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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Blast from the past: Retro cartoons getting live-action treatment

Posted: 05 May 2014 03:25 AM PDT

Classic children's television shows are making a comeback in a big way, and on the big screen, too!

It cannot be denied that when it comes to pop culture, the 1980s and early 1990s got a few things wrong. From atrocious hairstyles to cringe-worthy fashion sense, there are a few embarrassing things about 'em eras that we would rather not bring to light.

Not now, not ever.

However, the age of mullets and thick shoulder pads were not all bad because there were some pretty good things that went on back then that are still deemed cool today – like music, movies and cartoons.

In fact, cartoons were so good "back in the day" that the people who watched them as kids grew up to become some of the most awesome people on Earth ... To prove this, movie producers are banking their millions on some of these good ol' retro cartoons.

Since these cartoons already have a solid fan base (made up of people already in their 30s and 40s, but who cares?), it is pretty easy to market them as movies in today's age. Just look at the Transformers and G.I. Joe franchises which respectively made over US$2.6bil (RM8.3bil) and US$650mil (RM2bil) worldwide. Hey, I just said they were awesome, not Oscar-worthy!

Joining the likes of these two much-loved cartoons and a slew of other animated series getting the live-action and big screen treatment are Jem And The Holograms, Captain Planet And The Planeteers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Voltron.

Jem And The Holograms

This is a cartoon about an average girl who leads a secret life as a popular singer. Yes, Jerrica Benton was the original Hannah Montana way before Miley Cyrus was born ... heck, long before Miley's father was even famous!

Jerrica's alter-ego Jem, her sister Kimber and friends Aja and Shana make up Jem And The Holograms, a highly successful pop group that sings hit songs and look perfect at every turn with pink hair and wild makeup. They have rivals in the forms of The Misfits and The Stingers who sometimes, honestly, have catchier tunes.

It was recently announced that Nashville actress Aubrey Peeples has been cast as the lead, Jem/Jerrica, while Stefanie Scott will play Kimber, Aurora Perrineau as Shana, Hayley Kiyoko Aja and Ryan Guzman as Rio.

You know what would be funny? If Jem And The Holograms, The Misfits and The Stingers join a dying talent show, namely American Idol, and one of them puts on a performance so bad that the show is cancelled, once and for all.

Captain Planet And The Planeteers

Gaia, the spirit of the planet, sends five magic rings (four with the power to control nature and one controlling the element of "heart"), to five chosen youths: Kwame from Africa, Wheeler from North America, Linka from the Eastern Europe, Gi from Asia, and Ma-Ti from South America.

And when these Planeteers' powers combine, Captain Planet and his perfectly coiffed green hair make an appearance to defend the planet from eco-villains.

Rumour has it that Sony Pictures is in final negotiations to get the rights for the movie adaptation of the 1990s cartoon. which will be produced by Mark Gordon and Don Murphy. Maybe they should include a scene in which Captain Planet shows up every time someone doesn't flush the toilet and scare the living crap out of them (pun intended).

The power is yours: Captain Planet wants you to do your bit to save the world.

The power is yours!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Forget the fact that they look more like tortoises than turtles but Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello are undeniably four of the most popular talking, walking and crime-fighting sea creatures in the world.

The upcoming movie, based on the super hit cartoon series of the same name, is directed by Jonathan Liebesman and featuring the "acting talent" of Megan Fox as well as Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard and Noel Fisher.

The vigilante turtles and their reporter friend/driver/confidante April (Fox) run around New York City trying to keep the world safe from the hands of villain Shredder. Although a live-action movie was already made in 2007, it didn't garner as much love and attention (and more important, money) as the producers would have liked.

I wonder if they can do a short piece on the Ninja Turtles and April visiting our local markets to catch vendors selling turtle eggs? (It is ILLEGAL to sell or purchase turtle eggs for consumption, BTW.)

Turtle power: The pizza-loving turtles are ready to kick some evil butts.

Turtle power: The pizza-loving turtles are ready to kick some evil butts.


Do you know what is better than the Transformers? It's Voltron. There, I said it.

This 1984 cartoon features a team of space explorers that travels in robot lions (don't laugh) that join together to form a giant robot which is pretty much indestructible. There were several versions of the Voltron cartoon, each with crazier storyline than before but hey, it was still as awesome as heck.

It took forever for the Hollywood folks to finally decide to create a live-action movie version, which hopefully will hit the big screen this year.

There really isn't much information about this movie yet but they better come up with something after teasing the fans for so many years. If it's the storyline that they still can't figure out, maybe it can just be a movie about how Voltron kicks the living lights out of Transformers and everyone lives happily ever after?

Voltron: Defender of the Universe

Voltron: Defender Of The Universe

TV's 'Hot In Cleveland' gets hotter

Posted: 05 May 2014 01:50 AM PDT

The popular sitcom featuring Betty White is renewed for another season.

TV Land has delivered an early renewal to comedy Hot In Cleveland for a sixth season. The show broke the news on its official Facebook page along with a photo of the cast celebrating.

The renewal arrives as the series is currently airing its fifth season in the US, which began in March, and shows that its ratings thus far has given TV Land the confidence of renewing it this early in the season.

The comedy follows three has-been entertainment industry veterans, played by Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick, who move from Los Angeles to Cleveland, Ohio, where they end up leasing a home with its caretaker, played by Betty White.

