If I had a Sony PSP (or played video games for that matter), I’d be looking forward to the February release of Patapon, a visually striking rhythm-based fighting game. The game’s graphics are based on the work of French artist and toy designer Rolito, who also has a blog here. Here’s a few links that tell you all you need to know about this title:
There are certain details of animation history that have always bothered me. For example, how did Tex Avery, arguably the greatest animation director of all-time, end his illustrious career? The answer is that he created a character called Kwicky Koala, who appeared in a 1981 Hanna-Barbera TV series of the crudest variety. Recently a bunch of Kwicky Koala shorts have found their way online and as expected, they are dreadful, though perhaps no more so than any other piece of Hanna-Barbera flotsam pulled from their vast sea of mediocrity. What makes these particular cartoons so painful to watch is the knowledge of who was making them. In what other art form could the creator of genius such as this,this, and this also have his name attached as the creator of these? Only in animation.
What’s troublesome is how the animation world has never bothered to make a distinction between its true auteurs and its workaday hacks, forcing each and every one to work on product of the most degrading sort. In live-action, by contrast, a Robert Altman or Eric Rohmer or Woody Allen can continue expressing themselves artistically right until the very end because there are enough people on the business end who recognize the value (financial though it may be) of supporting these artists.
While I was researching the life of writer and board artist John Dunn, I was granted access to his diaries and gained a good understanding of his feelings about working on the cheap animation of the Seventies and Eighties. Dunn, in fact, worked briefly with Avery at Hanna-Barbera on the “Dino and the Cavemouse” shorts, and he notes in his diary having conversations with Avery about the pitiful state of their industry. The studio veterans of that era certainly weren’t naive; they were aware of the hopelessly Sisyphean task of creating anything of quality or value. And yet artists like Avery and Dunn continued working up until the very end because they loved the art form so dearly. Avery, who passed away while working on Kwicky, was well past the age of retirement at the timeÃ¢â‚¬”72-years-old.
It makes one wonder: If the animation world can so casually discard one of its most distinguished practitioners and relegate him to working in the trash heap of television, what hope is there for everybody else? It’s a blight on the collective art form and industry that it has never been able to provide decent creative outlets to its artists who truly deserve them. It happened then, and I see it happening with alarming frequency today. Granted, an artist always has the option of charting their own course as an independent, but the fact of the matter is that an industry which consistently fails to recognize the value of the people working within it is an unhealthy industry that cannot be expected to advance or prosper.
There is nothing more depressing than watching the credits of oldschool Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng and Filmation shows and seeing the names of Golden Age artists scroll by, one after the other, a rollcall of beat down artists who had no option but to submit to the thankless art they had chosen as their life’s calling. Is it any wonder that so many of them, Dunn and Avery included, drowned their sorrows in drink? (Occasionally, a sympathetic younger artist like Richard Williams would throw them a lifeline, such as when he recruited animators like Ken Harris, Grim Natwick and Art Babbitt to work on his feature The Thief and the Cobbler, and boy, did they shine when given the chance, but such opportunities were few and far between.)
So has animation learned from its past? Is our industry diverse enough today to support and utilize the wide range of talents working within it? Twenty years from now, will we be looking at the credits of Bee Movie, Open Season, and Chicken Little with a similarly sad lament? And more importantly, does anybody even know who Tex Avery is in 2008? Questions worth considering as we move forward.
Serving as an appropriate complement to this earlier piece on Cartoon Brew, animation legend Gene Deitch has written a piece for Animation World Magazine entitled “Yes, But is It Animation?” in which he uses Beowulf as a jumping point for his thoughts on motion and performance capture. Deitch’s primary complaint is that while the type of work on display in Beowulf is technically qualifiable as animation, it is not a creative use of the medium. “We animators can animate absolutely anything we can imagine,” he writes. “We are graphic artists, and graphic art can be wildly anything.” Beowulf is not even mildly anything as far as animation art goes.
