces steep challenges. Among them: changes in moviegoing and DVD-buying habits, the continued splintering of television viewership as the number of channels proliferate and figuring out how to exploit Disney's vast array of entertainment in the digital and wireless world. EDITOR’S NOTE: EXPLOITATION IS WHAT DISNEY DOES BEST. SHOULD BE A PIECE OF CAKE. (AND I SAY THIS WITH LOVE, ADMIRATION, AND YES, ENVY).

Here's an analysis of Disney's four major operations Iger inherits:

With its $100-million-plus computer-generated "Chicken Little" due out in November, Walt Disney Studios is out to show investors that it can revive an anemic animation division that used to crank out box-office and home-video profit. Disney also has yet to prove it can compete in the digital animation arena.Once known for such blockbusters as "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast," Disney's homegrown animation foundered with such disappointments as last year's "Home on the Range," "Brother Bear" in 2003 and "Treasure Planet" in 2002.

Meanwhile, rivals DreamWorks Animation SKG and News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox are taking a bigger bite out of the genre Disney long dominated. EDITOR’S NOTE: IF “CHICKEN LITTLE” IS ANYWHERE NEAR AS FUNNY AS THE TRAILERS FOR IT, IT SHOULD DO WELL.

Look for Iger to try to salvage Disney's long and lucrative distribution relationship with Pixar Animation Studios — maker of such blockbusters as "The Incredibles" and "Finding Nemo" as well as the highly anticipated "Cars" next year — or risk losing the computer animation leader to a rival.Iger has resuscitated talks with Pixar Chief Executive Steve Jobs that collapsed under Eisner, but both sides must come to terms on money.

In the meantime, about 700 Disney animators have moved from pencils to computers.The studio's struggling live-action business finally received a much needed box-office lift last weekend when the Jodie Foster suspense thriller "Flightplan" debuted as the top-grossing film with $24.6 million.

But other recent offerings, including "Dark Water," "Herbie: Fully Loaded," "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and "Ice Princess," have been disappointments. The studio said it would take a quarterly write-down of as much as $300 million, mostly attributable to losses associated with movies from its Miramax Film unit. EDITOR’S NOTE: RIGHT. BLAME THE BROTHERS WEINSTEIN. BUT THIS IS THE LAST TIME YOU CAN POINT THE FINGER AT THEM. NEXT YEAR, ANY LOSSES AT MIRAMAX WILL BE YOUR FAULT MR. IGER.

Concerned about escalating production and marketing costs, Iger recently promised investors that Disney would look for ways to significantly reduce its film expenses. This summer, Disney raised about $500 million from outside investors to spread its financial risk, returning to a strategy it pioneered in the 1980s.

Another concern: whether this year's drop in box-office receipts and flattening DVD growth are blips or represent long-term shifts.

Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook is hoping "Flightplan" marks the beginning of a turnaround.

At a splashy preview at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood last Thursday, featuring appearances by "Pirates of the Caribbean" star Johnny Depp and entertainer Elton John, the movie chief also touted upcoming releases.

In addition to two "Pirates" sequels, Cook is counting on "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," which opens in December, to launch a major film franchise.

Not So Desperate Now
Iger is intimately familiar with the company's biggest and most profitable division, Media Networks.Powered by ESPN and ABC, the unit now brings in nearly half of all Disney's operating profit and is on track for an even bigger year.

ABC is already is off to a fast start, finishing the premiere week of the new TV season in first place in the prized demographic of viewers ages 18 to 49. It marks the first time in 10 years the network has accomplished that feat.As little two years ago, ABC was in fourth place among the major networks. EDITOR’S NOTE: AND TWO YEARS FROM NOW, COULD VERY WELL BE AGAIN. (THEIR LINE-UP IS MUCH BETTER THAN IT WAS, BUT STILL DOESN’T GO VERY DEEP).

Iger, who worked two decades at ABC before Disney bought it in 1996, staked his future on the network's recovery. He can now roll down his shirt sleeves since ABC is back in the black. The network last year launched a string of monster hits, including "Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Lost," which this month won the Emmy for best drama series.

Four months ago, advertisers rewarded the network with $500 million more in commitments for prime-time commercials for this season. To further strengthen the network's finances, Iger punted on ABC's biggest money loser, "Monday Night Football," moving it to ESPN next year.

