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Why the CIA got in the Animated Film Business (and other D.C.-Hollywood Tales)

Thanks to a request from Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the Department of Defense and CIA have officially opened an investigation into Kathryn Bigelow’s movie about the killing of Osama bin Laden. King and others were concerned that the White House had leaked classified information to the filmmakers for the movie and wanted the CIA on the case.

But it’s far from the first time the government -- or the CIA itself – has gotten involved in the film industry. The FBI has a healthy track record of investigating actors, executives and even individual movies. For example, consider their response to the Steve McQueen heist film "The Thomas Crown Affair." When producers of the film -- then titled The Crown Caper -- asked to use an exterior shot of the agency's Boston headquarters, the FBI decided to investigate. According to McQueen's FBI file, revealed on The Vault website, they rejected the request after a thorough examination because of the movie's "outrageous portrayal of the FBI. That refusal joined their extensive file on McQueen, which also details threats against him.

But the CIA also has a long history of involvement with Hollywood. Through a program called “Operation Mockingbird" (detailed in a Carl Bernstein Rolling Stone article and several books), the CIA sought to influence various aspects of American media, bringing in various journalists and publishers to skew coverage of the Cold War. Another tentacle of Mockingbird involved Hollywood, ensuring that popular movies were made with the best interests of the government and protecting any unfavorable information from getting out.

Among the projects the CIA worked on was The Quiet American, an adaptation of Graham Greene’s Vietnam-set novel. Reports have said that the CIA worked to ensure that a bombing in the story is tied to Communist forces, even though the culprit in the book is implied to be an American. Greene was furious that the script -- written with advice from the CIA -- stripped out his anti-war message and decried it as "propaganda."

According to reports, the agency also got involved with other movies like 1984, doing everything from changing the script to adding racial diversity to make America seem more inclusive.

However, their greatest effort as part of Mockingbird may have been their extensive involvement in adapting George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” for the big screen. The agency worked hard to get the rights to the book, thinking they could turn the allegory into a tool against communism. However, changes were required to the original story, which equally criticized communism and capitalism. Instead, the CIA tweaked the script to make communism the clear enemy and changed the ending so the animals revolted against the now-powerful pigs, rather than humans.

Animation company Halas and Batchelor produced the film in England (some have speculated that the location was an attempt to deflect accusations of CIA involvement, but others think the agency just had connections in the production company) as an animated film, partly out of necessity. However, producers also worked to put Disney-like gags throughout the film to broaden its appeal and spread the message farther. The film was a hit with critics and the CIA was pleased, although it saw much opposition from fans of Orwell's book. Author Howard Beckerman would later tell the London Guardian that he felt Orwell would have “vetoed” any effort to produce the film had he still been alive.

Of course, there are theories that the CIA may have had an even more insidious role in filmmaking, as many have linked the agency to the death of screenwriter Gary DeVore. While working on a film about the U.S. invasion of Panama (also his directorial debut), DeVore went missing. His car and body were later found in an aqueduct. His wife, Wendy, would later tell reporters that DeVore had been disturbed with some of his research into the CIA’s involvement in the invasion and that he had seemed “under duress” during his final phone call with her. Many have speculated that the CIA framed his death as an accident in order to prevent the film from getting made, although there is no hard evidence.

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Pop Chart Lab
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Comics
The Origins of 36 Marvel Characters, Illustrated
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

No matter what their powers, every super hero has an origin story, from Spider-Man’s radioactive bite to Iron Man’s life-threatening chest shrapnel. In their latest poster, the designers at Pop Chart Lab have taken their infographic savvy to the Marvel Universe, charting the heroic origins of 36 different Marvel characters through miniature, minimalist comics.

Without using any words, they’ve managed to illustrate Bucky Barnes's plane explosion and subsequent transformation into the Winter Soldier, Jessica Jones’s car crash, the death of the Punisher’s family, and other classic stories from the major Marvel canon while paying tribute to the comic book form.

Explore the poster below, and see a zoomable version on Pop Chart Lab’s website.

A poster featuring 36 minimalist illustrations of superhero origin stories.
Pop Chart Lab

Keep your eyes open for future Marvel-Pop Chart crossovers. The Marvel Origins: A Sequential Compendium poster is “the first release of what we hope to be a marvelous partnership,” as Pop Chart Lab’s Galvin Chow puts it. Prints are available for pre-order starting at $37 and are scheduled to start shipping on March 8.

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Disney Enterprises, Inc.
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entertainment
Your $10 Donation Can Help an Underprivileged Child See A Wrinkle in Time for Free
Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Theater chain AMC is teaming with the Give a Child the Universe initiative to help underprivileged kids see A Wrinkle in Time for free through ticket donations. The initiative was started by Color of Change, a nonprofit advocacy group that designs “campaigns powerful enough to end practices that unfairly hold Black people back, and champion solutions that move us all forward.”

"Color of Change believes in the power of images and supports those working to change the rules in Hollywood so that inclusive, empathetic and human portrayals of black people and people of color are prominent on the screen,” the initiative’s executive director, Rashad Robinson, said in a statement:

Director Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time is the perfect subject for the group because, as Robinson puts it, “By casting a black teenage actress, Storm Reid, as the heroine at the center of this story, the filmmakers and the studio send a powerful message to millions of young people who will see someone like them embracing their individuality and strength to save the world.”

The movie touts a diverse cast that includes Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Zach Galifianakis, and Chris Pine. The most important member of the cast, though, is 14-year-old Storm Reid, who plays the main character Meg Murry, a young girl who tries to save her father (Pine) who is trapped in another dimension. The movie is based on the acclaimed 1962 fantasy novel by author Madeleine L'Engle.

If you’d like to donate a ticket (or more), you can just head over to the Give a Child the Universe website and pledge an amount. AMC will provide one ticket to children and teens nationwide for every $10 given to the cause.

And if you’re interested in seeing the movie yourself, A Wrinkle in Time opens on March 9, 2018.

[h/t E! Online]

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