Pray for animation, these are scary times. The animation industry has been experiencing a nasty relapse into the crumminess of decades past. First, there was the news that Hasbro is launching its own toy-driven animation network and recruiting talented artists like Lauren Faust to shill My Little Ponies. As if that wasn’t depressing enough, now comes the news that shlock producers Joe Ruby, Ken Spears, and Sid and Marty Krofft have teamed up to develop new projects using characters that Jack Kirby created or developed in the eighties.
According to the NY Times, the combined stroke of genius of these four geriatric gents was to drive to their storage unit and pull out boxes of Kirby’s artwork. The Times doesn’t bother to ask why, if these ideas are so brilliant, none of them ever managed to get off the ground when Kirby first developed them twenty-five years ago. The quartet has somehow convinced Ari Emanuel of William Morris Endeavor to rep them and help turn these ideas into animated shows, live-action movies, comics and videogames. The ideas include:
“Roxie’s Raiders,” an Indiana Jones-style serial about a female adventurer and her allies; “Golden Shield,” about an ancient Mayan hero seeking to save earth in the apocalyptic year 2012; and “The Gargoids,” about scientists who gain superpowers after being infected by an alien virus.
The NY Times website offers a slideshow of Kirby’s development artwork. My humble suggestion to Ari would be to hook up Ruby-Spears and the Kroffts with these guys. They appear to share the same aesthetic sensibilities, and who knows, maybe they can even get Sean Connery to do a voice.
Make sure you’re sitting down and buckled up for this one because it’s going to take you for a ride. Music Box with a Secret is an unbelievable creative trip that hails from mid-seventies Russia. Director Valery Ugarov (1941-2007) utilizes a pastiche of sixties and seventies styles and artists as diverse as Heinz Edelmann and Yellow Sub, psychedelia, Seymour Chwast, and Victorian revival, and transforms it into an utterly unique and beautifully animated experience. The synth and electro-soundtrack adds a lot and is an inspired solution to a film about music boxes.
An unfunny preview of Neighbors from Hell, the first original animated series created for TBS, which also became the new home of Conan O’Brien today. The show centers around “the Hellmans, a typical, all-American suburban family. . .the only thing that distinguishes them from the rest of the folks in the neighborhood is that the Hellmans happen to be from Hell.” According to this site, numerous parties are involved in its production including Fox TV Animation, DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. and Jeffrey Katzenberg, and executive-producers Pam Brady (South Park) and Mireille Soria (Madagascar). One of the show’s writers is Kyle McCulloch, a veteran of South Park and creator of Icebox’s Mr. Wong (remember that?). Vancouver-based Bardel Entertainment is providing the animation for the first season of ten episodes which will premiere in June.
The MoCCA Art Fest takes places this Saturday (11am-6pm) and Sunday (10:30am-6pm) at the 69th Regiment Armory (68 Lexington Avenue at 25th St). Your favorite surly Brewmaster will be there hawking back issues of Animation Blast (dirt cheap, I promise) as well as a few of my books (cheaper than Amazon). Drop by and say hello at the Meathaus table (A-11) which I’ll be sharing with animation pals Chris McDonnell and Celia Bullwinkel. Other Brew readers who are exhibiting, please let us know in the comments where you’ll be located. More details on the MoCCA website.
I appreciate how this video for Dan Mangan’s “Road Regrets” breaks from the standard anthropomorphic representation of cars in animation. The design of the car, along with the visual storytelling, project just enough personality to make the piece work. The video is directed and designed by Jon Busby, who is a co-founder of the new Vancouver-based outfit Blatant.
Florida-based filmmaker David Montgomery creates animated films entirely out of objects found in nature. The imagery found within these pieces, like Pollenating II above, is nothing short of mesmerizing. His latest piece, Carapace and Shell, a series of animated loops of seashells found on the beaches of Northeast Florida, will be screened at the Museum of Science and History (MOSH) in Jacksonville, as part of an ocean and marine-life themed exhibit. This Flickr page offers a hint of what I can only imagine is the intense amount of labor and organization that he invests into the making of each film. More of David’s work can be found on his website SilverfishCloset.com.
Photographs of skateboarders cut out and re-arranged in new environments. Tilles Singer’s short owes a debt to Virgil Widrich’s Fast Film, which remains the gold standard of this technique, but SkateboardAnimation has enough creative touches to stand on its own.
