City: Shutter Plant Until Toxic Air Addressed

Brenda Goodman is a senior news writer for WebMD. Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News.

Oct. 16, 2019 — The city of Covington, GA, has called for a company to shut down its local medical sterilization plant until it can reduce its emissions of a cancer-causing gas.

In a Wednesday news release, the city said preliminary data from air pollution testing found ethylene oxide levels that were particularly high in two neighborhoods close to the BD sterilizing plant in Covington, 35 miles east of Atlanta.

œWe are grateful for BD™s presence in our city and realize the number of Covington residents that are employed at BD™s sterilization facility,” Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston says in the statement. œHowever, given the results of our independent air test, the Covington City Council and I have no choice but to ask BD to do the right thing for their employees and neighbors and temporarily cease operations at their Covington sterilization facility until additional safeguards are in place and we have data verifying the efficiency of those safeguards.”

City officials said Wednesday that letters were also sent to state and federal environmental agency officials œin an effort to gain support for the Covington community.”

In an interview Wednesday, Johnston called the results œextremely alarming.”

œWe need some help,” he said. œWe need some leaders in Georgia to stand up and help move this thing forward.”

œDuring this entire process, I™ve had so many different scientists and subject matter experts talk to me about what™s high and what™s not high, and that™s one of the frustrating things about this whole thing, is that I™m just trying to find the facts,” he said.

œMy bottom line is that I live in this community. I™m concerned. I™ve got family and kids here and all that kind of stuff. We just went through a process of trying to get some clarity on what™s really out there.”

In a statement issued late yesterday, Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) called the results œdeeply troubling” and said it would double testing frequency at the plant and œdetermine what regulatory action may be necessary for the surrounding `community™s safety.”

The agency said it is also working with Gov. Brian Kemp™s office to name an environmental task force looking at the regulation of medical sterilization companies and ethylene oxide use in Georgia.

Neighborhood Ethylene Oxide Levels

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency™s level of concern for ethylene oxide is .02 micrograms per cubic meter of air, which represents an additional cancer risk of 100 cases for every million people exposed over the course of their lifetime.

The levels of ethylene oxide measured in Covington Mill, a neighborhood that sits southwest of BD, over the 7 days of testing ranged from .6 to 15.3 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The highest level, 15.3 micrograms per cubic meter of air, taken on Sept. 22, is 765 times higher than the EPA™s safe level.

In Settler™s Grove, the closest neighborhood to the east of BD, the levels ranged from nondetectable to 13.8 micrograms per cubic meter of air, which is 690 times the EPA™s level of concern for the chemical.

Richard Peltier, PhD, an associate professor of public health at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, reviewed the air testing results for WebMD and Georgia Health News. He says the results appeared to be œpretty determinative evidence.” He says the chemical was detected in higher amounts when the wind was blowing toward the canisters that were collecting it, and lower when the wind was blowing away from them. The levels at testing sites farther from the BD facility were generally lower than those closer to it.

Shortly before Covington released its test results, BD sent out results of its own tests near the facility. Those results, which were analyzed by a company called Ramboll, showed levels near the BD facility that ranged from .3 to 10.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air from Sept. 17 through Sept. 23.

In its statement, the company said that ethylene oxide can come from many sources, including humans, and disputed the health risk.

œAccording to four prominent toxicology experts the company engaged to provide third-party insights and analysis, the results do not indicate short- or long-term health risks. These consultants also collectively caution that a week of sampling is a snapshot in time and could be misleading either positively or negatively,” the statement read.

The company had previously reported an 8-day leak at the facility, due to a valve that had accidentally been left open.

The company says it did not think the leak had affected the testing results.

œGiven the variability of the results, with many days seeing only background levels of EtO, BD does not believe the unintended release of EtO that BD voluntarily reported had any significant bearing on these results,” the statement says.

The company also presented results of testing ordered by AdvaMed, an industry group that represents medical device makers. The test results showed ethylene oxide measured in everything from charcoal fires, to car engines, to a œfreshly opened” container of sauerkraut. No details of the study methods were given.

