Tod Polson (El Tigre, The Secret of Kells) announced recently that he’s putting together a book on Maurice Noble that will be published in 2012 by my pals at Chronicle Books. Polson knew him as well as anybody, and I have no doubt he’s going to make this something special. This book will not only give Maurice his due, it’ll also make up for the disappointingly shallow biography of Noble that was published a few years back.
The last few years of his life, Maurice had been working on a design textbook that described his approach to design. Unfortunately he passed away before he was able to complete the text. For most of the last year I have been working with Chronicle Books in putting together what I hope will be the book that Maurice had dreamed of. It will be chocked full of his pre-production art, notes, and thoughts from the master himself describing his process. The book will also be full of reflections from folks that knew and worked with him.
Here’s a fun foreign culture lesson for a Friday. Teru Teru Bozu by Brooklyn-based Lori Samsel reinterprets a traditional Japanese nursery rhyme through animation. The song illustrates the uniquely Japanese custom of making small white paper or cloth dolls, which represent Buddhist monks, and hanging them from windows as an amulet to bring out the sun and stop the rain. The Wikipedia entry about the song is fascinating, and discusses the sinister history of the 1920s song:
This song is rumored to have a darker history than it first appears. It allegedly originated from a story of a monk who promised farmers to stop rain and bring clear weather during a prolonged period of rain which was ruining crops. When the monk failed to bring sunshine, he was executed.
Lori’s distinctive animation technique is also worth noting. She told me that she roughed out all the animation in After Effects, printed out each frame, inked it onto paper, and scanned it back into the computer.
An intriguing trailer for The Monster of Nix, a new half-hour animated short by Dutch director Rosto (Jona/Tomberry). He describes the short, which debuted in Annecy last month, as an “existentialist musical fairytale.” Rosto composed the music himself and wrote on his website that, “A major source of inspiration has been Disney’s Silly Symphonies from the Thirties.” Tom Waits and Terry Gilliam provide voices. More info at MonsterofNix.com.
I’m going to assume that Harrey Podder: Say the Magic Word (a.) makes sense and (b.) is funny if you know something about Harry Potter. I don’t, so all I can say is that the creator David Stodolny is currently an animator at DreamWorks.
For my money, cut-out animation is still one of the most charming animation techniques when done well. Take for instance The Red Heels (Les Talons Rouges) by Olesya Shchukina. The Russian-born animator produced the cut-out piece at the French animation school La Poudriere for an assignment to make a one-minute film from a child’s point of view. Watch The Red Heels on her website.
Last weekend, Cars 2 grossed $15.2 million boosting its total to $148.8 million. The film is currently on a pace to be one of Pixar’s lowest grossing films, and it will almost certainly be the studio’s least-attended film ever in the United States. Cars 2 is performing better overseas than its predecessor with $121.6 million to date, breaking Disney’s opening record in Argentina with $3.3 million and accruing $21.1 million to date in Mexico.
The film appears to be following a similar trajectory to a recent sequel from another studio, Kung Fu Panda 2, which also failed to meet US expectations but performed respectably overseas. Kung Fu Panda 2 has brought in just $159.3 million in the US after eight weekends, which puts it in the range of Shark Tale‘s 2004 gross. The $400 million from overseas softens the blow, but the message is clear: 3-D or not, audiences in the US are tired of animated sequels that don’t have anything new to offer. That may not be good news for Happy Feet 2 which opens in a few months.
Public Domaine, a skateboard art and culture show currently on display at Gaite Lyrique in Paris, features an installation of classic board designs brought to life. The animated was created by skate legend Natas Kaupas.
Dozens of love letters belonging to director and animator Hugh Harman have turned up on eBay. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, Hugh Harman was a legendary figure in animation history. The starting bid for the letters is $2,000 which I think is a bit overpriced considering they’re from the 1940s after Harman had already made his biggest contributions to cartoons. I’d also assume the likelihood of new animation history revelations to be low. However, it’s an interesting find for the animation buff who likes a little romance on the side.
From the “better late than never” department comes this box office report from last weekend. I thought I might as well post it since this week’s debut of Transformers 3 will knock Cars 2 from the top spot. Pixar’s latest effort debuted last weekend in the lead position with $66.1 million, topping the original Cars opening weekend of $60.1 million, but trailing it in terms of attendance. The number that caught my eye though was its dismal 3-D performance. As with Kung Fu Panda 2, the majority of audiences chose to watch the flat version, with only 40% paying a 3-D premium. Compare that to 60% who saw Toy Story 3 in 3-D and a 52% 3-D share for Up.
In one other bit of box office news, earlier this week Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil finally passed the $10 million mark in the US after 62 days of release. Combine that with earnings of $3.6 million from overseas and it’s grossed a grand total of $13.6 million.
I’m not sure where the stereotypical image of the pudgy, slovenly animation artist originated, but animators haven’t always been sedentary creatures. Here’s the proof: some rare 1939 images I recently ran across in Life magazine of Clarke Mallery who went on to work at Disney and UPA. (Click on them for a bigger version.) He also played a mean clarinet, and was in Ward Kimball’s words, “a poor man’s Artie Shaw.” Mallery performed in the Firehouse Five Plus Two from its inception until 1952. Here’s some more biographical details about him culled from the liner notes of a Firehouse Five Plus Two album:
Born in Los Angeles, May 17, 1919 and lived in the Pasadena area since. He became interested in music at an early age; his mother was a fine singer, and his family were all musically inclined. He studied violin at first, then switched to clarinet, which he played in the Pasadena High School band. While at high school, he also sang with a local dance orchestra led by his older brother. At high school he was an outstanding track star, which led to a scholarship at the University of Southern California, Class of 1940.
In 1939 he took top high jump honors at the Big Ten-Pacific Coast Dual Meet at Berkeley. His best jump in competition was 6′ 7-1/2″. From earliest childhood he had been interested in drawing and during college worked as a sports cartoonist for the Los Angeles Examiner. After a summer job (1937) at Disney Studios, he decided on a professional career as an artist. He joined Disney in 1941 as an animation artist, and worked on almost every Disney feature since that time, except for 1942-1944, when he was in the Army. Clarke’s other interests include acting, theatrical direction and singing. In 1953 he left Disney to do free-lance work, and to form his own band.
We normally don’t post live-action trailers on Cartoon Brew, but there are exceptions to every rule, and Brad Bird is always an exception. Watch the trailer for his film Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol at MissionImpossible.com.