As reported by Anime News Network, documentary filmmaker Mami Sunada (Ending Note: Death of a Japanese Salaryman) is nearing completion on the Studio Ghibli documentary Kingdom of Dreams and Madness. The film follows studio producer Toshio Suzuki, and directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies) as they work on two upcoming Studio Ghibli films, Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) and Kaguya-hime no Monogatori (The Tale of Princess Kaguya).
When discussing her film’s title, Sunada explains: “I think that having a dream entails having a bit of madness, no matter what the profession. There are times when you will go to extremes, and times when you are feared by others for that.”
The Wind Rises, which is the first Miyazaki directed film in five years, debuts this weekend in Japan. Centering on Zero fighter designer Jiro Horikoshi, it is inspired by a manga Miyazaki created for Gekkan Model Graphics magazine and based on the novel of the same name by Tatsuo Hori. The Tale of Princess Kaguya, directed by Takahata is an adaptation of the Japanese folk story, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Originally slated to premiere simultaneously with The Wind Rises, Kaguya’s release date was postponed due to production snags, and as a result, Sunada continues to film in the studio to cover the extended production. Sunada’s documentary will premiere this fall in Japan.
Fans of Cartoon Network’s Samurai Jack are finally being tossed a bone. Nine years after the series finale of Genndy Tartakovsky’s show, IDW Publishing has announced a new comic book featuring the continuing adventures of Jack, the dimensionally displaced warrior and his epic quest to destroy the wicked overlord Aku.
Written by Jim Zub (Skullkickers) and illustrated by Andy Suriano, the new comic will pick up where the series left off, beginning with a five-issue storyline called Rope of Eons. Suriano, who designed characters for the show, reflected on returning to the popular character via press release: “Returning to Samurai Jack is such a personal experience and labor of love for me. It’s like stepping through a time portal back to characters I know as friends and a world that really launched my animation career.”
The first issue of Samurai Jack, which will begin in October, will feature a variant cover by show creator Genndy Tartakovsky, as well as one by Rob Guillory (Chew).
Having trouble finding that very special mermaid statuette?
Well, Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch, The Croods) can commiserate. “I’ve always kept an eye out for a mermaid sculpture that I really like. There’s a lot of them out there, but I could never find ‘the one.’ They were either too serious, too stiff, or just not very cute.”
The first collaboration between Sanders and sculptor Anders Ehrenborg, Nimue (pronounced “Nim-way”) is “the right combination of fluid, cute and sexy” and presented in Sanders’ distinctive signature style. She is resin casted, stands 7.25 inches high and is being offered in two styles; blonde hair with a blue tail or green and green – a topless version of each color scheme is also available in limited quantities.
“How many sailors would have given their last weevily biscuit to capture such a creature in their sea-chests?” Sanders muses. Fortunately, you won’t have to make such a sacrifice; online preorders have begun and all four prototypes will be on view at San Diego Comic-Con this week at booth #5534, between the convention hall entrances from Lobby B2 and Lobby C.
Whether it be for lack of budget or a desire to take center stage, TV series creators lending their own voices to their animated television shows has been fairly commonplace – Mike Judge (Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill), John Kricfalusi (Ren and Stimpy), Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) and Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park) immediately spring to mind. However, in recent years, more and more feature directors have started getting in on the trend. From throwaway one-liners to continuous roles throughout entire franchises, here is a list of some animation directors and the characters they brought to life in their own films.
1. Eric Goldberg
As the animation director for Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), Goldberg not only supervised the animation of the WB’s classic characters but he voiced some of them as well. Goldberg recorded the dialogue of Marvin the Martian, Tweety Bird and Speedy Gonzalez.
2. Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
The distinctive sputters, spurts and high-speed mutterings of The Minions in Despicable Me (2010) and Despicable Me 2 (2013) belong to the films’ co-directors Pierre Coffin (above left) and Chris Renaud. And as the character’s popularity grows, so does their vocal commitment, as the two will reprise their roles in next year’s prequel Minions.
3. Ralph Bakshi
In his debut film Fritz the Cat (1972), director Ralph Bakshi voiced one of the boorish antagonist Pig Cops, who is also referred to as “Ralph” multiple times in his scenes.