Johnston says BD had been a good partner to the community and an important employer there. He says he hoped they would voluntarily shut down until new pollution controls could be installed.

If they don™t, he says, he has conferred with a consultant and also with the city™s attorney about next steps.

œWe are going to continue to go down every path that we possibly can go down to ensure that the city of Covington is safe for today and as we move forward into the future,” Johnston says.

In a letter sent to Johnston after the interview, BD said it would “continue operations as normal.” 

“There are absolutely no short- or long-term risks that would necessitate any reduction in operations at the site,” the letter read.

Sterilization Plants Under Pressure

Covington™s action comes shortly after another metro Atlanta medical supply sterilization plant that uses ethylene oxide was ordered to remain shut down until it meets new safety requirements from the local government.

Sterigenics, which had been installing new emission control equipment, is fighting that decision by Cobb County. The company recently decided to stop production at a suburban Chicago plant due to community outrage and legislative opposition to the use of ethylene oxide.

The two metro Atlanta sterilizing plants have been under community and political pressure since a July report from WebMD and Georgia Health News identified three metro Atlanta census tracts in federal Environmental Protection Agency data as having a higher cancer risk from air pollution, largely driven by ethylene oxide.

Two of the tracts are in Fulton County, near the Sterigenics facility. The third is in Covington.

The EPA classified the chemical as a cancer-causing substance in 2016.

Community pressure helped lead Covington officials to contract with an independent testing firm to sample the air around the BD plant.

œThis is not a decision we took lightly, but when the safety of thousands of residents and BD employees is at risk, the only prudent action is to temporarily cease operations until we can be assured the safety of our community isn™t compromised,” Johnston says in the statement.

Jason McCarthy of a local activist group, Say No to EtO — Georgia, said Wednesday he is œvery pleased to see the mayor proactively call for BD to suspend operations until we can get a handle on the EtO emissions.”

œWhat the test results seem to show is that as we have contended all along, the self-reporting by BD is not to be trusted,” McCarthy said. œOur greatest fear is that the results would come back and show elevated levels of EtO in the air, and this seems to be the confirmation of just that.”

Covington says the testing firm Montrose Environmental did air sampling at 11 locations from Sept. 17 to Sept. 23.

Those locations included several test sites at the BD sterilization facility, locations near Covington Square, the Covington Mill and Settlers Grove neighborhoods, south Covington, and at the Covington Airport.

To establish baseline readings in the area beyond Covington, testing also was done at the Mount Pleasant area near Highway 11 in eastern Newton County, in rural southeastern Newton County, at a location in the neighboring city of Conyers, and a Georgia EPD facility in south DeKalb County.

The complete Montrose report documenting the monitoring results is being finalized and will be released shortly, Covington officials say.

Full testing results at the Covington plant will be presented Monday at Legion Field.


News release, Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

News release, city of Covington, GA.

BD: œStatement to News Media.”

Jason McCarthy, Say No to EtO — Georgia.

Ronnie Johnston, mayor, city of Covington, GA.

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Maurice the Rooster pitches city slickers against locals in rural France

SAINT-PIERRE-D’OLERON, France (Reuters) – A loud 4-year-old rooster called Maurice on an island off the French Atlantic shore has pitted a couple of city slickers who bought a second home next door against his owners, and stirred a nationwide debate.

Corinne Fesseau poses with her rooster Maurice, whose loud crows landed him in court accused of noise pollution, in Saint-Pierre-d’Oleron, France August 31, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Two years ago, Jean-Louis Biron started to complain about Maurice’s early-morning crowing to its owners, Jacky Fesseau and his wife Corrine, who refused to get rid of their beloved fowl.

“The cock’s screeching starts at 4.30 a.m. and keeps up all morning and well into the afternoon,” Biron said in an official letter he sent to his neighbors on the island of Oleron in 2017.

The row then escalated and the parties, against the advice of their lawyers and a mediator, went to court.

“I am telling myself, I am not going to let myself be bullied,” Corrine Fesseau said about the lawsuit. “The countryside should stay as it is and they should not say: ‘We should silence the countryside noises.’”

