Ottawa animation festival director Chris Robinson, aka “The Animation Pimp,” has penned a short and sweet piece at ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE about how best to view abstract/camera-less/scratch animation. He writes:
People don’t know how to react to these films. They think it’s a riddle, that there’s a deep dark mystery to be uncovered. In some cases, sure, that is trueâ€¦ but if you take a look at, for example, the work of [Steven] Woloshen, Richard Reeves, or Theo Ushev’s moving new film, TOWER BALLIHR, these are films about making you feel something. They convey the jumbled up emotions of their creators….they simply want to evoke emotions. You don’t need to seek out deep mysteries, you just need to shut up and let the images and music take you over.
If this is what computer animation means at Disney, then I wish they’d made the switch years earlier. The new pieces of art shown at SIGGRAPH 2005 for Disney’s forthcoming AMERICAN DOG, directed by Chris Sanders, look just as gorgeous as the first examples of AMERICAN DOG art released last year. Does the film really look like this, or perhaps more appropriately, could the film really look like this? This is the type of animation art one typically only sees in the pre-production phase before it is watered down for the “needs of production;” the lush painterly quality of light and restraint in color styling are a refreshing departure from the aesthetic norm of Disney features. And dare I say, the Sanders style of character design translates even better to these images than they they did to his hand-drawn effort LILO AND STITCH. Yet another sign of promise is that Sanders is the sole director of the film, a significant change from the studio’s standard filmmaking-by-committee style of production. Sanders is, in fact, only the second director in modern Disney times to take the solo helm of a major animated feature. The first was Mark Dindal, who directed THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE (as well as the upcoming CHICKEN LITTLE) by himself. So far, everything about this film looks great, and the story sounds entertaining as well. If AMERICAN DOG somehow manages to deliver on the promise of these visuals, I predict the studio is going to have a major hit on its hands.
UPDATE: Scott Graham wrote to let me know that Sanders will not be the second, but the third modern director at Disney to helm a feature solo. Steve Anderson is directing the forthcoming A DAY WITH WILBUR ROBINSON by himself, and that film is scheduled for release before AMERICAN DOG.
THE MOON AND THE SON: AN IMAGINED CONVERSATION, the well-received 28-minute animated short by famed animation historian John Canemaker, will be playing in LA this weekend for its Academy qualification. The film screens on August 5, 6 and 7 at 11:30am and 12:10pm at the Laemmle Sunset 5 (8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA). I think ticket prices are normal admission prices listed on the site. From Taylor Jessen’s review of the film on AWN:
Animated shorts are a personal art form. THE MOON AND THE SON is really personal . . . a devastating colloquy that mines the content of the animator’s childhood even as it matches the form of his childhood drawings. . . . stylistically it’s completely liberated and roams freely between whatever media gets the point across quickest – still photos, stock footage, home movies and camcorder video as needed. There’s a potpourri of traditional non-digital techniques, applied to media ranging from cels to rough paper.
Now I don’t want to be a party pooper, because I know Disney’s already been saved and all, but has anybody else noticed that through July of this year, Disney is in sixth place for movie studio market share, or in other words, last place among the major Hollywood studios. On top of that, in 2005 they’ve released more movies (16) than any of the top five studios (Fox, WB, Universal, Sony, Paramount). Their sixteen films have grossed a combined total of $380 million domestically, or an average of just under $24 million each. To put that a bit into perspective, Pixar’s last two films for Disney — FINDING NEMO (2003) and THE INCREDIBLES (2004) — had a domestic gross of $601 million (an average of $300.5 million per film). On the bright side, just imagine how much worse things would be right now if Roy hadn’t saved the studio.
I just noticed that one of the top search terms on Technorati, the site that tracks blog postings, was Mighty Mouse, which led me to wonder, why the sudden interest in this long-forgotten Terrytoons character? Has America suddenly discovered the joys of Mighty Mouse animation by Jim Tyer and Carlo Vinci? Are mice who sing opera back in fashion? Did some enterprising DJ do a remix of a Phil Scheib music score from a Mighty Mouse short? Rest assured folks, nobody has started caring about Mighty Mouse. As it turns out, Apple has just released a new computer mouse called Mighty Mouse, accounting for the name’s popularity on Technorati. At least Apple is putting the name to better use than Viacom, which has been sitting on the Terrytoons library for years, without the slightest intention of doing anything with the Mighty Mouse shorts. The question remains though, when will companies start marketing products named after Gene Deitch-era Terrytoons characters. I know I’d buy a “John Doormat” and a “Gaston Le Crayon.”
Design Observer recently took a look at those graphic atrocities known as “station identification bugs.” The article offers few solutions, but the piece (along with its reader comments) make for an interesting read. One point the article doesn’t address is that if the true purpose of these bugs is to identify a network, then why do the channels insist on making the bugs as obtrusive as possible, with animation, sound and all manner of bells and whistles. My hunch is that it’s a ploy by cable channels: make the shows so unwatchable on cable that you’re forced to buy the dvds of the same show. Fortunately, I have neither cable nor buy any dvds of TV series, but I think I’m in the minority on this one.
LA’s monthly RES MAGAZINE screening is tonight, August 2. This month’s program has a lot of animation in it, with the main feature being a retrospective of films by NY animator PES. He’ll also be at the screening to discuss his work. Other films on the program include the US premiere of Valérie Pirson’s short PISTACHE and music videos for Smoosh, Royksopp, Fischerspooner and American Analog Set. The screening is at 8pm at the Egyptian Theatre (6712 Hollywood Blvd.) and tickets are $10.