ESPN, long a company profit engine, is transitioning to an era of slower growth. Recent contracts with cable operators resulted in smaller rate increases than Disney had previously enjoyed.

ESPN also must figure out how to capitalize on digital platforms, such as mobile phones, and increase revenue to help pay for its NFL and Major League Baseball deals.

Four years after agreeing to pay $5 billion for the ABC Family Channel, ratings have improved along with ad revenue. But the channel is still hunting for breakout hits, as is the Disney Channel now that production of its popular "Lizzie McGuire" has ended.

Iger also must decide whether to sell the ABC radio network amid a soft radio advertising market.

Roller-Coaster-Like Ride
Customers are steadily returning to Disney's theme parks, which were hammered when tourists cut back on travel in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. EDITOR’S NOTE: COME ON, JOEL. WE NEED TO HELP OUT UNCLE WALT AND COUSIN BOB(IGER). WE JUST HAVE TO GO BACK TO DW. THEY NEED US! (GIGGLE)

Hotel bookings are up at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and attendance is growing at Anaheim's Disneyland, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

But Disney would like to see more international tourists, who tend to spend more money and stay longer at the parks than Americans.Analysts also worry that a tourism recovery could be damped by high gasoline prices and airline financial woes.

Visitors also aren't flocking to the money-losing Euro Disney near Paris, which continues to struggle with massive debts and steep losses. Creditors last year bailed out the resort, which is 41% owned by Disney, for the second time in a decade.

Disney also has much riding on Hong Kong Disneyland, the $3.2-billion theme park that opened this month.

Although the park is expected to do well, prospects for a possible second park in Shanghai are less certain.

Toying With New Ideas
Disney's consumer-products division — the operation behind Disney toys, lunchboxes, Mickey Mouse figurines and Winnie the Pooh dolls — has undergone its own extreme makeover in recent years.

The troubles of Disney's animation business have been especially painful because animation historically has driven demand for character merchandise.

Disney tapped former Nike executive Andy Mooney in hopes of turning around the once struggling unit, has shuttered or sold most of the money-draining Disney StoresEDITOR’S NOTE: SNIFFLE…. and slashed the number of companies Disney licenses its products to while forging relations with such mass merchandisers as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp.

The company has introduced new merchandise lines including Disney Princess, which has generated more than $3 billion in retail sales EDITOR’S NOTE: I THINK AT LEAST 1 BILLION OF THAT IS IN MY NIECE’S POSSESSION. , and developed high-end Mickey Mouse fashions. EDITOR’S NOTE: THINK ABOUT THAT SENTENCE FOR A BIT. ‘HIGH-END MICKEY MOUSE FASHIONS’. SNICKER……

Analysts expect more modest growth this year compared with 2004 as Disney invests $40 million in its video game business.

In April, Disney acquired small Salt Lake City-based video game developer Avalanche Software. The company also is developing video games for adults.

For Disney, another challenge is how much green it can squeeze out of Kermit the Frog. EDITOR’S NOTE: OUCH.

Disney acquired the Muppets from Jim Henson Co. last year with plans to relaunch the characters in theme park attractions, DVDs, movies and TV shows. One of its first projects was "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz," which aired on ABC in May.

She's the shapely sprite who has become a Disney icon second only to Mickey Mouse himself.

And yet Miss Bell has largely been a woman of mystery.

Where did she come from? Where are her fellow fairies? And the burning question: Was she REALLY modeled on Marilyn Monroe?

Fortunately, the Disney Insider has done some sleuthing and learned, more or less, everything you ever wanted to know about Tinker Bell.

Tink originally appeared in J.M. Barrie's play, "Peter Pan." Well, sort of - onstage, the pixie never appeared in person, but was traditionally represented by a beam of light. When Walt Disney decided to film "Peter Pan," how to represent Tinker Bell was one of the great dilemmas to be resolved. Ultimately, Disney and his animators decided to put the mischievous fairy on the screen - but to keep with tradition in having her "voice" be a tinkling bell that only Peter can understand.

Tink and her fairy friend Prilla

Although Tinker Bell's vavoom figure and winsome blonde appearance have led generations of moviegoers to compare her to Marilyn Monroe, animator Marc Davis actually modeled her on actress Margaret Kerry. The Studio was quick to point out that although Tink might LOOK like Ms. Kerry, her capricious and sometimes downright mean personality had nothing to do with the actress!

