Pixar story artist Ronnie del Carmen is chronicling the adventures of the Pixar artists who are currently in New York for the opening of Pixar: 20 Years of Animation at MoMA. If you can’t make it to New York, the exhibition catalogue can be purchased at the MoMA bookstore. Also, there’s some good lectures planned in conjunction with the exhibit: John Lasseter speaks at MoMA this Friday, Ralph Eggleston and Bill Cone discuss the art of the colorscript on January 6, and Gary Rydstrom and Michael Giacchino offer insights on the art of sound design on January 20.
UPDATE: More thoughts on the MoMA show from animator Michael Sporn.
If you’ve ever wondered how Scrooge McDuck is related to Potcrack McDuck, or which of Donald Duck’s exs had an affair with Manuel Gonzales, then THIS is the family tree for you. The most important thing I learned from this is that somebody needs to teach the concept of birth control to all the Disney ducks.
(Thanks, Dai Kun)
Our friend Michael Sporn has arrived online with a beautifully designed website and blog at MichaelSpornAnimation.com. Mike has been a fixture of the New York animation scene for many years. When he started in animation during the 1970s, he worked with John and Faith Hubley (COCKABOODY, EVERYBODY RIDES THE CAROUSEL), Richard Williams (RAGGEDY ANN AND ANDY) and R.O. Blechman (SIMPLE GIFTS). He started his own studio in 1980 where Sporn has spent a significant portion of his career creating elegant hand-drawn children’s book adaptations in a wide range of illustrator styles including those of William Steig (DOCTOR DESOTO), Quentin Blake (STORY OF THE DANCING FROG) and Chris Raschka (YO! YES?, HAPPY TO BE NAPPY). One of his latest films, THE MAN WHO WALKED BETWEEN THE TOWERS, an adaptation of a children’s book by Mordicai Gerstein, is shortlisted at the Academy and is a strong contender for an animated short Oscar nomination this year.
Blue Sky Studios is holding an AUCTION to benefit the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The auction runs through December 19 and includes original pre-production artwork and maquettes from ICE AGE and ROBOTS. All proceeds (minus auction fees) will go directly to either the Red Cross or The Humane Society.
“Chicken Little is the third elaborate and expensive industrial product (I almost said ‘movie’ or ‘film’) whose principal fabricator (I almost said ‘director’) was Mark Dindal. It is an odd item, even by the warped standards prevailing in Hollywood.”
So begins Michael Barrier’s review of CHICKEN LITTLE
. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I wholeheartedly concur with every word of Barrier’s review. His assessment could also describe most every other Disney animated feature of the past decade. The benchmark of animated storytelling, art and technology is no longer to be found at Disney, and CHICKEN LITTLE is simply a sad confirmation of that fact.
Among the cool things to see at the Pixar: 20 Years of Animation exhibit opening this week at MoMA is a giant 19th century-style zoetrope with TOY STORY characters in it. But unlike the traditional zoetrope which uses flat animation on paper, these zoetropes have three-dimensional models inside of them. Charles Solomon wrote about it in last weekend’s NY TIMES (reg. req’d, bugmenot.com). Says MONSTERS INC. director Pete Docter of the zoetropes, “When it’s working, you’d swear you can reach out and shake hands with these guys who are coming to life right in front of you.”
(via Michael Sporn’s Splog)
The opening titles for the live-action film MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS are a stunning, eclectic ’30s pastiche’ created with hand-drawn and CG animation. The sequence is by London’s Foreign Office.
There is no question that Miramax has earned its reputation as a producer of classy live-action films, but when it comes to animation, the Weinstein brothers have proven time and again that they are utterly clueless. Their animation releases throughout the years have included clunkers like FREDDY AS F.R.O.7., TOM AND JERRY: THE MOVIE, ARABIAN NIGHT, POKEMON 4-EVER and POKEMON HEROES. (They do have PRINCESS MONONOKE to their credit, though that film was foisted upon them by Disney and, by all accounts, not a project on which they took the initiative.) Now that they’ve split from Disney and formed The Weinstein Company, the brothers appear intent on maintaining their streak of animated incompetence with HOODWINKED, which opens in wide release on January 13. Fear not, the Weinsteins understand that in this day and age, crappy hand-drawn animated films won’t cut it anymore; today’s audiences demand crappy computer animation, and HOODWINKED promises to deliver plenty of that.
