I’ve often heard people complain that there’s no money to be made in the animation business. That’s not exactly true. It’s just that the money usually doesn’t filter down to the people who actually create the art. Case in point, the NY Post reported that the Manhattan apartment of Bernie Madoff was recently purchased by Al Kahn of 4Kids Entertainment, which is the licensee of Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!:
The millionaire “marketing genius” behind the Pokemon and the Cabbage Patch Kids toy crazes inked a deal to buy Ponzi King Bernie Madoff’s posh penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side, sources said. Al Kahn, CEO of 4Kids Entertainment, signed a contract to buy the 4,000-square-foot home, which was put up for sale by the feds to help recoup cash for the victims of Madoff’s $65 billion scam. The apartment, at Lexington Avenue and East 64th Street, was recently listed at $8.9 million, $1 million less than the original asking price. While the actual sale price is not known, sources said the pad — a three-bedroom, four-bath duplex with a wrap-around terrace — went for just under the asking price in the deal brokered by the Corcoran Group.
That’s nothing though compared to DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg, a more admirably creative exec, who plunked down $35 mil for new digs according to The Wall Street Journal:
Media mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg has paid $35 million for a house in Beverly Hills, CA. . . The six-acre property, which was never on the market, sits just above the Greystone Mansion, a Beverly Hills landmark. A long private drive leads to a house on a promontory. Mr. Katzenberg had been shopping for a large property with a view for several years. The home belonged to aerospace pioneer Simon “Si” Ramo, who was instrumental in the development of the intercontinental ballistic missile and co-founded TRW, which was acquired by Northrop Grumman. Mr. Katzenberg, who bought the property under the name of a trust, declined to comment.
The push back against realism in computer animation continues with Pivot, a striking and confident CG short from The Netherlands. It’s designed and animated by Kevin Megens, Floris Vos, Arno de Grijs, and André Bergs. The caricatured animation and design-oriented approach to filmmaking is packed with clever visual ideas, which helps one forgive the lack of originality in the story. Sound design by Alex Debicki also adds to the overall effect. Pre-production art and more information about the filmmakers at PivotTheMovie.com.
One of the most fulfilling aspects of blogging on Cartoon Brew is every so often discovering the young filmmaker who loves to experiment with the medium and isn’t bound by conventional notions of animation filmmaking. I’d venture to say that Dundee, Scotland-based Graeme Hawkins is one of these chaps. Witness the breadth of his approach to the art form by visiting Retchy.com, which is filled with all kinds of fun animated experiments including 3D zoetropes, projection mapping and VJing, along with generous descriptions of his processes and techniques. He also worked as a digital artist on Sylvain Chomet’s new film The Illusionist.
Below is his thesis film, 5, which is “an exploration of childhood memories, combining scientific theory, the wandering mind of a child, and largely abstract sound design to hopefully evoke feelings of nostalgia, familiarity and comfort.” I was impressed by the blend of sophisticated visuals, surprising transitions, and sharp sound design, but if you want to read into it further, Graeme explains on his website that the film has something to do with Richard Feynman and Richard Dawkins.
Here’s another quickie film of his I enjoyed–McDonalds on the Brain:
Zé BrandÃ£o, who runs Copa Studio in Rio de Janeiro, sent me this cute TV series pilot he made as a co-production with two Brazilian public broadcasters (TV Brasil and TV Cultura). It’s impressive to see the rising quality of children’s animation being produced in all corners of the globe. Countries with developing animation scenes, like Brazil and India, are proving that they can produce shows that are virtually indistinguishable in quality from the work coming out of more experienced animation-producing countries. As they increase their production capacities, more TV animation production will shift to affordable countries like Brazil which barely had an animation industry a decade ago. Which begs the question, if decent animation can be produced anywhere in the world at low cost, will this force animation producers in the US and Europe to raise the bar on their work or will they simply throw in the towel? It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
An article from today’s Hollywood Reporter says that Avatar producer Jon Landau labeled the Oscars “a disappointment” after none of the film’s animated characters were nominated for an acting award. He also said they need to change the term “motion capture photography” to “emotion capture” to fool people into thinking it’s something else. Meanwhile, Cameron stated recently that, “People confuse what we have done with animation. It’s nothing like animation. The creator here is the actor, not the unseen hand of an animator.” It’s always amusing how indignant mainstream Hollywood becomes whenever they get a taste of what it’s like to be treated as one of the industry’s second-class animation citizens.
Gabe Swarr, an animation director at Nick by day, is the creator of the Big Pants Mouse comic strip which appears weekly at DummComics.com. He created this two-part video that documents the process of making one of the strips. It’s interesting to hear him talk about the extensive asset system he’s created for the characters in Flash, which as he hints at in the video, would be transferable to animation should he ever make a Big Pants Mouse animated project in the future.
