Brew reader Topher writes, “I saw these on the Disney channel. They are called BLAM! and they are horrendous. Disney cartoons with America’s Funniest Home Videos style commentary and horrible music running over every second of footage. Why they don’t just show the cartoons I have no idea.”
Personally, I have no problem with remixing footage that might be too slow-paced for today’s media-saturated kiddies. The idea for Blam! is nothing new. Ward Kimball did the same thing in the 1970s with his TV series The Mouse Factory (watch an episode of the series with Don Knotts). The difference was that Ward edited and packaged the cartoons in a witty and fun way that enhanced an audience’s appreciation for the source material and made the viewer want to seek out the original shorts. These Blam! episodes, which are probably named so because the viewer wants to blam their head off after watching them, destroy the spirit of the Disney cartoons and over-explain every joke to the point where it becomes unfunny. I’ve included three in this post so you can judge for yourself.
Paul Fierlinger’s animated feature My Dog Tulip opens an exclusive two-week run on September 1st at the Film Forum in New York. It opens later elsewhere in the US (complete list of cities here). Fierlinger is an exceptional and exceptionally devoted animation filmmaker (he made the artwork for his film with only one other person–his wife, Sandra), and I can’t wait to finally see the results. As this article from the Boston Globe makes clear, the film isn’t conventional animated fare; the book on which its based, by J.R. Ackerley, has been called the “[most] preeminently disgusting of all great dog books” and derided as “meaningless filth about dogs.”
This is a revealing quote from Fierlinger from an interview in The Bark magazine, which says a lot about where he’s coming from:
From a very young age, I disliked Disney and loved The Little Prince because the fox explains to the boy [in The Little Prince] what he must do to tame him, the fox. If the fox would know this, wasn’t he already tame? But instinctively–I was seven or eight at the time–I undersatnd that it shows Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s understanding of nature. He wasn’t violating any rules, whereas Disney violated all the rules of nature. That’s what I want our film to be: the opposite of 101 Dalmatians. So that people would not want to buy a dog after they saw Tulip, like too many people do who watch Disney movies.
Bob Last, producer of Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist, sent a threatening email to one of the animators who worked on the movie because that animator had the temerity to promote the film on his blog. Animator Victor Ens posted a few pencil tests of HIS own work which prompted this ridiculous over-the-top letter from the producer:
You have posted a number of linetests from The Illusionist on your blog and other web sites. These posts all infringe Django Films Illusionist
Ltd’s copyright and must be removed immediately. Please confirm that you have done so.
Please also note that to have these digital materials in your possession breaks the legal undertakings you gave Django Film Illusionist Ltd under the terms of your employment. You had no right whatsoever to remove these linetests from Django Films Illusionist Ltd’s studio and you should destroy them.
I look forward to your swift compliance with our requests above and meantime Django Films Illusionist Ltd reserves its right of further action against you to protect its copyright and enforce the contractual undertakings you have made.
It angers me to see a studio reprimanding an artist who was trying to promote a low-budget animation production with a limited marketing budget. It’s the type of corporate behavior that leaves a bad taste in the mouth and makes me NOT want to see The Illusionist. If anything, Victor should be commended for being so enthusiastic and doing what the studio itself should be doing in the first place, which is sharing pencil tests and other artwork on-line to promote their film.
UPDATE: Director and producer Patrick Smith wrote a brilliant comment below where he suggests how the producer could have handled the situation with a respectful tone that showed appreciation for the artist’s contribution to the film. With Pat’s permission, I’m reprinting his alternate letter as a service to anybody who wants to see a more productive way of communicating with artists:
Hi Victor, while we appreciate your enthusiasm for the film, and posting the clips, could you please please please take them down for the time being?? you see we’re trying to implement our promotional strategy, and don’t want anything out there at this time. in a few months, let’s talk! Thanks for your great work on the film btw! and I hope you are well. if you could confirm that you have taken the clips down that would be great.. mmm-kay? Cheers- Bob
The article doesn’t actually say that anybody in Hollywood is interested–just that they’re pitching the idea around–but they already have a toy deal in place. The game has sold over $7 million worth of downloads through the Apple store and the “cinematic trailer” above has topped 5.5 milllion views on YouTube. Mikael Hed, the CEO of Rovio Mobile, the Finnish company behind the game, isn’t being modest and thinks he just might be the next Pixar: “Time and time again, they take an unknown brand and make it big,” he said. Good luck with that.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin: No Intermission by Theodore Ushev (Lipsett Diaries, Drux Flux) combines documentary with abstract animation to illustrate the work of up-and-coming conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Ushev writes that, “It was my first experiment with the computer programming language Processing. Basicaly all of the animation was done using it — crossing the data, and randomizing the data from the sound information and the movements of the hands of Seguin.”
