Vurup is a team of animation students working together in Buenos Aires, who have created their first short film called Insert Coin. The students, who hail from Argentina, Mexico and Colombia, are Gabriel Fermanelli, Leonardo Campasso, Bruno Olguin, German De Vivero, and Luz Lazzaro. Their short is a good example of how to tell a story in under one minute, and there are creative moments of drawn character animation throughout the piece. Hopefully we’ll see more from them in the future.
This one’s worth a few guffaws…
Tomorrow evening, ASIFA-East is presenting the panel Animation Development: From Pitch to Production. It’s moderated by David Levy, whose excellent new book of the same name was released last week. Panelists are Carl W. Adams (co-creator, Assy McGee), Janice Burgess (creator of The Backyardigans), Fran Krause (creator), Debra Solomon (creator) and yours truly. Frankly, I think the only reason I’m on the panel is because I think the pitching and development process nowadays is wasteful, misguided, and total BS. And now that I’ve made my position clear, I don’t think I even need to show up. The fun starts at 7pm in the 3rd floor theater of the School of Visual Arts (209 E. 23rd Street).
Spark Animation ’09 is taking place next week in Vancouver. I wasn’t blown away by the line-up for the event’s first year, but this second time around they’ve brought together an exciting and diverse group of industry bigshots including DreamWorks director Conrad Vernon, David Fine of Bob and Margaret fame, Blue Sky art director Michael Knapp, Pixar production designer Ricky Nierva, The Secret of Kells co-director Tomm Moore, and feature animators like Dave Burgess and Chris Wiliams. There are also discussion panels and film screenings including $9.99, Mary and Max, The Secret of Kells, and Azur and Asmar. The event is industry-centric–no surprise because it’s being put on by SIGGRAPH–but there is a definite need for an event like this on the West Coast, and Vancouver is a lovely place to host it. The schedule and single-ticket/full pass info can be found on the SIGGRAPH Vancouver website. If any reader wants to send some notes about how it goes next week, I’d be interested in hearing about it.
Is anybody following the official Chuck Jones blog? Because fans of Chuck should be! Chuck’s daughter, Linda, has been posting a fascinating series of letters that he wrote to her when she went off to boarding school in 1952. Even though a lot of the details are mundane, the value of sharing these letters is immense. They offer a totally new personal perspective on how Jones handled being a father at a time when he was also at the top of his game. There are also some great animation-related bits sprinkled throughout the letters, like his thoughts about working on the Roadrunner/Coyote shorts:
Been slamming through another Coyote and Roadrunner, as I may have mentioned. These are sort of money-in-the-bank type pictures. We don’t have to worry about establishing a premise or continuity or character development much or trick backgrounds. Everything’s pretty open. Just sit down and start drawing and when all the gags are roughed out, arrange them according to pace, so’s the picture will build in tempo, find myself a strong gag to end on and I’m in business. Timing is a snap because no dialogue and there’s no worry about making it too long, because I can time the gags as I go along and use just as many as I need. All in all, life could be very simple and maybe a little bit dull if all I had to do was direct coyote and r.r.s.
Danny Antonucci (Lupo the Butcher, Ed, Edd n Eddy) posted this refreshingly frank piece of advice on his Facebook page, and he’s allowed me to share it with everybody on the Brew. Even with all his years in the biz, Danny hasn’t forgotten what it’s all about:
Danny Antonucci’s 4 “C”s to Great Cartoons
1. CREATE (…new territories through art not technology)
2. CONTRIBUTE (…to the art form, not rape it for cash!)
3. CHALLENGE (…everything currently being done)
4. CHANGE (…don’t redo, copy, or repeat)
If you can’t adhere to any of these 4 “C”s, get the fuck out of animation.
Spline Doctors, one of the smartest animation podcasts around, has finally released a new episode, and the guest is UP production designer Ricky Nierva. I haven’t had a moment to listen to it yet, but I understand that Nierva speaks at length about his relationship with Maurice Noble. Can’t wait to hear it.
