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.
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo currently has on display a massive exhibition of Disney artwork from the 1920s-1960s. The story, as I understand it, is that in the early-1960s, the Disney studio had lent 200 pieces of artwork to a Japanese museum for an exhibition. These pieces were never returned and considered lost until they were recently discovered at the Chiba University. Now, the’ve been put on display again, along with 350 additional pieces from Disney’s Animation Research Library.
The museum has also published a very handsome catalog of this work. The book is probably relatively easy to find if you’re in Japan, but not so easy for folks elsewhere. A limited number of these books were made available to Disney animation artists last week, and a couple of the studio artists – Mark Kennedy and Paul Briggs – are blogging about how great the book is and scanning pages from it. If you’re in Japan, I’d recommend checking out the exhibition, which ends on September 24. The rest of us will be trying to get the book. (If you happen to have an extra copy of the book that you’re willing to sell, please let me know. I’d love to get my hands on this!)
Tonight from 7-10pm is the opening of the new and bigger Super7 store, right next door to the old store at 1628 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94115. Among the festivities is a group signing by Pixar artists of their new edition of AFTERWORKS, an impressive collection of short comic stories. Plus, security at the event will be provided by the 501st Stormtrooper Legion. Sounds like a night out to me.
As promised, here are the RESULTS from the Cartoon Brew reader survey that we ran a month or so ago. We ran the survey for our new ad reps, Federated Media, who will be helping bring quality (hopefully) advertising to the site. I thought there were some notable figures that stood out in the results. For example, it was interesting to learn that a whopping 82% of our readers are male, though that percentage certainly isn’t as skewed as a site like Digg.com, which has a 94% male readership.
Other noteworthy numbers: one out of every three of Brew readers makes $75,000 or more a year (who said animation doesn’t pay), 64% of our readers are in the coveted 18-39 age demo, 75% of our readers view the site at least once a day, and 39% have their own blog. That last figure sounds a bit high, but that’s to be expected when the survey sample is in the hundreds and our readership is in the thousands. In general, the survey results look pretty solid so thanks again to everybody who participated.
Apparently one of the negative side effects of Communism is that it destroys your ability to discern between good and bad animation. How else to explain this bizarro-world story? The Animation Guild blog found an article in the HINDU TIMES that says GARFIELD: A TALE OF 2 KITTIES has become the highest-grossing animated feature of all-time in China with $5.8 million (US) in its first three weeks. THE LION KING had been the box office champ for the past twelve years with a gross of $5.12 mil (US). Pixar’s new film CARS opened recently with $1.35 million in China which means it’s unlikely to overtake GARFIELD at the box office.
First, watch the TRAILER for this independent CG feature called TUGGER: THE JEEP 4X4 WHO WANTED TO FLY. Then, go and read this story in the ORLANDO SENTINEL about how this became the independent animated feature from hell, thanks to the film’s director, animation veteran Jeffrey Varab. What isn’t mentioned in the article is that Varab probably convinced a lot of investors to part with their money by selling this as a “Christian” project. The Christian aspect of the story comes out in the article’s comments section as well as in this post from the blog of SENTINEL film critic Roger Moore. I find it odd that the SENTINEL decided not to discuss the obvious religious aspect of the scam, especially because it’s so obvious. Even the name of Varab’s studio – Genesis Orlando – makes it evident that his whole idea was to find Christian financial backers.
UPDATE: Erif Graf writes:
I was reading the Tugger article, and I was wondering if you caught the significance of the name Iake Eissinmann. That’s the child star who played Tony in Disney’s “Escape to Witch Mountain.” He’s done a lot of voiceover work as well.
