Trevor Hutchison and Shane McCarthy were invited to a Disney-themed costume party recently, and instead of dressing up as a cartoon character, they went as “Disney Animators from the Golden Era of Animation.” They even made vintage Disney ID cards and animation drawings to complete the effect, and they certainly wouldn’t look out of place working at the Hyperion studio. Details on Trevor’s blog.
A masterpiece of timing and movement in four letters, 101 Yeahs is directed and animated by Ryan Junell and Phillip Niemeyer. The shocker: discovering that it’s created under-camera. Filmmakers say, “Dirty and old school. Stop motion animation of letters of four sizes silkscreened on transparency. The letters are backlit by a lightboard.” The proof is on Flicker.
Animation veteran Pres Romanillos (Shan-Yu in Mulan, Little Creek in Spirit, Prince Naveen in Princess and the Frog) is currently awaiting a bone marrow transplant for a relapse of leukemia. Industry friends are organizing both a live art auction in LA and an online auction at Pres-Aid.com. They’ve also started a Facebook page to keep folks posted on the plans.
Our friend, animation journalist and FPS magazine founder Emru Townsend, lost his battle against leukemia a couple years ago and he had a lot of difficulty finding a donor. His website HealEmru.com remains a solid resource for learning how easy it is to become a bone marrow donor.
The animation industry may grow over time, but the community remains smaller than one might think. Case in point: last weekend at MoCCA, I chatted with Pres’s nephew Aleth, who can draw his ass off by the way, and I’d never known they were related until now. Whether you choose to support the auction, become a bone marrow donor, or send well wishes his way, in a tight-knit community like ours, it makes a real difference when we pull together to help each other out. And thankfully, we always do.
UPDATE: Pres Romanillos passed away on July 17, 2010 from leukemia. More information can be found here.
Pray for animation, these are scary times. The animation industry has been experiencing a nasty relapse into the crumminess of decades past. First, there was the news that Hasbro is launching its own toy-driven animation network and recruiting talented artists like Lauren Faust to shill My Little Ponies. As if that wasn’t depressing enough, now comes the news that shlock producers Joe Ruby, Ken Spears, and Sid and Marty Krofft have teamed up to develop new projects using characters that Jack Kirby created or developed in the eighties.
According to the NY Times, the combined stroke of genius of these four geriatric gents was to drive to their storage unit and pull out boxes of Kirby’s artwork. The Times doesn’t bother to ask why, if these ideas are so brilliant, none of them ever managed to get off the ground when Kirby first developed them twenty-five years ago. The quartet has somehow convinced Ari Emanuel of William Morris Endeavor to rep them and help turn these ideas into animated shows, live-action movies, comics and videogames. The ideas include:
“Roxie’s Raiders,” an Indiana Jones-style serial about a female adventurer and her allies; “Golden Shield,” about an ancient Mayan hero seeking to save earth in the apocalyptic year 2012; and “The Gargoids,” about scientists who gain superpowers after being infected by an alien virus.
The NY Times website offers a slideshow of Kirby’s development artwork. My humble suggestion to Ari would be to hook up Ruby-Spears and the Kroffts with these guys. They appear to share the same aesthetic sensibilities, and who knows, maybe they can even get Sean Connery to do a voice.
Make sure you’re sitting down and buckled up for this one because it’s going to take you for a ride. Music Box with a Secret is an unbelievable creative trip that hails from mid-seventies Russia. Director Valery Ugarov (1941-2007) utilizes a pastiche of sixties and seventies styles and artists as diverse as Heinz Edelmann and Yellow Sub, psychedelia, Seymour Chwast, and Victorian revival, and transforms it into an utterly unique and beautifully animated experience. The synth and electro-soundtrack adds a lot and is an inspired solution to a film about music boxes.
An unfunny preview of Neighbors from Hell, the first original animated series created for TBS, which also became the new home of Conan O’Brien today. The show centers around “the Hellmans, a typical, all-American suburban family. . .the only thing that distinguishes them from the rest of the folks in the neighborhood is that the Hellmans happen to be from Hell.” According to this site, numerous parties are involved in its production including Fox TV Animation, DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. and Jeffrey Katzenberg, and executive-producers Pam Brady (South Park) and Mireille Soria (Madagascar). One of the show’s writers is Kyle McCulloch, a veteran of South Park and creator of Icebox’s Mr. Wong (remember that?). Vancouver-based Bardel Entertainment is providing the animation for the first season of ten episodes which will premiere in June.
