DreamWorks animator Jeremy Bernstein attended the Pixar storytelling seminars last weekend (mentioned previously HERE) and he took some illustrated notes, which he has now generously posted on his BLOG. Actually, it seems like he spent more time drawing the people in attendance than actually taking notes, but I’m not complaining because he ended up with an amazing batch of drawings.
I think it’s safe to announce that the Internet is officially complete now that director, storyboard artist and all-around creative type Vincent Waller (REN & STIMPY, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS) has started his own BLOG. If his blog proves to be anywhere near as entertaining as hanging around his office, then we should all visit often…and not allow him to get any real work done.
(Image from ASIFA-Hollywood’s Animation Archive)
John Kricfalusi has an insightful POST on his blog where he discusses color theory in backgrounds. He uses early Hanna-Barbera TV backgrounds as examples which is notable because these cartoons were made on dirt-cheap budgets – it just goes to show that appealing color doesn’t require a lot of money, only good taste. Admittedly, I’m not as big a fan of the H-B backgrounds as John, but he’s certainly found some solid examples here. The BGs in his analysis were all painted by Arminio “Art” Lozzi, who we recently discovered is living in Greece where he had a second successful career as an architectural interior designer for Hilton International hotels and various cruise ship lines. I’m sure John will have a lot more to write about Art’s career and work, but for now, here’s a photo of Lozzi back when he was painting the H-B backgrounds.
There’s plenty of scary Halloween events coming up over the next few days but I can’t think of any more frightening than this: next Monday, October 30, DreamWorks animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg will be speaking about the future of computer animation at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The event will be at the Statler Hall Auditorium at 2 p.m. According to the ITHACA JOURNAL, “the event is open to the wider Cornell community and affiliated educational partners. Seating may be limited, so early arrival is recommended.”
Here’s a topic that never gets old: amateur illustrators who pilfer artwork from Preston Blair’s classic animation textbook and use it for their own commercial projects. Brew reader Trevour Meyer recently found a blatant (and blatantly incompetent) batch of Blair rip-offs at the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, Minnesota and he’s posted them all on his BLOG along with some amusing commentary.
Mike Matei has posted onto YouTube an incredible late-1930s newsreel that shows how cartoons were produced at the Fleischer Studio in Miami. The information contained in the film is nothing new but it’s a real trip seeing 1930s Fleischer artists in vivid full color. Can anybody identify the artists in the film?
UPDATE: A number of people have emailed to let me know that the hi-res version of this film is available on this recent Popeye dvd by Steve Stanchfield.
(Thanks, Tony Mora)
Check this out: a brief but thought-provoking INTERVIEW with Dan Haskett, a name that should need no introduction to anybody working in animation today. It’d be great to see somebody do a more in-depth talk with Haskett at some point, but for now, this’ll have to suffice. Here’s a comment that stood out in particular, in which Haskett addresses the lack of black characters in feature animation:
Q: What are the challenges to getting more Black characters in animated movies?
Haskett: We have to make our own movies. I don’t want Disney to do the Black characters. I’ve already seen what they do with the Asian characters and the Mexican characters and the Hawaiian characters and I don’t like it. There’s your image up there but what are you doing with it? What are you saying with this image? I remember during the making of “The Little Mermaid” there was an idea, wouldn’t it be funny to make Sebastian the crab be a Jamaican? And basically what that meant is give him a big, fat lower lip and popping eyes – and that’s what they had in the film. A lot of our folks think that because it’s a cartoon that it’s harmless, that you can put a coon image in a cartoon and it will be harmless. But it’s very importantâ€¦people remember those images.
We have to make out own stuff we can’t depend on Hollywood to make better pictures. Hollywood is not interested in you. They’ve made allowances but it’s nowhere near where it ought to be. There is still a lot to be done in American animation in multicultural representation.
And here’s Dan speaking about the animation world’s changing landscape:
Haskett: On the horizon is the Internet and how it could change the movie business altogether. It could change the distribution. The Internet has helped a lot of people get into animation who would have otherwise not have tried it. A computer allows them to work solo and not form a studio. Combined with the Internet, the computer allowed a lot of kids to come in and make films without selling their ideas to studios. Right now it’s still in the baby step stage. It could be that they can change everything.
(via Channel Frederator)
Here’s a couple short must-see CG demos by animator Bernhard Haux. In the first video, Haux incorporates a dynamic wave principle into his CG rig. In the second video, Haux creates a tool to help make his CG poses cartoonier and more appealing. Animator Keith Lango calls this “a very cool screen space mesh deformer that lets you sculpt the geometry based on the image plane, not just with deformer nodes in the rig.”
