Opening next month is “Animators as Artists,” an exhibit at the Nan Rae Gallery at Woodbury University (7500 Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, CA). The exhibit features personal work by eight animation artists–Rasoul Azadani, Mike Gabriel, Sunny Apinchapong-Yang, George Scribner, Margie Daniels, Mauro Maressa, Walt Peregoy, and Dan Hansen.
The reception is Wednesday, November 3, from 6-8:30pm. Make sure to attend, if only to kick it with the legendary Walt Peregoy who was responsible for color styling 101 Dalmatians. The exhibit runs through November 27. Regular gallery hours are Thursday-Sunday from 12-5pm.
Here’s an annual tradition from the Ottawa International Animation Festival that deserves more press. Every year during the festival, animator and professor Gary Schwartz shoots an experimental short–in exactly one day. This year, Gary used the striking techno-detritus festival awards, created by sculptor Tick Tock Tom, as the inspiration for his one-day stop-motion piece Fa Fha Pha.
Jerry and I both attended the Ottawa International Animation Festival and, like everyone else, had a wonderful time. Everyone that is except for Canadian animation artist Roxanne Ducharme who had a miserable week and tweeted every moment of the excruciating experience on her grouchily named Twitter account TrashCan Roxanne. Here’s a list of all the things she hated and why.
The film selections:
Watching films at #OIAF is like hitting yourself on the head with a hammer. It feels good when it stops.
The festival’s artistic director:
New levels of pompousness from Chis Robinson have been reached tonight.
The films again:
Those films will suck the life out of you #oiaf #fail #ineedadrink
The closing awards ceremony:
No class watsoever here at the closing ceremony #oiaf #fail #chisrobinson
Getting ready for another day of torture here at the Ottawa animation film festival. Even the parties are not that great.
Even more films:
I already let out a loud “F*ck” after one of the worst film today… @LittleAnimation was proud of me.
And apparently everybody else attending the festival:
The winners of the 2010 Ottawa International Animation Festival were announced this evening at an awards ceremony. David OReilly took home the grand prize for his new short The External World while Phil Mulloy won the feature film grand prize for Goodbye Mister Christie. The members of the 2010 International Jury for the Short Program, Student and Commissioned Films were Frances Leeming (Canada), Munro Ferguson (Canada), and Maya Yonesho (Japan). The members of the International Jury for the Feature Film Competition were Atsushi Wada (Japan), Torill Kove (Canada/Norway), and Michaela Pavlatova (Czech Republic). The complete list of winners is below:
The 2010 Nelvana GRAND PRIZE for Best Independent Short Animation ($3,000 CDN): The External World by David OReilly (Ireland/Germany)
The 2010 GRAND PRIZE for Best Animated Feature: Goodbye Mister Christie by Phil Mulloy (United Kingdom)
The 2010 Walt Disney Animation Studios GRAND PRIZE for Best Student Animation: Prayers for Peace by Dustin Grella (U.S.A.)
The 2010 GRAND PRIZE for Best Commissioned Animation: Going West by Martin Andersen and Line Andersen (New Zealand)
The 2010 Best Animation School Showreel:
Tokyo Arts University (Japan)
Rhode Island School of Design (U.S.A.)
The 2010 Best Narrative Short: This is love by Lei Lei (China)
The 2010 Best Experimental/Abstract Animation: Little Deaths by Ruth Lingford
The 2010 Adobe Prize for Best High School Animation: Where is the love by Dae Woen Yoon and Joe Woo Shin (South Korea)
The 2010 Best Undergraduate Animation: LGFUAD by Kelsey Stark (U.S.A.)
The 2010 Best Graduate Animation: Prayers for Peace by Dustin Grella (U.S.A.)
The 2010 Best Promotional Animation:
WWF ‘Heroes of the UAE’ by Josiah Newbolt and Ben Falk (United Kingdom)
The 2010 Best Music Video:
Blockhead ‘The Music Scene’ by Anthony Schepperd (U.S.A.)
