<p>Ron Clements and John Musker help usher in what they hope will be a return to hand-animation at Walt Disney with 'The Princess and the Frog' this holiday season</p>

Ron Clements and John Musker help usher in what they hope will be a return to hand-animation at Walt Disney with 'The Princess and the Frog' this holiday season

Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios

SDCC 2009: Disney Animation Round Two - Ron Clements and John Musker

An indepth look at 'The Princess and the Frog'

Time to get these done, yes?

I'll have three of these today and tomorrow, and I apologize for them lingering as long as they have.  The second of the Disney animation roundtables I attended, following the chat with John Lasseter and Hayao Miyazaki, was with the directors of "The Princess and the Frog."  That is to say, Disney legends Ron Clements and John Musker.  Their first three movies are all Disney pictures that hold up, and they helped rebuild the company with "The Great Mouse Detective," "The Little Mermaid," and "Aladdin." 

So this is all in the same room, happening one right after another, like we're speed dating.  It's a dosey-do of some of the biggest names in modern animation, and we can still see Lasseter and Miyazaki walking away as Clements and Musker sat down, everyone at the table greeting them warmly as they reset their various recording devices:

Drew McWeeny:  So, this is the return to hand animation, and you guys... obviously there was first big wave in the 90's and in the late 80's,  and there were a number of directors who made what are considered now the classics.  And of those guys, you guys got to be the ones to come back and kick start this next... hopefully the next wave of hand animation.  Is that exciting for you?  And how did you guys end up being the ones to spearhead this?

Musker:  Well, I mean... I think as John Lasseter says... I mean, Lasseter's approach at Disney is exactly the same as his approach to Pixar, and it's like a filmmaker led studio in the way that directors are very empowered, I think.  That's kind of the way they are.  We had left Disney for about 6 months.  I think John coming onboard brought us back when...

Clements: We kind of had run afoul of the previous folks, and they turned their backs, sort of, on us.  I mean, basically they didn't have much confidence in us making a film.  And John brought us back.  John knows our work and everything, and when we came back, it was John who sort of said, "Do we want to do 3-D or 2-D?"  And we pitched to John, "We'd like to do a hand-drawn fairy tale."  He's a huge fan.

[more after the jump]

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<p>David Koechner, Kathryn Hahn, Jeremy Piven, and Ving Rhames are all part of the ensemble cast in Neal Brennan's 'The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard'</p>

David Koechner, Kathryn Hahn, Jeremy Piven, and Ving Rhames are all part of the ensemble cast in Neal Brennan's 'The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard'

Credit: AP Photo/Paramount, Sam Emerson

The Motion/Captured Review: 'The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard' is raunchy and often hilarious

Plus more interviews with Alan Thicke, Rob Riggle, Ed Helms, and David Koechner

Have you ever seen the John Landis documentary "Slasher?"

Fascinating stuff.  It's about a guy named Michael Bennett who is brought in by car dealerships when they're struggling.  He's the expert, the guy who will figure out a way to get that stock off the lot.  He's the proverbial salesman's salesman, able to convince Eskimos they're not paying enough for snow.  The real miracle of Landis's film is that he manages to get past that confidence to reveal something of the real Michael Bennett, the family man who lives out of a suitcase, the guy whose artificial hyperconfidence takes a heavy toll on him personally.  It's a really great late-era movie for Landis, and I would imagine Andy Stock & Rick Stempson, the screenwriters of "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard" must have seen the movie at some point during the creative process.

That's not to say that Neal Brennan and his cast have just ripped off the Landis film; far from it.  But they're definitely playing in the same sandbox, and it's fairly ripe comic ground.  This was one of the films that got orphaned a bit when Paramount Vantage folded into big Paramount, but to their credit, Paramount did indeed get behind the film and push it, especially once they started showing it to people and seeing how well it plays with crowds.  You can feel the comic signatures of producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay on this one... there's something about the comedy of men behaving like in-need-of-medication-lunatics that seems to particularly entertain these guys... and to its credit, most of "The Goods" avoids the trap of sentimentalizing the characters.  There are a few perfunctory moves towards the end of the film, meant to humanize Don Ready (Jeremy Piven) and make us like him more, but overall, the film is mainly interested in making us laugh.

And for the most part, it does.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Sharlto Copley leads a disastrous government raid on the shantytown where the aliens live in Neil Blomkamp's 'District 9'</p>

Sharlto Copley leads a disastrous government raid on the shantytown where the aliens live in Neil Blomkamp's 'District 9'

Credit: AP Photo/Sony Pictures

The Motion/Captured Review: 'District 9' delivers as sci-fi and drama

Did Neil Blomkamp just make a classic?

