Animated Shorts - The Mother of all "Action Drama"

The Mother of all "Action Drama"

Jennifer Pertsch writer is supposed to be on maternity leave. The Emmy-award winning writer is a devoted mother of two, ages two and two months, and is taking a short break to talk with us about her Cartoon Network series Total Drama Island/Action. The kids are with their grandmother, so that gives Pertsch a free moment to talk about her other extended family, the cast of the animated series.

“I created all of them!” the co-creator/executive producer exclaims. “After all, my background is the writing. In a way they are also like family.”

 “Bridgette is probably the most like me," she continues. "She’s the girl I’d love to be; a tall, pretty California girl. That doesn’t quite describe me, but I can dream. I’m not Beth either, but I love her too! I love writing for Duncan. Gwen is also really fun. Owen is super fun, and is an obvious target of my love. Actually, Chef is also a favorite. I love doing him. Courtney was based on Reese Witherspoon’s character on Election. LaShawna is a great character, as is Harold.”

Pertsch has another great passion, reality programs.

“Considering I watched two hours of The Bachelorette on Monday, then an hour of another one, I guess you can say I kind of like them,” Pertsch giggles. “I’m a bit of a sucker for them. Not all of them. Some go way too far, like Rock of Love. I don’t watch those. Anna Nicole was like watching a train wreck, but I do love The Bachelorette.”

Like their creators, animation fans have learned to love the Total Drama characters. It's turned into one of the cornerstones of Cartoon Network’s Har Har Thursday block. The latest incarnation, Total Drama Action, is taking off like a rocket. Its debut, last Thursday, virtually doubled the number of CN’s viewers when compared to the previous week’s numbers.

Pertsch, whose work includes hit and/or award-winning shows like Rollie Polly Ollie, translating the original Yu-Gi-Oh series, My Dad Is A Rock Star and 6Teen found just how popular the show her own way.

“I went down to Florida for a little bit recently,” said the proud Canadian. “It seemed every time I turned on Cartoon Network an episode was on or I saw it being advertised or something. That was a great experience. Then again, I watch my favorite movies many times, so I understand.”

What Pertsch also understands is reality shows are perfect fodder for animated satire.

“They are now a worldwide phenomenon and I’m just enchanted with them,” says Pertsch. “I know some people compare them to watching train wrecks, but I like the human drama of them. I also get the opportunity to laugh.

“I just think we realized there was something there. Wouldn’t it be fun to lampoon them, and because we’re in animation we can take it to levels that are even more ridiculous than they already are. We can do ridiculous challenges that would just be impossible any other way. We can also take the drama and just amp it up.”

Not that Pertsch does it all alone. She is more than ready to share credit with her colleagues at the Toronto-based studio, Fresh TV.

“We just have a great studio. We have collected some of the most experienced artists in Canada,” says Pertsch. “Our shows definitely have a look. That’s because we aim for the same target audience. We want to make it look really cool to them. [Directors] Todd Kaufman and Mark Thornton are absolutely brilliant. They just put their heart and souls into it. The color palette, character design, it came from the same place.”

What didn’t come from the same place is the inspiration for TDI’s sequel, Total Drama Action. As it turns out, Japanese humiliation shows aren’t its only inspiration.

“We didn’t have the Japanese humiliation shows in our heads when we started Total Drama Action,” she said. “Although when we got into it, they did provide inspiration. We just wanted to get off the island and lampoon something different; take it to the next level. We just looked inward, thought of the movie industry and thought that would be great. There are so many different genres, and we can come up with a new platform for each one. As soon as one of us said it, all of us said that’s it.”

The Fresh crew pick a wide and varied group of films to point their animated brushes at. The opening episode did some serious damage to the Godzilla films. As for future episodes?

“There is a disaster movie one,” says Pertsch. “One’s called ‘Beach Blanket Bogus.’ Our writers had so much fun with the titles! We have ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo,’ ‘Full Metal Drama,’ ‘2008: A Space Owen.’ My favorite though is ‘The Chef-Shank Redemption.’ That should give you some clues.”

From there, Pertsch keeps the humor “Fresh” by allowing the voice actors to improv whenever the appropriate situation arises.

“The guy who plays Harold is a stand-up comedian,” she notes. “We used a lot of improv actors for this series. The girl who played Izzy is one of my favorites. The girl who plays her, Katie Crown, is really funny. We let her improv a lot. With her, we just give her the situation and then just record. In fact, my favorite character has to be Izzy!”

