The push back against realism in computer animation continues with Pivot, a striking and confident CG short from The Netherlands. It’s designed and animated by Kevin Megens, Floris Vos, Arno de Grijs, and André Bergs. The caricatured animation and design-oriented approach to filmmaking is packed with clever visual ideas, which helps one forgive the lack of originality in the story. Sound design by Alex Debicki also adds to the overall effect. Pre-production art and more information about the filmmakers at PivotTheMovie.com.
One of the most fulfilling aspects of blogging on Cartoon Brew is every so often discovering the young filmmaker who loves to experiment with the medium and isn’t bound by conventional notions of animation filmmaking. I’d venture to say that Dundee, Scotland-based Graeme Hawkins is one of these chaps. Witness the breadth of his approach to the art form by visiting Retchy.com, which is filled with all kinds of fun animated experiments including 3D zoetropes, projection mapping and VJing, along with generous descriptions of his processes and techniques. He also worked as a digital artist on Sylvain Chomet’s new film The Illusionist.
Below is his thesis film, 5, which is “an exploration of childhood memories, combining scientific theory, the wandering mind of a child, and largely abstract sound design to hopefully evoke feelings of nostalgia, familiarity and comfort.” I was impressed by the blend of sophisticated visuals, surprising transitions, and sharp sound design, but if you want to read into it further, Graeme explains on his website that the film has something to do with Richard Feynman and Richard Dawkins.
Here’s another quickie film of his I enjoyed–McDonalds on the Brain:
Zé BrandÃ£o, who runs Copa Studio in Rio de Janeiro, sent me this cute TV series pilot he made as a co-production with two Brazilian public broadcasters (TV Brasil and TV Cultura). It’s impressive to see the rising quality of children’s animation being produced in all corners of the globe. Countries with developing animation scenes, like Brazil and India, are proving that they can produce shows that are virtually indistinguishable in quality from the work coming out of more experienced animation-producing countries. As they increase their production capacities, more TV animation production will shift to affordable countries like Brazil which barely had an animation industry a decade ago. Which begs the question, if decent animation can be produced anywhere in the world at low cost, will this force animation producers in the US and Europe to raise the bar on their work or will they simply throw in the towel? It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
An article from today’s Hollywood Reporter says that Avatar producer Jon Landau labeled the Oscars “a disappointment” after none of the film’s animated characters were nominated for an acting award. He also said they need to change the term “motion capture photography” to “emotion capture” to fool people into thinking it’s something else. Meanwhile, Cameron stated recently that, “People confuse what we have done with animation. It’s nothing like animation. The creator here is the actor, not the unseen hand of an animator.” It’s always amusing how indignant mainstream Hollywood becomes whenever they get a taste of what it’s like to be treated as one of the industry’s second-class animation citizens.
Gabe Swarr, an animation director at Nick by day, is the creator of the Big Pants Mouse comic strip which appears weekly at DummComics.com. He created this two-part video that documents the process of making one of the strips. It’s interesting to hear him talk about the extensive asset system he’s created for the characters in Flash, which as he hints at in the video, would be transferable to animation should he ever make a Big Pants Mouse animated project in the future.
A delightful trailer for The Little Boy and the Beast (Der Kleine und das Biest), a six-minute short directed by Johannes Weiland and Uwe HeidschÃ¶etter at Studio Soi. Looks like it could be CG, though a lot of drawing went into its making too. It was made for German children’s TV channel KI.KA, where it debuted last November, and will hopefully be making the festival rounds soon for the rest of us.
Ireland’s animation industry is still relatively small, but according to this piece in the Irish Times, it is robust and growing. A few noteworthy facts and numbers from the article:
* Animation is the “star performer” of the Irish film and TV industry, and “the only independent audiovisual sector which predicts growth this year.”
* There are 337 people working full-time in the Irish animation industry making it “the largest provider of full-time employment in the Irish independent film and television sector.”
* The country doesn’t have a strong domestic market for animation (an approximate population of 4.5 million will do that) which means that for some studios, up to 90 percent of their business is export-based.
* The Irish Film Board provides around â‚¬1 million every year for animation projects.
UPDATE: Two pieces of Irish animation were nominated for Oscars a few hours after this post: The Secret of Kells for animated feature and Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty in the animated short category.
The dreamlike morphing imagery in Drift creates a mysterious and original style of movement that I haven’t seen before in any time-lapse/pixilation work. “Stop motion tilt shift meets tracking,” in the words of the director Theo Tagholm, who made it with a Canon G9 still camera and After Effects.
