There’s not a whole lot to recommend about the 1964 Hanna-Barbera cartoon PUNKIN’ PUSS AND MUSHMOUSE, but this background pan that Brew reader Bob Perman emailed is pretty nice to look at. Click on the pic below for the full image. I wonder if the original painting still exists somewhere?
For most artists, paper is an expendable material that one creates their art on, but Megan Brain’s paper sculptures show that the paper itself can be transformed into a piece of art as well. While the art of paper sculpture is nothing new, Megan brings an appealing cartoon sensibility to the practice that I haven’t seen before. The closest thing that I can compare her work to are the characters from the early-60s Disney short A SYMPOSIUM ON POPULAR SONGS though that cartoon never pushed it quite as far design-wise. Brain recently contributed her distinctive paper sculpture skills to Henry Selick’s feature CORALINE, which is being produced at Laika. See more of her delightful work at MeganBrain.com (see if you can find the Craig Kellman piece) and meganbrain.blogspot.com.
This Friday, November 10, marks the opening of F*CK: A DOCUMENTARY, which examines the origin and uses of a certain word. Besides interviews with numerous celebrities, the film also features animated sequences by Bill Plympton. Additionally, Plympton’s animated short, GUIDE DOG, will screen in front of the film, though a more appropriate animated short would have perhaps been Fred Crippen’s IMPROVING COMMUNICATIONS (2004), which is a comedic look at the many ways to use this particular word. The film is opening in LA and NY before expanding to other cities. In NY, it’ll play at the Quad Cinema (34 West 13th St., New York NY) while LA folks can check it out at Landmark’s NuArt Theatre (11272 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles CA). Upcoming cities and additional details can be found at the film’s website FourLetterFilm.com.
It’s Election Day here in the US so it’s only fitting to mention a new politically-oriented Flash Webcartoon. The series, BROCK & THROCK WITH ANOTHER CROCK, was created by Oscar and Emmy-winning director John Korty, whose animated feature TWICE UPON A TIME (1983) is the subject of a huge piece in ANIMATION BLAST #9. New episodes of BROCK AND THROCK are being posted on Revver, and currently, the first two episodes are available for viewing HERE and HERE. The production values on the Flash leave something to be desired, but considering that Korty hasn’t produced much animation since TWICE UPON A TIME, it’s simply fascinating to see him return to action on the Internet.
Here’s more about the series from its press release:
Although best-known for serious drama, Korty actually started as an animator. “This summer, I found some sketches from my very first experiments. One in particular was perfect for a dialogue between two characters – a single zigzag line that can function as the profile for either face. I had put it away, waiting for the right subject matter. The wait was fifty years.”
The online series, intended to run parallel to the fall election campaigns, skewers the Bush Administration on various topics, failed legislation, wire-tapping, religion in politics, foreign relations, even their favorite news channel.
Both fictional characters are staff members, but the conversations are not the type ever made public. Brock is a hardened veteran, while Throckie got an entry-level job because of his rich uncle. He is a less-than-bright neophyte. He can’t understand the furor about domestic wire-tapping, for instance. “Who cares what domestics are saying to each other anyway?”
For his voice talent, Korty drew upon the resources of San Francisco’s improv humor community. Bill Bonham and Jim Cranna, doing Brock and Throck respectively, have both performed for many years on radio spots and film soundtracks. Cranna, in fact, founded and taught at the Theatre of the Deranged, a hot house of zany improvisation.
(Thanks, Taylor Jessen)
Below is an excerpt from an ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE article about the new Cartoon Network series CLASS OF 3000. In it, the show’s executive producer/co-creator, Tom Lynch, proudly talks about how ignorant he is of the animation process:
Lynch confesses to “making every mistake anybody could make, and adding some new ones” on his road to creating a 2D series. “I think my worst one was when the cut came back [from overseas animation]. I looked at it and said, ‘Okay, I have some rewrites.’ They said, ‘Uhhh, you get some retakesâ€¦’ I had thought retakes meant whole scenes, but it was only moments or close-ups. That was an education right there, because in live-action I rewrite all the way through post-production, I change everything all the time.”
Now, obviously, one would assume that a guy like Lynch, who is clueless about animation and art, couldn’t just walk into Cartoon Network and demand his own animated series, right? CN must surely have higher standards than that. Well, here’s how Lynch describes his pitch to Cartoon Network’s Mike Lazzo:
“Mike asked me what I wanted to do next. I told him I really wanted to do an animated show, and I want to have some music in it. He said, ‘great, you have a pilot with us – do what you want to do.’”