It’s always exciting to see artists pushing CG beyond its default mode, not because I want to see CG mimic hand-drawn animation, but because adding the flexibility of drawn animation to CG will only help push the technique forward and allow it to go places we can’t even imagine yet. I’m not sure whether the second tool already exists in the major studios like Pixar and DreamWorks though I assume it’s available to animators in one form or another. What I do know is that the average piece of non-big budget commercial CG could greatly benefit from an easy-to-use tool like this which allows animators to sculpt their poses.
(Thanks, David Maas)
The Ottawa International Animation Festival has released an AUDIO PODCAST of a talk given at the festival last month by JibJab co-founder Evan Spiridellis. I haven’t listened to the podcast yet but I was there in attendance and it was a terrific and inspiring talk. Evan walks the audience through the trials and tribulations of starting an indie animation studio and his experience is well worth hearing for anyone who’s thinking of becoming an independent. (Note: Only the first half of his talk is posted though I assume the second part will also be posted soon.)
Too many people are interested in getting their own series rather than making great, commercial, films. Or just great films period. Me, I love commercial TV, always have, so setting that goal works for me. But, you know, I made lots and lots (and lots, I should add) not commercial stuff too, just trying to figure out how to make stuff that I loved. Without that training I wouldn’t have been able to work in cartoons. It just wouldn’t have worked.
All that being said, looking at everyone’s comments, I actually agree with everyone. They’re all right. A rare thing I must say. Go for it folks. Let’s have a few more good arguments in animation. Maybe we’ll even get a hit series somewhere on television again someday.
With all the recent discussion here about pitching in TV animation, this is an event that is timely and also somewhat ironic. On Monday, December 4, Rita Street will be hosting a seminar on how to sell an animated TV series. The event takes place in West Hollywood and costs $65 per person. Here’s the description of the talk:
Think you’ve got the next SpongeBob SquarePants? Whether you’re moving over from live action to cartoons, or planning to start a career in animation, you need to know how this highly specialized area of the industry actually works. Pitching the animated series and landing a sale is an art form all on its own and demands a unique tool kit. In this course, you’ll learn how to fill up your own animated toolbox with strong character profiles, producer know-how, and a sales bible that helps a buyer visualize your unique concept.
In addition to tips and tricks for pitches and samples from real-world bibles, this seminar will take some of the mystery out of the global animation business. You’ll learn how co-production deals work, why it’s sometimes better to sell your show to an independent production house rather than a network, and how best to move forward if your show is actually based on a game, toy or, heaven forbid, a t-shirt!
Sign-up info is at MediaBistro.com.
(Thanks, Casey Shaw)
This past weekend, a number of Pixar directors and story artists spoke at the Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles. Kevin Koch, president of the Animation Guild Local 839, has written a nice summary of the keynote speech presented by FINDING NEMO director Andrew Stanton. There’s plenty of solid ideas here that are worth checking out. A lot of Stanton’s advice sounds like fundamental storytelling 101 and just plain common sense, though judging from the quality of storytelling in most animated features nowadays, one would never know that.
PINGMAG has an INTERVIEW with Run Wrake, director of the excellent animated short, RABBIT. The film has been well received at festivals all over the world, and it’s one of the few animated shorts I’ve seen this year that I feel is fully deserving of an Oscar nomination. If you haven’t seen RABBIT yet, there’s a decent-sized version that can be seen HERE.
Animation artist Chris McDonnell discovers a bizarre ’80s Russian animated film, THE MYSTERY OF THE THIRD PLANET, on the Meathaus blog. I haven’t seen the film but Chris’s description in the comments section of the post makes it sound pretty cool:
It’s also interesting to note that this film has more or less “full” animation despite the fact that it’s from the ’80s. Sometimes there is even too much animation, such as a scene in which the girl talks to another person and behind them the two other men are moving and gesturing and secretly whispering to each other- it divides the attention in its attempt to depict a realistic scene of one thing happening while another does simultaneously. Then again, that is what is so refreshing about this movie, that it doesn’t follow all the tried and true standards of American animation staging and action.
Tonight at UCLA, Tom Sito will be discussing and signing his new book DRAWING THE LINE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE ANIMATION UNIONS FROM BOSKO TO BART SIMPSON, as well as screening animated fims that have influenced him. The event starts at 7pm at the Bridges Theater (Melnitz Hall) on the UCLA campus. Admission is FREE. If you can’t make the chat, there’s also an entertaining one-hour podcast interview with Sito at the O-Meon website.