Yesterday we looked at new and emerging markets in animation. One commenter, Mike Rauch of the Rauch Brothers, was just as excited as I was, and calls this paradigm shift in animation “as big a deal as Gutenberg’s printing press.”
Still from “Why Can’t We Walk Straight
In terms of opportunities and amount of work available, there is no better time to be working as an animator than today. More new avenues for animated content are springing up than ever before. For decades, the choices were straightforward: TV, features, commercials, music videos, and shorts. Today those limited number of options have been upended as every form of media and creative practice is somehow incorporating animation into its sphere, from news programs to architecture.
A message from the employees of Pixar:
This comment by CLaarkamp1287 on YouTube sums it up better than I could:
“For Pixar to do this kind of video takes major balls on their part. As a film company thatï»¿ is associated with being family-friendly, it is so often construed that homosexuality is a threat to family values, and here comes Pixar to completely dismiss that ridiculous myth. Awesome job, Pixar. Clearly, movies aren’t the only thing you excel at.”
Microsoft’s new controller-free gaming environment called Kinect for XBox 360 also doubles as a powerful digital toy for hackers. The open source drivers on the Kinect allow users to hook it up to PCs and push it in different directions like this:
The above was created by manipulating Kinect data in realtime through a C++ coding platform called Cinder. The end result makes live-action footage look like it’s gone through a Michelin Man toon shader.
Here is another person who is using the Kinect to create 3-D space:
Dorse A. Lanpher is one of a handful of artists who can say he worked on Disney classics like Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians as well as contemporary features like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Tarzan. Lanpher recently self-published a memoir called Flyin’ Chunks and Other Things to Duck: Memoirs of a Life Spent Doodling for Dollars. His 48-year-career as an effects animator also included an extended stint with Don Bluth on projects like The Secret of NIMH, Dragon’s Lair and An American Tail, which is why Don Bluth penned the book’s foreword. The book sells for a modest $18 on Amazon, and judging from the preview pages on that website, it’s filled with a lifetime’s worth of important and untold stories about working in feature animation.
In its third weekend, DreamWorks Animation’s Megamind dropped to second place at the North American box office with a final gross of $16 million. Its total gross now stands at $109.3 million after 17 days. The film performed poorly mid-week, and “its 44 percent second-week drop was steeper than that of any other DreamWorks Animation movie besides the Madagascar movies,” according to Box Office Mojo. Comparable grosses for other mid-range CG features at this stage: How To Train Your Dragon had earned $133.4 million after seventeen days, Monsters vs. Aliens ($140.2 million), Despicable Me ($161.3), Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs ($139.7), Happy Feet ($121.5) and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa ($137.1). The film is currently tracking to be the 10th highest grossing DreamWorks film somewhere between the $160.9M of Shark Tale and the $180M of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.
On the independent side, Paul and Sandra Fierlinger’s My Dog Tulip earned $8,622 from four theaters pushing its total to $123,221. This week it will surpass the US releases of Tokyo Godfathers and Appleseed.
A number of readers have written to ask who animated the shadow puppet-inspired “Tale of the Three Brothers” sequence in the new Harry Potter film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was directed and designed by Ben Hibon who produced it in association with Framestore. Hibon recently signed with Nexus Productions for repping.
Here’s an earlier film Hibon made called Codehunters:
UPDATE: FXGuide posted an interview with Dale Newton, the supervisor of the animated sequence at Framestore.
Last night’s episode of Sym-Bionic Titan is causing a mini-uproar on the Internet because of this sequence:
Many commenters, including the popular blog Super Punch, are questioning why Cartoon Network showed something so suggestive on a show that is rated TV-PG. Do you think this went too far for a TV-PG show that airs at 8pm? And while we’re at it, here’s another question: does nobody on the Sym-Bionic Titan crew understand how to draw a foreshortened pose? Not that there was much sexiness to begin with in this stiffly posed and animated sequence, but drawing a character so poorly so that she appears to have a leg tumor surely doesn’t help.
Pardon me while I revert to old fogey mode, but it’s sad that after decades of progress in this art form, today’s television artists can’t animate anything nearly as appealing or sexy as work created eighty years ago:
A test frame from Signe Baumane’s feature film in progress
NY filmmaker Signe Baumane (Teat Beat of Sex) is working on her first animated feature Rocks In My Pockets and documenting the progress on her blog. During the past month, she wrote an incredible seven-part series about a topic that nobody ever talks about publicly: fundraising and how an independent animator can afford to make films while living in New York. Bottomline: It’s not easy.
Many filmmakers make films occasionally inbetween commercial film projects, whereas Signe takes a firm and principled stance that puts her independent filmmaking above all other activities. Her free-flowing and often funny articles touch on countless different subjects: applying for grants, why Kickstarter doesn’t work for her, accepting non-film art projects that support her filmmaking habit, and the difficulties of budgeting living expenses when one isn’t earning anything. Unfortunately, the posts aren’t categorized, but start in the October archive with Fundraising Story 1 and work your way up. Her writings provide a sobering and realistic perspective on the life of an independent filmmaker.