In the end, Deitch concedes that the whole debate about what is and what isn’t animation may be little more than a trivial technicality because a film’s worth is not rooted in its technique: “We may simply have to give up trying to categorize films by their technical process of production, which will surely be more and more a mixed bag of tricks, and simply judge them as films. Do they tell a story worth telling, and do they tell it well? ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really what movies are all about, isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t it?”
Folks in and around the Bay Area should make a point to check out the “The Art and Flair of Mary Blair” exhibition which continues at the Cartoon Art Museum in downtown San Francisco through March 18, 2008. DreamWorks story artist Jenny Lerew recently visited the show and offered some perceptive observations about Blair’s work on her blog, including the notion that we shouldn’t allow today’s plethora of second- and third-rate Blair imitators affect our judgement about the quality of her original work. Jenny writes:
“There’s always a lot of talk about the obvious influence of Mary Blair on artists today–so much so, in fact, that it’s led in some circles to a bit of a backlash towards her or towards the stylings of artists who’ve been inspired by her. But when you see these up close and without the filters of photography(either the still camera’s or the animation stand’s)or the limitations of the published page, even now they leap out at the viewer and are as new and fresh as they must have been half a century ago. To see her technique up close is to appreciate how incredibly skilled she was. Intuitive, surely; imaginative and whimsical, yes–but also plain, keen, brilliant, diamond-hard thinking going on. It’s still a big wow.“
Nina Paley’s offbeat indie animated feature Sita Sings The Blues recently was accepted into the prestigious 58th annual Berlin International Film Festival, where it’ll be having its world premiere next month. But as Paley writes on her website, “The bad news is, sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s programmed in a theater that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do Digital Cinema. That means unless I have a 35mm print by February, her one and only World Premiere will be on, wellÃ¢â‚¬Â¦video. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let that happen.”
I’ve heard positive words from numerous people who have seen work-in-progress versions of Sita. The film, which Paley started production on in 2004, is uniquely personal, tackling the story of breaking up with her husband in India, combined with an unlikely mashup of Indian mythology and 1920s American jazz. Paley made the film entirely on her own, without a producer or studio backing, and still needs $20k to create a 35mm master. She is accepting tax-deductible donations through this website. It’s a worthy cause for animation fans who have a few extra bucks to spare.
UPDATE: Nina Paley wrote in one of the comments on her blog that everybody who donates will receive a credit in the finished film. But she says that credits will be closed Monday, “since thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the latest I can render everything out from my computer.” So head over and donate now.
The Chicago Spire, a building designed by superstar architect Santiago Calatrava, is poised to become North America’s tallest free-standing structure and the world’s tallest all-residential building when it is completed in 2011. When the developers officially unveiled the project last September, their presentation included a slick five-minute animated promo. Pushing far beyond typical animated architectural renderings, the developers enlisted vfx houses Lightstream Pictures and Sony Imageworks to create a feature film-style piece complete with dramatic staging and lighting. A portion of the film can be seen on the building’s website, TheChicagoSpire.com, and a video about the building with a few more animation clips can be seen on YouTube. It just goes to show that there’s no product or idea that can’t benefit from some well conceived animation.
Earlier this month, I linked to illustrator Steve Brodner’s podcast series “The Naked Campaign” which offers his views on various Presidential candidates. This got me to thinking about whether there are other people who are creating animated pieces in hopes of influencing the outcome of this year’s Presidential elections.
A bit of searching on YouTube uncovered a number of independently produced animated pieces, though none of them appear to be making a huge splash at the moment. But it’s only January and with ten months still to go, I expect we’ll be seeing an unprecedented use of animation during the 2008 elections. The most viewed animated piece supporting an individual candidate that I found on YouTube is the following Ron Paul Brickfilm short, which has garnered over 60k views since debuting ten days ago.
Andrew Arnold has created an impressive CG political animated series called Heada’State which features strong condemnations of candidates Rudy Giuliani and Thompson (below).
