There’s more than a little truth in this comic by Sarchasm:
(via Michael Ruocco)
Just in case you’re interested, Glenn Beck discussed Walt Disney and read from yesterday’s Cartoon Brew post about Walt, interjected with his own thoughts on the subject.
Last weekend, The Guardian published a long-ish piece on Philip Glass’s soon-to-debut opera The Perfect American based on the novel of the same name by Peter Stephan Jungk. The book (and it appears the opera, too) is a veritable checklist of accusations that have been leveled against Walt Disney throughout the years: he was a McCarthyite, a racist, a misogynist, an anti-Semite, a megalomaniac. It manages to come up with new fictional flaws too, like philandering and incestuous obsession with his daughters.
Jungk’s book has been described by Walt Disney biographer Michael Barrier as “infantile” and “wretched.” That is perhaps why the Guardian reported that the Disney company called Glass to ask him not to work on the opera. The article also says that the finished opera was submitted to the Disney Studios for consideration, and there was no response. Jungk, the author of the book, said that he interpreted the company’s lack of response as “a green light.”
Glass says that despite all the negative (and untrue) traits the opera attaches to Walt, his intentions were noble:
“When I started out, people thought I was going to laugh at him. But I see Walt Disney as an icon of modernity, a man able to build bridges between highbrow culture and popular culture; just like Leonard Bernstein, who could jump from a Broadway musical to a Mahler cycle.”
To me, the opera is representative of a bigger problem faced by the Disney company, and that is that the company has been unable to present an alternative narrative to the perpetual vilification of Walt Disney in contemporary pop culture. The lack of honest and easy-to-access information about Walt is precisely why a majority of teens and twenty-somethings today have a wildly distorted and inaccurate view of Walt Disney, the man.
The Disney company could do much more to humanize the founder of their company. Instead the company has taken the tactical approach that its founder must be deified. In response, they build statues of Walt using every conceivable material that is known to mankind, from bronze to Tom Hanks.
These statues end up being as one-dimensional and untrue as the negative portrayals. Today’s generation is too savvy to accept an image of Walt Disney as an irreproachable god-like entity, and so they seek their truth elsewhere. It is through this cycle that the Disney company continues to lose control over its founder’s image.
Disney animator and director Ward Kimball, the subject of my own as-yet-unpublished biography, rebelled in his own idiosyncratic fashion against the Disney company’s deification of Walt, which he felt diminished the man’s accomplishments and tainted his legacy. Ward never censored himself when he was asked to speak about Walt Disney at public functions. He made sure to incorporate stories about honest human interactions with Walt, of which he had more of than almost any other artist who worked at the company. In Ward’s stories, Walt may have used a cuss word and he may have just walked out of the bathroom after taking a shit, but he was a human being who people could recognize, understand, and most importantly, admire.
The Disney family-operated Walt Disney Family Museum, in its own way, does a great job of humanizing the founder of the company. However, the museum is not a panacea for Walt’s image problem because its impact is limited to tourists and Disney fans. It cannot combat the steady stream of misinformation about Walt from mainstream cultural sources like Family Guy and Saturday Night Live.
The Disney company itself, with its vast media reach, is in the best position to rehabilitate the image of its founder and offer a counterimage to the flood of negative portrayals of its founder. A good first step would be to acknowledge the fact that Walt Disney wasn’t a god, but a human being.
Tomorrow is the official release date of The Archive Series–Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men: The Flipbooks. It’s a pet project of UP director and flipbook aficionado Pete Docter and it’s packaged as a boxed-set of nine flipbooks, like this:
Pick it up on Amazon for $37.80.
Chalk this up to personal prejudice, but I find professional cartoon voice actors today almost universally unbearable. On more than one occasion, their shrill and abrasive performances have rendered an animated TV series impossible for me to watch. This dissonant quality of contemporary cartoon voices extends across nearly every animation studio and network, which leads me to suspect that some type of ingrained industry-wide belief has evolved over the years amongst casting directors, actors, and TV show directors that a cartoon voice must be caricatured and “wacky” at any cost.
By contrast, I find cartoon voice acting from the Golden Age of theatrical and TV animation (1930s to 1960s) to be almost uniformly excellent. These actors are much funnier to listen to while also exhibiting more rigorous performance-oriented discipline. This first generation of voice actors created cartoon characters that had a warm, believable, and dare I say it, human quality.
It should be no surprise that these early voice actors were also skilled as live performers, something that can’t be said for most of today’s full-time voice actors. Most Golden Age voice actors enjoyed extensive careers in film, TV and radio, quite often as character actors. The proof can be found in the following three-part series of YouTube videos created by Ray Mujica that shows rare clips of famous cartoon voice actors in live-action roles. The actors and actresses who are featured in this video series include:
It’s a delightful way to spend half an hour.
[UPDATE]: Reader Eric Graf points out that there are two other parts to this series:
Here’s a bit of irony: the most-viewed piece of original on-line animation in 2012 went viral primarily because people didn’t realize it was animated. I’m talking about this video of a golden eagle snatching a toddler off the ground:
The short animated clip has been watched over 41 million times in the two weeks since it has been posted online. Both the eagle and baby are CG characters, and the piece was produced as a student exercise by Antoine Seigle, Normand Archambault, Loïc Mireault and Félix Marquis-Poulin at Montreal-based Centre NAD.
