The abundance of information on-line has a curious way of creating more mysteries than solving them. For example, everybody knows who Ub Iwerks is (ok, at least everybody who reads this site…hopefully), but who was Herbert Iwerks?
Harry McCracken found this 1932 patent application on Google Patents in which Ub identifies himself as Herbert “Ub” Iwerks. It’s a name that he’s not known for using which begs the question, why was he submitting a patent application under an alias? Animation historian David Gerstein made a guess on Harry’s blog, “His full name was–I always thought–Ubbe Eert Iwerks. But ‘Ubbe Eert’ seems to Anglicize to ‘Hubert,’ not ‘Herbert.’ Very peculiarâ€¦ the signature certainly looks like his lettering style (and matches that seen on some early Disney title cards).”
Anybody else have any theories? And as a sidenote, if you find any more vintage patents by animation artists, please share them in the comments.
Interface designers BERG used iPads to create an ingenious experiment that combines the device with photography and animation. After building CG models of a typeface, they rendered a sequence of cross sections of the letters–think David Daniels’ strata-cut animation technique adapted to CG. Now, the strata-cut technique wouldn’t typically work in CGI because the calculated precision of the computer disallows spontaneity, but BERG solved that by playing back the sequences on the iPad while dragging it through space to extrude the animation into physical space. Each frame of the film, which is subject to the effects of natural human movement, is a long photographic exposure of three to six seconds. There’s more information about its making on BERG’s blog and behind-the-scenes photos are posted on Flickr.
More than anything, this experiment by BERG is a fine example of environmental animation that breaks the confines of animation’s traditionally flat and square image frame. It points to a day that is not too far off when animation will play a vital role in the real world. Imagine being in an office lobby, and depending on where you’re standing in the lobby, you’d see a different kind of animation superimposed over the physical space to guide you around. Animation need not be restricted to a passive filmic experience, and interacting with animation in our everday lives is within reach as BERG has so cleverly hinted at in this piece.
Montreal-based Malcolm Sutherland, who seemingly completes a new animated short every few minutes, debuted his latest–Umbra–last week. His creative range never fails to impress, and what is more remarkable is how fully conceived and realized each idea is. There’s something complex and introspective bubbling underneath the surface of Umbra, and it’s a film that I’ll be definitely revisiting over time.
Sutherland’s production notes: “The animation is all hand-drawn; a mix of drawing on paper and digital animation with a Wacom Cintiq tablet, assembled in After Effects 7 and edited in Sony Vegas 8. Music by Alison Melville and Ben Grossman, foley by Leon Lo, sound design/mix by Malcolm Sutherland.”
Twenty seven-year-old indie comic artist Dash Shaw is worked on a hand-drawn animated feature called The Ruined Cast. The teaser trailer is posted above, and he’s keeping a production blog at RuinedCast.com. His project was among those selected for the Sundance Institute Directors and Screenwriters Lab, and is described as “a disconnected family thrown into chaos when the scientist father loses the test subject of his experiment with appearance-altering technology.” He discusses the project in an audio slideshow on the Sundance Institute website.
The film, which is being made in Brooklyn, is written and directed by Shaw. Other contributing artists include Jane Samborski, Frank Santoro, Lily Benson and Ray Sohn. The film is produced by John Cameron Mitchell (whose film Rabbit Hole just premiered at the Toronto Film Festival), Howard Gertler, and Biljana Labovic (who was Bill Plympton’s producer on his latest feature Idiots and Angels).
The animation festival KLIK! begins tomorrow in Amsterdam and continues through September 19. They presented their first edition in 2007, and they’ve evolved into a full-fledged animation festival with lots of quirky events to boot.
Among the highlights: the Dutch premiere of Deconstructing Dad, a documentary about composer Raymond Scott (pictured above), whose songs have been used in cartoons by everybody from Bob Clampett to John Kricfalusi. Scott’s son, Stan Warnow, who made the film, will be present, and afterwards composer Nik Phelps will lead a jam session “in the spirit of Raymond Scott.”
Another interesting event is the Ren and Stimpy tribute, in which Dutch animators and comic artists will present their favorite scenes from the show and talk about how it changed their lives. The event also includes a karaoke sing-a-long with the Log Song and Happy Happy Joy Joy. There’s also the Animator’s Cage, in which “you can see animators in their natural habitat, [and] watch how animators create an animated film right before your very eyes!” One more event that caught my eye is the Political Animation Competition in which recent politically-oriented animated shorts will be screened. Tickets for the entire festival are reasonably priced and available on the festival’s website KlikAmsterdam.nl.
