“I wanted to let you know that I recently spoke to one of my friends and colleagues who works (worked) at Animation Collective in NYC. It looks like they shut down shop (whole staff) because they couldn’t pay their employees. Larry Schwarz (CEO) told the staff that one of their contracted clients can’t pay them. Word on the street is that Animation Collective hasn’t paid their staff in four weeks! Another gloom sign in the animation world. Ugh. Can it get worse? I’m guessing yes.”
Can anybody provide more details about the situation? Let’s hope this is not true because it would be a disgraceful and unacceptable way for any studio to treat their employees.
UPDATE: We received an email from an artist who had been working at Animation Collective. The artist asked for anonymity but allowed some of the information to be shared with Cartoon Brew readers. The artist says that not all the productions at the studio were affected, however the studio was never compensated for one of the productions that they completed for a French producer. Since being laid off, the artist still hasn’t received AT LEAST four weeks of payroll, some of it dating back to September and October. According to this artist, the studio hired accountants and lawyers to help them recover the money owed, but to date Animation Collective hasn’t delivered any of the backpay and isn’t offering details about what’s happening. They only apologize to employees and say their payments have been delayed.
What a perfect way to start the weekend! Today marks the debut of a new music video by illustrator/comic artist Dave Cooper in collaboration with animator/director Nick Cross. The video is for Danko Jones’ song “King of Magazines.” Nick says, “The animation was all done in Flash by myself and Steve Stefanelli, working from Dave’s storyboard and rough designs.”
I’ve already watched it a few times and can’t get enough of it. It’s so refreshing to see a cartoon that actually indulges and celebrates its cartooniness. Lots of joyful animated FUN in this one.
As our outgoing Commander-in-Chief is fond of saying, “Fool me once, shame on you–fool me…you can’t get fooled again.” So while I didn’t get fooled again by going to see Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, I also managed to miss the film’s opening end titles, which actually offer a fun and creative take on the characters. The sequence can be viewed and downloaded in hi-res at the DUCK Studios website. If the style looks familiar that’s because the paper cut-out animation was designed and animated by Jamie Caliri, who is also responsible for the end credits of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and United Airlines’ “Dragon” commercial.
UPDATE: Below is the credit list for the artists who worked on this stop-motion sequence. Also, Megan Brain who created the paper cut-outs, has a couple blog entries here and here displaying her paper puppetry. (Thanks, Jorge Ribeiro)
Jamie Caliri:Director & storyboard
Dan Ridgers:Line Producer
Megan Brain:Art director, puppet design/fabrication
Alex Juhasz:Storyboard & background art
Pablo Grande:Prop design/fabrication & background art
Todd Hemker:Animation Director
There are bad animation ideas, and then there are ideas so utterly imbecilic that make you wish you had never become interested in cartoons in the first place. This one is of the latter variety. Jstache is a series idea featuring Eighties rocker John Oates of Hall & Oates and, get ready, his crime-fighting mustache, voiced by stand-up comic Dave Attell. According to Billboard, the idea was concocted by Evan Duby, the creative director of Primary Wave Music Publishing, which owns the Hall & Oates music catalog. A Jstache pilot was recently produced by NY-based Curious Pictures. Here’s the setup for the pilot:
It will portray Oates opening a new wing of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that focuses on mustachioed musicians. Suddenly, a dying David Crosby appears and with his last breath warns Oates of a mysterious secret group of mustache wearers bent on killing other mustache wearers. As actor Tom Selleck attempts to escape from the latest murder scene, Oates summons his own mustache with a fist pump that simultaneously changes his clothes from conservative attire to pink pants and white boots.
Perhaps what’s most depressing is the last line of the Billboard article: “As one network executive who has seen the trailer says, ‘These guys are approaching the publishing business from a new angle. They’re taking rich copyrights and doing something innovative with them.’” Anybody who is familiar with animation knows that this type of innovation is nothing new within the art form. Producers, execs and all manner of creatively-clueless people have been ‘innovating’ since the earliest days of this art form. Thankully these people rarely last long in the business. Then again, sometimes they’re voted the smartest person in television too.
There’s a war brewing in the animation software world and Cartoon Brew is right in the thick of it. In fact, I only became aware of the no-holds-barred battle in the past few months because two of our biggest advertisers have been the dueling companies: Adobe and Toon Boom. The latter is currently making a serious run to overtake Adobe Flash as the preferred software package for 2D digital animators. Toon Boom’s new Animate software has an animator-friendly set of features and more importantly, it’s price-competitive with Flash. This isn’t a new development. We spoke of the animation community’s increasing dissatisfaction with Flash last January when Mucha Lucha creators Eddie Mort and Lili Chin announced they were switching to Toon Boom software.
[Toon Boom] Animate is definitely an exciting release for animators who are frustrated with the animation limitations of Flash. It’s also the most intuitive of their fantastic animation programs to date and it’s priced very competitively. Packed with animator-friendly tools, is based entirely on traditional animation workflow (with all the benefits of digital animation) and has a library of effects that will put your work way ahead of the average web animator.
