Meet Doctor Finklestar: Space Urologist. Sophisticated humor this is not, but it does deliver the funny. It’s from C.H. Greenblatt, creator of the upcoming CN series CHOWDER which looks rather promising.
Here’s a recent AWN interview where a Disney exec producer explains his credentials that qualify him to work in the animation industry:
As exec producer of Disney’s newest animated shows for tweens, what exactly do you do? How is an exec producer different from a producer?
JT: As the exec producer I am the “show runner.” The ultimate responsibility for all creative decisions rests with me. Having said that, my background is comedy writing, so my style is to delegate a lot. Heather Martinez, my director, who is a great artist, is in charge of most “art decisions.” I only weigh in on what I feel are the most crucial ones and I concentrate more on writing, acting and editing.
How long have you been interested in animation? You originally came to Los Angeles with the goal of becoming a lawyer. At what time did that switch for you and how did you transition into animation?
JT: Actually, I came to L.A. as a stand-up comedian. I had quit the law to do comedy. My transition to animation was pretty abrupt. I had been writing for American Movie Classics and Fox Sports when Steve Marmel suggested I freelance a script for the Fairly Oddparents. (He was the story editor.) I wrote a script in February and in June, I was a staff writer.
If you’ve ever wondered why mainstream studio cartoons are so intolerably awful, just ask the former lawyer and stand-up comic who’s responsible for all the artistic decisions on a Disney TV series. There’s hundreds of people like him in this business; it’s just that most of them don’t go on the record talking about their lack of knowledge about the art form. Then again, a lot of them do go on the record. To better understand how they’re collectively screwing the animation industry, be sure to read John Kricfalusi’s fearlessly honest blog post “Crackpot Executive Beliefs.”
Is it just me or is there more innovative stop-motion work being produced today than at any time in recent memory? To follow-up on the post below, here’s an excellent piece of computer-manipulated stop-motion, live action and puppeteering. This new Norah Jones music video, “Sinkin’ Soon,” is directed by Ace Norton. Watch it at NorahJones.com (go to the “Media” section, click on the TV screen, and then click on the “Sinkin’ Soon” title).
I really dug the raw visual vibe, and the immediacy and energy of the animation. Ben Zelkowicz, the supervising animator on the video, shares a few behind-the-scene details about its making:
It was a pretty crazy shoot – most of the animation was being shot on the same stage simultaneously with the live action, so lights were constantly getting tripped over, tables bumped, etc. as we (myself and Tennessee Reid Norton did most of the animation) tried to pump out the vast amounts of footage the director Ace Norton wanted. But I like the lo-fi aesthetic, all found objects, shooting several angles at once, as fast as humanly possible. I am particularly fond of the Svankmajer-esque screw guy playing the trumpet shot I did.
Animator TR Norton also has a few photos from the production posted on his blog.
Last week’s episode of FAMILY GUY included this enjoyable interlude of Stewie dancing with Gene Kelly. Wouldn’t it be something special if a modern TV series regularly afforded this much thought to its animation and choreography? The original clip of Jerry the Mouse dancing with Kelly can be seen here.
UPDATE: Steve Worth of ASIFA-Hollywood’s Animation Archive wrote in with some comments about this sequence:
How much “thought to animation and choreography” does it take to rotoscope someone else’s animation and slap your own character over the top of it? If this was a parody, it would have added some sort of comment through additional humor. If it was a tribute, they would have had the respect not to obliterate the great animation by Ken Muse and Ray Patterson by pasting their own poorly traced drawings over the top of it. To my eyes, this looks like the Family Guy crew took the hard work of these legendary artists and copped it for themselves without adding a single thing to it. They can get away with it, because the viewers probably have never heard of Gene Kelly, much less have seen the clip of him dancing with Jerry Mouse.
How eager are you to see Bugs Bunny cartoons with new videogame characters rotoscoped over the top of them? Maybe they could take Fantasia and roto a CGI Mickey Mouse over the top of Sorcerer’s Apprentice… That’s the sort of thing “great ideas” like this lead to. I’ve never understood why people feel the need to paint mustaches on the Mona Lisa and then have the gall to pat themselves on the back for their great work.
Family Guy deserves no praise for this. A ripoff is a ripoff.
As part of a “marketing campaign” for its series “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” Cartoon Network planted suspicious electronic devices around bridges, subways and highways in Boston, sparking city-wide fears of terrorism. It seems quite appropriate that the bomb squad would have to be called out to dispose of an Adult Swim series.
Apologies to our readers who’ve had trouble logging into Cartoon Brew over the past day. We just switched servers, which was a little less seamless than it was suppposed to be. Thankfully, the tech folk at our host, Webintellects, were excellent as usual and worked to quickly get everything back into working order. Regular posting will resume shortly.