Ray Noland (director) and Rebecca Berdel (animator) have posted a piece called Revolt in support of Barack Obama.
Democratic longshot Mike Gravel is promoted in this puppet and stop-motion piece titled The Word: Mike Gravel.
And this live-action spot by candidate Mike Huckabee has inspired two different animated parodies, both of which are posted below:
If you know of other pieces, please post links to them in the comments. This is not an attempt to catalog animated pieces that express a political viewpoint because there are plenty of those. Rather I’m curious to find out how animation is specifically being used to effect this year’s Presidential elections through pieces that are either for or against individual candidates.
(PS: A friendly reminder to keep any discussion in the comments focused on the use of animation in the campaign, and not to express any personal political views.)
A few random notes on the French animated feature Persepolis:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Upon winning the best animated feature prize from the NY Film Critics Circle, Persepolis creator Marjane Satrapi said, “In France, they always call the New York critics tough bastards. So thank you, my bastard friends.” Animation director Michael Sporn responded on his blog, “ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be nice to hear what she might say if she wins an Oscar. SheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll get my vote.”
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced yesterday the nine films which are advancing to the next round of voting in the Foreign Language Film category. Persepolis, which was France’s entry, was snubbed and didn’t even make the shortlist. I’ve been opposed to the Oscar’s Animated Feature Film category from the very beginning for the simple reason that it continues to ghettoize the art form. Academy voters don’t feel compelled to recognize the merits of animation as film when they know that a special category exists solely for animated features. As the art form continues to mature with films like Persepolis, the flaws of the Animated Feature Film category will only become more and more evident.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Whoever said animation isn’t a powerful medium and can’t be used to instigate positive change in society? Chicago’s Daily Herald has an interesting article titled “Local Iranians hope Persepolis will open eyes about their homeland.” Says one Iranian interviewed in the piece, “I think Americans are generally very open-minded, but there isn’t a lot on the news about the people of Iran, just its government. Persepolis shows how important it is to see that a country’s government and its people can be different.”
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ The box office numbers for Persepolis are deceivingly tiny. While the film placed 28th on the charts last weekend with $187,000, it is performing remarkably well considering that it is only playing in 18 theaters. In fact, it had the second-highest per-theater average of any film playing last week, behind only Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. If there’s any question why the animated art form is viewed so poorly by the general public, it’s because a film like The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything can open in 1300-plus theaters while an animated feature like Persepolis remains virtually inaccessible to the general moviegoing public. One can only assume that distributor Sony Pictures Classics will move Persepolis from its current platform release into a wider release once the Oscar noms are announced next week.
As readers of this site may recall, I didn’t offer many kind words for the contest when I posted about it last month. It’s nice that they have a contest winner and I hope the “development deal” works out for the creator, but I still strongly believe that contests with gimmicky prizes like development deals and cash prizes are a cheap and insulting way to encourage new talent in this field.
If companies like DailyMotion and Animation Magazine were serious about helping young creators, they would offer legit production resources to artists, and create opportunities for artists to experiment and develop their artistic voices over a period of time. A fine example to be applauded is the National Film Board of Canada’s Hothouse which is structured in a way that genuinely encourages talent and allows artists the chance to learn about the art form in a professional studio setting.
UPDATE: Regarding the earlier accusation of the ‘plagiarism’ in this short, that is incorrect because the cartoon was produced by the same NYC commercial studio Panoptic that produced the MTV2 commercial. I apologize to the filmmakers for the unnecessary hassle, and I apologize to readers for not fact-checking properly (at least it’s not as bad as the gaffe I made a couple years ago). Below are frame grabs comparing the original Panoptic MTV2 commercial (left) and the Panoptic-produced contest winner (right) which reappropriates the character and animation from their commercial.