The success of this animation serves as a reminder that corporations remain clueless about what audiences want to watch online. YouTube spent $100 million dollars last year in its backward-looking attempt to create niche “channels” a la cable television. This single piece of animation, produced by students as a class exercise, outperformed the viewership of 76 of those YouTube channels. I don’t claim to have any answers as to what people want to watch online, but it’s pretty clear that the entertainment industry’s cynical top-down approach of mass-producing content for narrow demographics has become irrelevant.
[UPDATE:] Brew reader Justin Goran points out that the title of 2012′s most-viewed online animated film belongs to Fallen Kingdom, a music video parody based in an animated Minecraft world. The film was posted online on April 1st, 2012, and has currently reached over 45 million views:
Cartoon Brew reader Skifi writes, “One of the worst drawn things ever makes fun of a cute show for being badly drawn.”
I was quite impressed with Jake Fried’s animation when I first saw it last year, and I’m just as impressed with his latest piece, The Deep End. Fried is a painter, and he creates animation in the manner that a painter builds a canvas by layering images on top of one another. His painter’s approach to animation follows in the tradition of filmmakers like Carmen D’Avino, but the visual symbolism and graphic style are unique to him. His latest piece, which is a mere minute in length, packs plenty of replay value. Each of the four times I’ve watched it already, my eyes get lost in the jungle of imagery, and I’m sent down a new and exciting visual pathway.
The career of director George Dunning will always be summed up with two words: Yellow Submarine. Directing one of the seminal animated features of the 20th century was both his glory and his curse. But Dunning accomplished much more than that. He had a noteworthy career both before and after Yellow Sub, and he is one of the very few artists who can claim to have worked at both the National Film Board of Canada and UPA.
Dunning made Moon Rock in 1970, shortly after completing the Beatles feature. The film challenges the viewer’s perception of time and space, which makes for a simultaneously baffling and exhilarating viewing experience. Historian Giannalberto Bendazzi wrote that in Moon Rock, Dunning “deals with the monsters of mass society and mass media under the cover of a science-fiction theme and a game of bright white hues.”
The film makes (slightly) more sense when one understands that Dunning based it on the concept of lateral thinking, a system of thinking championed by Edward de Bono. Dunning’s message is open to interpretation, but I think that however you chooose to parse its meaning, it’s a beautiful strange trip well worth taking.
Lots of wonderful, crazy, and frustrating things happened in the animation world last year, and we covered most of it on Cartoon Brew. In case you missed some of the excitement, here are the 25 stories of mine that you read the most in 2012, in order of their popularity on the site.
1. Ricky Garduno, RIP. The untimely death of this well-liked artist happened in December 2011, but word spread about his passing in 2012, especially after a tribute to Ricky was run at the end of a Family Guy episode. This was the most viewed article on Cartoon Brew in 2012.
2. Pixar’s “The Avengers”. Pageviews don’t lie: unofficial mashups of cartoon characters earn more attention online than anything the studios themselves do with the characters.
3. Digital Domain’s John Textor Brags to Investors about Exploiting Animation Student Labor. A study last year revealed that the job of CEO attracts more psychopaths than any other profession. Anyone who reads about animation execs on Cartoon Brew could’ve told you that.
4. Disney Buys Lucasfilm, “Star Wars” Franchise for $4 Billion. In the past, corporations succeeded by being creative and innovative. Today, they eliminate those risks by simply buying companies that are more creative and innovative than themselves.
5. Full Text of Glen Keane’s Disney Resignation Letter. The end of an era.
6. The Hub Hopes Men Will Start Calling Themselves “Belly Bros” and “Care Dudes”.The Hub already has one show for preschool girls that is beloved by adult men. Now they’re just being greedy.
7. A Tale of Two Titmouses: A Cartoon Brew Investigation. Why work in retail when you can work twice as hard and make less money working in an animation studio?
8. “The Sweatbox”, the Documentary That Disney Doesn’t Want You to See. Far more people saw this documentary about corporate ineptitude in 2012 than when the film was officially released a decade ago.
9. Why “The Goon” Is A Troubling Kickstarter Project. People will crowdfund just about anything nowadays, even storyreels that they can’t see for films that may never get made.
10. Advance Praise for the Book That Disney Doesn’t Want You To Read. I knew I’d written a decent biography of Ward Kimball after the Disney Company spent all of 2012 telling me to change it.
11. Stephen Colbert’s Must-See Interview with Maurice Sendak. Cranky old animation artist, meet your new friend, cranky old children’s book illustrator.
12. How Much Money Animated Shorts Earn on YouTube. How much can successful online animators earn on YouTube? Almost enough to move out of their parents’ basement.
13. Animation Teacher Faces Termination For Refusing To Sell His Students Unnecessary Books. Bad: The Art Institutes chain has a money-making scheme wherein they sell unnecessary textbooks to students. Evil: When a popular animation teacher protested the policy, he was fired from the school.