(Thanks, Michael Sporn, for the tip)
I found out Liu Jian’s Piercing 1 when looking through the list of winning films at the Portuguese animation festival Cinanima which ended a few days ago. After reading up on it, I’m fascinated by everything about the film and can’t wait to see it. I don’t know when that’ll be, but Los Angeles folks are lucky because the film has its US premiere on December 4 at the Silent Movie Theater.
The film tells a contemporary story set during the recent financial crisis. The synopsis:
Zhang Xiaojun came from a poor rural area to the big city. He put himself through university and found a job in a shoe factory. In 2008, the financial crisis forced the closure of many factories. Zhang Xiaojun lost his job. One day, a supermarket guard beats him up, mistaking him for a thief.
In vain, he asks the supermarket manager for financial redress — his dearest wish is to return to his village to resume a simple farming life. Right before his departure, the police arrest him. The supermarket manager also has his problems. On a moonlit night, the storylines converge in a teahouse near the city rampart.
The artwork for Piercing 1 looks beautifully drawn, and in this article about the film, Jian says that he drew the entire film himself on a WACOM tablet over the course of three years. “One day, I talked to my wife about the idea of making an animation film,” he said. “With her permission, we sold our apartment, relied on our savings and we also got help from our relatives. The whole combination of money needed to produce the film was USD $100,000.”
It should be noted that most (if not every) animated feature in China is made with some sort of funding or support from the government. Jian’s film is truly independent; in fact, the lack of the Chinese government’s oversight means that the film is unlikely to ever be released in that country. Hopefully he’ll find a way to distribute it internationally. When asked about the government’s reaction, Jian said:
“I’ve gotten a mixed reaction. The film deals with a lot of negative aspects of life. Even though these aren’t China-specific, government censors are always sensitive. It seems that they’re happy that a Chinese film is gaining international acclaim, but at the same time, with the negative themes in the movie… right now they’re not doing anything to block the film, but they’re not doing anything to promote it, either.”
More information about the film can be found at its official website. If you’ve already seen it on the festival circuit, please share your thoughts in the comments.
UPDATE: This review of the film by Thierry Meranger appeared in Cahiers du Cinéma.
Twenty-year-old animation student Antoine Blandin chose an ambitious subject matter for his short I’m Going to Disneyland that pushes beyond typical student film territory. Domestic violence and child abuse are difficult subjects to pull off in animation, and Antoine does a lot with the topic in just over two minutes. I might even argue that it’s more effective than the other domestic violence cartoon making the festival circuits this year, Anita Killi’s Angry Man, simply because Blandin’s grim and austere visuals don’t distract from the story and feel more authentic to the point he’s making. The film was made at the AngoulÃªme, France-based animation school EMCA. There’s a smart write-up about the short at Kuriositas.com.
As someone who never chats online, and is frequently inaccessible via e-mail and Facebook, I thought I’d try out this new app called VYou, that allows me to interact publicly with Brew readers via video responses. Basically, you can ask me any question you like, and I’ll choose some of them to answer when I find the time. Feel free to ask me about the industry, animated films, my book projects or personal stuff. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep the VYou app accessible on my bio page for now. (IMPORTANT: Do NOT ask questions in the comments below. They will be ignored. Questions have to be submitted through the VYou app HERE.)
UPDATE: I’m overwhelmed by the number of questions you have for me. I’ve started answering some of them and will answer many more in the coming days. Submit questions and view answers on my bio page.
Happy birthday to the great Walt Peregoy who turns 85 today. His color styling on 101 Dalmatians is legendary, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He’s done tons more great work throughout his career. Peregoy continues to be an accomplished fine artist, and an exhibit of his personal paintings are showing in Burbank for another week or so. I’ll try to make sure he sees this page today so please send your birthday wishes.
Walt painted the backgrounds on the film below, The Shooting of Dan McGrew. The colors are especially majestic if you can see a 35mm print projected:
(Thanks, Joe Horne)
I randomly stumbled upon this memorial video dedicated to Filastro “Fil” Mottola (1915-2008) who worked as a background painter on Sleeping Beauty and The Sword in the Stone. Though the video is short on his animation work, it’s still a real treat to see such a nice collection of photos from his life and examples of his fine art paintings.
A bear, a cat and a cyclops are tossing each other around…sounds like the setup to a crummy joke, but it’s actually this soundless animation loop created for a class assignment by School of Visual Arts student Jared D. Weiss. The only reason I’m posting it is because the animation made me laugh…five times in a row. It’s difficult to do goofy animation that is both awkward and well animated. Sesame Street director and Pixar veteran Bud Luckey calls it “dumb-ass animation,” and frankly, I can’t think of a better term. Whatever you want to call it, Jared does it quite well.
PS: If you want to make it even funnier, try watching with the Benny Hillifier.