Billed as “home to the world’s largest online archive of vintage illustration, animation, comics and cartoons,” Cartoon Retro is the creation of character designer Shane Glines (Spumco, Batman Beyond, Superman). With over two years of daily updates, the site now boasts thousands of images that are guaranteed to inspire and educate any artist. Best of all, a mere $5 a month offers access to all the material, while a year-long subscription runs $50. More details at CartoonRetro.com.
Sometimes it’s better to just let the pictures do the talking so here’s a small selection of artwork recently posted to the site:
A company called Documentary Educational Resources (DER) has begun releasing episodes of a rare 1970s tv series called Screening Room that featured interviews with lots of independent animators including John and Faith Hubley, Derek Lamb, Ed Emshwiller, George Griffin, Suzan Pitt, Robert Breer, Caroline Leaf and Mary Beams. Their site offers the following description of the TV series:
Screening Room was a 1970s Boston television series that for almost ten years offered independent filmmakers a chance to show and discuss their work on a commercial (ABC-TV) affiliate station. The series was developed and hosted by filmmaker Robert Gardner (Dead Birds, Forest of Bliss), who was Chairman of the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies and Director of the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard for many years.
Upcoming releases offer discussions with directors Jan Lenica, John Whitney, and Stan Brakhage. The downside is each interview dvd is $50, but then again it’s not everyday that one finds lengthy filmed interviews with such a who’s who of the animation world. Personally I’m tempted to pick up the chat with the Hubleys. The episodes can be purchased from the DER website.
Kansas City-based motion graphics/design collective MK12 recently completed their long-awaited epic short The History of America. I, among many others, have been curious about this film ever since they posted a trailer of it online a couple years back. The film, a combo of CG and rotoscope animation with live-interludes, is a self-described “psychedelic Western space opera,” presenting an alternate American history of warring cowboys and astronauts.
Both streaming and downloadable versions of the short are available at Ventilate.ca. The film is certainly a curious effort. The pacing of the story and overall tone of the film are very “live-action,” due in large part to the reliance on live actors, though for the most part MK12 manages to dress the roto with enough artistry to make it palatable to the senses. The film’s ultimate downfall is its half hour length, which is far too sluggish for the amount of story it offers. I can’t help but think this would have been much more entertaining and effective as a tightly edited fifteen-minute short. Still, one has to give them kudos for their ambitiousness, both graphically and conceptually, and their willingness to tackle such a large project inbetween commercial gigs. The film has been selected to screen next month at Sundance.
New Yorkers have enjoyed their live-action Yule log TV program for decades, but now every home in America can have a roaring animated fireplace on their TV courtesy of indie animator PES. His new dvd, The Fireplace, offers toasty warm loops of a pretzel stick-and-candy corn fire. Just $9.99 at EatPes.com.
One of my favorite animation books of 2007 is an unlikely choice: The Animation Pimp by Chris Robinson. Unlikely because the book is a collection of already-published articles that Robinson had written over the past few years for the online Animation World Magazine. But reading the entire body of work again in this more organized and accessible print format gave me a completely new impression of the “Animation Pimp” columns.
The best way of describing the book is that it’s like having a wide-ranging cartoon conversation with a friend who appreciates and understands the animation art form as much as you do; you may not always agree with him, and sometimes you may want to punch him, but it’s ultimately fun and enlightening to hear his personal take on the art form. While the writing occasionally gets a bit too cute for my taste, for the most part Robinson offers some of the sharpest commentary and insights to be found anywhere about contemporary animation. The columns cover a lot of groundÃ¢â‚¬”everything from the animation festival scene and independent filmmakers to the mainstream likes of Shrek and Ren and Stimpy, all filtered through a refreshingly personal perspective.
The pieces are supplemented by a bevy of often quite witty illustrations by German animation director Andreas Hykade (Ring of Fire, The Runt). It’s a one-of-a-kind animation book that’s well worth adding to any animation library. And only $19 on Amazon.
MostofthePrestonBlairswipes we’ve linked to in the past are by amateur artists, but this post shows that professional comic artists and animators are also not immune to “borrowing” from Preston Blair’s classic how-to books.
Kevin Langley offers the following unbelievable find on his blog: an old Harvey comic in which artist Ben Brown created a funny animal story comprised nearly entirely of swipes of Preston Blair characters and poses.