At least for this moment.

VIZ LAUNCHES OWN NETWORK

Viz Media announced it is launching its own channel in the new Anime category on the PlayStation Networks video delivery service. It will initially comprise of three of the distributor’s best known shows in North America: Bleach, Death Note and Naruto. The episodes are available for $1.99 each via the Network’s new Viz Media Channel page.

Naruto Uncut is launching with 13 episodes, Bleach will debut with 20 installments and Death Note will be available immediately with its entire 37 episodes. Episodes will be English dubbed and presented in Standard Definition.

Naruto, Bleach and Death Note are compelling additions to the Playstation Network and an ideal complement to the dynamic library of content, games and applications available for the PS3 and PSP,” says Ken Sasaki, Vice President of Strategy & Business Development, VIZ Media. “Together, these series have set a new standard for anime throughout the world and the ease of download, combined with portability and interoperability between many media devices, will allow fans to watch their favorite ninjas in training, Soul Reapers and Shinigami Death Gods whether at home or on the go, wherever and however they want.”

LA FILM FEST PUTS ANIMATION IN THE FORE FRONT

Animation, comics, graphic novels, and anime will take center stage at Film Independent’s 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival. This year’s festival, held June 18-28, will feature a wide variety of options for graphic arts fans, highlighted by the US debut of the award winning animated feature Ponyo, written and directed by world master animation director Hayao Miyazaki.

 Attendees will also have the opportunity to view a diverse selection of animated shorts and music videos from around the world. Titles include “The Cable Car, Western Spaghetti,” and the critically acclaimed “Skhizein,” directed by Jérémy Clapin and recent recipient of the Audience Prize and a Jury Special Mention at this year’s Stuttgart Trickfilm Festival.

In addition, comic book and graphic novel fans alike can attend a special discussion about Hollywood’s latest fascination with these mediums. Industry insiders, including Zak Penn and Barry Levine will lead a panel discussion about the creative challenge of adapting works such as 300, Wanted and Sin City to the big screen.

Attached are the Festival’s full line-up and programming details:

FEATURE

•  Ponyo

-    Director: Hayao Miyazaki

-    Directors - English Voice Talent: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis, Peter Sohn

-    Writer - English Version: Melissa Mathison

-    English Voice Cast: Cate Blanchett, Noah Cyrus, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas, Cloris Leachman, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, Betty White)

From Academy Award-winning and world-renowned Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki comes Ponyo, a story inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Little Mermaid.” It tells the story of Ponyo, a young over eager goldfish on a quest to become human who is befriended by a young boy named Sosuke.

 SHORT FILMS

•    “Billís Vistors.” Directed by Simon Deshon. England

•    “The Cable Car” Directed by Claudius Gentinetta, Frank Braun.. Switzerland

•    “Codswallop.” Directed by The Brothers McLeod. England

•    “I Live in the Woods.” Directed by Max Winston. USA

•    “Photograph of Jesus.” Directed by Laurie Hill. England

•    “Rains (Líondée)”. Directed by David Coquard-Dassault. Canada

•    “The Royal Nightmare.” Directed by Alex Budosky. USA

•    “Skhizein.” Directed by Jérémy Clapin. France

•    “Stand Up.” Directed by Joseph Pierce. England

•    “Western Spaghetti.” Directed by PES. USA

MUSIC VIDEOS

•    21st Century Life: Sam Sparro. Directed by Mariah Garnett

•    Her Morning Elegance: Oren Lavie. Directed by Oren Lavie, Yuval & Merav Nathan

•    Fortress: Pinback. Directed by Elliot Jokelson

•    Grapevine Fires: Death Cab for Cutie. Directed by Walter Robot

•    Mykonos: Fleet Foxes. Directed by Sean Pecknold

•    Ruler of Everything: Tally Hall. Directed by Sean Donnelly

•    Who's Gonna Save my Soul: Gnarls Barkley. Directed by Chris Milk

PANEL DISCUSSIONS

Graphic Explosion – Adaptations of comic books and graphic novels have proliferated in recent years, and it’s not all superheroes: Sin City, 300, Wanted and Persepolis all came from graphic novels. A group of filmmakers, artists, writers, and fans explore Hollywood’s fascination with the medium and the creative challenges of translating them to the screen. Panelists include Zak Penn and Barry Levine.

Many of the screeningss are free. For more info, check out the website: www.lafilmfest.com.

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