This Reuters article offers some background on the film and says that HOODWINKED’s budget was $15-20 million. To put that into perspective, the Weinsteins could have produced two amazing animated films for $20mil — THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE and MIND GAME — with spare change left over. The reason we don’t see more films like BELLEVILLE and MIND GAME is not that they cost too much or that there aren’t enough talented animation directors who can create such films; it’s that Hollywood’s live-action establishment doesn’t understand (and remains willfully ignorant about) the animated art form. As long as these people continue to call the shots, the great possibilities of feature animation will remain untapped, and the development of the art form painfully stunted. And we’ll continue to see directors like Zemeckis blow fortunes on “uncanny valley” quasi-animated films like POLAR EXPRESS, studios spend tens of millions to produce Saturday morning-quality fare like CURIOUS GEORGE, and producers like the Weinsteins invest in torturously bad projects like HOODWINKED.
The new hand-drawn animation music video for the band They Might Be Giants is well worth checking out. “Bastard Wants to Hit Me” was released as a ‘bonus video’ in early November on the band’s VENUE SONGS dvd and has just been posted online. The video was co-directed by Aaron Sorenson (animation direction) and Courtney Booker (art direction) at LAIKA’s commercial division, LAIKA/house. There’s some strong expressive animation in it with cartoony facial expressions and funny, exaggerated mouth shapes. The video is nominated for an Annie Award in the TV commercial category.
(Thanks, Andrew Tisher)
I’m still working on my Chronicle book CARTOON MODERN, which is all about 1950s animation design. Right now, my editor, the design folks at Chronicle, the book designers and I are all working diligently to figure out a cool cover design. I’ve posted a bunch of the cover concepts on the CARTOON MODERN blog and I want to hear what everybody thinks. There’s a lot of options and your comments will help us forge a direction for what the final cover will look like. The more opinions, the merrier, so please participate.
I’m sure a lot of people have already seen this short. BIG BOX MART premiered on THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO back in October and since then has been seen online by many millions more. Still, I wanted to point it out here because it’s one of my favorite shorts that JibJab has produced. (JibJab, for those unfamiliar, is the six-year-old Flash animation studio started by brothers Evan and Gregg Spiridellis). As is typical of their work, the concept and lyrics are top-notch and the Flash animation is snappy and well timed, but on top of that, there’s a new level of graphic sophistication in their photo cut-out/collage technique that sets BIG BOX MART apart from the studio’s earlier films. The backgrounds have a greater level of detailing with thoughtful attention to color styling, and the layouts and camera moves take good advantage of deep space possibilities. It’s exciting to see this increasing graphic ambitiousness in their work, and as JibJab continues to receive other high-profile gigs, hopefully we’ll see even more of it.
Beyond producing solid Flash cartoons, JibJab also deserves props for doing something that very few other animation creators are able to do nowadays: reach an audience of millions without subservience to traditional studio distribution models. Flash producer Aaron Simpson, of Cold Hard Flash, summed up nicely JibJab’s unique accomplishments: “They create, develop and produce their own properties; they distribute to a massive audience online and beyond; they partner with media empires like MSN – all while maintaining ownership of their properties and brands.” JibJab is fulfilling the promise of online animation in an impressive manner, and they continue to innovate and experiment with progressive ideas like their ‘audience participation’ films. Here’s to their continued success, and to the hope that more animation creators can learn from how they’ve managed to exploit the potential of the Net.
JibJab’s films, including BIG BOX MART, can be seen on their site Jibjab.com. Also, a collection of some of their most well known shorts is available on the just-released JIBJAB: THE EARLY YEARS dvd.
For today’s inspiration, I want to highlight three new artist blogs which have a strong focus on showcasing the inspiring work of others. There promises to be much inspiration found at all three of their sites.
Dan Goodsell with an emphasis on kids’ food packaging, cereal art and other mid-century ephemera.
Will Kane for all things mod.
Eric Sturdevant and his great taste in mid-century children’s book and magazine illustrators.
