We mentioned this last month and completely forgot about it. Today is director Friz Freleng’s 100th birthday (or his 101st or 102nd, depending on which source you look at), and in honor of that occasion, Hell on Frisco Bay is hosting a Friz Freleng Blog-A-Thon. They have a great post about Freleng’s cartoons and links to twenty other blogs which have written something or another about Freleng.
A couple weeks ago Coke unveiled the second CG ad in their new “Coke Side of Life” campaign, which is essentially a parody of the videogame GRAND THEFT AUTO. The first spot in the series was problematic in my opinion, but I have no such reservations with this second commercial. It’s directed by British duo Smith & Foulkes of Nexus Productions. These guys have one of the best track records in recent years and possess an uncanny ability to take simple, even mundane, agency concepts and execute them to perfection. Take for example their Abba to Zappa spot for the Observer Music Monthly, the ‘black ink’ obstacle course for the VW Touareg, or Motorola’s “Grand Classics” spot – conceptually, none of these ideas is particularly special yet Smith & Foulkes somehow make each one work. The same can be said of their current Coke spot which manages to turn video game parody into great art.
Disney story artist Mark Kennedy has been posting a wonderfully informative series of thoughts about design and drawing on his blog Temple of the Seven Golden Camels. There’s five entries so far and each one is well worth your time.
My latest Flickr set is comprised of photos from the collection of animation legend Ray Aragon. The photos were taken in June and July 1958 at Disney. Most of the artists in these pics worked in the layout and background departments at Disney; at the time they were completing work on SLEEPING BEAUTY and beginning production on 101 DALMATIANS. These photos also appear in ANIMATION BLAST #9. Speaking of which, the issues have just arrived! I’ll have an update posted soon about that.
If you’re in Edinburgh, Scotland anytime in the next week, you may want to check out a play called MICKEY MOUSE IS DEAD writen by Jessi D. Hill. Here’s the description:
A searing look into friendship, national identity and the politics of paranoia, the Happiest Place on Earth will never be the same.
Hollywood, 1952. Are the Communists coming? Senator McCarthy hunts Reds, the Rosenbergs are doomed to die, and Walt Disney spies for the FBI. Harris and Finch, scriptwriters at the Disney Studio, are plotting to unionize. Walt’s just been called to name names. How much does he know about them? Can Grace, Finch’s trust-fund girlfriend, penetrate Walt’s private playground? How far will Walt go to save Mickey Mouse from becoming a Commie Yid?
After reading reviews of the play, the first thing I noticed is that it’s about two Disney scriptwriters who write animated shorts. Notice a problem with that? Scriptwriters didn’t write shorts at Disney, story artists did. Also, in this play, the writers are trying to unionize in the early-1950s, which makes no sense because at the time Disney artists had already been unionized for over a decade. I understand that it’s a piece of fiction, but if the playwright hasn’t even made the effort to create a semi-believable set-up, it makes one seriously question the rest of the production. For my money, a play about the actual Disney strike of ’41, and the tensions between artists on the picketline and those who remained inside, would make a far more riveting and interesting production. Then again, a play like that would require a writer who actually knows his history. Reviews of this play can be found HERE, HERE and HERE.
(Thanks, Andrew Osmond)
UPDATE: Corey Klemow writes about a Disney-themed play currently being staged in Los Angeles:
There must be something in the air… there’s also a play in L.A. right now set at the Disney studios. “Lobster Alice” (which I haven’t seen yet; reviews range from raves to decidedly mixed) takes place during the time Salvador Dali was working at Disney in 1946 on “Destino,” while production is also getting started on “Alice in Wonderland.” Judging from the reviews, it’s not really about animation at all (Dali helps a repressed young animator who is working on “Alice” to pursue the woman he loves), but at least the person Dali befriends at Disney is an animator and not a scriptwriter.” Details HERE.
Animated-News.com has a nice in-depth interview with recently-returned-to-Disney artist Eric Goldberg. He touches on a lot of subjects throughout the interview and also discusses A MONKEY’S TALE, the superb hand-drawn short he recently directed. I hope the film makes it onto the festival circuit but for the moment it’s playing only at a Buddhist cultural center in Hong Kong.
Found this piece on Cold Hard Flash. It’s not clear who made it, but Aaron Simpson writes that it’s “part of an anti-war campaign staged by a group of animators and illustrators in Israel.” The animation and design are both pretty funny.
