Thursday, April 01, 2010

Just about the best news animation fans could possibly hope for

Actually, before we get into any of that goodness today, there's some very dark news about the world of TV, which directly impacts the show I was most amped about for the entire coming year (which is, when you think about it, just about the least important thing about this.)

David Mills, who worked closely with David Simon and like Simon was a former newspaper reporter (Mills for the Washington Post and Simon for the Baltimore Sun), died Tuesday night of an aneurysm on the set of "Treme," the post-Katrina New Orleans series he was developing with Simon for HBO (set to debut two Sundays from now, assuming this news doesn't change that.)

Once he crossed over into TV, Mills, like Simon, had a big hand in creating some of the best TV shows of the last 20 years or so. And I'm very far from exaggerating here. He wrote episodes of "The Wire," "Homicide: Life on the Street, "ER" and "NYPD Blue," and also served as a producer for "ER" and "NYPD Blue." His greatest accomplishment, however, was probably serving as executive producer and co-writer along with Simon and Ed Burns for the simply stunning HBO miniseries "The Corner," easily the most depressing thing to come out of Baltimore besides the Orioles, but still very worth watching (and which netted him two Emmys.)

And saddest of all is that he played a key role in "Treme" at the time of his death, serving as executive producer and having already written two episodes. I'm still planning to re-up on HBO in time for the premiere of this and long enough to watch "True Blood" season 3, but this is just a sad day all around indeed. Rest in peace, Mr. Mills.

You can read a much better obituary for the man written by his fellow "Treme" creators here.

OK, enough sad stuff, because for fans of great animation, there's news out there that is nothing short of incredible. Stop-motion master Henry Selick made my favorite animated movie of 2009 in "Coraline" (followed closely by "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.") Shortly after that, however, he was left immediately unemployed after the animation house he toiled for, Laika, closed up shop.

Now, however, that's all changed, and in the best possible way. Selick has just signed a long-term deal to create more stop-motion movies for Disney/Pixar. There's no word yet on exactly what he has in mind first, but I'm betting that anything that springs from his very active mind will be nothing short of amazing.

Remember that it was Selick not, as many people mistakenly think, Tim Burton, who directed "The Nightmare Before Christmas," and he also made the even better Roald Dahl adaptation "James and the Giant Peach" (if you missed that, as many people did, rent it immediately.) And beyond giving him work to do, this welcome move hopefully shows that, despite Pixar's current fixation with 3-D, it and Disney will keep being committed to making all kinds of animated movies.

And finally today, I just got around to examining the lineup for the 2010 edition of the Atlanta Film Festival 365 (for which I'm somehow a member of the press), and it looks great. The Atlanta fest is really homegrown, featuring a lot of regional fare and, this year, a focus on civil rights and music documentaries. I'm incredibly psyched that included in the latter category will be the closing night movie, "The Secret to a Happy Ending," a doco about my favorite rock band by far, the Drive-By Truckers (followed, apparently, by most of the band playing for a party that I WILL get in to.)

But the festival has narrative features too, of course, and I think the one I'm most looking forward to is "The Good Heart." It stars two of my favorite actors in Brian Cox and Paul Dano. Cox plays the owner of a New York dive bar who is slowly drinking and smoking himself to death until he meets Dano's character, a young homeless man who he takes under his wing. I don't know much more than that, but it's enough to get me rather amped for this. Here's the first clip I know of for the movie. Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

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