"Peter Pan" was a hit, but it was Tinker Bell who went on to become a cultural touchstone. The pixie proved so popular that she became something of an ambassador for Disney. In the process, her image has become less jealous pint-sized femme fatale and more dispenser of pixie dust, although that touch of mischief still remains part of her appeal.

These days you can see Tink at the opening of "The Wonderful World of Disney," in the air at Disney theme park firework shows, and on every Disney DVD. She's prominently featured in the 50th Anniversary parade at Disneyland, "Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams," and Tinker Bell costumes and toys rival Disney Princess gear in popularity among little girls.

Although she's a beloved and instantly recognized character, there are many unanswered mysteries about Tinker Bell, stemming all the way back to "Peter Pan."

Where did she come from? Who are her friends? Where does Tinker Bell go when she isn't hanging out with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys?

These are questions that are never answered by Barrie, or by the film.

But Tink is such a vivid presence that for more than 50 years, children have wondered about her. These burning questions led the Disney team to develop a detailed story about Tinker Bell and the world from which she comes.

Tinker Bell's world will be unveiled in a story first introduced in the novel "Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg" (available this month) by Gail Carson Levine of "Ella Enchanted" fame. The books feature illustrations by David Christiana.


"I was so glad when the people at Disney Publishing invited me to be part of the project," Ms. Levine commented. "To enter the world of Peter Pan and weave in a new landscape has been an enormous honor. I'll be thrilled if readers join the fairies' quest and go on clapping and believing and keeping Never Land young forever." EDITOR’S NOTE: IF THAT SENTENCE ALONE DOESN’T SEND THE DIABETICS INTO A COMA……

We learn that Tinker Bell is, in fact, a talented tinker - good at mending metal objects with her little hammer. This refers all the way back to a little joke in Barrie's Peter Pan - Peter claims that Tink is a common "tinker" sort of fairy. Tinkers, in Victorian England, were traveling tinsmiths. By exploring Tink's world, the artists of Disney hope that they will give the enduring fairy new dimension - and a new place in the hearts of children (and adults) everywhere. If you believe in fairies, clap your hands for Tinker Bell!


As Disneyland's 50th Anniversary celebration continues in full golden glory at the Park, the time is ripe to explore the dream that turned an orange grove in Anaheim into the Happiest Place on Earth.

A new traveling museum exhibit aims to let visitors see the art and inspiration behind the creation of Disneyland.

Behind the Magic: 50 Years of Disneyland premieres this month at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan, preparing for a national tour. Created by Exhibitour, the traveling exhibit arm of the Henry Ford, working in conjunction with Walt Disney
Imagineering, the show aims to take the magic of Disneyland nationwide.

The exhibit includes original concept artwork and photos that document every stage of the creation of the Park, gathered from the Walt Disney Imagineering archives, The Walt Disney Company archives, the collections of the Henry Ford Museum, and other private collections. The Disney Family Foundation has loaned rare film footage for the occasion, featuring personal interviews and great shots of Walt and his daughters playing both at home and bicycling through the Studio lot.

Rare photos of Walt Disney and hisdream Park await visitors at the museum

The show follows the creative process from the first blue-sky dreams to bits of authentic memorabilia that appeared in the Park when it opened. It includes treasures like original artwork, ride concept models of the Jungle Cruise and Peter Pan's Flight, drawings, character sculpture, original signs from the Park, photographs, and ride vehicles from both Peter Pan's Flight and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Scott Mallwitz, director of experience design for the Henry Ford, says "My favorite item would be Disney's first Audio-Animatronics® figure, Abraham Lincoln, which was featured at the 1964 New York World's Fair. A close second would be the ‘pitch kit' used by Roy Disney to secure financing for the construction of Disneyland - a few pages of description and a wonderful ‘bird's-eye view' sketch by Herb Ryman set the Park in motion." EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS ALL SOUNDS LIKE A DISNEY-PHILE DREAM COME TRUE!

The exhibit highlights Disneyland'screation from the ground up

"This may seem like an easy job - designing a museum exhibit for Disney," Andrew Dahl, President of Exhibitour, tells us. "After all, there's all this really cool artwork and films and photography and so on. And that's part of the challenge: deciding what to keep and how to fit it all together. Designing a museum exhibit about Disneyland isn't just making a miniature Park. It's more of a storytelling experience, beginning with Walt and his vision for the Park." Telling a story about Disney - the home of the master storytellers - requires meeting a pretty stringent standard.