After ANT BULLY, I was certain that I never wanted to see another piece of CG animation with insects in it. That was until I saw this short film on YouTube called MINUSCULE. Conceptually, it is one of the freshest bits of animation I’ve seen in a while. The insect designs are a cross between realistic/cartoon, their environment is live-action, and the gags are pure cartoon. It’s difficult to describe because while the gags are timed very cartoony, the overall feel is more naturalistic than your average cartoon. The results are laugh-out-loud funny and the short works on every level. (Be sure to turn up the volume because the sfx are excellent as well.)
I was so impressed that I decided to find out exactly what this is. Turns out that MINUSCULE is a TV pilot co-created by HélÃ¨ne Giraud (production design) and Thomas Szabo (direction). The show has been picked up and they’re currently creating 78 dialogue-less 6-minute shorts chronicling the adventures of the entire insect kingdom. The production company is France’s Futurikon and the series is slated to air in the US on Disney Channel. If the rest of the episodes hold up to the quality of this pilot, I think we’re in for something special.
Watch the MINUSCULE pilot below:
(Thanks, Peter Gelderblom)
So far I’ve read Pete Docter’s piece on John Sibley, the Disney animator, in Animation Blast, and it’s an outstanding piece of work – lots of good research (I shared with Pete excerpts from some of my interviews, as I’ve done with Amid and John Canemaker and other writers I respect), wrapped up in an article that conveys extremely well Sibley’s strengths as an animator and his characteristics as a person. Pete is himself an animation pro, the director of Pixar’s Monsters, Inc., and it’s tremendously encouraging that a leading professional at the leading animation studio has such a strong sense of his medium’s history.
If you want to see what he’s talking about, order your very own copy of BLAST 9 HERE.
This was already mentioned on the Brew last month, but just a reminder that next week (September 9) is the benefit auction for CalArts’s Martha Baxton. All the info can be found HERE. Be sure and check out all the great cartoon items that have been donated for this auction. My favorites are the caricatures of John Lasseter (above) and Tim Burton by ALADDIN director John Musker.
We mentioned this quite a while back and now it’s finally available: the Dark Horse re-release of Disney’s ultra-rare 1943 children’s book THE GREMLINS, written by Roald Dahl, can be picked up on Amazon for a little over $10. The book has cover art by Mary Blair, interior illustrations by Bill Justice and Al Dempster, and a new introduction by Leonard Maltin, who discusses the history of the book and the unproduced GREMLINS animated feature that Disney was planning to make in the 1940s.
There’s a 13-page preview of the book at the Dark Horse website, as well as an interview with the people involved in this revival. This re-release is also accompanied by new GREMLINS toys (which are previewed in the interview) and a limited 3-issue comic series.
(Thanks, Jason Vanderhill)
See that photo above? It’s not Ed Benedict. I repeat, It’s NOT Ed Benedict. It’s veteran East Coast animator/board artist Don Duga, who worked on a number of the Rankin/Bass projects, among many other things. He’s alive and well so why is everybody using this photo in their posts about Ed Benedict’s passing? Perhaps Don Duga has become the new official symbol to represent an animation artist’s death? It’s not as if Duga and Benedict look anything alike, yet I’ve seen a number of sites using this particular photo of Duga. Two of the more notables are ASIFA-Hollywood’s Animation Archive and this Brazilian newspaper.
I was really curious why everybody is using Duga’s image so I did a bit of searching around and it turns out that when you type in “Ed Benedict” into Google Images, this photo of Duga comes up with the caption “Legendary Animator Ed Benedict.” If you go to the actual website where the photo is hosted, it’s very clearly labelled Don Duga, but if you simply take the photo from Google Images without looking at the actual page, you’ll end up wrongly believing that it’s Benedict. An important lesson that we can all here is that letting Google Images do your homework for you will get you busted every time. And plus, you’ll confuse poor Don Duga and make him think he’s dead. For the record, here’s what the older Ed Benedict looked like:
Director/animator Jordan Reichek, who was friends with Ed Benedict, has posted a nice tribute to Ed on his blog, including the Fred and Wilma drawings above, which Ed drew while in his late-80s. Be sure to also check out the rest of Reichek’s fascinating new blog, which focuses on the Disneyland park back when its design and construction was supervised by artists. Nowadays that’d be called Fantasyland.
