Continuing our lifestyles of animation executives thread, here’s some news about Cartoon Network v-p Adina Pitt and her recent purchase of a four-bedroom condo on the Upper East Side for $1.33 million. As somebody who follows the real estate market closely, that amount is hardly extravagant, but it bears pointing out that few animation artists living in New York City could afford to buy a place in that neighborhood or price bracket. And certainly none of the artists who earn salaries on New York-based Cartoon Network series like Superjail! or Robotomy. In animation, as in most other fields, it pays NOT to be creative.
The list above, snatched from Box Office Mojo, shows the top five movies at the North American box office in the first half of 2010. Whether you like the films or not, animated features have rarely dominated Hollywood’s box office as they have done this year so far. Nobody in Hollywood dares point it out, but the numbers speak for themselves and they clearly show that the few films made by our small animation community are consistently more popular with audiences than the glut of movies being churned out by the rest of Hollywood.
Bill Plympton is remaking his Oscar-nominated short Guard Dog–with your help. He’s calling it the “Guard Dog Global Jam” and he’s asking seventy animators to re-animate one shot from the short. Animators can use any style or technique as long as the dog character is recognizable and the length of the scene remains the same to keep the soundtrack in sync. Details about “Guard Dog Global Jam” are posted in a downloadable document at Plymptoons.com. Animators can begin choosing shots, most of which are between 2-4 seconds long, on September 1st, 2010. All participants will receive a piece of original art from Guard Dog.
New York’s largest animation festival, Animation Block Party, has announced the selections for its seventh annual edition. The list of films in competition on their website. Screenings take place in Brooklyn over three nights between July 30 and August 1st, with live music performances and free parties too. The award jury members this year are Rachel Simon of World Leaders Entertainment, Ramin Zahed of Animation Magazine, Dave Schlafman of CloudKid, and, hey whad’ya know, Amid Amidi of Cartoon Brew. Advance tickets can be purchased on Animation Block’s website.
Ron Cole, the person who made the cable-controlled skull mechanism for the Chuck Liddell puppet in the Lipton Brisk ad, directed and animated In the Fall of Gravity in 2008. It’s a mesmerizing hand-crafted experience. The articulation in the face and eyes of his characters is nothing short of jaw-dropping; the eyes especially have a warmth and depth which I’ve rarely, if ever, seen in stop-motion. Despite the technical proficiency, it never becomes so slick that the hand of the artist is obscured–an issue I have with a lot of mainstream stop-motion animation. Ron has a blog about the film that is also worth a visit.
(Thanks, Warhead, for pointing out this film in the comments of the Brisk post)
Lipton’s Brisk iced tea brand aired one of the most memorable animation ad campaigns of the Nineties which starred stop-motion versions of celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Elvis and James Brown, Bruce Lee and Babe Ruth. They’ve resurrected the campaign for the 21st century with an Internet viral film called “The Way of the Brisk” starring an animated version of mixed martial arts fighter Chuck Liddell. The stop-motion was directed by Brooklyn-based animator Tatia Rosenthal, who directed the indie feature $9.99.
Tatia shared a few details about the production:
The live-action shoot took 4 days (including a day in LA with Chuck Liddell who was really amused by the little Chuck puppet). The animation took three weeks and was done in Brooklyn at Studio Nos’s facility. David Bell [animator] and I were incredibly happy to work with the fancy John Wright armature and Ron Cole’s cable-controlled face mechanism. Tiny Chuck’s head was so heavy that the flying rig had to be complemented with various wrenches, c-stands and contraptions. A video of the non-composited footage showing the nuts and bolts will hit the Internet soon.
Production company: Bright Red Pixels for Funny or Die
Directors: Jeff Marks, Adam Elend
Producer: Scott Solary
Animation Director: Tatia Rosenthal
Animators: Tatia Rosenthal, David Bell
Puppet By: David Bell
Armature: John Wright
Skull Mechanism: Ron Cole
DP: Scott Colthorp
Animation DP: Burke Heffner
For those of you who’ve been searching for images of Disney animator Ollie Johnston in the buff–I imagine there’s a few of you–this is the closest you’re going to get: a birthday card drawn by Glen Keane in 1999. The piece comes from Ollie Johnston’s estate and is currently up for bid at Howard Lowery’s auction website.
Can this skateboarding octogenarian and his goat save the day? That’s the setup for Sir Billi, a new animated feature with the voice of Sean Connery. Their publicist wrote us, “Wanted to reach out to you with the first ‘sneak peek’ of the sizzle reel!” Szz-z-z-z…if they’re selling the sizzle here, I shudder to think what the steak looks like. Then again, hearing Connery yell, “This Bessie Boo is our beaver!” isn’t entirely devoid of entertainment value either.
UPDATE: Sean Connery explains why he is certain this is a “first-class” project:
If you read just one blog post this week, make sure it’s this one by animator Matt Williames describing his experience working on Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. He states upfront that the piece comes from “a heart that wants to see change” and “My ONLY desire to see Disney recognize how far they have fallen because quite honestly I think we all care quite a lot about the studio that a guy named Walt started don’t we?”
He then goes on to write one of the most courageous things I’ve seen written by a contemporary animator: an honest appraisal of working at an animation studio. Matt’s thesis is that a feature animation studio should offer at least three things:
- A place with amazing films that challenge and inspire their artists.
- An environment of camaraderie (with the crew) where people are challenged and inspired to grow.
- An environment of active education and study.
According to him, Disney failed on all three counts. Watching The Princess and the Frog makes it clear enough that there are serious institutional problems at that studio, but Matt’s post adds a unique perspective to the situation. If anything, he shows that it’s just as difficult for the artists working on Disney’s current crop of films as it is for the audiences who are expected to watch and be entertained by them.
Rectangular sponges are out; triangles are in. Today’s NY Times writes about how Disney’s Phineas and Ferb is the next SpongeBob. I find that premise difficult to believe. Is Phineas and Ferb really as popular with college students and young adults as SpongeBob in its heyday? A successful kids show it may be, but Phineas and Ferb has a ways to go before turning into a pop culture phenomenon.
Shane Prigmore, whose character design talents have graced Coraline and How to Train Your Dragon, has illustrated his first book Spaceheadz (aka SPHDZ) written by Jon Scieszka and Francesco Sedita. Haven’t seen it yet but the book is out this week.
Here’s a trailer for the book, the first in a series, that explains the concept:
Rotoscoped animation based on the sitcom The Big Bang Theory doesn’t sound like a particularly good recipe for entertainment, but French animator Nunub (aka MicaÃ«l Reynaud) has created a worthy experimental piece using those elements combined with a piece of music by Turkish rock pioneer Fikret KÄ±zÄ±lok. In his video description, Nunub says that he doesn’t particularly care for the subject matter; it was only an excuse to animate something. While he doesn’t push the abstraction as far as something like Robert Breer’s A Man and His Dog Out for Air, it’s a lot of fun watching how the subject matter becomes progressively more abstract and painterly. Try freeze-framing it for some unexpected imagery.
The live charity auction aiding animation veteran Pres Romanillos in his fight against leukemia will take place this Sunday. The event takes places at the Animation Guild (1105 N. Hollywood Way Burbank, CA 91505) with registration beginning at 1pm and bidding at 2pm. Over 160 items will be available, including the pieces pictured in this post. For more information, including absentee bidding info, visit Pres-Aid.com.
UPDATE: Pres Romanillos passed away on July 17, 2010 from leukemia. More information can be found here.