Walt shows off the concept art for Disneyland.

"Every area, whether it deals with the guest experience, or how the Imagineers came to be, has to have its own special look and feel. But it all has to tie together and be unmistakably Disney," explains Andrew. EDITOR’S NOTE: WHICH MEANS HOMOGENIZED AND WHITE-WASHED? (HEY….I’M A LIFELONG AND ENOURMOUS FAN. BUT I’M NOT BLIND. AND UNLIKE THE PEOPLE QUOTED IN THESE OFFICIAL DISNEY REPORTS, I HAVEN'T DRUNK THE COOL-AID).

"The designers used simple sketch lines to represent Walt's vision and early ideas, a set of circles to represent the guest experience, and stars to denote the magic in the park created by the Imagineers. If you look carefully at the exhibit, you can see how the environment slowly changes from one graphic look to another."

The show is beginning a planned four-year tour of museums throughout the U.S. Perhaps a museum near you will soon be transformed into a little piece of the Happiest Place on Earth. EDITOR’S NOTE: OH ME TOO!!

Which of these attractions was open when Disneyland debuted: Pirates of the Caribbean, Pinocchio's Daring Journey, or Peter Pan's Flight?

Peter Pan's Flight is the only one of the three that was a part of Disneyland's Opening Day.

Kermit the Frog goes on 'tour' in Disney campaign

Kermit the Frog, perhaps the world's most famous amphibian, will embark on a worldwide "tour" next month to celebrate his 50 years in show business and re-launch the Muppets franchise as part of the Walt Disney Co., it was announced Tuesday.

The green, fuzzy puppet character, who got his start in 1955 on the local Washington, D.C., television program, "Sam and Friends," was scheduled to appear on the Disney-owned ABC network's "Good Morning America" to kick off the promotion.

His first stop will be the small, west Texas town of Kermit on Oct. 14, followed by visits to 50 destinations around the globe over the next 15 months, including the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Great Wall of China and even a Frog Leg Festival in Fellsmere, Florida.

The launch of Kermit's 50th anniversary tour coincides with several events aimed at drawing new attention to the Muppets brand, which was created by the late Jim Henson and acquired by Disney in April 2004 EDITOR’S NOTE: OF COURSE THE BIG GOSSIP QUESTION….WILL MISS PIGGY BE ACCOMPANYING HER LITTLE GREEN BEAU?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Serenity flies this weekend!


SERENITY Composer Discusses the Score
Today, internet music radio show ON THE SCORE will premiere their interview with SERENITY composer David Newman.

In addition, the site features a virtual jukebox of movie music, along with numerous other specialty shows featuring news and top-20 score charts. Upcoming composer guests for ON THE SCORE will include Christopher Young (THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE), Rolfe Kent (JUST LIKE HEAVEN) and John Ottman (KISS KISS BANG BANG).


Interview : Joss Whedon
Sometimes people are forced to think outside the box – but first-time filmmaker Joss Whedon’s not complaining about his unceremonious dump from Television, in fact, he’s adorning a smile wider than a first division lottery winner. One door closes, as another door opens – and behind it, a man as talented as he is lucky.


Best known for creating the TV series "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" – originally a lacklustre 1992 feature film with a return about the equivalent of a Pre-Christmas social security cheque - Whedon put his stamp on Hollywood pretty much from the get-go.

With "Buffy" – and consequential spin-off series, "Angel" – he conceived something that was smart, unique, incredibly well written and immediately appealing to those with a penchant for humour and horror. Buffy, and ultimately, its creator, became a cultural phenomenon – and audiences just couldn’t get enough.

As quick as Television networks were to accept him though, they were even quicker to remove Whedon from their premises.

Some, it seems, just didn’t get it – not that Whedon’s “naming any names”.

"Buffy", a series that was partly responsible for bringing an audience to the then-fledgling WB network, was never fully supported, he says, and then, at the height of it’s popularity, spin-off "Angel" - still quite a few years younger than it’s predecessor - received the ill-timed death blow.

As a consequence, fans went nuts, Whedon scratched his head, and the network ultimately lived to regret their hasty pronouncement. Yet, no amount of picketing – and the fans tried everything - could see the decision overturned. Seems the chapter was forever closed on Whedon’s Vampire Chronicles.

