Kayla Stewart in front of her burned-out home. The caption from the Spokesman-Review says that Stewart is wearing her mother’s thirty-year-old coat.
Veteran feature animator Chad Stewart (Cats Don’t Dance, The Pagemaster, Surf’s Up, Open Season, The Polar Express, Fantasia/2000, Tarzan, The Emperor’s New Groove) lost his home in an electrical fire last Sunday while his family was attending church. The Spokesman-Review has the sad details. What makes the situation particularly tragic is that Chad and his wife, Kayla, have eight kids–four birth daughters and four adopted biological brothers from Liberia. A friend of Chad tells me that, “After sixteen years working the studios down in LA, Chad wanted to spend more time with his family and made the move to Washington, where he began freelancing full-time.” The family is currently looking for a nearby home to rent and acquire replacement clothing and furnishings while they rebuild their burned-out home.
A charitable fund has been established and donations can be sent to either of these two places to help the Stewarts get back on their feet:
Northview Bible Church
13521 N. Mill Road
Spokane, WA 99208
12120 N. Division St.
Spokane, WA 99218
Hulu’s library of animated TV shows, shorts and features is growing more impressive by the week. Hulu’s content includes current series (The Simpsons, Family Guy), anime (One Piece, Inuyasha), animated shorts (the Koji Yamamura library, Pink Panther, Ant and the Aardvark, Tijuana Toads), features (American Pop, The Secret of NIMH), and old TV series (Stressed Eric, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Fat Albert, Drawn Together, He-Man). Hulu isn’t perfect–most of their content is geo-targeted for specific territories, some of the animation is only available for limited periods of time, and the videos have embedded advertising (though the percentage of ads relative to content isn’t unbearable). But even with these issues, it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to program your personal ‘cartoon network.’ Here’s to hoping that Hulu continues to emphasize animation amongst their other offerings.
Here’s an example of what can be found on Hulu–Koji Yamamura’s Kid’s Castle:
Sean Pecknold (aka Grandchildren) crafted this stylish and funny stop-mo spot for BBC Knowledge.
Narrator: Richard E. Grant
Producer: Aaron Ball
Production Company: Grandchildren
Animators: Britta Johnson, Sean Pecknold
Sets and Creatures: Matt Lifson, Britta Johnson, Sean Pecknold
Rotoscoping: Stefan Moore
Painter: Matt Lifson
Effects DP: Michael Ragen
Editorial and Compositing: Grandchildren
Colorist: Sam Atkinson, Lightpress
Sound Design and Mix: Justin Braegelmann
Agency: Three Drunk Monkeys
Executive Creative Director: Justin Drape, Scott Nowell
Creative Director: Noah Regan
Copywriter: Damian Fitzgerald
Art Director: Matt Heck
Agency Producers: John Ruggiero/ Thea Carone
Content Director: Dan Beaumont
Content Manager: Brad Firth
Following the disheartening Tintin story posted below, it seems appropriate to note that today, January 12, marks the first ever World’s Fair Use Day. The event is taking place in Washington, DC, and they’re showing live webcasts of all the panels. The event is organized by the DC non-profit Public Knowledge whose mission statement is “to ensure that communications and intellectual property policies encourage creativity, further free expression and discourse and provide universal access to knowledge.” Speakers at the event include a number of animators and cartoonists like Nina Paley of Sita Sings the Blues fame, Dan Walsh (Garfield Minus Garfield) and Machinima artist Chris Burke. The event’s keynote will be delivered by Pennsylvania congressman Mike Doyle, who will discuss the important of fair use in the digital age. The webcast starts in a few minutes so head on over to WorldsFairUseDay.org.
Nick Rodwell, the British lawyer who married the widow of Tintin creator Hergé and now controls the Tintin estate, has embarked on a malicious crusade to sue people who use the character–even historians of the comic whose use of the character would qualify under “fair use” doctrines in the United States.