A hearing on the case took place in July a local court in Rochefort and a decision is expected on September 5.

It is not clear what the plaintiffs want to achieve with the lawsuit. Biron’s lawyer was quoted by Le Monde newspaper as saying he wants to open mediation “to clear up the lawsuit”. His lawyers could not be immediately reached.

Maurice’s case underscores a decades-long conflict in France between city dwellers buying summer homes in the countryside without being ready to cope with rural characteristics such as animal noise, odors or insects.

Maurice has raised a broad move of sympathy and support from all over France and beyond.

“The idea was to support Corrine’s association, but also to push out a cry of anger against the fact that a rooster could be involved in a lawsuit,” said Benoit Guitton, a local businessman who sells T-shirts supporting Maurice.

Similar court cases against cows and church bells have been filed in France but none with the same emotive impact as Maurice the rooster, who has elicited letters of support from as far away as in the United States.

Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Inti Landauro; Editing by Clelia Oziel

Reuters: Oddly Enough

City Parks Are a Mood Booster

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 20, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Living in the city can be hard on the senses and the spirit, but spending some time in a tree-lined park could counteract that stress, new research suggests.

“Over a three-month period, we collected tweets from 4,688 Twitter users before, during and after they posted from the park,” explained study author Aaron Schwartz. He’s a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Vermont’s school of environment and natural resources and the Gund Institute for Environment.

All of the 160 parks that were visited in the study were located in the city of San Francisco.

About 100,000 tweets were analyzed by a hedonometer, a kind of online happiness dictionary that ranks words according to their happiness content. Tweeting “jail,” for example, would bank a score of less than 2, while a tweet of “hahaha” would render a score nearly 8.

After comparing pre-park tweets to post-park tweets, the study authors concluded that parks trigger a mood bump equivalent to that seen at Christmas, the day hedonometer happiness levels hit their peak.

The team didn’t track how long participants spent in parks, so they can’t say how short a visit might trigger a mood change.

And some parks turned out to be better mood boosters than others.

Large regional parks with lots of tree cover and vegetation conferred the biggest happiness lift, while paved urban plazas offered the least benefit. Smaller neighborhood parks fell somewhere in the middle.

Why? For one, bigger parks may lend themselves to activities not possible in smaller parks, such as BBQs or longer quiet walks, said Schwartz.

“These parks might also offer a greater separation for disconnecting from the stressful urban environment due to their size,” he added. Larger parks also expose visitors to “higher levels of biodiversity, which has been shown to lead to improved mood as well.”

Still, happiness increases were seen across the board, regardless of park type. And once happiness levels went up, they stayed up for one to four hours.


As to what explains the park-happiness connection, the team said it’s hard to say for sure, and they still can’t be sure that one actually causes the other. Nor is it clear that Twitter users are representative of everyone.

But the authors did observe that negative language fell off just after a visit to a park, as did the tweeted use of first-person words, such as “I” or “me.” Both suggest a shift in mental focus towards a more positive and more collective mindset.

The finding was published Aug. 20 in the journal People and Nature.

Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and professor emeritus at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, said she thinks that “most people don’t know that their unconscious mind is craving nature.”

Yarrow pointed out that “there is a lot of research to support that being in nature, even just around plants, makes us happy.”

Why? “It’s likely to be related to better quality air, the mental and emotional arousal of visual beauty, and our very fundamental human need to be part of nature,” said Yarrow. “What we perceive as happiness when we’re in an urban park is also likely to be more powerful today than in previous decades, because it is a relief from the sterility of our increasingly digital lives.”

And that’s not gone unnoticed by those who’ve grown up in the digital age, she observed. “There’s a giant movement going on right now among millennials,” she said. “They’re filling their offices and homes with plants to promote well-being and stress reduction.”

Yarrow’s take: if the goal is to promote happier, healthier and more connected communities, “for sure, city planners would benefit from taking this research to heart.”

Schwartz agreed.

