Joshua Glenn of the Boston Globe has created an audio slideshow presentation that points out the influence of cartoonist Winsor McCay on cinema. Films like King Kong, Dumbo, and Mary Poppins are used as examples.
Satisfied customer Daniel Stone was awesome enough to post this photo of himself and the book on his blog
Good news just in time for your animation-related holiday shopping needs! I have received word from Tee Bosustow that the last of the pre-orders for Inside UPA are currently being mailed out and the the book is now available for immediate shipping.
If you see me unabashedly promoting this book over the coming weeks, that is because I’m quite pleased with how it turned out and more than delighted to be able to call it the first Cartoon Brew book. Not only is it a one-of-a-kind piece of animation history, but all the proceeds go towards documenting more animation history: namely the completion of Tee Bosustow’s film documentary about the legendary UPA animation outfit.
The book is available in a limited edition of 1000 hand-numbered copies, and of those, 50 come with a bookplate signed by the following UPA veterans: Millard Kaufman, Fred Crippen, Willis Pyle, Bob Dranko, Bob McIntosh, Erv Kaplan, Gene Deitch, Sam Clayberger, Dolores Cannata, Howard Beckerman, Joe Siracusa, David Weidman, Joe Messerli, Edna Jacobs, and Alan Zaslove. Only 17 signed copies remain! If you’re curious about what the signed card looks like, check out the pic posted on Daniel Stone’s blog. And if you’re wondering about whether the signed copy is worth it, just listen to what Mr. Stone has to say: “Even though my stomach is empty and I’m all out of coal for the furnace, it was worth it. Worse comes to worst… I can eat the book!”
I did a post a few weeks ago with photos of some of the artists signing the bookplate. Below is a new set of photos. The artists are, top to bottom: Gene Deitch, Dolores Cannata, David and Dorothy Weidman, Howard Beckerman, Edna Jacobs, Joe Siracusa, Fred Crippen, Joe Messerli.
It’s debatable whether the films below qualify as “animation” but the filmmaker behind them, Fred Mogubgub, was an important part of New York’s indie animation scene in the 1960s and 1970s, and a founder of the commercial studio Ferro, Mogubgub and Schwartz. Whatever you want to call them, they are excellent examples of pop art filmmaking. The videos were posted onto YouTube courtesy of the NY studio Asterisk Animation.
The Pop Show: A Pop Art extravaganza by Fred Mogubgub from the late-1960s, innovative in the use of the quick cut, this film is a parade of pop icons of its time. Features a pre-Playboy, pre-N. O. W. Gloria Steinem.
Enter Hamlet: A film set to Maurice Evans’ recording of Hamlet’s soliloquy.
The Great Society: A parade of popular consumer items cut to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.
A few years back, when MTV wanted to revive the Terrytoons characters, they commissioned an animation test in CG (of course, what else could a revival be done in?). Below is the test featuring Hashimoto, Sidney the Elephant and The Astronut. It’s about as good as one would expect it to be.
(via Animation ID)
Ronald Searle fans can thank the upcoming live-action St. Trinian’s feature for the following book: St. Trinian’s: The Entire Appalling Business. No word yet on what exactly is contained within the book, but it’s cheaply priced, will be released in a couple months, and collects a whole bunch of classic Searle cartoons that have been long out-of-print in the US. Good enough for me.
Also, New Yorkers will be happy to know that there is currently an exhibition of original Ronald Searle artwork at the Forbes Galleries. The show, “Ronald Searle: A Lifetime of Drawing”, spans his entire career “from his drawings in a Japanese POW camp, to his early success as a magazine and book illustrator, to the enormously popular series of ‘St. TrinianÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s’ drawings, to his work for movies and businesses, to his famous drawings of cats.” Admission is free. Gallery address and hours can be found here.
Animator Matt Taylor informs me of an innovative exhibition he’s taking part in at Australia’s National Portrait Gallery. The show, “Animated”, takes a detour from conventional self-portraiture and offers fourteen animated portraits made specifically for the exhibition by Australian animators, including Anthony Lucas (The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello), Jonathan Daw (currently working on Adam Elliot’s new stop motion feature), Rick Bull, Anita Fontaine, Troy Innocent and Arlene TextaQueen. The show takes place entirely online and the pieces can be viewed on the gallery website through December 2008. It is curated by Michael Desmond and Gillian Raymond.