“Sorrow of the Soldier” is a one-off animated music video released on the Internet today. The video, which protests the US occupation of Iraq, is a collaboration between a global roster of hip-hop artists from the US, UK, Japan and Europe. The animation by UK artist James Harvey achieves a striking look through mixing an illustrative style with bold graphic symbols, all in black-and-white with well-employed spots of color. The video’s website features multiple remix versionsÃ¢â‚¬”streaming on YouTube and available for hi-res download. Here’s more about the project from its press release:
The track, Ã¢â‚¬ËœSorrow of the SoldierÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ by US Rapper Mark Prysler, tells the story of Lucas, a working-class man who runs out of options in his own life and sees the army as an attractive means of escape. Upon deployment he finds the reality of the Iraq war is far removed from the fantasy sold to him by the Bush administration. The story is an analog for the experiences of many young men and women fighting in Iraq today and the lyrics call for direct action from the government.
Uniquely, the video has been simultaneously released in several different versions, each with a separate audio track by a different global collaborator. Each remix artist was asked to choose a Ã¢â‚¬ËœflavourÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to represent themselves on the website. The standout Ã¢â‚¬ËœmintÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ version features production from HollandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s DJ Donor, who has remixed artists such as Pharrell Williams, while Ã¢â‚¬ËœCheeseÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ flavour is remixed by Takashi Otagiri, the president of Tokyo Fun Party, a Japan-based dance music collective. More remixes are to be added to the website over the coming month from hip-hop artists from France, Germany, and both east and west coast America.
Please meet one of the most refreshingly original and funny animated series I’ve run across in a while: Usavich produced by Kanaban Graphics in Japan. The CG animation is funny beyond words, the gags are jam-packed and fresh, and the design is a stunningly distinctive picture-book illustration style. The show’s website Usavich.tv offers 14 of the 26 episodes produced to date, every one of them under two minutes. The entire production is so fun-spirited and well-done, what more can one ask for; I’ve watched all of the available episodes in the past day and still want to see more!
Description is useless for the series. Let’s just say it’s the slightly surreal adventures of an odd couple pair of Russian rabbit inmates who share a jail cell with a frog and a bird. The first season takes place behind bars, the second season follows them on the run in a stolen car. Every episode is solid, and there is a storyline, so it’s best to watch them in order, but two of the most entertaining entries, in my opinion, are this one and this one.
If anybody knows more details about these shorts, please share. The series looks to have some backing by MTV Japan, but there hasn’t been much discussion online about the show so it’s unclear whether it’s new or has been around for a while. I only found out about it the other day on Motionographer. Animator Peter Richardson also posted some praise for the show on his blog. He writes, “[I]t’s tricky to tell which features are in the painted textures and which are shaders and lighting. Perfectly balanced…it goes to show what’s to be gained from a thoughtful and thorough integration of textures and lighting.”
Twenty-two-year-old animation wunderkind David O’Reilly, who we’ve mentioned frequently on Cartoon Brew (here, here and here), was asked to create an original piece of animation for BoingBoing.tv. The resulting piece is a ‘history of animation’ from Disney through John K, and beyond to CG. In a humorous manner, O’Reilly makes a thoughtful point: that CG animation represents a quantum-leap forward in the development of this art form because it offers the possibility for a clear break from traditional reality-rooted styles of animation. Instead of replicating existing worlds, CG offers the chance to create entirely new worlds, an opportunity that few artists have explored to date.
In 2007, writer Chris Robinson traveled across Canada to meet with some of the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s leading independent animation filmmakers. Along the way, Robinson muses about the animation art form in Canada and his own relationship to the scene and personalities, many of whom are friends and colleagues. As he travels from place to place he carries along his own private (and sometimes not-so private) struggles with insomnia, depression, identity, cab drivers, hobos and nobos and the shocking murder of animator Helen Hill, whose life and work embody many of the themes that colour these conversations.
With the intimate detail of a diary, Canadian Animation: Looking for a Place to Happen weaves together history, memoir and dream into a mesmerizing and candid portrait of Canadian animation, art, doing, drifting and dying.