“Any efforts to ‘green our cities’ will provide not only mental benefits,” he said, “but potentially a variety of other ecosystem services that benefit urban residents and nature alike. For example, greenery can soak up carbon emissions, reduce air pollution and provide habitat for species. More and more people are living in cities each year, and providing them with opportunities to engage with nature is critical for well-being.”

WebMD News from HealthDay


SOURCES: Aaron Schwartz, Ph.D. candidate and graduate fellow, Gund Institute for Environment and Vermont Complex Systems Center and Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont, Burlington; Kit Yarrow, Ph.D., professor emeritus, consumer psychologist, Golden Gate University, San Francisco; Aug, 20, 2019,People and Nature

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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No-Tobacco Policy for New Workers in Ohio City

Aug. 2, 2019 — A strict no-tobacco policy for new city workers has been implemented by Dayton, Ohio.

Those hired after July 15 are prohibited from using nicotine or tobacco. Job candidates will be tested and those with positive results will have to undergo treatment to stop their tobacco/nicotine use. If they again test positive at the end of their probationary period, they’ll be fired, CNN reported.

There will be no random testing for nicotine or tobacco. Workers hired after July 15 will be tested only for “reasonable suspicion.”

An employee who tests positive for nicotine or tobacco must have treatment to help them quit, or they could be reprimanded or fired. A second positive test would lead to immediate dismissal, CNN reported.

The policy defines tobacco and nicotine use as “inhaling, exhaling, burning, vaping, any lighted cigar, cigarette, and e-cigarette or pipe, chewing or any other type of tobacco use.”

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Georgia City Pledges To Test Air for Toxic Gas

July 31, 2019 — The city of Smyrna, GA, has pledged to do independent air testing for a cancer-causing chemical released by a medical sterilizing plant there, which would make it one of just a handful of communities nationwide to have its air tested for ethylene oxide.

“We want to be as proactive as we can,” Tim Gould of the Smyrna City Council said to hundreds of residents. They filled the auditorium at a local middle school on Tuesday night to voice concerns about a Sterigenics plant’s longtime releases of the toxic gas ethylene oxide in the area.

Just 5 minutes after the meeting started, police officers were turning people away who wanted to get in, citing fire codes. Many remained outside, watching the meeting through live video streamed to social media sites.

If Smyrna carries through on its plans, it will become one of just five communities to get its air tested for ethylene oxide, used to sterilize medical equipment as well as make other products like antifreeze. The EPA in 2018 flagged 109 census tracts in 26 communities nationally as having higher cancer risks because of exposure to airborne toxins, mainly ethylene oxide. That prediction was based on modeling, not measurement of chemicals in the air.

In other areas that have had their air tested, the estimated cancer risks turned out to be higher than those predicted by the EPA. The EPA used modeling to come up with its risk predictions, as opposed to actual air testing.

In six census tracts around Willowbrook, IL, which also has a Sterigenics facility, EPA modeling predicted that a lifetime of exposure to ethylene oxide there would cause between 104 and 282 extra cases of cancer for every million people exposed. But after air testing, the estimated cancer risk rose to 6,400 cases of cancer for every million people, according to a health study done by a division of the CDC.

In Lakewood, CO, which is near the Terumo BCT medical sterilizing plant, EPA modeling predicted exposure to ethylene oxide over a lifetime would cause between 117 and 526 extra cases of cancer for every 1 million people who were exposed. After air testing last fall by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, those risks rose to between 905 and 5,652 extra cases of cancer for every million people exposed in residential areas around the plant.

The air testing in Colorado, which continued after the company installed new pollution controls, showed that the new precautions did lower risk somewhat, but even with new controls in place, neighborhoods around the plant faced average extra cancer cases from ethylene oxide ranging from 743 to 1,500 cases for every million people exposed.

In Grand Rapids, MI, EPA modeling predicted that exposure to ethylene oxide around the Viant Medical facility there caused 118 cases of cancer for every 1 million people exposed over a lifetime. Air testing in January by the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy found ethylene oxide levels in neighborhoods around the plant that corresponded to cancer rates between 800 and 1,700 cases for every 1 million people exposed for a lifetime. A cancer review of the affected census tract found elevated rates of only one cancer around the plant — multiple myeloma. Viant says they will stop using ethylene oxide by the end of the year.

