I’ve known about this exhibition for a while, but it didn’t occur to me that I should post about it until a friend mentioned that it wasn’t on the Brew. An amazing exhibit of classic Disney artwork opened on September 15 at the Le Grand Palais in Paris. The show is called “Il Etait une Fois Walt Disney” (“Once upon a time, there was Walt Disney”), and folks who have attended are calling it one of the greatest animation exhibits ever. Didier Ghez of the Disney History blog has an interesting write-up about the exhibit, wherein he describes its importance:
What brings the whole thing to another level is the very concept of the exhibition: it is a quest to understand what works of art (especially European ones) inspired the art of Disney artists. Based on the seminal book of Dr. Robin Allan, Walt Disney and Europe, the Grand Palais exhibition displays works by the greatest European masters, like Gustave Dore, Heinrich Kley, or even Breughel, German expressionists and French architect Viollet le Duc alongside Disney concept art, layouts and backgrounds. And as all of you know, Disney’s artists works do not pale in front of those of those masters. In fact the association is mind-boggling: if you are a layman, the quality of the concept artists’ works become even more obvious and you start understanding that Walt had some really outstanding individuals working for him, that he was not the only one who drew everything and that the Studio was far from being a factory. If you are a Disney enthusiast you are bound to be stunned by connections with famous or less famous works of art from the past that you were not aware of.
For more info, there’s an article about the exhibit HERE, a slide show with lots of artwork HERE, and a video and even more artwork HERE. The show runs through Christmas in Paris, and if you’re anywhere in Europe, you’re not going to want to miss this. The exhibit then travels to Montreal where it’ll be at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from March 8 to June 24, 2007. I can’t make the Paris show, but I’m definitely going to check it out when it hits Montreal.
UPDATE: Carbunkle Cartoons animator Colin Giles was recently in Paris and he has high praise for the exhibit. Colin writes:
I’ve just returned from vacation in Paris and London and I must say the Walt Disney exhibition was the highlight of the trip. It blew me away. So many important pieces of Disney Art – Mary Blair, Eyvind Earle, Joe Grant, Marc Davis and many others. It only cost 10 euros to get in and I went around twice just to soak it in. They even had a “Destino” section displaying Salvador Dali’s layouts. The work displayed truly showed that these artists were masters. It really is an important show and anyone close to Paris should make the trip. When it arrives in Montreal it should be required viewing. Seeing boards done by Ub Iwerks for “Plane Crazy” was the highlight for me. It was a very well organized display and really well thought out. I bought the DVD of the exhibition which contains a film made specifically for the show and I’ll be posting screen grabs on my blog.
Shane Prigmore, a character designer on FOSTER’S and CURIOUS GEORGE and currently working on Henry Selick’s feature CORALINE at Laika, has started up a BLOG. Even though it’s only been up for a day, I’m still linking to it. Yes, Shane is that good.
One has to admire artists like Michel Gagné who constantly experiment, push their limits and attempt different forms of artistic expression. Michel recently announced on his website his next animation project, and it’s particularly exciting because it’s such a departure from his previous film efforts. SENSOLOGY is an abstract animated short set to a jazz composition by Paul Plimley. While the film is still a couple years away from completion – it’s scheduled to premiere at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival in 2008 – Michel has posted a teaser for the short and the story of how the project came about on his website.
I’m not quite as industrious as fellow Brewer Jerry when it comes to posting Ottawa reports. I promise to report on it when I return to LA. In the meantime, I offer you this incredibly appealing piece of DENNIS THE MENACE sheet music from 1952. It was sent over by super cartoon music historian Daniel Goldmark. Considering it’s currently 3:30am, I really have nothing else to add so just enjoy the artwork.
