There’s a great ASIFA-East panel coming up this Tuesday, September 23, in New York. It’s billed as a panel discussion on the state of NY animated features with panelists Emily Hubley, Daniel Kanemoto, Bill Plympton, Michael Sporn and Tatia Rosenthal. Every single one of these artists is currently making or has made an animated feature in the past year. Other East Coasters who aren’t on the panel but could be added to this list are Nina Paley and Paul Fierlinger. Never before in the history of animation have so many indie animated features been produced. We’re currently in the middle of an animation revolution and this panel will try to give some perspective to this unique moment in the history of the art form. How are these features being made? Who’s supporting them? Where is all this headed? There’s a lot to talk about. I’m moderating the panel and I’m really looking forward to having this discussion with such an esteemed group of filmmakers. Best of all, admission is FREE. It takes place at the School of Visual Arts (209 East 23rd Street in the 3rd floor Amphitheater).
I’m moderating a panel at the Ottawa International Animation Festival this weekend. It’s called “Animation Makes Me Laugh: Ha!” and it’s all about what’s funny and what isn’t in animation. There’s no sure-fire formula to funny so I can’t guarantee we’ll unlock any secret keys to humor, but I can guarantee you’ll get to hear from four funny and talented filmmakers: Nick Cross, Will Krause, Fran Krause and Superjail creator Christy Karacas. The panel takes place Sunday, September 21, at 3pm in the National Gallery (Lecture Hall). Drop by and say hello.
It’s a shame that Yoji Kuri’s animated shorts aren’t more widely available in the West, especially considering that Kuri is one of the godfathers of indie Japanese animation. Below is his film Love from 1963. Kuri, who turned 80 this year, is the subject of a new documentary that premiered at the Hiroshima Animation Festival last month. Also worth a look is this article about his films.
Today is bad news if you work on Wall Street, but it’s good news for folks who want to watch cartoons about Wall Street. Animator Gary Leib just debuted a timely animated piece on the NY Times website: Unnatural History of Wall Street. It’s one minute of fun, loose and cartoony animation with a jazz score by Mike Hashim. This is Leib’s second piece for the Times website; his first was this history of the Meatpacking District.
This new Nike commercial featuring British sprinter Nicola Sanders is a real winner, particularly in its artful execution. The mixed-media approach combines stop-motion, CG and live-action in a surrealist rainbow-colored package. It’s out of Wieden+Kennedy (Amsterdam) with direction by Nieto, model-making and animation by Brice Lartigue and lead VFX by Damien Martin.
The director, Nieto, is better known as Luis Nieto, who broke onto the scene with his student film Carlitopolis (2006). His subsequent follow-up–Prof. Nieto Show–gave the impression that he might be a one-trick pony, but this commercial, along with others for Sprint and Peugeot, prove that Nieto has plenty of tricks up his sleeve.
Seth MacFarlane recently launched his new ad-supported animated shorts series “Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy” through SethComedy.com. The show is structured through Google’s Content Network with sponsors such as Burger King. As you can tell by the embedded episode, the reason for discussing this on Cartoon Brew is clearly not because of the content (left-over Family Guy gags that demean both the terms “cartoon” and “comedy”) but because of its novel online distribution model, which could open doors for other filmmakers. According to Ars Technica, here is how money is made on the shorts:
The episodes are short, ranging from under a minute to no more than two, and so far, they only consist of a preroll sponsorship-type ad (which is animated in McFarlane’s style, so it’s not very jarring at all) before the actual video. For now, the two available shorts are sponsored by Burger King, and they are cross-posted to the “BK Channel” on YouTube…As with much web video these days, episodes of the Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy can be shared with friends and embedded onto blogs and websites. The interesting part of the deal, however, is the revenue distribution. The videos will be run on sites across the web, basically as both content and advertising. Each time a viewer clicks on a Cavalcade video or ad, advertisers will pay a fee that gets split between MacFarlane, Google, the production company partner Media Rights, and the site hosting the video.
No one has the solution yet for how filmmakers can consistently earn money by placing their work online and in fact there may be dozens of solutions. What’s not in doubt is that the integration of advertising and content has proven to be one driving factors behind the growth online short film distribution. Experiments like MacFarlane’s will only help everybody figure out the models.
Just how bad is Sarah Palin’s candidacy for vice-president?
It’s like a really bad Disney movie.
I’ve replayed Matt Damon’s Disney comment a dozen times and I’m still laughing. It comes at about 40 seconds into the video clip.