Van Der Merwe goes on vacation to England, and when he comes back, he says to his friend, "Those English aren't so bad.  They're friendly, even to strangers.  They'll take you home, offer you a bed, and even give you a bit of breakfast in the morning.  For free.  No charge."

"That happened to you, Van Der Merwe?" asked Von Tonder.

"No, but it happened to my sister," Van Der Merwe said.  "Every night!"

That's an example of a "Van Der Merwe" joke.  Told by South Africans from childhood on, the jokes are all about the same central character, a buffoon.  Always the butt of everything.  I'm sure it's not an accident, then, that director Neil Blomkamp (who co-wrote the film with Terri Tatchel) kicks his movie off with first-time film actor Sharlto Copley playing Wikus Van De Merwe, the main character in the movie, as a flaming tit.  He's not the most likeable lead of all time.  He gets a job promotion because his father-in-law is the head of his agency.  He makes some callous, morally repugnant decisions in the first 20 minutes of so, and he manages to seriously annoy everyone around him.  Once again, Van De Merwe is the bumbling ass.

But he doesn't deserve what happens to him.

[more after the jump]

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<p>One of the iconic images from Hayao Miyazaki's magical new film, 'Ponyo'</p>

One of the iconic images from Hayao Miyazaki's magical new film, 'Ponyo'

Credit: Walt Disney/Studio Ghibli

The Motion/Captured Interview: Hayao Miyazaki

The legendary animator discusses his new film 'Ponyo'

I published my first interview with animation legend Hayao Miyazaki on September 21st, 1999.  Since then, he's done pretty much no American press for any film he's released here, and it's always seemed to me like he was perfectly content to not worry about the American reaction to his films.  He just never seemed to care.  He makes movies for a Japanese audience, primarily, and if other countries enjoy them, that's just a nice bonus, not his main goal.

When Disney asked me if I was interested in putting together a special screening of "Ponyo" at Comic-Con this year, I didn't hesitate.  I know how much it means to people to get a chance to see Miyazaki in person, and how uncommon that experience is.  Introducing him to a Comic-Con crowd sounded like a truly worthwhile way to spend some of my time in San Diego this year.

So many people showed up for that screening that the theater ended up playing the movie three times in a row.  I wish Miyazaki and I could have stayed for all three screenings to introduce them, but he was on his way out of town, and I had my family with me.

Speaking of which... one of the strangest moments of the entire San Diego experience this year was when Miyazaki first arrived at the Gaslight, the theater where we held the event.  He came in with a group of people, including his translator, and walked up to where I was standing with the lovely Mrs. McWeeny and the infamous Toshi.  For weeks, Toshi practiced saying "Miyazaki," and as this titan of cinema walked up, Toshi waved at him and said, "Hi, Meee-ya-zaki!"  Miyazaki considered this tiny greeting committee for a moment, then one of his people handed him a long flat white box.  He offered it to me, and as he spoke, his translator said, "Miyazaki-san is very pleased to be here this evening, and thanks you for hosting this event for him."  When I walked my family into the theater to sit down, we opened the box, which turned out to be a beautiful "Ponyo" watch from Ghibli, which Toshi and his mommy promptly explained was not mine.  Toshi's been wearing it every day since, and every morning when we put it on, he asks me to tell him what time it is on his watch, and what time it is where Miyazaki lives.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Ken Jeong prepares to give me the shimmy while Craig Robinson looks on, stone-faceed and stern.&nbsp; Hilarious.</p>

Ken Jeong prepares to give me the shimmy while Craig Robinson looks on, stone-faceed and stern.  Hilarious.

The Motion/Captured Interview: Jeremy Piven, Craig Robinson, and Ken Jeong

Which of these comedy stars really brings 'The Goods'?

Press days are just weird.  It's just a weird rhythm to get into.  You show up at a hotel.  You go upstairs, eat some food, relax for a minute, then go down the hall, get on camera three or four or five times in a row for five minutes with each person.  Sometimes it's two people.  And the whole time you're talking, someone's counting down.  And you're hoping that somehow, something's going to happen.  Something real.  A moment that is worth you getting up after three and a half hours of sleep, driving an hour and a half in the morning, maybe ten minutes less than that coming back.  Sitting around for as long as four hours to do a total of 25 minutes on camera.

And for the actors or directors or whoever else might end up in the mix, it's a pretty damn strange experience every time, I'm sure.  One interview after another.  One face after another.  Every single one of them walking in with some bit, some thing they want to do or say to justify being on video.  Every one of them wanting to get you to do something special, something that would really make their junket moment different from alllll those other junket moments.

