This video offers a fun, easy-to-digest recap of the technical papers that were presented at the SIGGRAPH conference in Vancouver last week.
A few months ago we reported about Digital Domain’s plans for its CG animation studio in Port St. Lucie, Florida. They announced recently that this studio, which they’ve officially dubbed Tradition, will work on The Legend of Tembo. Slated for 2014 release, the film will be directed by Disney veterans Aaron Blaise and Chuck Williams.
Former Disney exec Pam Coats, who is heading up creative development at Tradition, told TCPalm that Tembo is the story of a baby African elephant who is captured and shipped to India:
“When he gets to India that’s where sort of the journey takes place, and this is a guy who becomes someone else. So, he has to transform himself into a fierce, battle elephant, which is based in truth. They did use elephants in battle in India. He has to become something he is not in order to return home.”
Check out the TCPalm website for more pre-production images from the film.
West is an evocative hand-drawn piece directed and animated by Rhode Island-based filmmaker Steven Subotnick. The film delivers a powerful message using sophisticated graphic and filmmaking concepts:
“A president on a train chases a bear out west. One in a series of short animations about the destruction of the American wilderness.”
I think it’s really exciting when animation breaks the confines of the rectangular screen and shares the physical space around us. MÃ–BIUS by Melbourne, Australia-based design and public art installation firm ENESS is among the more impressive examples of “environmental animation” that I’ve seen. It’s described by its creators as a “collaborative stop motion sculpture”. Dozens of people were required to animate the 21 triangular structures around Melbourne’s Federation Square over a period of six days. The ‘making of’ vid below gives a sense of the project’s scale.
Credits after the jump:
The outpouring of love and affection after Corny Cole’s passing has been tremendous. In the past three days, over one hundred artists have shared their appreciation for Corny’s friendship and teaching on our obituary post. Take a few minutes to read through the comments in that post. You may be touched, as I was, seeing the profound effect he had on the lives of so many artists.
Dozens of former students have shared lessons they learned from him, such as these words from Scott Morse:
Man, what a punch in the gut. Corny was one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. As an 18 year old kid I learned so much from himâ€¦the basics of timing, which end was up on an animation disc, how pans worked. I learned how a seasoned professional can pay reverence to another seasoned professional by watching him interact. I also learned that it’s OK to take the wind out of the sails of a cocky professional through Corny’s playful outlook on the world. I learned that it’s OK to draw with a pencil taped to a stick using your left hand. I learned that sometimes art can be about someone you love by watching how Corny would invest years in ballpoint pen drawings on frosted cells to pay tribute to his late wife. I learned that even if my drawings sucked, Corny still thought I was great and had potential. I learned that a studio can sometimes be nothing more than a place to work: it’s about the people.
Rest in peace, Corny, you’ve earned it.
It’s not just younger artists expressing admiration either. Bob Inman first met Corny over fifty years ago:
Good bye dear friend. You have had a huge influence on my life. I met you when we were both students at Chouinard School of Art in the 50’s.
One day you called me and said “Get over here there is an opening in the background dept at UPA.” I got the job thanks to you and it changed my life. I was working at the place in a boring technical art dept & very frustrated. Thanks to you Corny, I spent next 17 years working in animation as a key background painter. Then I had the courage to devote myself full time to fine art painting.
Yes, Corny, old friend, you were the big reason I became the artist I am today. Thank you for being you.
Dan Haskett perhaps put it most succinctly:
Corny spent a lifetime smashing holes in the boundaries of Hollywood animation. He did this with a devastating talent, a good heart, and a devilish wit. No more pain, Corny. Just loving memories. God Bless.