Getting screwed at the gas pump does seem to have one slight upside: oil companies are now flush with money to blow on frivolous ad campaigns, and some of these might be animated. For example, last spring, British Petroleum (BP) spent $35 million on a cartoon campaign that includes three animated spots (watch them below). The design aesthetic of these spots is typical contemporaryÃ¢â‚¬”loud and generic (‘iconic’ in Pictoplasma speak). On the plus side, the spots do a nice job of utilizing the BP logo and exploring the possibilities of three-dimensional space. The animation was directed by Ian Kovalik at Mekansim. Slate offered a review of the campaign and I’m inclined to agree that nobody really cares about brand loyalty to oil companies today, only which station has the cheapest fuel. The days of Chevron’s talking cars are long gone; there’s little that the price-gouging oil companies can do to make themselves look warm and fuzzy, and it’s certainly not going to happen with a campaign as artifical and contrived as this.
(Thanks, Mike Milo)
Starting today and continuing through the weekend, New Yorkers will be treated to a three-part Museum of Modern Art retrospective of the work of director Michael Sporn. The films being shown include Sporn’s adaptations of classic children’s books by the likes of William Steig, Quentin Blake and Mordicai Gerstein, as well as his adaptation of the Lewis Carroll poem “The Hunting of the Snark.” I wish I was out east for these programs because I have enjoyed the pared-down elegance of the few Sporn films I’ve seen over the years like Doctor De Soto and The Man Who Walked between the Towers. The films being screened are:
Program 1: New York Stories
Five short films by Michael Sporn: Mona Mon Amour, Champagne, The Man Who Walked between the Towers, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile, The Little Match Girl
Program 2: Fables
Four short films by Michael Sporn: Doctor De Soto, Abel’s Island, The Red Shoes, The Hunting of the Snark
Program 3: A Peaceable Kingdom
Five short films by Michael Sporn: Goodnight Moon, The Marzipan Pig, The Amazing Bone, Ira Sleeps Over, The Story of the Dancing Frog
On Monday, November 12, the series concludes with a discussion between Michael Sporn and John Canemaker. Here’s the description of that program:
An Evening with Michael Sporn
The artist takes part in a conversation with animation historian/filmmaker John Canemaker and MoMA assistant curator Joshua Siegel. The discussion is illustrated with clips from Sporn’s award-winning animated films, including a new short, Pab’s First Burger, and an excerpt from his feature-length work-in-progress about the life and work of Edgar Allan Poe. Sporn’s career is also traced through his commercials, public service announcements, title sequences, and visuals for the Broadway stage.
Historian Michael Barrier also has some thoughts on Sporn’s work that are worth a read.
Graphic design students from Brazil attempt to recreate Chuck Jones’ One Froggy Evening in CG as their finals project. Here is the two-minutes they created:
And for comparison, this is the Jones original:
UPDATE: Virgilio Vasconcelos, one of the students who made the film, offers some background about the reason for the project. He wrote in the comments below:
“As a regular Brew reader, I never thought our project would be shown here.
Before anyone yells that we had killed the masterpiece, I would say that everything was done only for learning purposes. We never wanted to say that CG is better or even that we could make something comparable to the original.
We never had formal education in animation (neither do we have where to study animation where we live), so our goal was to study a classic from a great master frame by frame to see if we could learn something. I believe it was quite successful on its goal: we have learned a lot.
The original, 2D one, is an all-time classic. Just incomparable. Chuck Jones is my hero, and I thank him and all fellas at Golden Age who motivated us to learn about animation.”
FPS magazine reports that film distributor Atopia has acquired the North American rights to The District! (Nyocker!). The 2005 Hungarian feature, directed by Aron Gauder, did quite well on the festival circuit, but has otherwise been difficult to see. Atopia’s limited rollout includes engagements at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin beginning November 16, the Cinematheque in Winnipeg in late November, and Cleveland’s CIA Cinematheque in late January. Additional cities and dates will be listed on the film’s MySpace page.
Having seen the film at the Ottawa International Animation Festival a couple years ago, I’d say that it’s commendable more for what it attempts than what it accomplishes. It’s definitely worth a look though, and in fact, I’m curious to see it again myself as a standalone film instead of in the overwhelming and hectic film festival setting. The trailer is below, but first, the film synopsis:
A group of teens from the wrong side of Budapest’s tracks band together to make themselves rich by traveling back in time, burying a horde of wooly mammoths under the city’s streets, then returning to the present and drilling for oil. As creators of a new oil-producing nation, their scheme draws the attention of Putin (who uses the districtÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Russian hookers as spies), Blair and George W. Bush. In the midst of it all, star-crossed teen love is in bloom.
I recently stumbled upon the work of Polish director Julian Antonisz (1941-1987), a previously unknown (to me) master of the camera-less animation technique. Like most people, when I think of camera-less animation, the type of films that immediately pop to mind are by filmmakers like Len Lye and Norman McLaren. It’s a revelation to discover Antonisz who has such a refreshingly unique take on the technique. A well known figure of the Polish animation scene, Antonisz made dozens of films between 1967 and 1986, including the anarchic Dada-infused How a Sausage Dog Works which can be viewed below. YouTube also offers us his first film, Phobia (1967).