Flash producer Aaron Simpson (WB, JibJab), who also runs the indispensable blog Cold, Hard Flash has unveiled “The Flash Animation 10 – The Top 10 Most Influential Online Flash Shorts,” a list created for a lecture he presented last week at the Flashfoward conference. It’s a solid and important list that I largely agree with, though it also illustrates clearly how the majority of online Flash animation still lags artistically in comparison to other animation techniques. Aaron describes below the criteria for a film to make this list:
Over the last month, I’ve culled together a list of 40 Flash-animated shorts worthy of inclusion, and then graded each one on a 1-10 scale in three categories – ARTISTIC MERIT, REACH and INFLUENCE. The top 10 then revealed themselves to me, and the list was born. I took it one further, and interviewed 7 of the 10 creators and their remarks are included here.
Here’s a wonderful event that’s open to anybody and everybody, anywhere and everywhere throughout this planet. This Saturday, September 23, is the 11th World Wide SketchCrawl. What the heck is a SketchCrawl? I’ll let its creator Enrico Casarosa, who also happens to be a story artist at Pixar, explain the idea:
In short, roughly every 3 months we put a call out to people around the world to join in, put pen to paper on a given day for as long as they can (be it 20 minutes or 8 hours) drawing, sketching, journaling about their day and what’s around them. For a day, slow down, look around you, see … and draw or write. Record your day. No specific level of skill is expected ! Anyone is welcome.
We set up a forum where to seek and organize meetings with artists from your area. You can participate in SketchCrawl on your own or with a group of friends. I usually meet groups of artists in San Francisco, where I live. The forums and the Flickr SketchCrawl group also serve as gathering and sharing place after the drawing marathon day. The idea behind this is to get the great feeling of drawing with and at the same time as peoples from all walks of life and from all corners of the world; and ultimately by sharing the day’s sketches and photos on Flickr and the SketchCrawl forums, to see places and details from corners of the world we might not see at all in our lifetime !
In the world of animation, you can’t get Punk’d, only Barrier’d. For those who aren’t aware of the meaning of this new verb I just made up, to be “Barrier’d” means that animation historian and critic Michael Barrier has reviewed something you’ve done related to the world of animation. And if you’re familiar with Mike’s reviews, you know it’s guaranteed to be interesting and thought-provoking. In this instance, Barrier has reviewed my book CARTOON MODERN. There’s a lot to chew on in his appraisal and at some point, I’ll think of a more appropriate response, but in short, I agree with some of the points he makes and vehemently disagree with other things he says in there. All in all though, I’m incredibly flattered that Mike took the time to write such a thoughtful review of my book. (Thanks Mike!) This discussion about the merits of animation design wouldn’t have even happened a couple decades ago so definite progress is being made in the recognition of Modern animation artists and their body of work, even if we don’t always reach the same conclusions.
On Friday, September 22, at 9am, I’ll be moderating a panel about Concept Design & Art Direction. It’s going to be a fun panel to moderate because the panelists are both top-notch talents: Erik Tiemens (art director, Lucasfilm) and JJ Sedelmaier (president/director, JJ Sedelmaier Productions). We’ll be discussing the challenges of achieving a successful animated marriage between content and design, with plenty of examples to be shown.
Later on Friday, from 6-7pm, I’ll be doing a book signing for my new book CARTOON MODERN: STYLE AND DESIGN IN FIFTIES ANIMATION. If you purchase the book in Ottawa, you’ll also receive a FREE dvd of some rare ’50s commercials and animated shorts that aren’t available anywhere else. Copies of ANIMATION BLAST #9 will also be on hand. Both the book and mag will be waiting for you at the Aniboutique during the entire festival (or as long as supplies last).
Let me plug a couple other festival events that I’m really looking forward to. First, is the world premiere of Nick Cross’s new animated short THE WAIF OF PERSEPHONE. That’s on Friday at 7pm during this screening. I have no idea what it’s about, but if you’ve been following Nick’s blog, you know this cartoon is going to be something special. Then, on Sunday, September 24, at 2pm, there’s a lecture by JibJab co-founder Evan Spiridellis. It’s titled A Brave New World: The Rise of the Independent Creator, and trust me, there’s nobody more qualified to speak about becoming a successful independent than the Spiridellis brothers. If you want to be inspired, you’re not going to want to miss Evan’s talk.