The 2010 Best Television Animation for Adults: Midtown Twist by Gary Leib (U.S.A.)
Special Mention: Tord och Tord (Tord and Tord) by Niki Lindroth von Bahr (Sweden)
Special Mention: Fumiko no Kokuhaku (Fumiko’s Confession) by Ishida Hiroyasu (Japan)
The 2010 Best Short Animation Made for Children: Cul de bouteille (Specky Four Eyes) by Jean-Claude Rozec (France)
Honorable Mention: Diversity by Anthony Dusko (U.S.A.)
The 2010 Best Television Animation Made for Children: The Gruffalo by Jakob Schuh and Max Lang (United Kingdom)
Honorable Mention: Spliced ‘Helen’ by Matt Ferguson (Canada)
The 2010 National Film Board of Canada PUBLIC PRIZE: Sinna Mann (Angry Man) by Anita Killi (Norway)
The Canadian Film Institute (CFI) Award for Best Canadian Animation: Lipsett Diaries by Theodore Ushev (Canada)
Honorable Mention: Playtime by Steven Woloshen (Canada)
I wrote about Kirsten Lepore’s short Bottle last month, and enjoyed it so much, that I asked her to answer a few questions about her work. The interview, conducted via email is below. For more about her work, visit KirstenLepore.com.
CARTOON BREW:The idea of a relationship between two natural elements seems so obvious in retrospect, but I’ve never seen it before. Where did the spark for the idea come from?
KIRSTEN LEPORE: I had the initial spark about two winters ago while I was home in New Jersey.Â I think I was just looking at all the snow in the backyard and thinking how cool it would be to animate a snowman.Â I’d never seen it done, and it was definitely something I knew I had to try at some point — it was just a matter of having the time and coming up with the right story.
CARTOON BREW:Did you really animate all that snow? Last year, my hands froze just trying to build a still snowman. I can’t imagine doing animation with snow, and it not looking something like THIS.
KIRSTEN LEPORE: Yep! It was all real snow, moved frame by frame.Â Every time I got out there to shoot, I had to rebuild the character (which was about 3 feet tall).Â It was also pretty physically grueling pushing around massive snowballs (that probably weighed more than me), running back and forth between the camera and the character every frame, and dealing with wet gloves, boots, and pants.Â There were too many obstacles to even name!Â My brain hurts just thinking about it.
CARTOON BREW:Were you building and moving these characters by yourself or did you have help? Did you build rigs underneath? Were you able to review your animation as you were shooting? In other words, how’d you do it?
KIRSTEN LEPORE: It probably would have been much easier with a crew, but I’m stubborn so I did the whole thing by myself.Â I also would have felt really guilty making someone else stand out in the snow for 8 hours a day.Â In terms of the technique, there were no rigs needed for the snow as most things stuck together pretty well (or would freeze together if it was cold enough).Â I wanted so badly for the beach character to be pure sand, but after countless tests, I couldn’t get him tall enough without crumbling, so I had to build a trompe l’oeil foam puppet covered with a mixture of sand and vegetable shortening.Â
The puppet also wasn’t constructed very well so I ended up needing a ton of small rigs to hold up the arms and some of the objects.Â I wouldn’t dare bring my beloved compy on the beach, so I had no frame grabbing software either.Â I could only see an approximate review of what I shot by using the turning wheel on the back of the 7D to “flip” through the frames.Â I even tried to skip this when I could (simply to avoid touching the camera) because my hands were usually either soaking wet or totally greasy with sand and Crisco.Â Yum.Â I just posted a micro making-of that shows other parts of the process as well:
Â CARTOON BREW:After this, do you prefer to animate outside where all of nature is your set or the controlled environment of a studio?
KIRSTEN LEPORE: I definitely prefer a controlled studio, but it was nice not having to build any sets for the piece.Â It’ll probably be a few years before I can consider shooting outdoors again; I’d need time to forget how nightmarish the process was.
CARTOON BREW: You graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art a few years ago, and then decided to pursue a graduate degree in Experimental Animation at CalArts, which is where you made Bottle. Why did you decide to continue school instead of jumping straight into the industry?