The MoCCA Art Fest takes places this Saturday (11am-6pm) and Sunday (10:30am-6pm) at the 69th Regiment Armory (68 Lexington Avenue at 25th St). Your favorite surly Brewmaster will be there hawking back issues of Animation Blast (dirt cheap, I promise) as well as a few of my books (cheaper than Amazon). Drop by and say hello at the Meathaus table (A-11) which I’ll be sharing with animation pals Chris McDonnell and Celia Bullwinkel. Other Brew readers who are exhibiting, please let us know in the comments where you’ll be located. More details on the MoCCA website.
I appreciate how this video for Dan Mangan’s “Road Regrets” breaks from the standard anthropomorphic representation of cars in animation. The design of the car, along with the visual storytelling, project just enough personality to make the piece work. The video is directed and designed by Jon Busby, who is a co-founder of the new Vancouver-based outfit Blatant.
Florida-based filmmaker David Montgomery creates animated films entirely out of objects found in nature. The imagery found within these pieces, like Pollenating II above, is nothing short of mesmerizing. His latest piece, Carapace and Shell, a series of animated loops of seashells found on the beaches of Northeast Florida, will be screened at the Museum of Science and History (MOSH) in Jacksonville, as part of an ocean and marine-life themed exhibit. This Flickr page offers a hint of what I can only imagine is the intense amount of labor and organization that he invests into the making of each film. More of David’s work can be found on his website SilverfishCloset.com.
Photographs of skateboarders cut out and re-arranged in new environments. Tilles Singer’s short owes a debt to Virgil Widrich’s Fast Film, which remains the gold standard of this technique, but SkateboardAnimation has enough creative touches to stand on its own.
A piece about internships in yesterday’s New York Times has been making the rounds, and it’s worth a peek for all animation students. It explains how most internships violate federal law and the government is beginning to crack down on employers who take advantage of free labor. Unpaid internships in New York’s non-union animation scene are particularly notorious; most studios (big and small) have at least a couple interns and certain ones have been known to employ generous numbers of unpaid interns simultaneously. No wonder then that the Times article calls out a local animation studio:
At Little Airplane, a Manhattan children’s film company, an N.Y.U. student who hoped to work in animation during her unpaid internship said she was instead assigned to the facilities department and ordered to wipe the door handles each day to minimize the spread of swine flu. Tone Thyne, a senior producer at Little Airplane, said its internships were usually highly educational and often led to good jobs.
From an economic viewpoint, unpaid interns make perfect sense for companies, but from an ethical viewpoint, it’s questionable behavior (and from the government’s point of view, it’s illegal). When I was looking to hire a personal assistant, a number of friends and associates advised me to offer the position as an unpaid internship. Despite the appeal of such an idea (who doesn’t like to save money?), I declined and opted to hire an assistant with an hourly wage. I’ve also been on the other side; when I was a kid, I found experience as an unpaid intern. Looking back on it, I regret my youthful naivete. Bottomline: if you’re doing the work, you deserve to be compensated. People like to villainize Walt Disney for paying his employees meager wages in the 1930s, but what they forget is that he paid even the lowliest of the traffic boys, which is more than can be said for many stingy contemporary animation shops that ride on the backs of free labor.
If you’ve got stories, positive or negative, about your experiences with animation internships, please share them with the rest of us. A similar take on internships can be found on the blog of Richard O’Connor, who is a co-owner of Asterisk studio in New York. He writes that at Asterisk, “We pay everybody (unless you’re working for school credit). In part because that’s the law, in part because we’re profiting (in theory) from a worker’s contributions.”
