Walt Peregoy is best known as the color stylist of 101 Dalmatians and headed the background department at Hanna-Barbera in the late-1960s. The Animation Guild‘s business rep and intrepid interviewer Steve Hulett spoke recently with the 85-year-old Peregoy and their conversation can be heard below. If you’ve ever heard Walt speak before, then you know what to expect, but if you haven’t, be forewarned that there’s a lot of swearing and everyone he talks about is either a son of a bitch, a buttboy, a white supremacist or a motherf**r. Unlike Charlie Sheen though, Walt’s rants are actually pretty entertaining.
There aren’t all that many animated films in the immaculately curated Criterion Collection. In fact, of the 556 DVDs that have been released under the Criterion banner, approximately 556 of them have been not been animated.
That’s Cinematical writer David Ehrlich asking why the discerning cinema buffs at Criterion have never released an animated film. He suggests that they begin looking in the direction of animation and offers a list of ten animated films they should consider releasing. What’s your wishlist of animated films that Criterion should release? Perhaps someone at the company will take notice of the possibilities.
FOR THE RECORD: A few commenters have pointed out that Criterion has released animation in the past–they put out Akira on laserdisc in 1995, and have released a few DVD anthologies of work by experimental animator Stan Brakhage.
The “Walt Disney hated Jews and blacks” accusation is one of the most vile mistruths tossed around about the old man, yet a quick browse on-line suggests that more young people believe it today than ever before. How did this happen? Why is the single fact that kids know about this 20th century entertainment giant a shopworn charge, long ago disproven, that he was anti-Semitic and/or racist?
I began to understand the situation more clearly after spending some time exploring Yahoo! Answers, which contains dozens of questions about Walt’s beliefs. The questions don’t stem from Marc Eliot’s notorious hack job Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince–remember, nobody reads anymore–but rather from pop culture references, particularly animated shows like Family Guy and Robot Chicken.
Writers of these shows, who can rarely be relied upon to come up with clever or original humor, recycle a playbook of dated pop culture references, among them that Walt hated Jews and that he’s frozen. Family Guy writers are so enamored of the anti-Semitic charges, that they’ve made the accusation multiple times, including this instance:
Combine the endemic laziness of animation writers with an every-child-left-behind educational system that has created a legion of TV viewers who can’t recognize that they’re being duped by old hearsay instead of being revealed new truths, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
I dropped by the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco last year and it was one of the most well curated and delightful museums I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. The museum achieves its aims of documenting Disney’s vast achievements and then some. The reality though is that most teenagers will never visit the museum. To address the rampant distortions about Walt, the Disney family and company must expand their on-line presence and make an effort to combat the inaccuracies with relevant information about Walt Disney’s life, history and legacy.
I’m sure the Walt Disney Company has plenty of employees already who manage their brand on-line and actively communicate with fans on the Internet. But seeing as how their company’s success is so indelibly tied to a single name, it would behoove them to also have a full-time employee or two dedicated to managing their founder’s reputation lest these lies are repeated often enough to be accepted as truth.
The problem of TV writers spreading disinformation about Walt is so widespread that even former Disney stars are perpetuating the stories. For example, take this appearance by Zac Efron on Saturday Night Live. Walt Disney appears in the skit, and along with him, the two stock Walt gags: he’s anti-Semitic and he’s frozen.
I’ve collected some of the most representative questions and answers from Yahoo! Answers that show the scope of the perception problem for Disney.
After analyzing all of the related Walt Disney questions on Yahoo, the most common sources of Walt’s contemporary character assassination can be traced to jokes on Family Guy and Robot Chicken, resulting in questions like this one:
Or this one:
Walt has defenders but the reasons are often as misinformed as the questions.
Here’s a defense from a “Disney historian, sort of!”
This Jewish girl is disappointed to learn that Walt, in fact, hated her.
Of course, he wasn’t just an anti-Semite, he was also “pro-white and hated people who weren’t.”
Thankfully, watching Disney cartoons is ok since “It’s not like you’re funding some Jew-killing operation.”
Oh, Family Guy writers, what clever comedy material will you come up with next? Perhaps a timely Hitler joke.
Saturday Night Live writers aren’t much better.
According to this person, supporting Walt Disney’s work is equivalent to supporting a media empire run by Osama bin Laden.
Walt won’t even leave Jews alone when they’re in the bathroom. This Yahoo commenter has a bright future ahead of him as a TV animation writer.
