Walt Disney Animation Studios released the poster today for its new short Get a Horse! that will debut next week at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. The director of the film Lauren MacMullan, producer Dorothy McKim, as well as animator Eric Goldberg, will attend Annecy to unveil the short, which features a vocal track by Walt Disney himself as the voice of Mickey.
Animation veteran Gabe Swarr has been pumping out webcomics and short animated webisodes of his nostaglia-hued Life in the Analog Age for the past couple years alongside his studio day job. Earlier this week, he relaunched the property as a weekly animated series online, with the goal of new episodes every week. I chatted with Gabe via email about his decision to shift his online focus from comics to animated shorts, teaming up with Frederator’s new Allied Media label, the pros and cons of pitching, and the best advice for others who want to do their own online series.
Cartoon Brew: You have a full-time job as the supervising producer and director of Nickelodeon’s Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness. Where do you find the time to also write, animate and do the sound for a weekly series all by yourself?
Gabe Swarr: Everyone asks me that! I wake up very early, every morning at 6AM. I exercise, get my morning chores done, and get to my desk for at least two hours of work before going into Nickelodeon. This is the best way I’ve found to make sure I have a sizable block of focussed uninterrupted time to get stuff done. Also working in the morning insures that I’m not exhausted from my day job.
Cartoon Brew: That still doesn’t explain where you get all your energy from. What does a typical Gabe Swarr ‘power breakfast’ consist of?
Gabe Swarr: Ha! Just some cereal and a banana, nothing exciting I’m afraid. I think it’s more the exercise than the breakfast! I actually starting running in the morning over a year ago. It has made a huge difference, and hopefully I’ll be alive a little longer to make even more stuff!
Cartoon Brew: What do you hope to accomplish by turning Life in the Analog Age from a comic and occasional animated webisodes into a regular animated webseries?
Gabe Swarr: I really want to get more people to see the series. I love sharing these stories and memories. There’s always such an amazing response from the comics, and I want to really focus on translating that to the shorts. I also think that the fact that it’s animated is a more unique way to experience the series. There are a lot of “slice of life” and autobiographical comics, but very few animated series like this one.
Cartoon Brew: In Analog Age, you try to express your honest emotions as they were at the time, whereas so much of today’s entertainment culture looks back at the past with snark and irony. How did you decide on your more affable approach to storytelling?
Gabe Swarr: Analog Age started as a complete departure from the things I do in my day job. I wanted to slow down the pace and express moments or feelings that you just don’t see in too many other places. The more I did it, the more I found the real tone of the series and learned more about the way I think our brains work.
I’m pretty sure our memories aren’t just a series of remembered facts of events. When you think back and remember how things were, yes you do recall what happened, but it’s not always accurate. That’s because, yeah, it was a long time ago, but it’s mainly because you’re using how you felt at the time as a frame of reference. Our memories are wrapped up in them. That’s nostalgia to me, true nostalgia, and that’s a lot harder to capture than just making fun of pop culture, fashion, or how poofy hair styles were.
That being said, when I do go back and look and unlock those emotions and feelings, I have to find a narrative or story in them. I have to remove myself and look at that moment from my current state of mind, and sometimes some of the best humor or scenes come from making fun of myself or the poor choices I made then, like this:
Cartoon Brew: Assuming that most of the stories are rooted in truth, have your siblings or parents had any reactions to the stories you’re telling, or expressed surprise at any events you’ve depicted?
Gabe Swarr: Yes, it’s all true. There are some stories that my Mom isn’t too fond of. She is the only family member who has spoken up about how they are being portrayed. When I’m making them, I’m never thinking about that. Some of the stories that didn’t put me in a good light were the ones that got the biggest reaction or started the most online conversations like “Hero”.
Cartoon Brew: Life in the Analog Age is becoming part of something called Frederator Allied Media which is a division of Fred Seibert’s company. How does that work?