Nothing about this industry surprises me anymore, but I’d be lying if I said that reading things like this didn’t piss me off. How is that CN won’t greenlight a surefire quality cartoon series from Aaron Springer, one of the industry’s most talented creators, but they’ll offer a no-questions-asked pilot deal to an ’80s kiddie show producer who doesn’t understand the first thing about animation? Somehow, in its own twisted way, it makes sense though. In an industry where you don’t actually need any knowledge of the art form to become an executive, it would be hypocritical to require that show creators know anything about animation either.
UPDATE: A Brew reader who prefers to remain anonymous, but who I can assure you is an excellent artist, writes in with the following. I had to edit most of the email to preserve their anonymity though you’ll get the gist of the message, which is that non-artists have the freedom to create any piece of junk they want at CN while visual artists have to jump through an interminable amount of hoops to get anything on the air:
I just read your post about Class of 3000 and I would like to give you some additional info. Tommy Lynch was actually never required to produce a pilot before the show was greenlit. The show went straight to series without ever being tested! They poured buckets of money into the show before it was ever launched; Craig Kellman, Stef Choi and many others all took passes at designing the characters. As you can imagine, this has created a bit of a double standard at CN. People like Dan Krall and Derik Bachman, Thurop Van Orman, as well as myself, have projects that have languished through countless executive notes while crap like Class of the 3000 gets the red carpet treatment.
The new book I AM PLASTIC: THE DESIGNER TOY EXPLOSION, by Kidrobot founder Paul Budnitz, is a handsomely designed and fun-to-flip-through visual history of “designer toys.” For those who aren’t aware, designer toys are essentially Beanie Babies for urban hipsters. They’re like regular toys except they’re garishly-colored, a lot more expensive and they don’t have any functionality besides sitting pretty on shelves. One of the justifications for the high prices of these “toys” is because they’re produced in limited editions, but as this book makes clear, there’s thousands of “limited edition” toys on the market, and despite their superficial differences, most of them appear to be cut from the same cloth. If anything, seeing the toys collected in a book like this only emphasizes how visually unimaginative and inbred the whole movement is. It’s sure to make a fine Christmas present for your friends who just don’t know any better.
Sketchtravel is an exciting new project initiated by Dice Tsutsumi (of Blue Sky fame) and French animation artist Gérald Guerlais. The idea is to take one sketchbook, deliver it all over the world to more than fifty different artists, and end up with one amazing book of original artwork. It’s not a contest and the artists aren’t participating for profit – it’s about bringing together talented artists from around the globe and inspiring an exchange of visual ideas. The completed sketchbook will be exhibited in the Arludik Gallery in Paris and auctioned off for charity. So far, participating artists include Pierre Alary, Rebecca Dautremer, Andrea Blasich, Alexandra Boiger, Vincent Nguyen, Peter de Sève and Mike Knapp. There’s a nice website with many more details about the project at Sketchtravel.com.
Animation background painter Bill Wray decided to go legit a while back and become the fine artist William Wray, but thankfully for us, he still dabbles in cartoons as well. In fact, he has a new blog – Mad About Cartoons – where he’s sharing some of his recent animation and comic work. Be sure to check out the loads of really appealing superhero babies that he’s posted on there.
JibJab co-founder Evan Spiridellis gave an inspiring talk at the Ottawa International Animation Festival last September titled “A Brave New World: The Rise of Independent Creators.” The festival recently posted the second part of his talk as a podcast and the entire talk can now be heard online.
Download Part 1 / Part 2
I had to take a bit of a break from the CARTOON MODERN blog last month but wanted to let everybody know that it’s starting up again and there’s a lot of good stuff planned for the site. Updates in the past few days include hi-res stills from Ward Kimball’s short MELODY (1953), Playhouse Pictures commercial stills, and a nice letter I recently received from 50s-era designer/director Gene Deitch about the book.
Wade Sampson at MousePlanet.com writes about the fascinating story of Retta Davidson, a female Disney animator who worked there between the 1940s and 1960s. It’s traditional knowledge that most women at the classic Disney Studio worked in ink-and-paint and only a few held creative positions, like Mary Blair, Sylvia Moberly-Holland and Retta Scott. That’s why it’s interesting to discover new artists like Retta Davidson who had broken into animation so early. The article has some stories I haven’t heard before, such as how in 1941, the studio attempted to train ten women as animators. By the 1950s, there were a number of women working in animation at Disney besides Davidson, including Grace Stanzell and Janice Kenworthy. It’d sure be nice if somebody did more research into this forgotten aspect of Disney history.