A can’t-miss event is coming up in NY. Richard Williams will appear at the Museum of Modern Art on Monday, September 22. He will discuss his career with historian and filmmaker John Canemaker. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for students. Here is the event description:
Three-time Academy Award winner Richard Williams discusses his long and influential career in a conversation with animation filmmaker and historian (and fellow Oscar-winner) John Canemaker. Williams, who was awarded Oscars for Special Achievement and for Visual Effects as the director of animation of the Walt Disney/Steven Spielberg blockbuster Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and for his short film A Christmas Carol (1971), is one of the finest animation filmmakers of our time. His stunningly crafted, award-winning films have featured the work of veteran animators from the Disney studio’s “Golden Age” and from Warner Bros. Cartoons, most notably Grim Natwick (Snow White), Art Babbitt (Fantasia), and Ken Harris (Bugs Bunny). Williams also learned from his friends Milt Kahl (Pinocchio, The Jungle Book), and Frank Thomas (Bambi, Cinderella). A distillation of his acquired knowledge went into the exuberant animation he directed for Who Framed Roger Rabbit and, most recently, into an unparalleled and indispensable series of instructional DVD master classes based on his bestselling book The Animator’s Survival Kit. Illustrated with clips from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Charge of the Light Brigade, A Christmas Carol, Raggedy Ann & Andy, the animated titles from The Return of the Pink Panther, award-winning commercials, segments from The Animator’s Survival Kit, and more. Organized by Joshua Siegel (Associate Curator, Department of Film) and John Canemaker.
Below is the stunningly brilliant conclusion of the online animated series Octocat.
When I posted the first episode last March, I wrote that it was the creation of 13-year-old Randy Peters. With the release of this final episode, filmmaker David O’Reilly has revealed that he is, in fact, “Randy Peters.” O’Reilly writes on his blog:
“I’m sure I’ll be accused of misleading people again, but I won’t apologize for that. Why? Because you’ve all proved one vitally important point: audiences don’t need polished, slick animation to find a story engaging. They are happy to follow the worst animated, worst designed and worst dubbed film of all time, and still laugh and cry and do all the things you do watching a so-called “high end” film. Its amazing, I’ve never been so excited about independent animation.”
No particular reason that I’m posting this photo other than I’ve never seen it before and figured it’d be fun to share with everybody. Walt, of course, is instantly recognizable, but the other guy is somebody who I often refer to as the greatest cartoonist of the 20th century, Ronald Searle. The pic is from July 1957. I’m not entirely sure but it appears that they’re on the Zorro set. Click on it for bigger version.
There are still some retrograde film festivals that penalize filmmakers for putting their films online, but progressive festivals are embracing the Internet as a vital component of their programming strategy. Take, for example, the Holland Animation Film Festival, which today began accepting entries via YouTube for its newly announced web competition, which allows online audiences to see the entries via YouTube and help choose the winner. Here are the details:
For the first time the Holland Animation Film Festival 2008 launches an international competition for web animations. The web competition will be open for entries from Monday, September 8 onwards. On HAFFTube you will find a link to the entry form for the web competition. Please read the regulations and note that your film should be uploaded on YouTube before submitting the entry form. HAFFTube will gradually fill up with animated films from all over the world.
The Holland Animation Film Festival will rate the films that have been entered for competition. When we have reached our set limit of 50 films, the voting begins. Every week, films will be voted out to make room for the new entries. Deadline for entries: Wednesday October 22.
An international jury of filmmakers selects the winner out of the final 50 titles. The winner will be revealed on the opening night of the festival at November 5.
As a response to YouTube’s takedown of Signe Baumane’s animated short, Canadian animation director Mike Grimshaw has posted an old film of his onto the file sharing service to highlight their screwy editorial policies. He writes, “I want to help out my pal Signe so I’ve posted my film Quiet Please to show what can be accomplished without resorting to nudity. We’ll see how long this lasts.” The video is possibly NSFW depending on where you work.
British department store Harvey Nichols has concocted a brilliant advertising campaign starring Wallace and Gromit. It heralds the company’s expansion into Bristol, England, the hometown of Aardman Animations. The typically casual Wallace now sports Alexander McQueen and Paul Smith suits, Dolce and Gabbana shirt and Giorgio Armani tie, while the undressed Gromit is decked out in a Paul Smith scarf and Ray-Bans. Wallace’s love interest, Lady Campanula Tottington, also appears in the print ads. The Daily Mail has an article including a nice “making of” video with Nick Park and company explaining how the ads were photographed.
Kudos to Aardman for understanding their characters, and making tasteful and witty choices about how they license their characters for advertising. Compare this to the utterly clueless dopes at Warner Bros. who recently licensed Bugs Bunny to advertise ketchup. The quizzical expression on Bugs’ face says it all.
Award-winning filmmaker Signe Baumane writes to tell me that yesterday somebody flagged her one-minute short The Very First Desire Now and Forever for having “objectionable content” and today the film was pulled from YouTube. What was so objectionable in this short, which we’ve plugged before on Cartoon Brew? A baby innocently squeezing milk from its mother’s breasts.
What happened to Signe’s film should serve as a warning to all filmmakers who choose to use a free corporate service like YouTube to host their film work. But the bigger issue is that YouTube should consider addressing the arbitrary policies they hold towards “objectionable content.” There are currently thousands of videos on their site displaying full-frontal male and female nudity in art, whether it be the work of Michelangelo or Matisse. It’s a slippery slope when YouTube begins passing judgment on what qualifies as art (painting and sculpture) and what doesn’t (animation). If the site’s policy is strictly no nudity, then it should be consistent about it across all forms of art. And if it’s the natural act of breastfeeding that YouTube deems so offensive, then a good first step would be to remove all of the live-action videos on their site featuring woman breastfeeding their children.