Fishing with Spinoza is a graduation film by John Kenn Mortensen made at the Animation Workshop. Its droll humor and look has held up in the three years since I first saw it, and the philosophic discussion between Jude and Ruby is amusing in a My Night at Maud’s kind of way.
Buck created this commercial for Nike’s World Basketball Festival. I’m not fond of the basketball players-wearing-corsets design style, but I like the way the forms break up into abstract shapes during scene transitions. The arbitrary wiggles also seem to owe a lot to a much older animated campaign by Nike. The main reason I’m posting this though is because I’ve been seeing posters for the campaign around New York and shaking my head at how epically unappealing the illustrations are; surprisingly, with the animated abstraction, those same designs look good in motion.
Creative Director: Ryan Honey
Associate Creative Director: Jeremy Sahlman
Art Director: Joe Mullen
Character Design: Saiman Chow
Design: Joe Mullen
Modeling: Rie Ito, Ivan Sokol, Jens Lindgren, Ana Luisa Santos, Claudio Salas, Jaime Klein
Texturing: Ana Luisa Santos, Jaime Klein, Jorge Canedo, Ivan Sokol
Rigging: Joel Anderson, Jens Lindgren, Matt Everton
Animation 3D: Matt Everton, Steve Day, Alessandro Ceglia, Claudio Salas
Cel Animation: Alessandro Ceglia, Regis Camargo, Will White, Kendra Ryan, Stephanie Simpson, Jenny Ko, Claudio Salas, Jorge Canedo
Lighting: Jens Lindgren, Ana Luisa Santos
Compositing: Moses Journey, Claudio Salas, Jens Lindgren
Software Used: Maya, Flash, After Effects
Music and Sound Design: John Black / CypherAudio
A photo during the production of Disney’s The Reluctant Dragon on November 7, 1940. I hope somebody will get a kick out of it. Actress Frances Gifford, who played a studio artist in the film, is the woman in the photo. The other people are, clockwise from Gifford: John McLeish, T. Hee, Ward Kimball, Fred Moore (back), Norm Ferguson (back) and Erdman Penner. Click on pic to biggify.
The first three episodes of Signe Baumane’s outrageous Teat Beat of Sex, a funny and courageous fifteen-part series of lectures from a woman’s point of view. Watching these semi-autobiographical shorts makes one realize how little animation there is that expresses a personal viewpoint about sex. They’re NSFW as are most good things in life.
Jeff Varab, a veteran character animator with credits on The Fox and the Hound, All Dogs Go to Heaven, Balto, Mulan and Titan A.E., was arrested in Florida on thirteen counts of fraud. The story is reported on the Orlando Sentinel website. Apparently, it all stems from his faith-based animation studio Genesis, and a film he made, Tugger: The Jeep 4 x 4 Who Wanted to Fly. We first reported the sordid story of Tugger back in September 2006 and it appears that the situation was never resolved. The comments section of this post on the Animation Guild blog also help fill in pieces of Varab’s life.
Scott Dikkers, who helped found The Onion and was its longest-serving editor-in-chief, also happens to be a cartoonist, and he’s launched a new Brooklyn-based animation company Dikkers Animation company. The company website offers three shorts–Tycoon Tykes, Ape Trouble and Bright Lights Big Steam. The hand-drawn cartoons are refreshingly simple family-oriented cartoons with nice little messages worked into each one. They’re paced a bit slow for my taste, but I imagine they’d do well with a younger audience. And isn’t it a refreshing change of pace to see a new animation company promote itself with storytelling-oriented pieces instead of visual prowess?
Companies like Viacom and Warner Bros. are notoriously unpicky about how they license their characters, but using preschool cartoon characters to unload perfume onto children sinks pretty low. What is the smell that appropriately evokes a four-year-old Hispanic girl? Or an undersea sponge for that matter? When I scratched the SpongeBob sample at the drugstore checkout counter, I half expected the briny scent of the ocean and seaweed. Alas, the people who made these weren’t that thoughtful; all of them had a generic synthetic smell that evoked nothing. My floor wipes have a more sophisticated scent than these sorry excuses for children’s merchandise.
How do you go from being the head assistant director of Snow White, the head of Disney’s personnel department, and the production supervisor of The Mickey Mouse Club to a homeless panhandler living on the streets of Manhattan? That, in a nutshell, is the strange life of Hal Adelquist, who died in 1981 at the age of 66. At the time of his death, he had moved back to Long Beach, California, and was living with his mother.