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.
The Congress, the experimental animation/live-action hybrid by Ari Folman (Waltz with Bashir), has nabbed itself a North American distributor. The deal is a co-acquisition between Drafthouse Films and Films We Like, with Drafthouse handling the U.S. theatrical and VOD/digital release in 2014 and Films We Like covering distribution for Canada.
The opening film of last month’s the Director’s Fortnight sidebar at Cannes, The Congress is a loose adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s 1971 sci-fi novel The Futurological Congress, about an aging actress preserving her digital image for a future Hollywood. It stars Robin Wright, Jon Hamm, Paul Giamatti and Harvey Keitel.
Onyx Films, the Paris-based producer of the fantasy film Upside Down and the low-budget animated sci-fi Renaissance, is currently working on an animated film adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 novella The Little Prince.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film has now gained a voice cast comprised of James Franco, Rachel McAdams, Jeff Bridges, Benicio Del Toro and Paul Giamatti. More notably, the film is to be directed by Mark Osborne, co-director of Dreamworks’ 2008 hit action-comedy Kung Fu Panda.
Some may consider it unusual for the director of a successful animated film from a major American studio to move on to a project from a small foreign studio, however when you consider the diversity of Osborne’s previous work: live action sequences in Spongebob Squarepants, music video work for “Weird Al” Yankovic and a half-dozen live action and stop motion film projects, it seems like his experience may aid a project of any size.
Following the misadventures of a family of fourth generation super scientists and the villains and associates they have picked up along the way, Adult Swim’sThe Venture Bros., created by Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick, has been treating its fans to an intelligent pastiche of adventure fiction and the teen sleuth genre since 2004. With each passing season, the popular animated series, which exposes the bleak future of boy detectives and the failed dreams of the 1960s space race, adds to a constantly evolving collection of characters from the male-dominated catalog of secret agents, boy geniuses and action figures.
Women however, are frequently portrayed as, albeit appropriately for the tone of the program, cynical sex workers, emotionally disturbed shut-ins and hapless bystanders. However, there are a handful of female characters, all of which that walk the line of masculinist fantasy and post-feminist strength, that have risen to the top as fan favorites. For those of you who need a refresher before The Venture Bros.returns for its fifth season tonight at midnight, here’s a recap of the show’s previous seasons through the eyes of these sometimes misunderstood, always popular ladies of the Venture-verse.
Dr. Girlfriend Occupation: Number Two for The Mighty Monarch AKA: Lady Au Pere, Queen Etheria, Dr. Fiancee, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch First Appearance: Episode 101: Dia De Los Dangerous!
The lover/second in command for Dr. Venture’s relentless arch-nemesis, The Monarch, and the most prominent of all the female characters in the series, she has had a string of male bosses intent on exploiting her sexuality rather than take advantage of her professional acumen and top level efficiency. Due to her bass-y, gravel inflected voice her actual gender is called into question on numerous occasions, including rumors that she is MTF with a surgically implanted baboon’s uterus.
In Episode 102, Mid-Life Chrysalis she goes undercover for The Monarch to seduce Dr. Venture and infect him with a deadly serum, only to ultimately be slut-shamed by her boyfriend and driven back into the arms of her old boss, Phantom Limb. After some soul searching, she and The Monarch reunite and are granted duo-ship by the evil-doers bureaucracy The Guild of Calamitous Intent. It appears that their villainous bliss is put in jeopardy when in, episode 414, Assisted Suicide, she makes out with Henchmen #24, but when The Monarch finds out, he simply shrugs it off, pointing out that bad guys are pretty much all swingers.
Sally Impossible AKA: The Visible Woman First Appearance: Episode 109: Ice Station: Impossible
Rival scientist, Professor Impossible’s long oppressed wife, she is kept hidden from the outside world and her husband’s investors due to her invisible skin — a result of one of his laboratory accidents. Trapped in a loveless marriage and desperate for sexual intimacy she is constantly looking for a way out through the few men she comes in contact with, like in episode 205, 20 Years to Midnight where she mistakes Dr. Venture’s self-serving behavior for affection and desire to rescue her from her imprisonment.
Eventually, by episode 309, Now Museum – Now You Don’t, she is living with Dr. Venture’s parasitic twin brother, JJ, on Spider Skull Island as part of his defense team. Her absence from her husband’s life drives him into a deep depression and leaves him in such a low emotional state he can be recruited into the new evil guild, The Revenge Society as seen in episode 411, Every Which Way But Zeus.
Molotov Cocktease Occupation: Siberian Mercenary Group Affiliation: The Black Hearts First Appearance:Episode 104: Eeney, Meeney, Miney… Magic!
