Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

It’s Miller time for ‘Big Hero 6′

One of the big surprises of what’s turning out to be a very mundane Christmas film season is “Big Hero 6.” The animated Disney film has already taken in more than $170 million at the box office in the United States and another $60 million around the world.

The film’s worthy of such attention from its stunning visuals to a strong voice cast that includes Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, Jamie Chung, Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter and T.J. Miller.

It’s interesting Miller plays the most laid back member of the team as he brings the most energy to the interview to discuss the movie. If the Denver native – whose past work includes “How to Train Your Dragon,” “She’s Out of My League” and “Silicon Valley” – was any more excited about being part of the film, he would have needed to be sedated.

He says this kind of energy is necessary with a movie like “Big Hero 6.”

Read more

Animated shorts are a real ‘Feast’

When I was younger (and yes, there was a time when I was younger), one of the best parts of going to the movies was seeing the animated shorts. There weren’t a trillion TV channels where cartoons could be watched all the time. That made any animated short at the theaters a real treat.

That trend went away for a long time. It’s been exciting to watch the Walt Disney Studios revive the practice. The latest animated short offering from the company can be seen with the new feature film, “Big Hero 6.”

“The Feast” is the story of a scrappy dog who will eat anything put in front of him. The real story is the relationship he has with his master over the years. It’s a sweet story of love and loyalty.

Kristina Reed, producer of “The Feast,” was working on “Big Hero 6” when she got moved over to riding herd over the animated short. The biggest challenge she faced was that while Disney has been making shorts for a few years – including the Oscar winning “Paperman” – it’s a company built around making feature length movies.

“Your challenge as a short producer is you’re just running along, like this person’s free for two weeks? Great, come on to my show and do this. There’s a little animation team that has four weeks available? Come on to my show and do this,” Reed says. “You’re trying to sort of thread through and make consistent progress with random resources becoming available at random moments in time.

Read more

Star Wars Fans: THIS.

So you think you’re the biggest Star Wars fan ever? You’re not alone. Apparently, Stephen Colbert and John Stewart think they are, too.  (But they’re misguided as CLEARLY they haven’t come up against uber fan, Rick Bentley.)

Disney is offering mega fans the opportunity to be in Star Wars: Episode VII via a donation contest in support of UNICEF.

THE BASICS: Go here, donate money, and be entered to win a spot in the film. The more you donate, the more entries you get, the larger your chances of winning. 

Regardless, check out the viral vid below.  

Dane Cook gets pumped for film role

Dane CookI got to sit down with Dane Cook in Yosemite National Park a few days ago to talk with him about reprising his vocal work as Dusty for the “Planes” sequel, “Planes: Fire & Rescue.” Most of what he had to say about voice work and comedy will be the subject of a story closer to the July 18 opening.

One thing that surprised me the most was how fit the comedian looked. The other times I interviewed Cook, he looked like a typical stand-up comedian — a little out of shape and pale from no sunlight. But, this time, Cook looked like he could suit up for a football team or become an MMA fighter.

Read more

Jeff Garlin turns up the volume on ‘Goldbergs’

STANDING: JEFF GARLIN, WENDI MCLENDON-COVEY, GEORGE SEGAL;   SEATED: SEAN GIAMBRONE, HAYLEY ORRANTIA, TROY GENTILEOne of the best ways to describe Jeff Garlin is that he’s a very loud actor. A lot of roles the star of ABC’s “The Goldbergs” has landed over the years has had him deliver his lines at a very high decibel. Such demands can’t be painful.

“I actually hurt my throat years ago doing ‘WALL-E,’ when I was the captain. I worked three years on that and I blew out my vocal cords. I’ve been suffering ever since,” Garlin says. “So I have to be careful when we’re working because, even when we did the pilot of ‘The Goldbergs,’ I had one scene, it’s like, ‘Oh, no. It’s gone.’ But my doctor Shawn Nasseri, my voice doctor rescued me.

“But I’ve had problems for years now. But I’m good.”

Despite his vocal fears, Garlin continues to provide a loud element to the ABC comedy. As to why his character has to be so loud, Garlin offers, “Did you ever watch ‘Seinfeld’? Very funny. Yelling is good. Yelling is funny. When it becomes annoying, I’ll stop, and I’ll be the first to notice. Until then I’m going to yell.”