In the midst of his attempts to keep both "Buffy" and "Angel" on-air, Whedon went to rival network Fox with an idea for another show – something possibly even more unique than his earlier efforts.

"Firefly" was a Sci-Fi Western about a group of intergalactic space smugglers harbouring a couple of young fugitives. Again, Whedon’s many fans would flock to see the result.

Seems the curse hadn’t lifted though, and Firefly was doomed before it even began.

It was weird because Fox had taken some big chances on shows, which were very successful for them – but there was one executive in particular [there] that just didn’t ‘get me’. I will never understand [fully] what their problem with the show was as long as I live”. EDITOR’S NOTE: THEY HAD A COLLECTIVE IQ OF AN INVERTEBRATE? (JUST GUESSIN...)

Whedon says "Firefly" was essentially murdered – the network decided to show episodes out of order (because the first episode, the pilot, didn’t have enough action in it), they didn’t bother with pre-empting it, and “had it in a timeslot that was essentially known in the industry as - the death slot”, he says. “Their advertisement in TV Guide? ‘Meet the Most Spaced Out Crew in Space’. I read that and thought ‘something is horribly wrong – [uh-oh] we’re going to get cancelled’. It was a bad match, and I take full responsibility for not paying attention to that. It was clearly a bad match from the beginning – they [simply] wanted Bumpy the Werewolf Slayer”.

On Thursday December 12th 2002, with only twelve episodes in the can, "Firefly" was cancelled.

It was depressing, says Whedon, but he was determined not to give up on this one. He immediately made a promise to his cast that one day he “would tell this story”. He explains, “I’m not in the business of writing stories to amuse myself”, and was indomitable that he would tie up the events of the series – one day.

The day came in mid-2004 when Universal Pictures agreed to acquire the rights to Firefly from 20th Century Fox Television.

Whedon had convinced the studio to take a chance on a big-screen version of his short-lived space serial.

Sitting here talking about the film – which also marks his directorial debut – Whedon says it’s quite surreal. “Part of me is like ‘I’ll let you know when it hit’s me’, the other part is like ‘It feels really, really good!’” confesses Whedon. “When you fight so hard for something it’s not so much a gift as it is a victory – though Universal was pretty much like Santa Claus”.

Still, Whedon had his work cut out for him. He had to come up with something far bigger, far more exciting, and far more appealing than any offering for the box.

It’s restrictive because I’m working with characters I had planned so much for [on TV] and you only have a certain amount of [screen] time for each one of them – yet you want every one of them to shine”, he says. “So, if someone has two lines – you have to make sure that those two lines tell you fifty percent of what you’re going to learn about them. “Also, it’s a different kind of storytelling, it’s one that I love, but it’s different. This is very goal-oriented – get to the climax, take them on a ride and don’t let them go, as opposed to TV which is more ‘let’s examine this from this side, now this side, now from up here’”.

Another tough task was trying to structure the movie in a way that it would appeal to not only fans – and there’s squillions of those, calling themselves Browncoats,EDITOR’S NOTE: SEE…THIS IS WHERE WE START TO GET FUNNY LOOKS FROM NON-DWEEBS. MUST WE ALWAYS HAVE ODD, IN-JOKE NAMES FOR OUR LITTLE GROUPS? CAN’T WE JUST BE DWEEBS? FANS? SIGH….. just take a look on the Internet - but for people that have never seen Firefly.

“You’re making it for people who don’t know you from Adam, don’t know your sensibilities and don’t know how much you like to play with genre. It’s such a tightrope act. Too much humour? Not enough humour? Too much violence? Not enough violence? It was so difficult and exhausting to make it for non-fans”.

Whedon says he thinks he cracked it though. He basically took the best elements of the series – the imperfect characters, their relationships, their back stories - and meshed it with a yarn that would make audiences feel “the same way they felt when they saw Star Wars the first time. ‘We got the Death Star’! – It’s really about concentrating on distilling the core and squeezing it until it’s a diamond”.

Though none of the cast are A-list superstars - and Whedon was adamant that the stars from the series return and not be replaced by bigger names - he still believes they’ve all got the potential to be a big break-out movie stars after this, especially newcomer Summer Glau.

