GUMBY DHARMA is a new documentary about Gumby creator Art Clokey. It’s directed by Robina Marchesi, with new animation by Tim Hittle, and includes interviews with Ray Harryhausen, Henry Selick and Hittle, among others. A rough cut/work-in-progress print will screen tomorrow afternoon at 3pm at the Mill Valley Film Festival. Details can be found HERE. According to ASIFA-San Francisco prez Karl Cohen, the film is not sugar-coated in the least and offers an insightful look into Clokey’s work and life. Says Cohen: “The film is about where his creativity comes from, but instead of this being a cute charming story about inspiration, it is a biography involving several deaths, a childhood interrupted by a broken marriage, a cruel stepfather, rejection and other non-Disney elements. There is much joy in it including Art living with a grandfather who provided him with a new lease on life. Art explains that Gumby is his vision of a world where he can safely celebrate life and that he and all of us can be Gumby. The Gumby episodes are his daydreams of a world he missed growing up.” If you’re unable to make the screening tomorrow, the film is eventually going to be released onto home video.
I saw this drawing by Tom Oreb (character stylist on SLEEPING BEAUTY and TOOT, WHISTLE PLUNK & BOOM) for the first time yesterday. I’m not sure what it’s from, though it seems to be a design/layout drawing for the DICK TRACY TV series (1960) or a sketch from that era. For all its simplicity, the drawing works beautifully. It has personality, style and humor (the hands especially are funny), but more than anything, it’s just plain fun to look at. Oreb knew exactly where to add little hints of dimension, showing the underbrim of a hat and the inside of a character’s shirt, to give a sense of form to the otherwise flat designs. And below is a page of doodles by Oreb. Not quite as impressive, but still nice to see (click on the image for the full version).
I stumbled across an interesting blog post over at RobotJohnny.com that again mentions the “Uncanny Valley” theory and how Brad Bird has overcome this obstacle with THE INCREDIBLES. This comment in his entry perfectly sums up my thoughts: “The moment I saw the trailer for THE INCREDIBLES, I knew that Pixar had done something that no 3D film had done yet – they had created human characters that had some style to them and that didn’t try to emulate life.”
Apparently the new REN & STIMPY: THE COMPLETE FIRST & SECOND SEASONS — UNCUT are not exactly uncut. Though the edits seem relatively minor, it’s hardly a smart idea for Paramount Home Entertainment to release a DVD with “uncut” printed in big letters on the cover when there are obvious edits in numerous cartoons. I haven’t seen a complete list of cuts yet, but some of the them are mentioned in this message board post. Also here is a letter from John Kricfalusi explaining his side in the whole matter.
It’s a little too late (or is that too early) to be thinking such deep thoughts, but there’s a fascinating post on Momus’ blog about the “Uncanny Valley” theory. While this is a robotics principle dating from the ’70s, it is extremely relevant today in the world of computer animation and offers an interesting explanation for why CG attempts at human realism in films like FINAL FANTASY are disturbing to our sensibilities. The comments section expands the discussion to encompass Thomas and Johnston’s ILLUSION OF LIFE, Tintin and Hello Kitty providing for some thought-provoking reading.
> Archive.org has posted another industrial film worth checking out: MAN ON THE LAND, a 1951 UPA production designed by Bill Hurtz for the American Petroleum Institute. Not UPA’s best industrial work by a longshot, but still plenty of nice graphic work to recommend. (link via Jared Chapman)
> Garth House, ex-production coordinator on MUCHA LUCHA, has relocated to China to take a course in Maya. He’s documenting his experiences abroad in a fascinating on-line journal/blog: SWEET AND SOUR STORIES. (via fwak! blog)
> Couldn’t soak in enough of that Kricfalusi magic when John visited Los Angeles last month? Then you’ll want to head down to the Virgin Megastore (8000 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90046) this Tuesday, October 12, where John K will be making a special appearance to sign DVDs of this holiday season’s must-have animation release REN & STIMPY: THE COMPLETE FIRST & SECOND SEASONS — UNCUT. He’ll be signing from 7-9pm.