A piece about internships in yesterday’s New York Times has been making the rounds, and it’s worth a peek for all animation students. It explains how most internships violate federal law and the government is beginning to crack down on employers who take advantage of free labor. Unpaid internships in New York’s non-union animation scene are particularly notorious; most studios (big and small) have at least a couple interns and certain ones have been known to employ generous numbers of unpaid interns simultaneously. No wonder then that the Times article calls out a local animation studio:
At Little Airplane, a Manhattan children’s film company, an N.Y.U. student who hoped to work in animation during her unpaid internship said she was instead assigned to the facilities department and ordered to wipe the door handles each day to minimize the spread of swine flu. Tone Thyne, a senior producer at Little Airplane, said its internships were usually highly educational and often led to good jobs.
From an economic viewpoint, unpaid interns make perfect sense for companies, but from an ethical viewpoint, it’s questionable behavior (and from the government’s point of view, it’s illegal). When I was looking to hire a personal assistant, a number of friends and associates advised me to offer the position as an unpaid internship. Despite the appeal of such an idea (who doesn’t like to save money?), I declined and opted to hire an assistant with an hourly wage. I’ve also been on the other side; when I was a kid, I found experience as an unpaid intern. Looking back on it, I regret my youthful naivete. Bottomline: if you’re doing the work, you deserve to be compensated. People like to villainize Walt Disney for paying his employees meager wages in the 1930s, but what they forget is that he paid even the lowliest of the traffic boys, which is more than can be said for many stingy contemporary animation shops that ride on the backs of free labor.
If you’ve got stories, positive or negative, about your experiences with animation internships, please share them with the rest of us. A similar take on internships can be found on the blog of Richard O’Connor, who is a co-owner of Asterisk studio in New York. He writes that at Asterisk, “We pay everybody (unless you’re working for school credit). In part because that’s the law, in part because we’re profiting (in theory) from a worker’s contributions.”
Husband-and-wife animation team Jorge Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua (the creators of El Tigre) were interviewed by Lynda.com about their animation careers. Three of the videos are available for free on Jorge’s blog, while the rest are behind a subscription wall. This video about their art education sheds light into the stigma that artists face in many countries for choosing a career in the visual arts:
Tantalizing teaser for Glitch in the Grid, a forthcoming feature by Eric Leiser, whose earlier film Imagination was mentioned on the Brew a couple years back. I’m really digging Leiser’s eclectic mix of styles, especially how he applies stop-motion for site-specific landscape animation. Check out this article for more details about the film or visit Eric’s website AlbinoFawn.com to learn more about him and his work.
Adnan Hussain‘s short film Gul (Flower) draws the viewer in with its striking impressionistic CG imagery, but keeps the viewer engaged with its storytelling, which carries a clear and powerful message even as it verges on obliqueness. A Quicktime version of the film can be found on Adnan’s website.
I asked Adnan via email if he could share some details about the production of Gul. Here is what he wrote:
I’m a Los Angeles-based Pakistani-American artist working primarily in animation and live action vfx. Gul (Flower), an interpretive piece meant for the viewer to connect their own experiences, is my first short film. It is the culmination of personal art and skills learned as a technical director at Walt Disney Feature Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks and other studios. It was created in a stack of sketchbooks, 3D Studio Max, Photoshop, Painter, Digital Fusion and Premiere. I studied non-photorealistic rendering papers and works by Egon Schiele, Bill Sienkiewicz and Kent Williams besides doing a ton of my own paintings to create the raw painted look of the film. Scripts were developed to repaint rendered frames layer by layer with custom settings to create the painted look efficiently.
By the end of 2007, I had built enough models, animation and pipeline to quit my job and finish it. I worked on the film, then back packed through Central Asia before finding my way to Jamshoro, Sindh, Pakistan to record the score of a yet to be colored version of the film. Thanks to incredible Sindhi Folk musicians lead by Ustad Anb Jogi on Dholak, Jairam Jogi and Nasir Jogi on Murli, Mohammed Buksh on Pakistani Banjo, Ibrahim Jogi on Tali and LA-based Brian Stroner on sound design, the film was completed in May 2009.
So far it has screened at Slamdance, Patios Human Rights, Mill Valley, Anim’Est, Maelstrom and Montezuma Film Festivals as well as winning Canada Film Festival’s Rising Star Award of Excellence and the Accolade Award of Merit.
Hussain tells me that he is currently in pre-production on his next short and is looking for freelance opportunities around the globe.
My eyes cannot unsee what has been seen, and now neither can yours. This rendition of Spongebob combines a real sponge, features of Tom Kenny (the voice of the character), and Madonna’s arms. The artist is Nicole Hamilton.