Swiss animator Oswald Iten has written an enlightening analysis of the different approaches to narrative and characterization used by the Disney studio and Russian director Fyodor Khitruk in their respective adaptations of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh.
Though relatively unknown in the West until recently, Khitruk’s three Winnie the Pooh shorts are considered classics in Russia much in the same way the Disney versions are revered in the States. Among the admirers of Khitruk’s shorts was Disney director Woolie Reitherman, who once told Khitruk, “You know, your Winnie is better than mine.”
We should also take this opportunity to wish happy birthday to Fyodor Khitruk, who celebrated his 95th birthday last week. The first of his Pooh shorts, released in 1969, can be seen below:
Brooklyn-based Hayley Morris created this richly textured underwater fantasia for Hilary Hahn and Hauschka‘s song “Bounce Bounce.” The evocative tide pool creatures were created with fabric, yarn, papier-mÃ¢ché and driftwood, the latter used to make the wooden bird. The disparate materials that Hayley uses are united with an electric color palette and swaying shadows–all animated by hand under the camera. More details about the video and the musicians can be found in this IFC article.
LA-based animator Max Winston posted this animation test for The Woods!, a project that he developed over two years for Nickelodeon. He wrote last Friday on his blog that Nick “recently informed me that they don’t want to go through with making it into a show.” That’s probably a sign that he’s doing something right considering that this is the same network that turned down Adventure Time in favor of greenlighting Fanboy & Chum Chum. Max is currently shopping the idea around to other buyers.
Created, Directed and Animated by: Max Winston
Director of Photography: Helder K Sun
Written by: Doug Langdale & Max Winston
Color concept & BG design: Romney Caswell
Voices: ZoÃ« Moss, Jacob Strick, Max Winston
Compositing: Hlynur Magnusson
Fabrication Assistance: Brad Schaffer
Shot at Screen Novelties
Kangmin Kim impressed in 2010 with his student short Visit. He has continued to evolve his labor-intensive mixed-media approach with his thesis film, 38-39Â°C, and confirmed that he is a major talent to watch.
The father-son relationship that is at the center of the film doesn’t lend itself to easy explanations, but the idea is conveyed eloquently through layered imagery and sound that achieves a fever-dream intensity. There is fantastic attention to detail throughout, and seamless compositing of visual elements. The quirky animation of the hinged paper cut-out figures provides the welcome human touch that is absent from many slickly produced stop motion shorts nowadays. Watch the making of video for a literal behind-the-scenes look at Kim’s process.
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.
On the afternoon of Saturday, May 19, Brad Bird will speak at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. The subject of his talk will be “The Disney Treatment: Walt’s Versions of Classic Stories.” Brad always has thought-provoking things to say, and this is a topic I’ve never heard him discuss at length so it sounds like a can’t-miss event. This is the lecture description:
Director (The Iron Giant, Mission: Impossible/Ghost Protocol) and two-time OscarÂ®-winner (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) Brad Bird will discuss how Walt adapted well-known and even previously-filmed stories and created what are widely regarded as “definitive” versions. From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men; Treasure Island to Swiss Family Robinson, Bird will explore the appeal of these tales to Walt-and how his individual and personal viewpoint made them enduring classics.
Kickball is a third-year film made by Dana Terrace at the School of the Visual Arts. The highlight of Dana’s film is the animation: it’s lots of fun to watch, with fantastic control over shapes and design, and expressive motion that brings out the personalities of the characters.
If you’re looking for title art inspiration–past and present–Cartoon Title Art is a nifty Tumblr dedicated to cartoon titles and intros. The site is a project of the New York studio Rauch Bros. Animation.
The second third episode of Nickelodeon’s new Avatar spin-off The Legend of Korra aired this morning. The show was creaed by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. If you’ve been watching, share your thoughts on the first few episodes.
I post films for many different reasons on Cartoon Brew. Laissez, Laissez Entrer Le Soleil merits a post mainly because Charles Lemor added a butt to a house. Perhaps it’s funnier if you’ve been up all night (as I have), but frankly, adding asses to inanimate objects always helps. Besides that bit of whimsy, it’s your typical short made at Supinfocom, which means it has above-average production values for a student film.
After midnight, when the coffee and Red Bull had worn off, Sari Gennis and her co-workers would take a brisk stroll to make it through their graveyard shift. For four months straight, often seven days a week, a team of visual effects artists worked 12-hour shifts to complete the 3-D conversion of movie blockbuster Titanic. Gennis said the long hours aggravated a severe arthritis condition. She’d already had both knees replaced, and needed a third surgery, but couldn’t afford to take time off for the operation.
The matte painter, who asked not to be identified for fear of damaging his career, said he nearly died when he fell asleep at the wheel after working 75 consecutive days, up to 17 hours a day, doing visual effects work on National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The money was good – $1,000 a day – but the long hours were taking a toll. Three months after his car accident, he began experiencing chest pains and was rushed to the hospital. He said emergency room nurses initially didn’t believe he was having a heart attack because he was only 37. As a freelancer, he didn’t qualify for the company insurance plan to cover his $100,000 in medical bills. His employer, the now-defunct Asylum Visual Effects, refused to hire him back.
So will this turn out to be the VFX Spring as some are suggesting? There’s a lot of positive sentiment right now, but no one is under the illusion that working conditions will improve overnight. Animation Guild rep Steve Hulett noted on his blog that the Imageworks meeting was “only the first few steps of a long hike, but we’re going to do whatever it takes to reach out and get visual effects artists and technical directors under the big union tent.”
Walt Disney Studios chairman Richard Ross was forced to resign after less than three years on the job. “I no longer believe the chairman role is the right professional fit for me,” Ross said in a company-wide email. He had taken over the spot in 2009, after spearheading the Disney Channel’s growth with properties like Hannah Montana and High School Musical. Though Ross didn’t greenlight John Carter, the film’s spectacular failure resulting in a writedown of $200 million played a role in his departure. Deadline Hollywood reported that Ross’s own slate of theatrical features hasn’t debuted yet.
The studio’s live-action units will feel the impact of Ross’s departure more acutely than Disney Feature Animation and Pixar, which are still overseen by Ed Catmull and John Lasseter. In fact, the most notable animation-related decision of Ross’s tenure had nothing to do with Disney Feature or Pixar. Ross will be remembered for shutting down Robert Zemeckis’s mo-cap studio ImageMovers following last year’s Disney bomb Mars Needs Moms.
No replacement has been named, though plenty of names are being floated in the media. Lasseter’s name has been mentioned, though he is considered a longshot for the position.