Cole’s death has also spurred some wonderful tributes. Legendary director Bob Kurtz posted Corny’s animation reel:
Also, historian Michael Barrier posted a fantastic interview that he conducted with Corny Cole in 1991. It’s packed with fresh insights about the early years of Corny’s animation career, and especially about working at Warner Bros. For example, I never knew Corny was Abe Levitow’s inspiration for the animation of Daffy Duck in Robin Hood Daffy. In the interview, Corny also offered the following thought about how he felt he differed from his boss Chuck Jones:
[Chuck Jones] was so much into reading, and my artwork was based on what was actually out in the street. I was drawing people on the street, going down to Skid Row and drawing; my idea of art was to draw what was out there, and his idea was that you had to be well-read. I used to have to drive him home, because I was living in Manhattan Beach at the time; he would go visit his mother on Thursdays and Fridays, and stay with his mother down there. So I would drive him home, down to Manhattan Beach, and he would give me a long lecture about reading, that I had to read. I’d argue with him; I’d say, “The art world is out there in the street.” We had arguments on this. Of course, I didn’t read that much, and he didn’t go out and draw from life that much. He was living in this fantasy; he was like Ralph Phillips.
The image at the top of this post shows Corny (at far left) surfing at Malibu in the late-1950s. The photo is from Tom McBride’s website about vintage SoCal surfing.
On this day, twenty years ago–August 11, 1991–Nickelodeon debuted The Ren and Stimpy Show, and animation hasn’t been the same ever since. The show, created by John Kricfalusi and produced by Spumco, reinvented the idea of television animation. Its incalculable influence on the animation art form and industry remains present and highly visible to this day. Share your memories of the show and how it influenced you.
John Lasseter believes that, “No amount of great animation will save a bad story.” Not every exec at Disney appears to share the same values though. Speaking at SIGGRAPH last Sunday, Andy Hendrickson, the chief technical officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios, offered his opinion by emphatically stating that when you’re making a tentpole feature like Toy Story 3 or Alice in Wonderland, story is overrated:
“People say ‘It’s all about the story.’ When you’re making tentpole films, bullshit.”
He supported his theory by citing Disney’s recent Alice in Wonderland as an example: “The story isn’t very good, but visual spectacle brought people in droves. And Johnny Depp didn’t hurt.”
So according to Hendrickson, here’s the Disney formula: VISUAL SPECTACLE+JOHNNY DEPP-STORY = $$$. At least he’s honest about how Hollywood works nowadays. Give this man a promotion and corner office post-haste!
The craft of hand-drawn animation, virtually absent from American bigscreens (Winnie the Pooh and The Illusionist being the notable exceptions), has a far stronger presence in TV series work, advertising, and especially amongst independent filmmakers. This Sunday in Brooklyn, animators Bill Plympton and Pat Smith catalog some of the recent hand-drawn achievements in the latter area with their first-ever Scribble Junkies Festival of Drawn Animation, which they aim to turn into an annual event. Depending on the reaction to this premier edition, Pat tells me that they want to expand to multiple screenings next year, as well as accept submissions.
The screening, which takes place at the Nitehawk Cinema (136 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn), will present recent independent work by filmmakers Ryan Woodward, David Chai, Caleb Wood, Colleen Cox, Rebecca Sugar, Don Hertzfeldt, Brothers McLeod, and Fran Krause, as well as the two festival organizers. There’s a reception at 7:30pm, screening at 8:30pm, and an after-party and awards ceremony. Tickets are $11. Regular event updates can be found on Bill and Pat’s blog Scribble Junkies.
Cold Hard Flash brings news of a legal case that JibJab is pursuing against Toyota over this spot:
Click the following link to download a PDF of the complaint for damages to the California District Courts. JibJab is holding Toyota responsible for the ad, instead of Hoffman Lewis, the ad agency that produced the spot. The website TubeFilter summarized the document’s complaints:
1. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. “â€¦intentionally, knowingly and wilfully copied the JibJab Works in order to personally benefit from the widespread customer recognition and acceptance of said works and to capitalize upon the market created by these works.”
2. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. made “unauthorized use of the JibJab Logo in interstate commerce and advertisingâ€¦”
3. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.’s “use of the JibJab Logo in its commercials is likely to confuse, mislead, or deceive consumers, the public, and trade as to the origin, source, sponsorship, or affiliation of said products, and is intended, and is likely to cause such parties to believe in error that [Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.]’s products have been authorized, sponsored, approved, endorsed or licensed by JibJabâ€¦”
4. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. “intended to capitalize on [JiBJab]’s goodwill associated therewith for [its] own pecuniary gain.”
It should be noted that the offending spot is actually a visual mash-up of two different JibJab productions–the cut-out style animation of Founding Father’s Rap and the Starring You Tap Dance in which users can insert different heads on top of a live-action actor.
Personally, as unoriginal as I find the ad agency’s use of these techniques, copying someone’s graphic style–especially ones like these that aren’t exclusive to JibJab–would be a dubious case. However, Hoffman Lewis made the fatal mistake of also copying JibJab’s well-established animated trademark (the heads of the brothers who say “Jib” and “Jab”). In my eyes, that changes the dynamic of the entire commercial because it signals a clear intent on Toyota’s part to deceive viewers into thinking that JibJab created the spot.
Obviously, let me say that I’m no lawyer, but I have served as an expert witness for major corporations in similar infringement cases. Often times, the “this company stole my idea” claim is frivolous, especially when it’s coming from an amateur artist or writer with no industry experience or understanding of how the business works. In this instance though, I feel that JibJab has a legitimate concern. Judges seem to agree so far too: Toyota has twice requested a judge to dismiss the suit, and both times the judge has nixed Toyota’s motion.
It’ll be interesting to watch how this case plays out through the legal system and who ends up on top. Perhaps it’ll also serve as a wake-up call to all the ad agencies who freely take their ideas from existing animated films produced by independent filmmakers and small companies that lack JibJab’s resources to defend themselves.
(Disclosure: JibJab is a sponsor of Cartoon Brew’s 2011 Student Animation Festival. I learned about this case though by reading about it on Cold Hard Flash.)
Check out this impressive preview of one of the “cast members” from the upcoming $20 million-plus How to Train Your Dragon arena show that opens next March in Melbourne and Sydney. After striking out with the Shrek musical (which is performing better in London than New York), DreamWorks appears to be on the right track with its second stage effort. They’ve outsourced the show’s creative direction to the Sydney, Australia firm Creature Technology Company, the animatronics arm of Global Creatures, which previously created a successful arena show based on the BBC series “Walking with Dinosaurs.”
From the Brisbane Times:
[The show will include] at least 24 dragons for a show that will include acrobats and aerial artists, projections and flying creatures. The five-tier set will be backed by a 60-metre screen and the action will unfold on 1000 square metres of stage studded with projectors to provide an immersive experience. . . . ”DreamWorks didn’t want us to be the same as the film. They wanted us to create something new and magical,” [said the show's director Nigel Jamieson.] ”We were looking for people with physical skills and humour, and clowning, but also with youthful skills. So we’ve very much taken up the hip-hop and parkour kind of thing. It’s a very different sort of cast and DreamWorks have been very supportive of that.”
The aerospace industry doesn’t seem to do much nowadays in the way of
inspiring people with futuristic space-inspired art, but filmmakers have filled that void by making innovative use of NASA’s archive of public domain images and video. Take for instance Chris Abbas’s Cassini Mission stop motion film or the above music video “Supreme Sunlight” by German artist Kim Asendorf.
The video, which celebrates the awe of space shuttle lift-offs, is an eye-catching experimental piece that teeters on the abstract/representational border. The composition it accompanies is “Foam on the Waves of Space-Time” by a.d.l.r. (aka Nick Morera). Whether Asendorf’s distortions qualify as animation or not, his pixel sorting technique done with Processing has relevance and applications to the progressive animation artist.
Asendorf also created a pixel art generator for the iPhone/iPad called ASDFBMP that makes it easy for artists to create their own generative artwork.
(via Jeff Scher’s Twitter)
Add the home of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz to the list of famous animator and cartoonist homes that have popped up on the real estate market recently. The 7,894-square-foot, 6-bedroom home was built in 1949 and is situated on two acres in northern California’s Sonoma County.
According to AOL Real Estate, Schulz purchased the home for $250,000 in 1973 from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa. Schulz and his wife Jeannie sold the home in 1996. The second owner listed the place way back in November 2009, and the price has now dropped from $2.9 million to $2.275 million. From the photos, which you can VIEW HERE, the place appears to be in need of an overhaul.
