This Russian music video dates back to 1994. It’s infectious energy makes it the perfect post-holiday pick-me-up. Directed by Slava Ushakov, it brings to life the nonsensical lyrics of the song “Haru Mamburu” by the Russian rock band Nogu Svelo. There’s an AWN article that offers some details about the director Ushakov. Also, an MP3 of the song can be downloaded from the band’s website.
Here’s a special end-of-the-year treat for New Yorkers: the Fleischer’s second and last feature, Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1941), is playing at the Film Forum (209 West Houston Street) through New Year’s Day. The daily 1pm matinee presents a new 35mm print of the film and also includes the Fleischer short Betty Boop’s Rise to Fame. More details on the Film Forum website.
“I am enchanted. I am swept away. I am smiling from one end of the film to the other. It is astonishingly original. It brings together four entirely separate elements and combines them into a great whimsical chord.”
“One remarkable thing about “Sita Sings the Blues” is how versatile the animation is. Paley works entirely in 2-D with strict rules, so that characters remain within their own plane, which overlaps with others. This sounds like a limitation. Actually, it is the source of much amusement. Comedy often depends on the device of establishing unbreakable rules and then finding ways to cheat on them and surprise you. The laughs Paley gets here with 2-D would be the envy of an animator in 3-D. She discovers dimensions where none exist.”
I think it also says a lot about Ebert’s passion and love for cinema that he’s written such a long piece about a film that nobody can currently see and which has no shot at commercial distribution because of copyright issues. Ebert is not only writing about how much he likes it but has also arranged for it to screen at his personal film festival in April 2009 at the University of Illinois. We’re delighted at Cartoon Brew that Ebert is putting his weight behind the film since both Jerry Beck and myself feel that it’s an incredible accomplishment within the animation art form.
Did you know that legendary animation director Len Glasser is also a prolific fine artist. This video shows examples of his metal sculptures, paintings and furniture designs.
Though Glasser spent years working in commercial animation and live-action film, he studied fine art in school. During the 1950s while attending the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, he had an impressive group of art and design teachers including Armin Hofmann, Franz Kline, Melville Price and S. Neil Fujita.
Here are a couple examples of Len’s TV commercials:
From 1959, Christmas morning at the home of Disney legend Ward Kimball along with his family–wife Betty and children Kelly, John and Chloe. Click on the image for a bigger version. And stay tuned to Cartoon Brew in 2009 to find out about the big Kimball news!
I’m currently visiting Chicago for a few days so it seems appropriate to share the animated short Chicago For A Few Days by Brooklyn-based artist Ray Ray Mitrano. The film, which documents Mitrano’s train trip to Chicago, was made by arranging paper and found objects onto a scanner bed. It’s an unconventional piece of animation and the narration helps make it truly special.
Directed by Bill Melendez, this is the 1974 Emmy Award-winning special Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Clause. Melendez’s years of working on the animated Peanuts cartoons is really evident in his approach to the design and animation of this special.
Manchester-based vfx house AHD Imaging created this timely and clever Internet viral for the holidays:
“AHD168 is a computer generated robot who was written out of a TV advert due to credit crunched budgetary constraints. AHD168 now spends his days wandering the streets looking for a meaningful role in an animated TV project.”
Rooftop Films, the yearly film festival that takes place across the rooftops of New York City, is currently accepting submissions for its 2009 summer series. Next year’s festival, the 13th anniversary of Rooftop, runs from May through September. The early submission deadline is January 5, 2009. Submission fees are a reasonable $9, and everybody who submits receives two free passes to any Rooftop Films show. They’re a solid filmmaker-friendly organization that I hear only good things about and should be commended for supporting both animation and live-action filmmakers. Complete submission info can be found on the Rootop Films website.
Today’s entry from the UK is more curio than classic: the 1959 Halas and Batchelor cartoon The Christmas Visitor, directed by John Halas, designed by Ted Pettengell, and animated by Harold Whitaker and Tony Guy. The cartoon, like a lot of Fifties work by Halas and Batchelor, is an uncomfortable mix of ‘cartoon modern’ styling and traditional animation movement. Its rarity makes it worth a view.
The big animation layoff news of the past week came out of Oregon-based Laika. The Oregonian reported that the studio laid off 65 people and cancelled their post-Coraline followup, Jack and Ben’s Animated Adventure. The CG film had a troubled production history and had been in development at Laika since 2005. Last year, the film’s original writer and director, Jorgen Klubien, left the project over “creative differences.” Mulan director Barry Cook was the new director when the studio pulled the plug. According to a Laika spokeswoman, the studio will make announcements about new projects early next year. My only observation is that if a film still has the words “Animated Adventure” in its title after four years of development, then it’s probably a wise bet to can the idea. Seriously, who’d ever go watch a film titled The Dark Knight: Live-Action Adventure.