14. “Kill Me Now”: An Artist’s Plea For Help? It may have been an in-joke, but it’s more fun to imagine that an artist who worked on The Lorax wanted to kill him/herself because that’s how most of the audience felt too.
15. Meet India’s Answer to Brave Called “Kiara the Brave”. To make the film more authentic to the Pixar version, the Indian company removed Kiara the Brave’s original female director.
16. “Disasterland” Depicts Disney Characters In Adult Situations. The line is blurring between artwork created by fine artists and artwork created by fifteen-year-olds on Tumblr.
17. Interview With The Artists Who Demand Better Working Conditions At Sony Pictures Imageworks. VFX artists fighting the good fight.
18. Disney Has Halted Production On Henry Selick’s Stop Motion Feature. Sad to hear about this one. Henry Selick is a consistently interesting filmmaker whose films I enjoy seeing.
19. The Disney Purchase of Lucasfilm: What Does It Mean? There’s always a lot of questions when rich people give each other money.
20. Seth MacFarlane Profile In “The New Yorker”: 10 Revelations. The New Yorker revealed some fun facts about Seth MacFarlane, just another typical animator who lives in a $13 million mansion, dates Hollywood starlets and get spray-on tans.
21. Does A ‘CalArts Sensibility’ Exist? Wreck-It Ralph director Rich Moore sparked a fascinating discussion about the influence of CalArts in contemporary animation.
22. Report: Animators Are Raising Big Money On Kickstarter. Crowdfunding went mainstream in 2012. Animators finally have an easy way to raise money without having to sell their bodies.
23. Rebecca Sugar Is Cartoon Network’s First Solo Woman Show Creator. It took Cartoon Network only 20 years to recognize that a woman is capable of having ideas just like a man. Next thing you know, they’ll start allowing women and men to work in the same building.
24. Worst Movie Tie-In Ever: Nesquik’s Deadly “Wreck-It Ralph” Chocolate Powder. What’s the world coming to when you can’t buy artificially-flavored, chemically-enhanced drink powders without fearing for your health?
25-A. Digital Domain May Be On The Brink Of Disaster. I’m guessing this isn’t going to end well.
25-B. 300 Digital Domain Employees Lose Jobs; “Legend of Tembo” Shuts Down Production; John Textor Ousted. What did I tell ya?
(2012 image via Shutterstock)
The human desire to animate drawings may stretch further back (much further back) than a couple hundred years. French filmmaker/researcher Marc Azéma has published new research suggesting that the Paleolithic artists who created drawings in the Lascaux caves of France were also attempting to animate their drawings. There’s a subscription-only article about his theory on NewScientist.com. A shorter blog post and accompanying video below are available for viewing by all.
Animation can provide a fascinating window into the past. In the 1950s and 1960s, as cars became a fixture in contemporary life, animators made all kinds of films about automobile culture, exploring its history, its prevalence within society, its effect on human behavior, as well as its future possibilities and potential consequences. These films didn’t merely feature cars as plot devices, but made a satirical commentary on the institutions of driving and vehicle ownership.
Cars were on the minds of everyone during the mid-century, and animated shorts about them were produced by both mainstream studios and independent animators, as well as both in the United States and Europe. Many of the shorts, like Motor Mania, Automania 2000, and Autókor, offered a bleak perspective on car culture, while other films were bought-and-paid-for by corporations who had an interest in promoting automobiles: the Portland Cement Association sponsored Disney’s Magic Highway USA and Ford sponsored TVC London’s The Ever-Changing Motor Car.
These films are, of course, mostly valuable as historical markers. Today, as our environmentally-conscious world shifts into a post-auto culture, we worry less and less about the anxieties of driving and car ownership. The contemporary animator views cars through a different prism, one that is most effectively reflected in Pixar’s Cars. John Lasseter’s film no longer questions or considers the idea of the car, but rather offers a wistful nostalgic ode to the golden age of the automobile, a bygone era that can only be glimpsed by looking into the rear-view mirror.
Motor Mania (USA, Disney, 1950) directed by Jack Kinney
Car of Tomorrow (USA, MGM, 1951) directed by Tex Avery
There Auto Be A Law (USA, Warner Bros., 1953) directed by Robert McKimson
Four Wheels No Brakes (USA, UPA, 1955) directed by Ted Parmelee
The Jaywalker (USA, UPA, 1956) directed by Bobe Cannon
Magic Highway USA (USA, Disney, 1958) directed by Ward Kimball
Automania 2000 (UK, Halas & Batchelor, 1963) directed by John Halas
Autókor (Hungary, Pannonia Film Studio, 1964) directed by István Imre and László Réber
Ever-Changing Motor Car (UK, TVC London, 1965) directed by George Dunning and Alan Ball
Mr. Rossi Buys a Car (Italy, Bozzetto Productions, 1966) directed by Bruno Bozzetto
What on Earth! (Canada, NFB, 1966) directed by Les Drew and Kaj Pindal
A brilliantly simple and creative New Year’s greeting by Swiss animator Rafael Sommerhalder. I won’t say anything more.