This was a surprisingly enjoyable listen: it’s a rare 1965 Hanna-Barbera record featuring an original JONNY QUEST story based on Jules Verne’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. The story was written by prolific H-B storyman Charles Shows, and the LP begins and closes with Hoyt Curtin’s superfunky QUEST music. Be sure to look around the rest of the Check the Cool Wax blog for hard-to-find tunes by the likes of Louis Prima, Lalo Schifrin, Ann Margret, Herbie Mann and Colonel Sanders (yes, that Col. Sanders).
ROCK BOTTOM RISER is a sublime music video by Australians Paul McNeil and Brendan Cook for the band Smog. The visuals, painted traditionally and animated in After Effects, at turns evoke Joan Mir– and Raymond Pettibon, but the overall effect is original and completely captivating. The video can be viewed at the Submarine Channel. If you’re headed to the Ottawa Animation Festival later this week, be sure to check out the video in Competition #4 and give a well deserved pat on the back to attending filmmaker Brendan Cook.
Dave Wasson and Nate Pacheco have teamed up again and the results are solid as usual. This time, it’s the opening titles for a new show on Fox. It’s only ten seconds long, but you know what they say…short and sweet.
Disney historian Jim Korkis follows up on my post about the SNOW WHITE wrap party and sends in this excerpt from an interview he did with Disney animator/director Bill Justice. The entire Justice interview can be found in the third volume of WALT’S PEOPLE.
Jim Korkis: Tell me a little about the “Snow White Orgy” at the Norconian.
Bill Justice: In 1938, “Snow White” was a huge hit. You can’t believe how big it was. Walt and Roy announced that they were going to throw this huge, incredible “thank-you” party for everyone who worked for them. Wives, husbands, children, friends…all of them were invited to a weekend at the NORCONIAN HOTEL on Lake Norco (a desert resort near Palm Springs where Walt would later have his Smoke Tree Ranch hideaway).
All costs from the rooms to food and drink and in fact whatever we wanted to order would be taken care of by Walt. You know at the Studio, there was a strict dress code in those days for employees. Men came to work in jackets and ties although they were allowed to take them off when they sat down at their drawing boards. Women were not allowed to wear pants, and sober-colored skirts and blouses weren’t very appealing. The ink and paint girls were separated from the animators. The Disney Brothers had sent out a memo that if you were in animation you weren’t supposed “to dip your pen in the company’s ink and paint” which was their way of saying, “behave yourself with the ink and paint girls.” If you told a dirty joke within earshot of Walt, you might get fired. He didn’t put up with any of that stuff.
So, anyway for two years, all of us had been under terrible pressure, working long hours day and night to finish “Snow White.” When I came on at the end of production, I still felt that stress. When we arrived at the Norconian Hotel there were pools to swim in, tennis courts, a golf course, music, and plenty of food and alcohol and something just snapped.
An animator picked up an ink and paint girl and dumped her into the pool fully clothed. Followed by others jumping in and all hell broke loose pretty quickly.
Swimsuits flew out the windows. There were naked swim parties, people got drunk and were often surprised what room they were in and who they were sleeping next to when they awoke the next morning.
Freddie Moore walked off one of the upper floor balconies thinking he was on the ground floor and ended up in a tree fortunately. You know, he was one of my idols. I never saw Freddie Moore do a bad drawing. As my wedding gift from my wife, Kim, I got a sketch of a woman’s head wearing a hat done by Freddie.
Walt was horrified at the shenanigans. He and his wife drove home that next morning. He never referred to that party again and in fact if you wanted to keep your job, you didn’t mention it either when you were working at the studio. We never had a party like that again.
Yesterday’s USA TODAY had a short ARTICLE about Fox/Blue Sky’s next animated feature HORTON HEARS A WHO (March 2008), which also included the first official image from the film. My friend who emailed this article says, “I’m actually surprised that it looks so decent.” Discuss amongst yourselves.
UPDATE: ComingSoon.net has the second photo from HORTON. I’ve posted it below. Why they decided to add crow’s feet around Horton’s eyes, we’ll never know.