Der Schneemann (The Snowman) is a delightful 1943 animated short directed and animated by Hans Fischerkoesen in Nazi Germany. Fischerkoesen was arrested after the war accused of being a Nazi sympathizer but was eventually able to prove that he had been a member of an underground resistance group of artists. Read more about his life and work in this article by William Moritz.
YouTube user ‘VidResidue’ has uploaded a couple of rare 1950s animated commercials worth sharing. The first is a Kool-Aid spot directed by Tex Avery and designed by Ed Benedict. I think it’s amazing that Avery’s last theatrical cartoon–Sh-h-h-h–was released in 1955 when he was only 47 years old. Tex’s flame burned out prematurely. As much as I enjoy his TV commercials (of which I’ve only seen a dozen or so out of hundreds that he directed), it’s disheartening that one of animation’s greatest directors has a late body of work that is comprised entirely of lightweight advertising jobs and cheap TV shows. (Earlier this year I did a lengthier post about Avery’s late-career.)
Next is a Peter Pan Peanut Butter spot designed by Tom Oreb. I’m guessing the director of the spot is Charles Nichols.
Here is the model sheet that Tom Oreb created for the TV version of Peter Pan characters (click for bigger version).
We’re sticking around in the Thirties today for the Van Beuren short Pals (aka Christmas Night) starring Soglow’s The Little King. A creepy Santa and two hobos complete the package. Jim Tyer animated on this film as well.
I’ve discovered over the years that studying a studio’s movie advertising and film promotion collateral is often a good way of gauging the studio’s overall health. For example, compare this coloring page that Sony Pictures Animation created for the first Open Season:
to what arrived in our email yesterday from a PR company promoting Open Season 2:
This is a fairly significant lapse in quality control. How hard is it to have an artist spend a couple hours whipping up a proper illustration of the studio’s franchise characters? Instead they created the line art by tracing the contours from a CG model resulting in an awkward, wonky, tangent-filled piece of crud. Infer what you want from this little promotional piece, but I don’t see successful studios like Pixar and DreamWorks making these type of bush-league mistakes.
For the record, the PR company also made us this offer: “We are happy to offer DVD giveaways with this coloring page as well.” I think we’ll take a raincheck on that offer.
When I presented my 2008 animation picks last week, I didn’t offer up any student shorts on my list. That’s not because I didn’t see any good student work during this past year. Far from it, I saw quite a few nice pieces. Nothing blew me away though to the extent that I had to include it on the list. That’s all changed now because I’ve just seen Story from North America, an awesomely excellent film animated by Kirsten Lepore and Garrett Davis, with music written and performed by Davis. Created at the Maryland Institute College of Art, it is a combination of surprisingly poignant song-driven storytelling and some of the most crazily inventive and funny hand-drawn animation I’ve seen in recent times. The short may have less polish and sheen than other student films, but its originality and creative use of the animation medium makes it one short I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
We’re looking back all the way to 1932 today to see Santa’s Workshop, a Disney “Silly Symphony” directed by Wilfred Jackson. It’s lighthearted Disney fluff at its best–charming, entertaining and lots of fun to look at.
The official Rankin/Bass website has a disturbing front page story that alleges Warner Bros. is witholding millions of dollars owed to Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass, creators of classic holiday specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. More details about the situation can be found in this article printed in Rankin’s hometown Bermuda paper The Mid-Ocean News. According to that piece:
The dispute arose when popular 1980s cartoon ThunderCats was re-released recently as a DVD box set by Warner Bros, which owns the distribution rights to that and 21 other Rankin/Bass titles. The box set went on to sell over a million copies, prompting Mr. Rankin to wonder about profits owed to him and his colleagues. “Sales were jumping off the charts,” said Mr. Rankin in an exclusive interview with the Mid-Ocean News.”But Warner Bros said they didn’t have any accounting on it except that they’d sold a million copies. My legal team started investigating and found out that for the last 20 years they’ve been deducting handling fees of $200,000 annually.”
Mr. Rankin explained that while Warner Bros readily admits an accounting error resulting in $2.6 million of improper deductions, they claim he caught the mistake too late. “They knew it was wrong, but said that because it has been so long, the statute of limitations has kicked in. You would imagine that Warner Bros, which makes an awful lot of money with our productions would say, ‘We’re sorry about our mistake. Here’s what we owe you’.”