After I graduated from MICA I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue a graduate degree, so I actually did freelance in animation for two years before coming to CalArts. I needed some time after undergrad to prove to myself that I could make a living doing animation. That “real life” experience was invaluable upon enrolling at CalArts as I already felt much more prepared and confident than if I had enrolled while I was fresh out of MICA. My decision to go to grad school was mainly fueled by the desire to make my own films again, the prospect of connecting with other animators, and to have the option of eventually teaching at a collegiate level. Also, I knew it would force me to move out to California, which is where I felt I needed to be.
Â CARTOON BREW:What are you working on right now and where do you hope you end up after graduating again?
KIRSTEN LEPORE: Right now I’m doing a few freelance projects and developing my thesis, which I’ll be working on for the next two years.Â After graduation it’d be great to continue freelancing and directing.
CARTOON BREW:What are some of the things that are currently inspiring you, both within and outside of animation?
KIRSTEN LEPORE: There’s so much!Â I just got back from the Vimeo Awards where I had the opportunity to meet so many creators that I respect and admire, which was totally amazing and inspiring.Â So many of the films and speakers got me pumped and eager to get back into the studio to produce new work. Â Outside of animation, I’ve taken up drumming again which I’m pretty excited about.Â I’m also usually in the kitchen cooking up some weird concoction.Â I’m proud to report I recently got over my fear of preparing eggplant, and (unrelated to the eggplant) may have mastered the art of the Vietnamese summer roll.
Behind-the-Scenes at Pixar Animation Studios
Supervising Animator Bobby Podesta
at the Charles M. Schulz Museum
November 6, 2010, 10-11:30am
(Santa Rosa, CA) Supervising animator for Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, Bobby Podesta will teach a class about his work behind-the-scenes at Pixar Animation Studios. Podesta, who has worked with Pixar for the past thirteen years, will be at the Charles M. Schulz Museum on Saturday, November 6, from 10:00—11:30 a.m. As part of the Schulz Museum’s Master Classes for Adults series, Podesta will share his insights about animation. Podesta’s animation credits include Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, Cars, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc. and A Bug’s Life. Class fees are $32 for Museum members and $40 for non-members and includes entrance to the Museum.
Podesta’s class is part of a series of weekend classes called the Master Class for Adults designed by the Schulz Museum to explore different aspects of the creative process. Each class will provide an intimate environment in which budding artists and cartoonists can receive art instruction and advice from top creative minds in the field. Other upcoming instructors include: Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist Mark Fiore and Hilary Price of Rhymes with Orange. Fees and advance registration are required. Call (707) 284-1263 for more information and to register.
About the Charles M. Schulz Museum & Research Center
The Charles M. Schulz Museum opened in August 2002 to fulfill its mission of preserving, displaying, and interpreting the art of Charles M. Schulz. The Museum carries out this mission through changing exhibitions and programming that build an understanding of cartoonists and cartoon art; illustrate the scope of Schulz’s multi-faceted career; communicate the stories, inspirations and influences of Charles Schulz; and celebrate the life of Charles Schulz and the Peanuts characters.
The Charles M. Schulz Museum is located 50 minutes north of San Francisco by car on Highway 101. The Museum is located at 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa, California, 95403.
Weekdays Monday thru Friday (except Tuesdays*) 11am — 5pm
Saturday & Sunday 10am — 5pm
*Open everyday throughout the summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day)
Free — Museum Members, Children 3 and under
$5.00 — Children 4-18, college students with valid I.D. card, and Seniors 62+
$10.00 — Adults
Those who watched the New York state gubernatorial debate a few nights ago were treated to the awesomeness of candidate Jimmy McMillan (aka Papa Smurf) of the “Rent is Too Damn High” Party. That alone has little to do with animation, but remix Jimmy’s words with Pixar’s Up, like Joe Sabia did, and you get something magnificent.