“Summer is my secret weapon”, smiles Whedon, who discovered the ballerina come actress when she won a small part on his series Angel. “There was no second choice, but that same executive [in charge of the TV series at the time] was like ‘Oh, I dunno’, and I was like ‘Buddy, and you never will’. But she was amazing. She’s something money can’t buy – an action star who can act, and she can do action not like [adopts mocking Austrian accent] ‘I say the lines, and then we cut to the stunt man’. This girl can do her own stunts and act her pants off, and shooting those legs was some of the most fun I’ve ever had”.

Co-stars Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin are also likely to go onto bigger and better things because of their work here, says Whedon. “Nathan is a movie star. He has that, and if other people don’t recognize that I’ll be shocked. He’s every inch a hero, except the inches that he is a comic foil”, he laughs, “And people are also saying ‘Isn’t it great to take someone like Summer and give her her breakthrough role?’ and I’m like ‘yeah, but also taking someone like Adam Baldwin (who has been acting in B-movies and slumming in small parts in bigger films like "Independence Day" and "Predator 2" for years) and give him his!’”.

One of the most memorable characters from the series, Shepherd Book, played by Ron Glass, has a surprisingly small role in the film. It was purely for story reasons, nothing else, says Whedon.

On the first draft, he was onboard the ship and it was this other person whose town got massacred. But there wasn’t enough for Ron to do. His character was very much something of the series. His purpose isn’t the same as theirs”.

Glass, as well as another prominent original star that one would presume we’ve seen the last of, will definitely be back for a sequel – should there be one.

If this thing goes large and I do get to make another one – you will definitely see both those guys again”. EDITOR’S NOTE: OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE!??? (AND WHAT IS THIS TEASE THEY ARE THROWING IN? DOES SOMEONE APPEAR TO DIE IN THE MOVIE?)

Two notable new faces to the world of Serenity are actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and David Krumholtz, as the villainous Operative and the amiable Mr Universe, respectively.

Though both fantastic, says Whedon, they were obviously outsiders, not being a part of the original TV troupe. “He [Chiwetel] and Nathan got on great, but fact of the matter is – he was a bit on the outside as to what was going on, [and] David Krumholtz spent two days by himself with only a love-bot”, he laughs.

The experience of making his first feature, on the whole, has been a very pleasant one. Though sometimes difficult, it’s nowhere near as testing as the day-to-day grind of doing a weekly TV series, says Whedon. “I miss some things about them ["Buffy" and "Angel"], but I don’t miss the grind”, he says. “With Buffy, I really felt like seven seasons were it – we were all feeling the wear and tear, and it wasn’t like the actors weren’t bringing it, it was just the time.

"Angel", he says, didn’t deserve to be axed when it did. Though going on five seasons, Whedon feels it still had some more oil in the engine – and could’ve gone for a while longer. Still, it’s another series that might have another life, hints Whedon.

“I mostly miss all the people [there], but if things go the way I hope they do – I might not miss them as much”, he says, raising an all-telling eyebrow.

It’s rumoured that Whedon’s looking to bring the character of Spike (played by James Marsters on Buffy and Angel) back for a telemovie, and he’s happy to validate that.

“I’m talking in reference to that…..and possibly more”, he smiles. “I can only teasingly hint unfortunately until it’s got backing and we’ve got a schedule and a contract. I have been talking to some of the actors, writers, and some executives and are trying to put something together - - but it’s not happening fast. [But no] I haven’t left the Buffyverse behind”.

Meantime, Whedon is writing and directing a feature film version of "Wonder Woman", which might shoot in Australia.

We’re looking for Paradise Cove somewhere other than L.A”, he says. “Still, I have to write it first – and then they have to decide whether they like it enough to make it.”

Whedon says he was a little reluctant to sign onto "Wonder Woman" at first, but quickly realised the character was essentially “The Grandma of every character I’ve ever written”.

SERENITY Opens September 29th



Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Sean Maher, Jewel Staite, Ron Glass, Morena Baccarin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Krumholtz, Sarah Paulson

When something’s badly wounded, it usually dies and…. stays dead.

But in the case of "Firefly", a short-lived TV series that aired (out of sequence, mind you) for twelve short weeks in 2002, a knock on heaven’s door was met with no retort.

The Sci-Fi Western was merely greeted by a ‘Closed – Come Back Later’ sign stuck on the pearly gates, and so, it promptly slid back down the white lights – and back to life for a second chance, or, lengthened existence.

Bless those angelic fans. Created by celebrated "Buffy" alumni Joss Whedon, "Firefly" was an episodical part sci-fi, part Western show that told of a small space freighter whose crew are willing to take whatever types of jobs come their way in order to preserve a way of life outside of the regimented Alliance.

