It’s official: Brad Bird will direct 1906.

One year ago, I mentioned that Brad Bird — the Oscar-winning director of The Iron Giant (1999), The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007) — was thinking of making his live-action debut, and Pixar’s, with a movie about the San Francisco earthquake called 1906. Today, the Hollywood Reporter says the movie is a go — and it will be co-produced by Disney/Pixar and Warner Brothers:

The story centers on a college student who begins to investigate the murder of his father, uncovering a web of deceit that has left the city vulnerable to the sort of fire that breaks out when the Great Earthquake of 1906 hits San Francisco.

The historical San Francisco earthquake (or at least its aftermath) was one of the first major natural disasters to be caught on film; the video below shows footage that was taken from a streetcar shortly before and after the earthquake took place:

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A dramatization of the earthquake also formed the special-effects centrepiece of the Clark Gable movie San Francisco (1936) — produced only 30 years after the real thing (reportedly, survivors of the earthquake got sick and left the theatre during this sequence):

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The slightly earlier film Frisco Jenny (1932) concerns a survivor who goes on to live in a “bawdy house”, and reportedly has an impressive special-effects sequence of its own, too.

Harry Potter — seven books, eight movies

After months of rumours, the news became official today: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be divided into two movies. So the seven-book franchise will now be an eight-movie franchise, with the final installment arriving in theatres in May 2011, only six months before the 10th anniversary of the first movie — and only six or seven months before the currently anticipated release date of The Hobbit, which would be distributed by the same studio, assuming it gets made at all. The Los Angeles Times says the filmmakers won’t bother to come up with an eighth subject for the eighth title, and will instead call the two films, simply, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. Oh, and director David Yates, who took the reins of the franchise with last year’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, will be seeing it through to the end.

Wall-E — the third trailer is now up!

Click here for the newest trailer for Pixar’s WALL-E. The graphics look fantastic, of course, but the story — more of which is revealed here than in any previous trailer — remains something of a mystery.

Incidentally, the bit with the bra reminds me of something I read in Entertainment Weekly — way, way back in 1992 — about the making of Disney’s Aladdin, and the improv that Robin Williams did there:

Williams was especially fertile extemporizing as still another character, the narrator whose comic sales pitch (“Look combination hookah and coffeemaker!”) opens the movie. “We brought Robin in, pulled the sheet off a bunch of props and let him go to town,” says Goldberg. Sometimes he went a few towns too far. “He pulls up a bra and comes out with, ‘Look at this, a double slingshot!’ Then he looks at it kind of pensively and says, ‘I should have called her.’ We almost used it.”

One wonders if that would have been going “too far” nowadays!

MAR 13 UPDATE: Jim Hill looks at how this trailer downplays “the more controversial aspects” of the movie’s “social satire”.

MAR 14 UPDATE: Chris Thilk finds “Judeo-Christian overtones” in this trailer that, I must admit, never occurred to me — though I have previously noted the character named EVE and the implicitly spiritual, even theological, distinction made in an earlier trailer between what WALL-E was “built” for and what he was “meant” for.

Yet another movie not screened for critics.

My sources tell me that Doomsday — the latest film from Neil Marshall, writer-director of The Descent (2005) — will be opening this Friday without being screened for critics in advance. That would seem to be backed up by the fact that there are currently no reviews of the film at Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes, both of which would usually have something to link to by now.

Doug TenNapel gets another movie deal

Last year, I mentioned that Doug TenNapel — animator, comic-book artist, video-game creator and occasional collaborator with one of my favorite musicians of all time, Terry Scott Taylor — had sold the film rights to his graphic novel Creature Tech to Regency Enterprises and 20th Century Fox a few years earlier. Now, Variety reports that Paramount Pictures and Sam Raimi’s Buckaroo Entertainment have acquired the film rights to his next graphic novel, Monster Zoo, which is about “a young boy who discovers his local zoo contains critters much more frightening than the ordinary collection.” The book comes out April 25.

Pro-lifers crash the Horton premiere?

This is for those who thought pro-lifers were going out on a limb by trying to claim Juno and Knocked Up as their own:

A kid-friendly movie doesn’t need to be “Harry Potter” to draw protesters.

At least that’s the lesson from the “Horton Hears a Who” premiere.

Ove the years, the signature line from Fox’s upcoming “Horton” has been used — to the anger and dismay of Theodore Geisel, or Dr. Seuss — as a rallying cry for the pro-life movement. The line, “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” has been adopted by right-to-lifers as a kind of slogan — even though in the context of the book it has nothing to do with abortion, and Geisel even threatened to sue over its use.

Fox’s Saturday’s premiere at Westwood’s Mann Village for its Blue Sky-produced “Horton” showed that the phrase continues to generate controversy, and offered the odd spectacle of a politically charged moment at a family-friendly affair.

A small group of pro-life protesters, some with red tape over their mouths, turned out to the event, chanting the “A person’s a person” line (in the the book it refers not to a child but to a speck of dust that contrains a micro-universe on the back of Horton, the elephant main character). . . .

People were chanting through red tape?

In any case, just imagine how things might have gone if this film had been an adaptation of Horton Hatches the Egg (1942).