Joel Trussell has directed a second video for the English band Morcheeba, based on their single “Gained the World.” Animation leaves a lot to be desired and visual pacing is disconnected from the flow of the song, but design and color are typically pretty Trussell. It’d be great to see his visual sensibility applied to stronger animation and direction one of these days. Video credits on Trussell’s blog.
Critics are beginning to weigh in on Bill Plympton’s latest feature Idiots and Angels, which is now playing around the festival circuit. There’s not many indies who can claim to have made their own animated feature, but this is, quite amazingly, Bill’s fifth(!) full-length animated feature, all funded entirely with his own money. My favorite review so far is this one from Variety which uses an uncommon if not impressive grouping of words to describe the film–words like “Manichean,” “Bukowskian,” and “physiognomic transmutations.”
This review from the Auteur’s Notebook is more mixed; it applauds Plympton’s visual ingenuity and storytelling over the originality of the story and character development, an argument that would hold water for many of Plympton’s efforts. Eye For Film has a view similar to that of the previous reviewer, though it concludes that the film is worth checking out: “[I]f the storyline is treading over some old ground, Plympton’s animation gives it a fresh lease of life.”
For my part, I’m looking forward to checking out the film next month in Annecy. I thought Bill’s last feature Hair High was his strongest to date, and I’m looking forward to seeing if he can top that accomplishment. Below is a short interview with Plympton from last month’s Tribeca Film Festival:
In this article Jeffrey Katzenberg talks about how little he knows about animation, which shouldn’t exactly come as news to anybody who’s seen the films that DreamWorks Animation produces.
UPDATE: I’m sorry to report that this post has pushed a sensitive CalArts grad over the edge. Bad Cartoon Brew, bad.
A quick update about last week’s story about the new Israeli animated feature Waltz with Bashir. The Hanuka brothers–Asaf and Tomer–created art for the film and have posted some examples on their blog. It just goes to show that a director who understands art and knows who to hire can get impressive artwork even into a low budget animated feature like Waltz which cost only $2 million.
(Thanks, Meghan Kinder)
Links to a few nice creator interviews I’ve recently run across:
Wired offers a nice interview with Nina Paley in which she discusses how she made an animated feature, Sita Sings the Blues on her Mac for $200,000.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone reflect on 11 years of South Park in the Onion’s A.V. Club.
An old Entertainment Weekly interview with Brad Bird that was never published in their print magazine. Lots of good behind-the-scenes on Ratatouille.
Duct tape + empty wall + 24 hours = Interesting animation experiment.
(Thanks, Karl Cohen)
Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal attempts to make sense of the spectacular box office failure of Speed Racer, which raced to becoming a bona fide flop both in the US and overseas. He writes:
“[C]haos isn’t a surefire selling tool, not even when the target audience is sensation-hungry kids…Kids need inoculation against media-generated chaos. That’s not to suggest seeking out entertainment that preaches, peddles homilies, hustles uplift or shies away from the darker areas of human experience that inform some of our most cherished fairy tales (or, for that matter, one of my most cherished films, Carol Reed’s “Oliver!”). It’s more than enough when movies enhance a sense of wonder (and, as a byproduct, a capacity for concentration); when they delight and surprise (as Pixar productions do so dependably); when they open up the world through the window of thrilling fiction.”
Director and animator Will Finn also shares some worthwhile filmmaking insights on his blog about why Speed Racer was so poorly received by audiences.
While DreamWorks debuted its umpteenth cookie-cutter ‘hip’ animal comedy, Kung Fu Panda, at the Cannes Film Festival this past week, it’s another animated feature that’s been making big waves at the French festival, one that actually uses to its advantage the art form’s vast potential. Waltz with Bashir is only the second animated feature ever produced in Israel. Directed and written by Ari Folman, it is a documentary about the 1982 massacre at the Shatila and Sabra Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, recounted through first-hand accounts from soldiers who participated in the war.
The film, which incorporates a medley of cel, Flash, CG and live-action, has been gaining raves since its debut including write-ups in Cinematical, NY Times and Time magazine. GreenCine also has a nice roundup of coverage for the film. What the film may lack in the animation quality and polish that we are accustomed to in stateside features, it seems to make up for with its ambition and dedication towards using the medium to create something that is actually meaningful and relevant to our times. Below is the film trailer followed by an excerpt from the film. (Thanks, Yoni Salmon, for the tip)
UPDATE: Just noticed that CHF also wrote about the film this morning. They have a link to the film’s official website which has production notes that say the film took four years to produce at a cost of $2 million.
I received the Fall/Winter 2008 Chronicle Books catalog yesterday, and there are a few animation-related books that should be of interest to Brew readers. The prelim cover to my book, the previously announced The Art of Pixar Short Films, is above. You can find out more about the book by clicking on this info sheet about the book. It’s slated now for a February 2009 release. Pre-order on Amazon.