4. Brad Bird
Agnes Gooch, Edith Head, Patricia Highsmith, Linda Hunt – when it comes to figuring out who inspired the character of Edna Mode, people love to toss out many names, but in the end, the cutthroat designer of superhero fashion was brought to life by The Incredibles (2004) director Brad Bird.
5. Rich Moore
Rich Moore, director of Wreck-It Ralph (2012) provided the dreary monotone of acidic jawbreaker Sour Bill, the henchman to the bombastic King Candy.
6. Richard Williams
Even to this day, the toon celebrity cameos in Who Framed Roger Rabbit(1988) remain some of the best nods to the golden age of cartoons, especially that of Droopy Dog, who gets his opportunity to best Eddie Valiant with some traditional ‘toon high-jinks as a tricky elevator operator, sluggishly voiced by the film’s animation director Richard Williams.
7. Chris Wedge
What began as the high-strung snivels and snarls of Scrat in Ice Age (2002) has become a second career for director Chris Wedge who has gone on to vocally personify the prehistoric rodent in 3 sequels, 6 short films, 2 video games and in a walk-on role in an episode of Family Guy.
8. Chris Miller
Royal messengers, tower guards, army commanders, friars and penguins, story artist Chris Miller has lent his voice-over skills to numerous animated films, most notably his returning roles as Geppetto and The Magic Mirror in the Shrek franchise, including Shrek the Third (2007), which he co-directed.
9. Mark Dindal
The often ignored and underrated animated film Cats Don’t Dance (1997) features some beautiful hand-drawn work and stellar vocal performances, including that of director Mark Dindal as the tight-lipped bodyguard/butler Max.
10. Joe Ranft
Pixar story artist, the late Joe Ranft, brought a handful of memorable animated characters to life, including Heimlich (A Bug’s Life), Wheezy the Penguin (Toy Story 2) and Jacques the Cleaner Shrimp (Finding Nemo). But it was in Cars (2006), which he co-directed, that he voiced three characters including the semi-truck Jerry Recycled Batteries.
11. Chris Sanders
In Lilo & Stitch (2002) co-director Chris Sanders takes on the nuanced role of Alien Experiment 626, aka “Stitch,” who escapes from an intergalactic prison only to find himself trapped on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
12. Nathan Greno and Byron Howard
Nathan Greno (above right) and Byron Howard not only paired up as co-directors of Tangled (2010) but also doubled as duos of Thugs and Guards in the animated picture.
13. John Lasseter
With five features under his belt, John Lasseter has had plenty of opportunity to throw himself behind the microphone, however upon review of his filmography, you’ll find he has chosen his roles very carefully, as the role of John Lassetire in Cars 2 (2011) and the hilariously bug-zapped Harry the Mosquito in A Bug’s Life (1998).
In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, there’s no shortage of businesses offering unique artisanal goods, which makes it an ideal location for Dream Factory Animation, the new full-service boutique animation studio fronted by alt-cartoonist M.Wartella.
While Wartella formed his company on 12/12/12, the doors to his new studio on Humboldt Street officially opened in May of this year. An underground illustrator who has dominated the pages of alternative publications for the last two decades and animated on various music videos and television shows, he has spent the last three years animating nearly 300 shorts for Cartoon Network’s animated sketch comedy program MAD.
While discussing with Cartoon Brew the transference of his print aesthetic to the studio’s signature style, Wartella cannot help but extol the quality of animation talent that has found their way to his studio. “All the animators here are great artists in their own right; we only hire people who can draw exceptionally well.” Wartella is so concerned about only attracting top-flight talent that he has chosen to eschew the industry standard of utilizing unpaid interns in his productions, as stated in a recent press release: “Everyone gets paid for their contributions. In fact, we operate a unique profit-sharing system whereby our animators share in part of the studio’s profits at the end of the year.”
However, his talented crew and high-profile, lowbrow background are not the only qualities that make his studio special. Wartella enthusiastically touts the development of a personalized production system for creating his animated shorts. A proprietary blend, of sorts, that enables his crew to produce “anything” in the studio’s signature style, quickly and efficiently. “Using my secret formula, we can produce super-high-quality cartoons in a time frame that would be virtually impossible for any other animation studio to rival,” he says. “We can turn out a fully animated 30-second spot from top to bottom in one business day if we have to. This brings traditional animation within reach for almost any commercial business that wants to get noticed.”
