It always delights me when animators do their own thing, like publishing sketchbooks, comics, and creating their own characters outside the studio system. Supervising animator Michael Surrey, who has played major roles on such Disney films as Home on the Range, Atlantis, Tarzan, Hunchback, The Lion King (supervising Timon), Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin (animating on the title character), is presently doing just that. Currently working on both Rapunzel Unbraided and The Princess and the Frog for the studio, he’s also teamed up with screenwriter Ron Harner outside the Mouse House to create a series of children’s books that gently impart valuable life lessons to kids. The first one, Suck it Up, Tate!, was inspired by a Thanksgiving dinner discussion between Harner and his three sisters:
“They all have kids, and they told me I needed to write a different type of children’s story — one that wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops — a story where a kid screws up and has to deal with it.”
Suck It Up Tate! is available for sale at www.ronharnerbooks.com. Harner and Surrey are currently working on two additional books featuring Tate and his pals, which are scheduled for release later in 2008.
Here’s a few Kodak Moments that I’ll bet Disneyland would rather soon forget.
Several blogs and news agencies are posting these photos of Disney characters being arrested during a protest rally this week at the Anaheim resort. Hotel workers there are demonstrating for a new contract that would allow for health care. It would be nice if “The Happiest Place on Earth” were also “The Healthiest.”
There is no denying that the box office reception to Titan A.E. and Final Fantasy ended further production at their respective studios. Whatever the individual artistic merits of a project are, the truth is that hit films keep our medium going, box office bombs can have a devastating effect.
What other animated features sunk the prospects of their Hollywood producers? Treasure Planet? The Secret of Nimh?
Clay puppets, miniature sets, cutouts, replacement animation, aluminum foil, “strato-cut” slices, molten wax, and other techniques…
The Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles is running two nights of rare goodies created by eccentric animator Bruce Bickford. First up, on August 24th, a rare showing (with permission from Gail Zappa) of The Amazing Mr. Bickford, which has never shown theatrically. Bickford will be in attendance for a Q&A after the 7:30pm screening. From the theatrer’s press release:
Bruce Bickford’s art–a hallucinatory stop-motion amalgamation of Peter Pan, Ray Harryhausen, and The Wild Bunch–is nothing short of amazing. Frank Zappa first used the incredible talents of self-taught claymation wizard Bickford as visual companions to his music in the film Baby Snakes, and continued this collaboration in The Amazing Mr. Bickford.
On Tuesday August 26th at 8pm the same theatre will screen “Cas’l and Other Unreleased Bruce Bickford Films”, showcasing some of Bruce’s early Super-8 experiments as a teenager, as well as his unfinished 45-minute opus Cas’l, featuring a live score by The Gaslamp Killer. Also, Bickford will be there to perform one of his “blues raps”. For more information visit CineFamily.org.
For those (like me) who keep score, it’s interesting to note that as of this week Pixar’s Wallâ€¢E and Dreamwork’s Kung Fu Panda are virtually tied at the U.S. box office with approximately $211 million gross apiece. The Pixar film will probably top out at about $215 domestically by Labor Day weekend. Both are strong contenders for the Academy’s Best PictureBest Animated Feature nomination.
On the flip side, Space Chimps is probably doing better than it should with $26 million already collected. Fly Me To The Moon and The Clone Wars are opening this Friday. We’ve got Igor (MGM), Bolt (Disney), Madagascar 2 (Dreamworks), A Tale of Desperaux (Universal) and Waltz With Bashir (Sony Classics) waiting in the wings for this fall.
This could be one of the “Worst Cartoons Ever” if it WAS a cartoon! Just another insane old children’s record found by Mark Kausler on ebay. This is so wrong in every direction – I’d love to hear Shaddup You Face. Sounds like a real winner.
Head’s up on Don Hahn’s new book The Alchemy of Animation, which will be available on October 7th. Hahn is, of course, the producer of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, and is currently developing a stop-motion animated feature of Frankenweenie with Tim Burton.