I’ve also posted the info sheets below for two other cartoon entries from Chronicle (click for larger versions). Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts by Rob Smith is the first history of Lucas’s videogame division, which turned out classic games like The Secret of Monkey Island, Sam & Max Hit the Road, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. It’s coming out in December 08. Also notable, Disney Feature Animation is releasing its first ‘art of’ book through Chronicle. You guessed it…it’s The Art of Bolt by Mark Cotta Vaz, scheduled for release this November.
Talk about dedicated cartoon buffs. There’s a group of Pixar fanatics who are spending months building their own life-size replicas of Wall-E…and the film doesn’t even come out until next month. The results are impressive. Here’s a few of the vides showing different Wall-Es in various stages of progress.
It also looks like an official “real” version of Wall-E exists:
The Hollywood Reporter notes that the first footage from Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist will debut this month at Cannes. The hand-drawn and CG feature, scheduled for release in the UK and France in 2009, is budgeted at $22 million, quite a bit heftier than Chomet’s earlier Triplets of Belleville which had a modest budget of $8 million. The story of the film, based on an unproduced script by French comic legend Jacques Tati, is described by the Reporter as the tale “of a dying breed of stage entertainer whose thunder is being stolen by emerging rock stars. Forced to accept increasingly obscure assignments in fringe theaters, garden parties and bars, he meets a young fan who changes his life forever.”
Speaking of Chomet, here’s an oldie but goodie: an article he wrote for the NY Times in 2004 about his time working at Disney, as well as the general lack of personal vision in contemporary animated features. The experience he describes of working at Disney Toronto is sadly one that is repeated far too frequently throughout the industry. Chomet writes:
“Once, my team in Canada was sent to Los Angeles to meet the people in charge of our project there. By this time we were on the sixth rewrite of the script, and we had a daylong brainstorming session in which we were locked in a big room with executives and so-called creatives. One executive suggested a rewrite incorporating an idea she had in the car that morning. Heads nodded, notes were scribbled and script No. 7 was born. It was like watching a runaway steam train being driven by a flock of headless chickens.”
It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on my latest book Inside UPA but there’s a couple important reasons to write about it now. Firstly, of the fifty signed editions of the book, there are only six copies left. In other words, if you want a copy signed by the legendary likes of Millard Kaufman, Fred Crippen, Willis Pyle, Bob Dranko, Bob McIntosh, Erv Kaplan, Gene Deitch, Sam Clayberger, Dolores Cannata, Howard Beckerman, Joe Siracusa, David Weidman, Joe Messerli, Edna Jacobs, and Alan Zaslove, then now would be a good time to pick one up.
The other reason for mentioning the book is that Tee Bosustow, son of UPA co-founder Stephen Bosustow, will have the books available for sale this Saturday, May 17, at the Animation BookLook in LA. Only 1000 copies of this book were printed and I’d love to see them go into the hands of people who appreciate the accomplishments and legacy of the studio. Every sale also helps raise funds to help Tee continue his UPA research and film documentary efforts. If you want to enjoy a one-of-a-kind photographic tribute to animation’s greatest design-oriented studio, pick up a copy of Inside UPA from Tee this weekend or order one from the UPA website.
I’m fascinated by the continually emerging stories of women who worked in creative positions at Disney during its Golden Age. Women didn’t have it easy at the studio, but through sheer determination and dedication, a surprisingly large number of them managed to find their way into artistic positions, including Retta Scott, Bee Selck and Retta Davidson.
Semi-related is this reprint of a Parents’ Magazine article from January 1949 in which Walt Disney describes everything that he’s learned about girls and women. The article is prefaced with new comments from Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller.
A book about the achievements (and struggles) of women artists at Disney would have been amazing, but sadly we’ve missed the boat on that one. Nearly everybody who should have been interviewed for such a book is now deceased. Through the Internet, however, we can begin to put together pieces of the puzzle and gain a better understanding of their role in creating the classic Disney films.
Back before Walter Lantz created Woody Woodpecker, he liked to draw ‘woodies’ of a different kind. Animator Marc Deckter offers an appreciation of the skewed cartoon logic in the 1920 silent “Jerry on the Job” short called Swinging His Vacation. Crudely drawn and animated no doubt but still oddly entertaining.
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, but unfortunately, none of those words are appropriate for printing on this blog. Even when I dismiss all prior knowledge of what Chris Sanders’ original vision for this film was, these designs for Disney’s next feature, Bolt, look downright embarrassing. They veer disturbingly close to this, but we’re not talking about some cheap startup animation studio here. This is Disney dammit…the friggin standard-bearer of this art form for much of the past hundred years. What could possibly be the defense for such witless homely unimaginative designs? Somebody at Disney please fill me in…publicly or privately. Because I’m seriously having difficulty believing that some of the most highly skilled animation artists in the world could come up with something that looks only slightly better than your average student film.
(image via Character Design blog)