Frankly, Google’s Autofill isn’t much help in the matter either.
And yes, finally, some sanity.
UPDATE: A shameful example of misinformation can be found in this recent piece about Roald Dahl. In it, the misinformed author Alex Carnevale repeats the old canard about Walt’s feelings towards Jews:
[Dahl's] interest in writing, combined with his ludicrous tales of his wartime experience, quickly led him to Hollywood, where he immediately had much in common (appetite for clandestine inappropriate sex, hatred of Jews) with the Disney brothers. Walt Disney gave him the use of a car and put him up at the Beverly Hills Hotel!
Hans Perk recently posted scans from a 1983 edition of the Disney Newsreel, an in-house newsletter about happenings around the studio. The issue had an article about an animation test created by John Lasseter and Glen Keane using Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are as subject matter. The project will be well known to anyone familiar with the careers of Lasseter and Keane, but I found the article’s contemporaneous account of the production to be interesting, especially Lasseter’s quote that, “In five years these tests will seem so primitive, they’ll look like Steamboat Willie does today.” Since it seems that people rarely bother to read scans of text, I went ahead and reformatted the piece for on-line. Here is the article:
Henry Selick’s new animation studio, which we reported on a couple months ago, has set up shop in San Francisco’s hip Mission District. According to MissionLocal.org, the Disney-backed studio, now called ShadeMaker Productions, is located in a former chocolate factory at 16th and Folsom, and will ultimately house 150 employees.
It still sends a tingle down my spine when I discover a piece of amazing animation that I didn’t know existed. That’s the feeling I experienced this afternoon when I randomly stumbled onto About Face, an animated short made by Chris James in 1978. With tension and surprise in every transformation, the film is a reminder that pen and colored pencil can still create effects impossible to achieve with any other tool.
Here is a description of the film found on-line:
About Face is set to the music of Claude Jouvin and features caricatures of Henry the VIII, Mick Jagger, Oscar Wilde, Lord Alfred Douglas, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, The Marx Brothers, David Bowie and a worm.
The film was runner-up in the Grierson Award for Best Short Film of 1978 and was screened on the inaugural day of Channel Four television in November 1982. Other showings include The Arts Council Film Tour and the film festivals of Annecy, Zagreb, Los Angeles, Tampere, Varna, Lucca, Wellington and more.
Written and drawn by Chris James
Music Claude Jouvin
Camera Julian Holdaway
Legendary visual effects artist Stan Winston has been dead for a few years now, but an on-line school bearing his name is getting ready to start up. Stan Winston School of Character Arts will be launched in association with the Los Angeles-based institution Gnomon. The three-minute trailer on the school’s website offers a preview of the numerous disciplines that will be taught by the Stan Winston School of Character Arts. My only question: If you’re starting a serious school, why hire a cheesy and obnoxious announcer who cheapens the entire message?
A new episode of Adventure Time airs tonight on Cartoon Network, and the show will feature a 5-1/2 minute long computer animated segment. The segment was modeled, rigged and animated by one person–Ke Jiang–who graduated in 2009 from the CalArts Experimental Animation program.
Here is something that doesn’t happen often: Swedish filmmaker Johannes Nyholm released a trailer earlier this week for his short Las Palmas, and the trailer became a viral hit (1.643 million views as of this writing). This is it:
True, there’s no animation in the clip above, but Nyholm has also made animated shorts. His finest animated piece to date is The Tale of Little Puppetboy, the first part of which is below:
Puppetboy had me rolling on the floor when I first encountered it a few years back at the Fredrikstad Animation Festival–a wonderful festival by the way–and as one of the jury members, I made sure it got an honorary mention. On the surface, Puppetboy appears crude, but the concept and comedic timing are razor-sharp, which I think sheds some light on Nyholm’s unique ability to make even a trailer go viral.
Taking a page from the playbook of hip hop musicians who peddle their CDs in tourist areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn animator Mark Stansberry is using a novel way of promoting his cartoon character Puddin–selling DVDs on the subway. The NY Daily News has more about his story. According to Stansberry, he’s sold over 40,000 DVDs over the past two years at $1 a piece. The DVDs contain multiple Puddin cartoons like this one:
Stansberry’s grassroots promotion of his animation is laudable, even if the actual cartoons don’t excite me personally. He is proving that there is more than one way to get your animation into the hands of an audience. Here’s another interview with him in which he talks about how his oldest son is helping out with the digital animation.
The best part of this story is that General Motors made his animation career possible. “I worked fifteen years at General Motors in Maryland, and when they closed down the plant in Baltimore, I got a buy-out,” Stansberry says. “But for all those fifteen years I worked there, I also had my own studio where I was working on my animation and making these shorts…General Motors pretty much put me in a place where I could concentrate on my animation.”
Simon’s cat move over; there’s a new animated cat in town. Veteran animator Frans Vischer, currently working at Disney, animated this charming trailer for a book he wrote and illustrated called Fuddles. It’ll be released in May by Simon & Schuster. Until then, you can watch this trailer over and over, and sulk about how much you miss that good old traditional animation.
The Animation Workshop, a school in Viborg, Denmark, has posted this year’s crop of student films onto their Vimeo page. The school has embraced the model of successful French animation schools, like Gobelins and Supinfocom, that encourages students to work in teams. Like those schools, the Workshop’s films exhibit the same strengths (incredible production values and technical craftsmanship) and weaknesses (stories lacking point of view and personal voice).
I haven’t watched all of The Animation Workshop’s graduation films yet (the program is 3-1/2 years hence the mid-year debut of these films), but among the ones I have seen, The Backwater Gospel is a visual standout. The film offers a fresh look that I haven’t seen before, although Luis Cook’s The Pearce Sisters could be considered a stylistic forefather.
The Backwater Gospel filmmakers–there’s eight of them–made a sincere attempt at stylization, not only in how they textured the characters and used flat lighting, but how they fused that together with a restrained style of movement that doesn’t immediately yell out, “I’m CG!” In particular, I love the stylized mouth shapes of the hobo character, which have a nice sculpted look.
Drenched in grim atmosphere, every frame looks like a fully rendered illustration; the effect of seeing the characters move through space so effortlessly appeared jarring at times because my eyes didn’t expect to see illustrations moving like this. Terrific use is also made of Flash, which is seamlessly integrated into the CGI.
Someone is selling Bob Clampett’s 1930 high school yearbook on eBay. Clampett, one of the best known short cartoon directors of the Golden Age of Hollywood animation, directed dozens of Warner Bros. cartoons including Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid, A Tale of Two Kitties, A Corny Concerto, Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs, The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, and The Big Snooze, as well as created Beany & Cecil.
As a member of the yearbook staff, Clampett created numerous drawings for the 1930 volume of The Scroll, the yearbook for Glendale’s Herbert Hoover High School. He would have been sixteen years old at the time. Never being known for his drawing skills, Clampett’s early drawings bear that out and are cruder than the high school artwork I’ve seen for other Golden Age animation artists. His skills and abilities were elsewhere.
We’ve collected his yearbook drawings after the jump.
The article raises all sorts of fascinating questions. For example:
1.) Xtranormal now charges users an average of $1 to make a cartoon and expects to begin turning a profit by the middle of this year. Could charging people to create short animated films be the future of making money from on-line animation instead of charging people to watch cartoons.
2.) How far are we from the day when artists and studios license their artwork to companies like Xtranormal giving fans an easy-to-use system for creating cartoons based on popular characters. Let’s say you could create your own cartoon using characters from Gnomeo and Juliet. It could happen, and I can’t think of a better way of allowing someone to interact with an animated character that they like.
3.) Multiple examples are provided in the article of development execs and producers who have contacted writers after seeing their work on Xtranormal. How long will it be before an animated series is sold in Hollywood based on the work of a writer discovered on Xtranormal?
4.) Richard Appel, one of the exec producers on The Cleveland Show, said of Xtranormal’s cartoons: “It’s a writer’s medium that’s cleverly found a way to get people to look at their screen and listen to what’s being said.” Is that really any different from shows like South Park or any of Seth MacFarlane’s series? In TV animation, the visual elements of animation have been de-emphasized to the point where they no longer matter (Chuck Jones’s infamous “illustrated radio”), and Xtranormal appears to be only the next step in that evolution. But will there ever be an easy-to-use animation tool that allows the masses to take advantage of animation’s visual possibilities?
Disney director and animator Bill Justice passed away today, just one day after his 97th birthday. Besides animating on many of the classic Disney features like Bambi, Fantasia, and Peter Pan, he directed numerous projects at the studio and helped popularize paper cut-out animation, which has experienced a major resurgence in recent years.
