“It’s refreshing to go back to the beginning of Dracula – and then have Adam Sandler put his spin on it.” So says Dexter’s Lab and Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky of his first theatrical feature Hotel Transylvania. The troubled Sony Pictures Animation film, which has had at least four directors prior to Genndy, is set to open on September 28. USA Today published these images today along with more details about the film’s story.
Fifteen years in the making, Consuming Spirits is a newly completed mixed-media animation feature by Chicago-based Chris Sullivan. The 130-minute film will screen as part of the Tribeca Film Festival between April 23-25. The haunting Midwestern Gothic mood of the trailer drew me right in, and the story appears to have plenty of twists and turns. The description:
Consuming Spirits chronicles the lives of three characters who live in a rust belt town called Magguson, and work at its local newspaper The Daily Suggester. They are: Gentian Violet, 42, Victor Blue, 38, and Earl Gray 64, first appear to be acquaintances. But as the film unfolds, we find they have a long diabolical history, revolving around social service intervention, and foster care, romance and hatred. Each character has family secrets to hide, and family secrets to discover. An auto accident one dark and inebriated night, causes a crack in the memory vault of these intimate strangers. By films end, all parties walk from the woods, both healed and wounded.
There’s something to be said for running a cartoon studio in a place where animation production isn’t commonplace. To celebrate the Animated Short Oscar for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, the city of Shreveport, Louisiana threw an extravagant parade for Moonbot Studios and the film’s directors Bill Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg. Here’s a few perks you get if you win an Oscar in Louisiana that you probably won’t get in other places:
A free ride in a banana-colored convertible
A marching band
A customized battle tank plus confetti
A decorated street-cleaning machine
Acknowledgment from celebrities like Randal Reeder
Indie animator PES (pictured above) moved from New York to Los Angeles a couple years back to fulfill his ambition to become a feature film director. It didn’t take long. Deadline Hollywood broke the story this afternoon that PES has been tapped to direct a feature film based on the Eighties fad Garbage Pail Kids.
The news is significant, representing not only a career shift for PES–best known for animated shorts like Roof Sex and Western Spaghetti as well as a slew of award-winning TV commercials–but also because it heralds the return of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner to feature filmmaking (at least on the financing side). Deadline reported that “Michael Eisner’s The Tornante Company will finance and produce the development of a feature film. . .Eisner bought the card company in 2007 and this is his first feature spinoff project.” Michael Vukadinovich will write the script and Toby Ascher will produce.
While neither the name Eisner nor “Garbage Pail Kids” instill much confidence, the real story here is PES’s involvement. He has proven himself time and time again as a force for innovative graphic ideas. A quick browse of Cartoon Brew’s archives will reveal some of his creative storytelling abilities (as well as some of his contributions as a guest blogger). I’ll certainly be looking forward to see what PES does with his first feature film.
PES’s latest short Fresh Guacamole debuted on YouTube last week:
If you still haven’t had your fill of “Why John Carter Failed” articles, then don’t miss New York Magazine‘s lengthy read “The Inside Story of How John Carter Was Doomed by Its First Trailer.” The piece goes to excruciating lengths to absolve Disney marketing of any wrongdoing over the film’s US box office performance, and lays the blame squarely at the feet of Andrew Stanton:
While this kind of implosion usually ends in a director simmering in rage at the studio marketing department that doomed his or her movie, Vulture has learned that it was in fact John Carter director Andrew Stanton – powerful enough from his Pixar hits that he could demand creative control over trailers – who commandeered the early campaign, overriding the Disney marketing execs who begged him to go in a different direction.
The article, juicy as it is, should be taken with a grain of salt. Much of the information in the article appears to be sourced from public statements by Stanton, and only one anonymous “Disney marketing insider” is identified as having been interviewed. There are factual errors too that made me question the piece’s accuracy–the writer claims that Disney marketing approached the New Yorker in September 2011 to profile Stanton, when in fact, if you read the New Yorker piece, the writer of that piece said he’d been working on it since April 2011. At best, NY Mag‘s takedown offers one version of how the film’s marketing plan derailed. The real story is likely far more complex, and won’t be understood until some point in the future.