“My Favorite Way” is a colorful and visually inventive video for Black Drawing Chalks directed by Marck Al at the Brazilian studio Nitrocorpz. Virgilio Vasconcelos, who was responsible for the CG animation, has posted some interesting ‘making of’ footage and production details on his blog. In his email, Virgilio also told me that two of the band members animated on the project.
Production: Nitrocorpz / Bicleta sem Freio
Direction: Marck Al
Dir.Photography: Jovan de Melo
Illustrations: Douglas Castro, Victor Rocha, Jovan de Melo
2D Animation: Douglas Castro, Victor Rocha, Jovan de Melo
3D modelling: Virgilio Vasconcelos
3D animation: Virgilio Vasconcelos
Aditional animations: Suryara Bernardi, Daryn Wakasa
Composition: Victor Rocha, Marck Al
WOW! A real rarity today. It’s A Nose, an animated short from 1966 directed and designed by Mordi Gerstein (who prior to this had worked at UPA). The film is based on a surreal piece of satire by Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, and was produced at Jack Zander’s NY studio Pelican Films. There’s some impressive bits of animation in the film, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering that Emery Hawkins and Jack Schnerk are credited as animators. Nowadays, Gerstein is illustrating children’s books, including the well-received The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.
(Thanks to Mordi’s son, Aram Gerstein, for posting the film onto YouTube.)
You’ll never look at an apple the same way again after Ecological Apple, an unsettling experimental piece by Swedish artist Andreas Soderberg. It’s standard time-lapse photography edited in After Effects with time remap and camera shakes.
Also appearing online are a number of time-lapse films, like the one below by Eric Spiegelman, that capture the fires happening in LA. Nature is clearly the most awesome special fx animator.
(Ecological Apple video via Kottke)
Following the contentious Ottawa poster debate that spanned across eight or so blogs, I think we all need something soothing and magical in our lives. We could use a little Whale Magic.
The Olde English Blog does a nice job of explaining why this is the BEST THING EVER.
In my mind, the worst quality a teacher can have is to be close-minded because that narrow interpretation of good and bad is passed on to an entire generation of young artists at a critical time when they should be learning, growing, and exploring. That’s why I shuddered when I read this post on Sheridan instructor Pete Emslie’s blog in which he trashes this year’s poster for the Ottawa International Animation Festival (pictured above). The poster was drawn by Theo Ushev, who in addition to being an accomplished fine artist, is the director of amazing animated shorts like Drux Flux and Tower Bawher. In his post, Emslie he describes it as “blecchh!,” a “cat vomiting,” and writes that it’s proper place would be “taped to a fridge door by some loving mom.” It’s downright embarrassing to think that this guy represents the quality of instruction and critical thinking at a school that purports itself to be one of the top animation institutions in the world.
Emslie’s criticisms, if describing something as “blecchh” can be regarded as a valid criticism, drew a response from Ottawa festival director Chris Robinson who wrote on his blog:
What annoys me is the infantile hostility coming from a man who claims to have 30 years experience in animation as an animator and, egad, a teacher (I thought teachers are supposed to be guides. They introduce students to a diversity of possibilities and then let them go off and develop their own thoughts.). This guy doesnt even try. It’s just outright reaction. The work is ugly and pretentious and that’s that. There’s no processing, no attempt to contemplate and consider. He doesnt even encourage dialogue (isn’t that one of the primary functions of being a teacher?).
Animation director Michael Sporn also weighed in on the issue (and a lengthy comments thread follows his thoughts), while the artist himself, Theo Ushev, wrote on his blog, “I had much more daring posters in my life. But it seems that the animation community is a little special. And this conversation happens in 2009?!!! Not in 1909.”
Not sure what any of this means except that I was bothered enough to write about it. At the end of the day, life goes on. Sheridan students who are too young to know any better will continue accepting instruction from a guy who draws cartoon characters on a par with Chris Hart and throws in some tired Hirschfeld impersonations to boot. Theo Ushev will continue making beautiful films and drawings. The Ottawa International Animation Festival will be a great time for everybody who attends. And animation will continue to advance as an art in spite of those who wish to impose primitive rules and restrictions about what a piece of animation can and can’t be. If something good came out of all this, it’s that Marco de Blois, the animation curator at the CinémathÃ¨que québécoise, started a new blog devoted to the art of the animation festival poster.
