I wasn’t able to get to The Simpsons Movie as hoped last night, but will be in line come this weekend, as will our man James who will no doubt post our official theatrical Toon Review sometime around Monday morning. And don’t forget that Josh’s interview with the film’s writer-prodocer Mike Scully is still fresh for a good read!

In the meantime, it’s Comic-Con time again, when an expected 100,000-plus comic book and movie fans will hit San Diego for their annual fix of upcoming project news, sneak peeks, exclsuive promotions and the like. This year’s big rumors involve The Dark Knight‘s nemesis The Joker, and the casting for 300‘s Zack Snyder’s next, Watchmen, though there are plenty of other hot properties and animation shows filling the halls. As always, we’ll be tracking the latest news of interest on the Animated News page and keeping you up to date with breaking stories. Should be fun!

Over at the Mouse House it seems they’re following Britain’s recent smoking ban, announcing themselves as the first studio to axe cigarette – and, I assume, drug – smoking in the films they release. Actually, flip back the history books a little and you’ll find Mickey’s already been re-writing the pages to expunge cigarettes from its films. While I generally applaud the motion from this point on, it should be noted that productions from the past were created – as Leonard Maltin explains each time you want to watch a Walt Disney Treasure From The Vault – in “less enlightened times”. So while I’m all for not seeing the kids light up in Narnia, or a potential Burning Bridge To Terabithia because someone wasn’t careful, I don’t want to see past films mangled, digitally altered or prohibited from exhibition. And yet, it’s already been happening, as anyone with a copy of Saludos Amigos on DVD will testify when they realise Goofy should be holding a cigarette – in cowboy character of course – in his segment of that film. On TV, the Tom & Jerry cartoons have also undergone cuts, leading to such edits appearing on the DVD anthologies, special editions that collectors pay good money to see intact as intended.

Now, to be fair, the depiction of smoking in modern animated films, widely a medium appealing to children with many safeguards already in place, is at a super low, if anything, figure anyway, but apparently this ban will extend to adult films from the Touchstone and Miramax stables, too. So out will be the vampish smokers of atmospheric films like Renaissance, which I screened last night and should have a review up for later today, and whatever would become of such intense and brilliant movies as Micheal Mann’s The Insider, a film that features the tobacco industry as its center of attention? I guess they could swap them for lollipops, Kojak-style, but it wouldn’t be the same would it? And, at the time, if ever, smoking becomes outrightly outlawed, would it end up being a case of “I’m arresting you on suspicion of withholding lollipops”? Of course I’m joking, but there’s a line that has to be drawn somewhere, and I’d rather it wasn’t right through the annuls of history that tries to wipe smoking from the human condition entirely, even though those lines are already becoming lost in a smoky haze.

As a non-smoker myself, I’ve welcomed the ability to now enter previously smoky atmospheres, to enjoy a good dinner without the wafting, stale smell surrounding the food. But I’m not one to deny we ever inhaled cigarette smoke as a species. And neither should the motion picture companies deny us the right to see the original, unaltered product of its time. Apparently, Ive heard driving a car can be dangerous to your health, too. Guess we should start cutting out all those chases and making those exciting films more like mundane, purified, “real” life…?

– Ben.