Phillips’ verdict on Flash CS4:
If you’re sticking with Flash and you decide to upgrade to Flash CS4, I think you’ll be blown away by it. There are a few persistent gripes, such as masking, audio, video format export, brush sizes & shapes, colour management and the Timeline. However, certain new features have thrilled the shit outta me! They include armatures (Inverse Kinematics), 3D movieclip translate/scale/rotate, the Motion Editor (an amazing, kickarse version of the old Custom Ease window), Spray Brush (which can spray movieclips all over the Stage – perfect for say, millions of flowers in a meadow, animated swaying in the breeze) and completely new motion tween model.
It’s no coincidence that industry website Cold Hard Flash recently hosted three launch events in LA, NY and Toronto celebrating the release of Toon Boom Animate. Not to mention the site’s primary advertising spots are taken up by Toon Boom. The bottom line is that this competition between software makers should lead to more powerful and efficient packages for the animation community. Hopefully both software makers will continue to use Cartoon Brew as a battleground for spreading their message. We could use the few extra bucks.
Would be interesting to hear some animator perspectives in the comments–who’s switching to Toon Boom and who’s sticking with Flash? Speak up.
This is the time of year that news and media organizations begin the avalanche of annual “best of” lists and the like. The thought of doing a “best of” list strikes me as arrogant, especially when it comes to something as subjective as art. So instead I present you with my personal picks of the year. I make no claim that these are the best of 2008; these are only the things that I enjoyed most during the past year. Also be sure to read Cartoon Brew co-editor Jerry Beck’s personal picks of 2008.
Let me begin by apologizing for not praising this film enough on Cartoon Brew (thankfully Jerry has). So let me just say it now: Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues is hands-down one of the most entertaining animated features I’ve ever seen. That fact is even more impressive because I went into the film thinking I wouldn’t be able to sit through an entire Flash-animated feature that looked like the image above. But Paley’s deeply personal story kept me captivated for its entire length, a rarity in my feature animation viewing experiences, and the animation only added to the story. There wasn’t a false note in the film. That it was made by one-person is nothing short of unbelievable. That nobody can see the film due to copyright issues is nothing short of criminal.
Violence and animation: a tried-and-true combination that is taken to new heights in Superjail, a surprisingly well-done piece of TV animation that airs on [Adult Swim] of all places.
It’s a tie between the same filmmaker–David OReilly. Whether he’s pranking the world with his Octocat series or exploring contemporary forms of animated storytelling in his Please Say Something series, OReilly is one of the most promising young animators on the contemporary animation scene.
There were plenty of fine animated shorts in ’08 including, but not limited to, Chainsaw by Dennis Tupicoff, I Am So Proud of You by Don Hertzfeldt, The Tale of Little Puppetboy by Johannes Nyholm, My Grandmother Beijing by Mats Grorud, Cattle Call by Matt Rankin and Mike Maryniuk and Drux Flux by Theo Ushev. One film stood out above all. It is a remarkable grand-scale animation experiment that turns the entire world into an animation canvas. Pencil or digital–who cares? All you need is a wall and housepaint. No doubt about it, my favorite animated short of 2008 is Muto by Blu.
Ironically, movement and animation are often the most ignored parts of an animated production, so I want to give special credit to two animated shorts that had creative tour de force animation performances. Both films can be viewed online though neither of them have English translations.
When will CG studios recognize that the opening and end credits are not the only parts of their films that should be interesting to look at? Case in point, the appealing opening titles to Kung Fu Panda. A joy to watch–I’m waiting for the CG equivalent of this.
One of the great joys of doing this website is that it affords me an outlet to record my personal discoveries about the art form, whether it’s learning about amazing films I haven’t heard about (FehérlÃ³fia), artists I wasn’t aware of (Stan Vanderbeek) or understanding the nuances of animation history (the unacknowledged diversity of the industry during the Golden Age).
ANIMATION STUDIO Fred and Sharon’s Movie Productions: Quality-wise they’re somewhere between Roadside Romeo and Space Chimps, but this Canadian husband-and-wife directing dynamo set themselves apart by tackling weighty subject matter like anti-war dramas:
Alcohol and drug abuse, male prostitution and child molestation are not exactly standard fare for animation biographies. The Ballad of a Thin Man: In Search of Ryan Larkin by Chris Robinson is the story of fallen-from-grace NFB animator Ryan Larkin (1943-2007). Robinson, the director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival, was responsible for bringing Larkin back into the spotlight in the 2000s which culminated with Chris Landreth’s Oscar-winning shortform biopic Ryan, but by the end of the book, Robinson largely regrets “rediscovering” Larkin. Chris also weaves in stories from his own troubled past resulting in a powerful and poignant book. The book comes with a DVD of Landreth’s Ryan and two of Larkin’s films, Walking and Street Musique.
ANIMATION BLOG (CONTINUING)
Michael Sporn’s Splog: The personal blog of Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award-winning animation director Michael Sporn is truly a thing of wonder. Updated every single day for three years running, it is a phenomenal resource of ideas and artwork. His passion for the art form comes through in every post.