In the towns of Waukegan and Gurnee, IL, which have four census tracts impacted by two sterilization facilities, the Lake County Department of Health began air testing in early June. A health study on the results has not yet been completed for residents there.

At the Smyrna meeting, dozens of residents wore orange to show solidarity with a newly formed activist group, Stop Sterigenics — Georgia, which has organized to fight the plant.

The Georgia group is working with activists from Willowbrook, a Chicago suburb, who shut down a Sterigenics plant in their neighborhood in February, after air testing showed they were being exposed to high levels of ethylene oxide. The company is trying to reopen its plant there after installing new pollution controls.

Sterigenics President Phil MacNabb told the town hall audience that his company has applied for a state permit to do a plant refitting that he said would greatly reduce the amount of ethylene oxide released.

But when pressed by a local resident about whether the company would close the plant until those changes occurred, MacNabb said that a closure would shrink the pipeline of medical devices needed to be delivered to the health care system.

MacNabb said the Georgia Sterigenics facility sterilizes more than a million medical products every day. Those include syringes that have many intricate parts that would be hard to disinfect without ethylene oxide, a chemical prized by medical device manufacturers because it kills germs without the use of heat. The gas also penetrates paper and plastic, allowing facilities that use it to make devices and products germ-free without removing those items from their packaging.

MacNabb said Sterigenics controls 99.9 percent of ethylene oxide emissions at the Smyrna location, and has always operated within the bounds of federal and state laws.

“Our mission is to protect people,” he said, not just patients who need sterile medical devices, but also the workers at their plants and the communities around their plants, he said.

“I’m not pretending it’s not a dangerous material,” he said, adding that the company is “not doing harm” in the area.

But he clearly didn’t convince many members of the audience, who shouted “Shut it down!” after a Willowbrook-area resident addressed him during a question-and-answer period.

Nationally, ethylene oxide is used on about half of the medical devices in the U.S. that need to be sterilized, according to an industry trade group, and it has been in use for decades.

It wasn’t considered to be an environmental threat until 2016, when the EPA completed a 10-year review of the chemical’s safety and declared the gas a human carcinogen.

Georgia state Sen. Jen Jordan, a Democrat who represents parts of Smyrna, told the crowd that she will ask the Atlanta-based CDC to study the emissions at Sterigenics.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” she said.

Jordan said she did not trust state regulators to properly address the situation. The state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) “is not going to come in here and say anything or make this company do anything,” she said.

EPD and federal EPA officials were invited but did not attend the town hall event. They are expected to be present at an August meeting.

Elected officials from the Smyrna area toured the Sterigenics plant earlier Tuesday.

State Rep. Erick Allen, a Democrat who represents part of the area, said he faulted state regulators for not informing residents about the ethylene oxide releases.

The communities learned about the cancer-causing pollution from a report by WebMD and Georgia Health News.

The sterilization plant has been operating in the industrial area of Smyrna since the 1970s.

Lauren Kaeseberg, who lives in Darien, IL, flew in from Chicago just to have the chance to address MacNabb, who hasn’t made a public appearance since the shutdown of the Willowbrook plant in February.

“This industry has had a 40-year head start on us,” Kaeseberg said to the crowd. “You should be ashamed of yourselves,” she said to MacNabb.

Many members of the crowd stood to applaud her, shouting “Shut it down!”

After the town hall, Kaeseberg said, “I have young kids. We are literally fighting for our lives.”

Sonam Vashi contributed to this report.


Tim Gould, Smyrna City Council, Smyrna, GA

Philip MacNabb, president, Sterigenics

Jen Jordan, Georgia State Senatory, District 6, Smyrna, GA.

Lauren Kaesberg, resident, activist, Darien, IL

Erick Allen, Georgia State Representative, District 40, Smyrna, GA.

