The WEBSITE for the Ottawa Animation Festival (September 22-26, 2004) has just posted details for all of their screenings and retrospectives, and it’s pretty damn exciting. Kudos to artistic director Chris Robinson for putting together one of the most diverse and daring group of programs I’ve ever seen for an animation fest. The screenings range all the way from Soviet propaganda films to contemporary French animation, Popeye to Harvey Birdman, and Hayao Miyazaki to Robert Breer. There’s also original programming concepts like the “Words in Motion” series. Even the competition jury members are cool folk like Bill Plympton, Gary Baseman and Mo Willems. I’m honored to be the programmer for one of the tributes at this year’s Ottawa fest: the Fred Crippen Retrospective. This is the first major retrospective of Fred’s work, and if you only know him as the creator of ROGER RAMJET, then be prepared for an eye-opening experience. Fred will also be coming up to Ottawa to partake in the festivities.
The talented Seonna Hong, whose BG paintings can be seen on MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE ROBOT and TEACHER’S PET, has a painting show that opens tomorrow evening, May 22, at the sixspace gallery (549 West 23rd Street in downtown LA). Sixspace owner Caryn Coleman writes about the show on her site art.blogging.la.
With the plethora of sketchbooks being published by animation artists nowadays, it takes a little extra effort to stand out from the pack. Designer Stephen Silver has managed to do just that with his newly published sketchbook THE ART OF SILVER, a ful-color 160-page hardcover book. I’d enjoyed his first sketchbook from a couple years back, which was printed in a far more humble 32-page b-&-w comic book format, but I hardly expected such an ambitious follow-up. This book redefines what it means for an artist to self-publish a collection of their work, with page after page of handsomely printed sketchbook drawings, illustration work and caricatures drawn in an impressive variety of media including gouache, Prismacolor, brush pen and ink. The lush printing gives the reader the added bonus of being able to see Stephen’s light blue and red pencil roughs under his clean-ups.
Also included is Stephen’s professional work from animated projects he’s designed: CLERKS: THE ANIMATED SERIES, DANNY PHANTOM and CRASH NEBULA. His design work from DISNEY’S KIM POSSIBLE is missing, most likely due to legal reasons, and while it would have been nice to see, the huge variety of art already in the book more than makes up for the absence of those designs.
Like many of the most original and creative animation artists, Stephen is predominantly self-taught. He’s developed his own distinctive way of drawing, in which he places an emphasis on rhythm and flow, combined with a strong sense of personality, which perhaps owes to his artistic training as a theme park caricaturist where the goal is to capture a person’s likeness. Another throwback to his caricature days is his affinity for drawing heads, which he explains is one of his favorite drawing subjects.
Throughout the book, Stephen shares ideas about drawing, such as how he likes to draw multiple characters on a page to see their shape contrasts and his “figure eight” design technique. The greatest insight can be gained though by simply flipping through the pages and studying the impressive range of one artist’s work. The binding of the book indicates that this is Volume 1, and hopefully in the future we’ll be seeing many more volumes of Stephen Silver’s work. THE ART OF SILVER also has a foreword by film director Kevin Smith and a backword by MAD artist Tom Richmond. For ordering info, visit Silvertoons.com.
Airing on NBC tonight is THE ADVENTURES OF SEINFELD & SUPERMAN from 8:44-9 pm. The live-action/animated combo will be hawking American Express in this odd sweeps month programming stunt. The special will be comprised of the first Seinfeld/Superman webisode “A Uniform Used To Mean Something,” which premiered online a couple months ago, as well as the premiere of the second installment called “Hindsight.”
Golden Age Disney animator and prolific “funny animal” comic book artist Jack Bradbury passed away last week at the age of 89. Mark Evanier has a nice look at Bradbury’s career HERE.
The SAN FRANCISCO GATE has a piece HERE about Pixar’s ambitious expansion plans. The studio has a 20-year, $325 million development plan that could result in three new buildings with 544,000 square feet of space. The studio’s current space is 218,000 square feet. Also on the drawing board is a six-story 1,801-space parking garage. The best news though is that Pixar believes over the next couple decades they’ll be adding 1,350 more jobs to their current 625-person payroll.
Sunday’s LA TIMES had a short piece on the new Linkin Park music video “Breaking the Habit” which was supervised (and according to the TIMES, mostly animated by) Kazuto Nakazawa of the Japanese studio Production I.G. Nakazawa was also responsible for the graphic animated sequence in KILL BILL VOLUME 1. The Linkin Park video, which has already debuted in the UK, will start in full rotation on MTV and MTV2 in the US with a “Making of the Video” program premiering on May 24. The video depicts the troubled lives and emotional conflicts of various people living in a gritty, urban apartment high-rise.
The LA TIMES had this interesting quote from MTV’s exec VP of music Tom Calderone: “It’s anime, always going to be a little edgier. You can’t do anime that feels like bubble gum. It’s always going to have a dark side.” Calderone’s quote is telling in that it illustrates what anime has come to represent in the United States. Not merely a look or style of animation, anime is where people turn when they want to produce cartoons featuring mature, edgy and intelligent storytelling. Anime’s near monopoly on adult animation however doesn’t mean that it’s the only style available to filmmakers. Involving, emotionally satisfying stories are possible in myriad visual styles, including fluid Disney-style animation. Sadly though, decades of infantile and incompetent storytelling by the modern Disney studio, Katzenberg, Bluth and others have forced filmmakers to avoid like the plague the lush appealing style of animation pioneered by the Golden Age Disney studio. At least we can be thankful that intelligence has finally found a home in animation, even if it means for now these type of stories are being told exclusively through Japanese animation.
(“Breaking the Habit” image from Anime UK News)
The NY DAILY NEWS reports that even though Fox Television announced over a week ago that they’d reached a deal with THE SIMPSONS voice cast, the six actors still haven’t signed their new contracts. According to the paper, the actors are “balking at Fox’s 11th-hour demand that they help promote SIMPSONS DVDS and other products – for which they won’t be paid.”
A hearty thanks from Jerry Beck and myself to Mark Mayerson for being our first guest contributor, and a superb one at that. Over the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed reading his insightful perspective on the TV animation biz, and we’ve heard from numerous other folks thanking us for his pieces. Thanks again to Mark and stay tuned for our next guest contributor who we’ll be announcing soon.
Here’s a photo of Will Smith, Angelina Jolie and Jack Black at the Cannes Film Festival riding atop an inflatable SHARK TALE pool toy. And there’s still five months until this film is released. Boy, this is going to be a lot of fun.
I think I’ve spotted the big new trend in CG animation: eerie, quasi-realistic looking orange cats. Alright, it’s only SHREK 2 and GARFIELD: THE MOVIE so far, but I’m betting the rest of Hollywood will catch onto this exciting fad before the year is out.
SHREK: FROM THE SWAMP TO THE SCREEN is hands-down the ugliest “art of” book I’ve ever seen for an animated film, which is probably owing to the fact that it’s little more than a collection of stills from the film. Let me put it this way: if the US military wants an effective interrogation technique for Iraqi prisoners, there’s no need for naked pyramids and all that silliness – just force the Iraqis to look at this book and they’ll start talking in no time. Then again, I’m sure there’s something in the Geneva Convention that protects people from being exposed to such ugly animation artwork. The only half-decent parts of the SHREK book are the handful of pages showing the pencil development art, which illustrate how appealing and visually enticing the SHREK franchise could be if Katzenberg would only step aside and allow artists to do their job. If you simply must have the book, wait a few months until it’s remaindered, like the “art of” book for PRINCE OF EGYPT which is currently marked down from $45 to $2.95 at HamiltonBook.com.
Tim Biskup’s new book 100 PAINTINGS is tiny – about 5″ x 5″ – but that’s because the 100 paintings in it are even tinier – 3-1/2″ x 3-1/2″. All of the works in the book are reproduced at actual size. The Dark Horse release is printed very nicely, with the paintings set against black paper, which really serves to bring out the rich colors in Tim’s work. I can’t imagine many other artists being able to pull off a project like this, as one hundred paintings created in such a confining canvas size has the potential of quickly becoming repetitive and tedious. But as Gary Baseman writes in the book’s introduction, Tim’s work can be likened to a jazz musician improvising, and the way Tim manipulates colors and shapes in each painting is constantly imaginative and fresh. There is more effusive praise from me on the book’s duskjacket, so needless to say I recommend picking up a copy of this book.The wait for Tim’s next volume of miniature paintings may be a while though: he writes in the book that he’s currently working on the “Jackson 500″ which is an ambitious series of 500 business card-sized paintings.