Six animators at Pixar have banded together to start a (well titled) blog named Spline Doctors. Besides animating, all these guys teach animation in the evenings. The goal, they write, is to create “a forum to discuss animation education and whatever else.” Should be fun to see what they come up with. The animators involved are:Scott Clark
It’s always exciting to see animated films and animation artists receive recognition in mainstream art publications. Achieving this type of acceptance has been an uphill battle for many years, but it seems that nowadays, art publications are increasingly opening their doors to animation-related stories. For example, SWINDLE MAGAZINE, a top-notch art/culture quarterly with a heavy West Coast bent, has an interview with David Weidman in their latest issue (#4). They call him “one of the friendliest, most jovial 85-year-olds you’ll come across,” and having interviewed Dave for my 1950s animation design book, I can attest to the accuracy of that statement. Animation was an important part of Weidman’s career, but he also spent a lot of time producing his own artwork, including beautiful silk screen prints that can be purchased at WeidmansArt.com. The only downside to the SWINDLE article is that the writer isn’t particularly well versed in animation history so he’s unable to ask Weidman specific questions about his animation career and find out exactly what he did at UPA (and other studios like Storyboard and Hanna Barbera). There’s also some errors, like the chronology of when Weidman worked on the ill-fated John Hubley feature FINIAN’S RAINBOW. Pretty minor stuff. Overall, it’s great to see a classic animation artist receive an 8-page spread (and the back cover) of a classy publication like SWINDLE.
The equally commendable East Coast arts publication, ESOPUS, also has an animation feature in their most current issue (#5). No errors are to be found in this article because it’s written by John Canemaker. In the piece, entitled “Let a Thousand Drawings Bloom,” John examines a scene from “The Nutcracker Suite” sequence in FANTASIA, and discusses the contributions of the scene’s various artists including development artist Elmer Plummer and fx animator Cy Young. The piece, which includes a beautiful color sketch by Plummer and four pages printed on translucent paper to recreate the light table effect, serves as something of an ode to the painstaking, labor-intensive process of creating hand-drawn animation. Though hand-drawn animation is becoming increasingly obsolete at modern studios, Canemaker believes that animation on paper has an effect that today’s digital creations cannot replicate. He writes:
While much is gained using the new technologies, there is a certain sense of loss, too. There’s the touchy-feely aspect of artifacts that represent the solid residue of human imagination; they don’t exist in the digital world as they do in these thought-filled lines on tactile paper. By feeling the paper, holding it in one’s hand, one is able to get a sense of the artist and the artist’s mental processes, not to mention the effort that went into making the sketch.
Props to both SWINDLE and ESOPUS for publishing these stories and treating animation with respect. Hopefully we’ll see more magazines doing these type of animation stories in the future.
FPS magazine began an excellent series of lectures last summer called the Animation Innovator series. Their first guest was animation legend Ray Harryhausen, and the series continues next Wednesday, October 26, with a presentation by CORPSE BRIDE director Mike Johnson. The event takes place in Montreal at Concordia University (Hall Alumni Auditorium, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Montreal, Quebec). Johnson, who has also worked on THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH and THE PJS, will discuss the making of CORPSE BRIDE and show puppets from the production. The presentation will also include a screening of Johnson’s short film THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA. Ticket info and further details are at the FPS website.
This is a pretty cool CG/live-action commercial for Guinness helmed by Danny Kleinman, director of the title sequences of the past five Bond movies. Watch it HERE or read more about the commercial at the BBC.
Most Brew readers have likely seen Chuck Jones’s ONE FROGGY EVENING (1955) more times than they can count, but do you know the answers to the following questions:
Were the songs “real” songs or were they written especially for ONE FROGGY EVENING?
Who wrote them and when?
Are these all turn-of-the-century songs?
What are the songs really about – what are the rest of the lyrics?
This neat little WEBSITE answered all those questions and told me more about the classic Jones short than I ever wanted to know.