Annette Funicello was a special person

ANETTE FUNICELLO   FRANKIE AVALONThose of you old enough to remember the original “Mickey Mouse Club” — and I’m not talking about the lame remake in the late ‘70s with Britney Spears — know that of all the child actors on the weekday show, it was Annette Funicello who became the biggest star. She was certainly my favorite Mouseketeer.

About 22 years ago, when I was working as the TV writer for the Bakersfield newspaper, rumors began to circulate that Funicello and her husband, Glen Holt, were living just outside of town on a horse ranch. I wrote a column saying how big a fan I was and that maybe someday I would run into her at a local store.

Read more

China Girl proves great, powerful in ‘Oz’

056_BV0110_cdl_v1217.1048It’s always funny how minor characters can become so popular. Ask someone who has seen “Despicable Me” and they will talk more about the Minions than anything else.

In the case of “Oz the Great and Powerful,” the breakout supporting player should have been Finley, the flying monkey voiced by Zack Braff. It’s a cute character. But the supporting player who steals most scenes is the China Girl. She’s the most interesting film character made of porcelain since Chip from “Beauty and the Beast.”

Read more

Michelle Williams gets ‘good’ role

OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFULIf you are trying to understand where the new feature “Oz the Great and Powerful” comes in the lengthy mythology of the Emerald City, you’ll see when the movie opens March 8 that the events are suppose to have taken place several years before Dorothy Gale was swept away by a tornado as depicted in the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz.”

It’s how a carnival magician became the Wizard, who in Oz is a good witch and who is a bad witch and the background of the flying monkeys.

Read more

Yay or Nay: ‘Star Wars: Episode VII?’

In blockbuster entertainment news today, Disney is buying Lucasfilm for $4 billion and plans to release a new “Star Wars” film in 2015.

From Disney’s announcement:

This gives Disney infinite inspiration and opportunities to continue the epic Star Wars saga. Fans can expect a new feature film, Star Wars Episode 7, in theaters worldwide in 2015. George Lucas will serve as creative consultant on the film and Kathleen Kennedy, the filmmaker George handpicked to lead Star WarsIndiana Jones and the rest of Lucasfilm into the future will be the executive producer (she’s also joining Disney as president of Lucasfilm). With this many characters to develop and stories to tell, Disney plans to release a new Star Wars feature film every two or three years for the foreseeable future.

This news has triggered a variety of reactions. From the “Star Wars” diehards who think anything past the original trilogy is blasphemous to the Disney junkies who think “Star Wars” could use that magical Disney touch. And, of course, plenty of funny. Here’s a HuffPo gallery of comical tweets.

We welcome your reaction in the comments, while Mike and Kathy debate whether this news is exciting or disheartening for “Star Wars” lovers.

Read more

Atticus Shaffer needed sound advice

Thumbnail image for atticus.bmpIt struck me as being a little odd when director Tim Burton told me that part of his coaching of Atticus Shaffer to find the right voice for his character of Edgar “E” Gore in the animated film “Frankenweenie” was to sound like Peter Lorre.

Peter Lorre? A lot of people remember the talented actor from his TV and film roles from the ’30s to the ’60s. But, Lorre died in 1964, that’s 34 years before Atticus, who you probably know from his role as Brick on “The Middle,” was born. There was a time when every impersonator did Lorre’s voice but that was decades ago.

It seems that as soon as Burton mentioned Lorre, Atticus jumped at the chance to do an impersonation but needed some help.

“During the audition process — that took about a year — they said he’s sort of like the Igor character and so I knew his mannerisms. In the second or third audition, they said if possible, do a Peter Lorre impression. My mom, being the good home school mom that she is, she went off and rented ‘The Maltese Falcon.’ We already had ‘Casablanca’,” Atticus says. “I just sat down and studied his voice and his emotions.”

Thumbnail image for photo (12).JPG

The 14-year-old Atticus was delighted to get to do the impersonation because although he’s been acting for five years, no role has called for him to use anything but his own voice. This is also the first time Atticus has been a voice in an animated film. He loved the process because the first recording sessions were only a few feet away from the studio where he shots “The Middle” and the rest were done on breaks from shooting the ABC comedy.

For those of you too young to remember Peter Lorre or just want to hear the voice work Atticus did for “Frankenweenie,” the film opens Oct. 5.