A hearty CONGRATS to Don Hertzfeldt who earlier tonight won the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival for his new film EVERYTHING WILL BE OK. An animated short winning top honors at Sundance is a rare and noteworthy event because at the festival, animated films compete alongside dramatic live-action shorts and documentary short subjects. It’s refreshing to see Sundance recognize a piece of animation with a strong point of view, intelligent storytelling and legitimate artistic merit, particularly after the embarassingly subpar slates of animated short nominees chosen this year by ASIFA-Hollywood’s Annie Awards and the Oscar’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
USA TODAY writes about the new Disney print ad campaign which features Annie Leibovitz photographs of celebrities dressed as Disney characters.
(Thanks, Eliza Kinkz)
This article, which was originally published in the WALL STREET JOURNAL earlier this week, offers some details on DreamWorks Animation’s upcoming slate of films, which includes three planned MADAGASCAR sequels and a Nick TV series featuring the penguins from MADAGASCAR. But lest anyone think that DreamWorks is only interested in milking their existing franchises, Jeffrey Katzenberg says in the piece, “Fortunately, our next six or seven movies are unlike anything we’ve done before or anything anyone else is doing.” The forthcoming films include BEE MOVIE, KUNG FU PANDA, MONSTERS VS. ALIENS and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. Katzenberg also talks in the piece about how they’re adding a year of production to their films because, “We’ve been racing to the finish line and that has meant compromising on story telling sometimes.”
This is pretty funny: a 1970 JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS comic where the characters visit the Hanna-Barbera Studios to learn how an animated cartoon is produced. Besides Bill and Joe, there are guest appearances by Iwao Takamoto, Carlo Vinci, Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, all drawn by Dan DeCarlo.
The Oscar nominations from yesterday are stirring a lot of controversy in the animation world: the animated shorts for how uniformly mediocre the selections were (a topic for another time) and the features for whether the films are even animated. That’s because two of the three feature nominees – MONSTER HOUSE and HAPPY FEET – use performance- and motion-capture techniques, which means that the acting performances aren’t created frame-by-frame by animators, but are based on live-action performances which are subsequently enhanced by digital artists.
CG animator Keith Lango writes on his blog:
Only one of those three films used actual animation as the foundation for the character performances. The other two films captured live motion for the primary core act of imbuing the illusion of life to the puppets. When it comes to performance they have more in common with The Muppets Take Manhattan than they do with The Lion King. But it’s too much bother to worry about that. Nobody’s keeping score anyhow, so let’s just call it all “animation” and be done with it. And so we are witnessing the end game of the slow redefinition of terms.
Animation directors Mark Mayerson and Michael Sporn offer similar thoughts on their blogs about whether these films deserve the animation label. While I tend to have a pretty broad definition of animation and personally won’t label these films as not animated, when two of the three films in the animation category are contested like this, it’s probably time to have a debate about exactly what does and doesn’t qualify as animation. As it stands, it’s fairly silly (not to mention, demeaning to the art form) to have an animated film like CARS competing against two films whose character peformances were created by live-action actors.
Head’s up on a magazine article that Brew readers will definitely want to check out. The new issue of CARTOONS: THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ANIMATION features a John Canemaker-penned cover story – “In Search of John Parr Miller – about the life and work of JP Miller. The thirteen-page piece, which contains new research and biographical material, is the first article in a two-part series. The cover, above, is a 1941 painting by Miller created in Rio de Janeiro. (This magazine is put out by ASIFA International, and unfortunately available only to ASIFA members.)
Miller (1913-2004) was one of the members of Disney’s Character Model Department where he helped develop the look of the studio’s early classics (PINOCCHIO, DUMBO, FANTASIA, etc). After leaving Disney, he embarked on a legendary career as a children’s book illustrator. His work – both at Disney and as an illustrator – always had a tremendous amount of appeal. It’s great to finally have the opportunity to learn more about him.
Atlanta-based Primal Screen has produced two preshow animation pieces – “Fireplay” and “Spark City” – for the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, currently taking place in Utah. “Spark City” (above), which plays out as a 6-minute animation loop, looks like it packs quite a visual punch. Brew pal Ward Jenkins, who designed the piece and directed the animation, has more notes about the making of the animation on his blog Ward-O-Matic. Other credits on the piece include Rick Newcomb, who did colors, effects, compositing and was in charge of the overall project, and Flash animation by Joe Kubesheski, Joanna Davidovich and Jeremy Seymour.
“When my parents came to the studio, nobody breathed. Imagine you are drawing Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, and suddenly a big mouse and a big duck walk in.”