In 1986 Dick Williams sent me to LA to work with Art Babbitt in preparation for ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit.’ I was 23 years old then and felt like the luckiest guy in the world. When I first met Art at the little studio he was working in at that time, the reception was a bit frosty to say the least. A few days went past and I decided to approach the grumpy great man to ask him what the problem was. Art was very frank with me and said that he just didn’t like the fact that I was German. He continued to tell me about his ex-wife, who survived Auschwitz only because Mengele used her artistic skills to document his sick experiments. I don’t know how to describe the way this made me feel. I was born way after the Nazi regime disappeared, but still, the history of the country I was born in kept (and still keeps) haunting me. I tried to explain to Art that the Germans of my generation are fully aware of the atrocities committed by the Nazis and that we are all trying to live a normal life in love and peace, just like everybody else.
Art told me that one of his daughters was at that time an opera singer in Vienna, Austria. He had a real problem with that too, Austria being the birth-place of that Chaplin-moustached mad-man. He was fearing for her well-being, and when I told him there was no need for that, he didn’t really buy it. A few more weeks went past and Art and me became good friends in a mentor-student kind of way. When the 3 months learning from the great, old man were over, I bought him a little good-bye present, which he was visibly moved by. He asked me to stay in touch and the same time said that I should not be surprised if he didn’t answer. The last time I saw him was when he was driving off in this big old, white car and all that was visible was the top of his head and those bony hands on the steering wheel.
I will never forget that precious time with Art and I owe him forever for teaching me and giving me a first hand inside look of an era long gone.
Cheerio and double cheers to Art Babbitt.
Earlier this evening I received word from Van Partible and David Sheldon that animation legend Ed Benedict passed away in his sleep this past Monday at age 94. Per Ed’s wishes, there will be no service of any kind. He will be cremated and his ashes scattered over Carmel Bay, where his wife Alice’s ashes were also spread.
It’s a difficult time to be an animation fan as slowly the last of the greats of animation’s Golden Age have been dying. With Ed gone, only a handful of the industry’s giants remain, including Joe Barbera, Bill Melendez, Bill Littlejohn, Ollie Johnston, Jack Zander, and a few others. But back to Ed, his career was long and illustrious, not to mention fairly unconventional, including an attempt to start his own studio in the 1930s and involvement in very early TV commercials. He began at Disney in 1930 and animated on the studio’s early films like THE CHINA PLATE and BLUE RHYTHM. In 1933, he moved to Universal where he worked on Walter Lantz’s Oswald shorts. For much of the 1930s he was at Universal, though he also worked a stint at Mintz and briefly started his own studio, Benedict-Brewer, in partnership with Jerry Brewer. He returned to Disney in the early-1940s where he did layout on various industrial/educational films like ENVIROMENTAL SANITATION and DAWN OF BETTER LIVING. During this time, he also received his first and only Disney credit as a layout artist on MAKE MINE MUSIC. In the mid-1940s, he entered the world of TV commercial animation at Paul Fennell’s Cartoon Films, which is where he first began exploring the more modernized approach to drawing that would serve him well in the following decades.
In 1952, Benedict was recruited by his former Universal colleague Tex Avery to become Avery’s lead layout artist and designer at MGM. Ed designed a number of Avery’s classic shorts including DIXIELAND DROOPY, FIELD AND SCREAM, THE FIRST BAD MAN, DEPUTY DROOPY and CELLBOUND. After Avery left MGM, Benedict continued working at the studio on the Mike Lah-directed Droopy shorts, while also freelancing for Avery on TV commercials at Cascade. While at MGM, Ed’s work caught the eyes of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. Hanna asked Benedict to design a dog and a cat for a TV project, which turned out to be the first Hanna-Barbera TV series THE RUFF AND REDDY SHOW. During the late-1950s and early-1960s, Benedict became the primary designer for Hanna-Barbera and he designed most of the studio’s early stars including Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, The Flintstones, Snagglepuss and countless others. It would not be an exaggeration to say that a large part of H-B’s success in TV animation is owed to Benedict’s incredibly appealing and fun character designs. Ed moved to Carmel, California in the 1960s and continued freelancing for various studios during the 1960s and ’70s before retiring.