And while Wartella hints at a few yet-to-be-announced projects, (one involving Punk Magazine cartoonist/writer John Holmstrom and another that will revive “a classic cartoon character” for Warner Bros.) the only one he speaks openly about is a new webseries being made alongside @Radical.Media for Conde Nast Entertainment called WIRED: Mr. Know-It-All.
A series of ongoing shorts, WIRED: Mr. Know-It-All, based on the WIRED magazine articles of the same name, is a digital age advice column providing answers to a wide assortment of modern questions from Facebook etiquette to child rearing in the information age. It is produced in the style of illustrator Christoph Niemann and conceived, developed and animated by Wartella’s team. “I don’t think there is any other studio in New York or the world that can crank out animation as efficiently as we can,” he says. “We have a solid formula and a great team!”
On Wednesday, July 10th, the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Los Angeles will launch a new webseries called CRIME: The Animated Series through its new contemporary art video initiative MOCA.tv. The series was created by Sam Chou of Toronto’s Style5 and author/filmmaker Alix Lambert, whose book CRIME inspired the series.
Each of CRIME’s six parts are produced by a different animator/designer in their own personal style, albeit using the same spare red-white-black color palette, and feature interviews with law enforcement, criminals and the victims of crime. The episodes shine a light on the “dark, compelling, heartbreaking, and yes — sometimes funny” subject of crime and how it affects society.
The screening, which is FREE, starts at 8pm (doors open at 7) at MOCA (250 South Grand Avenue, LA, CA 90012), and will be followed by a panel discussion with Sam Chou, Alix Lambert, bank robber-turned-author Joe Loya, sociologist Althea Wasow and true crime writer Jimmy Wu. See the Facebook invite or RSVP at [email protected]
When it was announced that Comedy Central’s Ugly Americans would not be returning for a third season, the show’s creator Devin Clark did not waste any time in launching his new animated series, Instant Life Lessons with Dr. Dewey Pfister. But rather than shooting for another network show, he sidestepped the corporate groupthink and idea-crushing bureaucracy in favor of a “less cooks in the kitchen” indie webseries. “It is pretty fantastic having that much control over something,” Clark told Cartoon Brew. “For me, apparently, it means lots of animated child abuse and poop jokes.”
Produced for the YouTube channel Official Comedy, Instant Life Lessons is an “educational” animated series that provides absurd “one size fits all” guidance from the socially inept Dr. Dewey Pfister and his hapless son. “He genuinely wants to help people,” explains Clark, “but in an effort to make his lessons simple and easily consumed, he has boiled them down into nonsense. Also his world view is a bit insane and he is a terrible person.”
Factoring in that Ugly Americans began as an online collection of shorts called 5ON, Clark has experience with both large and small productions and can safely advise that while talent and a strong idea are important to selling a show, people often forget about how much luck factors into the equation. “If you aren’t pitching the right concept to the right network at the right moment when they are looking for exactly what you are selling, the chances of it getting made are slim to none,” he said. Fortunately, a new group of YouTube channel producers, as well as companies like Netflix and Amazon, are actively seeking animation content, providing a slate of new options to those who are developing their own series.
The first three episodes of Clark’s Instant Life Lessons with Dewey Pfister and an eight-part behind-the-scenes video series are currently available on the Official Comedy YouTube channel.
In the 1950s, when the pages of the Saturday Evening Post and McCall’s were dominated with the realist paintings of Norman Rockwell and Bernie Fuchs, French-born illustrator Tomi Ungerer brought in his loose, graphic drawing style and absurdist sensibilities and changed the direction of American illustration. In the new documentary film Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story, we learn about Ungerer’s early life in Alsace, France as a young artist encouraged by the Nazi party during their French occupation, to his journey to America in search of new opportunities, and his subsequent blacklisting from the children’s book industry.
Featuring interviews with Steven Heller, Jules Feiffer and the late Maurice Sendak, Far Out Isn’t Far Enough is a buoyant and vivid documentary film, painting an inspiring picture of an award-winning illustrator, trilingual author, brilliant satirist, and dedicated humanitarian advocate. Ungerer upended social and professional morays in the pre-pre-Internet era, delighting (and offending) editors, critics and readers by breaking taboos, back when there was still a better assortment of taboos waiting to be broken.