UPDATE: NY animator Elliot Cowan has redesigned Theo Ushev’s Ottawa poster to appease those who feel that the artwork should be more “animationy.”
My Day is a short about personal space. It’s a third-year project by Irish animation student Eamonn O’Neill. It was made at IADT Dun Laoghaire. I like how he’s exploring the visual possibilities in a largely dialogue-driven concept.
Next month in Rio de Janeiro marks the debut of Ãris–International Festival of LGBT Animation. According to the festival, they will screen animated films with topics related to sexual diversity: gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites and transexuals. There are only two programs of films in their inaugural year, and the programs will screen on September 1, 8 and 15. Line-up of the films can be viewed on their site.
Also coming up in Rio and Sao Paulo is the 4th International Festival of Erotic Animation. The festival is currently accepting submissions through August 31. Their is no entry fee to submit a film.
I don’t know if this videogame parody–Ultimate Muscle Roller Legend–technically qualifies as Machinima, but in my book, it does qualify as funny. There is an explanation here of the different video game graphics used in the creation of the piece. Like most of today’s kookiest animation, it hails from Japan.
Haven’t done this in a while, so here are a few artist blogs worth your time:
Animator Sandro Cleuzo’s blog is just over a week old, and it’s already filled with rare material, including work from unproduced Disney projects like Sweating Bullets and My Peoples. His credits also include Fantasia 2000, The Emperor’s New Groove, Tarzan, Home on the Range, Enchanted, Anastasia, Curious George, Asterix and the Vikings and the upcoming The Princess and the Frog. Check Sandro out at his cleverly titled Inspector Cleuzo blog.
Illustrator and Ice Age character designer Peter de SÃ¨ve is also new to the blogging scene. I found it interesting to read a personal perspective on his forthcoming monograph, which I announced here last week. Visit him at PeterdeSeve.blogspot.com.
Dexter Smith has been working in animation since the groundbreaking Batman, the Animated Series. Since then, he’s worked on Superman, Samurai Jack, Johnny Bravo, My Gym Partner’s a Monkey, Clone High, Freakazoid, and a bunch of other stuff. I liked seeing the artwork and hearing the development story about his personal project True Romance. More at Dexter-Smith.blogspot.com.
I nominate this exchange between director/illustrator Ward Jenkins and his daughter, Ava, as the best animation-related tweet of the day:
John K. is calling his “Cartoon College.” It is a free, invitation-only private blog in which he’ll spend time giving individual notes to the promising artists that apply. He admits in this introductory post about the program that part of the motivation for giving away free training is selfishness:
The kind of cartoons I make require these skills, and I can’t afford to teach them during a production. Cartoon budgets go down every year and so I need people who already understand what I’m looking for and are functional. I always want to do layouts in my cartoons – it’s what separates my cartoons visually from so many others, but layout is mostly not done anywhere anymore. Nowadays, they just design the characters from a couple different angles, take them into Flash and then move the still pieces around like paper doll puppets. I can’t make my kind of custom stories and acting using that system. I need talented and SKILLED people to help. It’s worth it to me to help out before a production begins, but it will be up to you to practice and apply and critique yourselves according to what you learn. I will give some critiques and everyone here can learn from each other’s studies.
Bill Plympton is starting up his class in the real-world. Beginning September 16, for 14 consecutive weeks, he will teach a two-hour class every Wednesday evening from 6-8pm. It will take place at his studio in Chelsea, Manhattan. The cost is $1000 per person and is limited to 15 students. According to the description which he posted on Facebook, students will:
Learn how you can make amazing films that can earn money. Learn the tricks of drawing, design, layouts, storyboards, writing, humor, directing, backgrounds and editing. Learn the business of animation, budgets, funding, selling, distribution, festivals and cost-cutting tricks. Call (212) 741-0322 or email at Plymptoons (at) aol (dot) com for more information.