I wasn’t familiar with the work of Canadian cartoonist Rex Hackelberg until he submitted a terrific entry for our Ottawa Animation Festival contest. Not only does he draw super-goofy cartoons, but he also has a superb sense of color. Now he’s sharing his drawings and paintings regularly on his new blog HERE.
Somehow I missed the news that Dark Horse Comics is working on a February 2006 re-release of the 1943 Roald Dahl children’s book, THE GREMLINS, illustrated primarily by animator Bill Justice (with the above cover reportedly by Mary Blair). The book has long been out of print, and copies run in the hundreds, and often thousands, of dollars. In the early-1940s, GREMLINS was being prepped as a full-length animated feature by Disney, and a lot of development art was created, but this book is ultimately the only thing that Disney ever released. Dark Horse is also planning to release a 3-issue comic book mini-series with new Gremlin adventures. Who knew WWII lore was so popular. What’s next: a Kilroy revival?
Update: Noted animation historian Jim Korkis writes:
It was Mark Kausler who identified for me that the cover of the original book was done by Mary Blair. The interiors were done by Bill Justice and Al Dempster, two longtime Disney artists. In fact, Bill was responsible for some of the gremlin designs and worked closely with Dahl. When I contacted the editor at Dark Horse, he said he wanted to make the reprint like a “DVD” with some extras but they hadn’t decided yet what those extras would be. I did offer them the extensive article that I did for the yet-to-be-published World War II issue of “Persistence of Vision” magazine on the unmade film.
I’ve been a fan of Joseph Holt’s work ever since I ran across a big stack of his exquisite background layouts for MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE ROBOT. Haven’t seen much else of his animation work, but here’s a website that features his personal paintings.
Also, be sure check out this gallery of incredible title cards that he designed for TEENAGE ROBOT.
Pictoplasma is holding their first-ever animation festival, CHARACTERS IN MOTION, on November 25-26 in Berlin. It is being billed as a “two-day celebration of contemporary character design in animation, music visuals and motion graphics.” Besides screeenings, there will also be lectures by Shynola and Fons Schiedon. Cartoon Brew friend Harald Siepermann gave an enthusiastic review of last year’s 1st Pictoplasma Conference On Contemporary Character Design & Art so this animation-specific event may also be worth checking out.
Here’s a quick update on the two biggest projects that I’m dealing with at the moment. First, the latest on the Chronicle book. It’s now officially titled CARTOON MODERN: STYLE AND DESIGN IN 1950S ANIMATION and I’m happy to report that it’ll be wrapped up within the next month or so. The page count continues to climb, and at the moment it’s looking like the final total will be 200 pages. Even with this many pages, it’s been a complex and challenging assignment for my book designer to fit in all the artwork that I want to have included in it. But he’s managing to do a superb job of packing in the visuals, while keeping the art at a decent size and giving the page layouts room to breath. Our goal is to make sure there’s no superfluous pages in this book; every page is going to have a rare piece of art or photo. I can’t wait to share the results with everybody in April ’06.
Also, this week, I started working full-time on the long-delayed ANIMATION BLAST #9, in hopes of meeting the new December release date. I’m incredibly excited about starting up again on this issue and finally finishing it up. I’m also really excited to announce a major new article in this issue that is written by MONSTERS INC. director Pete Docter. The article gives some long-overdue credit to the amazing (and amazingly forgotten) Disney animator John Sibley (1912-1973), who is best known for his animation on the Goofy shorts, including HOW TO RIDE A HORSE, TIGER TROUBLE and HOCKEY HOMICIDE. Pete’s a big fan of his work and he spent a long time tracking down and interviewing Sibley’s colleagues and researching Sibley’s animation style. The piece he’s written is nothing short of incredible, and sheds all sorts of new light on Sibley’s life and work.