Michael Sporn has a nice blog post today about John and Faith Hubley’s classic 1959 short film MOONBIRD. Sporn’s post includes some of Bobe Cannon’s original animation drawings, which are things of beauty. There’s also a surprisingly clean print of MOONBIRD available on YouTube. Animation is rarely this poetic or beautiful, but with Hubley and Cannon teamed up, one wouldn’t expect anything else. Enjoy.
In 1938, after Disney’s first feature SNOW WHITE was a bona fide success, Walt held a huge crew party for his artists at a place called the Norconian Club. The party lasted for two straight days so this was hardly your typical ‘wrap party’ where everybody leaves after receiving their crew jackets. Nobody knows exactly what happened at the party, but the stories are legendary: Freddie Moore falling out of a window, another artist riding a horse through the different floors of the club, and some other boisterous celebrations that were not exactly Disney-style family entertainment . A couple days ago, Steve Hulett of the Animation Guild blog wrote an interesting post about the party HERE and Mike Barrier recently posted on his site the program book for the event (it was called “Walt’s Field Day”). If other folks have documentation or first-hand accounts of this event, start blogging about it. It’s unlikely there’ll be another wrap party to rival this one anytime soon.
Last week in Hollywood was the premiere of the remastered version of Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID. At the premiere, there was a discussion panel with a few of the film’s key figures: directors John Musker and Ron Clements, Ariel animator Glen Keane, composer Alan Menken, Ariel voice Jodi Benson and live-action model Sherri Stoner. Somebody recorded the panel and posted it on YouTube. I put together a little playlist so you can watch all five parts below. While I can’t guarantee that the whole thing is actually worth watching, I’m sure there’s some fans of the film who’d like to check this out.
I just realized that I never did an announcement here on the Brew to let everybody know that my book CARTOON MODERN: STYLE AND DESIGN IN FIFTIES ANIMATION is officially out. Judging from the amount of emails I’ve been receiving about the book, this is not exactly news to a lot of you. But just in case, I want to point out that the book is now available at most Barnes & Noble and Borders around the country. It can also be ordered online at the following places: Chronicle Books (my publisher likes this ordering option best) Amazon (you, the consumer, would probably like this option best) Bud Plant (everybody loves Bud) Barnes & Noble Strand Bookstore in New York (they also have a good discount on the book) Powells in Portland
It’s shaping up to be a solid fall season for animation book fans. Besides my own book, there’s a couple other promising titles that I have to mention. The first is Neal Gabler’s nearly 900-page Disney biography called WALT DISNEY: THE TRIUMPH OF THE AMERICAN IMAGINATION. Says Ray Bradbury, “We’ve all been waiting for the perfect book on Walt Disney; it has finally arrived and Neal Gabler’s done it. Wonderful!” I’m looking forward to reading Gabler’s bio and then comparing it to Mike Barrier’s thoughts in his ambitious Walt bio scheduled for release in spring ’07. These two bios promise to open up some interesting debates and provide new insights into the life of one of animation’s greatest geniuses.
The other title I wanted to write about is Tom Sito’s DRAWING THE LINE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE ANIMATION UNIONS FROM BOSKO TO BART SIMPSON. I saw this at the bookstore last week and almost started reading the whole thing in the store. With a topic as volatile as the labor history of the animation industry, it’s guaranteed to be filled with lots of juicy stories. Back in the late-90s, I attended some of Sito’s one-on-one ASIFA-Hollywood chats with various animation legends, and they were always educational and lots of fun. At these chats, Tom not only exhibited a superb understanding of this art form’s history, but he also knew the personal stories of all the artists and was armed with a seemingly endless supply of hilarious anecdotes and behind-the-scenes tales. I’m confident that his book will be similar to those chats: informative AND a lot of fun.
With the upcoming release of OPEN SEASON, all eyes are on Sony and whether its CG feature animation division will be a hit or a flop. The LA TIMES published an article on Monday that gave a little history of Sony Pictures Animation and offered some insight into how the studio operates. My impression is that Sony is very typical of other major US feature animation studios and that’s never a good sign. This part of the article caught my attention:
“I think that Sony is going to do big things, but they will really do bigger things when they start looking to artists for ideas and trusting the artists for those ideas,” said John Sanford, a former story artist at Sony Pictures Animation who was fired in July.