Ungerer’s portrayal is both of an unstable-but-good spirited neighborhood kook and avuncular storyteller, grinning from behind a freshly lit joint and admiring a recently found dismembered baby doll appendage. “Children should be traumatized,” he grins. “If you want to give them an identity, children should be traumatized.” And he speaks from personal experience; socially paranoid, emotionally erratic and “oblivious,” as recounted by Sendak, he represents that classic tortured artist, except that instead of wringing his hands over how best to suffer for his creations, he suffered, survived and then created.
“When I draw it’s a real need,” says Ungerer. “It’s the kind of need like, if you’re hungry, you have to eat, or you have to go to the toilet—it’s got to go out.” His early children’s books, The Mellops Go Flying and Crictor, about pigs and a boa constrictor, respectively, set the tone for the work that would follow: “detestable” creatures (a vulture, a bat, an ogre) cleverly depicted as unlikely heroes, providing children with much needed provocative subject matter.
His political posters were motivated by his fascination with the American civil rights movement and the global conflicts of the 1960s: Uncle Sam shoving Lady Liberty down the throat of a Vietnamese man, a black figure and a white figure devouring each other from opposite ends, a military plane dropping silhouetted bombs under a curtain of pink ribbon presents with the label “Give,” all of which retain their graphic resonance to this day.
And his erotic works, which served as a personal rebellion against his puritanical upbringing, began with a personal relationship that involved “a bit of bondage,” and evolved into titles like Fornicon, a collection of erotica and “mechanical sex recipes.”
While the diversity of his work is one of the most unique aspects of his career, it was this sort of simultaneous co-habitation of creative worlds that eventually worked against him, getting his children’s books (unofficially) banned from libraries for over twenty-five years. His detractors have finally come around and he has received recognition for his body of work as a children’s book author and illustrator. In 1998, Ungerer was presented the Hans Christian Anderson award for his “lasting contribution to children’s literature” and named Ambassador for Childhood and Education by the 47-nation Council of Europe.
If anything, the film may leave you longing for the Golden Age of Publishing in the 1950s and ’60s, where any talented newcomer with the right portfolio—or in Ungerer’s case, a Trojan condom box—could go from door to door peddling their illustrations, and become an industry darling.
Far Out Isn’t Far Enough is directed by Brad Bernstein, and features motion graphics supervised by Brandon Dumlao. The film is distributed by First Run Features and is continuing to open in theaters across the country.
Uli Meyer:MonsterMania is a horror comedy featuring my own versions of the classic monsters and also a few new ones. The film is… wait for it… Young Frankenstein meets The Fearless Vampire Killers, but all animated.
An animated adventure with plenty of spooky moments and funny moments and monster moments — I get goosebumps just thinking about it. When Christopher Lee read the script, he immediately agreed to do one of the voices and we recorded him in 2007.
Cartoon Brew: You’ve been pitching the film to studios? How has it been received?
Uli Meyer: When I first took the film idea to Los Angeles to pitch to the major studios in 2004, I was hoping to secure a distribution deal. During my visit I found out that both Sony and DreamWorks had monster movies on their development slate (Hotel Transylvania and Monsters vs. Aliens, respectively), but I was not concerned; studios take notoriously long to green light anything and I hoped that I could outrun them once I had that distribution deal, but the other studios weren’t forthcoming. The argument was that DreamWorks and Sony were most likely to spend $100m+ on their films plus the same again on advertising. Because of that my measly $40m budget wouldn’t afford a movie that could compete.
A $40m budget is tiny for US standards but was unheard of in Europe.
Back in England I started looking into alternative ways to keep the project going. A $40m budget is tiny for US standards but was unheard of in Europe. I believe in a global success, but most European films at the time cost between $2m and $6m and they are never seen outside their home territory. I teamed up with a German producer team who assured me that they could get my film financed and they managed to raise an initial sum of money that was used to keep developing the film further, but after several half-witted attempts to find partners in European markets, it transpired that these guys had no idea what they were doing.
I always thought that my project would be perfect for Universal. Unfortunately all they were interested in was to make sure that my version of Frankenstein’s monster didn’t have bolts on the neck and wasn’t green. Universal was in the middle of trying to revive their monsters through live-action incarnations and that year the lacklustre success of Van Helsing somewhat dampened their enthusiasm.