It's a wonder when you get something honest or unguarded, or barring that, something truly outrageous, worth watching and passing on to other people.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Heath Ledger and Lily Cole recover from one of the more fantastic moments in Terry Gilliam's 'The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus'</p>

Heath Ledger and Lily Cole recover from one of the more fantastic moments in Terry Gilliam's 'The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus'

Credit: Parnassus Productions

TMR: Does 'Parnassus' have a release date? And more hot critic-on-critic action

Plus new clips from 'District 9' and 'Boosh' on BoingBoing

Welcome to The Morning Read.

I guess I knew that my piece on criticism was going to stir up some noise when I published it last night, but I wasn't prepared for the e-mail flood this morning.  I touched a nerve with many of you, and, look... I'm happy to be challenged on my position on this.  I believe that this... all of this... only works as a conversation.  I don't ever want to turn into one of those guys who issues WISDOM FROM THE MOUNTAINTOP, unassailable and never listening to anyone else.  Some of you thought I was dead wrong, and you were offended that I would "target" Roger Ebert.

I wasn't targeting anyone.  The columns I linked to were all published, designed to be read and commented on in public, and every one of those sites has a comments section, so it's obvious that feedback is part of the deal.  I don't think Roger Ebert is worried that someone's going to come repossess his Pulitzer just because I felt like he blasted the wrong target in a column, so you guys who feel the need to write to defend his honor can probably tone the shtick down a little, okay?

I mean, Christopher Rosen wrote much the same thing.  Admittedly in a lot fewer words, which makes him the winner.  But he understands that it is madness... absolute madness... to blame the audience for the movies.  I recently wrote that "Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen" is the movie that fanboys have been making down payments on for a while now, and I do think that studios look at what makes money and they try to imitate it.  But blaming the audiences for what gets made is like blaming a gunshot victim for the bullet.  People see what is marketed, what gets the most screens, and what other people are seeing.  Just as they always have.  Just as they always will.

[more after the jump]

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<p><span class="smallest">Is this the direction Bryan Singer's "Battlestar Gallactica" will go?&nbsp; Concept art from his original pilot way back in 2001.</span></p>

Is this the direction Bryan Singer's "Battlestar Gallactica" will go?  Concept art from his original pilot way back in 2001.

EXCLUSIVE: Bryan Singer boarding 'Battlestar Galactica' for Universal?

UPDATED: Universal confirms Singer's involvment. Will he direct? And which version will it be?

I really didn't see this one coming.

One of the many casualties of Sept. 11, 2001 was the Tom De Santo/Bryan Singer version of "Battlestar Galactica," designed as a sequel to the '70s show, which was less than three months from shooting when the attacks on America happened.  Since the Cylon sneak attack was a big part of the $14 million backdoor pilot they were about to shoot, Sci-Fi got very nervous about the film, and everything fell apart.

In the time since, obviously, Ron Moore and David Eick and the entire amazing creative team who did bring "Battlestar Galactica" back to television managed to not only get a new show on the air, but they've completed their run and they're gearing up on a spinoff series, "Caprica."  Despite the amount of critical love that was displayed for the show during its run, I wouldn't call Moore's "Galactica" a phenomenon.  It was more like a very enthusiastic and vocal cult audience.  As a result, Universal seems to feel that there's more life in the property, and that there is room for another interpretation.

That's why they're nearing a deal with Bryan Singer to produce and possibly direct a brand-new "Battlestar Galactica" feature film.

[more after the jump]

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<p>'Whattaya mean TRANSFORMERS 2 made $200 million in the first nine minutes of release?&nbsp; Don't make me open up my HURT LOCKER, you punks!'</p>

'Whattaya mean TRANSFORMERS 2 made $200 million in the first nine minutes of release?  Don't make me open up my HURT LOCKER, you punks!'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Why do older movie critics suddenly want everyone off their lawn?

Has the generation gap finally become too wide for Roger Ebert and others?

I was going to fold all of these articles into The Morning Read, but the more I thought about it, the more it felt like something that deserves its own entry.

Film critics hate you.

You.  Whoever you are, sitting wherever you're sitting, reading these words... chances are, film critics hate you right now.

Seems unfair, doesn't it?  After all, what did you do?

You committed the greatest sin against a critic's work that is possible:  you did not listen.

If you had listened, then "Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen" would have had a $3 million opening weekend, while "In The Loop" would be racing towards the "Titanic" record right now.