The above quote is Marjane Satrapi discussing the difficulties of creating an autobiographical animated feature. Yesterday’s NY TIMES has an intriguing article on what is surely the most offbeat animation feature of 2007: black-and-white, hand-drawn, French, based on contemporary events, and directed by two comic-book artists. Hardly the credentials of your average animated film and quite refreshing.
Initially reported on the Brew last October, the film PERSEPOLIS is based on Satrapi’s bestselling graphic novel about growing up as a teenage girl in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. The good news: the film is scheduled for US release later this year by Sony Pictures Classics. One interesting sidenote, the article reveals that the film’s executive producer and the person who made the US release possible is longtime Spielberg collaborator Kathleen Kennedy, whose animation producing credits include WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?, AN AMERICAN TAIL and THE LAND BEFORE TIME.
(Use BugMeNot to bypass NY TIMES registration)
Aeron has posted an inspiring collection of backgrounds from the animated feature LE ROI ET L’OISEAU here and here. Last August, we reported that Studio Ghibli was giving the classic French cartoon a dvd release in Japan, but the official restored version is still unavailable in the States.
(Thanks, Will Kane)
Also, in my previous post about this spot, I pointed out the ridiculous bobbing movement in the second-to-last shot. JadeTiger, a user on the CGTalk forums, was so mesmerized by this bit of animation that she created an animated GIF so we can all watch it over and over over….
(The title of this post was penned by ‘frogspasm’ on the CGTalk forums)
1. Chris Meledandri, head of Fox Feature Animation, jumps ship to Universal where he’ll try his best to produce another ICE AGE and not another ROBOTS.
2. What Makes An Animated Pitch Hit? Apparently, teaming with SNL castmembers will do the trick.
3. An animation studio decides NOT to make a talking-animal CG feature?!? What’s the world coming to?
Couldn’t make it to Paris for the landmark Disney art exhibit that closed a few days ago? No worries because next month Prestel Publishing is releasing a 360-page English-version exhibition catalog ONCE UPON A TIME WALT DISNEY: THE SOURCES OF INSPIRATION FOR THE DISNEY STUDIOS. Cover price is a steep $75 but it’s only $47.25 at Amazon.
Now that the show has wrapped in France, it’s headed to Canada where it’ll be exhibited from March 8-June 24 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Colin Stewart, a columnist for the OC REGISTER, is asking the question on his blog that many of us are wondering, “Why won’t any galleries in the US make room for this exhibition?”
One more interesting fact about this spot: it was directed at Digital Domain by none other than David Fincher (FIGHT CLUB, SE7EN), who incidentally started his film career in animation (it’s all documented in ANIMATION BLAST 9). The shot towards the end where Orville says, “You’ll like it better…” has some of the funniest (i.e. hideously awful) acting you’ll see in any recent piece of big-budget CG.
A higher-res version of the commercial can be found on the official Redenbacher website. The lip sync is absolutely pathetic. It’s hard to believe this spot was produced by Digital Domain.
The response to this spot has been unanimously negative. Here’s a random sampling of opinions from around the blogosphere:
Y’know, I thought that cannibalizing old footage of Fred Astaire was kind of a tacky idea 11 years ago. But after this, I’m beginning to like the first idea. (via)
While watching Criminal Minds tonight, I saw the most sick and disturbing thing–yes, the commercials featuring a reanimated Orville Redenbacher. If you haven’t seen it, it’s not an old films clip or anything–it’s basically CGI of a man’s corpse dancing around. I’m sorry, but that’s just freaking creepy. (via)
Digital Orville Redenbacher freaks me right out. He is dead. Let’s let him be dead. Because Zombie Orville is just wrong, wrong, wrong. (via)
I just saw the scariest shit ever. A commercial for Orville Redenbacher popcorn in which they used the man himself as a spokesperson. Yes, he’s been dead for some time. They brought him back anyway. So beyond the questionable wisdom of using a dead man as your spokesman, they decided to go totally digital. So now it actually looks like they dug up the old man’s corpse and made it talk and move with marionette strings. The lips don’t even sync with the dialogue! (via)
Earlier Brew coverage of Zombie Redenbacher
UPDATE: Brew reader Tim Curtis says that he expressed his distaste for this commercial by visiting the ConAgra Foods contact page. The toll-free Redenbacher consumer line is 800/243-0303.
I’ve heard back from multiple readers who’ve emailed ConAgra and they’re sending out a form letter to everybody. That letter is below:
Your communication concerning the new Orville Redenbacher TV ads was most welcome, and we appreciate your taking the time to contact us.