Antonisz is a largely unknown figure in the West, but if the nearly 100,000 views on YouTube and dozens of comments in Polish are any indication, his work seems to be better recognized in his native Poland. I discovered a rough English translation of the film courtesy of YouTube user Wodzu and have posted it below the film, though chances are it’ll simply add to your confusion.
[00:04] this is how a simple electrical mechanical “hitter-knocker” works
[00:18] this is how a cherry-”kapacitron”(???) works
[00:23] this is how a dyfusional pimbdziaula works
[00:30] this is how a electro-”cabbager” works
[00:38] this is how a steel-koziÃƒÂ³wka(???) works
[00:45] this is how a safety pin works
[00:49] and other very very-complex inventions
[00:59] and how does a dachshund work?
[01:06] this is how a dachshund works
[02:26] dachshunds have a head
[02:34] a middle
[02:39] and rear part of body
[02:44] inside he have intestine
[02:47] eventually, everything that lives, have some intestines inside
[02:57] dachshund have 3 emotional states
[03:05] he can be angry
[03:20] and he can be sad, sorrowful
[03:27] he can be joyful, happy
[03:32] he can be happy
[03:41] [song] …because i’m afraid of emotions, here and there
[03:45] he can be cheerful
[04:00] EWARYST (it’s very strange and funny first name)
[05:02] don’t destroy a dachshund! because it is very complicated mechanism. even a computer is a piece of cake, compared to dachshund
[05:29] don’t destroy the kitty!
[05:38] don’t destroy the pike!
[05:50] don’t destroy the “zurawka”!
[06:12] because these are animals which we need to live
[06:21] rather try to model ourselfs on a nature
[06:30] let’s build quiet muscle-power engine!
[06:41] small estimate
[06:53] one butterfly’ eye is built from thousands of biological photo-diodes
[07:05] the cost of one german photo-diode type FG-70 is 75zl
[07:15] times 20.000 = 1.500.000
[07:28] times 2 eyes…
[07:34] when we destroy one butterfly, we destroy very high class device with biological value
[07:45] 30 million zlotych! (yes, she should have said 3 milion zl, but director of this film asked caretaker of block of flats where he lived for giving her voice to film, that’s why announcer sometimes has problems with the reading ;) )
[07:54] don’t destroy the dachshund!!!
I’ve peeped the interior and can report that it’s a 264-page visual feast packed with page after page of amazing artwork. Any book that can make Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings look like a competent piece of filmmaking has done its job well. Plus, a foreword by Bakshi aficionado Quentin Tarantino and interviews/anecdotes with John K, Albert Ruddy, Bruce Timm, Peter Chung, John Sparey, Tom Minton, and Frank Frazetta among others. Book launch is slated for Comic-Con International: San Diego in July 2008. Pre-order for $26.40 on Amazon.
The LA Times has an in-depth profile about the new “Animated Painting” exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art. The show, which runs through January 13, 2008, features “25 cinematic works by 14 international contemporary artists who adapt traditional painting and drawing methods to the concepts and technologies of animation.” Participating artists are the Barnstormers, Sadie Benning, Jeremy Blake, SebastiÃƒÂ¡n DÃƒÂaz Morales, Kota Ezawa, Ruth GÃƒÂ³mez, William Kentridge, Ann Lislegaard, Takeshi Murata, Serge Onnen, Julian Opie, Wit Pimkanchanapong, Qiu Anxiong, and Robin Rhode.
To Infinity and Beyond!: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios (Chronicle Books, 2007) by Karen Paik is exactly the type of book you’d expect it to be, nothing more and nothing less, and so cautious as to be boring. Such might also serve as an adequate assessment of the studio’s last couple of films.
The first three chapters of the book are dedicated to Pixar’s big threeÃ¢â‚¬”Ed Catmull (the tech guy), John Lasseter (the art guy) and Steve Jobs (the business guy)Ã¢â‚¬”and the story of their individual paths that led them to Pixar. It is followed by a look at Pixar’s early day as a hardware and software manufacturer, TV commercial producer and maker of short films. The bulk of the book is devoted to the studio’s features, with one chapter offered to each film from Toy Story through Cars. The book concludes with a chapter titled “Pixar Joins with Disney” which is a frank account (as far as corporate vanity books go) of the drama of the past few years which led to Disney’s eventual acquisition of the studio. Throughout, there are also spotlights on Sound, Voices, Music and RenderMan.
As a coffeetable book, it is handsome though hardly spectacular. The front and back cover, with their Buzz Lightyear stickers pasted onto cloth, strike me as not only a surprisingly thrifty approach for such an expensive book ($75 cover price), but also something that doesn’t evoke the proper image for a studio that has pioneered computer graphics. Interior layout is clean but bland; the artwork printed here is largely redundant if you have the earlier ‘art of’ volumes devoted to individual Pixar films. Among the types of visuals that can’t be found in those other book are some photographs and caricatures of the artists. Another type of art unique to this book is the inclusion of final rendered stills from the films, which is good or bad depending on your perspective.
