Animators in Mexico don’t appear content to simply copy the predictable, formula-ridden animated features of their American neighbors. The trailer above is for El Santos vs. la Tetona Mendoza (The Saint vs. The Busty Mendoza), which judging by its trailer, is a refreshingly crude, raunchy and cartoony use of hand-drawn animation. Based on a comic by Trino Camacho and José Ignacio Solórzano (aka Jis), and directed by Alejandro Lozano and Andrés Couturier, the film opens on November 30th in Mexico. It was animated by Átomo Films (a subsidiary of Ánima Estudios).
Though the stories about Hurricane Sandy have dropped off the front page, there are tens of thousands victims who have been made homeless or are still lacking basic services like electricity, heat and clean water. One person from the animation community who has been deeply involved with the recovery effort is Mike Rauch, who is one of the brothers behind the animation house Rauch Brothers.
Tomorrow, November 14, the Rauch Brothers will be hosting a screening and Q&A about their much-admired series of StoryCorps shorts. Though the event had been planned for some time, in light of the recent disaster, the brothers have turned it into a relief benefit for Hurricane Sandy victims. Tickets are $10 and all proceeds will go directly toward hurricane relief efforts.
The event, which begins at 7pm, will take place at the Brooklyn Music School (126 St. Felix St, Brooklyn, NY 11217). Attendees are also encouraged (though not required) to bring items for those impacted:
No more clothing is needed so please bring items from this list instead: flashlights, aaa batteries, gallon ziplock bags, brooms, flat shovels, mops, masks and gloves, any sort of baby/toddler food and formula, duct and scotch tape, deodorant, tampons, soap, can openers.
Tickets can be purchased in advance through this link.
Last Sunday, Blur Studio completed its crowdfunding effort for the proposed animated feature, The Goon, based on Eric Powell’s comic book. They exceeded their $400,000 goal, and set a new crowdfunding record for an animation project by raising $441,900 from 7,576 backers. The previous record-holder, Starburns Industries, had raised $406,237 in September for their stop motion film Anomalisa.
During The Goon campaign, I wrote a critique of the fundraising effort owing to the fact that the money wouldn’t be used to produce any animation. Instead, the money will be spent to create a story reel for a feature film, at which point Blur and film director David Fincher will shop the project around to various studios for additional funding.
Among my critiques of the campaign was that the majority of backers wouldn’t be able to view the finished story reel. Following our piece though, The Goon filmmakers revised the campaign and promised that they would hold a screening of the story reel in Los Angeles for the backers. There is, of course, still no guarantee that an animated film will result from all of this, but Blur Studio should rightfully be proud of raising a record-setting amount of money for a crowdfunded animation project. And at the very least, fans of The Goon can be assured of a slick half-million dollar story reel.
Imagine that you could interview Milt Kahl at the height of his powers and ask him anything you wanted. That’s the opportunity a little old lady in Dallas got in 1973. Andreas Deja recently posted the segment on his goodie-filled blog, and even by the low standards of local television, it’s a disaster.
Resembling a bad sketch-comedy routine, she asks Milt nonsensical things that only vaguely resemble questions like, “How far back do they go? Do they go back…what are some of the …Nutcracker?” and “Do you think it’s an inspired thing that they get these characters?” One gets the sense that Kahl would have decked the lady had the interview gone on a minute longer. In fact, I’d bet good money that the reason she’s wearing dark sunglasses indoors is that the last person she interviewed gave her a black eye for her utter lack of journalistic ability.
The saving grace is Milt doing his famous eyeglass-dangle at 1:15, not to mention that fabulous patchwork sports jacket.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has shortlisted ten films for the Best Animated Short category. From these ten selections, five nominees will be selected:
Adam and Dog, Minkyu Lee, director (Lodge Films)
Combustible, Katsuhiro Otomo, director (Sunrise Inc.)
Dripped, Léo Verrier, director (ChezEddy)
The Eagleman Stag, Mikey Please, director, and Benedict Please, music scores and sound design (Royal College of Art)
The Fall of the House of Usher, Raul Garcia, director, and Stephan Roelants, producer (Melusine Productions, R&R Communications Inc., Les Armateurs, The Big Farm)
Fresh Guacamole, PES, director (PES)
Head over Heels, Timothy Reckart, director, and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, producer (National Film and Television School)
Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare, David Silverman, director (Gracie Films)
Paperman, John Kahrs, director (Disney Animation Studios)
Tram, Michaela Pavlátová, director, and Ron Dyens, producer (Sacrebleu Productions)
For the record, I tweeted a few days ago about the four films from this year’s qualifying animated shorts that I felt were truly Oscar-worthy. Not a single one was selected for the shortlist, but don’t let that stop you from seeking them out. They are all fantastic shorts that extend the art form artistically and engage the viewer in a meaningful way:
There is a mind-boggling breadth of expression and experimentation across the contemporary global animation scene. The short animation clips and exercises that I offer in Animated Fragments represent just a glimpse of the fresh ideas being explored by today’s animators:
“QQQ” Trailer by YungSung Song (South Korea/Japan)
“Feuerwerk” by Joshua Catalano (France)
“More Than A Feeling” by Matt Reynolds (US)
“CVTV” by Saigo No Shudan (Japan)
“Feminine Flow” by Rickard Bengtsson (Sweden): “This animation, except the subtle background texture, is created 100% in After Effects. All of the animation is created and keyframed by hand using lots of masks and layers.”
In Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, Nesquik nearly kills two of the film’s main characters. Well, they weren’t joking about the deadly nature of the sugary drink. Wreck-It Ralph-themed Nesquik can also kill you in real life.
Nestle USA is recalling 200,000 cans of Nesquik Chocolate Powder due to possible salmonella contamination, which can be life-threatening to infants, pregnant women, the elderly and individuals with weakened immune systems. The recall affects 10.9, 21.8 and 40.7-ounce canisters with a “best if sold by” date of October 2014.
Typically, a cheesy low-budget animated feature would be lucky to get one major Hollywood name involved with it. Not so in the case of Sir Billi, a film that continues to fascinate for its sheer grotesquery. As it turns out, Sean Connery and Alan Cumming aren’t the only significant names involved with Scotland’s first (and one can only hope, last) CG feature. The film’s score was composed by Patrick Doyle, who scored another Scottish-themed CG feature as well—Pixar’s Brave.
In the first video below, you can hear Patrick Doyle and Sean Connery speak about Sir Billi in a way that makes them appear totally disconnected from reality. You can also hear some of Sir Billi‘s title song, which is performed by another legend who somehow became involved with the film, vocalist Shirley Bassey:
In the second video, we hear from Tessa Hartmann, who wrote the script and produced the film with her husband.
The Klik! Animation Festival begins tomorrow in Amsterdam and continues through the weekend.
The quirky animation gathering has grown quickly in its first five years of existence. This year’s Klik! includes a full slate of competition screenings, special screenings ranging William Kentridge to Adventure Time, and a focus on the theme of violence in animation. The latter thematic emphasis is particularly intriguing, with programs related to “cartoon violence,” “serious violence,” and “disturbing violence;” screenings of the features The Suicide Shop and Watership Down; and a half-day symposium on violence with a line-up of speakers that include filmmakers, scholars, and psychologists.
And if all that animation isn’t enough, the festival will take place in the impressively futuristic EYE Film Institute, which opened earlier this year. I visited the waterfront Institute last summer, and it’s a perfectly inspiring space to hold an animation festival.
Below is Klik’s 2012 festival leader, directed by Lukas Krepel, Patrick Schoenmaker, and Joost Lieuwma:
Twitter user Melissa Farley snagged the first photo of Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. Hanks is portraying the role of Walt Disney for the film Saving Mr. Banks, a drama about the making of Disney’s Mary Poppins. Hanks spoke about the role recently in this Hollywood Reporter interview. So what do you think of the pic: does Hanks evoke Walt or does he evoke Tom Hanks with a mustache?
This Friday, November 9th, New Yorkers can see the East Coast premiere of Kevin Schreck’s new documentary Persistence of Vision, about Richard William’s never-completed-as-envisioned The Thief and the Cobbler. Williams worked on the film from the mid-1960s through the early-1990s before it was taken away from him and finished by producer Fred Calvert.
I’m looking forward to seeing Schreck’s film, which includes interviews with many people who worked on the film, though not Williams who declined to participate. And if the film is playing at a festival near you, see it! The documentary likely won’t be released on home video anytime soon because Schreck didn’t obtain permission from the copyright holders whose animation appears in the film. Sadly, Schreck’s approach is just about the only way nowadays to create animation history projects since the handful of conglomerates that own the film libraries don’t understand the value of cooperating with historians and researchers to present an accurate historical and critical portrait of the animation they own.
The film screens on Friday at 9:15pm at the SVA Theater (333 W. 23rd Street, NY, NY). The director will do a Q&A after the film. Tickets cannot be purchased at the theater. They must be purchased in advance, either at the IFC Center or online HERE. There’s also a Facebook page for the film where you can bug the filmmakers to bring a screening to your city.
Even if you’ve already decided who you’re voting for tomorrow, you may be ready to change your candidate after watching NY animator James Buran‘s astute short Nobody for President.