Similar to what happened with the similar-themed "Star Trek" some thirty years before, Firefly garnered a huge following in such a short amount of time, and with sales of it’s DVD Box-Set going through the roof – it seemed only natural to give it a second chance - on a bigger canvas.

Less refined than George Lucas’s drastically more expensive sci-fi saga, and dirtier in both look and manner than GR’s Enterprise adventures, Whedon’s series, and now movie, is quite a unique experience.

Everything you loved about the series is back on the big screen too - with $50 million worth of extras.

Back is the excellent writing, the humour, the adventure, the distinct characters, the plight, the battles, the sexual tension, and the imaginatively designed starships – still as dirty as ever, and as wonky as a rusted bike.

There are a couple of surprises in tow too. Cocky space-smuggler Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his crew – engineer Kaylee (Jewel Staite), his second in command and most trusted ally, Zoe (Gina Torres), her husband, the pilot, Wash (Alan Tudyk), and the muscle, Jayne (Adam Baldwin) - are still harbouring fugitives, the telepathic River Tam (Summer Glau) and her doctor brother, Simon (Sean Maher) on-board their rust-bucket space ship.

The alliance’s hunt for the fugitives – especially River, who harbours some secrets and then some – is cranked up a notch when The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is assigned to find them. He’ll do anything – quite a nasty character he is – to get to River, and it poses quite a challenge for the crew of Serenity.

"Serenity" feels like a gobsmackingly-good two-hour season ender for the series.

But that’s good. That’s what fans want. Who wants to revisit the beloved characters only to discover that they’re changed, or that the story’s drifted away from the one we were tuning in week-after-week for? EDITOR’S NOTE: YES, BUT NOW THAT I’VE SEEN IT ON DVD (THANKS AGAIN, ANDREW) AND SEEN HOW GOOD IT IS IN THE ORDER IN WHICH GOD-AND-COUSIN-JOSS INTENDED, I DON’T WANT A SERIES-ENDER. I WANT THE SERIES BACK!

At the same time, Whedon’s – making his feature-film directorial debut here - need to please the fans might also have hurt his film a little. Those that are new to the world might soon catch on – you get a quick introduction – but they’re unlikely to be as emotionally invested in the characters as the fans are, and let’s admit it, it’s the characters that we keep coming back for.

Some of the film’s surprises are unlikely to affect newcomers, as they will the regular browncoats. EDITOR’S NOTE: RENT THE DVDS, RENT THE DVDS!!! (YOUR QOTD HAS SPOKEN)

Still, everyone likes a good movie – and this is definitely an A-grade experience.

The writing is impeccable, the chemistry among the cast is fantastic, the performances are great, and the action is non-stop. The film’s skirmishes really kick in towards the tail end of the movie, and it’s everyone’s party then.

Summer Glau is inevitably the film’s standout as the puzzling Escapee River giving a multi-faceted performance and predominantly, kicking some royal bootie in action stakes, but series scene-stealers Nathan Fillion, as Mal, and Adam Baldwin, as Jayne, are still as amusing and boastful as ever.

There’s a couple of equally talented newcomers to the Whedonverse too – Chiwetel Ejiofor as the ominous villain, and the always-dependable David Krumholtz as the amusing techno-head ‘Mr Universe’.

There are some slow spots - exposition does need to be slotted somewhere, I guess? - and it’s disappointing to see a couple of the show’s most popular characters sitting on the bench, but all-in-all, "Firefly" fans are going to be extremely happy with the feature-length treat Sir Whedon has rewarded them with here. EDITOR’S NOTE: ONE OF THE ADVANTAGES OF AN ON-GOING (PLEASE BRING IT BACK….HEY, SCIFI CHANNEL!, HEY USA NET!) SERIES VS. A MOVIE; YOU CAN TAKE TURNS HIGHLIGHTING CHARACTERS AND THEY GROW OVER MANY EPISODES. THERE ISN’T THAT LUXURY IN A 2-HR MOVIE.

Many, I’m guessing, might want to pick up some cough mixture on their way home from the theatre too – with all the screaming, laughing, yahooing and shouting, they’ll be doing, they’re inexorably going to lose their voice.

Thanks Joss. This is a superb directorial debut - and one sensational bit of cinema.