As a change of pace, here’s some happy news about a veteran animation artist: today is Bud Luckey‘s 75th birthday. Luckey’s career stretches from Quartet and Format Films in the 1950s to design and story work on most of the Pixar features and the short Boundin’, which he directed. And, of course, he will always be fondly remembered for the many catchy Sesame Street segments he wrote, performed and animated, like “The Ladybugs’ Picnic,” “The Alligator King,” “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Nine,” and this one:
Story artist Ed Gombert has started a blog dedicated to the work of Disney storyman Vance Gerry, who passed away in 2005. Gombert writes on the blog, “Fortunately, the geek in me started making copies of his work and instead of sitting in a folder in my personal archive I want to share these drawings with as many people as possible. If you look long enough at these drawings and paintings you will be able to see the kind, funny, humble and generous man that was Vance Gerry.”
The Gerry blog joins a growing number of blogs, sites and Facebook pages dedicated to individual artists from animation’s Golden Age, including:
A fact that took me by surprise: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is now the fifth-highest grossing animated feature of all-time at the worldwide box office. Here’s the list:
1. Shrek 2 – $919.8 million
2. Finding Nemo – $864.6 million
3. Shrek the Third – $799 million
4. The Lion King – $783.8 million
5. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs – $673.5 million
The film has performed phenomenally overseas, pulling in excess of $500 million from foreign markets. This Variety article mentions that the film is on its way to becoming the top-grossing animated feature at the foreign box office, surpassing the current title holder, Pixar’s Finding Nemo ($524 million).
I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the reason for the film’s box office success isn’t because the entire world loves Ray Romano, but rather that the world loves Scrat, a refreshing cartoon creation whose appeal stems from his personality and mannerisms instead of his dialogue (a virtually unheard of innovation in contemporary animation).
The episode of Simon’s Cat I posted yesterday couldn’t be more different in style and tone than Ice Age, but at its core, I think the success of both of these cartoons revolves around an understanding that audiences still enjoy watching funny and appealing visually-driven cartoon characters.
I haven’t seen a new piece of animation by stop-motion animator Corky Quackenbush in what seems like forever, so I was pleasantly surprised to run across his latest: Harry Potter and the Office of Unemployment.
I also found this “sex and violence” reel with clips from Quakenbush’s familiar classics along with newer works that I hadn’t seen. Family Guy could stand to take a lesson from Corky about what it means to be edgy and outrageous.
“Fly Day” is the latest episode of Simon’s Cat by Simon Tofield, a UK-based director on the Tandem Films roster. It’s refreshing to see animation that hinges everything on the quality of acting, characterization, and observation. Tofield directs our attention towards the character’s personality to the point of not including any color, camera moves, or cuts in the entire episode. Simon’s Cat is also a fine example of an on-line animation success story. In a little over a year, the four previous episodes of the cartoon have reached nearly 30 million pageviews, which has led to a book deal for Tofield. More details on the book are available at SimonsCat.com.
I don’t post links to eBay items frequently, but I can’t resist pointing out this huge, stunning Fifties silkscreen mural by Boris Gorelick (1912-1984), who painted backgrounds at UPA, Warner Bros. and Format Films. Gorelick’s animation work consists exclusively of paintings based on the layouts of other artists, so it is a pleasant surprise to discover that he was such a facile draftsman and that he drew characters so beautifully. The design is busy but never cluttered, and his use of color is bold and imaginative. With so many contemporary artists creating mediocre gallery paintings using a “cartoon modern” style, it’s easy to forget how exciting and interesting a stylized cartoon painting can be. Gorelick had it down.
I’ve written about Gorelick before on the Cartoon Modern blog. He had a fascinating history. Born in Russia, his parents emigrated to the US when he was an infant. He was politically active throughout the 1930s, and hung out with artists like Arshile Gorky, Max Weber and Ben Shahn. In 1935, while creating art for the W.P.A., he made a lithograph of a circus scene that is much darker than the Fifties version, and shows his vastly different approach to drawing in his pre-animation years.
I checked with the eBay seller, and he said if the reserve isn’t met on the listing, the mural will be available for sale at Izzi Modern which is located in the Vintage Collective showroom in Long Beach, CA.