Virgil “VIP” Partch (1916-1984) is, in my humble opinion, the funniest print cartooniest ever. Besides creating laugh-out-loud-funny work, Partch, who was a former Disney animator, was also an excellent draftsman. Matt Jones has posted some rare cartooning lessons that VIP wrote for the Famous Artists course wherein Partch describes his working process and talks about how he writes and draws his cartoons. There’s some really good tips in here and it’s well worth a read. For more vintage Partch cartoons on the ‘net, check out HERE and HERE.
Typically I prefer to be the one interviewing others instead of being the subject of the interview myself. Simon Sandall of ReadersVoice.com asked for an interview a couple times before I finally agreed, and he’s just posted our email chat on his site. In the interview we discuss my new book CARTOON MODERN, the decline of Western civilization (which is hopefully not related to my new book), the future of 2D animation, and upcoming plans for Cartoon Brew, among other things. The interview is formatted a bit awkwardly where every sentence is its own paragraph, but hopefully you’ll be able to follow along. Big thanks to Simon for asking me to participate. Be sure to check the Readers Voice archives for interviews with some other fine folk like Peter Bagge, Gary Taxali, Ivan Brunetti and Kaz.
Meet my new friend, Dave White. In his commentary published on MSNBC.com today – titled “Talking-animal movies are ruining my life” – he writes about how this year’s animated features are mind-numbingly pointless and stupid (not exactly news there) and then offers Hollywood some wise tips on how to stop producing unwatchable cartoon films. But first, he rants like mad about this year’s films:
Why do “Madagascar” and “The Wild” and “Open Season” and “Flushed Away” all have the same plot? How many domesticated menageries of circle-of-life-defying zoo pals actually find themselves tossed into the wilderness on a regular basis, learning the true meaning of family and home in the process?
Why did you make me sit through “Barnyard,” a movie where a bull with a milk-heavy udder played a guitar and sang Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down?” And why was I expected to take that scene seriously for even one second? Why did that lactating bull’s pals have a rave in the barn, dancing to techno and getting fake-drunk on milk and honey? Was it his milk they were drinking? And why did my four-year-old and nine-year-old nieces willingly walk out of that movie with their mother, unconcerned with how it all ended?
Why did “Doogal” get made? What was it even supposed to be about? Why was Jon Stewart a talking coiled spring?
Why weren’t “Antz” and “A Bug’s Life” enough? Why did we need “Ant Bully” too? Were there not enough ant-centric films on the pop culture landscape? Did all the DVDs of those other two movies turn to dust, creating an aesthetic void?
Why would I rather watch someone get beheaded on the Internet than sit through another one of these stupid, cheap, insulting, corporate toy commercials? When will the eyeball-scorching awfulness end?
Following Keith Lango’s blog post about how clunky CG film production pipelines result in awkward looking features, Brian McEntee sent over some additional thoughts on why animated features look the way they do nowadays. McEntee was the art director of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and CATS DON’T DANCE and production designer of ICE AGE making him well qualified to speak on this topic. With his permission, I’m reprinting Brian’s thoughts below:
Production Design and Art Direction are rarely taken seriously at the studios these days, and this is why statements like “nobody ever saw this all together until it was too late” make me cringe. It is the Art Director/Production Designer’s very job to guide the many parts of an image into one complete whole (and I wish we could dispense with the splitting up of the singular art direction task into Production Designer and Art Director – a big mistake in my book.)
The unfortunate reality is that the position(s) of Art Director and/or Production Designer these days are many times viewed as a perk or promotion, and given to someone the studio or director likes rather than to an individual who demonstrates the proper skill set for the job.
Then there is the “director/auteur” problem: the studios overindulge the Director’s ego and in essence make the visual contributions of the Art Director – who was hired to oversee the visual “direction” – irrelevant. Same problem again with studio brass, who feel the need to “shop” through any and all design drawings in order to pick and choose things they like, rather than allowing the Art Director to develop and produce one cohesive style. This results in movies that resemble rock collections rather than animated worlds.
I have personally been fortunate to have worked with several fine Directors and studios who gladly let me do my job, but such is not always the case, as is all too painfully clear.