EPA, the National Air Toxics Assessment, Aug. 22, 2018

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Letter Health Consultation, Aug. 21, 2018

Community Risk Assessment of Ethylene Oxide Near Terumo BCT, Lakewood, Colorado, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Netflix Greenlights ‘City of Ghosts’ from ‘Adventure Time’s Elizabeth Ito

Another original kids’ series from a top animation talent will be haunting Netflix streaming, as City of Ghosts from Elizabeth Ito — an Emmy-winning writer, story artist and director from Cartoon Network hit series Adventure Time and short Welcome to My Life.

City of Ghosts will be a hybrid documentary/animation project which follows a group of kids uncovering the untold stories of their city by communicating with the local ghosts. Showrunner/exec producer Ito will also explore her experience growing up as a fourth-generation Japanese American in a now predominantly Latinx LA community through the show’s story.

The new series is being produced at Netflix Animation in Hollywood, as part of an impressive slate of series from acclaimed creators such as Jorge Gutierrez’s Maya and the Three, Chris Williams’ Jacob and the Sea, Max Keane’s Trash Truck, Shion Takeuchi’s Inside Job, Matt Layzell’s Battle Kitty and a new series from Chris Nee.

Netflix will debut its first original animated feature, Sergio Pablos’ Klaus, at the end of the year. Read more about this project in the June/July ‘19 issue of Animation Magazine, out soon.

[Source: Hollywood Reporter]

Animation Magazine

Trees Really Do Help Keep a City Cool, Study Shows

FRIDAY, May 3, 2019 — Trees are cool — and for cities, the more, the better.

That’s because cities are heat islands, meaning they’re significantly hotter than the rural and semi-rural areas around them.

Trees help reduce this heat island effect, and the cooling effect is strongest in neighborhoods with large numbers of trees, researchers discovered.

“We found that to get the most cooling, you have to have about 40% canopy cover, and this was strongest around the scale of a city block,” said Carly Ziter, assistant professor of biology at Concordia University in Montreal.

“So if your neighborhood has less than 40% canopy cover, you’ll get a little bit of cooling, but not very much. Once you tip over that threshold, you really see large increases in how much you can cool areas off,” she explained in a university news release.

The temperature difference between neighborhoods with a heavy tree canopy and those with no trees can be as much as 7.2 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit, even within a few hundred yards.

“Once you have a certain critical mass of canopy, then each tree becomes more important when it comes to cooling temperatures. That has serious implications for how we design our cities and plan our neighborhoods,” said Ziter, who did the research while completing her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

While shade provided by trees plays a role in cooling neighborhoods, it isn’t the only way trees lower temperature.

“Trees transpire. They give off water vapor, almost like a little air conditioner,” Ziter said.

Transpiration occurs mainly during the day. That’s why there’s a much smaller temperature difference at night between neighborhoods with significant tree canopy and those without.

Ziter said her findings can help guide public policy and city planning.

She said tree planting efforts would be most effective in reducing temperatures in neighborhoods that are near the 40% threshold. Cities need to maintain their existing tree canopy, and officials should consider equity when deciding where to plant, because wealthier neighborhoods typically have more trees, Ziter added.

Along with lowering temperatures, planting trees in lower-income neighborhoods would also improve the physical and mental health of residents, she said.

“We know that something as simple as having one nice big tree nearby can have a huge host of benefits on people who live in the city,” she said.

The study was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more on using trees and vegetation to reduce heat islands.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: May 2019 – Daily MedNews

Artifex Delivers 250+ Strange Shots for ‘Weird City’

Vancouver-based “White glove” VFX house Artifex Studios completed its most robust project of 2019 thus far, delivering over 250 shots as the sole VFX vendor for Jordan Peele and Charlie Sanders’ highly-anticipated YouTube Premium anthology sci-fi series, Weird City. The dystopian comedy, which features a stark divide between classes living “Above the Line” and “Below the Line,” tasked Artifex with providing shots ranging from full CG animation, set extensions and matte painting work, graphical interfaces, and wide-ranging compositing duties.