Gabe Swarr: Well, I keep everything on my YouTube channel. I have complete creative control over schedule and content, but now I’m part of their ‘network.’ My cartoons can be seen by their 75,000+ subscribers as opposed to my 1000+ subscribers. We do an ad revenue split which motivates them to find sponsored ads.
Cartoon Brew: I think pitching ideas to networks and doing pilots is stupid in this day and age of the Internet. Am I wrong?
Gabe Swarr: I can’t say that you’re wrong or right, it depends really on what you want. If you want your show to be seen on worldwide TV, collaborate with working professionals, and not pay for the actual production, then yes, that’s a great way, and it’s been done for decades. There are some drawbacks though, first be prepared to sell full ownership of your idea, and the process is a very collaborative one. Your ideas might change a lot by the time it reaches the audience.
If you want full ownership, full creative control, and having a direct line to your audience, then online is the way to go. Be ready to pay and do the entire production yourself (or with generous friends), and work very hard to build your own audience basically from scratch.
So there are pluses and minuses to both approaches. Personally, I’m doing both traditional TV development, and indie online right now.
Cartoon Brew: The way I see it is this: a creator has the same shot of getting a pilot picked up for a network series as they do having a breakout web series. Except that the web creator ends up with much greater leverage,and therefore it’s more profitable for them. The “Annoying Orange” guy, who started out on the Web, is one of the few show creators who managed to launch a show on Cartoon Network without losing his ownership rights. Or take “Simon’s Cat”—360 million views on YouTube, 8 bestselling books, and now he’s beginning to license to other media platforms while still retaining ownership of his creation.
Gabe Swarr: Yeah, I think it’s great for those people, but like I said, they had to build that audience from the ground up themselves. That’s a job in itself and not an easy one. I spend a lot of my time responding to comments, posting, reposting, revising based on feedback on top of just making everything. Some people can’t or don’t want to deal with all of that. That might be one reason they go through a TV network, but the profitability is the trade off.
Cartoon Brew: Pretend I’m an animation executive. Gimme your elevator-pitch for Analog Age.
Gabe Swarr: Life in the Analog Age is an all-ages animated webseries all about growing up in a time before the digital age. It is a collection of vignettes that follow a “Little Bear Kid” in a time of his life where he is discovering himself and the world around him. All based on true events.
Cartoon Brew: Sold! Now give one piece of advice to someone who wants to start their own online animated webseries.
Gabe Swarr: The big overall thing is when creating anything, make sure it means something to you and that it says something. There are so many things out there that are just meaningless. It’s all like candy, fun to eat, but no nutritional value. You can’t live off of it. You want your creations to have some kind of purpose in the world, something that speaks to the people, and if it doesn’t, why make it in the first place?
Cartoon Brew: If you had to give up all your digital equipment (Cintiq, iPhone, new video game systems, etc.) tomorrow, do you think you could comfortably live again in the Analog Age?
Gabe Swarr: I totally would, but as long as I magically had no foresight into how things work now. I would go crazy missing the way we can use the Internet to learn, communicate, and distribute. I would also miss how much paper I’m saving by working digitally, but I would not miss the new video game systems at all! I still fire up my old N.E.S. to beat my favorite games.
For regular weekly episodes, visit LifeInTheAnalogAge.com.
Polish CG/VFX studio Platige Image, producer of acclaimed shorts such as Paths of Hate, Fallen Art, and The Cathedral, is currently in production on its first feature, Another Day of Life. The film will challenge audience’s perceptions of what types of stories can be told through animation. It is based on the book of the same name by renegade Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński, who, according to another one of his books that I own, “befriended Che Guevara, Salvador Allende, and Patrice Lumumba; witnessed twenty-seven coups and revolutions; and was sentenced to death four times.”
The film, an animation/live-action hybrid, will recount Kapuściński’s life-altering experiences during the Angolan Civil War in 1975. The directors attached to the project are Spanish filmmaker Raul de la Fuente (Nömadak Tx) and Platige’s Damian Nenow (Paths of Hate). Nenow and the producers of the film will discuss the project next week at Annecy.
For more details, go to AnotherDayofLifeFilm.com.
Today on the Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum, New York studio owner Richard O’Connor drops by to talk animation. O’Connor started his career at R.O. Blechman’s studio The Ink Tank in the 1990s before launching his own studio Asterisk Pix. Today, he runs the commercial house Ace & Son Moving Picture Co. He discusses the challenges of working on ‘grim’ animated projects, the connection between Chelsea Clinton and animation pioneer J.R. Bray, and what makes a successful animation festival signal film.
Sympathy For The Fish: A Holiday Story
This afternoon at the Walt Disney Animation studio, they took some time off to celebrate this guy:
That’s Burny Mattinson, and he started working at Disney sixty years ago today, making him the studio’s last active employee to have worked directly with Walt Disney. It’s amazing to think what a different place America was when Mattinson first started working at the company: Disneyland didn’t yet exist, WWII general Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, there had never been a Super Bowl, Elvis Presley was just graduating high school, black people still sat in the back of the bus in many parts of America, and we’d never traveled into outer space.
Starting in the mailroom, Mattinson worked as an inbetweener, assistant animator and clean-up artist on Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, and 101 Dalmatians. He inbetweened on some of Fred Moore’s last animation and did clean-up on Marc Davis’ Maleficent. Later, he became a storyman on The Jungle Book and The Aristocats.
Mattinson made his directing debut on the featurette Mickey’s Christmas Carol, before returning to do story on Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tarzan, and the recent Winnie the Pooh feature, among others. Here’s a four-part podcast in which Mattinson discusses his career.
Everyone showed up this afternoon for the ceremony honoring Burny, including Ron Clements, Eric Goldberg, John Musker and John Lasseter:
The Disney artists made a huge cake in Burny’s honor:
and then devoured it:
Then, they washed it down with Burny cupcakes:
And the county of Los Angeles (as well as the state of California) gave Burny official commendation…and managed to misspell Aristocats in the process, because, well, they’re the government:
CONGRATULATIONS, BURNY, ON YOUR 60TH DISNEY ANNIVERSARY!
The final trailer (in Spanish) was released today for the Argentinian/Spanish animated feature Metegol (Foosball). The US$21 million film may be most interesting for its unconventional director, Juan José Campanella, whose last film El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes) won the Academy Award for best foreign language film. He is also a veteran director of American TV series like House M.D., Law & Order and 30 Rock.
As of mid-May, the film’s producers were still negotiating for an American theatrical release, but Metegol is set to open this summer and fall in Argentina, Peru, Spain, Russia, Turkey, the Middle East and Brazil, among other territories. For more, visit the film’s official website or its Facebook page.
For his thesis film at the Animation Workshop in Denmark, Giovanni Braggio made a helpful tutorial to teach the masses how easy animation can be:
Due to popular demand, we’re extending the deadline to submit to Cartoon Brew’s 4th Student Animation Festival until this FRIDAY, JUNE 7. Every filmmaker whose work is selected to screen in the online festival will receive $500 US. This year, guest judge Evan Spiridellis, the co-founder of JibJab, will select one additional film to receive the Grand Prize and a $1,000 cash prize. Go HERE for details on how to submit.
The film selections will be announced next week on Cartoon Brew.
In its second weekend at the U.S. box office, Blue Sky’s Epic plummeted a troubling 50.4% for a take of $16.6 million and a fifth-place finish. The week two drop is far more substantial than other recent animated originals like Wreck-It Ralph (-32.7%), Hotel Transylvania (-36.4%), and The Croods (-38.8%). Even the DreamWorks dud Rise of the Guardians only dropped 43.7% in its second frame. In the States, Epic has grossed $65.1 million and could potentially end up as Blue Sky’s lowest-grossing domestic feature.
The LA Times notes that Epic has also struggled to connect with overseas audiences. Craig Dehmel, a Fox v-p, suggested to the Times that, “Epic is unique and a more complex story than much of the typical animated fare and that can sometimes make it more challenging for international audiences to discover.” The film expanded into 57 international territories last weekend, but managed to pull in just $28.5 million for a fourth-place finish. Its foreign total is now $86.3 million.
IDW Publishing and Yoe Books are set to release John K Presents: Spumco Comic Book in June. The 160-page book reprints the original run of four Spümco Comic Book issues from the mid-90s, which were published by Marvel and Dark Horse. In addition, the book will include an unpublished 25-page story called “Jimmy the Drooling Numbskull in Nutty the Friendly Dump,” which is dedicated to Chuck Jones “for the decades of warmth he’s brought to lovers of cute cartoons everywhere.” The book features the drawings of John Kricfalusi, Jim Smith, Vincent Waller, and Mike Fontanelli, inking by Shane Glines, and stories by Rich Pursel.
IDW provided Cartoon Brew with an exclusive preview of the book including a couple pages from the never-before-published “Nutty” story. Pre-order on Amazon for $22.98.
The 2013 edition of Anima Mundi, the International Animation Festival of Brazil, has revealed its line-up for competition and non-competition film screenings. The 21st edition of the festival will take place in Rio de Janeiro from August 2 through 11 and São Paulo from August 14 through 18.
In the main competition category, 106 animated shorts were selected to be shown. There are additional competition categories for student films and children’s films. Seven animated features were also selected for competition in two categories:
Couleur de Peau (Approved for Adoption) directed by Jung Henin and Laurent Boileau (France, Belgium)
Fuse Teppo Musume no Torimonocho directed by Masayuki Miyaji (Japan)
Dae-Gi-Eui Wang (The King of Pigs) directed by Yeun Sang-Ho (South Korea)
Padak Padak directed by Lee Dae-Hee (South Korea)
Feature Film for Children
Krishna Aur Kans directed by Vikram Veturi (India)
Zambezia directed by Wayne Thornley (South Africa)
Anina directed by Alfredo Soderguit (Uruguay, Colombia)
Go to Anima Mundi’s website for the full list of film selections.
This afternoon, Disney announced release dates for all of its animated features produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar through 2018. The two studios will be responsible for fifteen theatrical releases over the next six years. During the previous six-year period (2007-2012), Disney and Pixar released a total of 12 films.
Here’s what we know so far based on available information:
- Pixar’s Monsters University – June 21, 2013
- Disney’s Planes – August 9, 2013
- Disney’s Frozen – November 27, 2013
- Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur – May 30, 2014
- Disney/Marvel’s Big Hero 6 – November 7, 2014
- Pixar’s Inside Out – June 15, 2015
- Pixar’s Finding Dory – November 25, 2015
- Disney Untitled Animation – March 4, 2016
- Lee Unkrich’s Untitled “Day of the Dead” project – June 17, 2016
- Disney Untitled Animation – November 23, 2016
- Pixar Untitled Animation – June 16, 2017
- Pixar Untitled Animation – November 22, 2017
- Disney Untitled Animation – March 9th, 2018
- Pixar Untitled Animation – June 15, 2018
- Disney Untitled Animation – November 21, 2018
Blue Sky’s Epic, directed by Chris Wedge, opened its U.S. box office run in fourth place with a respectable weekend take of $33.5 million. If you add in earnings from Monday, which was a holiday in the States, Epic’s 4-day total stands at $42.8M.
The film was based on a story by children’s author/illustrator Bill Joyce, whose movie projects have had difficulty capturing the attention of audiences. Similarly, Epic is the weakest opening ever for a Blue Sky feature. While Epic outperformed the dismal openings of the last two films based on Joyce properties—DreamWorks’ Rise of the Guardians ($23.8M) and Disney’s Meet the Robinsons ($25.1M)—it still failed to match the opening weekend of the Blue Sky/Bill Joyce collaboration Robots which had a 3-day total of $36 million in 2005.