A deadly opponent of the Venture family’s bodyguard/nanny, Brock Samson, the two are locked in a pre-coital tête-à-tête that, due to her titanium-clad chastity belt, she ultimately always wins. She is truly the only woman he has ever loved, which is proven in episode 207, Assassinanny, where she discovers while babysitting the Venture family in Samson’s absence, that he kept her eye as a memento.
Publick and Hammer make up for Molotov’s shameful underuse in the show by weaving her into major plot points in the most clandestine of ways; take for example episode 313, The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together, pt. 2, when she stages an elaborate assassination attempt on Samson in order to guarantee success for her own mercenary squad, The Black Hearts. In the season 4 finale, Operation P.R.O.M she reveals that while she is no longer chaste, her heart belongs to her new boyfriend, Monstroso and she lets herself fall to her apparent death rather than stay with Brock.
Triana Orpheus Known Relatives: Dr. Byron Orpheus (father) Tatyana (mother) First Appearance: Episode 104: Eeney, Meeney, Miney… Magic!
The daughter of the magical Dr. Orpheus, she and her father rent an apartment on the Venture property after her mother left them for a young necromancer named The Outrider. She is unaware that, because of her father’s involvement in the dark arts, her own sanity is teetering on the brink of instability, this is made most clear in episode 204, Escape to the House of Mummies where he alludes to having to wipe her memory every time she goes into her bedroom closet, which is actually a porthole to “the burning nowhere”.
When faced with a future of being married to Dean and mothering his deformed offspring in episode 407, The Better Man she decides to go and live with her mother, where she finds a new boyfriend, a dreamboat paraplegic named Raven.
Colonel Hunter Gathers Occupation: Secret Agent First Appearance: Episode 207: Assassinanny
Brock Samson’s government agent mentor, after dedicating his life to the secret agency OSI, he undergoes gender reassignment surgery to escape assassination after he goes AWOL.
He is frequently seen providing professional and spiritual guidance to Samson in flashbacks and, in the case of episode 211, Showdown at Cremation Creek, pt 1, a peyote induced fever dream. After spending some time working undercover as an exotic dancer and in an all-female mercenary squad, it is later revealed that he had been undercover for the splinter terrorist group S.P.H.I.N.X. all along, where Samson rejoins him as his charge. Though he is no longer living life as a woman (from the waist up, anyway) he reveals in episode 415, The Silent Partners that he misses his breasts: “Inside of me there’s a woman screaming to be heard!”
Adult Swim has announced its new lineup of 2013-2014 programming, which includes returning favorites like Black Dynamite, The Boondocks, Robot Chicken and The Venture Brothers as well as new acquisition, Bob’s Burgers, a Halloween special from Tim & Eric and various live-action pilots from, among others, Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks), Paul Scheer (The League, Human Giant) and the creators of Space Ghost Coast to Coast.
Here’s a summary of the new animated content they’ll be offering to stoners throughout the 2013-2014 season:
Rick and Morty, Dan Harmon (Community) and Justin Roiland’s (Disney’s Fish Hooks) pilot about the adventures of a “genius inventor grandfather and his less than genius grandson” will go to series for a late 2013 premiere.
King Star King, about an amnesiac modern-day he-man “who falls from the realm of the gods” and lands a job as a waffle fry cook, by JJ Villard (The Son of Satan, Monster Vs. Aliens).
Mr. Pickles, a new show featuring “ a deviant border collie with a secret satanic streak” in a polluted old-fashioned town, created by Will Carsola and Dave Stewart (Funny Or Die Presents Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time).
Mike Tyson Mysteries, a new series by Warner Bros Animation that places the ex-boxer in a problem solving premise alongside a talking pigeon and a magical face tattoo.
Ghostbags, a pilot produced by Hayes Davenport (Eastbound and Down) and Guy Endore-Kaiser (Allen Gregory) about the afterlives of three “douchebag” frat guys who die in a horrible car accident.
Metalocalpyse: The Doom Star Requiem, a one-hour special picking up where the Metalocalypse season 4 finale left off, created by Brendon Small and airing in October 2013.
Robot Chicken DC Comics Special II, the 2014 sequel to the Annie Award-winning Robot Chicken DC Comics Special made in partnership between Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation.
Recently, Ben Shapiro at Breitbart.com alleged that Margeret Loesch, CEO of the Hub, the network that brought you My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Transformers Prime, was under the influence of drugs (and “leftist”) when she greenlit the animated kids series, SheZow, which premieres on Hub this Saturday, June 1.
The “she-larious” show, which features a 12-year old boy named Guy Hamdon, who inherits a magic ring from his aunt that turns him into a female superhero named SheZow, is aimed at children aged seven and above. In the form of SheZow, Guy is gifted with superhuman abilities, a skirt, thigh high boots and a pink shapeshifting car. All triggered by the phrase, “You go girl!”