Sanford is one of several casualties of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” which has been heavily reworked and is now on its third set of directors.
A studio that discards directors so easily doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence because it makes clear that the development and execution of ideas are controlled by a force higher than the director. Similarly, a studio that has top-notch story artists working for it, yet doesn’t value their ideas and instead options flimsy children’s book stories, like CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, is fundamentally flawed and setting itself up for failure. It’s worth noting that on his personal blog, John Sanford says that the LA TIMES took his comments about Sony out of context, and that they didn’t quote the part when he said how great the artists at the studio were and how great OPEN SEASON is. While I don’t think there’s any question that OPEN SEASON will be at least moderately successful, it’s the exec-heavy organizational structure of the studio and the films that come after OPEN SEASON which worry me.
(Use BugMeNot if registration is required on the LA TIMES article.)
Over the past couple months, Hans Bacher (production designer, MULAN) has been posting some absolutely stunning concept art for a short film that he’s working on called AFTER MIDNIGHT. Bacher says that though the film will be in 3D, it will retain the painterly, textural approach seen in these development pieces. He writes on his blog that the short is currently being produced by a Tokyo animation studio. Here are links to the development art from the short:
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER reports that brothers Paul and Ga”tan Brizzi, most famous for directing the “Firebird Suite” in FANTASIA 2000, will be writing and directing the animated film RUBY TUESDAY, featuring twelve songs by the Rolling Stones. According to the REPORTER, the story is “a Faustian tale of a single mother searching for happiness in New York.” The project was initiated by the Brizzis, who approached Jagger’s camp with the idea. Filmmaker Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp is co-producing, financing and distributing the film, which is set for 2008 release. Few details have been announced about the project though it certainly sounds intriguing. And I can’t help but point out that it’s yet another example of how the most mature and distinctive animated features are originating out of Europe and Japan and not the US.
Even though I’ve mentioned this before, I think it’s worth doing so again. Disney story artist Mark Kennedy has been posting an excellent series of tips on drawing and design. His latest entries are about proportion and rhythm in drawing. A lot of the lessons should be obvious to anybody who draws, but it never hurts to get a refresher, especially when it’s as clearly and eloquently presented as Mark’s blog. Stay tuned to his blog Temple of the Seven Golden Camels for further lessons.
The Baxton Benefict Auction at CalArts this past weekend was a huge success, raising over $32,000, which will be going directly towards Larry Baxton’s care and rehabilitation. Between this and the Fyn Stec auction held earlier this year, the animation community has shown that it really knows how to come together when it counts. Definitely something that we can all be proud of.
AWN has a good INTERVIEW with NY indie Pat Smith. One thing Pat says in there really stood out to me:
The pitching system is a bad system though it works for a lot of people. My friend Tom Warburton pitched and pitched and he finally got a really successful show. But I see many talented artists working very hard pitching shows all the time. If they funneled that kind of energy toward making a film, they might have a little something more to show for it.
I can’t say how much I agree with that sentiment. There are so many artists nowadays who whittle away their careers trying to appease the arbitrary whims of development and network execs who don’t understand the medium. The end result is cartoons which don’t have a personal point of view and that nobody wants to watch. Then there’s people like Pat who are able to find a successful balance between independent and commercial work, and who actually have something to show for their hard work. If and when he decides to go mainstream, not only will he be able to do it on his own terms, but he’ll also have the benefit of a fully developed artistic voice, free of third-party interference, which will result in a much stronger final product.
Paul Grimault, whose feature LE ROI ET L’OISEAU was the subject of discussion HERE last month, also directed a short film in the late-1930s called LES PASSAGERS DE LA GRANDE OURSE. Michael Sporn has a book about this film and he’s posted some beautiful images from it on his BLOG. He writes, “[I]t was important historically because it was the first big French animated production trying to out-Disney Disney.” If we can’t see the actual film, at least we can enjoy these stills.