One piece that will no longer be in BLAST 9 is “Buy! Buy!: A History of Studios From The Golden Age of TV Commercials.” I’d started this piece long before I started working on the 50s design book, and what ended up happening is that I incorporated most of the article’s research into the book. It seems kind of redundant to reprint the same info in the BLAST now, so I’m giving the space over to more original research like the Sibley piece. I’ll have an updated contents listing on the BLAST #9 preview page soon.
Thanks again so much for everybody’s patience on this issue. I’m going to try my best to make this the strongest issue of the BLAST yet and not let anybody down.
“After struggling uphill in the difficult yet potentially profitable world of computer animation films, Wild Brain is on the cusp of success.” That’s the headline of the cover story from this week’s SAN FRANCISCO WEEKLY, which takes an in-depth look at Bay Area animation studio Wild Brain. Haven’t had a moment to check out the story yet, but it looks like it could be an interesting read.
(Thanks, Andy Wetmore)
Chris Savino, who worked on the original REN & STIMPY and has subsequently produced THE POWERPUFF GIRLS, directed DEXTER’S LABORATORY and co-directed THE FLINTSTONES ON THE ROCKS, is currently working on a live-action short called ADVENTURES IN MILK. He’s started a blog to document the production of the film HERE. Of particular interest to animation fans: his film will also include an animated faux-cereal commercial done in a 60s-ish Jay Ward style. Chris is currently discussing the production of this animated portion in his journal. As a sidenote, here’s a link to an interesting 1992 interview with Savino right after he’d finished working on REN & STIMPY.
Here’s a chance to see some quality CG in Montreal. The SIGGRAPH 2005 Electronic Theater will play this Thursday, October 13, at the Society for Arts & Technology (1195 St. Laurent Blvd.). Screening starts at 6pm and admission is free. Details are HERE. Following the screening will be:
…a very special SAT[MixSessions] presentation, in which DJs and VJs will digitally abduct and reconstruct the content of the Electronic Theater, mixed with live 2D and 3D imagery, before your very eyes! This session will be conducted by DJ Mr. Knobs, DJ Le Monochrome, DJ Quebec Connection, VJ jocool, VJ Ladyroll and a very special guest: MarXel 3D.
Here are three terrific blogs by animation students, one each from France, Canada and the US. The future of animation looks bright if students are capable of producing this caliber of work:
Béatrice Bourloton (Gobelins)
Josh Parpan (CalArts)
Ken Turner (Sheridan)
Big buzzworthy story here: VARIETY reports that Genndy Tartakovsky (creator, SAMURAI JACK, DEXTER’S LABORATORY; director, STAR WARS: CLONE WARS) has left Cartoon Network and become the creative president of a new San Francisco fx studio called Orphanage Animation Studios. “After 14 years in TV, I was burned out and wanted to express longer stories and experience them with an audience,” Tartakovsky tells VARIETY. “We’ll do family comedies, but we also really want to push action-adventure beyond where it has been.”
The piece says that Orphanage is planning to do animated features for a hefty pricetag of $50-75 million apiece, which frankly, at least to me, already sounds like a troubling sign. At those prices, they’ll likely be inclined to play it safe and emulate the formulas of other successful studios, instead of having the freedom to take artistic risks and attempt breaking new animation ground. The studio aims to release its first film in 2008, followed with a new film every 18 months thereafter. The VARIETY piece suggests that, “Orphanage Animation is being built on a model similar to Pixar, with execs hoping Tartakovsky will be the John Lasseter figure who will helm the first film or two and then oversee a team of inhouse creative talent developing future pics.” Best of luck to Genndy, and here’s to hoping a good new studio evolves out of this.*
Here’s a link to the complete VARIETY article posted at the Drawing Board.
*It’s worth noting that Orphanage isn’t exactly a new studio, but still a young outfit. It was founded in 1999 by three ILM veterans, and they’ve provided vfx for SIN CITY, HELLBOY and THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, among other films. They’ve yet to release an original production, but they recently began production on their first feature, GRIFFIN AND PHOENIX, a live-action romantic comedy.