Weird City sets the scene in its credits through the visual impact of the bifurcated cityscape of the city itself. Artifex’s CG team created the opening aerial panoramic shots of the shiny, futuristic city of the rich juxtaposed with the ramshackle city of those who live Below the Line. Artifex’s work can be seen continuously throughout all six episodes, in detailed CG animations, environments, and creature work as well as ever-present HUD overlays, video & holographic interfaces, icons and surfaces.

In episode one “The One,” Artifex had free reign to build out the city Above the Line, as well as modifying Negari Labs via 3D work and matte painting. Artists created new buildings (also seen throughout the series), embodying bold, futuristic architecture. Once inside Negari Labs, Artifex helped Dr. Negari (Levar Burton) up his “escape tunnel” vacuum tube, before adding effects and site gags the main characters interact with. Artifex was called upon to provide filmed park footage, shot outside Vancouver, that they incorporated into a green screen experience a couple share while on a date. Additionally, the team was invited to have some fun when concepting a store with touch screen emoji pets, which were modeled off the real-life dogs at Artifex’s facility.

The anthology’s second installment, “A Family,” which centers around Michael Cera’s offbeat, approval-seeking character joining Shape Cult, a crossfit-style gym led by Rosario Dawson, features some of Artifex’s most difficult work on the series. The team added beauty work on Cera’s jacked-up muscle suit prosthetic, removing seams and texture, as well as providing workout “light” beams and particle effects. From there Artifex dove into the “meat” of the episode: Cera’s character Tony creates juice-fueled carnivorous worms, which he eats to “max out” and which eventually eat Dawson’s character in turn in a CG-fueled invertebrate feast Artifex created in Houdini.

“The two biggest shots for us were probably the opening establishing shot of Weird City, used in the first episode and opening credits, which was a full CG build descending down from the clouds,” said Artifex VFX supervisor Rob Geddes. “And of course the worm sequence from episode two, which required extensive match-move work on the actress as well as some darkening and milking effects around her eyes, and heavy FX simulation of the wriggling and crawling worms.”

“Smart House,” the fourth part of the anthology, leans heavily on Artifex for comedic effects, as Dr. Negari has imbued a questionable personality as the AI on a ritzy home Above the Line, which lashes out at its owners. As the situation escalates during a house party, the home decides to get drunk on its own, for which Artifex created a CG animated sink hose using Maya that knocks over bottles of beer and chugs an entire bottle of fine scotch. For this scene, Artifex animated the hose over a green suited actor, removed digitally in Nuke. The gag culminates in an expulsion of alcoholic bile from the sink, created with spray simulations. As things continue to spiral out of control, the home catches fire and eventually explodes. This required artists to integrate practical fire elements with CG flames, smoke effects, and flying debris and matte damage.

Artifex rounds out the final episodes of Weird City with impressive contributions that took nuance to pull off. In episode five, characters lapse into a VR-style entertainment system akin to Netflix, where they experience TV show plots Below the Line. However, in this episode a CG dragon roasts two children as a “metaphor for poverty.”

“The dragon we were asked to create had to be part Game of Thrones and part camp,” said Artifex Founder Adam Stern. “Because it’s a comedy and these Above-the-Liners have such a limited understanding of life outside of their bubble, we had to create a monster that was intimidating and cool but at the same time, ultimately cliché. It’s a tricky thread to weave but we feel we pulled it off.”

In the final episode, “Below,” Artifex provided one of the most memorable images: Awkwafina’s and Yvette Nicole Brown’s outfit swapping as they learn they have limited free will to do what they please. Tackling this required significant morphing and compositing work to aid the transition and get it to work naturally.

Artifex provided a total of 265 shots for Weird City, incorporating 21 artists as well as on-set VFX supervision.

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Animation Magazine

Watch: Fozzie Bear Makes Voice Acting Debut in ‘Big City Greens’

In a mightily meta Muppet move, Fozzie Bear has just been announced as the latest special voice guest for Disney Television Animation’s 2D comedy-adventure Big City Greens. Jim Henson’s beloved bear comedian will place an affable dentist named Dr. Enamel in a new episode debuting Saturday, February 9 at 8:30 a.m. EST/PST on Disney Channel and Disney NOW.

