Here’s a toast to British animation legend Bob Godfrey who turns ninety years old today. Read a tribute to Bob on the VanArts school website. Better yet, watch this BBC TV episode about Bob from the 1970s:
In today’s edition of Kyle Carrozza and John Berry’s Frog Raccoon Strawberry, January and Strawberry attend a cartoon convention where they encounter a grouchy and pedantic animation historian named Imad Imadi. I’m so glad I don’t know anybody like that.
“I think it’s a really sad state. We’re in the 21st century and there are so few stories geared towards girls, told from a female point of view.”
The article goes on to say that she was fired from Brave over “creative differences” and that she is currently on a leave of absence from Pixar, though she will receive a directing credit on the film. My guess — and it’s only a guess — is that she has to remain with the company contractually until the film is completed in order to receive her credit.
1. 3D Ruins Regular Movies Too
The Boston Globe published a damning exposé about irresponsible theater chains like AMC, National Amusements, and Regal that often leave the 3D projector lenses on for 2D movies, thereby dimming regular movies and draining them of color to the point where they can’t be enjoyed. So why don’t they just switch the lenses on the Sony digital projectors you ask? How about DRM foul-ups:
James Bond, a Chicago-based projection guru who serves as technical expert for Roger Ebert’s Ebertfest, said issues with the Sonys are more than mechanical. Opening the projector alone involves security clearances and Internet passwords, “and if you don’t do it right, the machine will shut down on you.” The result, in his view, is that often the lens change isn’t made and “audiences are getting shortchanged.”
2. Fake Indian Animation Schools
Times of India reports about an epidemic of fly-by-night animation schools in India. Over 10,000 students have been suckered by these schools with the promise of receiving a quality education and jobs:
Anshuman Kaushik, who took admission in 2D animation in Nupur Media, which collaborated with Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University said that he paid Rs 1.6 lakh for the 10-month course which the company terminated after the first six months. “There were 30 students in the class. Just before the company shut down, about 15 students were given offer letters by Nupur Media House. Later we realised that the company was not even registered,” said Kaushik who is now planning to take a regular course in animation from a reputed university.
3. Arnold’s Cartoon Probably Still Happening
After it was revealed that California’s inept ex-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was producing little Latino-American Arnolds with women that were not his wife, the producers of the Governator animated series announced that they “have chosen to not go forward with the Governator project.” That seemed like a prudent and responsible decision by the production companies, until they issued a revised statement that read, “In light of recent events, A Squared Entertainment, POW, Stan Lee Comics, and Archie Comics, have halted production.” Subtle wording change, but big difference. What they’re really saying is, “We’re probably still going to make this show even though Arnold is an awful role model for kids, but we’ll just wait until the whole affair business blows over.” Of course, they’ll have to make some minor changes to the original idea, which according to Stan Lee, would have used “all the personal elements of Arnold’s life. We’re using his wife. We’re using his kids.”
(Thanks, Karl Cohen, for the India link)
Advice from John Lasseter on how to wear Hawaiian shirts: “Don’t just pick a shirt to wear, but pick the subject matter of the shirt to match what you’re doing in the day.” That is, of course, easier to do when you own over one thousand Hawaiian shirts as Lasseter does, including 374 in active rotation.
Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle received a fun tour of the collection:
This photo of Kung Fu Panda 2 director Jennifer Yuh Nelson attending the film’s premiere earlier today was posted onto DreamWorks’s Twitter account. A Korean-American, she is (I believe) the first female Asian director of a major animated feature.
The lack of racial and gender diversity in Hollywood animation, particularly in the upper-tier creative positions, has always been disheartening to me, largely because the lack of different points of view is reflected in the animation that appear in theaters and on TV. It’s encouraging to see a new generation of directors, like Yuh Nelson and Rio‘s Carlos Saldanha, who don’t fit the traditional animation director mold. Here’s her official bio from the studio:
Jennifer Yuh Nelson has lent her talents to four of DreamWorks Animation’s motion pictures: 2008’s Kung Fu Panda (as head of story), 2005’s Madagascar (as story artist), 2003’s Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (as head of story) and 2002’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (also as story artist).
Prior to joining DreamWorks, Nelson worked at HBO Animation, developing various projects and short series. She has worn many hats, serving as director, story artist and character designer for HBO’s animated series Spawn, which won an Emmy Award in 1999 for Outstanding Animated Program.
Nelson’s career in animation has spanned several countries, including Korea and Japan, where she oversaw animation for HBO. Nelson has also worked in Sydney, Australia, serving as a story artist and illustrator for the live-action feature Dark City for Mystery Clock Productions.
Nelson attended California State University, Long Beach where she received a BFA in Illustration. Nelson has also published several independent comic books.
And here’s an interview with her:
The LA Film Forum presents Triumph of the Wild: New Experimental Animation curated by Eric Leiser. The screening, which presents recent experimental films from the US and Europe, takes place on Sunday, May 22, at 7:30 pm at the Egyptian Theater (6712 Hollywood Blvd.) Three of the filmmakers–Eric Leiser, Alice Cohen, and Gina Marie Napolitan–will appear in person.
Tickets are $10/general admission, $6/students and seniors, and free for Filmforum members. To purchase advance tickets, visit the LA Film Forum website.
Here’s the screening line-up:
These Hammers Don’t Hurt Us by Michael Robinson
(2010, USA, 13 mins)
The External World by David OReilly
(2011, Ireland, 17 mins)
Triumph of the Wild by Martha Colburn
(2009, USA, 10 mins)
Battery Cage by Studio Smack
(2009, Netherlands, 4 mins)
Mirror Moves for Private Eyes by Alice Cohen
(2010, USA, 13 mins)
Mastering Bambi by Persijn Broerson and Margit Luckas
(2011, USA/Netherlands, 13 mins)
Remisequenz by Xenia Lesniewski
(2010, Germany, 3 mins)
City of Progress by Justine Bennet
(2008, Netherlands, 11 mins)
Forest by Eric Leiser
(2008, USA, 3 mins)
Demons and Cathedrals by Gina Marie Napolitan
(2010, USA, 5 mins)
One of my favorite student films from a few years back — 2008, to be exact — has finally appeared on-line: Michal Socha’s Chick (Laska) from Poland. The images in this short stay with the viewer long after the film has ended thanks to a combination of stark production design and energetic animation, especially the jaunty dance of the lady, who appears to be a prostitute. The sex scene (safe for work) illustrates the effectiveness of abstracting an idea in animation instead of literally showing it. It may surprise some viewers to learn that the film was made primarily in CG, using 3D Studio Max along with After Effects and Toon Boom. Dig around the film’s official website to see the storyboards and concept art.
Fox is premiering another new series this fall: Allen Gregory, created by actor Jonah Hill (Get Him to the Greek, Superbad), and Yes Man screenwriters Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul. The seven-episode order for the series is being produced by Burbank-based Bento Box Entertainment, which was started a couple years ago by three Film Roman executives.
My favorite publisher Chronicle Books recently announced their fall publishing line-up and it includes three books that may be of interest to Brew readers:
A first of its kind book: Setting the Scene: The Art & Development of Animation Layout by Fraser MacLean. I haven’t seen anything from it, but I know Fraser has been working his tail off to finish the book. It promises to be a comprehensive examination of animation layout practices, both past and present.
Sasquatch’s Big Hair Drawing Book by Chris McDonnell. Chris has worked on animated series like Yo Gabba Gabba! and Tom Goes To The Mayor and also designed Bill Plympton’s new coffeetable art book. His drawing activity book should be something like this.
The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts and Select Art from 25 Years of Animation by Amid Amidi. Yes, that’s me. But even though my name is on the cover, there won’t be a whole lot of my writing in the book. The book is almost entirely artwork, which is exactly as it should be since it’s called The Art of Pixar. It’ll be all kinds of classy.
Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich promised to post an embarrassing old video when he reached 100k followers on his Twitter account. He reached that number yesterday, and the embarrassing video is this appearance on the Eighties game show Win, Lose or Draw. Unkrich prefaced the video with three facts:
1) I was 20 years old
2) I was plump
3) I was coerced into buying that sweater by the show’s producers
Fun question of the day: What other animation artists, besides Unkrich and Ward Kimball, have appeared on game shows? Please share if you know.
Last weekend, Profiles in History in conjunction with Van Eaton Galleries (disclosure: they are an advertiser on Cartoon Brew) staged a massive animation art auction. I’m not a collector, but found it fascinating to browse through the auction results and see what prices the lots commanded as well as what pieces didn’t sell (for example, lots of Fantasia art).
Here’s a sampling of twenty pieces and how much each sold for. The last few prices are staggering.
Max Porter of the husband-and-wife animation team Tiny Inventions wrote a fascinating blog post about the pros and cons of immediately distributing their short Something Left, Something Taken on-line last year instead of waiting for the film to complete its festival run:
I read a comment on a popular film blog a while back that asked how filmmakers could afford to give their work away for free. Ru and I always felt the exact opposite. How could we afford not to put our work online? For us it was simple. We reasoned that the sale of our animation could not possibly generate enough money to sustain our life in New York. By putting our work in a place that people could see it, we actually ended up making far more money from opportunities created from the online presence than we had in previous years.
PS: As further proof that times have changed, Something Left, Something Taken is one of two American shorts competing in the shorts category at Annecy next month.
Fox has released a trailer for their upcoming animated Napoleon Dynamite series based on the 2004 indie live-action comedy of the same name. The show is animated (quite poorly it appears) by Rough Draft Studios. In the cautious post-creator driven era of TV animation, Napoleon Dynamite and Flintstones revivals are as good as it’s going to get on Fox.
The meditative quality of Dan Deacon’s “Believer” is combined with paper sculpture visuals in this music video by Jen Stark. I like what she attempted, but the imagery has no clear focal point, and I kept having to look away from the screen to readjust my focus. Maybe that’s the point.
Last year, some Bay Area artists began discussing the idea for an alternative to the overcrowded and rudderless San Diego Comic-Con International. They discussed their ideas on a Facebook page called Creator-Con, and threw around suggestions for what they wanted to see in a counter-festival: a dealers room filled with comics and artist-created products that they’d actually want to buy, in-depth classes and how-tos, and a casual and relaxed environment for catching up with old friends and making new ones. Most importantly, they wanted a place that celebrated creating art instead of the Comic-Con’s shift towards consumerism and its many tentacles including Hollywood, fandom and cosplay.
The idea found plenty of grassroots support, and lead to a new event called TR!CKSTER which will debut throughout the week of Comic-Con (July 19-24, 2011) literally across the street from the San Diego Convention Center. Here’s the map:
And here’s the place – the San Diego Wine and Culinary Center:
To understand the philosophy behind the event and the reason for its name, I’d suggest starting here. The lofty and admirable ambitions of TR!CKSTER–spearheaded by creators Scott Morse and Ted Mathot–include promoting a stronger bond between creator and audience, while eliminating barriers like convention booths and tables so that everyone can interact and learn from one another.
The three main components of the festival are:
* Symposia, a series of intensive workshops revolving around the theme of storytelling, with the participation of Mike Mignola, Mike Allred, Steve Niles, Bernie Wrightson, Skottie Young, Jim Mahfood, Scott Morse, Ted Mathot, Derek Thompson, Greg Rucka, Craig Yoe, and others to be announced soon.
* A huge retail area where creators will be selling their wares and doing signings throughout the day. (Unlike Comic-Con, there is no admission fee. The Symposia events cost money, but everything else is FREE.)
* A coffee and cocktail bar, drawing areas with live models, a gallery space, live musical performances and DJs, and film screenings. (Note: Cartoon Brew is a proud sponsor of the inaugural edition and we’re planning some animation screenings. More details to come.)
My favorites are the actresses who slip a snort in the middle. Evil tends to work best with a touch of unhinged crazy.
Full list of actresses after the jump:
In his spare time, Carlo Vogele, an animator at Pixar, created Tango for Jansjo, kind of a sensual Luxo, Jr. starring Ikea lighting fixtures. Carlo’s student short For Sock’s Sake received a spotlight on the Brew back in 2008 when we noted his unique ability to infuse life and personality into inanimate objects.
The New York Times shows how not to make an animation reference in this front page article about the parakeet boom in London:
Individually, any of the rose-ringed parakeets could be the star of a DreamWorks film, electric green with bright pink beaks and the voluble personalities that have long made the tropical species a popular household pet.
Because, you know, DreamWorks has done so many films featuring colorful tropical birds, like How to Train Your Parakeet, Kung Fu Parakeet 2, and MegaParakeet. It’s pretty obvious what film the writer was trying to reference, and for the record, the studio that made the film wasn’t DreamWorks.
BulbousBoiler by Julio LeÃ³n (Mexico)
Kasper Rides by Ryan Magnusson(United States)
Tank Girl by Timothy McCourt (UK): “Based on two panels from page 7 of Jamie Hewlett’s the Comic Tank Girl the Odyssey. I animated this using Flash and composited in After Effects.”
The Crocodile and the Deer by Mr. Fogg
The war against terror didn’t end with Osama. Now it’s time to go after the root of Islamic terrorism — Disney’s 1992 feature Aladdin. The Tea Party Youth LA is starting its campaign in Orange County, home of Disneyland and patriotic Americans fighting terror.
The video was created by Sameer Asad Gardezi, a staff writer for TV series like Modern Family, and Outsourced. He created the satirical piece as a response to the fervid anti-Muslim rally (linked above) that took place a few months ago in Yorba Linda, California, which is Gardezi’s hometown.
(via Angry Asian Man)
Dan Adler is a former v-p of creative development at Walt Disney Imagineering. Now he’s running for Congress in California with kooky and borderline inappropriate ads like the ones above and below. His website features endorsements from people who’ll be familiar to the animation community, including former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, retired Imagineering exec Marty Sklar, and Geraldine Laybourne, who launched Nickelodeon’s original animation programming in the early 1990s. Have any Brew readers ever worked with him?
Responding to my comment about the difficulty of writing anything interesting about Pixar nowadays, Brew reader Matt said:
It’s hard to look at Pixar as anything but perfect but if you don’t want to continually reiterate the same Pixar praise, you can instead start looking into some of the negatives surrounding the studio. Such as the recent antitrust lawsuit seeking class action status by a former LucasFilm Software engineer accusing Pixar, Lucasfilm, Google, Apple, Intuit, Adobe, and Intel of having “no solicitation” agreements with one another to curb competition for skilled labor and cap employee pay. Time will tell if it’s true or not, just hope they continue making entertaining films.
That’s a fascinating story topic, and it got me thinking about what are some other stories about Pixar that I’d like to read. Here are some suggestions:
* Non-union Pixar is notorious for paying lower wages than the other major CG feature studios. They can get away with this because the prestige of working on a Pixar feature trumps a salary. That’s an excellent position for a company to be in, but history reminds us that it’s not a sustainable approach in the long-term. The parallels between Pixar’s current approach and the Disney studio of the late-Thirties are eerily similar, especially in Pixar’s paternalistic approach to offering incentives to its employees. Take this excerpt from the New Yorker piece about Pixar’s cereal bar: “There was once a new arrival at the company, who thought the bowls provided at the bar were too small, and registered his displeasure in an email. He didn’t last. In Lasseter’s words, ‘If you’re that upset about how big the bowl for your free cereal is, leave.’” In other words, Pixar will give you free cereal as long as you eat it exactly the way they want you to eat it.
* Not entirely Pixar-related, but another story I’d love to read more about is Lasseter’s takeover of the creative side of Disney Feature Animation. Lasseter has ruffled plenty of feathers and pushed some of the top talents out of the studio (Chris Sanders, and perhaps Glen Keane next), but he’s also responsible for retooling Tangled into the studio’s biggest earner since The Lion King. Is Disney becoming more like Pixar? And is that a positive development?
* Of course, there’s also the old standby: the lack of female protagonists in Pixar’s oeuvre. The latest take on the topic is this piece in Persephone Magazine. For the record, Anthony Lane in his New Yorker piece argued that Elastigirl is a “single-handed rebuke to the charge–proved elsewhere–that Pixar has failed to place female heroes at the hub of its stories.”
Your suggestions for good Pixar stories?
Anthony Lane’s fawning eight-page profile of Pixar in the new edition of The New Yorker (May 16) has convinced me that it is next to impossible to write anything of substance about the studio at this time. The studio’s unparalleled string of successes at the box office inevitably leads to writers attempting to figure out why they’ve been so good, and the response from within the studio is always the same tired line about how all the elements of the film are created in the service of the story. That’s a great point, of course, and deserves to be shouted from the rooftops, but it doesn’t exactly make for thought-provoking commentary. Nor does it explain Cars. Lane’s article isn’t on-line, but if you’ve read anything about Pixar in the past few years, then you’ve probably read this piece, too.
Well, actually, Lane does have one original revelation: he harbors a fetish for the, umm, elasticity, of the The Incredibles’ Helen Parr, aka Elastigirl:
Helen, with bendy limbs adaptable for both vacuuming and fistfights, is a living joke about society’s expectation that women should have it all, or do it all, and never take a break. There is, of course, another skill that she could master with her natural sinuosity, but that is never mentioned. Back in 2004, some of us in the movie theatre wanted to shout, “Bob, she’s wearing a black mask and thigh-highs. What are you waiting for, man?” For the sake of the kids, though, we kept quiet. Bedrooms, in Pixar, are places where you chat to monsters, or horse around with your toys: not perspiring rumpus rooms, where Mr. and Mrs. Incredible play adults-only Twister.
Such is the state of commentary about Pixar today.
Keymon Ache premiered earlier this week on Nickelodeon India. Watch the first episode on Nick India’s website. It’s about an ordinary Indian boy and his magical rapping monkey Keymon Ache.
The series, which is being touted as “India’s first non-mythological contemporary show,” is produced by DQ Entertainment. Why this is important: the show’s entire production, even the creative pre-production elements, were done entirely in India, and the results are almost on a par with Western animated series. There’s a handful of localized touches, such as the boy not wearing shoes in the home, but for the most part it looks and feels like a Western show. The fact that India can now produce an entire Westernized animated series from concept to completion is both an accomplishment and a game-changer for the animation industry.
(Thanks, Rohit Iyer)