Lavishly illustrated, the bookÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cast includes award-winning animators Marv Newland (Bambi Meets Godzilla), Chris Landreth (Ryan), Chris Hinton (Nibbles), David Fine (Bob and Margaret, Ricky Sprocket), Wendy Tilby (When the Day Breaks), Anne-Marie Fleming, Torill Kove (The Danish Poet), Claude Cloutier (Sleeping Betty), Janet Perlman (Why Me?) and many more.
Attention UK folk. The Projector animation festival takes place in Dundee, Scotland from January 30 through February 2. I was a guest of the festival during its previous edition in 2006 and I had one of the best times I’ve ever had at an animation festival. It’s an intimate gathering, nothing on the scale of an Annecy or Ottawa, but that is precisely what I enjoyed so much about it. Feisty festival director Susie Wilson manages to always bring together an eclectic group of artists, authors and thinkers, and the low-key setting allows everybody to get to know one another. There are also a couple animation schools in Dundee, which ensures plenty of energetic students at the screenings.
This year’s special guests who will be presenting masterclasses are Phil Mulloy, Bill Plympton, Abi Feijo, Regina Pessoa and Sharon Colman. Other programs include a talk by author Jonathan Clements about the rise of digital animation in Japan, a program of typography in animation and motion graphics curated by Jayne Pilling, and an “Acting for Animators” workshop presented by Ed Hooks. There are also plenty of screenings of recent animated shorts, as well as features including Free Jimmy, Persepolis, Paprika and The Three Musketeers.
A couple tips for festival attendees: For the most enjoyable Projector experience, do not suggest to the festival director that all of Scotland’s castles should be torn down. For that matter, do not suggest this to anybody in Scotland if you value your health and well-being. Also, no trip to Dundee is complete without a late-night session or two at Fat Sams. You’ll just have to take my word for this.
UPA theatrical cartoons on the big screen are a rarity nowadays which is why I’m happy to point to an East Coast screening of Mister Magoo shorts this coming Monday, January 14, at the Jacob Burns Film Center (364 Manville Road, Pleasantville, NY). Most intriguingly, the show listing promises NEW prints of Destination Magoo, Pink and Blue Blues, Trouble Indemnity, and When Magoo Flew, along with archival prints of Sloppy Jalopy and MagooÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Cruise. Besides the fact that these cartoons are pretty funny, there is some terrific design, layout and background painting throughout, and it’s all the more striking when seen on the large screen. Screening times are 5:15pm and 7:15pm. More details at the Jacob Burns Film Center website.
I completely forgot to plug the “Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury” exhibit which just closed at the Orange County Museum of Art last weekend. What reminds me to mention it now is that I recently saw the accompanying exhibition catalog, and even though I only managed to flip through it briefly, it looks to be a fetching and attractive coffeetable book.
Not having seen the exhibit, I’m curious to find out how they treated the “Cartoon Modern” look in the context of the larger West Coast contemporary art movement. I do know that the exhibit made some acknowledgment of midcentury animation by displaying shorts like Gerald McBoing Boing, Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom, and a Road Runner cartoon by Chuck Jones.
If you didn’t see the show while it was in SoCal, the exhibition continues at the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, MA (February 15-April 13, 2008). Then it’s on to the Oakland Museum of California (May 18-August 17, 2008) and the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, TX (February 27-May 31, 2009).