Ed’s passing is made a litle easier knowing that he was appreciated and recognized for his accomplishments during his lifetime, which is something that can’t be said for a lot of other animation artists. Ed has countless admirers throughout the animation and illustration communities including John Kricfalusi, David Sheldon, Van Partible, Jordan Reichek, Craig Kellman and Gabe Swarr, to name but a few. The influence of his work is readily apparent in countless cartoons being created today, a testament to the lasting quality of his work.
On a personal note, I have to say that Ed was certainly one of the most memorable of the artists that I’ve interviewed over the years. He was a study in contrasts. He made it very clear that he disliked the Hanna Barbera TV cartoons, the work that he was most known for, and that he didn’t care particularly that people liked his work so much. And yet, you could hardly find a person more passionate when it came to discussing art, design and animation. I had the opportunity to visit Ed a few times in northern California, and I can’t ever remember a visit lasting less than ten hours. Ed would keep you enthralled with a fascinating range of opinions on every conceivable topic from why organs sound better than pianos to lamenting the deteriorated state of contemporary car design. On the surface, Ed might have seemed indifferent, but his theories on such a variety of topics revealed years of careful observation and analysis of his surroundings. It’s only fitting that the designer of so many classic animation characters would himself have such a depth of personal character.
If you have personal remembrances of Ed Benedict or were influenced by his work, please feel free to leave comments in this Cartoon Modern post and I’ll try to make sure it’s forwarded to his family.
Links to Ed Benedict on the Web
John Kricfalusi writes about why he likes Ed’s work so much
Holocoast survivor Dina Gottliebova Babbitt, who was the second wife of legendary animator/director Art Babbitt, is profiled in this fascinating piece in today’s NY TIMES (use BugMeNot if registration is required). The article focuses mostly on her attempts to recover paintings that she made for the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele while in the Auschwitz camp. The article also says that she worked in animation, which is something I hadn’t known:
After the war she pursued work as an animator in Paris and was hired by the American who would become her husband, Art Babbitt. They married, moved to California and had two daughters. The Babbitts divorced in 1962, and Mrs. Babbitt returned to animation, working on characters like Tweety Bird, Wile E. Coyote and Cap’n Crunch.
After she gets back her paintings, I hear that she’s going to start a campaign to recover some of her Cap’n Crunch animation drawings.
(Thanks, Galen Fott)
It’s getting so that every animation artist has a blog. Maybe in the next update, I’ll do a post about artists who don’t have blogs. Now that’d be something.
Raymond Xu was a runner-up in our just-completed Ottawa contest, but his blog is an all-out winner. He’s currently a student at Sheridan. There’s excellent personality-packed illustrations throughout his blog so be sure to check out his monthly archives. It’s nice to know a few of the younger artists can still draw nowadays.
Speaking of people who can draw, Jim Smith (REN & STIMPY, SAMURAI JACK and currently DreamWorks) now has a blog. When I was working on REN & STIMPY, I remember even his drawings that ended up in the trash were still great. I don’t think he’s physically capable of doing bad drawings.
I never met Daniel L–pez MuÃ±oz while I was writing THE ART OF ROBOTS, but he created some superb art for that film. He’s jumped ship from Blue Sky to Pixar where he’s started blogging.
Whatever happened to Cartoon Network’s WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ROBOT JONES? Who knows. We do know, however, that the show’s creator, Greg Miller, now happens to have his own blog.