ANIMATION BLOG (NEW) Animondays by David Levy. Technically, it started last fall, but 2008 was ASIFA-East president Levy’s first full year as a blogger. He writes just one post a week, but they’re invariably thought-provoking and insightful.
ANIMATION BLOG (NEW – HONORABLE MENTIONS) Popeye Animator ID: Master animator and timing director Bob Jaques tells you more about Popeye animators than you could ever want to know.
Spectorphile: A blog about animation legend Irv Spector created by his son Paul Spector.
ANIMATION ART EXHIBIT
Whenever I’m depressed about the state of the art form, I only have to watch a film by the Hubleys like Tender Game or Moonbird to regain my enthusiasm for the medium. Despite being intimately familiar with their work, I still wasn’t quite prepared for the awesomeness of seeing John Hubley’s background paintings and storyboard panels from Adventures of an * (1957). The exhibit covered all of one wall in the basement of the Museum of Modern Art this past summer, but that’s all that was needed. Hubley’s work represents animation at its most artistic and daring, and offers a guide for where we still need to take this art form. Piece after piece, Hubley discarded animation’s tendencies for crude mass-produced imagery and created a vision of uncompromising individuality and aesthetic beauty. More art from the exhibit can be seen at Michael Sporn’s blog.
Disney is prepping Beauty and the Beast for a 3D release in 2010. Producer Don Hahn spoke to SlashFilm.com about why and how the studio was reformatting Beauty and the Beast for 3D screens. The ‘why’ part is fairly obvious–Disney is in the business of making money and they’re not exactly raking it in at the box office with their current batch of features. In corporate speak, Hahn translates that to: “It’s a chance to take a title that’s very beloved by the audience and try to share it in a way that people haven’t seen before.”
The ‘how’ part is more interesting. Apparently because it was all composited on separate layers and level using the studio’s early CAPS system, they can now separate those layers into a depth of field to create a 3D experience. Says Hahn:
“We didn’t want to do the layers of flatness. There are some old Chip and Dale cartoons that do that…I think what we we want to do is not do that, and create a truly dimensional environment. It’s a very hybrid approach. There’s some proprietary software that Disney created for this, and it actually bends the drawings around geometry. You take a character like Belle or the Beast and you create geometry in the computer that matches the image on the screen, and then bend the original movie around that geometry, be it the character or a background, a tree, or a building or whatever. That creates very dimensional, round faces.”
Has anybody gotten their hands on this book yet? A Century of Stop-Motion Animation: From Melies to Aardman is co-authored by animation legend Ray Harryhausen and film historian Tony Dalton. It looks very comprehensive both text-wise and image-wise. A potentially valuable addition to animation libraries.
No, we’re not referring to MTV’s old animation show; this is real cartoon sushi. Anna the Red creates aesthetically delightful cartoon bento boxes, including a lot of Mario and Miyazaki dishes, and documents them on her blog. A description of the ingredients in the Wall-E sushi above can be found on Flickr.
The BBC reports that British animator and TV show creator Oliver Postgate has passed away at age 83. He’s responsible for TV series like Ivor the Engine, the Clangers, the Pogles, Noggin the Nog and Pingwings (which I wrote about on the Brew last year). Many of these shows are beloved in his native England though they remain largely unknown outside of the UK. A short video in the BBC link above explains that Postgate’s earliest animated shows were created in a horse stable with minuscule budgets and homemade equipment.
It’s our 13th episode and we’ve got Adventures in Broccoli, a 2008 Pratt graduation film created by Dan Mountain. It’s a surreal mindtrip of a film that follows the adventures of a boy who wakes up in a broccoli world where anything can happen. Watch Adventures in Broccoli on Cartoon Brew TV.
On a sidenote, we have also re-uploaded an earlier Brew TV short The Shoebox that fixes the encoding problems which were affecting picture quality.
The Sundance Film Festival announced today their short film selections for the 2009 festival which runs January 15-25 in Park City, Utah. Animation is well-represented this year with nine American shorts and ten international shorts in competition. This is in addition to the festival’s opening night film which is also animated: Adam Elliot’s Mary and Max. This is the feature debut of Elliot, who won an Oscar for his clay-animated short Harvie Krumpet. It is described as the “tale of two unlikely pen pals: Mary, a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year old, severely obese man living in New York. The story is based on the director’s own pen-friendship that has also lasted over twenty years.”
Among the animated shorts, the sentimental favorite at Cartoon Brew headquarters is Dominic Bisignano‘s From Burger It Came. That’s because we chose this film to be featured in episode 7 of Cartoon Brew TV. We’ve removed it temporarily at the filmmaker’s request, so he can comply with Sundance regulations, but it’ll be back up shortly. Also congrats to Cartoon Brew Guest Brewer PES whose short film Western Spaghetti is also in competition.
A complete list of the nineteen animated shorts in competition can be found after the jump.
Another curious entry is For Sock’s Sake, which is a stop-motion short produced by one person, Carlo Vogele. Though Vogele graduated from Gobelins, he made this film during an exchange semester at CalArts. I’ve seen pieces of clothing anthropomorphized like this before but the quality of acting and personality in Vogele’s animation is particularly impressive and shows a promising animator in the making.