We understand that using breakthrough technology in this way can raise some eyebrows. However, we have taken the utmost care to replicate Orville’s endearing personality and likeness. Our most important goal is to respect and advance the legacy of the brand’s founder. The Retro ads which have recently aired received an extremely positive reception from consumers, and with the breakthroughs in technology, we are now able to introduce Orville to a whole new generation!
The Redenbacher family is excited for Orville’s return to our advertising and marketing initiatives. Gary Redenbacher, who represents the Redenbacher family, has fully endorsed our direction and he is excited about ConAgra’s efforts to advance his grandfather’s legacy.
As we design future initiatives, your comments will be carefully considered. We appreciate the time you have taken to contact us and your interest in our products.
ConAgra Foods Consumer Affairs
“Jaws of Life” is a freshly styled music video for the Canadian band Wintersleep directed by Sean Wainsteim (with James Mejia). Wainsteim describes the video as, “A surreal urban environment filled with animals struggling with their humanity, bizarre gems, a giant transforming robotic deer on a rampage and much more.” The video was conceptualized by Wintersleep’s lead singer Paul Murphy, fine artist James Mejia and Wainsteim.
I really enjoyed the uninhibited creativity of the piece and wanted to find out more about the production. Here are some notes from Sean about the making of this video from a recent email exchange I had with him:
This was a labour of love. This is video number five (or six) that I’ve done for this band.Took about a month and a half. The grind was mostly late nights for me for a long time, but I worked with a handful of very talented animators and designers who gave up evenings and weekends from their day jobs to lend some time.
Much of the look is derived from the artwork of designer James Mejia whose style of mixing photo cutouts with unique painted techniques was first used in an earlier Wintersleep video Danse Macabre, and expanded for this project.
We shot SLR stills on a nearby rooftop with another musician as the protagonist and then again with myself as the pigeon headed characters. Except for the images on the television screens, all of the characters in the video were shot on a digital SLR still camera. Everything was hand cut out deliberately loose and quick. This was an aesthetic decision…otherwise bluescreen would have been faster and better – but we wanted to see a different background peeking through.
Pretty much only used Adobe After Effects and Photoshop…and wood n’paint and an SLR cam. Many, many hours of handcrafting minute details, both in and out of the computer, were imperative to maintain the warm and highly detailed feel.
CREDITS (partial list)
Music video: Wintersleep “Jaws of Life” (Labwork Music)
Director: Sean Wainsteim (with James Mejia)
Production company: Sean Wainsteim
Staring Glenn Milchem as “The Man”
Painted Backgrounds: James Mejia
Storyboards and post corrections: Steve Wilson
Cinematography: Vinit Borrison (stills), Andrew MacDonald (live-action)
Animation and Visual FX: Nick Fairhead, Joel Tellier, Sean Conly, Arvydas Slabosevicius, Sean Wainsteim
Typography design: Jenny McCracken
Cut-Outs: Clint Lavado, Rachel Vulliens
Funded in part through generous grants from VideoFACT and FACTOR CANADA.
Not sure what’s better – the title of the blog or the actual blog itself. “Mary Blair Cannot Be Killed” is an irreverent but loving tribute to the lasting impact of Blair’s work. The site is new but there’s already lots of fun artwork by various contemporary animation artists including the piece above by Joe Orrantia. And just for the sake of posterity, let me reprint the wickedly cool blog intro here:
The night air stinking with the pungent aroma of perfume, gin and Lady Chesterfields, the celebrated Disney colorist, water color artist and illustrator terrorizes the night and kills everything she sees. Never in the history of the United States has a monster of such size and power, and horrifying hatred of man made itself known! Say your prayers because MARY BLAIR CAN NOT BE KILLED!
(via Thinking Animation Blog)
Last month we posted links to some vintage French and German animated commercials. Now here’s a here whole bunch of 1960s and ’70s animated commercials from Italy. And if you liked those, there’s a lot more ’60s spots at MondoCarosello.com including this Bruno Bozzetto one and some fun TV show bumpers. I didn’t really see many spots that had stand-out animation, but there’s some interesting design throughout, and considering how rare these are, they’re certainly worth a look.
(Thanks, Michael Pinto)
Files this one under “Commercials For People Who Can’t Get Enough Of Polar Express and Monster House.” Apparently the people who own the Orville Redenbacher popcorn brand feel they can boost sales if they reintroduce their dead pitchman as a grotesque Uncanny Valley-esque CG character. There’s an article in USA TODAY about the new spot along with a short clip. I love this quote from the ad agency guy: “We don’t want people to fall over and faint because Orville’s back.” Somehow, I doubt they’ll be experiencing that problem.
For the record, here’s the appealing real Mr. Redenbacher: