A couple days ago, I wrote about Bob Givens, the 94-year-old artist who designed Bugs Bunny in his debut short A Wild Hare. While I was writing that post, I ran across a couple items related to Givens that are worth sharing. The first is a newspaper clipping from the Alhambra Post-Advocate annoucing that 18-year-old Bob Givens had been hired at Disney.
The second is an ambitious gag “bulletin” about Ward Kimball and his two assistants David Swift and Tom Oreb. The drawing, which makes fun of the trio’s lack of “mox”, is signed by Givens, who had moved over to Warner Bros. when this was drawn in October 1939, along with two WB writers Rich Hogan and Dave Monahan. Typically, gag drawings were confined to colleagues at the same studio, but there’s a reason why Warner Bros. artists are making fun of their Disney counterparts. At the time of this drawing, Givens lived with Swift (as well as Hogan and some other artists) in a rented mansion in Los Feliz. If any Cartoon Brew readers are in touch with Bob, ask him to explain the joke about “mox.” Inquiring minds want to know.
These striking illustrated posters promoting Laika’s latest film ParaNorman are being displayed around various US cities. I saw them in Manhattan yesterday. According to some of the artists who drew the posters for Mondo, passerby are free to grab them off the walls if they wish. Click on the images below for hi-res versions.
Animation Block Party returns this weekend for its ninth edition. The three-day festival opens tonight with an outdoor screening on the lawn of the Automotive High School (50 Bedford Ave. at North 3th St. Williamsburg Brooklyn). Doors opens at 8pm, live music at 8:30pm, films at 9, and after-party at 11:30pm. Get your tickets HERE. Or visit Animation Block’s website for info on full festival passes and complete screening schedule.
Seventy-two years ago today – on July 27th, 1940 – Bugs Bunny appeared in Tex Avery’s A Wild Hare. The Warner Bros. short is widely considered to be the first definitive Bugs Bunny cartoon, in which the character’s appearance, personality and voice gelled as a whole. It’s also the first time Bugs, voiced by the inimitable Mel Blanc, uttered his famous catchphrase, “What’s up, doc?”
All the major players involved with the production of A Wild Hare are dead except for one individual: 94-year-old Bob Givens. He was the character designer who redesigned the studio’s clumsy-looking rabbit character into the familiar design below. You’ll notice that Givens calls the character “Tex’s Rabbit” because they hadn’t officially christened him Bugs Bunny yet.
Bob can also claim responsibility for redesigning Elmer Fudd into the recognizable character that we know today. He speaks about working on A Wild Hare in this interview conducted by animation historian Steve Worth and animators Will Finn and Mike Fontanelli:
Bob Givens means a lot to me personally because he was the first animation artist that I ever interviewed. Who knows where I’d be today if Bob hadn’t been patient and encouraging of my interest in documenting animation history.
I wish I could remember how I first got in touch with him–it may have been simply by looking him up in the phone book–but when I went to Bob’s modest bungalow home in North Hollywood, I was unaware of just how much of a key figure he’d been throughout the history of Golden Age Hollywood animation. I learned quickly though.
In 2001, a few years after our first interview, I had the honor of interviewing Bob a second time. This time it was onstage at the San Diego Comic-Con International where he was joined by fellow WB veteran Pete Alvarado. It’s doubtful that the event was recorded onto video, but this photographic memory remains:
In the past seventy-two years, we’ve seen countless versions of Bugs Bunny, redesigned, rebooted, updated–some enjoyable and some not so much. But today, let’s take a look back at A Wild Hare and remember the moment when one of the most entertaining cartoon characters was born. And let’s celebrate Bob Givens, the legendary designer of Bugs who is still with us today.
Among the stash are a few drawings from an Aqua Velva Ice Blue aftershave lotion spot, which can be seen in this newly uncovered collection of UPA commercials:
These commercials are rarer than they might appear. Of the hundreds of commercials that UPA produced during the 1950s, I’ve managed to see just a few dozen over the years. UPA’s advertising work has proven more difficult to track down than some of the other major animated commercial producers of the era like Playhouse Pictures and Ray Patin Productions.
The same user on YouTube also posted this UPA commercial for Tang, which I believe was designed by Roy Morita.
DreamWorks Animation has been in the news plenty lately. They released their first consumer app, acquired a huge library of classic animation properties and released the poster for Me and My Shadow, their first CG/hand-drawn hybrid film. Now, we hear about the studio’s first major exhibit of artwork from its films. The show, “DreamWorlds: Behind the Scenes, Production Art From DreamWorks Animation,” will open next Monday, July 30, at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Gallery (Steven Spielberg Building, 900 West 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA).
The exhibit will feature artwork from the 24 animated features released under the DreamWorks Animation label, as well as a peek at the upcoming Rise of the Guardians. More from the press release:
The exhibition includes more than one hundred digital prints and approximately thirty traditional paintings and drawings on paper; two miniature sets; three character maquettes; two set pieces – an 8′ high Kung Fu Panda “Po” statue and the new Rise of the Guardians standee; and three media stations displaying animation tests, stereo footage, and the Rise of the Guardians trailer. There will also be a contemporary animation work station on display, with demonstrations given by current Hench-DADA students.
The show will be on display through September 7. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 9AM-5PM, and Saturday, Aug 11, 9AM-5PM. (Closed Labor Day.)
This alternative London Olympics torch relay cuts the event down to size, or in the words of the filmmakers, “pokes fun at the Olympics and its so-called ‘inclusivity’ dogma.” It was co-directed and animated by AmaÃ«l Isnard and Leo Bridle at London-based Beakus.
Imagine that animator/film director Terry Gilliam had a daughter. Imagine that daughter dug through her dad’s archives. Imagine that she started a blog to share all the cool things she found with the rest of the world. Now, stop imagining! Rush over to Holly Gilliam’s fantastic new blog Discovering Dad. Even better, she’s organizing her dad’s work “so it can eventually be put in a book and an exhibition.”
O Rei GastÃ£o (King Gaston) by Rio de Janeiro-based animator Diogo Viegas picked up the best children’s animation award at this year’s Anima Mundi festival. It’s easy to see why: the animation, design and color are undeniably charming. There’s English captions for non-Portuguese speakers, but the visual storytelling is so clear that I found it just as charming (if not moreso) when I didn’t understand the lyrics.
German animation director Hannes Rall, who has previously adapted Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Erlking to animation, is wrapping up another hand-drawn animated adaptation of classic literature. This time, he’s tackling the work of German writer Wilhelm Hauff and his fairy tale The Cold Heart.
The short is set in Germany’s Black Forest during the 19th century: “Peter Munk is a poor but goodhearted young man, desperately wishing to be rich. Tempted by the evil ghost of the woods, he trades his warm heart for a heart of stone. He becomes rich but turns into a merciless and cruel man. Is there still hope for him?”
The 29-minute short channels classic German art influences including the distorted human figures of Expressionist woodcuts and the silhouette animation design of Lotte Reiniger. The film also boasts the color design of animation veteran Hans Bacher, who was the production designer of Disney’s Mulan, among an extensive list of Disney animation credits. Both Rall and Bacher teach at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, where they connected for this project.
The short received German production funding from MFG Baden-Wuerttemberg. It will premiere later this year. Rall shared with Cartoon Brew some of Hans Bacher’s color scripts for the film:
DreamWorks released a poster this afternoon for its upcoming hybrid feature Me & My Shadow slated for release in spring 2014. The film, which is about a shadow that takes control of its owner’s actions, will combine CG and hand-drawn animation, the latter which will be used for the shadow animation.
The film’s director is veteran story artist and animator Alessandro Carloni, who served as head of story on How to Train Your Dragon and who is directing for the first time. The original director of the film back when the project was announced in 2010 was Mark Dindal (The Emperor’s New Groove, Cats Don’t Dance), but he appears to no longer be involved. Regular updates about the film can be found on Me and My Shadow‘s official Facebook page.
Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, the directors of the Oscar-nominated French animated feature Persepolis, are back with a new fantasy-drama Chicken With Plums. Sony Pictures Classics will release stateside on August 17. The live-action film, with minor bits of animation, is based on a graphic novel by Satrapi.
The film is set in Tehran, Iran, in 1958:
Since his beloved violin was broken, Nasser Ali Khan, one of the most renowned musicians of his day, has lost all taste for life. Finding no instrument worthy of replacing it, he decides to confine himself to bed to await death. As he hopes for its arrival, he plunges into deep reveries, with dreams as melancholic as they are joyous, taking him back to his youth and even to a conversation with Azrael, the Angel of Death, who reveals the future of his children. As pieces of the puzzle gradually fit together, the poignant secret of his life comes to light: a wonderful story of love which inspired his genius and his music.
Ptch is a new iPad/iPhone app that allows users to remix photos, videos, songs and text into 60-second music video-style shorts called Ptches. Sort of like an Instagram for videos (with “styles” instead of filters), Ptch aims to make video editing as intuitive and reflexive for the masses as taking a photograph with a smartphone. The app also allows users to remix ptches made by their friends so that each person can share their own version of an event. The software is available on Apple’s iTunes Store for free, though add-on songs and film “styles” will cost money in the future.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Ptch is headed by Ed Leonard, the Chief Technology Officer of DreamWorks Animation and the former director of R&D at Disney Animation. He convinced DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg to launch a new company called DWA Investments. The company, which is funded entirely by its parent DreamWorks Animation, has 15 employees, a third of whom are former DreamWorks staffers who took paycuts (in exchange for stock) to join Ptch.
Sites like Fast Company and BetaBeat have been debating what Ptch means for the future of DreamWorks. For example, does it signal the company’s transition from being a content producer into a technology company? Ptch helmer Ed Leonard hinted at that possibility while speaking with BetaBeat:
“There’s a lot of ambition at DreamWorks, they’re thinking about how to leverage ambition on the film side and how to reinvent themselves as more of a technology company than a movie company and really leverage all that value. If you get close to what Jeffrey is thinking about in terms of the DreamWorks brand â€¦ Jeffrey really believes in the intersection that’s happening between technology and entertainment.”
It’s hard to know what to make of all this just yet, but Leonard’s quote reveals that DreamWorks Animation is evolving in different and unexpected directions.