Fox president of dommestic distribution, Chris Aronson, was optimistic about the film’s long-term potential, telling the Hollywood Reporter, “I think it’s a fantastic start. We have a four week run before Monsters University opens, and I’m very bullish on where Epic goes.”
In other box office news, after ten weeks in theaters, DreamWorks’ The Croods continues to show great legs and remains in the top ten. The film took ninth place last weekend with $1.2 million. As of yesterday, its U.S. total stands at $179.6 million and its foreign total is $383.4 million for a grand total of $563 million.
Finally, GKIDS is headed for its first million dollar-grossing release in the U.S. with Goro Miyazaki’s From Up on Poppy Hill. The film earned $17,281 last weekend pushing its grand total to $958,610.
A few years ago, I offered praise for a Spanish preschool series called Saari, created by Veronica Lassenius and directed by Pablo Jordi. Unfortunately, the show wasn’t easily viewable in many regions. Lassenius and Jordi, who are wife-and-husband, have solved that problem by releasing a new Saari app for iPads and iPhones to distribute episodes of their show.
The app, produced through their Helsinki-based company Pikkukala, is free and offers a new episode every two weeks. For those who wish to watch more episodes, episode packs can be purchased and downloaded for offline viewing. Visit Apple’s App Store to download Saari TV.
Last weekend, the New York Times Sunday Magazine published a proile of the computer animation program at Brigham Young University. The school has gained a reputation in the last decade for its student films which are typically produced as group projects by the entire class, and thus exhibit high production values. (Some of these films have been featured on Cartoon Brew in the past.)
The focus of the article is the creative tension that exists between the students who attend the school and their Hollywood aspirations because Brigham Young is a Mormon-owned university run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
Students must regularly attend church services. No sex outside of marriage. (“Live a chaste and virtuous life.”) No alcohol or coffee. (There aren’t even caffeinated sodas in the vending machines.) No swearing. No deviations from the university’s meticulous grooming standards. (“If a yearly beard exception is granted, a new Student ID will be issued after the beard has been fully grown and must be renewed every year by repeating the process.”)
The director of B.Y.U.’s animation program, R. Brent Adams, says that the students who come out of the program have a different approach to filmmaking and life in general than the average fresh-out-of-school film industry pro: “Without being preachy about it, if we can add something to the culture that makes people think about being better human beings—more productive, more kind, more forgiving—that’s what we want to do.”
Curiously, the write-up mentions praise for the school from Disney Animation and Pixar president Ed Catmull, the highest-profile Mormon working in animation, but neglects to mention that he is a Mormon, too. The films that Catmull oversees, such as Wreck-It Ralph, get an ethical pass from at least one student interviewed for the piece:
It wasn’t simply a matter of avoiding sex and violence. (A few times, I heard even Shrek described disapprovingly: too many fart jokes, too much cynicism.) There was, instead, a fixation on whether you walked away from the movie feeling uplifted. That question superseded everything, even the usual genre and age-demographic lines. A senior, Megan Lloyd, told me: “I just saw The Dark Knight. It was wonderful, but it’s just so dark. I didn’t feel better about myself after I saw it. Instead, I felt like, I’m a horrible human being—like all human beings are. Now,” she went on, nearly in the same breath, “contrast that with a film like Wreck-It Ralph. That teaches you: Hey, you can be a better person. Here’s how!”
New York-based Morgan Miller explores the life of a woman who hates plants in this nuanced character study:
Doug TenNapel, creator of games like Earthworm Jim and The Neverhood and the TV series Catscratch, is crowdfunding a new clay-animated stop motion game called Armikrog. He’s working with Mike Dietz and Ed Schofield of Pencil Test Studios, his animation collaborators on earlier games, to create a point-and-click adventure game for PC, Mac OSX and Linux.
In the game, you control the adventures of “a space explorer named Tommynaut and his blind alien, talking dog named Beak-Beak [who] crash land on a weird planet and end up locked in a mysterious fortress called Armikrog.” TenNapel’s Kickstarter goal is to raise $900,000 in 30 days, and the production has already received over $11,000 in a little over one hour of campaign time.