The Hub, a network owned partly by toy company Hasbro, launched a little over a week ago with new animated series including Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures, G.I. Joe: Renegades, and My Little Pony Friendship is Magic. The network’s debut closes the curtain on what has commonly been referred to as the creator-driven era of TV animation, which lasted from approximately the early-1990s through the late-2000s. During this two-decade span, the balance of creative control in TV animation favored artists for the first time since the early-1960s, and artists exercised vast influence over the visual style, writing, and overall direction of TV shows. It was a fertile period that spawned dozens of lasting cartoon stars and series, many of which are still as popular today as when they first debuted ten or twenty years ago.
What clearer death knell for creator-driven animation than the reemergence of Margaret Loesch. After running Hanna-Barbera and Marvel Productions in the 1980s, and Fox Kids through the mid-1990s, her influenced waned in animation during the height of the creator-driven movement, but now she is back in the driver’s seat as president and CEO of the Hub.
Watching names like Rob Renzetti and Lauren Faust pop up in the credits of a toy-based animated series like My Little Pony is an admission of defeat for the entire movement, a white flag-waving moment for the TV animation industry. The signs have been there for a long time, however, and the Hub is but one indicator in the precipitous decline of creator-driven content, whose demise was hurried along by Cartoon Network and its decision to relaunch with large amounts of live-action programming. The erosion of support for creator-driven animation happened gradually but surely, and today networks clearly prefer established properties over original ideas, and dislike dealing with individual artists who have a clear creative vision.
Nobody denies that the Hub’s shows will perform well and fulfill the programming needs of the network. But then again, nobody suggested that Smurfs, Snorks and Pound Puppies wouldn’t do well in the 1980s either. The reason that creators like John Kricfalusi, Matt Groening, Mike Judge, John Dilworth, Craig McCracken, Genndy Tartakovsky, Danny Antonucci, Bruce Timm, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone stepped up to the plate originally wasn’t because animation was performing poorly. It was because these artists had a vision for the art form that was more inspired, more vital and more consistently creative than those of executives like Loesch; they aspired to create BETTER cartoons instead of simply acquiescing to committee-driven mandates that underutilized their skill and talent.
The creator-driven mentality stubbornly exists among a group of hold-outs and idealists (Pen Ward’s Adventure Time, Devin Clark’s Ugly Americans, Christy Karacas’ Superjail! to name a few), but their numbers will continue to shrink in the coming years. As TV audiences become more fragmented, and advertisers shift ad dollars away from TV, networks will increasingly rely on worn but reliable formulas. They will demand only the surest bets–Looney Tunes revivals, TV series based on feature film characters (The Penguins of Madagascar is already on Nick and Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness is coming soon), shows based on live-action films (Napoleon Dynamite is headed to Fox), and the toy-based ideas that comprise the largest portion of the Hub’s animation programming.
This paint-by-numbers approach to executive management guarantees consistency, but eliminates the rich rewards stemming from the breakout animation hits that defined the creator-driven era. It also explains why so many networks are still coasting on the fumes of their earlier creator-driven successes: this month, the eleven-year-old show SpongeBob Squarepants ranked as Nickelodeon’s top-rated program, thirteen-year-old South Park is still Comedy Central’s best known animation product, MTV is reviving its 1992 creation Beavis and Butt-head, and Fox would not have a Sunday evening if not for its two vintage juggernauts, The Simpsons and Family Guy, which have existed for a combined thirty years. To be totally clear too, these are not retro-fads–these shows have been successful since they first debuted, just as theatrical cartoon stars during animation’s Golden Age often enjoyed popularity over multiple generations.
Do networks and producers deserve to shoulder the blame entirely? That thought was on my mind as I read this quote recently by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails describing his approach to creativity: “I really try to put myself in uncomfortable situations. Complacency is my enemy.” From my perspective, complacency and creative stagnation amongst creators of TV animation has been at the root of the problem.
During the past decade, too many creators compromised their vision to get shows onto air, and too many creators didn’t take advantage of the opportunity once they had shows. In the early-’90s, creators held the attitude that they had been given a once-in-a-lifetime chance to write their own ticket, and they were going to use the moment to make the most amazing cartoon series possible. That vision turned blurrier in recent years. Selling a show became in and of itself a symbol of accomplishment among a subsequent generation of self-satisfied artists whose shows consistently failed to entertain audiences.