Cartoon Brew: On your website you stated, “Trying to make a film independently has so far never quite worked out for my studio.” A lot of animators out there dream of one day making their own movie and believe that starting their own studio is the last step in that dream. In your experience, what has been the biggest hurdle in getting your own feature films made?
Uli Meyer: For the benefit of anybody who reads this, I am giving you a radically abbreviated account of some of the things that happened in my professional life so that you can draw your own conclusions. I absolutely encourage anybody to make their own film and find their way and maybe this account will help those individuals to avoid some of the downfalls.
If making your own movie is your dream, setting up a studio first in order to one day make a movie is not necessarily the best way to make that dream happen.
As an animator you like nothing better than to create. The idea of having your own studio where you can beaver away is very exciting. But if making your own movie is your dream, setting up a studio first in order to one day make a movie is not necessarily the best way to make that dream happen. Running a studio is a huge responsibility, rent, rates, utilities, wages, insurance, equipment, maintenance, etc. become a monthly liability that demands a lot of turnover. Even at its smallest, my studio in London had to have a minimum yearly turnover of $1.2m just to break even. Most of the time you will find yourself working on client projects and frantically pitching for more work and the landlord will pocket most of your profits. If you work hard and find that there is a bit of spare money at the end of the year, you can use the little time left to do your own thing. But therein lies the problem; trying to make a feature film is a full time job and nigh impossible to achieve as a side project.
But let’s say you do. After a year or so working on your film, you will eventually realise that unless you want to do a Richard Williams (spending 30 years on a film that never gets made) you need to go out there and raise money. Now you will encounter the world of film finance, which is completely different to the world an animator/filmmaker inhabits. Yet, the one can’t live without the other. In order to learn the finance game properly, you will have to abandon your creative job and be prepared to spend considerable time learning about business and building business connections. I do not know many artists who have a head or the patience for that. I don’t. Instead I’ve tried to partner up with people who I hoped could fulfill that role. Unfortunately none succeeded. I actually believe they do not exist. If they would, they wouldn’t be looking for work.
Cartoon Brew: So, is navigating the feature development landscape any easier for an experienced animator such as yourself?
Uli Meyer: It has been fairly easy for me to arrange pitch screenings with the major studios because of my studio’s reputation. Building that reputation took a few years and animation was a different game then; it depended on the artist’s abilities to draw. Today there are so many studios out there creating highly polished digital images, it is difficult to lift your studio’s profile above the crowd based solely on your work. We would always create the most elaborate pitches, with proof of concept films to screen and design bibles to illustrate the ideas, but pitch methods change and if you consider that today some projects get green-lit based on a headline and mock-up movie poster, you can save yourself a lot of time and money. And you do not need to own a studio for that.
After more than twenty years of making commercials and creating animated films for clients, I decided earlier in the year to shutter up my commercial studio. I had a great time and am proud to have worked with so many talented and wonderful artists. But it is time to pay attention to my projects full time and explore all the new possibilities of making that dream happen.
Cartoon Brew: There seems to be an expectation from new animators and animation fans that the talented artists should simply get together and work on their own project independent of the big studios. But it seems like it’s far more complicated than that. What is the biggest misconception about the process of making your own feature length movie?
Uli Meyer: It always makes me smile when I read that suggestion somewhere. How would that work though? These guys have to earn a living and where would the money come from?
Cartoon Brew: What’s your experience with crowdfunding? Do you intend on taking advantage of it with MonsterMania?
Uli Meyer: I’m happy to say that I successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign to produce a picture book entitled Cuthbert was Bored. It was a great experience and worked well for the relatively small amount of funding I was seeking. Running a campaign is a lot of hard work if you want it to succeed. For its 30-day duration I worked nearly full-time on simply creating awareness. After stretching past my goal, I delivered the book I wanted to make.
I am considering a Kickstarter campaign for MonsterMania and working on how to make it work and how to get backers excited – and most importantly on how to get it out there and how to advertise it. I am thinking about what could be the reward for backing an animatic? It couldn’t be the actual animatic for obvious reasons. Maybe access to a production diary and artwork, limited edition merchandising, only available for Kickstarter backers might be a way? Something that is great value for money. I’m still thinking and suggestions are welcome.