“Well, as I was just saying, the process [at Pixar] is very much one of doing and redoing, making things better step by step. It involves a willingness to pick apart the movie and its themes. This constant editing and refining can be frustrating at times. The huge difference is that at Ghibli storyboards are done by the director and they are followed without exception. So you find a very different way of doing things there, the studio and its artists are following the leaderÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s vision without deliberation, editing or feedback necessary. Incidentally it sounds like Suzuki-san might be the only person at Ghibli able to have a discussion with Miyazaki-san regarding the story or characters of the movie theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re producing. In this setting though Miyazaki is free to go on his own journey finding the movie he wants to tell, bit by bit. The result are stories that are more fully personal and hold an authenticity and uniqueness which is close to impossible to achieve in the US, where a story, in the best case scenario, is well crafted by several gifted people while in the worse case scenario is made by committee. I think thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what is great about many projects coming from Japan, with their own merits or faults, they possess an unwavering will to stick to their directorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s vision. The stories are allowed to be more idiosyncratic that way and that is what I personally find inspiring and refreshing.”
Director Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch) has launched a new comic strip on his blog called Kiskaloo. He plans to offer a new strip every Monday. In what appears to be an “F.U.” to Disney, the title character of Sanders’s comic strip bears a striking resemblance to some of the development art he created for American Dog, a film he originated and then was unceremoniously fired removed from in December 2006.
This new commercial for Jeep, produced by Deli Pictures in Germany, incorporates children’s drawings into a CG environment. It’s an interesting experiment but the results are graphically disingenuous because the filmmakers made no attempt to reconcile the funky and whimsical world of children’s drawings with the perfect physics and mechanics of CG. The piece would have come off a lot better had they attempted to create styles of movement that were honest and appropriate to the children’s drawings, instead of simply texture-mapping kiddie artwork over a slickly produced piece of CG.
Director Michael Sporn reports that Golden Age animator Lu Guarnier passed away on December 29, 2007. Guarnier started at Warner Bros. in the 1930s but animated for most of his career in New York at studios like UPA-NY and John and Faith Hubley’s Storyboard Productions. Michael Sporn offers memories of Guarnier on his blog.
In the past few years, it’s been encouraging to see so much creative student animation coming out of countries like South Korea and India, places that were previously known only for turning out production artists for Western service work. Most of the work I see in festivals doesn’t turn up online, but 22-year-old Rohit Iyer, a senior animation student at NID (National Institute of Design) in Ahmedabad India, sent in a recent example of work that he created for MTV India and Kamasutra condoms during an internship at MTV last year. The spot, titled “Rani Bonkeshwari,” can be viewed HERE. Iyer offers a few background notes on the production:
“The script was written by an MTV writer named K.M. Ayappa. I did all the animation myself, starting from the designs and rough storyboard to final composite. The process comprised of creating artwork in Adobe Photoshop which was then animated and composited in Adobe After Effects. The whole spot took about a month to animate. The commercial has become quite popular here in India. It’s currently on air on the MTV India network.”
If there’s one thing the animation blogging community guarantees, it’s plenty of controversy. The latest squabble that has evolved is about who wrote animated shorts and features during the Golden Age of animation. In one corner is Steve Worth of the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive, who claimed that artists drew storyboards and that “THERE WERE NO CARTOON SCRIPTWRITERS prior to 1960.” (his emphasis). On the other side is historian Michael Barrier, who offers evidence that Bill Cottrell was one example of a scriptwriter at Disney in the 1930s. Then there were artists like Bill Peet who did both screenwriting and storyboarding on a film like 101 Dalmatians.
In a recent Variety interview, director Brad Bird offered some comments, which while not specifically addressing this argument, seem to be quite appropriate. Bird said, “The whole question of writing for animation is skewed. There isn’t a giant difference between animation and live action. You need characters, stories, themes. It’s called good storytelling…I write scripts first, before the work gets to the storyboarding stage. But I write with the knowledge of what animation can do.” His comments make perfect sense, but with the caveat that the animation world rarely attracts storytellers the caliber of Brad Bird and Bill Peet, which is why animation suffers today and why engaging storytelling is the exception instead of the rule. A sidenote: the Variety link above is also worth checking out to hear about some of Bird’s favorite film writers.