Here are the opening titles he directed with X. Atencio for the film The Misadventures of Merlin Jones:
Below is a press release from the Walt Disney Company with details about his 42-career in animation and Imagineering: Continue reading →
Salon, of all places, published an excellent piece about animation character design. They interviewed designer Shannon Tindle (Coraline, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and some as-yet-to-be-released DreamWorks films) about why films like Gnomeo and Juliet and Bob Zemeckis’s mo-cap efforts have such poor character design and asked him to explain which mainstream features work and which don’t from a design perspective. He remains diplomatic throughout while delivering useful advice:
“For me, it should be something that’s believable but not necessarily realistic. Those are two things that people interchange quite a bit on productions — and I’ve been involved in a lot of them. From my point of view, it’s been proven that realism is not really appealing to an audience. Two good examples of successful design that audiences embraced — Kung Fu Panda and Up — are films that certainly were not realistic but had believable characters. A lot of people are actually afraid of stylizing characters in animated films, period. They tend to want to push it to be more realistic, but the first thing people see in an animated film is the characters, and if it’s a character that doesn’t have an appealing, believable design, they’re not going to feel any connection to it.”
David OReilly debuted his latest film on-line this afternoon. The External World premiered last September at the Venice Film Festival and has been racking up awards ever since, notably a grand prize at the Ottawa International Film Festival and an honorary mention at Sundance last month. I’ll leave it at that for now, but a lengthier review of the film will be posted shortly.
For several years, the building housed “a significant portion of the New York workshop,” according to the book Jim Henson: The Works. The workshop was “installed in a bright, airy basement area that opened onto a sunny courtyard and was illuminated by an enormous skylight projecting from the rear of the main building. It was there that you would find Calista Hendrickson decorating a gown for Miss Piggy with bugle beads. It was there that you would come across Leslee Asch restoring classic Muppet figures for a traveling museum show. It was there that you would encounter Faz Fazakas tinkering with electrodes and transistors.”
The Henson family sold the building in 2005 for $12.4 million. Since then, it’s been owned by wealthy, unimaginative financiers like Brian Brille, a Bank of America executive, and most recently, Edgar Bronfman Jr., CEO of Warner Music Group and Seagram liquor heir. According to the WSJ, Bronfman doesn’t even live in the building and rents an apartment when he’s staying in New York. The paper reports that Bronfman is “preparing to list the townhouse…at a time when sales of elite townhouse properties are showing renewed vigor after falling hard during the downturn.” It’s hard to understand exactly what ‘falling hard’ means considering that the home’s sale price has more than doubled in the past five years.
Below are a couple more photos of the building’s interior circa the Henson years. Sadly, the energy and magic of Manhattan is largely inaccessible nowadays to artists like Henson, and without those artists, the island’s unique vibe is fading away, no doubt to make room for more condos to house the rich and unimaginative. Thankfully, there’s always Brooklyn.
If this event isn’t already sold out, it will be soon. On Thursday evening, February 24, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present their annual Animated Feature Symposium. This year’s Oscar nominees–Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois (How to Train Your Dragon), Sylvain Chomet (The Illusionist), and Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3)–will speak about their films. Tickets are $5 (general admission) and $3 (students and Academy members). It takes place at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater (8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211). Tickets may be ordered through the Academy website.
According to the chart above, originally posted on The Animation Guild blog, last month DreamWorks employed 799 union artists, which matches the combined number of union artists employed by Nickelodeon, Fox, Film Roman, Warner Bros. and Cartoon Network. Granted, companies like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network produce countless non-union shows outside of their main studios, but as far as LA animation employment is concerned, DreamWorks rules the roost.
A new short by Fran Krause (Moonraker, Utica Cartoon), Nosy Bear is a character study of a bear in the woods. The “making of” video below serves as a fantastic look into Krause’s unconventional production methods. His dime-sized drawings were drawn sequentially in a sketchbook, but not overlayed to test the movement of the animation. When I saw the sketchbooks last summer, I wondered how it was all going to come together. Very well, in fact.
Call it a fan film, a proof of concept, or whatever you want, this one-minute traditionally animated Superman piece by Robb Pratt is a fun new take on the character that draws from classic elements, like Mischa Bakaleinikoff’s music from the live-action serial. Pratt, a Disney veteran, who has worked on features like Tarzan and Pocahontas and series like Kick Buttowski and Kim Possible, explains his reasons for making the film at the end of the video. It’s also nice to see the pencil tests in the credits.