Rodwell’s latest target is Bob Garcia, “a detective novelist, jazz musician and Tintin aficionado,” who has been ordered by British courts to hand over Â£35,000 or face the possibility of having his house and belongings seized. His crime: writing five essays about the character. According to the UK’s Telegraph paper, “One pamphlet drew links between his twin passions — Tintin and Sherlock Holmes. Another looked at the cinematographic references in Hergé’s works. Two of the five, printed on average 500 times, used ‘graphical citations’ of Tintin drawings.”
More details from the Telegraph:
Hundreds of Tintin fans have already backed Mr Garcia, who on Thursday called for a boycott of the film and claimed that many supporters were heeding his demand. More than 500 people have joined his page on the Facebook website which expresses “anger and disgust” over the issue. More supporters have also backed his cause on other websites.
Tintin is one of the most successful comics of the 20th century, selling over 250 million copies and translated into 50 languages. Mr Rodwell’s company, Moulinsart, stands to take a huge cut from spin-offs after Steven Spielberg’s film, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, is released in 2011.
“Mr Rodwell is trying to clear the decks ahead of the film on anything or anyone who speaks about Tintin to have the absolute monopoly on the brand. For him, my studies are just spin-offs of that brand,” said Mr Garcia.
A sidenote about the lawyer Rodwell that might shed some light on his personal character. His official blog was shut down by Tintin.com last year after he started making personal attacks on journalists. One bizarre claim he made was that certain journalists disliked him because the children of those critics had autism and couldn’t appreciate Tintin. This is a link to a translation of Rodwell’s writings.
Here is the link to the Facebook page for those who wish to support Garcia (I’ve joined it myself). Below is a video of Garcia talking about one of his books on a TV show. The scholarly nature of his Tintin studies is clearly evident in the visual samples shown onscreen.
I was thinking today, If Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel has enough animation in it to be eligible for Best Animated Oscar, and A Christmas Carol is considered animation, then Avatar most definitely qualifies as an animated film too. The only reason Avatar isn’t on the list of animation Oscar contenders is because the studio didn’t want it to languish in the “animation ghetto.” That doesn’t change the fact, however, that it’s an animated film and should be acknowledged as such.
This spurred me to do some research on the subject, and I discovered I’m not the only one who’s been thinking about this. Brad Brevet did an excellent in-depth report on the subject at Rope of Silicon where he discusses the blurry line between visual effects and animation and how it leads to a double standard at awards time:
[I]t has pretty much been agreed upon around the Internet Avatar will be taking home the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, which creates an interesting conundrum. Why is the CG in Avatar considered visual effects while the CG employed for a Pixar or DreamWorks film simply considered animation? If Avatar is up for Oscar’s Best Visual Effects award shouldn’t Up and Monsters vs. Aliens be as well? The fact they aren’t, but A Christmas Carol is, interests me. Perhaps the real question is When is CGI no longer considered visual effects and when is it considered animation?
There are serious problems at the Academy if they consider A Christmas Carol to be both animation and vfx, Avatar only vfx, and Up only animation. As animation matures and evolves as an art form, it is vital for those of us within the industry to recognize it in all its many forms, and not allow organizations like the Academy to make arbitrary value judgments about different forms of animation.
Another classic job offer, this time from iFreelance.com. A Nigerian musician, Cruci Derek, is looking for somebody to make him a “high-quality” CG music video with an “Avatar standard”. The budget is $250. They’ll pay you through Western Union, but be forewarned, “Deposit upon proven competence of undertaking this job.”
Here is the trailer to Candyman, a documentary by Costa Botes about David Klein, the inventor of the gourmet jelly bean Jelly Belly, and how he has been banished from the candy empire that he created. The film debuts at the Slamdance Film Festival later this month.
So why is this appearing on Cartoon Brew? Klein is the father of Disney animator Bert Klein, who is a producer on the documentary. Bert is also responsible for the current Annie Award nominee Pups of Liberty, which he co-directed with his wife Jennifer Cardon-Klein. Visit CandymanFilm.com for more details on the documentary.
I got a kick out of this trailer for Storm, a nine-minute animated short based on a ‘beat poem’ by Australian comedian and writer Tim Minchin. The film is directed by DC Turner, and animated by Turner and Fraser Davidson. The filmmakers have a blog where they’re sharing artwork from the short while Minchin’s original poem can be heard here.