How do you top your freshman student film when that film is the impressive Who’s Hungry? Now a sophomore at CalArts, David Ochs posted this clip from his latest project called 2 Bajillion A.D. According to the video description, it represents “what I have finished so far for my second year film at CalArts.” Ochs uses a decidedly different style from his earlier short–I sensed some Gorillaz influence in design and motion–but it is no less impressive with skillful filmmaking, characters that act naturally and believably, and well-observed, nuanced animation. Somebody pull this kid out of school and give him his own studio–he’s more than ready to take over the animation world!
A commissioned film for Oxfam, Lisa and the Orange Juice shows how the organization helps local farmers in South America remain competitive against corporate factory farming. The film is in French, but the director Nicolas Fong communicates the message visually so that it is understandable to any viewer. The production design by the Belgian illustrator Cream is bright and appealing, and graphically reinforces the idea that local farming is better.
Martin Schmidt’s Precise Peter is an inventive bit of CG filmmaking, made more impressive by the fact that it’s a student film produced at the German school University of Art Kassel. It’s fun to see a film in which the animation itself plays such an important role in the storytelling. The sound design, which has a rhythmical quality of its own, adds to the experience. More of Martin’s work can be seen at HerrSchmidt.tv.
If you’re a fan of conservatively dressed middle-aged white men, boy, do I have a treat for you today. This photo from February 24, 1959, was taken on the occasion of Ben Sharpsteen’s retirement from Disney. Sharpsteen, who is flanked by Walt and Roy, was the supervising director of Pinocchio and Dumbo, as well as Walt’s most frequently whipped “whipping boy,” among many other roles during a thirty-year career at the studio. Pretty much anybody who was a somebody at Disney showed up for his retirement soiree. It is an inspiring image from Hollywood’s Golden Age, and alternately, a sad commentary on how little diversity existed in the upper ranks of the Walt Disney Company during this period.
See the group party photo and identifications after the jump.
Rubber House is a new studio out of Melbourne, Australia run by Ivan Dixon and Greg Sharp. Besides a reel, they have a couple trailers posted for projects called Boat People and Old Feed. They have a fresh approach to drawn animation and their work is lots of fun–I hope to be seeing a lot more from them in the future. More at RubberHouseStudios.com.
Paul and Sandra Fierlinger’s My Dog Tulip had a terrific debut last week with the third-highest per-theater average at the North American box office. Granted, the film played in one theater–the Film Forum in Manhattan–but its weekend gross of $11,550 from a single location is impressive for an indie animated film. The film continues to screen at the Film Forum this week, with many other cities coming up. Animation fans, it’s up to us to support this film and help encourage more variety and choice for animated features!
The New York Times published an article by Brooks Barnes the other day in which he tried to explain to readers that animation was the number one medium at the box office last summer. Except, he and none of his editors were aware that animation is a medium, so Barnes wrote that, “Animation was the No. 1 genre.”
It is utterly embarrassing for the “paper of record” to have no one in its employ who is able to distinguish between the terms genre and medium. Next thing you know, they’ll be calling oil painting a genre of art, and referring to hardcover books as a literary genre. Actually, they wont because this gross incompetence and obliviousness is reserved exclusively for the mainstream media’s coverage of animation.
In such instances, we must call upon director Brad Bird for clarity and reason:
“People think of animation only doing things where people are dancing around and doing a lot of histrionics, but animation is not a genre. And people keep saying, ‘The animation genre.’ It’s not a genre! A Western is a genre! Animation is an art form, and it can do any genre. You know, it can do a detective film, a cowboy film, a horror film, an R-rated film or a kids’ fairy tale. But it doesn’t do one thing. And, next time I hear, ‘What’s it like working in the animation genre?’ I’m going to punch that person!”
Mr. Bird, you have our permission to punch Brooks Barnes.
“The Icing on the Cake,” a cartoon that is figuratively sweet, debuted last night on PBS’s POV. The audio is recorded by StoryCorps and the animation is produced by the Brooklyn-based Rauch Bros. Animation. Backgrounds are by Bill Wray.
How is it that a studio that once represented the height of creativity in filmmaking is now clinging onto the tails of tired Internet memes to promote its films? This viral ad for Disney’s Tangled is based on the “double rainbow” meme, and unlike the blammed Up, it’s not a parody.
Advertising Executive 1: So let me get this straight, in order to promote Tangled, the new Walt Disney update of the Rapunzel fairy tale, which is already irreverent to the point of being nonsensical, and doesn’t seem like something that would appeal to anyone, even a child with no discernible taste, we’re going to make a parody of a viral video that is not particularly interesting to children since it doesn’t feature anyone falling down or farting, and is actually just three minutes of shaky nature footage with a grown man crying in the background, a video that bears absolutely NO relation in either theme or tone to the movie we are trying to promote? Advertising Executive 2: Exactly.