A more insightful piece is the aforementioned New Yorker profile of Andrew Stanton, which has finally been posted online. Unlike an earlier New Yorker piece about Pixar that left me unimpressed, this profile sheds much light on Stanton’s personality and his collaboration with the lauded Pixar “Braintrust.” In spite of the profile’s positive tone, Stanton comes off as overly self assertive and oblivious to the effect of his comments, like:
“We came on this movie so intimidated: ‘Wow, we’re at the adult table!’ Three months in, I said to my producers, ‘Is it just me, or do we actually know how to do this better than live-action crews do?’ The crew were shocked that they couldn’t overwhelm me, but at Pixar I got used to having to think about everyone else’s problems months before all their pieces would come together, and I learned that I’m just better at communicating and distilling than other people.”
Who needs the Disney Company! We’ve already got the movie poster for a biopic about Walt Disney so we may as well go ahead and cast the movie. That’s what Cartoon Brew reader Ron Yavnieli did in the comments section yesterday. Below are his novel casting choices for the likes of Roy Disney, Ub Iwerks, Margaret Winkler, Fred Moore, Bill Tytla, Art Babbitt, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and others. Share your dream cast in the comments.
Installing an ant colony in a scanner and scanning it every week doesn’t sound like the ingredients for filmmaking success. But Paris-based FranÃ§ois Vautier managed to uncover the exquisite visual possibilities within that concept. His camera and editing choices push the project from nature documentary into experimental film territory.
Vautier’s description of Ants in My Scanner:
Five years ago, I installed an ant colony inside my old scanner that allowed me to scan in high definition this ever evolving microcosm (animal, vegetable and mineral). The resulting clip is a close-up examination of how these tiny beings live in this unique ant farm. I observed how decay and corrosion slowly but surely invaded the internal organs of the scanner. Nature gradually takes hold of this completely synthetic environment. The ants are still alive: the process will continueâ€¦
An animated film led the US box office for the second week in a row: Illumination Entertainment’s The Lorax dropped 44% from its first week for an estimated earning of $39.1 million. Its two-week total now stands at $122 million, making it the top grossing film of the year to date. It is currently pacing $3.5 million ahead of Illumination’s biggest hit Despicable Me, which went on to earn $251.5 million domestically.
This weekend also saw the debut of John Carter, the first live-action feature from Pixar director Andrew Stanton (WALLÂ·E, Finding Nemo). The megabudget sci-fi film, with a reported production cost of $200-300 million and marketing costs of $100 million, was positioned as Disney’s next “tentpole” property, along the lines of the Pirates of the Carribean franchise. It opened weakly, as expected by most industry observers as well as the Disney studio itself, with an estimated $30.6 million, on a par with the opening for Disney’s Prince of Persia, which opened with $30.1 million. It trailed the debut of last year’s sci-fi Cowboys & Aliens which opened with $36.4 million. The film’s saving grace may be its overseas performance, where it has opened powerfully, especially in Russia, and has already racked up over $70 million.
One can’t even begin to imagine the pressure that Stanton is under, but he hasn’t been particularly graceful in dealing with the film’s critical reception. In interviews, Stanton has been defensive about the film’s budget, and over the weekend, he wrote an oddly worded tweet that blamed moviegoers as “jaded” if they didn’t enjoy his film:
Studio Ghibli’s The Secret World of Arrietty added an extra $402,000 boosting its US total to $17.6 million. It is the fourth highest-grossing anime film ever released in the US, behind only Pokemon: The First Movie, Pokemon: The Movie 2000, and Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie.