Created by Suzanne Martin, Hot In Cleveland is executive-produced by Martin, Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner, through their production companies SamJen Productions and Hazy Mills Productions. The concept behind the show is based on an original idea by Lynda Obst, who serves as executive producer. — Reuters

Uncertain future for animal wranglers in the entertainment industry

Posted: 04 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Animal wranglers adding themselves to endangered species list.

Animal wrangler Jim Brockett stands a few yards away from Arrow, like a director studying his actor.

The African augur hawk latches his yellow talons onto what looks like a severed finger – actually a piece of foam – and swoops into the air before landing on the gauntlet of a falconer (who promptly rewards him with a thawed chick stashed in a leather pouch).

"He's got the finger part down," says Brockett, who's helping train Arrow for a macabre scene in the crime drama Bones.

Brockett, 70, and his wife, Gina, are owners of Brocketts Film Fauna Inc in Thousand Oaks, California in the United States. They have been supplying hawks, bobcats, alligators, snakes, spiders, lizards and various other critters to the entertainment industry for more than three decades, operating out of a secluded five-acre ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains.

An Emperor scorpion is shown in August 2013 at Brocketts Film Fauna in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Animal wranglers who provide animals for entertainment productions such as television and film, like Brocketts, face tougher regulations on treatment of animals on set. (Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

An Emperor Scorpion at Brocketts Film Fauna.

The Brocketts and their animals have made regular appearances on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, numerous crime dramas including True Blood and CSI: NY, and movies such as Terminator III and We Bought A Zoo.

But they've grown increasingly uncertain about the future of their business.

"We're not going to be doing it that much longer," Gina Brockett says. "It's going to go away."

Animal trainers and wranglers, those who transport horses and other animals to sets, have been fixtures of the motion picture industry since the dawn of Hollywood. But many veterans in Southern California view themselves as an endangered species in their own right.

They cite the growing use of digital effects, the flight of film work from Southern California, as well as mounting pressure from animal rights groups.

The use of animals in film and television productions has become increasingly controversial. HBO in 2012 shut down production of its drama Luck after three horses died during production.

The horse deaths renewed debate in the industry about the use of animals on film sets and the role of the American Humane Association, the group charged with safeguarding the welfare of animals in entertainment.

Tippi Hedren, the actress and animal rights activist best known for her role in The Birds, in 2012 lobbied for a bill that would outlaw the private breeding and possession of exotic cats except at highly qualified facilities, such as accredited zoos. Similar measures have been proposed for bears and primates but have been resisted by the circus industry.

Although none have been approved by Congress, animal wranglers like Jim Brockett view them as a threat to their livelihood. He and his peers contend that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) and other groups pressure filmmakers to avoid using live animals on sets, and constantly lobby federal and state agencies to impose costly rules aimed at driving them out of business.

"I would have to say they are not wrong," says Peta spokeswoman Lisa Lange. "We'd like to see them pursue other careers. We do want to see a complete end to the use of wild animals in film and television, and we're getting there."

Brockett's face tightens when the subject turns to animal rights activists who criticise his trade. He insists the film and television industry has helped to educate the public about the animals the activists think they're protecting.

"No one would care about dolphins," he says, "if there wasn't a TV show like Flipper."

Going green

Some animal trainers have found novel ways to adapt to the digital revolution.

A company called GreenScreen Animals of Santa Monica, California, has found a lucrative niche supplying stock footage, shooting video of wolves, lions, bears and other big-game animals on a giant green screen stage, which can then be rendered as a forest, mountain, parking lot or school crosswalk.

"Animals never go out of fashion," GreenScreen co-owner Mark Shockley told the Los Angeles Times last year. "Our footage is only going to grow in value."

Brockett has his doubts.

An albino cobra from Thailand (left) and a lynx at Brocketts Film Fauna.

"That's the last time your elephant or wolf is going to go to work," he says, "because at that point they have everything they need on a green screen."

As a truck drives by the ranch, a low, throaty growl emanates from a concrete pond, where a group of alligators lounge in swampy green water.

"Hear that noise?" Brockett says. "It's an alligator bellowing. He thinks the truck is another alligator."

Brockett keeps as many as 30 alligators. "Our alligators do all the Lubriderm commercials."

Brocketts Film Fauna charges by the day to rent its animals for film crews. Chickens cost about US$200 (RM650) a day, while a large alligator or king cobra snake would cost US$1,500 (RM4,900).

But it costs as much as US$15,000 (RM49,000) a month to feed the animals, whether it's kibble for alligators, beef-based food for bobcats, and rats and mice for the snakes. There's also an additional US$8,000 (RM26,000) a year to truck in sufficient water.

Last year the company had 30 jobs in one month alone. But the orders aren't as large as they used to be, and business is down as much as 40% from 15 years ago, Brockett says.

Teamsters Local 399 has seen at least a 50% drop in the number of animal wranglers over the last decade, says Ed Duffy, the union's business agent.

"These trainers have spent years working with their animals and teaching them what is necessary to perform in front of the camera," Duffy says. "They are really fighting for jobs right now."

About 20 trainers have left the business or retired in the last three years because there wasn't enough work to go around, Duffy says. The union now has 90 trainers and 21 wranglers, most of whom live in Southern California.

"Long-term it just gets harder and harder to do this stuff," Brockett says. 

"Gina and I are probably going to retire next year." — Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services


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