Great-looking experimental music video for The Fiery Furnaces’ song “Charmaine Champagne.” It was directed by Phillip Niemeyer of Brooklyn-based Double Triple. Niemeyer writes:
It’s stop motion, and it builds on a lot of things we were just discovering when we did the Spoon video. Mike Reddy, illustrator for all of the Furnaces’ records is responsible for most of the art. We shot most everything on an art store light table. We photocopied many of these assets onto office transparencies. All the color comes from either paint, markers or silkscreen. The band was photographed and these were assembled into stop motion loops — no video. No digital motion — we wanted that janky look, even on the pans. We took some process photos and posted them here.
Director: Phillip Niemeyer of Double Triple
Artwork: Mike Reddy
Additional artwork (action painting): Hannah Cole
Animation: Phillip Niemeyer, Alex Marie Egan, Mike Reddy, Jeremiah Dickey, Christine Nguyen
Photography: Phillip Niemeyer and Ethan Finkelstein
Joshua Smith, who has introduced me to lots of great anime over the years, wrote to let me know about some recent discoveries he made on YouTube: Kitty’s Studio (1959) and Kitty’s Graffiti (1957), two shorts animated by Yasuji Mori. I’ve embedded them below.
These were produced during a time in which Toei was just gearing up it’s attempt to become the “Disney” of Japan, a feat that probably would not have succeeded without the talent of Yasuji Mori. He was probably the greatest Japanese character animator of his generation, stressing the concepts of appeal, solid construction, and moveability in his character design and animation. As the most influential mentor at Toei, he passed his skills on to subsequent generations of Toei animators such as Yasuo Otsuka, Gisaburo Sugii, and Hayao Miyazaki.
Most prewar and postwar Japanese animation up to this point was rather crude, so it’s striking to see Japanese animation at a level of quality that equals or surpasses much American short animation from the same time period. These shorts clearly contain a great deal of Western influence, but have a distinct approach that makes them feel exotic. Without further context, it seems like this style of animation appeared from a vacuum. On the weekend that sees the American release of Miyazaki’s latest film, it’s interesting to ponder what the state of Japanese animation might be like today without Mori’s influence.
Josh is spot-on when he writes about the distinct approach.The filmmaking choices in these cartoons are very odd and un-Western. In the cartoon below, the face of the main character is not shown from a three-quarter or front view until well over two minutes in the cartoon, even though he’s onscreen for much of that time. I can’t think of a single example of when that’s happened in a Hollywood theatrical short.
That’s the cover for a new project that I’ve been involved with: A Sketchy Past: The Art of Peter de SÃ¨ve. It’s the first-ever monograph about Peter de SÃ¨ve‘s professional work and it should be on everybody’s Christmas wishlist.
A Sketchy Past is 240 pages in a 10″ by 12″ hardcover format. It’s being released in October by French publishing house Akileos. They’re putting out two versions–one in English and the other in French. It’s not available to order yet, but Akileos has posted a preview page with details about the book and a preview PDF. It will debut officially at Galerie Arludik in Paris, which is holding a retrospective of Peter’s work in October. Events with Peter in the United States will follow shortly thereafter. As always, stay tuned to Cartoon Brew.
Having been a fan of Peter’s work for years, I was honored to be a part of this project. I’m particularly proud of the essay I contributed, and hope it’ll shed new insights into Peter’s approach and style. Make no mistake though. The main attraction here is page after incredible page of artwork. The book includes a generous number of roughs, as well as comments throughout from Peter. The artwork ranges from his New Yorker illustrations to animation work (the Ice Age series, Finding Nemo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) to book covers and everything else in-between. The book is exquisitely designed by Lori Barra, who also designed Peter’s sketchbook that was published a few years ago. Everybody labored long and hard to get the book right, most of all Peter, who has spent the last thirty years creating these illustrations. If you’re a fan of Peter’s work, you won’t be disappointed, and if you’re unfamiliar with his work, prepare to become a fan.