So obviously, whoever you are, it's all your fault.  All those remakes, all those sequels, all those amazing opening weekends for truly terrilbe films... you did that.  And so you shouldn't be remotely surprised to learn that film critics hate you.

But you might be surprised to actually read that in print.  I was.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Udo Kier and a plate of weiners after another amazing Alamo Drafthouse event</p>

Udo Kier and a plate of weiners after another amazing Alamo Drafthouse event

Credit: Alamo Drafthouse/Austin Chronicle

The true story of the single best piece of mail of 2009

An old-school single disc DVD delight drops on my doorstep

When I get mail, it's not just a matter of an envelope or a package being dropped off.  Ohhhhh, no.  Not in Casa De McWeeny.

No, in my house, every time the doorbell rings, it's an event.  And since it's Northridge we live in now, it's appropriate that a seismic level of activity erupts at the idea of "SOMEONE'S AT THE DOOR! SOMEONE'S AT THE DOOR! SOMEONE'S AT THE DOOR!"  I go with them, I sign for whatever it is, and then I give it to Toshi and his little brother so they can deliver it to me back in my office.  I have to go sit down and wait for them to bring it to me.  Toshi in front, actually carrying the delivery, and then baby brother Allen following close behind, pointing at the delivery and his older brother and screeching, over and over, to get my attention.  And honestly, I love it.  Everyone should have their mail delivered like this.

In this case, it was just a simple yellow envelope that they brought in.  Nothing elaborate.  Not a big package.  But inside... oh, man.

I'm a big fan of the "42nd Street Forever" DVDs that Synapse Films has been releasing for the last few years.  In fact, I reviewed volume 4 in the series just about a week after starting this blog here at HitFix.  And it's sort of funny, looking back at that review now, to see how I referred to Tim League and the Alamo Drafthouse when talking about why I love exploitation trailers.

Seems like Synapse's Don May decided to go straight to the tap for this latest release, because when I opened the envelope, I was delighted to see that volume 5 is called "Alamo Drafthouse Cinema."  It's got commentary by Tim League, Zack Carlson, and Lars Nilsen, and it's even got a 30-minute documentary about the theater called, unsurprisingly, "Remember The Alamo."

But mainly, it's got trailers.

And this is where the Alamo Drafthouse really shines.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Paul Reubens is bringing his iconic character back to life for a series of live shows in Los Angeles this November</p>

Paul Reubens is bringing his iconic character back to life for a series of live shows in Los Angeles this November

TMR: Rudd and Segal bromance on Blu, 'Lost' goes viral, and Pee-Wee returns

Plus a new DERRICK Comedy "Mystery Team" short

Welcome to The Morning Read.

As I watch the DVD that arrived in the single best piece of mail of 2009 (more on that later today), let's see if I can put together a quick Morning Read.  There's a lot of other work I'd like to get to today, so this won't be a long one.  And I'm feeling great this morning after managing to buy amazing seats for "The Pee Wee Herman Show" live in LA on November 22nd.  Seeing Paul Reubens perform the character again for the first time in years would be great even if it were a movie or a brief TV appearance.  But seeing him bring the Playhouse to life onstage at the Henry Fonda Music Box Theater?  And being able to take Toshi and my wife with me?  Holy cow, it's going to be an amazing holiday treat for us.  Can't wait.

There are a number of DVDs and BluRays hitting the shelves today, including "I Love You, Man," the Paul Rudd/Jason Segal movie from earlier this year.  "17 Again" is also out today, and the film's more charming than it should be, thanks in large part to the cast.  Leslie Mann impresses away from Apatow just as much as with him, and Zac Ephron's not going away any time soon, fanboys.  2008's Cannes winner "The Class" arrives today, an uncompromising and intense look at a year in the life of a teacher in France's public school system.  Another in the 742 twee little indie romances that Zooey Deschanel has starred in over the last year comes out today, "Gigantic," also featuring Paul Dano.  "Alien Trespass" is one of the three films I hosted a panel for on the Sunday of Comic Con, and it's a charming little nod to the SF alien invasion films of the '50s, written and directed by R.W. Goodwin, one of the guys who played a major creative role in "The X-Files" for most of its run, and starring Eric "Will & Grace" McCormack, who hits every right note with his performance.  It's a decent day for BluRay catalog titles today, with things like "Blue Thunder," "The Ninth Gate," "Starman," "Bad Boy Bubby," "St. Elmo's Fire," "About Last Night," "Cutthroat Island," and a four-disc box of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movies all coming out at once.

[more after the jump]

RT @jimgaffigan My wife and I have an open door policy. If one of our kids has a nightmare, they are free to come in our room and pee in our bed.

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