Animation director Michael Sporn points out a depressing moment he saw on JEOPARDY’s “Teen Tournament” a couple nights ago. There’s apparently more than a bit of truth to all those research studies that claim kids today have no idea who Walt Disney was. And these teens on JEOPARDY are supposedly the smart ones.
UPDATE: Tim Nickel writes:
You can view the game with that clue HERE. The clue itself is in the second round under the category “NATIONAL INVENTORS HALL OF FAME” and the clue reads “‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ was the first full length animated film to use this inductee’s multiplane camera”. Which makes it sound like the answer should be Ub Iwerks, not Disney. So you can see why no one got it, it was a confusing clue.
LOS ANGELES LETS BE FRIENDS is a delightfully inventive CG/live-action spot from 2005 directed by Greg Gunn, Reza Rasoli and Diffan Norman of the Los Angeles animation collective Three Legged Legs. The designs were inspired by the work of Jeff Soto. Too bad Los Angeles isn’t actually like this.
REMIXING THE MAGIC opens this Friday, February 17, at Gallery 1988 (7020 Melrose Ave., corner of Melrose & La Brea). Opening reception is 7-10pm. The exhibit features the work of fifty contemporary artists, including many animation folk, reinterpreting Disney characters and films. Jerry mentioned this show on the Brew last weekend, and now we’re offering an exclusive preview of a few of the pieces that’ll be on display.
Show co-curator Jon Gibson tells the Brew, “The most amazing part of this show is the broadness of the theme – some artists went all-out theatrical classics, while others dug into the vault of Disney shorts, while others, like Biskup, did Disneyland. There’s even an Oswald piece!” Personally, I think there’s a great symbolic quality to this show as well: artists are reclaiming classic animated characters that have for too long been slumming it as corporate symbols. The timing of the show couldn’t be more appropriate considering that in the past month artists have begun reclaiming the Disney studio as well and helping to set it on the right path again.
(click on images for larger versions)
Inspiration: PINOCCHIO, misc.
Tinkerbell’s Lucky Day
Inspiration: PETER PAN
Inspiration: Tomorrowland (Disneyland)
Inspiration: THE SKELETON DANCE
Inspiration: ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Alice Spills Her Tea
Inspiration: ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Tags: Art, Disney, Animation
Inspiration: BUILDING A BUILDING
Guess who finally has his own blog? John K really needs to write a how-to animation book, but until that day, we’ve got his blog. His first post offers some excellent tips on caricature.
SLIPP JIMMY FRI (FREE JIMMY) is Norway’s first CG animated feature, and also the country’s most expensive film production to date, with a budget of approximately $16 million USD. The film is written and directed by underground cartoonist Christopher Nielsen and premieres in Norway on April 21. There’s a teaser trailer for the film HERE and the film’s WEBSITE has a production timeline with some interesting visuals. The animation looks serviceable, if not exactly Pixar/DreamWorks quality, but the grungy production design and offbeat story set this film apart from anything currently being produced in the States. Like many animated films coming out in the US this year, FREE JIMMY riffs on the animals-on-a-grand-adventure formula. This time though the animals are a drug-addicted circus elephant and a moose. But there’s a lot more to the story. From a synopsis found online:
Four stoners, five vegans, three mobsters, four hunters and a million reasons to free one elephant. Roy Arnie has a dream. One day he will run his own circus and conquer the world. Today, however, he is a stable hand working in the Circus Stromowski, a miserable Russian big top, run by a hopeless alcoholic fourth generation circus director, Igor Stromowski, and full of useless has-beens and tired animals that will only perform under the influence of narcotics. Roy Arnie invites his old buddies Gaz and Odd, and their sidekick Flea, to come and work at the circus, and while work is an alien concept to Gaz and Odd, the appearance of an irate criminal who they are indebted to decides the issue. At the circus, Roy Arnie introduces the trio to the star attraction: Jimmy the elephant. Jimmy is the key to Roy Arnie’s dreams. The elephant carries a secret, a secret of enough value to bankroll Roy Arnie’s circus. All he has to do is free Jimmy and his dreams will come true.
The English screenplay for the film was penned by British actor/comedian Simon Pegg, and the English-version voice cast sounds promising, with an eclectic mix of Brits and Americans on board including Woody Harrelson, Kyle MacLachlan, Samantha Morton, Simon Pegg, and Jim Broadbent.
(Thanks to the person who told me about this and whose email I’ve misplaced.)
Check out this commercial for insurance company Winterthur by THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE director Sylvain Chomet. The animation and overall look is top notch, but the concept for the ad is somewhat flat and uninspired. You can just feel the ad agency all over this one. Chomet has a lot of good stuff coming up, including the feature THE ILLUSIONIST and a sequence in the upcoming anthology film PARIS JE T’AIME.
(via Hydrocephalic Bunny)
Our friend Harry McCracken has a list of questions about the Oswald/Al Michaels trade. The questions are more light-hearted than the set of questions Harry had about the Disney-Pixar merger, but they’re the type of thoughts that all hardcore cartoon buffs are wondering right now, like:
Who owns Floyd and Lloyd, Oswald’s sons? Are they now orphaned? Will Disney need to trade two more sportcasters to NBC to get them?
Fans of THE INCREDIBLES will want to check out the new Golden Book, JACK-JACK ATTACK, based on the Pixar short of the same name. The book is illustrated by the great Tony Fucile, character designer and supervising animator on THE INCREDIBLES. His drawings are loose and expressive, displaying the effortless charm and sense of immediacy that can only come from years of animating. For $3, this is as affordable as inspiration gets.
