First, the bad news: It doesn’t look like Brad Bird will be making an animated feature anytime soon.
Now, the good news: Brad Bird is making another film.
Deadline Hollywood reported yesterday that Brad Bird is set to direct a major live-action tentpole for Disney from a script by Damon Lindelof, who co-created and exec produced the TV series Lost. Lindelof is co-writing the script–titled 1952 (work-in-progress)–with Jeff Jensen. No other details have been revealed about the project at this time. The film shouldn’t be confused with Bird’s long-in-development personal live-action project, 1906, which is about the historic San Francisco earthquake.
Of course, I have to take this opportunity to mention that even though Brad isn’t creating animation, he took the time to write the foreword to an upcoming animation history book.
Watching Kontraste by Sieglinde Hamacher makes me realize I’ve never seen any East German animation. From what I’ve read, their state-run animation studio DEFA was not as visually experimental as the state-operated studios in other Iron Curtain countries like Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland. But Kontraste, created in 1982, has no shortage of creative expression. An online search reveals that a DVD of East German animation was released a couple years back called Red Cartoons: Animated Films From East Germany.
Desperate for new ways to connect with consumers, an increasing array of industries and organizations are paying Disney to teach them how to become, well, more like Disney. Revenue from the Disney Institute has doubled over the last three years, according to Disney, powered in part by its aggressive pursuit of new business. Over the last two years alone, 300 school systems across the country have sought its advice. Other clients range from very large entities – Häagen-Dazs International, United Airlines, the country of South Africa – to small ones: three Subway restaurants in Maine, a Michigan hair salon, a Boston youth-counseling center.
Tonight, ASIFA-East handed out prizes for its 43nd annual Animation Festival. The Rauch Brothers took home the Best in Show for their 9/11-themed short John and Joe. Two children’s films that I particularly enjoyed at the screening were Michael Sporn‘s inspiring I Can Be President (which was shown in excerpted form) and an adaptation of Mo Willems’ book Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late directed by Pete List. The latter showed that preschool animation can engage audience participation without talking down to kids.
The most surprising film of the evening was Leah Shore‘s Old Man. The “old man” in question is Charles Manson, and Shore uses a breathless array of techniques and styles to illustrate recordings of his schizophrenic ramblings. Though we’ve posted Shore’s films here before–see BOOBatary and Meatwaffle–I’d suggest that Old Man is a breakout work for the young filmmaker. She is a talent to watch.
Aardman’s latest feature The Pirates! Band of Misfits, directed by Peter Lord, debuted in second place in the US with $11.1 million. It’s Aardman’s weakest opening ever in the US. However, it was considered on a par with studio projections, and the film should end up with a respectable run, especially considering that no other animated films are set to be released in May.
For comparison, here’s how other Aardman features have opened in the US:
Chicken Run (2000): $17.5 million Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005): $16 million Flushed Away (2006): $18.8 million Arthur Christmas (2011): $12.1 million
Kaj Pindal, who turns eighty-five years old this year, ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite animators. Pindal typically works with a very basic library of shapes, but his animation is whimsical, funny, and filled with graphic quirks and tics. It all adds up to a distinctive and appealing style that looks even fresher today amidst the proliferation of mechanical Flash and After Effects animation.
The City: Osaka is not necessarily a Pindal classic–for that, see I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, King Size, or Peep and the Big Wide World–but I was delighted to discover such a pristine copy posted onto the NFB website. A commissioned film for Expo ’70 held in Osaka, Japan, it was intended to give Japanese people a glimpse into Canadian life, which apparently consists mostly of deforestation and hockey.
The spare black-and-white design of the film, as well as the two minutes of blank screen at the beginning (albeit with excellent jazz music), are due to the film’s original mode of projection. “It played around the clock for the duration of the World’s Fair on a screen made of sixty thousand individual light bulbs,” Pindal said. Kaj talks about his experiences associated with the film on the Kaj Pindal blog.