Husband-and-wife animation team Jorge Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua (the creators of El Tigre) were interviewed by Lynda.com about their animation careers. Three of the videos are available for free on Jorge’s blog, while the rest are behind a subscription wall. This video about their art education sheds light into the stigma that artists face in many countries for choosing a career in the visual arts:
Tantalizing teaser for Glitch in the Grid, a forthcoming feature by Eric Leiser, whose earlier film Imagination was mentioned on the Brew a couple years back. I’m really digging Leiser’s eclectic mix of styles, especially how he applies stop-motion for site-specific landscape animation. Check out this article for more details about the film or visit Eric’s website AlbinoFawn.com to learn more about him and his work.
Adnan Hussain‘s short film Gul (Flower) draws the viewer in with its striking impressionistic CG imagery, but keeps the viewer engaged with its storytelling, which carries a clear and powerful message even as it verges on obliqueness. A Quicktime version of the film can be found on Adnan’s website.
I asked Adnan via email if he could share some details about the production of Gul. Here is what he wrote:
I’m a Los Angeles-based Pakistani-American artist working primarily in animation and live action vfx. Gul (Flower), an interpretive piece meant for the viewer to connect their own experiences, is my first short film. It is the culmination of personal art and skills learned as a technical director at Walt Disney Feature Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks and other studios. It was created in a stack of sketchbooks, 3D Studio Max, Photoshop, Painter, Digital Fusion and Premiere. I studied non-photorealistic rendering papers and works by Egon Schiele, Bill Sienkiewicz and Kent Williams besides doing a ton of my own paintings to create the raw painted look of the film. Scripts were developed to repaint rendered frames layer by layer with custom settings to create the painted look efficiently.
By the end of 2007, I had built enough models, animation and pipeline to quit my job and finish it. I worked on the film, then back packed through Central Asia before finding my way to Jamshoro, Sindh, Pakistan to record the score of a yet to be colored version of the film. Thanks to incredible Sindhi Folk musicians lead by Ustad Anb Jogi on Dholak, Jairam Jogi and Nasir Jogi on Murli, Mohammed Buksh on Pakistani Banjo, Ibrahim Jogi on Tali and LA-based Brian Stroner on sound design, the film was completed in May 2009.
So far it has screened at Slamdance, Patios Human Rights, Mill Valley, Anim’Est, Maelstrom and Montezuma Film Festivals as well as winning Canada Film Festival’s Rising Star Award of Excellence and the Accolade Award of Merit.
Hussain tells me that he is currently in pre-production on his next short and is looking for freelance opportunities around the globe.
My eyes cannot unsee what has been seen, and now neither can yours. This rendition of Spongebob combines a real sponge, features of Tom Kenny (the voice of the character), and Madonna’s arms. The artist is Nicole Hamilton.
Beginning today, the Wall Street Journal reports that many major movie chains, including Regal Entertainment Group, Cinemark Holdings Inc. and AMC Entertainment Inc., are raising prices for 3-D movie tickets. It reflects the steepest price increase in a decade. 3-D ticket prices are rising by as much as 26% in some areas, though the average increase will be closer to 8%. The average increase for IMAX screens is 10%. Some theaters in metropolitan areas will be charging nearly $20 for IMAX admissions.
The WSJ article, which is behind a subscription-wall, acknowledges that movie studios are wary the price increases could spark a consumer backlash:
Some movie-studio executives expressed concern that the price increases might be too much too soon. “The risk we run is that we will no longer be the value proposition that we as an industry have prided ourselves on,” said a distribution executive at one major studio, who added that he was worried movies would become “a luxury item.”
But studios also like the increases because they split box office proceeds with theater operators. Dan Fellman, who is president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros., a studio that can’t even be bothered to make true 3-D films, approved of the price increases. “The exhibitors are trying to push the needle on ticket prices and see where it ends up,” he said. “Sure, it’s a risky move, but so far charging a $3 or $4 premium has had no effect on consumers whatsoever, so I’m in favor of this experiment to raise prices even more. There may be additional revenue to earn here.” Warners will open Clash of the Titans, a regular film that has been retrofitted for 3-D screens, next week.
Related reading in today’s Wall Street Journal: a piece called Will This 3-D Fad Fizzle Too? In the piece, Peter Decherney, a professor at UPenn, drew a smart parallel to the first 3-D bust. He said that in the 1950s, “3-D died out when the studios realized that television was a boon for Hollywood, not competition.” He predicts the same will happen again. “As studios find ways to profit from Internet and mobile distribution, they will be less interested in competing with new technologies.”