Neal Gabler, author of the just-released book WALT DISNEY: THE TRIUMPH OF THE AMERICAN IMAGINATION, appeared on NPR’s FRESH AIR yesterday to discuss the book and Walt Disney. The interview, which can be heard HERE, runs a little over thirty minutes.
(Thanks, Jared Chapman)
It’s Halloween and that can mean only one thing…
Today marks the 94th birthday of legendary animator Ollie Johnston, the last surviving member of Disney’s Nine Old Men. Let’s celebrate his amazing life with a few pics.
Johnston (right) with Frank Thomas in the 1930s:
Johnston (seated) with Frank Thomas during the production of SLEEPING BEAUTY:
Ollie’s animated cameo in THE IRON GIANT:
His other cameo in THE INCREDIBLES:
And here’s a nice vacation photo from Ollie’s trip to Hell last year:
Tony Mines, director at UK-based Spite Your Face Productions, has come up with two simple and thought-provoking rules for creating “not rubbish” animation. See if you agree and then discuss on his blog. Tony writes:
When creating animation, for one to produce work which can be defined as ‘not rubbish’, one must observe the following two rules. Failure to observe either one will result in animation which can be rightly identified as ‘rubbish’.
Firstly, one must be in the same room as the animation for which one is responsible. Being in the same building is not sufficient, and being in a different postal district or hemisphere is right out.
Secondly, one must recognise that animation in all its forms concerns the creation of sequential imagery, and therefore consideration and attention must be paid to every frame! This does not mean that one must animate consistently on 1′s – rather, it means that supervision be given to each frame, and that the amount of movement and nature of movement therein, be personally observed and considered. Attention to only key frames, or to key poses, shall equally result in ‘rubbish’ animation.
I saw the above spot for Triaminic on TV yesterday, and while not a classic by any means, I thought it had an appealing cut-out aesthetic. Surprisingly enough, a quick search online reveals that it was directed by Run Wrake, who’s been getting a lot of positive attention recently for his animated short RABBIT. You can view a nice sampling of Wrake’s commercial work, including this Triaminic spot, at his ad rep’s website, BermudaShorts.com.
There’s not much of a question that the above publicity image for SHREK THE THIRD is a graphic travesty. That much is obvious. The real question, however, is, Why? How could something look like this especially when there are hundreds of talented artists working on the film and tens of millions of dollars at their disposal. After seeing the above image, Keith Lango, an experienced CG feature animator, wrote an exceptionally insightful commentary on his blog where he discusses the assembly-line system under which big-budget CG films are created and why he feels this flawed production pipeline is more responsible for these type of images than any individual artist working on the films. Here’s how Lango sets up his piece:
It’s almost like nobody ever saw this all together until it was too late. The thing is, if it was made like 99% of the imagery in big budget CG then most likely nobody did see it until it was too late. The problem is not so much with any single artist. That’s because in all likelihood no single artist is responsible for this. It is assembly line imagery. The flaw is in the system under which this is made.
Imagine taking 10 talented solo singers and asking them to sing the US national anthem to the same instrumental track. But due to scheduling conflicts they have to each perform in solo, not as a group. Oh, and gee, we don’t have everybody’s performance here yet so you’ll need to just do your part the best you know how without hearing the others. Naturally these singers are to going to make it the best national anthem they know how. So they sing and sing, beautiful notes that rise and fall- all creating fabulous solo performances. Now take these 10 solo artist’s performances and mix them together in editing. The overall result would be hideous. There are no background singers, nobody is doing harmony, nobody takes the lead because all take the lead. It’d be like some kind of gladiator battle of voices. The jumble of notes flooding forth would cause ears to bleed.
What sort of top-secret project is talented mad cartoonist Rex Hackelberg developing up in Canada? I don’t know, but the cartoon designs featured in THIS POST on his blog totally blew my mind. The model sheets of the cat and the bespectacled kid – which reminds me of a mini-Ward Kimball – have some of the most exuberant, imaginative and fun poses I’ve seen in a long while. The only thing missing here is some funny loose animation that matches the energy of these model drawings. Let’s hope that’s coming up next.
HAPPY FEET vs. Fred Astaire? Is that really even a contest? It’s a testament to Astaire’s talent that using only a cane as a prop, he can outdance and outentertain $100 million worth of flashy CG effects. Of course, as Canadian animator Colin Giles points out on the above link, it might have helped Warner Bros. if they’d chosen to do a tap-dancing animal cartoon with animals that were anatomically built for tap-dancing.