Craig Yoe said it best in the recent anthology THE EDUCATION OF A COMICS ARTIST: “Those who don’t study the ‘toon past are doomed not to repeat it! And that’s a bad thing because the only good cartoonists are dead cartoonists; with maybe one or two errant exceptions.” One of the best places to keep up with dead cartoonists (and a few masters who are still alive, like Ronald Searle) is the Illustration section of the Cartoon Retro forum. There are currently some excellent posts on there filled with artwork by the likes of Aurie Battaglia, Abner Graboff, Ronald Searle, and other great illustrators that I hadn’t heard of. Also, if you have interesting art to share, join in and post to the forum. It’s open to all.
Masaaki Yuasa’s MIND GAME (mentioned on the Brew yesterday) has received a thumbs-up from none other than Bill Plympton. He concurs with nearly ever other person who has seen this film and thinks it’s mind-blowing. Should I even mention that this film was largely made using hand-drawn animation? That seems almost besides the point, but now would be as good a time as any to make that clear. Anyway, here’s what Bill wrote about MIND GAME on his website:
It’s totally different from any other animated film I’ve ever seen. The art is very simple, almost Western in style, and the humor and storytelling is exactly as the title implies – crazy ideas are tossed around, then played back and fast-forwarded. I know “trippy” is an overused expression, but MIND GAME is the trippiest film I’ve ever seen.
First it was Fred Osmond and Katie Rice who started blogs. Now, two more talented folks who recently worked on DISNEY’S THE BUZZ ON MAGGIE have put up their own blogs: Flash artists Sean Szeles and Tony Mora. Sean’s blog, called “Face It!,” promises to have great artwork. Already posted are some entertaining studies from SONG OF THE SOUTH and random napkin doodles. He has a fun cartoony style mixed in with an illustrative bent, and I’m looking forward to checking out more of his work.
Tony’s blog, titled “So Bad It’s Good,” has nothing to do with animation, but instead focuses on carniceria (butcher shop) art painted on buildings around Los Angeles. Says Tony, “I’ve always had a fascination with them ever since I was a little kid. Seeing these somewhat surreal and fanciful paintings depicting the foods that I would be eating later that day. Taco stands, bars and restaurants will make there way on this site as well. This is my tribute to those paintings and the artists that made them.” The carniceria art actually doesn’t look all that different from the artwork one finds when flipping through JUXTAPOZ magazine — the only difference being that this art strikes me as coming from a more honest place and more deserving of the title “lowbrow art.” These artists paint what they know and create murals that serve a functional purpose; these aren’t ‘hip’ paintings intended to make the artists rich by selling for thousands of dollars at some trendy Silverlake gallery. It’s JUXTAPOZ without the pose and it’s commendable that Tony is bringing some of this work to light.
Masaaki Yuasa and his animated feature MIND GAME swept the Fantasia International Genre Film Festival in Montreal, which wrapped up this past Monday. The film beat out dozens of live-action films and took awards for Best Director, Best Film, Best Script and Special Award – Visual Accomplishment. Complete list of winners HERE. (via In-Betweens)
Previous Brew items about MIND GAME: film review and interview with director Masaaki Yuasa.
I love these images from the UPA industrial film LOOK WHO’S DRIVING (1954). The design is spare, yet artful. More importantly, it’s a lot of fun to look at. There’s an easy-going quality to the design which one rarely finds in designed animation nowadays. The shapes and colors are inviting and none of the visual elements feel forced or contrived. The film doesn’t employ this white-background technique for its entire length, but there is terrific design and layout throughout, and the added bonus is that it moves beautifully too. The film’s design credit went to Bob Dranko, with color styling by Dranko and Michi Kataoka, and direction by Bill Hurtz. (Judging from the way Hurtz worked on other films, he likely collaborated with Dranko on the layout and overall visual direction of this film.) Hurtz was also one of the designers on GERALD MCBOING BOING (1950), the quintessential example of a UPA film that reduced its backgrounds to the bare essentials. LOOK WHO’S DRIVING perhaps doesn’t reach the classic status of GERALD — it is, after all, a driving safety film commissioned by Aetna Casualty and Surety Company — but it is no less entertaining and has much to recommend. Unfortunately, it’s also quite impossible to see nowadays, unless you happen to own a print of the film. Documenting obscure animated projects from the 1950s, like LOOK WHO’S DRIVING, was one of the goals for my upcoming book on 1950s animation design. So many stellar cartoons from that period are all but forgotten today, and I’m hopeful this book will play a small role in reintroducing some of the great “lost” cartoons of that era.
Speaking of fps magazine, they just did an interview with the director of MIND GAME, Masaaki Yuasa, who was in Montreal last week for the Canadian premiere of the film. I’m dying to see MIND GAME, and hopefully on the big screen, though I have no idea when or where that’ll happen. It’s surprising that none of the major animation festivals, including Annecy and Ottawa, have taken any interest in screening this film. (See Joshua Smith’s review of MIND GAME posted earlier on the Brew)
I unfortunately forgot to do a plug for the Ray Harryhausen event in Montreal this past Sunday which our friends at fps magazine were hosting, but here’s a comic-style interview with Ray Harryhausen that appeared in the MONTREAL MIRROR. (Thanks, David Maas).
Chris Arrant writes to let me know that he just did an interview with ROCKETO creator Frank Espinosa for Newsarama.com. The direct link to the interview is HERE. (Previous Brew post about ROCKETO here)