If you haven’t heard, Brooklyn-based publisher PictureBox is putting out some of the most innovative and interesting comic and art books nowadays, including the gorgeous two-volume retrospective of Gary Panter’s work. Next year, they’re releasing what is shaping up to be one of the must-have animation books of the year. And I’m not just saying this because I’m the editor of the project. This book is about one of the most influential figures in contemporary animation, and everybody involved is working hard to ensure that it turns out properly. If you want to hear more about the project, drop by the PictureBox booth (#1630) in San Diego and chat with publisher Dan Nadel. He’ll be glad to fill you in, and he may even have a few pieces of artwork from the book on display.
Spline Doctors, the animation education blog run by Pixar animators, offers up a new audio interview with Doug Sweetland, longtime Pixar animator and director of the studio’s latest short Presto. Part 1 is posted here; the second part is coming soon.
I don’t think I’ve ever been able to exactly pinpoint what it is that I so enjoy about the directing duo Smith & Foulkes (repped by Nexus Productions), but they seemingly turn out more top-notch spots than anybody else in the commercial game. Their latest spot for Coca-Cola, “East Meets West,” is yet another piece of CG that impresses the hell out of me, largely because every element of this piece is carefully considered and designed to work in unison. I especially love how the commercial’s ornate visual detail is contrasted with a limited animation style. This directorial restraint allows for the graphics to read with a crispness and elegance that is uncommon in the world of commercial CG. As far as Coke adverts go, it’s hard to ask for much more.
“White Winter Hymnal,” directed by Sean Pecknold, is a stop motion music video for Seattle-based Fleet Foxes. While I enjoy slickly crafted computer animation as much as the next person, there’s something especially refreshing nowadays about seeing a rough-around-the-edges piece of stop motion in which the artist’s hand can be felt in every frame.
Cartoon Brew went down last night. We’re happily back up and running this morning but still a bit buggy. We hope to be back to normal before day’s end. If the site looks fine, no need to comment, but if you’re experiencing any tech issues with the site, let us know in the comments and we’ll look into them. Thanks!
Studio AKA has released the trailer to Varmints, a followup to the 2004 BAFTA-winning short JoJo in the Stars. I’ve always loved the way that Marc Craste, the director of this short, uses CG to create worlds that are poetic and impressionistic.
Here’s a bit more about the film:
Adapted and directed by Marc Craste, Varmints is a 24-minute film based on the award-winning book of the same name by Helen Ward and illustrated by Craste, that tells the story of one small creature’s struggle to preserve a world in danger of being lost forever through recklessness and indifference. A crew of 35 people worked in three countries over a two year period to make the film, and an original score by Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson and sound design by Adrian Rhodes complete the picture.
Next Tuesday, July 22, indie filmmaker Brent Green is performing a FREE show of his animated shorts at the Hammer Museum in Westwood. I say “performing” because his mixed-media and stop-motion animated shorts are combined with live musical performance by Green and his backup band. I saw a show by Green last year and it’s an incredible experience that marries music and animation in ways that I hadn’t previously thought possible. Some of his films can be viewed online but the full effect really shines through during the live performance.
Expect a full body experience including live music, short films, and improvised narration–an evening spent on the verge of collapse with wobbly guitar, musical saw, banjo, fiddles, trumpets, accordion, drums and adamantly hand-made animations. Watch Brent Green’s films (Susa’s Red Ears, Hadacol Christmas, Paulina Hollers, Abe Lincoln, Carlin, Louisville/Gravity, and Walt Whitman’s Brain) accompanied by Brendan Canty of Fugazi, Jim Becker of Califone, Alan Scalpone of the Bitter Tears, Rodney McLaughlin, and Brent Green himself.
What does the little man on the emergency exit sign do when he’s not helping humans? “Signs of Life” is a witty animation installation created by Freddie Yauner that answers the question. Here is the explanation of how the interactive aspect of the project works.
Animator and eagle-eyed Brew reader Celia Bullwinkel spotted this faded sidewalk stencil graffiti of Mr. Magoo planting a bomb. The piece is in Greenwich Village. Are there more of these? Does anybody the story behind this image? Click on the image below for a larger version.
Jerry has posted a super-rare gem on YouTube: the 1965 short The Shooting of Dan McGrew directed by Ed Graham, Jr. I was so excited about seeing the film online that I asked him to let me post about it. When I first encountered this short about five years ago, the thing that popped out to me was the striking background color design of Walt Peregoy, who is most famously the color stylist of 101 Dalmatians. Unfortunately, this copy on YouTube doesn’t do justice to his color work and gives only a vague taste of what an actual print looks like.
The film was created in the spirit of earlier UPA shorts like The Unicorn in the Garden and The Tell-Tale Heart which adapted classic pieces of literature to the animation medium. In this case, the inspiration came from Robert Service’s poem of the same name.