A 35-minute collection of classic Saul Bass film titles with narration and insights by Bass himself:
(via Smashing Telly)
French animation studio BIBO Films is working on a new CG short called French Roast directed by Fabrice O. Joubert and with character designs by Nico Marlet. The short has a production blog–written in French but with lots of pics. The studio is also wrapping up its first feature–A Monster in Paris–directed by company founder Bibo Bergeron (co-director of Shark Tale and The Road to El Dorado).
(Thanks, Matt Jones)
Don Hertzfeldt has just completed his latest short, I Am So Proud of You. It’s his longest work to date, and to celebrate he’s going on a 16-city US tour this fall. During these events, he’ll screen the new short, as well as show some of his older films and speak with audiences. Below is the list of cities he’ll be appearing in. More details on his site BitterFilms.com.
“Too Art for TV” has put out a call for entries for its 2008 edition. The yearly New York art show, founded by Liz Artinian (the color supervisor on The Venture Bros.), is “designed to promote and encourage the fine arts in the animation industry.”
All types of art media are accepted for consideration, and 25-35 artists will be selected for the exhibition. According to the submission site, “All applicants are selected by committee this year. Our committee members are artists in the industry who have been pre-invited to help with the show. This year’s committee members (so far) are Kelly Denato, Todd Lown, Christy Karacas, Jared Deal, and Justin Simonich.”
The deadline to submit an application is September 5. The exhibition will take place in November at the Erebuni Gallery Space in Williamsburg.
Here’s news that’s sure to please a lot of folks. Pendleton Ward‘s quirky Adventure Time short has been picked up for a full-series commitment by Cartoon Network, according to this Animation Guild story. The cartoon was originally produced for Nickelodeon’s Random! Cartoons, the as-yet-unaired (I think) shorts series produced by Fred Seibert.
As a refresher, here’s the original Adventure Time short:
As we head into the long holiday weekend, I thought it’d be nice to take a moment and share some inspiring images I’ve run across this week. Most of the artists represented below work in animation, though a couple work in consumer products at Disney.
Lou Romano offers a sneak peak from a personal animated short he’s currently working on that’s based on the poem “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe.
Quick sketches by Will Finn of his two young sons.
Four superb gouache paintings of LA scenery by Sam Michlap.
Great production and development artwork throughout Luc Desmarchelier’s blog (make sure to browse the archives). He even makes films like Road to El Dorado and Spirit look enticing which is no cakewalk.
This piece by Matt Cruickshank is one of the single best pieces of stylized illustration I’ve seen in a long time. The inventiveness and playfulness is matched only by the sophistication of color, pattern and composition. Certain parts of it remind me of Stuart Davis too.
I don’t think there’s any animation fan left online who’s not aware of the Totoro Forest Project taking place next month at Pixar and the Cartoon Art Museum, but I have to link to the project’s blog, which is filled with quality work like the piece above by Mike Lee.
A kid in Boston, Robbie, took just over 3000 digital photos in three days documenting his life in and around the city, and then compiled them into the animated film below. The life he documents is hardly extraordinary (lots and lots of public transport), and yet the film manages to evoke an emotional reaction by offering an intimate glimpse into one guy’s personal life. If not necessarily an original idea, it’s still a well done experimental film.
Pooh plays the role of Gulliver, Mickey has hung himself, Superman is a painter, and a cellphone has been kidnapped by the Grinch. These are some of the images in “It’s always six o’clock,” a gallery exhibition by Eva and Franco Mattes aka 0100101110101101.ORG. Similar to Toy Story, the show offers an interesting new way of looking at everyday toys and dolls. Exhibition photos are here.
Some happy news to report today. The Mass Animation project that we mentioned here last week released a new set of details today on their Facebook page. Notably among those details is that every artist whose work is used for the short will be compensated financially. Granted that the project is still structured like a contest and there’s a chance that the work you create won’t be used in the film (hence no compensation), but at least the artists whose work wins approval will receive something for their effort. Exploring new production models based on online collaboration is a worthy cause as long as it’s not done on the backs of artists, and I’m glad that we can now show some support behind a contest like Mass Animation.
AICN recently posted the above two images as part of a preview of Disney’s Bolt. So, as I understand the animation process at Disney, here is how you translate a board drawing into a final CG film frame:
1. Remove all the funny shapes in the character design and turn the character into a nondescript blob.
2. Take out any asymmetry (like the angles on the arms) and even out the pose.
3. Tone down the funny expressions.
4. Just in case there is any appeal still left in the CG model, add flat lighting and excessive texturing so the characters and background mesh into an indistinguishable dark muck.
5. Repeat this process until you have blown $150 million dollars.