Wilmer Valderrama hits TV triple play

valderrama.JPG Wilmer Valderrama’s recent guest appearance on “Are You There, Chelsea?” put him in a rare TV position. It meant that he was one of the few actors working in a comedy, drama and animated series at the same time.

Along with the “Chelsea” appearance, Valderrama is in the cast of NBC’s “Awake” and is the voice of Manny in the children’s cartoon series “Handy Manny.”
The “Chelsea” appearance also reunited him with “That ’70s Show” co-star Laura Prepon.

“Laura and Tom Werner gave me a little call, and they said, ‘There’s something really funny for you to do there.’ And I thought it would be fun to be on the same network and stay in the same family. I’ve been very proud of everything everyone in the ”70s Show’ cast has done,” Valderrama says. “We’ve all made some really fun, interesting choices, challenging choices for ourselves and our careers.”

Valderrama’s happy to be on “Awake” because he feels like it’s pushing him as an actor. The series is about a police detective living two lives – one while he’s awake, the other while he sleeps. He doesn’t know which is real.

He liked working on “Chelsea” because it filmed before a studio audience.

“It was fun to relive those little moments with a live audience, but I’m even more excited about this new chapter, specifically being mentored by such incredible cast and being able to have the opportunity to play with a new family. I think that’s also very exciting to me,” Valderrama says. “After doing eight years and 200 episodes of easily the silliest character anybody could ever create, I was very excited to explore the rest of my skills, for lack of better terms.”

Entertainment this weekend


“Lunafest”: This short film series about women, by women, is being held at 7 p.m. tonight at Fresno State’s Satellite Student Union. This year’s selections range from the whimsical “A Reluctant Bride,” winner of the 2011 Audience Choice Award at the World Of Women Film Festival, to the compelling documentary “I am a Girl!,” which won the 2011 Jury Award for Best Documentary Short at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The guest speaker will be Fresno State graduate Anastasia Malone, whose mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Pixie Hollow Games,” 7 p.m. Saturday, Disney Channel: The new animated special follows Tinker Bell and her fellow fairies as they compete in an Olympic-style tournament events. The always positive Chloe is determined to inspire her team to believe in themselves and bring home the championship. The special is fun and has a good message about always doing your best.

“Beginners”: Mike Mills takes love head-on. The writer/director of “Beginners” wades into the complexity and diversity of love with this often touching, often painful story of multiple romances. “Beginners” is the story of budding relationships (between a man and a woman, a man and a man, a man and a dog) and fully mature connections, like that between a father and son. Each has its own complexities, which Mills treats with deep respect. Ewan McGregor is the perfect emotional center from which all these variations on the theme of love can radiate.

What’s your first Disney memory?

121175_1007.JPG You can almost tell a person’s age by their first Disney memory whether it be a film, TV show, stuffed animal or theme park.

Anyone who saw “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in theaters when it was first released has to be in their 80s. If they were at the opening of Disneyland, then they should be in their 60s. Those who say it was “Lion King” are probably in their 20s.

My first Disney memory is “The Mickey Mouse Club” and I’m not talking about that ’80s knockoff with Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. The one I watch featured Annette Funicello and a bunch of other young people.

Most people have such a memory. It seemed like a good time to ask some celebrities to share their first Disney memories while I was at the D23 Expo in Anaheim. Here’s what a few had to say.

Joey Lawrence, “Melissa & Joey”: “My mom and dad took me to Disney World when I was 4 years old. I rode on Space Mountain and I peed my pants. I was sitting in my mother’s lap and my dad was behind us. It hit both my mom and dad.”

Brenda Song, voice of Chloe in “Pixie Hollow Games”: “For me it was ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ That was the first movie I ever saw. I have been in love with Belle since then. She’s my Disney Princess. Not long ago, some friends and I bought costumes to wear to Disneyland. We got to the door and they wouldn’t let us in because you had to be younger than 9 to wear costumes in the park.”

Read more

Fans go goofy for Disney at D23 Expo

Thumbnail image for photo.JPG joey.JPG You could make an argument the center of the Disney empire is Disneyland, but for the past three days the focal point was a couple of blocks south. The Anaheim Convention Center became the home to anything and everything to do with the mightiest mouse in the entertainment universe. It might seem like it’s a small world after all until you have walked the convention floor 20-30 times.