Cartoon Brew: When it comes to film production do you believe crowd funding is a viable option? Do you think it has any shortcomings?
Uli Meyer: The biggest hurdle is creating awareness. If nobody knows your project is out there, you’re doomed to fail. You have to reach those few thousand animation enthusiasts to back your project with a few quid each. I am sure they are out there.
I can see Kickstarter or similar sites changing the way film projects get financed — especially short films and other non-commercial formats could get a new lease of life. I have always wanted to make a Tex Avery style short, hand-drawn, watercolor backgrounds, fully animated entirely the traditional way. Just like the original ones. While there is no way to ever finance a thing like that today through the old channels, crowd funding is a viable option.
Uli Meyer: The St. Trinian’s project is still on hold. It is all to do with animation rights that were erroneously sold as part of a package to a live action company who wants to make their version. They do not have the rights to Ronald’s designs though; I am the only one who has permission to use them. Not that they are interested in animation. But they refuse to license the animation rights to me. For what reason one can only guess.
The twice-married (to each other), domestic-partnered producers and self-described “Pix-Mos”, Anderson (Monsters Inc., Cars, Toy Story 3) and Rae (Up, The Incredibles) started dating in 2001 during the production of Monsters Inc. and when they eloped in 2004, infuriated their family and friends, including Steve Jobs. “I remember Steve Jobs was mad,” Anderson recounted. “He said, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t invite Laurene and I to come down to City Hall to be with you guys.’”
“I was willing to leave the company at that point,” said Rae, expecting professional consequences to their new romance. “But [Pixar was] completely great. They were nothing but supportive, and have been the whole time.” The two maintain the sanity in their relationship by never working on the same film and maintaining strong boundaries. “It’s hard enough making one of these giant movies, and you put your heart and souls into them,” Anderson explained. “If we carried too much of that at home, we would just turn into animated characters ourselves.”
When asked if there will ever be (or has been) a gay character in a Pixar film, Anderson replied, “Our goal is to create great art, and if we’re telling true stories with great characters, people will project and identify with a lot of our films. A lot of people feel like a lot of our characters are gay, and have projected their stories onto it. If we’re doing our job right, that’s what should happen.”
Roger Allers, the co-director of Disney’s The Lion King is moving forward with his production of Kahlil Gibran’s classic 1923 poetry book The Prophet. Casting updates were reported earlier this week by Deadline Hollywood. The film, which we first reported on last year, is being produced by Salma Hayek, Clark Peterson, and Ron Senkowski, and funded by Participant Media and Doha Film Institute.
The film’s animated segments will be produced by Joan Gratz (Mona Lisa Descending A Staircase), Joann Sfar (The Rabbi’s Cat), Paul and Gaetan Brizzi (Fantasia 2000), Michal Socha (Chick) and Mohammed Harib (Freej), who have been added to the already announced directors Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells), Nina Paley (Sita Sings The Blues) and Bill Plympton (Guard Dog). Also, Liam Neeson, John Krasinski, Frank Langella, Alfred Molina and Quvenzhané Wallis have all signed as voice talent, along with Hayek.
While Allers will be in charge of the film’s central narrative and supervise the film as a whole, the above-mentioned directors will helm individual chapters within the storyline. The animated film is set to be completed in spring 2014.
The new content, which will be inspired by characters from existing DreamWorks franchises like Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar, as well as properties from the recently acquired Classic Media library (Casper the Friendly Ghost, Lassie, Rocky and Bullwinkle, among others) will begin to air in 2014.
The agreement is part of DreamWorks’ initiative to expand their entertainment brand by courting television production away from mainstream TV outlets like Cartoon Network and Nick, where its TV shows currently air. This will begin with the December Netflix debut of a new original series, Turbo F.A.S.T., based on the upcoming feature film Turbo, which will hit theaters on July 17. It will also offer Netflix exclusive streaming rights to a selection of DreamWorks animated films, including The Croods and their movie version of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, coming to theaters in March 2014.
For Netflix, the contract, which is the most significant first-run content deal in its history, is part of their ongoing efforts to beef up their selection of children’s programming, which is very popular among parents as it offers a commercial-free alternative for younger, more impressionable viewers. The streaming site did not renew a deal with Viacom for reruns of Nickelodeon cartoons, and will rely heavily on DreamWorks for kids’ content.
DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg spoke about his company’s Netflix deal on CNBC:
Identifying the next Jeffrey Katzenberg or George Lucas isn’t something easily done, but a columnist at the Washington Post has figured out who it is: Nick Weidenfeld.
Weidenfeld, the former Adult Swim development executive whose recent move to Fox has the industry buzzing with anticipation, was the recipient of a glowing profile in last Sunday’s Post, in which his grand plans for the animation industry were revealed.
Post columnist Thomas Heath details Weidenfeld’s career path, starting with his humble beginnings in Washington D.C. where he was raised by an estate lawyer and Betty Ford’s former press secretary—the latter being the daughter of a presidential confidant and ambassador to Italy. Educated at Georgetown Day School and then Columbia University, the Post recounts Weidenfeld’s upbringing where he bounced from an internship at the Pentagon to writing about hip hop and rap, and then clawed his way to a writing gig at Esquire. It was at the last job, while researching a piece about Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, that he ‘bonded’ with CN exec Mike Lazzo over a mutual love of William Faulkner, which was the obvious qualification for a career in animation.
“You wake up one day and you are head of development at the number one ad-supported network on cable TV,” Weidenfeld told the Washington Post. “The nice thing about my story is about the connections I made, but not family connections. I broke into this business myself through friends.”
Weidenfeld attributes his inspirational trajectory from scion to media mogul to his ability to “be open.” When pressed for an explanation, he clarifies, “It’s just being open… to be open to know what you are good at, and know what value you bring to something, you find a way to fit it into whatever job it is. I’m good at making connections or putting an organization or putting pieces together. I’m a good global thinker.”
This unequivocal business acumen was refined by reading the biography of Steve Jobs, the history of Pixar, and Clayton M. Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. “These guys had these ideas and figured out that the old systems don’t work anymore,” Weidenfeld said. “The first thing I said to Fox is I don’t want to just make shows. I want to build a business for you that takes advantage of the best parts of animation.”
Using only the choicest parts of animation, Weidenfeld is ready to reinvent how cartoons are made. He is putting all phases of production for Fox’s upcoming animation block, ADHD (Animation Domination High-Def), from development to animation, under a single roof at his new 120-person Los Angeles studio, generously provided by Fox. From there he intends to usurp the young male demographic from YouTube and Saturday Night Live by producing loads of animated content and writing off the costs. He told the Post that when he presented this foolproof business plan to Fox, they said, “Okay, here you go.”
“It sounds like a parallel universe to me,” writes Heath, “but he’s the one who is becoming the next Jeffrey Katzenberg or George Lucas, not me.”
Yesterday the Annecy International Animated Film Festival came to a close. For everyone who was unable to make the annual jaunt to Haute-Savoie to bask in the excellence of the graphical beaux arts, the festival has its own way of simultaneously enticing you and making you feel bad about your creative self. By this, we mean the signal films.
There were five signal films in total, conceived, designed and as usual, beautifully realized by the students at Gobelins.
The Retake created by Maxime Delalande, Nadya Mira, Semiramis Mamata, Laurent Moing and Rayane Raji
Sawa created by Camile André, Janis Aussel, Clément Doranlo, Maud Girard and Jong-Hyun Jung-Boix
Copernicus created by Elssa Boyer, Anne Courtin, Myriam Fourati, Sarah Simon and Pedro Vergani
The Fancy Family created by Debora Cruchon, Eve Ceccarelli, Marie-Pierre Demessant, Batiste Perron and Simon Masse
See Saw created by Marlène Beaube, Marion Bulot, Thibaud Gayral, Guitty Mojabi and Raphaëlle Stolz
Since its premiere in April, Teen Titans Go! has consistently ranked among Cartoon Network’s top ten programs, so it comes as no surprise that a second season of the Michael Jelenic/Aaron Horvath-produced superhero comedy series was recently ordered from Warner Bros. Animation.
An extension of the Cartoon Network series Teen Titans and freely adapted from the popular DC Comics title of the same name, the show, which focuses on the adolescent angst and domestic squabbles of superhero roommates, mixes a kindergarten cartoon production style with a FLCL anime influence. Season one of Teen Titans Go! is currently airing and new episodes will continue to premiere on Tuesday nights at 7:30 pm.