The home has a nice stained-glass window in a “chapel” room, which the real estate people suggest can be removed and replaced with a big-screen TV. They’ve even created a mock-up of what this new den of Godless debauchery could look like:
More photos of the home after the jump:
Seth MacFarlane, who has made a career of creating nuanced and thoughtful animated programs that broaden the horizons of viewers, is lending his expertise to the scientific community. He’s teaming up with Carl Sagan’s widow and astrophysicists Steven Soter and Neil deGrasse Tyson to create a sequel to the milestone science series Cosmos.
The new series, Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey, is “the story of how human beings began to comprehend the laws of nature and find our place in space and time,” according to the press release:
By exploring never-before-told stories of the heroic quest for knowledge, the series will take viewers to other worlds and travel across the universe for a vision of the cosmos on the grandest scale. The most profound scientific concepts will be presented with stunning clarity, uniting skepticism and wonder, and weaving rigorous science with the emotional and spiritual into a transcendent experience.
The thirteen-part series will debut on that bastion of scientific inquiry, FOX, beginning in 2013. Between this and his reboot of The Flintstones, there’s seemingly nothing that MacFarlane can’t do. Perhaps someday he’ll surprise everyone by actually doing something well.
(Photo credit: Gage Skidmore’s Flickr)
Video footage of the disastrous financial moment after the jump:
Remember Officer Bubbles, the Toronto cop who tried to sue YouTube because he didn’t like cartoons that satirized his abuses of power? Well, some police officers in the US are trying to outdo him in the crooked cop department. The prosecutor and police department of Renton, Washington are trying to arrest a person who used the animation software Xtranormal to create animated videos that exposed the Renton PD’s long history of misconduct. (One of the cartoons is posted above.)
Though the city’s name was never used in the cartoons, Renton police didn’t appreciate their dirty laundry being made public and claimed that the videos constituted “cyberstalking,” a felony that could earn the filmmaker five years in prison. Legal experts say the charge “absolutely does not apply” to the filmmaker, and have called the First Amendment-bashing behavior of the Renton PD an “extreme abuse of power.”
That hasn’t stopped the police from creating a search warrant (posted below) to go after MrFuddlesticks, the name of the YouTube account that posted the animated videos. A local Washington judge James Cayce rubber-stamped their warrant, which will force Google-owned YouTube to hand over information revealing the identity of the filmmaker.
Unfortunately there’s no happy ending to this story, but at least everyone can have a good chuckle at the city of Renton’s quixotic attempt to ban satire in the United States.
(Thanks, Jerrett Zaroski)
The standoff between DreamWorks Animation and Paramount is explored in this piece in the Hollywood Reporter. It’s a good primer on the situation, and interestingly, positions it mostly as a battle of egos between Jeffrey Katzenberg and Paramount head Brad Grey. Unidentified insiders in the piece also support my contention from earlier this week that Paramount is kidding itself if it thinks it can start producing animated blockbusters like DreamWorks by 2014.
Some fans of Disney comics are calling Ducktales #3 published by Kaboom! the single worst Disney comic book they’ve ever seen. Here’s a detailed review of the issue by Chris Barat. Some of the complaints will make sense only to those familiar with the Disney comic universe, but the incompetent drawing and staging will be evident to all. Panels are flipped and repeated, characters speak to other characters that aren’t even drawn into the comic, backgrounds appear to be drawn by a twelve-year-old in MS Paint, and even the cover is an uninspired swipe of an earlier Daan Jippes cover:
UPDATE 1: Here are some examples of what these comics could’ve looked like if Kaboom! had hired artists who understood the principles of drawing, composition, and design.
UPDATE 2: This comic is so bad, it even inspired its own parody of the DuckTales theme song (via):
Reverse beard pixilation is done so often it’s almost an animation meme, but there’s always room for one more, especially when it’s as well done as Peter Simon‘s Trim. The comments on the Reddit post about the film are interesting too–”I love how my assumption of who he is changed with each new hair style,” “Nazi, punk kid, white trash, hipster, biker, Jesus, Ultra-Jesus”–as well as the response from the director Simon: “That is something we were talking about while we were working on this. Each style has a very specific stereotype attached.”