Here’s a terrific documentary about Kaj Pindal called Laugh Lines from 1979:
My favorite publisher Chronicle Books just put out their Fall/Winter 2012 catalog and they’re releasing more animation and cartoon-related books this holiday season than ever before. Below are the six titles (including one by myself) that will be of interest to Cartoon Brew readers, followed by the catalog pages with images and descriptions of each book.
This is the poster (designed by Jeff Turley) for Paperman, a Disney short that’s been generating buzz for its distinctive melding of CG and hand-drawn animation. It’s the directing debut of veteran CG animator John Kahrs (Toy Story 2, Tangled, The Incredibles). Paperman will debut at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in June. It will be distributed more widely in November when it plays in front of Wreck-It Ralph.
Using a minimalist black-and-white style, the short follows the story of a lonely young man in mid-century New York City, whose destiny takes an unexpected turn after a chance meeting… with a beautiful woman on his morning commute. Convinced the girl of his dreams is gone forever, he gets a second chance when he spots her in a skyscraper window across the avenue from his office. With only his heart, imagination and a stack of papers to get her attention, his efforts are no match for what the fates have in store for him.
Jake Friedman emailed yesterday to tell me about BabbittBlog.com, a site dedicated to all things Art Babbitt. Jake has been researching a biography of the legendary animator for the last few years, and if the blog is any indication, there’s still a lot left to learn about Babbitt.
There’s no shortage of animation tips posted online nowadays, but this mass of how-to advice isn’t particularly well organized. Thankfully, Jonah Sidhom has created the Animation Article Database, an invaluable list of links to animation tips from industry pros, organized alphabetically.
Have you ever thought about the guy who designs all the pasta based on cartoon characters? Neither have I. But now we know who it is. It’s Guillermo Haro, a Mexican immigrant who has overseen the production of cartoon-shaped macaroni for 22 years at Kraft Foods. The Wall Street Journal explained how he does it:
Back at Kraft’s pilot plant, Mr. Haro was prepared to discuss his technique, while his boss, Ricardo Villota, stood by to keep him from spilling trade secrets. “If I can put it on paper, I can imagine how it’ll end up in a box,” said Mr. Haro, opening a guide to Spider-Man poses: crouching, leaping, dangling. “You choose the ones that are easy for pasta.”
He draws pencil sketches, knowing that all lines must connect, and not be too thick or thin. “You get carried away with detail,” he said. Mr. Haro was about to tell how he employs stubby lines to suggest eyeballs when Mr. Villota said, “Watch it!” and cut him off.
Moving to a computer, Mr. Haro showed how he had perfected a Ferb likeness, which he sent to De Mari Pasta Dies in Dracut, Mass. De Mari cast a die, from which Mr. Haro made a Ferb prototype, which he then sent to Disney for the ultimate noodle test: hot water. “They want it to look like they want it to look, before it’s cooked and after it’s cooked,” Mr. Haro said on his way downstairs to Kraft’s test kitchen. “Right up to launch day, you’re nervous.”
Photo of cartoon pasta designer Guillermo Haro taken by Barry Newman/The Wall Street Journal.
Ryan Woodward, a veteran feature animator who is also responsible for the popular animated short Thought of You, is placing his bets on animated graphic novels. The first issue of his independently produced series Bottom of the Ninth will be released soon for the iPad and iPhone. The trailer above is intriguing as is the comic’s storyline:
The first app, Prologue, will set up the characters and the world of Tao City. Candy Cunningham is an 18 year old girl, born with a phenomenal athletic ability, and a hot head! Her father, Gordy Cunningham is an aged major league player whose athletic abilities have diminished over the years, but his ability to put on a good clown show always draws a crowd and ticket sales. Throughout the story, Candy faces some serious identity issues. The fame and glory of being a Tao City hero conflict with the true meaning of happiness taught to her by her father.