The trailer for an upcoming German CG feature, Die Konferenz der Tiere, co-directed by Reinhard Klooss and Holger Tappe at Constantin Film:
It’s based on a 1949 children’s book by Erich Kästner that took an Animal Farm-esque approach to Germany’s East-West conflict. The book was previously adapted into an animated feature in 1969. A clip from that earlier film can be viewed on YouTube. Which version would you rather watch?
It’s easy for the eyes to get lost in this mesmerizing piece of animation by Malcolm Sutherland (The Astronomer’s Dream). Narrative images pop out of some of the abstract forms which makes it that much more exciting to watch. Soundtrack is by Sutherland too.
3. Design from the heart.
Write / design around things you’re passionate about. Put yourself into your work and show the world who you are. What do you love? What do you hate? Why? All notable film makers have a stamp, something that appears in their work and speaks to who they are. These themes will always come through to your audience, giving your work a sense of your self.
4. Take big risks.
Try to innovate the hell out of anything you make. From how your game plays to how it looks, be unique and you’ll stand out. Push your personal limits, try new genres, mechanics and aesthetics. Experimentation and risk are the keys to growing as an artist. Don’t be scared of failure; you don’t have much to lose and you’ll only learn from your mistakes.
Tom Elrod makes the case in this well thought out blog post for a special brand of conservatism that appears in Pixar’s output. I don’t quite agree with it, but it’s a viewpoint worth sharing:
There is something conservative about much of Pixar’s output, but when I say conservative, I mean a small “c” conservative that sees the world along the same lines as Edmund Burke: “A disposition to preserve.” I’m going to call this “social conservatism,” by which I don’t mean the religious or moral conservatism of modern political discourse, but a conservatism that is interested in preserving traditional social features – in particular, the idea of “family” – but which sees such preservation as ultimately futile. The family will dissolve, eventually, and so we must do what we can to keep it going as long as possible. It is a worldview based not on progression but on loss.
It could be argued that a lot of that conservatism is simply a byproduct of the excessively nostalgic and sentimental viewpoint in Pixar’s films (think the Toy Story series, Cars and Up).
The only thing worse than knowing they’re making a live-action/CG hybrid of Tom & Jerry is reading an interview with the film’s producer and finding out that he’s completely ignorant about the characters and animation in general. That’s the disappointing discovery I made when I stumbled across this interview with Dan Lin. He displays his prolific lack of knowledge about the cat and mouse duo in his very first answer about the film:
My kids love the show. It’s two things-my kids love the show, I love the show. It’s really the originator of cartoon violence.
It’s hard to botch two fundamental concepts in such a brief answer, but Lin somehow manages that feat. First of all, they’re making a movie based on characters that were established and became famous in theatrical shorts. To call it a “show” displays a profound lack of context and understanding of the history of these characters. It’s perfectly understandable though how somebody who doesn’t even recognize this basic fact about the characters could then make the outlandishly stupid claim that Tom and Jerry is “the originator of cartoon violence.” Somebody get this guy a copy of Leonard Maltin’s Of Mice and Magic…QUICK! It gets better. He then says:
And the way I view it is it’s almost like sibling rivalry. It’s the way my brothers and I fought growing up, Tom and Jerry fight.
I may be an only child, but even I know that sibling rivalry doesn’t typically involve high-grade explosives, disembowelment, and attempts to eat the other sibling. Tom & Jerry is a classic predator-prey setup with the survival of the characters at stake. Diluting their relationship into a wimpy sibling rivalry is a massive misunderstanding of the motivations of these characters and strays perilously close to Tom and Jerry: The Movie territory, which we know turned out all kinds of awful:
Then again, having Tom and Jerry be friends is possibly the only route Lin can go since he appears to be willing to bend over backwards and change the personality of the characters willy-nilly to appease the marketplace and the MPAA. His last comment in the interview is the most ominous of all:
So we really want to retain the spirit of the original Tom and Jerry. We’ll see how that changes as we go through the filmmaking process and also the MPAA process.
Note that it’s not “I’m going to fight to retain the spirit of these characters;” it’s “We’ll see how that changes.” Spoken like a true producer without creative principles or vision.