Here are a few spreads from the book. Click to enlarge.
It turns out that Foghorn Leghorn isn’t the only racist cartoon character. Thank you, Yahoo! Answers, for resolving these difficult questions. Now, if we could only figure out how to reduce the tension.
(Thanks, Michael Rosenberg)
The Ottawa International Animation Festival has announced their official selections for this year’s festival, which takes place between October 14-18.
There are ninety-three films competing in the various short categories. Competition selections in Ottawa are a wonderful reason to attend and always one of the highlights of the festival. The line-up is filled with challenging, progressive and interesting uses of the animation medium. Check out the list of competing films here. I’m especially pleased that they maintain such high standards because I’m on the festival’s short film jury this year alongside filmmakers Suzan Pitt and Jim Blashfield.
Feature competition is also more robust than usual with seven films vying for the prize: Henry Selick’s Coraline, Tatia Rosenthal’s $9.99, Neil Burns’s Edison and Leo, Priit and Olga Pärn’s Life Without Gabriella Ferri, Sunao Katabuchi’s Mai Mai Miracle, Adam Elliot’s Mary and Max, and Paul and Sandra Fierlinger’s My Dog Tulip. It’s nice to see a healthy selection of features, especially after the feature debacle in Ottawa last year in which the best feature prize was inexplicably awarded to Battle for Terra.
(Ottawa poster by Theodore Ushev)
A few months ago I shared my thoughts about the student screening at the School of Visual Arts, and in there I noted that Rebecca Sugar’s Singles was one of the highlights of SVA’s graduating class. Today we’re delighted to present the online debut of her film on Cartoon Brew TV. Frankly, I have no idea how anybody manages to become so adept at drawing and animation by the time they’re 22, but Rebecca’s done it, and the beneficiaries of her hard work are my eyeballs and yours. Click over to Cartoon Brew TV and watch her film Singles.
When I first discovered Rebecca Sugar’s drawings, I was perplexed by her work yet dazzled by her drawing chops. She impressed again with this masterful comic piece. Now, we’re proud to present the online premiere of her thesis film Singles, which picked up the award for best Experimental Film at last month’s Animation Block Party. With this film, she shows herself to be both a creative animator and a thoughtful filmmaker. The short’s visual gymnastics are staggering, with characters nested into each other and whose shifting perspectives confound the senses while creating mystery and intrigue. The film was made at the School of Visual Arts, the same school that brought us the last Cartoon Brew TV film, Jake Armstrong’s The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9!
Questions for Rebecca are welcome. She’ll be participating in the comments section below. If you’d like to find out more about her work, visit her website or blog. Here is more about Singles, in her own words:
I love to draw comics, so for my thesis I wanted an idea that absolutelyÂ hadÂ to be animated. I wanted to do Singles because it could never work as a comic; it hardly worked as an animatic!
The main guy lives with infinite selves, they all move the same way at the same time because they’re all the same person. The film is about being alone.
I came up with this film one night when I couldn’t sleep. All that really changed after that was the main character, he started out thin and got fatter every time I drew him. My friend Frans Boukas came up with using “Singles” as American cheese and as the title, I thought it was perfect! I asked my advisor Don Poynter about it, and he said, “But you have only one character, and ‘singles’ is plural.” I said, “Oh, but he IS plural!”
The radio voice is my good friend Peyton Skyler. He and Mikhail Shraga have inspired me for years to be less narrative and more conceptual. The chewing and humming is Ian Jones-Quartey. He inked and animated chunks of the film and was a huge inspiration to me in general.
I wanted this film to imply that there’s a lot more going on than what the guy or the audience can see. This guy is getting a fraction of a much bigger picture that he can’t possibly understand. This film is part one in a trilogy. All three films happen in the same apartment building at the same time. What happens in all three films happens in each individual film though that character doesn’t know or see it. What is actually happening is something else entirely and can’t be known.