One of the most unexpected surprises at theaters last year was the box office success of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Nearly everybody expected a modest showing, better performing than the Underdog pic, but certainly not a blockbuster. The film, however, is now Fox’s second highest grossing film of the year (behind only The Simpsons Movie), and with over $160 million to date, it is showing no signs of letting up. By the time it leaves theaters, it will have surpassed the grosses of The Simpsons Movie, Ratatouille and 300.
Obviously, we’re going to be seeing a lot more CG Alvin over the next few years. But perhaps this will also convince Viacom (Paramount Home Video) to release the awesome original Sixties animated series, The Alvin Show, produced by Format Films. It’s amazing that nobody at Viacom has awakened to the fact that they’re sitting on a goldmine with this TV series. Then again, this is the same company that owns the libraries of Terrytoons, Puppetoons, Famous and Fleischer (including Betty Boop). Apparently, their home video strategy is “We don’t like to make money.”
Despite the film’s box office success, it’s still an embarassing project to be involved with if you’re a major part of its creative team and you consider yourself to also be an artist. This became clear when actor Patton Oswalt made an offhand comment on his blog about how he and comedian Brian Posehn were both offered the role of Ian, the agent, and how they both rejected it because of its awfulness. David Cross, who took the role, was so peeved by the notion that he was a sell-out wrote a five-point blog post defending his decision to be involved in the movie. Thankfully, the film’s animation director Chris Bailey, doesn’t have to write a blog post defending his work on the film. Because unlike live-action actors, animation artists have no choice but to work on shit. It’s the only game in town sadly.
With the new year underway, it seems like a good time to announce that Cartooon Brew now has a bi-coastal presence. As many have surely heard by now, I moved to NYC a couple months ago. My estimable co-editor Jerry Beck continues to take care of business on the West Coast. Our coverage of the animation world will remain largely unchanged, as can be evidenced these past few months. The agenda for the Brew remains the same as always: write about topics that interest us, and that’s what both Jerry and I intend to keep on doing. As an added bonus, perhaps the posts on the Brew begin to reflect an even broader and more diverse tone as a result of my new surroundings.
Personally I’m quite pleased to be in and around the New York animation community. The NY animation scene has appealed to me from afar for a long time. One big reason for that is because artists do things in New York. They make short films, they teach, they cross over into other media, they dip and dabble in everything and don’t pigeonhole themselves as “animation artists.”
Hell, they even make animated features; three local indie animated features are nearing completion Ã¢â‚¬” directed by Bill Plympton, Nina Paley and Emily Hubley Ã¢â‚¬” and a fourth is starting production by Michael Sporn. I point this out not to suggest that a feature is the highest form of expression, but because a feature is one of the most time-consuming and ambitious things that one can endeavor to do in this art form. To embark on an independent feature with limited resources and budget takes guts, and it’s a testament to the drive and dedication of NY animators that so many have undertaken the challenge. Animation and beyond, I’m looking forward to spending some time in this amazing city and experiencing its rich and vibrant atmosphere…and eating lots of pizza by the slice.
There may not be a whole lot that’s funny about the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto, but illustrator Steve Brodner managed to create this political cartoon that works in references to both Pluto and Bluto:
Speaking of Brodner, he not only has a blog that features his latest work, but also a fun new video series on the NewYorker.comÃ¢â‚¬”“The Naked Campaign”Ã¢â‚¬”where he does ‘chalk talks’ about the presidential candidates and places them in context of earlier presidents and cultural figures. The Obama/Lincoln transformation is particularly entertaining. The After Effects animation in these pieces is provided by NY commercial studio Asterisk Animation.
Below is an Eastman Kodak ad I spied recently in a 1950 edition of The Hollywood Reporter. I love the headline copy Ã¢â‚¬” “His Pen-and-Ink Live For Laughter…” Ã¢â‚¬” juxtaposed against the angriest illustration of an animator I’ve ever seen (click for a larger view). I realize the animator is angry because he’s working out the expression he’s drawing, but it still strikes me as funny. Regardless of its humor value, it’s still a kind of cool historical curio.