Here’s the best thing I’ve found online this week: a three-part video interview from 2001 with all-star cartoonists living in Carmel, California. The participants include magazine cartoonist Eldon Dedini, GORDO creator Gus Arriola, and DENNIS THE MENACE creator Hank Ketcham. All three of them started in animation before finding success as print cartoonists, and sadly, following Dedini’s passing last month, only Arriola is still with us.
To summarize the videos, the following are things that these master cartoonists dislike nowadays: Magazine cartoons, especially THE NEW YORKER (“a lot of times you don’t need the picture”); daily newspaper comics; cartooning skills of artists currently working in both animation and print; ditto their writing skills; contemporary animation that focuses on techique at the expense of character development and humor; and CG animation (in the words of Arriola, it’s so slick “even garbage is pretty.”)
And here are the things they like: Pixar. Yep, that’s pretty much the only bit of modern cartooning that gets some love in this interview. Ketcham says about Pixar, “They do the whole thing in drawing first. They draw their cartoons before they put the technology overlap…that kind of thing may work out fine.”
Also recommended on the same site is an interview with Wah Ming Chang (1917-2003). Chang worked on PINOCCHIO and BAMBI in the Effects and Model Department, and later created stop motion animation for George Pal’s THE TIME MACHINE and THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF BROTHERS GRIMM, as well as designing costumes for THE KING AND I, creating masks for THE PLANET OF THE APES and designing creatures for the TV series THE OUTER LIMITS and STAR TREK. This interview only scratches the surface of Chang’s career, but it’s worth a view.
That’s sportcaster Al Michael’s famous call during the 1980 Winter Olympics, but it might as well apply to today’s events. The Associated press has two stories – HERE and HERE – with more details on the incredibly shrewd business deal that the Disney Co. has engineered: today Disney traded sportscaster Al Michaels to NBC in return for, among other things, the 1920s character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. It’s hard to even wrap my head around how cool this deal is; Disney is using their ESPN division as leverage to further their cartoon holdings. For a company that has shown so little regard and appreciation in recent years for its primary business – animation – this is a particularly meaningful gesture. From one of the AP articles comes this quote from Disney’s daughter Diane Disney Miller: “When Bob [Iger] was named CEO, he told me he wanted to bring Oswald back to Disney, and I appreciate that he is a man of his word. Having Oswald around again is going to be a lot of fun.”
Despite the fact that Oswald has been a largely forgotten character here in the US for many decades, there is currently a lot of appealing Oswald merchandise coming out of Japan. Combine the merchandising potential of the character along with the old Oswald shorts likely coming out on dvd and other ways that Disney will exploit the character, and I think in a couple years NBC Universal will be kicking themselves that they gave away a valuable animation character to Disney…for Al Michaels.
MODERN ARF (Fantagraphics) is one of the most inspiring collections of cartoon artwork I’ve run across in a long time. I bought the book last summer and it’s become one of my frequent references for eclectic visual inspiration. The editor of MODERN ARF, cartoonist/historian/author Craig Yoe, calls ARF “the unholy marriage of art and comics.” Yoe is serious about dismantling the classifications of fine art and popular art. In one of the book’s pieces – a collection of cartoons about the subject of artists and models – a drawing by Picasso is shown alongside drawings by Milt Gross, André François, George Cruickshank, and Robert Crumb. Seeing Picasso and Milt Gross in such close proximity compels one to reexamine their preconceived ideas about these artists. Was Picasso a fine artist or a cartoonist? Was Milt Gross a cartoonist or a fine artist? Couldn’t we appreciate both of their art a lot more if we got rid of these superficial labels? In another piece, Yoe shows the influence of Jack Kirby on pop artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Richard Hamilton, but he also shows how Kirby himself was influenced by Cubism. Other highlights include Salvador Dali storyboards for an unproduced mid-1930s film, the Art Deco comics of Antonio Rubino, crazed-perspective cartoons of Hy Mayer and a bizarre Jimmy Hatlo strip called THE HATLO INFERNO.
Yoe’s presentation of the artwork is beautiful with images printed large and clear. Text is minimal, with just enough writing to provide history and context. Much of the artwork in the book is over fifty years old, but Yoe’s exuberant visually-striking book design makes the cartoons seem as if they were created yesterday. Craig is currently working on the second installment of the ARF series, ARF MUSEUM. I saw a preview of this a few months back and it promises to be another winner. Even better, the ARF blog will debut in five days. Join the countdown at ArfLovers.com.
Nate Pacheco’s blog deserves a second mention in as many days. A couple years back, he tried to convince the Leo Burnett ad agency to make Tony the Tiger appealing again and return the character to its original Martin Provensen design. He asked some industry friends – Craig Kellman, Lou Romano, Conrad Vernon and Miles Thompson – to create some concept art for the pitch. Leo Burnett didn’t go for the idea. Now Nate has posted a bunch of that art on his blog HERE and encourages you to contact Leo Burnett and ask them to start creating appealing Frosted Flakes commercials again. Everybody I know always gripes about how lame and unappealing Tony the Tiger has been for the past couple decades, but nobody has taken an activist role like Nate to actually encourage the production of better commercials. Hopefully somebody at Leo Burnett is taking notes.
Flash animator Nate Pacheco is working on translating the hard-edged, yet organic, style of mid-century illustrator Charles Harper into Flash animation. We’ve mentioned Harper’s work here before; he is an artist whose work has influenced many contemporary animation designers. Nate has posted a few tantalizing stills on his BLOG, and he says he’s working on the animation now. I’m not sure if this is a Renegade project or just a personal experiment, but it’s a terrific idea.
An article from the San Francisco Business Times about DreamWorks Animation’s hiring binge.