Hayao Miyazaki didn’t come to the United States in 2003 to accept his Oscar for Spirited Away because of his opposition to the Iraq War, he recently told the LA Times:
“The reason I wasn’t here for the Academy Award was because I didn’t want to visit a country that was bombing Iraq. At the time, my producer shut me up and did not allow me to say that, but I don’t see him around today. By the way, my producer also shared in that feeling.”
Critic Daniel Thomas MacInnes offers some context to Miyazaki’s actions on The Ghibli Blog:
It should be common knowledge to any serious Miyazaki scholar that he abhorred not only the Iraq War, but war itself. The idea of violence is depicted in his work as violent tragedy, slapstick mockery, or both…I don’t think very many Westerners know that the war in Howl’s Moving Castle was itself a reflection on the Iraq War. It was a comment on that war, viewed through the lens of Miyazaki’s long career.
It seems only appropriate to wrap up Comic-Con weekend with this New York Times article about Japanese men who have long-term relationships with drawn images of cartoon characters. The article profiles Nisan (above) who met his current girlfriend–a pillowcase with a video game character printed onto it–at a comic book convention:
He treats her the way any decent man would treat a girlfriend – he takes her out on the weekends to sing karaoke or take purikura, photo-booth pictures imprinted on a sheet of tiny stickers. In the few hours we spent together, I watched him position her gently in the restaurant booth and later in the back seat of his car, making sure to keep her upright and not to touch her private parts. He doesn’t take her to work, but he has a backup body pillow with the same Nemutan cover inside his desk drawer in case he has to work late at his tech-support job.
The sixth annual edition of Animation Block Party runs this weekend in Brooklyn. The event is the closest thing there is to an animation festival in the New York City area. There are five programs of the latest animated shorts from around the world, as well as a few parties. Tonight at 8pm is the opening night screening, which takes place outdoors on the roof of the Automotive High School in Williamsburg. More screenings follow on Saturday and Sunday. Film line-up, ticket info and locations are all available on the Animation Block website.
Another one of my memorable finds at the Anima Mundi festival is Jam by Japanese artist Mirai Mizue. The short, which can be viewed HERE, does an expert job of building up tension through a carefully orchestrated layering of sound and imagery. Although the online screen size is too small, it still communicates the unique artistic achievement of Mizue’s work.
I’m having an unforgettably fantastic time at Anima Mundi in Brazil. One of the films that picked up an award at the festival is Mon Chinois (2008) by Cédric Villain, which looks at how the Western world stereotypes Chinese people. The film does a good job of evoking both laughter and unease from the viewer. It’s in French, but I think you’ll be able to figure it out.
David OReilly is a name that requires little introduction on the Brew. His new video for U2′s “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” is a visual stunner. It was created in collaboration with designer Jon Klassen.
Whether it’s the elegant animated navigation of his Flash portfolio site or the visually adventurous commercials and promos on his reel, Max Weintraub‘s work has style to spare. He’s a 2000 CalArts grad who is now living and working in Tokyo. I only discovered his work last week when his delightful freshman CalArts film, Dance Mania, featuring Michael Jackson, made the rounds on Facebook. His latest project is particularly interesting. He was commissioned by a Japanese TV network to create thirteen short animated pieces based on La Vilaine Lulu, a vintage illustrated boook by fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent. The website for the project doesn’t feature any of the episodes (as far as I can tell), but I love the simple, charming bits of animation with the girl and want to see more.
There has been a lot of growth in site-specific animation over the past few years, and artists like Blu and Pablo Valbuena are finding different ways to incorporate the built environment into animation. The video installation “Tetragram for Enlargement,” created by the Italian visual artist collective Apparati Effimeri, is set against a medieval castle, and it’s one of the trippiest marriages of architecture and animation I’ve seen to date.
Peripetics is a fantastic experimental CG short. The “piece in six acts” was made by London-based Zeitguised for the opening exhibition at the Zirkel Gallery. I love the tension that is created by placing surreal, organic imagery against formal environments and movement. This Motionographer post offers insights into Zeitguised’s creative process and there’s also a behind-the-scenes video that gives a sense of how they developed their ideas. What appeals to me most about this piece is best summed up in the mission statement of Zeitguised: “If it can be shot in camera or animated using manual techniques, why use computer graphics?”