A few years ago, a group of DreamWorks artists banded together to create Scrambled Ink, an indie comic anthology that was eventually published by Dark Horse Comics. This summer, DreamWorks is releasing Moonshine: Brewed on the Dark Side of the DreamWorks Moon, which marks the first time that an animation studio has officially sanctioned an ‘art of’ book featuring the personal work of its artists. From the book description:
From forty-five talented and prolific DreamWorks Studio art directors, character designers, production designers and visual development artists . . . Moonshine features artwork that is made during the precious little time of day when the contributors are not working on stunning upcoming movies such as Puss in Boots, Shrek Forever After, The Croods, Kung Fu Panda 2, Oobermind, Guardians, Scared Shrekless and Kung Fu Panda Holiday.
The trend of studio artists self-publishing comic anthologies is nothing new. During the past few years, we’ve seen a couple volumes of Out of Picture from Blue Sky folks, What is Torch Tiger? and Who is Rocket Johnson? from Disney artists, and The Ancient Book of Sex and Science and The Ancient Book of Myth and War out of Pixar. But those were all published by the artists themselves, and didn’t have funding from their studios like Moonshine. Gotta hand it to Jeffrey Katzenberg on this one. It’s a savvy move on his part to encourage the personal creativity of his staffers beyond the creative confines of film production, and to bring their independent works under the umbrella of his studio. (It should be noted that Katzenberg provided a blurb for the back cover of the earlier book Scrambled Ink). I would be very curious, however, to find out what the terms of the deal are for the artists participating in the book: does the artwork in the book become studio property or do the artists retain copyright over their personal ideas as they do in all of these other indie book projects?
As you may have gathered from yesterday’s post, Yuri Norstein is currently in the US. He’ll be making appearances in other cities besides LA too. Let us know if you know of any other dates besides the ones below:
SAN FRANCISCO Sunday, February 7: Balboa Theater (3630 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA). Tickets are $25. The event will be a fundraiser to support Yuri Norstein’s animation studio in Moscow. If you can’t afford the screening, there is an artist reception beforehand that only costs $7. Ticket purchases can be made at the Porto Franco Art Parlor website.
OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON Wednesday, February 10: The Evergreen State College, Communications Building, Recital Hall in Olympia Washington. Ticket prices are $10 regular admission, $8 seniors, $5 students. More information at the Evergreen State College website.
NEW YORK Monday, February 15: School of Visual Arts Theater (333 W. 23rd Street, between 8th/9th Ave.) This event is billed only as a Q&A so be aware that there may not be a screening. No price is indicated so I’m also assuming it’s free. More info at the ASIFA-East website.
After nine weeks in wide release, Disney’s Princess and the Frog limped across the $100 million mark last weekend. It generated $757,000 at the North American box office for a grand total that now stands at $100,309,000. Somehow I have the feeling there won’t be a lot of people uncorking the champagne in Burbank today.
Six Points Fellowship is looking for applicants for its 2010 cycle. The fellowship is designed for emerging artists in the New York area (ages 22—38) who are creating projects that engage with Jewish ideas, and is open to all artists (not only Jewish) working in the city. It will be awarded to nine artists who will each receive up to $40,000 over two years. Each fellow will be provided with:
* Stipend ($20k over 2 years)
* Project Grant (up to $20k over 2 years)
* Monthly Salons
It sounds to me like a generously designed fellowship that offers both financial and professional support. Take note any NYers who might be developing a Jewish-themed animation project. To learn more, visit SixPointsFellowship.org. They are holding application workshops on February 7 and 17th.
Imagi, the studio responsible for the TMNT and Astro Boy features, has shut down their American studio in Sherman Oaks, California. The company, which is still working on a Gatchaman feature, has been struggling both at the box office and in its financial operations. From HotStocked.com:
Imagi International Holdings Ltd has announced large scale review of operations which has mostly negative effect towards the staff. The company has cut off their US subsidiaries from any funding, the working contracts for 30 employees were terminated and the Los Angeles based office closed. The company was left with only a few important staff members being utilized as consultants and has transferred the functions of the closed office to other contractors . . . With their US office closed the company still has two more in Hong Kong and Tokyo as well as continues trading under the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong. Their stock is poorly traded in both the exchanges.
The Internet which is always looking for a good controversy is trying to stir one up over a Pixar short. Lineboil.com pointed out a recent survey on Rotten Tomatoes that asks whether Ralph Eggleston’s For the Birds (2001) resembles a CalArts student film from 1993 called Small Fry. The director of Small Fry is Stevie Wermers-Skelton, who co-directed the recent Goofy short How to Hook Up Your Home Theater and Disney holiday special Prep and Landing.