Jerry mentioned a UPA tribute coming to LA in February, but folks in Paris can get their fill of UPA this month. There will be a film tribute to the studio’s work on December 13 at the Espace KODAK (26 rue Villiot 75012 PARIS). The screening starts at 7:30pm and is being organized by L’AFCA (Association FranÃ§aise du Cinéma d’Animation). The film line-up includes some of the classic standards like GERALD MCBOING BOING, WILLIE THE KID and BARE-FACED FLATFOOT, but it also includes a lot of rare BOING BOING SHOW shorts like THE OUTLAWS, TWO BY TWO and DUSTY OF THE CIRCUS. Another rare piece of UPA on the line-up is a version of FROSTY THE SNOWMAN, directed in 1952 by Bobe Cannon, which is something that I’d personally love to see.
EAT DOG CAT MOUSE is the first animated film by Kwok Fung Lam. It was commissioned by Channel 4 in the UK. It’s not a perfect film, but there’s a lot of fun ideas in it, including a sort of “Russian nesting doll” visual theme. (And as a sidenote, it’s a lot of fun saying the director’s name out loud: Kwok…Fung…Lam. Yeah, it’s definitely Friday around here.).
The fps magazine annual charity auction begins today and runs through December 9. All of the profits from the eBay auction will be donated to the Canadian Cancer Society.
Lots of nice cartoon stuff is available for bidding including:
Limited edition Gorillaz action figures donated by Kid Robot, including the sold-out Noodle Red Edition, limited to 2000 copiesFragile Machine posters signed by Aioneko’s Ben Steele, donated by the Waterloo Festival of Animated CinemaTim Burton’s Corpse Bride movie posters, including marquee posters signed by animation co-director Mike Johnson, donated by Warner Bros.
I’ve been wondering who did this Mastercard commercial I keep seeing on TV, which is a nicely done hand drawn piece, but perhaps a bit too derivative of the Mary Blair-designed Disney short THE LITTLE HOUSE (1952). A quick online search reveals that it was directed by Sarah Roper out of Sherbert in the UK. The Sherbert website has many nice examples of work by the studio’s various directors. Also should be noted that Blair’s LITTLE HOUSE is coming out on dvd next week, on the must-have Disney Treasures “Rarities” dvd.
Disney animator Clay Kaytis, creator of The Animation Podcast, has created a great new MAP that allows you to see exactly where different animation studios are located around the world. The map can be edited by other users, who can each contribute addresses that they know. Clay explains the idea on the Animation Podcast:
Wayfaring is a new site that allows anyone to make custom maps and stick pins in them for whatever purpose they want. Of course, my first idea instinct was to make an animation map. I started it by putting on all the studios whose locations I was sure about. I know there are many more, so if you know where you work, add it to the map. Anyone can add to it, but I think you need to register.
UPDATE: Stop motion animator Tennessee Reid Norton wrote to let me know that stop motion animators have been doing a similar map project for the past few weeks. Their map is HERE.
Here’s the TRAILER for what promises to be the next great hand-drawn anima…oh…wait a second.
Great job by Yowza Animation on this.
UPDATE: Bill Turner has some enlightening comments on the above:
Besides the actual animation by Yowza, the Best Buy “Soar” spot was produced by John Smith and directed by Elliot M. Bour & Saul Andrew Blinkoff. They were the team behind the Annie nominated “Springtime With Roo” and the upcoming “Kronk’s New Groove” from Disney. “Soar” was a freelance job, not Disney. Check out some of their other work HERE. Their sense of comedy and love of classic Disney really comes through, especially in “Kronk’s New Groove.”
Our pal, Didier Ghez, writes to us about a new limited edition book about Vladimir “Bill” Tytla. I hadn’t heard of this, but boy, does it sound awesome:
Adrienne Tytla has recently released her long awaited book DISNEY’S GIANT. Part biography of Bill Tytla by his wife, part scrapbook, this huge volume (about 1000 pages) is extremely difficult to classify or to explain. Let’s just say that Disney historians had been awaiting this document for years and that it will not disappoint them. Let’s add that, because of its high price ($165) and its very specific focus (Bill Tytla), it is advised that only the most serious Disney historians buy it. To do so, send an email to Howard Green at howard (dot) green (at) disney (dot) com.
PES, one of the most singular talents working in animation today, has posted a couple great new films on his site — THE MAKING OF KABOOM! and THE MAKING OF ROOF SEX — which explain the thinking behind two of his best known films. I’d recommend watching the shorts first, and then the ‘making of’ films. And don’t worry, despite its title, ROOF SEX is sfw — unless you’re offended by furniture going at it.