> Being a member of ASIFA-Hollywood really pays off around this time of year. They’re hosting a bunch of free screeenings in the coming months, including DISNEY’S TEACHER’S PET film (with the filmmakers present), THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE, SHARK TALE (nice try DreamWorks, but not even a free pass will get me in a theater for this one), and Ron Diamond’s annual cartoon extravaganza “The Animation Show of Shows” which is notable this year because it will include a screening of RYAN with director Chris Landreth in person. See the ASIFA-Hollywood site for complete details.
> There’s an animation festival taking place in LA at the end of this month and not a single person I know has heard of it. I only learned about it when Bill Plympton mentioned it to me in Ottawa. It’s called ION INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION GAMES AND SHORT FILM FESTIVAL and it takes place October 29-31 at Culver Studios. It’s billed as a “convergence festival” and seems somewhat business-oriented. More details at IONFilmFest.com.
> Disney is claiming that they don’t owe royalties on a new PETER PAN-related book they published because the copyright on the work has expired. The PETER PAN copyright is held by the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, which received it as a gift from PAN creator J.M. Barrie before his death in 1937. By withholding royalties, Disney is denying the hospital funds which would go towards helping sick people. There is no small irony that Disney would claim somebody else’s copyright has expired while the company simultaneously lobbies Congress to change existing laws that would extend its own copyrights.
Marvel at the mind-numbing unfunniness of the latest cartoon-turned-live bomb FAT ALBERT. The most telling example of what passes for humor in this film is when a character asks Dumb Donald why he wears a knit-cap over his head, and the character proceeds to offer an explanation. How about this for an explanation: IT’S A FUCKING CARTOON! Give it a break, Hollywood. Stop turning cartoons into shitty live-action movies and then creating logical reasons for why the cartoon characters don’t look right in live-action. Audiences stopped laughing at this type of lameness sometime in the mid-’90s when John Goodman humiliated himself as Fred Flintstone. Dumb Donald wears a damn knit cap over his head because he’s a cartoon character, and I’m not forking over ten bucks to have some ex-SIMPSONS writer tell me otherwise. I can’t wait for the live-action ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS where some two-bit screenwriter is bound to make a crack about whether Alvin wears pants under his long shirt. Perhaps FAT ALBERT’s only saving grace will be its animated segments (under the able supervision of Bert Klein) which I hear are looking quite good. Too bad the animation crew couldn’t work on a project deserving of their time, effort and talent.
Tom Neely, director/animator of BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A JOB?, has an art show opening tonight at the Harmony Gallery (5911-1/2 Franklin, Hollywood, CA 90028; next to Counterpoint Records & Books). The reception is from 7-10 pm. He’ll be exhibiting thirty watercolor paintings. The show also features new acrylic-collage works by Scot Nobles. For more details, go HERE.
Will you be in London on October 27? Want to hear Brad Bird speak and then see a sneak preview screening of THE INCREDIBLES? Then don’t miss the London Film Festival.
Last night, THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO premiered the new Jibjab short GOOD TO BE IN DC, which is a sequel of sorts to their Webcartoon hit from a few months back called THIS LAND. This new cartoon has many funny moments, but it doesn’t quite achieve the charm of THIS LAND. The JibJab brothers, Gregg and Evan Spiridellis, concede as much on their blog: “Our next animation will not be another THIS LAND. We could spend the rest of our lives trying to make another THIS LAND and it’d never happen. That’s okay. We’ve accepted that on some deep metaphysical level.” View both cartoons at JibJab.com.
The only positive legacy of Bush’s presidency may be that he inspired the production of a lot of terrific animation. A new short that is well worth recommending is WHAT BARRY SAYS, a stunning Constructivist-styled commentary on US foreign policy and the “Project for the New American Century.” The short, which can be downloaded HERE, was directed by British designer Simon Robson. (link via BoingBoing.net)