There’s so many animation artist blogs out there nowadays. We can’t possibly link to all of them, but we’ll try to link to the best of the them. Here’s a few good ones I’ve run across recently.
Nate Wragg works at Pixar. Consistently good design and color in his artwork.
Here’s an artist who needs no introduction: Stephen DeStefano. Actually, he probably could use an introduction, but I’m too lazy to write one. Just check out his new blog; you won’t be disappointed.
Chris George is a designer on VENTURE BROS. He takes a more illustrative approach. There’s solid work throughout his blog.
‘SirPef’ just posted these videos on YouTube and I had to share. If this music doesn’t make you smile, then I’m flat out of ideas. It’s toe-tappin’, finger-snappin’ goodness performed by legendary animation artists like Ward Kimball on trombone, Frank Thomas on piano and Harper Goff on banjo. Enjoy!
I’ve been tinkering around with Flickr the past couple days (so maybe that should be spelled ‘tinkring’) and the results are the following Flickr set: Cartoon Modern Yearbook. It is a photo collection of Modernist animation artists who were working during the 1950s. The photo set includes directors, animators, story artists, character designers, layout artists, background painters and even a few important studio owners.
There’s a similar ‘yearbook’ section in my new book CARTOON MODERN. Not to take anything away from the book, but I think this particular section works even better online. For one, the images can be shown at a much larger size. Also, as I uncover new photos, I can add them to the set and continue expanding the yearbook until it’s complete. At some point, I’ll go back and add biographical details for each of the artists and link their photos to relevant sites online. Flickr as a historical tool…who woulda thunk?
There’s an interesting article in VARIETY about the lukewarm box office performance of recent CG animated feature and the countless other talking-and-farting animal movies that are still awaiting release. The article is generally accurate, except for a few instances, such as when the writer says, “Before this year, the only CGI failure ever was last summer’s “Valiant…”. The other huge CG bomb was, of course, FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN. For those who want to keep score of CG box office grosses, bookmark this great chart at Box Office Mojo.
Whoever thought Salome’s “Dance of the Seven Veils” done in 8-bit graphics would be laugh-out-loud funny? Christian Zagler’s SALOME IN LOW LAND (Austria, 2005) is an amusing and well-executed mashup of opera and old school video game graphics. For a primer on the opera SALOME, you may want to check out this entry at Wikipedia.
Congrats to Uli Meyer, owner of the London animation studio Uli Meyer Animation, who announced on his blog a few days ago that he’s starting production on his first independent animated feature MONSTERMANIA. Sounds like it has the potential of being a very fun film. Uli plans to complete it by 2008.
Here’s a few excerpts from the press release describing the project in greater detail. The full release is on Uli’s blog:
Uli Meyer Animation has started production on MonsterMania!, a fully computer-animated feature film comedy featuring the classic movie monsters. Scripted by award-winning British horror writers Michael Marshall Smith and Stephen Jones, based on an idea by Uli Meyer, Stephen Jones and Michael Marshall Smith, MonsterMania! has been in active development for the past three years at the company’s London-based animation studios.
MonsterMania! tells the story of young scientist Max van Helsing, who is plunged into an exciting and dangerous adventure by his late grandfather’s will. He embarks on a life-changing quest that takes him to the heart of the Eastern European country of Wallachia. There Max encounters the classic monsters, including Frankenstein’s creation, a werewolf, a lagoon creature and many other bizarre and creepy characters, as he sets out to save the girl of his dreams from the greatest evil the world has ever known . . . Vlad, Count Dracula!
Budgeted at $30 million, MonsterMania! is currently being storyboarded at Uli Meyer Animation as a co-production with India’s Ittina Animation Studios and Cinecarat, Switzerland.
The boxes of the new issue of ANIMATION BLAST #9 are currently en route to Los Angeles, apparently on a very slow truck from Canada. According to my printer, I should expect them to arrive in LA by Thursday, August 17 at the latest. Today, I’ll be mailing about 40 issues of the BLAST. These are the issues that were left over from the first batch shipped over for the San Diego Comic-Con. With nearly 1000 folks who have pre-ordered or who had subscribed earlier, most people will have to wait a bit longer, but at least a few folks will be getting issues this week. Also, on my way back from San Diego, I dropped off issues to a few LA stores that I owed copies to – Meltdown, Golden Apple and House of Secrets. For those who haven’t pre-ordered yet, they each have a limited number of copies, if they haven’t already sold out. They’ll be getting more too once I receive the full shipment of issues next week.