Would you watch a film about a senior citizen skateboarding veterinarian voiced by Sean Connery? What happens if I told you this veterinarian has a sidekick: a gay goat in Kill Bill-style spandex with bladder control issues? Still not convinced. What if skateboarding Sean Connery and his gay goat were on a mission to save Scotland’s last beaver, Bessie Boo? This is the compelling plotline of Scotland’s first CG animated feature, Sir Billi, written and directed by the husband-and-wife team of Sascha and Tessa Hartmann.
We’ve been following Sir Billi since 2010 and we’re going to keep following it until it wins the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. The film has a newly released trailer:
The new Sir Billi trailer has a more adult vibe than the earlier preview which focused on the high-octane beaver-saving elements of the film:
The only review of Sir Billi I could find online was clearly written by someone that hates skateboarding senior citizens who befriend incontinent goats and save beavers. Plus, any family movie with a double entendre tagline like this can’t be all bad:
(Thanks, David OReilly)
Disney’s $4.05 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm has generated more questions than answers. The Mouse has made it clear that they bought Lucasfilm for one thing, and one thing only: the Star Wars property.
But Lucasfilm’s business also includes other components such as Skywalker Sound and the visual effects studio Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). The fate of these entities remains unknown and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.
For example, what to make of ILM’s promising start as a producer of animated features? Don’t forget that ILM’s first original film Rango won an Oscar earlier this year for Best Animated Feature. But Disney already owns its own feature animation studio as well as Pixar. It hardly needs a third studio, especially one that offers an original take on computer animation that could make the work of its other studios look formulaic by comparison. In other words, it’s a likely bet that ILM won’t be making any more animated features of its own.
However, ILM will likely continue creating the visual effects for the Star Wars films that Disney plans to start releasing in 2015. According to Variety:
On the Star Wars movies, Lucasfilm has long relied on having the resources of ILM inhouse to control vfx costs. A Lucasfilm spokesman said [Kathleen] Kennedy will continue to have autonomy to use ILM on future Star Wars films. However, that doesn’t guarantee that all work will be done in San Francisco. ILM has offices in Singapore and Vancouver and has alliances with companies in Beijing and Europe. It will continue to leverage those alliances and offshore locations to keep costs down.
And what about the visual effects work that ILM creates for other studio’s films? In his initial statements, Disney chairman-CEO Robert Iger gave a less than ringing endorsement of ILM’s business model.
The LA Times quoted Iger saying, “Our current thinking is that we would let it remain as is. They do great work. They do work for multiple studios. It’s been a decent business for Lucasfilm and one we have every intention of staying in.” The emphasis on the words ‘current’ and ‘decent’ are mine, and it’s not too difficult to read between the lines, especially when the NY Times added that Iger wants to “reap the value” it can from ILM.
History is not on ILM’s side either. In 1996, Disney acquired another respected visual effects studio DreamQuest. It merged it with its own in-house computer animation department and renamed it The Secret Lab. The Lab’s most notable effort was the feature film Dinoasur before the division was shuttered in 2002. It will be tougher to dismantle ILM, but there’s a good chance that Disney will explore some type of reorganization/merger/consolidation/sale of the studio in the coming years.
The same questions exist to a lesser degree for Lucasfilm’s storied gaming division, LucasArts. That division has struggled in recent years, as the LA Times reported:
LucasArts is currently operating without a permanent president and has not made a new game since 2010′s poorly received “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II.” This year it announced a new title in the works, “Star Wars: 1313,” but because that game is intended to carry dark themes and be rated M (the video game equivalent of R), it may not fit into Disney’s intent to position “Star Wars” as a family entertainment brand.
Despite its recent missteps, LucasArts (and now Disney) owns a back catalog of beloved gaming classics like The Secret of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, Full Throttle and Maniac Mansion. It’s hard to imagine what Disney will do with those titles, though Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert tweeted a tongue-in-cheek suggestion earlier this week:
Finally, the question that many are asking is how George Lucas will spend his newly earned wealth. Lucas, who was already a billionaire before the sale, is now officially the wealthiest artist in the United States. Because he owned 100 percent of Lucasfilm, he will receive the entire $4 billion himself, roughly half in cash and the rest in Disney stock, turning him into Disney’s second-largest non-institutional shareholder with approximately 2.2% of the company.
It might be expected that Lucas would spend his money on silly douchebag toys—Lucas has reportedly spent millions on picture frames for his vintage European movie poster collection—but instead he plans to do something far more worthwhile with the bulk of his cash: philanthropy.
Education is a passion for Lucas, and he made a pledge in 2010 to dedicate the “majority of my wealth to improving education.” After this week’s sale to Disney, Lucas reiterated that goal. “As I start a new chapter in my life,” he said, “it is gratifying that I have the opportunity to devote more time and resources to philanthropy.” If he ends up following through on the pledge, this may end up being one of the few corporate mergers that has a happy ending after all.