A delightful trailer for The Little Boy and the Beast (Der Kleine und das Biest), a six-minute short directed by Johannes Weiland and Uwe HeidschÃ¶etter at Studio Soi. Looks like it could be CG, though a lot of drawing went into its making too. It was made for German children’s TV channel KI.KA, where it debuted last November, and will hopefully be making the festival rounds soon for the rest of us.
Ireland’s animation industry is still relatively small, but according to this piece in the Irish Times, it is robust and growing. A few noteworthy facts and numbers from the article:
* Animation is the “star performer” of the Irish film and TV industry, and “the only independent audiovisual sector which predicts growth this year.”
* There are 337 people working full-time in the Irish animation industry making it “the largest provider of full-time employment in the Irish independent film and television sector.”
* The country doesn’t have a strong domestic market for animation (an approximate population of 4.5 million will do that) which means that for some studios, up to 90 percent of their business is export-based.
* The Irish Film Board provides around â‚¬1 million every year for animation projects.
UPDATE: Two pieces of Irish animation were nominated for Oscars a few hours after this post: The Secret of Kells for animated feature and Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty in the animated short category.
The dreamlike morphing imagery in Drift creates a mysterious and original style of movement that I haven’t seen before in any time-lapse/pixilation work. “Stop motion tilt shift meets tracking,” in the words of the director Theo Tagholm, who made it with a Canon G9 still camera and After Effects.
A few years ago, a group of DreamWorks artists banded together to create Scrambled Ink, an indie comic anthology that was eventually published by Dark Horse Comics. This summer, DreamWorks is releasing Moonshine: Brewed on the Dark Side of the DreamWorks Moon, which marks the first time that an animation studio has officially sanctioned an ‘art of’ book featuring the personal work of its artists. From the book description:
From forty-five talented and prolific DreamWorks Studio art directors, character designers, production designers and visual development artists . . . Moonshine features artwork that is made during the precious little time of day when the contributors are not working on stunning upcoming movies such as Puss in Boots, Shrek Forever After, The Croods, Kung Fu Panda 2, Oobermind, Guardians, Scared Shrekless and Kung Fu Panda Holiday.
The trend of studio artists self-publishing comic anthologies is nothing new. During the past few years, we’ve seen a couple volumes of Out of Picture from Blue Sky folks, What is Torch Tiger? and Who is Rocket Johnson? from Disney artists, and The Ancient Book of Sex and Science and The Ancient Book of Myth and War out of Pixar. But those were all published by the artists themselves, and didn’t have funding from their studios like Moonshine. Gotta hand it to Jeffrey Katzenberg on this one. It’s a savvy move on his part to encourage the personal creativity of his staffers beyond the creative confines of film production, and to bring their independent works under the umbrella of his studio. (It should be noted that Katzenberg provided a blurb for the back cover of the earlier book Scrambled Ink). I would be very curious, however, to find out what the terms of the deal are for the artists participating in the book: does the artwork in the book become studio property or do the artists retain copyright over their personal ideas as they do in all of these other indie book projects?
As you may have gathered from yesterday’s post, Yuri Norstein is currently in the US. He’ll be making appearances in other cities besides LA too. Let us know if you know of any other dates besides the ones below:
SAN FRANCISCO Sunday, February 7: Balboa Theater (3630 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA). Tickets are $25. The event will be a fundraiser to support Yuri Norstein’s animation studio in Moscow. If you can’t afford the screening, there is an artist reception beforehand that only costs $7. Ticket purchases can be made at the Porto Franco Art Parlor website.
OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON Wednesday, February 10: The Evergreen State College, Communications Building, Recital Hall in Olympia Washington. Ticket prices are $10 regular admission, $8 seniors, $5 students. More information at the Evergreen State College website.
NEW YORK Monday, February 15: School of Visual Arts Theater (333 W. 23rd Street, between 8th/9th Ave.) This event is billed only as a Q&A so be aware that there may not be a screening. No price is indicated so I’m also assuming it’s free. More info at the ASIFA-East website.
After nine weeks in wide release, Disney’s Princess and the Frog limped across the $100 million mark last weekend. It generated $757,000 at the North American box office for a grand total that now stands at $100,309,000. Somehow I have the feeling there won’t be a lot of people uncorking the champagne in Burbank today.
Six Points Fellowship is looking for applicants for its 2010 cycle. The fellowship is designed for emerging artists in the New York area (ages 22—38) who are creating projects that engage with Jewish ideas, and is open to all artists (not only Jewish) working in the city. It will be awarded to nine artists who will each receive up to $40,000 over two years. Each fellow will be provided with:
* Stipend ($20k over 2 years)
* Project Grant (up to $20k over 2 years)
* Monthly Salons
It sounds to me like a generously designed fellowship that offers both financial and professional support. Take note any NYers who might be developing a Jewish-themed animation project. To learn more, visit SixPointsFellowship.org. They are holding application workshops on February 7 and 17th.