Thousands of Disney fans poured into the facility for the D23 Expo. For those of you who don’t live and breathe Disney, the name of the international fan club comes from Walt Disney opening his first studios in 1923.

One person described it as Comic-Con without all the people in costumes, but there were certainly plenty of people dressed up in their favorite Disney gear. And, some of them were children.

The weekend was a chance to find out about what’s going on with the parks, vacation hot spots, television shows, movies and merchandising. There was so much merchandise that even Scrooge McDuck would have needed a loan to take home everything. Dealers had Disney stuff ranging from original art to novels full of Disney facts. Anyone with deep enough pockets could bid on special items such as one of the ships from the Peter Pan ride.

It was also a chance for fans to see some of their favorite Disney celebrities including Dick Van Dyke, Sean Astin and Wilmer Walderrama. Cast members from “Good Luck Charlie,” “So Random!,” “Kickin’ It” and “Shake It Up” also made appearances. Because Disney now owns ABC, Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence met with fans to talk about their ABC Family show “Melissa and Joey.”

If you would like more information on the fan club, go to
Here are a few photos from the three-day event.

Read more

D23 a huge Mickey Mouse event

FILM LION KING.JPG Thousands of fans of everything Disney – from rodents to rides – are expected to converge on the Anaheim Convention Center Friday-Sunday for Disney’s D23 Expo. The expo offers access to information and the people behind Disney films, television and theme parks.

The name D23 refers to 1923, the year when Walt Disney opened his studio in Hollywood. It’s the first official club for fans in Disney’s 88-year history.

The three-day event will feature special presentations about Disney, Disney XD, Disney Junior, ABC Family and ABC TV shows plus Disney Studio movies.

Some of the special guests scheduled to attend are Sean Astin, Jason Segel, Wilmer Valderrama, Willem Dafoe, Leigh-Allyn Baker, Miss Piggy, Dave Barry, China Anne McClain, Leo Howard, Coco Jones, Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Jennifer Garner and Sarah Silverman.

Expo attendees will also have access to advance screenings of a new 3D version of “The Lion King” and the upcoming ABC holiday special “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” from Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Tickets are $47 and $37 each day for general admission and $40 and $32 for D23 club members. They are available at

Disney co-opts the Double Rainbow Guy’s power, result is not so intense

I make a joke last week about the Double Rainbow Guy (aka Mariposa dude Paul Vasquez) being a sell out because he starred in a Windows commercial. After seeing this video below, though, I’m willing to forgive him and make fun of Disney instead. Apparently hoping for some viral success, Disney made a Double Rainbow-inspired web video for “Tangled,” (its upcoming Rapunzel animated movie). Too bad it’s LAAAAAAME!

Ummmm … co-opting Internet memes? Disney, you’re better than that.

RELATED: Catch Double Rainbow Guy on tonight’s Tosh.0. Here’s a preview.

Michael Sheen long familiar with ‘Peter Pan’

2358_D030_10553_jpg_rgb.JPG Michael Sheen – star of such films as “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon’ – has had a very busy year as a voice actor. First, there was the White Rabbit in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Next up is the direct-to-video release “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue” where he voices the workaholic Dr. Griffiths.

Although recording the audio for the “Tinker Bell” tale took months of work because the script continued to change, Sheen says voice work’s a great job. It’s far more appealing to him than his first go around with Peter Pan while growing up in Wales.

“When I was 14, my local youth theater did a production of ‘Peter Pan.’ I played one of the Lost Boys – the first twin,” Sheen says.

That wasn’t the hard part. When he wasn’t in a scene, Sheen would rush backstage where he would climb to the top of a tall ladder.

“I had to jump off holding a rope,” Sheen says. “My body weight would bring it down and that would make Peter Pan fly across the stage. I had a very important role.”

Sheen came to that performance not only with enough body weight to send another actor flying but a knowledge of Peter Pan initially through the Disney movie and then the book.

Concert Watch: Fuse Fest dates, the rockin’ Crest Theatre, B-52s, Fat Joe and more

Lots of concert news and tidbits to share, so let’s not waste any time.

No lineup to announce yet, but this year’s Fresno Urban Sound Experience (or Fuse Fest) is set for Oct. 2-3. Yes, that’s one day longer than last year’s initial offering. I’m also hearing that the number of venues has expanded, despite the loss of Milano. Go Fresno!


Read more