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.”
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.
Lots of fun visual ideas in Sidewalk Scribble by Melbourne, Australia-based filmmaker Peter Lowey. The film was created for Annecy’s YouTube contest. The winner of the contest, who will be announced at the end of May, will win a trip to Annecy, an award from the festival, a five-night trip to LA and a visit to Disney Feature Animation. Not a bad prize package. You can vote on all the entries on Annecy’s YouTube page.
Here’s something we don’t see nearly enough of nowadays: a hand-drawn full-animation short. Sumo Lake is a re-telling of “Swan Lake” animated by Adelaide, Australia-based Greg Holfeld. No fancy effects or gimmicks, the focus here is on drawing and movement and both are commendable. Holfeld reveals details about his process on the film’s official website.
I’ve been to three student screenings in the past week: the USC and CalArts Experimental showcases in LA, and the School of Visual Arts showcase in Manhattan. Every screening had its usual share of spectacular, average and unwatchable, but this post isn’t about the quality of the films. Rather I wanted to talk about the lengths of the programs.
The USC screening was around 90 minutes with no intermission. This was long but tolerable. The CalArts Experimental program was just over ninety minutes with a fifteen-minute break in between. This was an enjoyable experience. (Even better, I hear the CalArts Character Animation Producer’s Show runs around sixty minutes nowadays. Perfect!).
But then, last night, there was the SVA animation department screening (their computer art department is separate and has a different screening) . This screening was over four hours long and no intermission. To put that into perspective, that’s longer than Gone with the Wind, and believe me, most of these films were no Gone with the Wind. Needless to say, I survived only a fraction of them.
It boggles the mind as to what the school was thinking when they arranged a screening of forty-two shorts. Screening forty-two animated shorts in a row is a bad idea even if they’re not student films. Sadly, it’s also a disservice to the very students that the screening is supposed to be promoting and celebrating. The excessive length guarantees that only a handful of professionals from the animation industry will attend. That’s why the most effective year-end school screenings, especially those that are open to industry professionals and media, are heavily curated affairs that showcase a school’s best efforts. There is a time and place for showing all of the films, and that is typically a more private affair for the students themselves.
SVA dropped the ball in one other big way. Whereas both USC and CalArts rewarded audiences with food after their screenings, SVA sent home the exhausted audience on an empty stomach. Unlike other schools which offer food after every student film screening, SVA hoards its food for a fancy invite-only party that follows an awards ceremony for the entire film department. Thankfully, I had already treated myself to Chipotle in the middle of last night’s screening so it didn’t really matter. But unless they reduce the length of the program to a more sensible running time, I’ll certainly think twice about attending in the future.
Share your experiences of student film screenings in the comments.
Bob Jaroc‘s video for Black Moth Super Rainbow’s “The Sticky” was made by “modding a bunch of old b&w TVs, playing the separate parts from the track through them and taping the results,” plus some After Effects. Some readers on Boing Boing have pointed out that the circuit bending technique that Jaroc used is a variation of the Wobble Vision technique. Whatever Jaroc did, the results are mesmerizing.
It’s a gutsy move for any TV network to promote itself nowadays with a 90-second animated piece, especially one that’s as visually sophisticated as this ChilevisiÃ³n spot directed by Nola Pictures’ Juan Delcan. The Chilean network wanted to promote “the channel’s approach of respecting all people, without judgment and reporting clear unbiased truth.” Here’s a version with English subtitles.
Production Company: Nola Pictures
Director: Juan Delcan
Design & Animation: Juan Delcan, Arthur Metcalf, Peter Ahern, Toni Tysen, Celia Bullwinkel, Jake Armstrong
EPs: Charlie Curran, Ximena Cano
Producer: JJ Wilmoth
Agency: 180 Grados, Chile
Creative Directors: Sergio Gamboa, Joacim Montaner
Another impressive outing by a CalArts student: Drop’d is second-year effort by Manny Hernandez. One of the big reasons I’ve been so impressed with the CalArts Character Animation shorts in recent years has been the general shift towards simpler character design styles in which the students emphasize animation over design. This film is a terrific example of that.
A College Humor commentary on NBA player LeBron James that shows what would happen if he was in Space Jam instead of Michael Jordan. Probably makes more sense if you follow basketball. It’s an interesting day and age when unsanctioned cartoons using the Looney Tunes characters stay truer to the personalities of the characters than the official product that Warner Bros. is producing.
Director: Matt Pollock
Animation: Mike Parker
VFX: Gloo Studios
Director of Post Production: Michael Schaubach
Post Production Producer: Lacy Wittman
Editor: Drew Nissen
Producer: Creight Desimone
A fresh and funny animation style combine with skilled storytelling in Skyler Page’s Girl Wallet. We featured Skyler’s second-year CalArts film Crater Face on the Brew last year, and displayed his costume-making skills, too.
It’s student film season. Below is a list of the student screenings taking place in LA over the next month. Admission is free to all the screenings, but most require RSVPs.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 4: USC’s First Frame begins at 7pm at the DGA Theatre Complex (7920 Sunset Blvd.) in Hollywood. Details on films and filmmakers at USC website.
THURSDAY, MAY 5: CalArts Experimental Animation Showcase screening at the RedCat (631 West 2nd Street) in downtown LA. Screening begins at 8pm. Reservations encouraged. Call the box office at (213) 237-2800. More details on the Experimental Animation Tumblr.
FRIDAY, MAY 6: Woodbury University’s Animation Showcase begins at 7pm and 8pm in the Fletcher Jones Auditorium on the school’s Burbank campus. All seating is reserved. Please call (818) 252-5123 to reserve your spot.
THURSDAY, MAY 12: CalArts Character Animation Producer’s Show begins at 8pm. No location announced or on-line info about films being shown, but you can make a reservation by emailing email@example.com or calling (661) 253-7818.
SATURDAY, JUNE 4: UCLA’s Animation Prom is at the James Bridges Theater on the school’s campus. There are two screenings–5:00 and 8:30pm. The premiere screening at 5pm is when they hand out the awards, and also when June Foray makes an appearance. More info on the UCLA website.
Here’s a rare image of a couple of Disney greats who are rarely seen together: Mary Blair and Fred Moore. It’s at a wrap party for Three Caballeros hence the South American regalia. The guy putting the moves on Mary is Larry Lansburgh, a cameraman and the assistant production supervisor of Three Cabs.
Last night, ASIFA-East held their 42nd annual Animation Festival. The Best in Show prize went to Andy Kennedy’s Accumulonimbus, which we featured on Cartoon Brew last August. ASIFA-East president David Levy also won two of the top awards: Best Educational Film and 1st Place for Independent Film. He’s a nice guy so let’s all look the other way and pretend that’s not a conflict of interest.