Personally, I had a surprising reaction to the film stills. Looking at them on the printed page, without the benefit of movement or story, I was struck by how overwhelmingly primitive the finished artwork is in Pixar’s films. No doubt the graphics in their films have evolved in terms of complexity, lighting and rendering over the past decade, but the final imagery has not become any more aesthetically appealing from the days of Toy Story. The graphics in Pixar films remain literal and sterile with little sense of humanity or warmth in the finished characters or backgrounds.
While it would be easy to blame such graphic shortcomings on the nature of digital art, the lack of appeal is not so much a technological issue as it is about Pixar’s unwillingness to use the computer as an artistic tool. To date, the aesthetic development of CG has largely been left to smaller commercial studios and independent animators. A studio like Pixar excels in characterization (and occasionally story), but when it comes to graphics, they are more similar than most like to admit to other deep-pocketed and overly cautious CG studios like DreamWorks, Sony and Blue Sky.
There is, however, little reason that Pixar should be incapable of incorporating the type of visual imagination that is evident in their pre-production art into the finished movies. Certainly both the technical and artistic know-how exists at the studio; only the will to combine the two is lacking. While their film credit sequences often make a half-hearted nod to graphic respectability (ex. Monsters Inc., Ratatouille), it would be something else entirely to see such artistry integrated into the CG body of their films.
Pixar completists, and those who want a better sense of some of the production challenges that artists faced on each feature, will want to consider adding this book to their bookshelf, though if you’re an owner of the studio’s earlier ‘art of’ books, it’s doubtful you’ll find much in the way of visual inspiration. What you’ll find is a lot of the same pre-production pieces (or similar enough that they may as well be the same) and a fairy tale account of the studio’s rise to prominence with lots (and lots) of obligatory back-patting amongst crew members. Personally, I’m looking more forward to another book on the horizon: David Price’s The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company, which will hopefully offer the in-depth history of the studio that many of us want. That book will be released next May.
Superfad has delivered an impressive 3D spot for the Sony PS3, directed by Kevin Lau and Frank Pichel. Superfad’s animation of the ‘exploding’ PS3 are tightly integrated with the videogame footage but also make a unique impression of their own because of the stylized b&w art direction. The use of a simple grey background also heightens the impact of the piece. It’s refreshing to see such restraint on the part of directors working with CG.
DreamWorks animation artists may have to put up with Jeffrey Katzenberg, but thankfully, hotel employees don’t. The security at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York kicked Katzenberg out of their hotel after he started causing trouble and yelling,”Who the (bleep) are you? Do you know who I am?” at one of the hotel employees.
Happy birthday to animation legend Ollie Johnston who celebrates his 95th today!
(Thanks, John Canemaker)
Independent animator (and former syndicated cartoonist) Chris Harding (Learn Self Defense) launches a new online comic strip today called We The Robots. There are thirteen comics currently posted and new ones scheduled weekly. I tend to be a fan of just about everything Chris does and this latest project is no exception. It should be noted that the strip is loosely related to the next animated short that he’s currently working on. He explains in one of his blog posts:
“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard to explain the relationship between the animated Work In Progress, and the non-animated comic strip that goes with it. Both take place in the same fictional world of robots. The short is more broad and doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t revolve around any specific robot, where the comic strip has several regular characters.”
With all the recent discussion about Charles Schulz, I thought it’d be fun to share this 1969 photo of Schulz pulling a ‘Lucy’ on Peanuts animation director Bill Melendez.
Back in February 2006, I wrote about an intriguing French animated feature Peur(s) du Noir (Fears of the Dark), which is a black-and-white anthology of scary stories. Each of the stories has a distinct look designed by alternative comic artists and illustrators like Charles Burns, Lorenzo Mattotti and Richard McGuire. The English trailer can be viewed here (Quicktime) and the film website is here. The film opens on February 13, 2008 in France. No word yet on whether there’ll be an international release.
Mark Webster of Motion Design blog offers a preview of a fascinating film which I hadn’t heard of: a full-length animated documentary about legendary film title designer Pablo Ferro (Dr. Strangelove). The film which is scheduled for release in ’08 is based on interviews with dozens of Ferro’s friends and colleagues including Angelica Huston, Andy Garcia, Beau Bridges, Stan Lee and Norman Lear. Before becoming involved in film titles, Ferro worked in animation at NY studios like Elektra and Academy, as well as co-owning his own commercial studio in the early-60s called Ferro, Mogubgub and Schwartz.