RIP, French comic artist and illustrator Jean “Moebius” Giraud, who has passed away from cancer at the age of 73. This is a good place to begin learning about his work. His best known film design work is in live-action, like The Abyss, Alien, TRON and The Fifth Element, but he also contributed to a number of animation projects including Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, Space Jam and Time Masters (below). He was revered in France where they exhibited his comic art with respect and appreciation.
Moebius influenced many people in our industry. I’ve collected some of the animation community’s reactions on Twitter:
It’s no secret that the Walt Disney Company is fiercely protective of its intellectual property, but the law works both ways, and they’ve been accused of wrongdoing almost from the moment that Walt’s company became successful. While researching my upcoming biography of Ward Kimball, I found a reference to a “Mann lawsuit” in his notes from 1940. Ward wrote about how animator Fred Moore had been questioned by Mann’s attorneys, as well as how animator Ham Luske had testified on the stand.
I became curious to learn more about what the lawsuit was all about. The plaintiff was Ned Herbert Mann, a well respected veteran special effects artist who had started his career working with the production designer William Cameron Menzies on The Thief of Bagdad (1924). Mann believed that he had patented an animation process back in 1934 that was similar to Disney’s and he was trying to prove that Walt had traced the mouths of characters off of photostats while producing Snow White. The Disney company was eventually able to prove that the claim was completely baseless and the judge dismissed the case.
The only information I could find online regarding the case was an article from the St. Petersburg Times from June 29, 1940. You can read the entire article below. The article is fascinating, not just for the information it provides about the Mann case, but also because it lists some of the dozens of other cases filed against Disney at the time. According to the Disney studio’s attorney Gunther Lessing, “The trouble seems to be that almost everybody sees one of his brain children somewhere in Disney’s cartoons.” Some of the cases against Disney at the time included:
* Adriana Caselotti, the voice of the character Snow White, had sued Disney because some of the songs she sang had been released as records, and she wanted a share of the record profits. The case was thrown out when Lessing produced a document that proved “she had signed all her rights in her performance to Disney every time she put her signature to her paycheck.”
* A guy in California filed a lawsuit because he claimed that one of the dwarfs used his laugh or “an exact imitation.”
* A woman filed a lawsuit which claimed that while Disney hadn’t copied her words or music, he had infringed on the spiritual feeling of her work.
* A gas station operator in Minnesota claimed he had sold 15 gallons of gas to an animator who was on vacation, and that he had suggested to the artist that the Disney studio produce Pinocchio.
The article also talks about how Disney had sued a biscuit company that was making unauthorized Mickey, Pluto and Horace Horsecollar animal crackers. The Disney company sued for $24 million dollars, but eventually settled out of court for $8,000.
It’s been a while since we’ve heard of a new personal project by Guilherme Marcondes (Tyger, Into Pieces), but this teaser for his next short suggests that it’s been worth the wait. The Master’s Voice–a mix of live action, drawn and CG animation–is “the story of the city-island of M., a decadent metropolis inhabited only by ghosts and ghouls.”
File this one under “Things I Did Not Know About Dick Clark.” Apparently, he owns a one-bedroom Flintstones-inspired home in Malibu, and the LA Times reports that he’s selling it for $3.5 million, though the asking price doesn’t reflect the value of the home so much as it does the 23-acre plot of land it sits on. If you’re curious, here’s the full home tour in all its stone-age goodness.
Illumination Entertainment’s The Lorax exceeded expectations and debuted in first place with a stunning $70.2 million last weekend. That places it in eighth place for all-time biggest openings for an animated film, and fourth-best for a non-sequel animated film. The success of the film validates the producer-driven approach to animated filmmaking taken by Illumination head Chris Meledandri, who exercises tight control over the casting, writing and creative direction of his films. It’s a page straight of Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks playbook and, for better or worse, Meledandri is proving that it can work for producers without the initials JK.
Meanwhile, in its third weekend, Studio Ghibli’s The Secret World of Arrietty grabbed $1.5 million from 1,431 US theaters. The film landed in 14th place, but had the lowest per-theater average of any film in the top 20. Its US total now stands at $16.8 million.