Throughout the history of the animation art form, there have been a select group of innovators who have pushed the medium to its limits and explored the potential of animation to its fullest. These artists include Winsor McCay, Walt Disney, Max Flesicher, Tex Avery, John Hubley…and now, I’m pleased to announce, Fred and Sharon.
Fred and Sharon, hailing from Kelowna, Canada are redefining the possibilities of filmmaking and animation by producing movies for any type of occasion. You can learn about their skills by watching this introductory piece below, entitled “Who Needs a Movie.”
Of course, Cartoon Brew is an animation website and thankfully for us, Fred and Sharon are specialists in the art of animation. They work in a dizzying array of styles, including hi-end computer animation that is seamlessly integrated into live-action settings…
to a traditional hand-drawn look…
to more painterly and experimental styles of animation…
For more of their filmmaking magic, visit FredandSharonsMovies.com or their YouTube page. And when you see them accepting an Oscar, just remember that you read about them on Cartoon Brew first.
There’s an intriguing story in yesterday’s news wires about how Disney is producing a new TV version of Lilo and Stitch specifically targeted towards Japanese audiences. The new series, titled Stitch!, which will be produced by Japanese animation studio Madhouse (Ninja Scroll, Cardcaptor Sakura), replaces the orphan Lilo with a Japanese girl named Hanako, and transplants the setting from Hawaii to a tropical island in Okinawa, Japan. The series will premiere on Japan’s Disney channel in October.
Nothing says more about the sad, pathetic, desperate, moribund state of the US TV animation industry than the fact that Seth MacFarlane is the only artist trusted to create new animated shows for a major TV network.
The finished product is exactly the type of cute, fun and appealing cartoon idea that I don’t expect any contemporary animation network to produce because…well…because it’s cute, fun and appealing in a day and age that demands loud, obnoxious and ugly.
Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became An American Icon Along the Way is a book chronicling the behind-the-scenes history of the famous children’s book publisher. Though it is published by Golden Books, it appears to be more than your average corporate fluff piece, and seemingly has lots of original historical research. It is also copiously illustrated with illustrations and photos, and includes coverage of all our Golden Book favorites including Mary Blair, Gustaf Tenggren, Aurelius Battaglia, JP Miller, Alice and Martin Provensen, Mel Crawford and Tibor Gergely, among others. If anbody has actually read the book, please share your thoughts about it in the comments.
Pete Mitchell, frontman of the band No More Kings, writes to Cartoon Brew:
“i’ve checked cartoonbrew pretty much every day for the past year and a half, and it never ceases to provide inspiration. i’ve always been a huge fan of ghostbot‘s work, and i finally had the pleasure of hiring them to animate my new music video.”
The music video, for their song “Michael (Jump In),” can be seen below. More behind-the-scenes details about the production of the animation are being posted both at the band’s blog and on the Ghostbot blog.
Superjail is an animated series set in the cooler, but Brew reader Dominic Bisignano points out that there’s a non-profit organization called Giant Elephants Roam that teaches actual prisoners how to animate. The website features short animation tests created by inmates at the Antelope State Valley Prison in Lancaster, California, which is where the pilot program is currently underway. The program was conceived by CalArts student Vita Rabinovich. Below is an example of animation created by inmate “Doc.”
Imagination, an experimental indie feature that combines live-action with hand-drawn animation, stop-motion puppet animation, pixilation, and time-lapse, was released onto dvd earlier this week. The dvd offers numerous special features including:
1. “Making Imagination” Documentary with cast/crew interviews
2. “Behind The Animation” Documentary with director Eric Leiser
3. Q&A with the Leiser brothers & Ed Gildersleeve at Sunset 5 Theatres
4. Isolated Film Score
5. Stills Gallery
6. Director’s Statement
Additionally, the film has two theatrical screenings scheduled for this weekend. Tonight, it plays in Portland at the Hollywood Theatre, and on Saturday evening, it screens at the Capitol Theater in Olympia, Washington. Director Eric Leiser will be present at both screenings, as will his brother Jeffrey Leiser, who co-wrote the film and composed the film’s music.
To read reviews of Imagination and find out about future theatrical screenings, visit the film’s MySpace page. The film was previously mentioned on the Brew last July.
Richard Williams’s epic first animated short The Little Island (1958) has been posted online. Highly stylized, dialogueless, serious themes, and over half an hour long, the film definitely takes some effort to sit through. Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating–and surprisingly offbeat–early work by a contemporary animation legend, and well worth a view.
Seemingly the funniest and cartooniest animated projects nowadays are set in jails. There’s the Japanese CG series Usavich, which was written up here last month, and now there’s Superjail, an Adult Swim pilot from last spring which is being turned into a series.
Superjail is one of those rare pieces of animation that reaffirms my faith in mainstream industry animation. (A clip from the pilot episode is posted below; the full series premieres later this year.) At first glance, it’s an unlikely candidate for greatness: it is, after all, a Flash-animated show for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. But Superjail defies all expectations, both for Flash and Adult Swim. Far from the typical Adult Swim fare of characters standing around with their lips flapping, this show takes advantage of the fact that it’s animated, packing every scene with outlandish visual gags, hilarious drawings, frenetic animation, bright colors and enough gratuitous cartoon violence to fill a thousand Popeye shorts.
The premise of the series is simple: Superjail is an ultra-violent prison complex run by a mad Willy Wonka-esque warden determined to “perfect the art of incarceration.” He is aided by a butch guard Alice, an alcoholic accountant Jared, and the punishing robot Jail-bot. Beyond this basic setup, anything goes. It’s a stream-of-conscious free-for-all that’s both exhilaratingly creative and guaranteed to offend. Heidi MacDonald of The Beat blog called the pilot “the most incoherent, violent and irredeemable thing I have ever seen.” Luckily for her, she hasn’t seen the actual show yet. I’ve managed to peep a bit more beyond the pilot and can say that the pilot is only a taste of what’s to come.The actual series is even nuttier and more insane.
Graphically, Superjail achieves a level of cartoon grotesquerie that would make Basil Wolverton blush. There are also hints of Mike Judge, Yellow Submarine, alternative comics, and Wes Archer’s classic short Jac Mac & Rad Boy . The results are grungy and raw; real cartoons by real cartoonists without any of the on-model fussiness and overcautiousness that hinders most of today’s TV animation.
Superjail is created by Christy Karacas, Stephen Warbrick and Ben Gruber. Karacas is directing the series and Aaron Augenblick, whose Augenblick Studios is producing the series, serves as the animation director. The stories are written by Karacas, Warbrick, Augenblick and other animators on the show, with the finished scripts penned by John Glaser and John Lee. A host of other fine cartoonists and animators are contributing to the series including Fran Krause, Will Krause, Jesse Schmal and M. Wartella.
The show also puts to rest the fallacy that Adult Swim shows are poorly animated because of their small budgets. The creators of Superjail have not only managed to deliver impressive animation on a standard Adult Swim budget, but they’re producing the series entirely in the US, from pre-production through final animation. New York-based Augenblick Studios is cutting few corners on the production, with little reliance on stock expressions and poses, and plenty of original drawing in every episode. Even the impressively laborious animated pan used in the opening titles is being re-animated for each episode with new backgrounds.
It’s refreshing to see a production that puts its budget back onto the screen and gives audiences quality that they can enjoy. I’ll try to write more about the studio’s production pipeline in the future, but suffice to say, Augenblick is one of the few studios that operates with a “no producers” policy.
Superjail will debut on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim line-up in summer ’08 with an initial order of ten 11-minute episodes. Until then, check out some of the earlier shorts by Christy Karacas and Stephen Warbrick like Barfight and Space War.
A few preview stills from the series. Click on the pics for bigger versions.
A little creativity goes a long way, which is why this hand-drawn music video created by Nadia Barkate, Marion Cruza and Eider Gutierrez is such a delight. It’s for the Spanish rock group Paniks. (via BoingBoing)
* Pixar story supervisor Ronnie del Carmen writes about the celebration at the studio following their Oscar win for Ratatouille. Identifications for the above photo of Pixar story artists can be found on Ronnie’s blog.
* Production designer Bill Cone (A Bug’s Life, Cars) has started a blog to showcase his plein air pastel paintings.
* How does a graphic designer fit in at Pixar? Rataouille title designer Susan Bradley explains her role at the studio in this interview.
Michael Knapp, who is currently art directing Ice Age 3 at Blue Sky, has redesigned his website MichaelKnapp.com and added a blog as well. The site includes lots of his development and design work from Blue Sky’s earlier films like Ice Age: The Meltdown and Robots, while his blog offers a preview of his new comic that’ll be published in the soon-to-be-released second edition of the comic anthlogy Out of Picture.
John Kricfalusi’s visual analysis of Bob Clampett’s The Hep Cat offers interesting ideas about why this particular cartoon works so well:
“It’s not Clampett’s funniest cartoon, although it is pretty funny. It doesn’t have any star characters in it. What makes it stand out, then? This cartoon is a mood piece. It’s an experiment in atmosphere and emotion…I think the best cartoons revel in goofiness and achieve a kind of gorgeous beauty not attainable in any other medium. Clampett takes the wacky surrealism natural to cartoons and places it in a lush atmosphere.”