Here are the two films in question:
For the Birds (an edited version with different music and sound)
The basic set-up of the shorts–a bigger bird wants to land on a wire populated by smaller birds–is similar, but hardly unique enough for it to be considered, in legal parlance, “probative similarity.” From that point forward, the films take completely different paths: Wermers’ Small Fry is about how the smaller birds don’t allow the big bird to land on the wire, whereas the small birds in For the Birds move over to make room for the bigger bird to land. None of the gags are similar because of the differences in the situation; in fact, Small Fry doesn’t even have much in the way of gags until the payoff. The shorts are most similar at the end when the smaller birds get their inadvertent comeuppance at the hands (or wings) of the larger bird, though the idea works better in For the Birds because the actions of the smaller birds causes their misfortune.
There’s also another aspect to consider. While For the Birds wasn’t released until 2001, Eggleston came up with the idea much earlier. In my book The Art of Pixar Short Films, I interviewed Ralph about the genesis of For the Birds and he told me that the idea developed while he was attending CalArts, which would be in the early-1980s. Here is an excerpt from the book:
For the Birds began its life in the early 1980s, as a design assignment that Eggleston created for design instructor Bob Winquist’s class at CalArts. Fellow classmate Ken Bruce suggested that Eggleston turn his concept sketch into a film. “I actually boarded some of it at CalArts,” remembered Eggleston, “and I couldn’t finish it because I dreaded the idea of having to draw all those little birds.” Since his idea also lacked an ending, he filed the project away for another day.
If there is a concrete connection between these films, it would be that Ken Bruce is thanked in the credits of both For the Birds and Small Fry. Bruce, as mentioned above, was the classmate of Eggleston who encouraged him to turn the design assignment into a film.
Perhaps the best evidence favoring the innocence of For the Birds is this drawing by Eggleston printed in The Art of Pixar Short Films. In the book, it’s dated 1985, eight years before Small Fry:
Like so many others, I was eagerly anticipating Apple’s iPad, but the device falls shorts in many areas, including in its usefulness to the animation community. As it relates to animation, it appears to me that its two biggest deficiences are:
– lack of stylus input, which means no animating on the device
– lack of Flash support (in other words, no viewing animation on Vimeo or Newgrounds, no Flash on websites, and no ability for playback of your own Flash animation)
The absence of these two on the iPhone is inconvenient, but to have them missing on the iPad is inexcusable. Flash, in particular, is such an integral part of today’s web browsing experience that I can’t imagine owning a full-screen device without that functionality. I’m curious to hear your thoughts about the iPad specifically as it relates to animation. What are the possibilities and what could be improved upon in the next generation? Will you be buying one?
This six-page article about Chuck Jones was written by John Canemaker in the late-1970s. I don’t remember how I got it or where the article was published (perhaps John can tell us himself), but I found the scans a few days ago and had to share them. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Chuck had written a book of drawing and animation advice like the kind that he shares with Canemaker in this piece?
UPDATE: John Canemaker informs us that the article is from the March 1980 issue of Cartoonist Profiles (#45).
If you’re a fan of Disney legend Bill Justice, here’s your chance to show your appreciation. Disney historian Jim Korkis recently told MousePlanet.com:
Bill Justice is getting ready to celebrate his 96th Birthday February 9th, but he’s been in a rehabilitation home for the last few years and visitation has been tightly restricted. A good friend of mine who is a talented Disney artist recently visited him and said Bill had difficulty remembering recent events but if the artist mentioned a name from the “Golden Age” of Disney, Bill perked up and his memories were clear as a bell.
Bill hasn’t been in the best of spirits so it has been requested that it would be nice for him to get some holidays cards and of course, some birthday cards, to let him know that he hasn’t been forgotten.
For those unfamiliar with Bill’s many accomplishments, he is probably best known for his animation on the characters Chip’n'Dale and for his early work programming audio-animatronics on such attractions as “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Haunted Mansion”. He was the one who designed the recently closed attraction, the “Mickey Mouse Revue” and painted the huge mural of characters in Exposition Hall at Walt Disney World. Basically, his accomplishments were enough to fill a book…and they did in the limited edition self-published “Justice for Disney” book he authored.
Bill has been a long time friend of the Disney fan community and has attended many conventions, cruise ship excursions, and other events often drawing Disney characters on paper plates and then tossing them like frisbees into the crowd.