Many people online have already criticized the premise of Monsters University, which appears to want to be both a raunchy college life movie and a safe children’s film. Promotional tie-ins don’t lie though, and this Huggies promo with its euphemistic “Big Kid” language, suggests that Monsters University will be neutered enough creatively that parents will still feel good about wrapping their children’s asses in characters from the film.
Click image to biggify.
Desperate-for-a-new-hit-show Nickelodeon debuted a new animated series Sanjay and Craig this morning. The show, which is about an Indian boy Sanjay and his talking pet snake Craig, was created by Jim Dirschberger, Jay Howell (designer, Bob’s Burgers) and Andreas Trolf, and exec produced by Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi (The Adventures of Pete and Pete, KaBlam!, Bravest Warriors).
Early reviews have been positive for the hand-drawn series. Entertainment Weekly says that the show is “a quick-paced, eminently GIF-able product of the Internet age,” while also being “a clear throwback to a simpler time.” The AV Club acknowledges the show’s Calvin & Hobbes-like dynamic” and says that it has “wonderful messages of friendship, joy, intelligence, and most importantly, imagination.” And the San Francisco Chronicle calls the show “juvenile, but also smart and very, very funny” and applauds the creators who “gets that kids are kids, but also that they are often more sophisticated than children’s TV gives them credit for.”
If you’ve seen the show, report back here with your thoughts. As always, these talkbacks are open only to those who have seen a show and wish to discuss it.
A reminder to student filmmakers that just SIX days remain to submit your film to Cartoon Brew’s 4th annual Student Animation Festival. We’ve already had a record number of submissions this year, but we’re still looking for great student films to share with the animation community.
Every filmmaker whose work is selected to screen in the online festival will receive $500 US. This year, guest judge Evan Spiridellis, the co-founder of JibJab, will select one additional film to receive the Grand Prize and a $1,000 cash prize. Go HERE for all the details.
It used to be that the only places where animation was screened was on rectangular screens, be it a large theatrical screen or more modest TV and computer screens. Times are changing though. Today, animation is projected onto irregularly-shaped three-dimensional buildings and trees in nature. Or it’s painted on subway tunnel walls where it can be viewed from a moving subway car. And now, thanks to MonkeyLectric, the bicycle wheel has become a new and unlikely distribution platform for animation:
Over the past few years, the small Berkeley, California-based company has developed numerous LED bike wheel display prototypes. The Monkey Light Pro is their most advanced product to date with over 256 full-color LEDs on each wheel. The system allows users to upload approximately 90 seconds of animation in a variety of media formats including AVI, MPEG, MOV, Quicktime, and FLV, and to display stable full-wheel images to the public while riding a bike.
To begin manufacturing the Monkey Light Pro, MonkeyLectric has launched a Kickstarter campaign with a funding goal of $180,000 by July 21st. They’ve already raised over $68,000 during the first three days of the campaign. The lights aren’t cheap—prices range from $495 to $795 per wheel depending on what stage of the campaign the product is ordered—but that seems a small price to pay for the opportunity to extend animation beyond the rectangular screen by pedalling your cartoons all over town.
This is the only animator-for-hire ad you need to read on Craigslist this week. Click image to embiggen:
(Thanks, Josh Ryan, via Cartoon Brew’s Facebook page)
Blue Sky’s eighth feature film, Epic, directed by Chris Wedge and based on a book by children’s author Bill Joyce, opens in the United States today. Reception to the film has been fair to middling. The film currently owns a 63% critics’ rating and 74% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Stephen Holden in the NY Times sums up the majority viewpoint: “As beautiful as it is, Epic is fatally lacking in visceral momentum and dramatic edge.”
Check out the film and report back here with your opinion in the comments below. As always, this talkback is open only to those who have seen the film and wish to share an opinion about it.
(Epic Billboard via Daily Billboard)