In addition to Peregoy’s contributions, the film also has character designs by George Cannata, Jr. and background layout by UPA veteran Bob Dranko. The animation was directed by another younger design-oriented animator, George Singer, and the primary animators were Golden Age veterans Manny Gould and Amby Paliwoda. Also worth noting: the music is credited to jazz great George Shearing. This is his only animation score as far as I’m aware.
The Sixties was an interesting time for theatrical shorts in the US. As studio animation was dying out, many of the major studios offered independently-produced one-shots like this one, which was released by Universal. There are plenty of other Sixties one-shots that are currently owned by major studios and deserve to be made available to animation fans. These include two films by John and Faith Hubley that are owned by Paramount–A Windy Day and Oscar-winning Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature–as well as Ernie Pintoff’s Oscar-winning The Critic, Ken Mundie’s The Door, Format Films’ Icarus Montgolfier Wright, and Chuck Menville and Len Janson’s Stop Look and Listen and Blaze Glory.
“Kaiserwetter” is a distinctive looking video for German musician Olli Schulz directed by Benjamin Leng of HickPix. Leng tells us, “I made the video together with illustrator Niklas Hughes in a six-week period, combining hand drawn backgrounds with computer animation in After Effects.”
Brooklyn’s homegrown cartoon festival Animation Block Party will return for its fifth edition from July 25-27. Over 100 animated shorts will screen during the three-day festival, chosen from 800 plus entries.The line-up of films and ticket info was officially announced today. If the event’s promotional materials (above) are any indicator, this is not to be confused with traditional festivals. It has an informal and indie spirit with plenty of opportunities for mingling and partying. I’ve heard positive things from everybody who has attended. Here are more details from their press release about the various festivities:
ABP opens on Friday July 25th at Rooftop Films, featuring live music from Plushgun, followed by a screening of ABP’s most fun and fan friendly cartoons. A party at Bar Matchless will follow ABP-Rooftop screenings with free beer from Radeberger.
ABP continues on Saturday July 26th at Bam Cinematek, with experimental works and music vids in Program One and a storytelling focus in Program Two. Screenings will be followed by an after party at Cherry Tree with free Newcastle courtesy of America’s Finest News Source, The Onion, Inc.
ABP closes on Sunday July 27th at Bam Cinematek, with top professional-independent works in Program Three and narrative local-international shorts in Program Four with an after party at Habana Outpost, featuring streaming toons, food specials and free beer courtesy of Autodesk.
Bonus Amid Geek-Note: The guy who did the drawing above is Doug Crane, who was the primary inker on the Terrytoons classics Flebus and The Juggler of Our Lady.
“Wall-E for President” is an op-ed column written by NY Times political commentator Frank Rich. In it, he implores everybody from John McCain to Barack Obama to see the film:
Mr. McCain should be required to see “Wall-E” to learn just how far adrift he is from an America whose economic fears cannot be remedied by his flip-flop embrace of the Bush tax cuts (for the wealthy) and his sham gas-tax holiday (for everyone else). Mr. Obama should see it to be reminded of just how bold his vision of change had been before he settled into a front-runner’s complacency. Americans should see it to appreciate just how much things are out of joint on an Independence Day when a cartoon robot evokes America’s patriotic ideals with more conviction than either of the men who would be president.
Western Spaghetti, the latest stop-motion short from director PES, has been posted onto his website EatPes.com. The film was animated by PES and Javan Ivey. Stills and videos from the stop-motion shoot can be seen on PES’s Facebook page.
Endangered Species by Tony White (Hokusai: An Animated Sketchbook) is so insidery that it’s doubtful it’ll ever find a mainstream audience. But being that it’s a mockumentary about the rise and fall of hand-drawn animation, it’ll make perfect perfect sense to the Brew readership. There’s some nice animation throughout and the twist ending is a delight.
Here are more details from White about the film:
Endangered Species was a film I created exclusively to illustrate my recent book… “Animation from Pencils to Pixels – Classical Techniques for Digital Animators.” The book is conceived to be the ultimate reference book for all contemporary animators, dealing with traditional techniques of movement and production process that can be utilized in the modern digital world. It seemed totally relevant therefore to offer an animated overview of the great classic moments of traditional animation, and then explain how these original pieces were produced and how I replicated them in a digital environment. This is all indicated and explained in the book’s accompanying interactive CD, amongst other things. I worked single-handedly for over 4 years to produce the film, utilizing the assistance of many of my students… as well as the voice of the great Roy E. Disney… along the way!
Character designer Harald Siepermann has posted a lot (and I do mean A LOT) of his artwork onto this blog entry. These include designs from Disney features like Tarzan, Treasure Planet, Mulan, The Emperor’s New Groove and Brother Bear.
While browsing iTunes yesterday, I noticed that they’ve licensed many of the independent shorts produced by Japanese cartooning legend and Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka. These include some difficult-to-find efforts such as Tales of the Street Corner (1962) and Pictures At an Exhibition (1966, image above), both of which are more notable for their rarity than their quality as shorts, though they do each offer some cool design work. The films can be purchased on the Tezuka Productions page (link goes to iTunes) while more info about the shorts can be found on this website.