It is being requested that Disney fans show their love by sending him a card or letter (remember that he won’t be able to respond or fill a request for artwork) and perhaps include a photo that may have been taken with him. Something to remind him of his impact and how he is still very much loved and appreciated.
Bill is one of the few remaining connections to people who actually worked with Walt and Bill’s contributions include not just animation but work at the Disney theme parks.
The address is:
Arbor View Wellness & Rehabilitation Center
1338 20th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404
The Illusionist, the long-awaited follow-up feature from Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville), will debut next month at the Berlin International Film Festival. This article from Scotland’s The Herald confirms that the hand-drawn film is Scotland’s most expensive film production ever, with a budget “significantly north of Â£10 million.” In US dollars, that works out to a modest $16 million, which would be considered a bargain by most studios. According to the article, the film was made primarily in Edinburgh at ÂChomet’s Django Films, with further work done by ink.digital in Dundee, Scotland and another studio in Paris. Personally, I’ve heard that to get the film done, they farmed out large parts to service studios, including around forty minutes of assistant animation and clean-up to Sunwoo in South Korea.
To take advantage of Scottish film incentives, Chomet transposed the film’s action from Paris to Edinburgh and the Western Isles, which according to one person interviewed by The Herald, isn’t necessarily a bad thing:
Film-maker and critic Mark ÂCousins, who helped Chomet set up his Edinburgh studio, has seen several extracts of the film. “We should be very excited about The Illusionist,” he said. “Even though it wasn’t originally set in Scotland, the end result really is quite Scottish. It has a real feel of the marmalade and bracken colour of Mull in the autumn. The screenplay was one of the best that I’ve seen. This could be a Âclassic of Scottish cinema.”
I’m not going to pretend like I fully understand what’s going on in this short–alienation and dehumanization in modern society is always a safe guess–but there are a lot of interesting visual ideas in this 1968 Japanese short directed by Tatsuo Shimamura. A bio of the prolific Shimamura can be found on AniPages Daily, while this short can be purchased on Volume 10 of Something Weird’s Classic Cartoon Rarities collection.
This spot promoting the BBC’s Winter Olympics coverage is one of the finest examples I’ve seen of an illustrative style applied to computer animation. The atmospheric Inuit-flavored promo was directed by Marc Craste (Jojo in the Stars, Varmints) at Studio AKA. Co-designer was Jon Klassen, who posted a little bit about the design process on his blog.
A bigger and cleaner version of the spot can be viewed here.
The Chocolate Bar in Encino is hosting an exhibit of personal artwork by Walt Peregoy. The exhibition runs February 1-27. There will be an opening reception on Saturday, February 6, between 7-10pm, with Peregoy in attendance. Peregoy is perhaps best known for his work as a color stylist on 101 Dalmatians and how he brought a strong modern art sensibility to the Disney features. He’s had an extensive animation career beyond that film, and alongside his industry work, he’s been painting and drawing non-stop. Most of his personal work has never been exhibited which is why this upcoming show sounds like such a treat. The Chocolate Bar is located at 17312-A Ventura Boulevard.
The video above is about The Future, a twelve-minute animated short drawn and voiced entirely by artists who are members of League Treatment Center’s L.A.N.D. (League Artists Natural Design) Gallery in Brooklyn. What makes these artists unique is that they all have developmental disabilities. The film is being directed by NY animation artist M. Wartella (Wonder Showzen, Superjail) and is scheduled for completion this summer. To help complete the project, the organization is currently accepting donations through the fundraising website Kickstarter. The art looks like a lot of fun; can’t wait to see how it turns out!
As part of Cartoon Network’s efforts to reinvent themselves as a cheap knockoff of The Disney Channel, they’ve hired “Weird Al” Yankovic to direct a live-action feature film. According to Weird Al, “Cartoon Network had requested that I develop a show with a much younger protagonist — the actual star of the movie will most likely be teenage.”
I’m a big admirer of Albert Mielgo‘s paintings, and have often thought of scrounging up some dough to buy one of his acrylics, which might be described as a kind of stylized photorealism. I also think it’s great that he shares his skill and singular vision with the animation industry, mostly working on various UK-based projects. Recently though, instead of just designing backgrounds, Alberto deigned and animated four pieces entirely by himself, and the results are out of this world. The cinematic inventiveness and painterly approach to lighting give these pieces a unique feel that I’ve never seen before in animation, and frankly I want to see more of it. The four pieces (three of which I’ve included after the jump) are for a project called Pinkman.TV and were created with Photoshop and AfterEffects.