There’s an upside to all of this. As one era wraps up, I believe we are entering a new (and even more exciting) period–that of the independent, multi-platform artist. The entire concept of creator-driven is redundant at a time when digital technology has made animation production accessible to all. Everybody creates equally today; for something to not be creator-driven is the anomaly. People make entire Web animated series from the comfort of their bedroom and become famous for it.
As more artists choose animation as a career, they will find themselves unattached to specific distribution formats as in the past. Fewer artists in the future will say, “I want to work in TV animation,” or “My goal is features.” These mindsets belong to a bygone time when television and theaters held a disproportionate sway over other modes of content distribution.
Today’s artist has become as fluid and fragmented as the art form itself. An artist might work on a commercial one month, a TV show another, a Web cartoon series the next. And then comes an animated series for cell phones, a music video, a theatrical short, background visuals for a live performance, and an insert for a live-action documentary. The scene I’m describing is one that is undoubtedly familiar to East Coast animators and many artists working in Europe, and it is spreading.
This new breed of animation artist will pounce at an invitation to work on a TV series should it present itself, but they will not commit themself to a specific format at the expense of their artistic integrity. While everybody loves a steady paycheck, today’s artist can afford to be adventurous because there is more animation being produced than ever before and opportunities lie around every corner.
At the end of the day, TV animation isn’t going anywhere, and future Margaret Loesches will still find plenty of willing peons to fulfill their orders for extended toy commercials. But the overall trends are becoming more clear every day. Current market conditions and general conservatism in TV animation continue to erode the quality of series animation, especially content-wise. The creator-driven movement has all but flamed out, and few hit shows or perennial cartoon stars have emerged in the last five years. Most importantly, talented young artists are deserting TV as a full-time career option, not only because there are fewer promising opportunities for creators, but because the animation ecosystem beyond television is healthier and more diverse than ever before.
Constable Adam Josephs, whose nickname has become “Officer Bubbles” after he was filmed harassing and threatening a woman for blowing bubbles (see video above), is now suing YouTube claiming that he’s the victim. What’s the cause of harassment? Animation.
Apparently, a filmmaker posted animated videos on YouTube that satirically depict Josephs abusing his power in other ways besides blowing up over bubbles. According to an article in the Globe and Mail:
In his statement of claim, Constable Josephs alleges the cartoons have subjected him to ridicule, and have resulted in threats against himself and his family. He also seeks to compel YouTube to reveal the identities of the person who created and posted the cartoon — identified by the moniker “ThePMOCanada” — and the identities of several people who posted comments in response.
The animations in question depict a policeman identified as “A. Josephs” arresting various people — including Barack Obama and Santa Claus — and beating up a news photographer while funk music plays in the background.
The YouTube account has already been shut down and the videos have been removed from their site. Whether YouTube or the maker of the films removed them, I find the situation to be unfortunate. The type of social commentary in those animated films should never be silenced under threat, and YouTube’s decision to cave in to an irrational lawsuit sends a chilling message to animators and political cartoonists who post their work onto the site.
In the 1800s, cartoonists like Honoré Daumier in France and José Guadalupe Posada in Mexico were jailed for lampooning political figures. Those days were supposed to be long gone in civilized countries, but one police officer in Canada wants to keep persecuting artists and stifling artistic expression by threats of financial harm and judicial intimidation.
Constable Adam Josephs works in Toronto’s 52 Division. You can place a complaint over his bullying behavior with the 52â€²s Community Relations Officer Constable Michael Moffatt at (416) 808-5291.
UPDATE: Somebody posted all of the Officer Bubbles videos onto YouTube again. They were all created with a free on-line animation program called Go! Animate. Go Animate! has also removed all the Officer Bubbles videos from their site. Crude as the cartoons are, they are quite effective works of satire. We’ve previously reported about easy-to-use web animation software, and an incident like this will only bring more attention to the potential of such products and the continuing democratization of the animation process.