Craig Clark has worked on everything from the Peanuts specials to Bakshi features. He started in the biz as a teenager at Duck Soup, and on his blog he shares stories of working with legends like Amby Paliwoda, Duane Crowther and Corny Cole, as well as showcasing his own current projects.
If you ask me, some of the funkiest and most distinctive animation backgrounds being created today are those by Ben Prisk for Adult Swim’s SQUIDBILLIES. His bgs are a combination of real paint combined with scanned paint textures, and he recently started a blog devoted to his work on the series.
Despite my best efforts, I didn’t meet my goal of shipping out every order of ANIMATION BLAST #9 last week. I also wasn’t prepared for the massive amount of new orders that have poured in over the last few days and which haven’t made things easier, though I’m certainly not complaining about getting more orders. The good news is that I’d estimate 65-70% of the BLAST 9 orders have been shipped so far and the rest are being shipped this week. Please be patient as your issues may take a while to arrive. If you have any questions about your order or want to give a change of address, please contact me at amid (at) animationblast (dot) com.
The opening titles for the PBS series MYSTERY! were based on the artwork of Edward Gorey. It’s a quite successful adaptation of his illustration style to animation, though Gorey himself had little involvement in the piece. It was directed by Derek Lamb, who also directed the SESAME STREET “I Get Mad” piece which I posted a couple days ago. Lamb, who passed away in 2005, discussed his experience creating the MSYTERY! piece in this AWN article.
ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE has just published an informative piece by historian Jim Korkis about Disney’s short-lived (and rarely discussed) TV commercial unit during the 1950s. I’d love to see a collection of these spots on a future Disney Treasures dvd set. The spots were generally well produced and they deserve to be more widely available. Not to mention that Tom Oreb created an extraordinary amount of great designs for these commercials, like the Pegleg-less Pete Cat model above.
Here’s a classic mid-70s SESAME STREET spot directed and designed by Derek Lamb and animated by esteemed cartoon historian and this year’s animated short Oscar winner John Canemaker. The cartoon teaches kids that it’s quite alright not being able to keep your emotions in check and getting angry all the time. Why can’t today’s children’s cartoon teach such great lessons?
If you spend time online, chances are you’ve already run across PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP by Nicholas Gurewitch. The comic is hard to describe, but in my opinion it’s the best “absurd” newspaper comic since Gary Larson’s FAR SIDE and that’s not a comment I make lightly. Unlike the countless Larson imitators who have appeared over the years, Gurewitch has a voice and sensibility distinctly his own. He takes risks with his work and the results are frequently laugh-out-loud funny. I’d actually seen quite a few of his comics before I realized recently that they were all done by the same person. That’s because he works in many different styles ranging from rendered “children’s book”-style art to parodies of other artists (like Bil Keane and Edward Gorey) to his standard ‘white blob’ characters. Gurewitch is currently putting together a compilation of PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP for Dark Horse Comics. Needless to say, I can’t wait for that book. He’s also done a bit of animation before like this stop motion short.
I saw this book at Hennessey+Ingalls the other day and it looks like it’s worth adding to the collection. ON AIR: THE VISUAL MESSAGES AND GLOBAL LANGUAGE OF MTV has a pretentious name for what it actually is, which is a collection of recent motion graphics and animation work done for the various MTVs in Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. This isn’t easy-to-find material so thankfully it also comes with a 70-minute dvd of the idents and promos featured in the book (the sticker on the cover says the dvd plays both NTSC and PAL but don’t hold me to that). Some of the book’s pages can be previewed HERE.
Considering this is a vanity book done for MTV, I was surprised by the honesty of the filmmaker’s quotes in the book. One filmmaker says that MTV pays peanuts for all this material, but everybody still does it because it’s a prestigious platform to have their work seen. Then there was a quote from another filmmaker who was saying how he hadn’t received any work offers as a result of having his work on MTV. Well, at least he got his work published in this book.