Created by Obie Scott Wade (a writer on Baby Looney Tunes) and produced by Kickstart Productions and Moody Street Kids, SheZow has been airing in Australia since December 2012, and as reported by ABC news, is picking up heat from conservative pundits like the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue who criticized the show for exposing children to gender bending at an inappropriate age. “The target audience here is not adults,” said Donohue. “The target audience are young people, many of whom may be confused about their own sexuality.”
GLAAD spokesperson, Rich Ferraro sees it differently: “I don’t think this show is about transgender issues anymore than the Teletubbies were about gay issues, because one of the characters was purple and carried around a purse.” The Hub also denies the accusations of trans-indoctrination, commenting that, “ is a light-hearted, animated comedy, like Bugs Bunny, who could make kids laugh out loud by wearing a dress and wig.”
An online aggregrator-network aimed at young male entertainment consumers, AwesomenessTV was founded as collaboration between TV producer Brian Robbins (Smallville), United Talent Agency and law firm Ziffren Brittenham. According to the May 1st press release, it “has already signed up over 55,000 channels, aggregating over 14 million subscribers and 800 million video views.”
“Awesomeness TV is one of the fastest growing content channels on the Internet today and our acquisition of this groundbreaking venture will bring incredible momentum to our digital strategy,” said DreamWorks head Jeffrey Katzenberg. “Brian Robbins has an extraordinary track record in creating family content both for traditional and new platforms and his expertise in the TV arena will be invaluable as we grow our presence in that space.”
Under the new partnership, the network has already announced a new channel called AwesomenessX, that will offer “original sports, gaming, comedy, pranks and lifestyle content” targeted toward males in their teens and 20s. Robbins, who has stayed on to run the company, has also been rewarded with an executive position at DreamWorks to develop a DreamWorks Animation-branded family channel.
AwesomenessX will pick up some AwesomenessTV faves like The City – Basketball, Sk8 Spotterz, That Was Awesome and How To Be Awesome as well as launch a new series around Winter X-Games gold medalist David Wise and videos of choice game moves and swimsuit model photo shoots. Shows like Frank the Dog, Baby Gaga and Fingerlings – which provide pop and web culture commentary from a dog, a baby and finger puppets, respectively – will also be featured.
“[AwesomenessX] will attract some girls as well,” Robbins added.
For fans of the much beloved franchise, Ghost in the Shell, a prequel to the 1995 anime by Masamune Shirow titled Ghost in the Shell: Arise will be released in four 50-minute parts.
The first installment, Ghost Pain, that will premiere in Japan on June 22, tells the story of cyborg squad leader Motoko Kusanagi, before she joined Public Security Section 9. The series, which is being produced at Production I.G., serves as the directorial debut of Kise Kazuchika, who worked as a key animator on the first two GITS films as well as the television movie, Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society.
Visual effects house Method Studios, with nine offices worldwide, has announced the hiring of Erik-Jan de Boer, James Jacobs and Keith Roberts. The studio’s recent projects include Iron Man 3, Argo, Men in Black 3 and Cloud Atlas.
Erik-Jan de Boer, (seen above, 2nd from the left) formerly of Rhythm & Hues, where he helped them earn Academy Awards for visual effects on Life of Pi, will be coming aboard Method’s Vancouver office as Animation Supervisor.
“Joining Method presents a great opportunity for me to be part of a multi-facility visual effects house” says de Boer, “There are some impressive projects on the horizon and working on these in an artist-driven environment is an exciting prospect.”
James Jacobs, who received a 2013 Scientific and Engineering Academy Award for helping build Weta Digital’s character simulation software used in Avatar, will join de Boer in the Vancouver office as Creature Supervisor. Meanwhile, Keith Roberts, a veteran of Rhythm & Hues, will serve as Animation Supervisor in Los Angeles.
“We are thrilled to have Erik, James and Keith join our team,” said Christian Kubsch, Method’s President. “Their arrival couldn’t have come at a better time, as Method Studios is in the process of expanding the character animation talent across our global network.”
The confetti from Merida’s Royal Coronation at Cinderella’s castle in Walt Disney World has barely been swept up and she’s already learning what it means to be a real Princess. When it was announced that the star of 2012’s Brave would be crowned Disney’s 11th Princess on the morning of May 11th, they unveiled her new look for the product line.
The makeover, which apparently happened to all the Disney princesses when no one was looking, involved dropping 20 pounds, caking on some mascara and giving Merida a Keratin hair treatment. “There’s the hot hair, the coy expression,” wrote Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter. “Also the obligatory exposed shoulders, slimmer waist, and the bow and arrow replaced by… what is that, a low-slung belt?…Because, in the end, it wasn’t about being brave after all. It was about being pretty.”