In his new book Hahn details the process Disney uses to make animated films from traditional animation, to CG to stop-motion. Says Hahn:
It’s been almost seven years since I wrote my first animation book, Animation Magic, and what I really wanted to do this time, was write a book about the making of animated films in the modern age, for a slightly older audience. We were fortunate to be able to pack it with amazing, never-before-seen art from Disney and Pixar films through the ages, including a few sneak peeks at art from upcoming projects such as Bolt and The Princess and the Frog.
I haven’t seen the book myself, but Hahn clearly knows his stuff. Such a book coming from a Disney insider is certainly a positive indicator of the studio’s interest in all three techniques – and that, in of itself, is a very good thing.
Everything I see from Henry Selick’s new film Coraline looks terrific. Rotten Tomatoes is posting a new, different behind-the-scenes video each day this week. It looks to be shaping up to be something very special. Coraline is scheduled for release next February. I can’t wait.
Someone made an unauthorized video for Cartoon Song by Chris Rice, a song intended as a parody but taken to heart by the Christian community. In an article on his web site, Eulogy For A Song About Cartoons, Rice explained that his misunderstood intention in writing the song was to mock the commercial-Christian tendency to “make a Christian version of everything.”
Kevin Kidney has posted a virtual gallery of rare images of original vintage publication art for Walt Disney’s Magazine, featuring art by animation folks Art Riley, Paul Hartley, Herb Ryman, Al Dempster, and others. The work is rarely ever seen – except by those who happen to own old copies of the magazine. The originals were sold off to the public in auction by Disney several years ago without much fanfare, but the imagery is very inspiring. Read more about this on Kevin’s blog.
Once again, I’ve dug out a few embarrassing photos of myself which I thought I’d post online for posterity. In 1982, Will Friedwald and myself took a trip to L.A. to visit a few friends – including our Warner Bros. cartoon heroes Bob Clampett and Friz Freleng.
Clampett was already a friend to us from previous trips and long distance phone calls, and he was delighted to pose with us and our newly printed Looney Tunes guide (the original Scarecrow Press edition). I think he’s reading a direct quote from Bosko’s Picture Show as the camera snapped. This photo is dated 8/25/82.
Freleng was at his office at Warner Bros. in Burbank two days later (8/27/82) when we met him. I recall him showing us storyboards from Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island, which was well into production, during our tour of the studio. Note the Pvt. Snafu statue on his desk – It had been on his shelf and we asked to have it included in the photo. Freleng was great to us and I got to know him well in later years — and he was certainly nothing like the hot tempered Yosemite Sam he was known to have inspired. (Click on photos below for a larger image).
The LA Times is reporting that the ten-year-old Toon Disney cable channel will be rebranded next February as Disney XD. The new format will target tween boys with shows like Batman: The Animated Series and new live action series like Aaron Stone, a live-action show about “a video game virtuoso who leads a secret double life as a crime fighter.” The LA Times notes that this show “boils down to a male fantasy version of Hannah Montana“.
Bob Kurtz reports that veteran animator Gary Mooney passed away on Tuesday August 5th at age 78. The cause was cancer. Kurtz called Mooney, who animated many commercials and movie titles for the producer, “The best draftsman I ever worked with”. Mooney’s work can be seen in films ranging from Disney’s Lady and The Tramp and Sleeping Beauty to John Hubley’s The Hole and The Hat. He also animated on Jay Ward’s George of the Jungle, Total Television’s Underdog and the Taarna sequence in Heavy Metal. Mooney is caricatured above by John Sparey (Mooney is fourth from the left – from left to right, Bill Mahood, Osvaldo Franca, John Sparey, Gary Mooney, Bob Carr, Dick Hoffman and Wes Herschensohn – see the complete image on the TAG blog)
Once again John McElwee has an intriguing post about animation on his Greenbriar Picture Shows blog. This time he reminisces about the 1955 Disneyland TV episode “The Story of the Animated Drawing” and Disney’s subsequent meeting with Max Fleischer. As usual, McElwee illustrates his piece with rare photos and trade ads.