And Brew reader Gerard de Souza recently sent me frame grabs of his discovery: a Preston Blair bulldog in an old Speed Racer episode called “The Great Plan, Part 1″. I think it’s safe to say Blair was referenced as there are only three character animation drawings in the bulldog scene, and two of them are the Blair expressions below. The non-Blair drawing is an inbetween connecting these two drawings.
SVA student Tamara Gildengers Connolly used type characters to create this music video for Nina Simone singing “Feeling Good.” Using type in this manner seems to be a fairly typical assignment in motion graphics and design classes, but the results manage to impress in this piece.
Disney historian and author Jim Fanning has written a fine appreciation of the little-seen Ward Kimball featurette Dad, Can I Borrow the Car? (1970). I also wrote some thoughts about this film a few years back. Best of all, somebody has posted the film onto YouTube and it can be seen below in three parts (though it should be noted that there is also a later TV version that is twice the length). And if you’re a fan of Kimball, stay tuned to the Brew for an upcoming post about an even rarer project he directed at Disney.
Anybody who’s somebody in animation has been Barrier’d at one point or another, and I’m pleased to report that my latest book project, Inside UPA, has now been Barrier’d as well. Not only has esteemed animation historian Michael Barrier reviewed the book, but he also provided this terrific photo identification for the one photo that wasn’t properly ID’d in the book.
Over the years, Craig Yoe has put together some of my favorite compilations of classic cartooning (Weird But True Toon Factoids, the Arf series of books) and his latest project, Clean Cartoonists’ Dirty Drawings, is another winner. As the title suggests, it’s a saucy compilation of cartoons, but the content is largely PG-13. It’s a fun (and quite affordable) way to add a little spice to your favorite cartoonist’s stocking.
The animation history round-ups have become one of my favorite types of posts to do on Cartoon Brew. It is always eye-opening to see the wealth of classic material that appears on-line on a regular basis. The cartoon history being posted online is about as grassroots as an effort gets, lots of various people (animation historians, the families of artists, and students and fans of the art form) coming together to share things from their collections without any specific agenda. There’s also no financial incentive here, only the desire to help one another and the art form grow and prosper. It will be exciting to see how the new generation of artists learns from this material and pushes the art form even further forward.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Powerful Dumbo storyboards by Bill Peet are matched only by powerful Dumbo animation by Bill Tytla.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Rare drawings by Playboy cartoonist (and former Disney story artist) Eldon Dedini (via Flog!)
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Animation director Ward Jenkins examines the Tex Avery-Tom Oreb classic Symphony in Slang (1951).
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ The wonderful commercial animation of animator Jack Schnerk can be seen in the reel below as well as the second and third reels on YouTube. Director Michael Sporn offers some memories of working with Schnerk on his blog.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ “It is a well-known fact at Disney’s that a man has to love an animal thoroughly before he can draw it well,” says this 1942 article from Nature magazine about the making of Bambi.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Animation director Bob Jaques offers an appreciation of Jim Tyer’s animation in the 1946 Popeye cartoon The Island Fling.
Ottawa-based animator/director dynamo Nick Cross talks to Chris Robinson about his career in this article in Guerilla magazine. He explains why he chooses to work from home instead of animation studios (“Every time you go into a studio, it just feels like, ugh.”), and why he jumps back and forth between industry gigs and creating his own independent films (“I just have to do something of my own. I get more satisfaction just doing short filmsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ Maybe itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really arrogant, something like that, ’cause I just like doing my own things and having my control of things. I just do it to please myself, you know.”)
Nick’s latest film, Waif of Perspephone, which has the distinction of being labeled “an interminable twelve and a half minutes of pseudo-Kricfalusi ugliness” by Michael Barrier, can be purchased on dvd here.
The music video “Lollipop” for musician Mika is a joyful if somewhat overproduced Seventies graphic pastiche. It is the promising debut work of the young French director’s collective Bonzom. Bonzom is comprised of five animatorsÃ¢â‚¬”Jack, Kalkair, Pozla, Waterlili and MokeÃ¢â‚¬”who are grads of various French animation schools like Les Gobelins, La Poudriere and LÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ESAAT. They are repped by Passion Pictures Paris.
There isn’t a whole lot of work on the site of London-based Brazilian illustrator and animator Fernando Leal but what is there shows a strong flair for design and concepts, and solid ability to translate those ideas into animation. I hope to see more from him in the future.