Picking up where we left off last month, here’s another book idea that’s free for the taking. The proposal is rather straightforward: a collection of fine artwork created by animation artists. This was actually the first book idea I ever pitched (and subsequently had rejected) around 2001. I still think it’s a keen idea.
While most animators dabble with artwork on the side, a certain subset has treated their extracurricular artistic pursuits with the same passion and discipline as their animation day jobs. Seeing their artwork reveals unique insights into the artistic process, and serves as a fascinating study of the compromises that individual artists have to make when synthesizing their work for the group-oriented demands of animation production.
The key to such a book would be curating it with the right mix of artists. It wouldn’t be too difficult to get started. Any number of personal blogs and websites showcase the fine art of contemporary animation artists. There are also a handful of websites showcasing examples of artwork by Golden Age animation artists. For example, Chuck Jones has this page of personal work:
McIntosh’s co-worker at Disney and UPA, Jules Engel, is displayed here:
Examples of Marc Davis’s art are scattered online here, here, and here.
And Len Glasser has a video of his personal art projects posted onto YouTube:
These guys are just the tip of the iceberg. The richness and diversity of artwork by animators spans across the twentieth century through every conceivable art movement and style. This has the potential of being a beautiful and very unconventional animation art book.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart will be the exclusive retailer for merchandise related to the DreamWorks feature How To Train Your Dragon. According to the paper, 95% of the products tied in to the movie will be available only at Wal-Mart, including “apparel and toys to custom-made Oreos with a red filling, to symbolize the fiery exhalations of the titular creatures.” The video on the WSJ website has more details about the extent of the deal, and mentions that Wal-Mart is the film’s master toy licensee and was involved in product and package design.
A new short by John Dilworth (Courage the Cowardly Dog, Dirdy Birdy) is always an occasion for a post. Rinky Dink combines drawn animation with stop motion and photo cut-outs. It has the trademark Dilworthian oddness, more than a few giggles, and a cute (if common) message. The film can be viewed on his website StretchFilms.com. (Click on the little yellow creature on the upper left of the site.)
The Lost Continent is a real treasure of a blog and has introduced me to lots of great British animation over the past few months, some of which I should have already known about. One such film is Long Drawn-Out Trip: Sketches from Los Angeles by Gerald Scarfe. The eighteen-minute film was shown on TV only once in its entirety and that occurred 1973 on the BBC. It has a stream-of-conscious flavor as evidenced by this tantalizing four-minute clip.
The film’s lack of distribution is largely due to the fact that Scarfe didn’t obtain clearances to the music he used, which included everything from Jimi Hendrix to Neil Diamond. (Shades of Nina Paley’s problems with Sita Sings the Blues). It’s unlikely he would have ever been able to make the film either had he pursued legitimate channels. Try asking Disney for permission to use “When You Wish upon a Star” when your film has an extended sequence of Mickey smoking a spliff.
Well the BBC in London sent me to Los Angeles, to work on what they thought was a new animation system. It was something called the de joux (ju) system which is spelled dejoux. That was a system started by a Frenchman which was supposed to make animation an easier experience. When I got there I found that it wasn’t a computerized system at all. It was just a system whereby between shall we say frame a and frame e, it kind of mixed through b, c, d, into e. It kind of dissolved from one picture to another. So if one drew a picture it would then dissolve through, or mix through, to the next picture.
Where as in animation you have to kind of do a series of drawings in between to complete the movement. But it wasn’t a very successful system in that way. But since I was in Los Angeles, I decided to make the best of it, and I did a kind of stream of consciousness drawing everything I could think of about America at that time. Like, the Statue of Liberty, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Black Power, Mickey Mouse, Coca Cola, Playboy Magazine, sort of a million images all melting one into the other. I was supposed to be there for 10 days, but I stayed for about 6 or 7 weeks. Hence the title, Long Drawn Out Trip. And it was also a kind of a trip, cause it was very much the drug era. And it was a kind of a hallucinatory trip too.
The entire film doesn’t appear to be online, but there are plenty of frame grabs available on the Lost Continent blog.