Wallâ€¢E director Andrew Stanton talks with Christianity Today about some of the Genesis-related themes he incorporated into the film. The interview also offers a good explanation for why all of the film’s humans are depicted as fat babies.
There seem to be some biblical themes in this film. WALLâ€¢E is sort of like Adam, the only “guy” on earth, lonely, longing for a companion â€¦
Andrew Stanton: Yes, and that’s certainly why I picked EVE as an appropriate title for the female robot. But “Adam” just didn’t have the underdog ring to it as the main character. WALLâ€¢E was a little bit more sad sack–and I could find an acronym that could work for that. But definitely it had that first man, first female theme. But I wasn’t trying to replace man in the bigger story. I just loved the poetic-ness that these two machines held more care for living and loving than humanity had anymore.
There’s also a bit of Noah’s Ark story here, with the humans on the space station, waiting for a chance to repopulate the earth–but having to wait till EVE comes back with plant life to indicate it’s okay.
Stanton: I wasn’t using the Noah’s Ark story as a guide, but through circumstances, I loved the parallels of EVE almost being like this dove, of going down for proof that it’s time to come back. It just worked in that allegory, so I ran with it.
Below is a short but insightful interview with JibJab co-founder Gregg Spiridellis about some of the recent business plans for their website JibJab.com. Unlike so many other online animation startups, JibJab has managed to balance its artistic ambitions with business savvy and a willingness to experiment with new ways of earning income from online animation. I found the link on Scott Kirsner’s CinemaTech blog, and as Scott says, “The guys at JibJab have been experimenting longer than anyone else with new business models for Web content.”
It’s also worth noting that their new Sendables e-cards are allowing the studio to branch out beyond their established photo-collage animation style and play with techniques like stop-motion (Crankballs), puppetry (Motor Mouth Malone) and hand drawn-looking Flash animation (like this birthday greeting).
Who is Rocket Johnson? (previously mentioned on the Brew) is the new graphic novel anthology being self-published by Disney animation artists and debuting at Comic-Con in a few weeks. A special copy of the book is currently being auctioned on eBay, and all proceeds from the sale will be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to help fund research in finding a cure for the disease. The copy on eBay is signed by all of the Disney artists in the book and also comes with a set of pins made especially for Comic-Con. The auction ends on July 10. More details about the book are at WhoIsRocketJohnson.com.
Below are a few sample pages displaying some of the lovely artwork that can be found in the book. Click on each for a larger version.
The Movie Marketing Madness blog offers interesting in-depth analyses of the marketing campaigns supporting the recent animated features Wallâ€¢E and Kung Fu Panda. The blog concludes that both movies had successful ad campaigns.
Then again, they had better be successful for the amount of coin they’re spending to market these pictures. This recent article in Variety discusses the exorbitant costs of promoting animated features nowadays, and says that these two animated features have the costliest marketing campaigns of any two Hollywood films this year, with Disney’s $54 million Wallâ€¢E campaign leading the way.
There is little doubt in my mind that videogames are one of the major emerging art forms of the late-20th century and beyond, but how do games stack up against other more established narrative forms like books and movies. Pulitzer Prize-winning author and videogame fan Junot DÃaz wrote a piece in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal that examined the new Grand Theft Auto IV and the comparisons it has drawn to works like The Godfather and The Sopranos. Diaz argues that certain elements are inherent in all great pieces of narrative art and that those elements are missing from GTA IV:
GTA IV sucks you the hell in but its narrative doesn’t move me in any way or shake me up or even piss me off. I get madder when I crash my car in the game than when Niko makes a stupid decision in the cut-scenes (the movie-like interludes that players don’t control). GTA IV for all its awesomeness doesn’t have the sordid bipolar humanity of “The Sopranos,” and it certainly lacks the epic flawed protagonists that define “The Godfather” and its bloodier lesser brother “Scarface.” Successful art tears away the veil and allows you to see the world with lapidary clarity; successful art pulls you apart and puts you back together again, often against your will, and in the process reminds you in a visceral way of your limitations, your vulnerabilities, makes you in effect more human. Does GTA IV do that? Not for me it doesn’t, and heck, I love this damn game.
According to Diaz though, videogames do have the potential to be a powerful form of narrative expression:
What’s interesting though is that GTA could have been exactly what some folks are claiming it is. For all its over-the-top aberrance and brash transgressiveness, GTA IV doesn’t really wrestle with the radiant feverish nightmare labyrinth that post-9/11 America has become. Which is too bad. When you’re as lost as we are in this country, maps, no matter from where they come, are invaluable. It could have been that popular art blade that cuts through all pretensions and delusions; it could have been the map that we’ve been needing. But for that to have been possible GTA would have had to have put a small portion of the people playing the game at risk of waking up, even if only for a second, from the dream that is our current world.