Last month I wrote about a new studio in Melbourne called Rubber House which I thought was doing some fun and creative drawn character animation. The studio is run by Ivan Dixon and Gregory Sharp, and one of their former colleagues, Gavin MouldeyA, alerted me to a new piece they just completed called The Big Winner.
Directed by Sharp, and animated by both Sharp and Dixon, the film is barely more than a conceptual gag, but one that is done extremely well. I particularly like the character’s design transformation from sharp angles to bulbous, rounded forms.
Director: Gregory Sharp
Animators: Ivan Dixon and Gregory Sharp
Sound Design: James Brown
Producer: Ivan Dixon
“It Came from the Nightosphere!” is an exceptional episode of Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time that combines inventive drawing and animation with funny, heartfelt storytelling. It aired last Monday, which was the show’s second season premiere. Writing and storyboarding duties belonged to Adam Muto and Rebecca Sugar, while the story is credited to Merriwether Williams, Steve Little, Patrick McHale, Pendleton Ward, and Thurop van Orman.
I wrote a song for this episode, Marceline sings it at the beginning while Finn beatboxes. When Pen pitched this storyboard to CN, he beatboxed as Finn and I played the music on a uke and sang as Marceline. It was super terrifying, my first network pitch.
I also did all the monster stuff at the end! Adam Muto did all the meat in the middle! Generally, in our episodes, anything that is actually witty was done by Adam. I’m usually responsible for sex jokes and violence.
Also, just for fun, here’s Sneezy, a short animation piece that Adam created with Pen Ward a few years back. The stylistic evolution and growth from Sneezy to Adventure Time is fascinating to watch:
“I had the great experience of working as an animator on Tangled,” writes Claudio de Oliveira, “and by the end of the production I found some time to put together this homage to keep some memories of the ‘people’ behind this amazing project. It would be great if you could pass it along and put some faces out, not only our work.” Just be careful guys, if people don’t like the film, they know what you look like now.
The anonymous Brew reader who submitted Awesome Reach wrote, “I thought the animation here was wonderfully grotesque and over-the-top,” and I agree. The one-minute short, celebrating the release of the video game Halo: Reach, was created by Arin “Egoraptor” Hanson.
There are a lot of wildly talented, self-taught animators who post work on Newgrounds, and while they sometimes achieve micro-celebrity status on the site, their work remains completely unknown to the animation community, and moreover, the general public. A lot of that has to do with Newgrounds itself; the signal-to-noise ratio on the site makes it impossible for an outsider to discover anything worthwhile. Hopefully, artists with as much talent as Arin can break out and achieve the broader recognition (and financial rewards) they deserve.
This is the trailer for I Want Your Money, an anti-Obama political documentary that opens in theaters this Friday. Like countless documentaries nowadays, it uses animation to help communicate its message. The film’s director Ray Griggs made no secret about why he inserted animation into the film, explaining in an article that, “I promised myself if I was going to make a documentary, it would be one that I’d want to watch and hold my interest, which is a big reason why we have the animation.”
I’m not sure who did the CG animation, but the bobble head-style politicians, who include Reagan, Obama, Clinton, Schwarzenegger, and Sarah Palin, are based on designs by Tom Richmond of MAD Magazine. Richmond apparently isn’t overly impressed with the results. He posted images of his original designs on his blog and commented, “Unfortunately Ray [Griggs] had a lot of trouble with the animation companies that did the CGI and frankly the final results leave a lot to be desired. I think the modeling and basic characters look fine, but the talking animation part is rough.”
A cute short made by Celine & Yann, a directing duo repped by Passion Pictures and comprised of Yann Benedi and Celine Desrumaux. A great example of how to tell a story in one minute. Student filmmakers could learn a lot from this, including the importance of having strong personality animation even when using an illustrative design style.
Sun is the second short in Celine & Yann’s self-produced “Giants” series; the first was Army. Sound design provided by David Kamp.