(via as far as the eye can see)
Industry artists Kelsey Mann, Tim Szabo and Steve Meyer are working on an independent film noir short and they’re documenting its production HERE.Taylor Jessen writes an appreciation of the under-the-radar Hong Kong-produced animated feature MY LIFE AS MCDULL (2001). I’d heard good things about this film, but never really made an effort to check it out. After reading Taylor’s piece though, I want to see it.Jeremy Bernstein has posted some nice thumbnails from his scenes on MADAGASCAR.Shannon Tindle, supervising character designer on FOSTER’S HOME FOR IMAGINARY FRIENDS, now has a blog. (via Ovi Nedelcu)Tee Bosustow’s UPA website has a two-minute teaser for his forthcoming UPA documentary. Comments on the video are from Geefwee Boedoe, Leonard Maltin, Bill Melendez, Mike Kazaleh and Oscar Grillo, among others.
The new Kanye West music video “Heard ‘Em Say,” animated by Bill Plympton, that I mentioned earlier can now be viewed HERE. In the BET interview before the video, West says he used Plympton’s hand-drawn animation style because he wanted “something new, refreshing” and also that he wanted visuals that expressed “how natural the song feels, how organic the song is.” Now, Kanye West is certainly not a bellwether for animation trends, but I found those statements really interesting. Suddenly, it’s no longer computer animation that is considered hip and exciting, but rather hand-drawn animation, an art form over a hundred years old. Indeed, the raw messy esthetic of Plympton’s drawing style is a welcome change of pace from today’s endless parade of mathematically perfect CG models and animation, and the video is a great example showing that hand-drawn animation is still a vital and powerful art form, especially when used by artists like West who are savvy enough to know the technique’s strengths and the appropriate places to use it.
(via fps magazine)
I know we’ve done this a lot recently, but couldn’t resist pointing out a couple more designer blogs that I just ran across. One of the very best, Lou Romano (THE INCREDIBLES), arrived online a couple days ago. And I wasn’t familiar with the work of Pete Oswald, but he’s a designer on FOSTER’S and he’s also posting solid stuff on his new blog.
AWN reports that Bill Plympton recently completed a new animated music video for Kanye West. The video, for the song “Heard ‘Em Say,” is scheduled to premiere today on MTV during TRL. Now what’s interesting is that the Plympton video is the second one produced for this song. Michel Gondry had already directed a video for “Heard ‘Em Say,” and for reasons unknown, this second video was commissioned from Plympton. According to this entry at Wikipedia:
A Christmas-themed video was originally set to be the official video for “Heard ‘Em Say”, set in Macy’s flagship NYC department store, it was directed by Michel Gondry. It featured Adam Levine as the store’s security guard. Shortly before the original video was to be premiered, MTV pulled it from the schedule. On November 12th 2005, the new video for “Heard ‘Em Say” premiered on Channel 4 in the UK. The video is a black and white animation by Bill Plympton, although the video occasionally cuts to scenes of Kanye and Adam Levine… MTV will premiere the original [Gondry] version as a Christmas special in December 2005.
This Flickr collection of 1950s bird illustrations by Charles Harper, courtesy of Eric Sturdevant, is incredible…so many interesting graphic variations on a single theme. I’ve heard that Harper is still alive — somebody should really do an in-depth interview with him while he’s still around. Though I don’t think he ever worked in animation, he’s influenced many animation artists. Background designer Scott Wills acknowledged Harper’s influence on SAMURAI JACK in the book MAKIN’ TOONS:
What I love about Harper’s work is the ultra-stylization…Even the character design here has been influenced by him–how we draw birds, for example. We’ve a lot of influences, I have to say, but when I feel like I’ve done a painting that’s very SAMURAI JACK, the way I want it, it’s mostly Harper’s kind of feeling.(via fwak blog)
“Masters of American Comics,” a major exhibit co-organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art and UCLA Hammer Museum, opens in Los Angeles this weekend. Between the two museums, over 900 pieces of art will be on display. The exhibitions focus primarily on fifteen different artists: Winsor McCay, Lyonel Feininger, George Herriman, E.C. Segar, Frank King, Chester Gould, Milton Caniff, and Charles M. Schulz at the Hammer Museum, and Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Harvey Kurtzman, R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Gary Panter, and Chris Ware at MOCA. Articles about the show are at the LA WEEKLY and LA TIMES, and the exhibition catalog/book is available at Amazon.