In the episode, titled “Hurty Tooth,” the Greens go on a family visit to the dentist’s office where Cricket is determined to avoid Dr. Enamel and power through his toothache. Paul F. Tompkins (Bajillion Dollar Propertie$ ) also guest stars as the Tooth Fairy.

Created and executive produced by brothers Chris and Shane Houghton (Harvey Beaks), Big City Greens follows the offbeat adventures of 10-year-old Cricket Green, a mischievous and optimistic country boy who moves to the big city with his wildly out of place family: older sister Tilly, father Bill and Gramma Alice. The series, which has already been picked up for a second season, was influenced by the Houghton brothers’ childhood growing up in the small rural town of St. Johns, Michigan, with many of the locations and characters inspired by their real-life family members and townsfolk.

Fozzie Bear’s character was originated by the legendary Frank Oz, and is currently performed by puppeteer Eric Jacobson. Eric Bauza voices the CG incarnation of Fozzie on Disney TV’s reboot of Muppet Babies.

Animation Magazine

2 New York City DAs All But Abandon Marijuana Prosecutions

NEW YORK (AP) — Marijuana prosecutions have plunged in two New York City boroughs as their district attorneys stopped pursuing most cannabis cases and police changed their approach to marijuana enforcement. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. released statistics Nov. 1, 2018,  showing arraignments for low-level marijuana offenses dropped about 87 percent from August through […]

AFM: Odin’s Eye Plans ‘Sanctuary City’ Franchise

Odin’s Eye Entertainment has kicked off production on a new animated feature trilogy, Tales of Sanctuary City, from award-winning studio Like A Photon. The movies will explore a world of talking animals inspired by the diversity of Aussie fauna. Supported by Screen Australia and Screen Queensland, the first film in the franchise, The Wishmas Tree, is slated to debut in 2019.

The films have already presold in a number of territories, including Korea (Cinema Republic), Poland (Kino Swiat), former Yugoslavia (Blitz), Bulgaria (Tandem) and the Middle East (Phoenicia).

The Wishmas Tree is set to launch in December 2019, and will follow the adventures of a young, rebellious possum. It will be followed by Combat Wombat, about a crimefighter who happens to be a cute marsupial, in June 2020. The third picture will arrive in January 2021, Daisy Quokka: World’s Scariest Animal (working title), which will center on an Olympics-style competition.

All three movies are being directed by Richard Cusso in his feature film debut. Nadine Bates and Kristen Souvlis (Like A Photon) are producers. Matt Everitt (The LEGO Movie, The LEGO Batman Movie) is executive producer.

[Source: The Hollywood Reporter]

Animation Magazine

New Oklahoma City ordinance reduces penalty for marijuana possession!

Ask your state lawmakers to take this reform to the state level.

Starting on October 26, Oklahoma City’s maximum penalty for simple possession of marijuana will be reduced to a fine of up to $ 400. The Oklahoma City Council approved the proposal to remove jail time and reduce the penalty for marijuana possession last week. Until the new law takes effect, the maximum fine for possession is $ 1,200 and six months of jail time.

If you live in Oklahoma, let your lawmakers know the time has come for statewide decriminalization!

Penalizing individuals with jail time and a criminal record for possessing small amounts of marijuana wastes law enforcement resources. It can also lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences, including denial of student financial aid, housing, employment, and professional licenses. You can find more information on decriminalization here.

Please spread the word!

The post New Oklahoma City ordinance reduces penalty for marijuana possession! appeared first on MPP Blog.

MPP Blog

Like a Good Neighbor, Ohio’s 1st Marijuana Grow is There for Working-Class City

When Nancy Crissinger bought a couple of acres of land and a small home adjacent to an obsolete Cold War-era Nike Ajax missile site in Eastlake, Ohio, 15 years ago, she never imagined the abandoned building would one day be transformed a sophisticated cannabis grow site. But Crissinger has no problem with her new neighbors, […]