“The redesign of Merida in advance of her official induction to the Disney Princess collection does a tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model who speaks to girls’ capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired. Moreover, by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value — to be recognized as true princesses — they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty.”
The film’s original director, Brenda Chapman, has also blasted the makeover, telling the Marin Independent Journal that it is “a blatantly sexist marketing move based on money.” Chapman continued:
“There is an irresponsibility to this decision that is appalling for women and young girls. Disney marketing and the powers that be that allow them to do such things should be ashamed of themselves. I think it’s atrocious what they have done to Merida. When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘come hither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible! Merida was created to break that mold — to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance.”
After a successful UK premiere and a short run in Tokyo, Whole Hog Theatre’s stage version of Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke will return to London’s New Diorama Theatre next month due to “unprecedented demand.” The production is a collaboration between the British theatre troupe and Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli and features large scale puppetry and a recreation of Joe Hisaishi’s original film score.
Miyazaki, who is known for refusing the re-versioning of his films into theatrical productions, approved the project after being presented with a video proposal from Whole Hog by way of Aardman’s Nick Park. As recalled by Studio Ghibli producer, Toshio Suzuki, he gave his consent “a couple of seconds” into viewing the presentation. Suzuki was equally impressed: “I wanted to watch a strange ‘Princess Mononoke’, he told the Wall Street Journal.
With puppets by Charlie Hoare and costumes by Yoseph Hammad, the show translates the film’s eco-friendly theme and inherent Asian aesthetic by use of reclaimed materials and a form of Japanese textile work called Boro, which involves the patch-working of rags into garments.
“Being a big Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki fan myself, I have no desire to alter the film’s narrative and atmosphere, or to add a ‘new spin’ on the story. I only want to re-tell it in a different form,” director Alexandra Rutter told Film-book.com. “However, whilst audiences can expect to see much of the film’s narrative happen onstage, they should also expect the techniques we use to tell the story to be quite different.” And her artistic objective has paid off as the production has been picking up positive word of mouth, selling out entire runs and was even featured as one of Lyn Gardner’s theater picks in The Guardian.
The Walt Disney Company has offered a first look at their upcoming animated superhero feature, Big Hero 6, an adaptation of an obscure Marvel Comics property of the same name. The CG film, directed by Disney veteran Don Hall (director, Winnie the Pooh; story supervisor, The Princess and the Frog), is described as “an action comedy adventure about brilliant robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who finds himself in the grips of a criminal plot that threatens to destroy the fast-paced, high-tech city of San Fransokyo. With the help of his closest companion — a robot named Baymax — Hiro joins forces with a reluctant team of first-time crime fighters on a mission to save their city.”
While Big Hero 6 has a release date of November 7, 2014 you can take the sneak peek-iest of sneek peeks below:
Margaret Groening, the mother of Simpsons creator Matt Groening, died in her sleep on April 22 at age 94, as reported in an obituary in The Oregonian.
Born Margaret Ruth Wiggum, to Norwegian-born parents in Everett, Washington, she went on to become high school valedictorian, May Queen of Linfield College and a high school English teacher. Her late husband, Homer Groening, whom she met in school and she “chose because he made her laugh the most,” passed away in 1996.
A spokesperson for The Simpsons confirmed the obituary in the LA Times and said that her son had declined any public comment. She is survived by her brother Arnold; her children, Mark, Matt, Lisa and Maggie; eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Further confirmed by the obituary, Groening famously used names from his own family when creating Simpsons characters, with the exception of the name Bart, which is an anagram for “brat”.
Stop-motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen, whose work is featured in classic adventure films like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and The Argonauts (1963) and Clash of the Titans (1981) died in London on Tuesday, May 7th at the age of 92. The New York Times has an obituary.
Born in Los Angeles in 1920, Harryhausen had an early fascination with animated models in the 1930’s after discovering the stop motion work of Willis O’Brien in King Kong. He went on to work with George Pal on the Puppetoons shorts, the Army Motion Picture Unit during World War II with Frank Capra and O’Brien himself on Mighty Joe Young in 1949.
Using a signature technique of combining rear projection and stop-motion puppetry called Dynamation he brought life to science fiction and fantasy creations in almost thirty films and shorts spanning five decades. The influence of Harryhausen on film luminaries like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron is immeasurable and his work continues to inspire animators and VFX artists around the world.
Ray Harryhausen. Farewell to an astonishing talent – He was a one-man industry and a one-man genre. Alsoa true gentleman.