Wow, here’s something I’d never seen before: Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam discussing his animation techniques on Bob Godfrey‘s Do-It-Yourself Animation Show in 1974. Godfrey’s show, which made animation accessible to the masses by taking the mystery out of the production process, was vastly influential and inspired an entire generation of kids in England, including Nick Park, who created Wallace & Gromit, Jan Pinkava, who directed the Pixar short Geri’s Game, and Richard Bazley, an animator on Pocahontas, Hercules, and The Iron Giant.
In a day and age when more kids are interested in animating than ever before, it’s a shame that TV shows (or Web series) that are fun and informative like this don’t exist. The DIY advice that Gilliam gives in this episode is not only brilliant, but still as relevant today as back then:
“The whole point of animation to me is to tell a story, make a joke, express an idea. The technique itself doesn’t really matter. Whatever works is the thing to use.”
It’s been twelve years since the last short by filmmakers Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, and that was the Palme d’Or-winning and Oscar-nominated When the Day Breaks. They recently wrapped their new film Wild Life. The National Film Board of Canada has released these two clips on-line from the thirteen-and-a-half-minute film, which premiered on the festival circuit in May.
The official description:
In 1909, a dapper young remittance man is sent from England to Alberta to attempt ranching. However, his affection for badminton, bird watching and liquor leaves him little time for wrangling cattle. It soon becomes clear that nothing in his refined upbringing has prepared him for the harsh conditions of the New World. This animated short is about the beauty of the prairie, the pang of being homesick and the folly of living dangerously out of context.
Animation legend Walt Peregoy (background painter on Sleeping Beauty and Paul Bunyan, color stylist of 101 Dalmatians, and background stylist on Scooby Doo, Where Are You!), who gained some notoriety earlier this year with this unfiltered interview, is having a show of his fine art this Friday, August 5. The reception for “The Little Man in My Head” will take place between 7 and 10pm at the Gallery 839 at the Animation Guild (1105 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank, CA 91505).
Walt has been a prolific painter for his entire lifetime and it’s nice to see him finally receiving some recognition for it. If you’re in LA on Friday, this is a great opportunity to meet a genuine animation legend. There aren’t many of them still with us nowadays.
The drama beween DreamWorks Animation and its distributor Paramount continues with plenty of unsubstantiated rumors, but no hard details of the negotiations. Paramount, of course, recently launched its own in-house animation studio, which strikes me as a bargaining chip more than anything else. We’ve also heard rumors that Paramount has just appointed a new studio president, and if it’s who people are claiming, it’s someone with one of the most disastrous track records of any recent executive to work in the animation industry.
The situation reminds me a lot of what Disney did when they started contract renewal talks with Pixar some years ago. Disney launched a new studio, Circle 7, and tried to make their own Toy Story sequel before coming to the conclusion that Pixar’s creative culture couldn’t be replicated with deep pockets alone. I’m not suggesting that Paramount will buy DreamWorks, but I am saying that Paramount is sorely mistaken if they think they can just launch an animation studio and start churning out consistent box office winners like DreamWorks.
This morning, an anonymous commenter on the Animation Guild blog posted a list of thirty properties currently optioned or in development at DreamWorks. The list is printed below. I can’t vouch for its accuracy, but I’ve heard of at least half of the projects on the list. Allowing for some fluctuations in the nebulous nature of options and development, it appears to be fairly accurate.
This list to me is indicative of the infrastructure that DreamWorks has built and the underlying strength of the company. In spite of personal reservations about the creative content of the studio’s films, it would be foolish to not acknowledge that the studio has one of the strongest creative foundations of any animation company currently in operation. It would take Paramount years, if not decades, to develop as robust a development slate as DreamWorks. In nearly a decade of operations, Sony Pictures Animation has managed to release a handful of middling features and doesn’t appear to have a development slate anywhere near the size of DreamWorks’s.
I don’t think anybody on the outside knows for certain how the deal between DreamWorks and Paramount will conclude, but looking at what DreamWorks Animation has achieved, I’d like to believe that the cards are stacked in its favor over the long term.
What follows is the list of DreamWorks films in development: