I just caught up with this simple but highly effective little “action film”. French director Lilian Hardouineau keeps the focus on camera moves and action rather than modeling, texturing or lighting – and it works just fine for me.
Who’s afraid of Arithmetic? A beautiful graduation film by Giovanni Munari and Dalila Rovazzani for Italy’s Experimental Film Center (Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia), based on Ravel’s Opera The Child and the Spells. More art and info at their production blog.
Why fight it? Go see The Avengers. Joss Whedon has made a film that justifies my childhood love of these TV cartoons (and the comics they are taken from). And stay for the best post-credit tag I’ve ever seen!
As part of my on-going series to bring awareness to the dozens of animated features being produced throughout the world, few of which ever come to the U.S. – This is the Russian trailer to Tad, The Lost Explorer, which Paramount is releasing in Spain next fall. It’s a feature length 3D film, a sequel to director/creator Enrique Gato’s two award-winning Indiana Jones-inspired spoofs called Tadeo Jones.
Foreign made features are getting better and better – it’s only a matter of time before there is an explosion of diverse films, by studios and independents, competing with Hollywood for your attention in theatres, TV and through digital means. This is a very good thing, sez I.
Sad news to report. Buzz Potamkin, one of animation’s most beloved producers on both coasts, passed away from pancreatic cancer on Sunday, April 22nd. Potamkin founded Perpetual Motion Pictures in 1968 with two employees. Over the next decade Perpetual became New York City’s largest animation studio. Buzz produced hundreds of TV commercials, including the Hawaiian Punch series. In 1979, his successful production of The Berenstain Bears Christmas Tree led to a series of prime time and daytime cartoons based on the famed children’s books. In 1981, Potamkin produced the famous “I Want My MTV” ad campaign. He founded and ran Southern Star Productions from 1984 to 1991 (series included CBS Storybreak, Peter Pan, Teen Wolf). In 1990 with Roy Disney as executive producer, Potamkin produced the TV Academy’s Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, the only animated program to be telecast simultaneously on all four major TV networks . Buzz also served with Disney as honorary executive producer for the UNICEF Animation Consortium .
Buzz briefly worked at the Walt Disney Company in 1991 before joining Hanna Barbera as Executive Producer & Head of TV (through 1996) where he championed the World Premiere Shorts (“What A Cartoon“) unit, which led to Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, and The Powerpuff Girls. Among his many projects at H-B, Potamkin was Executive Producer of the Dr. Seuss’ special Dayzie-Head Maysie (1995). After Hanna Barbera, Potamkin served on the board of Visionary Media which produced the cutting edge web series WhirlGirl and produced and directed the direct-to-video film, Buster & Chauncey’s Silent Night (1998), through his own company, Project X. His awards include four Clios, the MTV Video Award, more than 20 ASIFA commendations, the Cannes Gold Lion, the Venice Silver Lion, the Cable Ace, the Peabody, the Scott Newman Award, two New York Festival Gold Medals and three Silver Medals, The Child in Our Time Award from MIFED, two Humanitas and seven Emmy nominations. Potamkin was well known and well-liked in New York and L.A., by artists and network execs alike. His presence on the animation scene will be missed.
Thirty-five students from 20 U.S. colleges and universities have been selected as finalists in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 39th Annual Student Academy Awards competition. The complete list of nominees is posted here. Below are links or embeded trailers for the nine Animation category nominees and two from the Alternative category. The awards ceremony will be held on Saturday, June 9th, at 6 p.m. at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Congratulations to all the nominees!
Chocolate Milk by Eliza Kinkz, University of California, Los Angeles
Eyrie by David Wolter, California Institute of the Arts
The Jockstrap Raiders by Mark Nelson, University of California, Los Angeles
La Lune et le Coq by Raymond McCarthy Bergeron, Rochester Institute of Technology
The Reality Clock by Amanda Tasse, University of Southern California (nominated as Alternative Film)
Terra Cotta Warrior by Bin Li, Rochester Institute of Technology (nominated as Alternative Film)
Forget John Carter. Arjun: The Warrior Prince is the untold story of India’s greatest hero. Disney has attached this trailer to screenings of The Avengers in India. Opens May 25th there – no word on any U.S. release.
Beautiful! All of Bill Presing’s pin-up girls are gorgeous. Here’s an unabashed plug for a product and artist I like a lot: Pixar storyman Presing is creating a limited edition statue based on one of his “girls”. He’s producing it in association with Digital Banana Studio, the folks who made that Pixar-ish Rocketeer short awhile back. In fact it’s modeled by the same guy that modeled about half of the characters in that short, Anders Ehrenborg. It’s coming out in late June and they’re taking pre-orders now at the Digital Banana website. Oh, and you can order her as pictured above with skirt, or without!
Check out this kick ass new trailer for Disney XD’s Tron: Uprising. The series will premiere next month with a voice cast that includes Paul Reubens, Nate Corddry, Mandy Moore, Reginald Vel Johnson and Bruce Boxleitner as “Tron”. Oh, and Elijah Wood plays the main character, leader of a revolution inside The Grid, named “Beck” (great name, eh?).
The show will officially debut Thursday, June 7th on Disney XD, with a prelude called Tron: Uprising, Beck’s Beginning airing on the regular Disney Channel on May 18th. Charlie Bean (Ren & Stimpy, Samurai Jack) is directing and exec producing, and the incredible Alberto Mielgo is also contributing to the project.
Thundarr, Fangface, Turbo Teen, Plastic Man, Rickety Rocket (above), Mighty Man and Yukk, Rubik The Amazing Cube, Mr. T… If these are the Saturday morning cartoons you grew up with, you’ll want to tune into Wednesday’s internet radio broadcast of Stu’s Show. TV animation producers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears will be giving a rare 2-hour interview, live on May 2nd at 7pm Eastern/4pm Pacific, with host Stuart Shostack and writer Mark Evanier.
Probably the most succesful suppliers of Saturday morning programming next to Hanna-Barbera, Joe and Ken actually began their careers working at H-B in 1959 in the film editing and sound tracking departments. They were quickly hired as writers and contributed so much to H-B that CBS network president Fred Silverman wanted them to supervise such H-B staples as “Wacky Races” and “Scooby Doo”. When Silverman left CBS for ABC, he gave the team an exclusive contract to produce ALL of the cartoons for the network, and that’s how “Fangface”, “Thundarr”, “Plastic Man”, and many other series were born.
Ruby-Spears (the company) still exists (check their website) and the two veteran producers will discuss what they’ve been up to, what they plan to do next and of course, answer questions about their classic shows from Stu and Mark – and from readers who submit their questions via email. Check the Stu’s Show website for details on how to submit questions and how to hear the the show free this Wednesday.
Man, I can’t wait to see this film (I’ll be seeing it at an ASIFA-Hollywood screening tomorrow). It opened today to great reviews: Manohla Dargis of The New York Times calls it “a curiosity cabinet of visual pleasures”, while Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times says its “a clever piece of business that is a complete pleasure to experience”.
How about you? This talkback thread is open only to those who have actually seen the film (your comment will be deleted if we detect you haven’t seen it – and we can tell). Tell the world what you think in the comments section below.
Whatever happened to limited TV animation? For those of us who remember when Jonny Quest was state-of-the-art for TV adventure animation… this leaked footage (below) from Disney’s Motorcity is pretty amazing. The animation looks really slick for a TV production, and especially good for a show that’s digitally animated in flash.
Here is an eleven minute compilation of nine sequences pulled from upcoming episodes. These clips showcase the animation and compositing techniques employed in the series. Each sequence features the final composited footage, followed by the animation in it’s rough form.
Created by Chris Prynoski, Motorcity is produced by Robin Red Breast, Inc. (a subsidiary of Titmouse, Inc.) and Disney Television Animation. It premieres this Monday, April 30th at 9pm, ET/PT on Disney XD. The first episode is now available to watch for free on iTunes (there’s a free iPhone/iPad game on iTunes as well). More information on this clip reel after the jump. Continue reading →
In today’s installment of “Animation WTF?”, I hereby submit this trailer for After School Midnighters (HÃ´kago middonaitÃ¢zu) by artist/animator Hitoshi Takekiyo. The official synopsis reads…
“The main character ‘Kynst Lijk’ is a human body model that stands in a science room of an elementary school. Kynst Lijk also reigns over the school after midnight. One day, when a naughty kindergarden trio accidentally meets him, his ordinary life changes. The scariest and craziest after midnight adventure begins…”
Around the same time we’ll be watching Brave, Ice Age: Continental Drift and ParaNorman, this film will be opening in Tokyo theaters:
First, I’m presenting a mini survey of Paramount theatrical animation (1930-1967) this Thursday, April 26th. As part of the museum’s film series celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Paramount Pictures, there will be a double bill saluting the studio’s animated legacy. At 7:30pm South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut will screen – followed at 9pm by my tribute (introduced by yours truly, Jerry Beck); a full program of rare 35mm archival film prints, which will include Fleischer Betty Boop, George Pal Puppetoons, Famous Studios’ Baby Huey, Gene Deitch’s Munro and John Hubley’s Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass Double Feature. An incredible show that would be difficult to repeat. If you want to buy a separate admission ticket ($5) for just the Paramount shorts at 9pm, click here.
On Friday April 27th LACMA will host a double feature of experimental classics. First, at 7:30 Design In Motion: Oskar Fischinger and Abstract Animation a program of 35mm preserved prints of Fischinger’s visual music films: Allegretto, Motion Painting no. 1, Composition in Blue, Kreise, An American March, Radio Dynamics, Spirals, Spiritual Constructions, Studies 5,6,7 and 8, and more. At 9pm, a program of modernist animation by California artists (including 16mm films by Jordan Belson, Jules Engel, Harry Smith and others). These programs will introduced by Cindy Keefer of The Center for Visual Music.
Here’s what I believe to be the final, all-encompassing, mega trailer for Brave. It reminds us that Pixar created Wall-E, Toy Story 3 and Up (so as not to confuse this pic with any DreamWorks/Blue Sky/Illumination film), and includes several gorgeous new shots we haven’t seen before. Looks good, sez I…
Adam Ciolfi has been essentially working alone on his stop-motion feature The Lady of Names for the last 15 years. He’s done almost everything himself, from designing the sets to photography and animation; he even constructed the orchestral score. Is it a masterpiece or a misguided mess? Either way, you have to admire Ciolfi’s obsession in finishing the picture. In L.A. the film will be screened this Sunday, April 29th at 2:45pm at the Newport Beach Film Festival.
It wouldn’t be a book round-up without one or two from Craig Yoe. His latest compilation is this remarkable 256 page hardcover collecting much of Frank Frazetta’s (Fire & Ice) funny animal comic art of the 1940s. These comics, which emulate Hollywood cartoons of the era with characters like “Hucky Duck” and “Bruno Bear”, show that Frazetta was equally skilled at exaggerated cartoon line art as he was with his later realistic fantasy paintings. The book devotes over 70 pages to these rare “animated” stories, over 60 pages to his remarkable text-page header illustrations (for such tales as Percy The Pufferfish and Abbott the Rabbit), and another 70 to humorous stories drawn in Frazetta’s more realistic style. Yoe recounts Frazetta’s earlier years in his lavishly illustrated (with rare art) opening essay, and Ralph Bakshi contributes his memories in a sincere Introduction. All in all, its a lot of fun!
If you’ve ever admired the art or illustrations of cartoonist Otto Soglow, this book is a must-have. Over 400 pages filled with Little King Sunday strips, including a sampling of his associated characters The Ambassador and Sentinel Louie. The book includes a thorough biographical introduction by Ohio State University comics historian Jared Gardner accompanied by numerous rare Soglow images, animation art, advertising pieces and commercial illustrations. A beautiful package, a wonderful collection.
If you collect any and all things related to classic E.C.’s original Mad comics – here is the missing link! This 192-page trade paperback is the last word on the bakers dozen of Mad knock-offs produced by Marvel (Atlas), Charlton, St. John, Harvey Comics and others in 1953-54 pre-comics code era. Editor John Benson compiles the best of these humor comics – with art by Jack Kirby, Norman Maurer, Howard Nostrand, Dan DeCarlo and others – and writes an informative and lavishly illustrated essay on the history of these books and their creators. Hilarious fun, The Sincerest Form of Parody is sincerely great.
Ahhh, the joys of Nancy!
Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy is one of those acquired tastes. Deceptively simple, it’s the comic strip stripped to its bare essentials. The end result may be perfection; there are many who think so. They’ll get no argument from me. This new compilation book is lavishly produced (by Fantagraphics Books), with an introduction by Daniel Clowes, and compiles the daily strip from the wartime years (not that you’d know that; the strip rarely references the war). If you like Bushmiller no explanation is necessary; if you don’t, no explanation is possible. Buy this book and make Nancy happy.
Finally, I must note IDW’s new Popeye comic book (32 pages, $3.99). It’s cover is a take-off of Action #1 – which is appropriate as some consider Popeye the first comic strip superhero. It’s also available with an “incentive cover” by cartoonist/Popeye screenwriter Jules Feiffer. Craig Yoe, Ted Adams and Clizia Gussoni are editing this four issue series with writer Roger Landridge (The Muppets) and artist Bruce Ozella. Ozella’s art is so authentic you’d think this was a reprint book. If you are going to revive Popeye – this is the way to do it. Five thumbs up, sez I.
Ya’ know, I was just thinking that I haven’t done a post about Little Audrey in a long time. So to remedy that, here’s a fun children’s 78rpm Golden Record from 1951, featuring Mae Questel (Betty Boop, Olive Oyl and Little Audrey) with Mitch Miller and his Orchestra. The song is a lively variant of the Little Audrey theme song written by Buddy Kaye and Winston Sharples (first and best heard, swing-style, in Butterscotch and Soda (1948)). Little Audrey is, of course, a knock-off of Little Lulu – a minor player promoted to her own series after Paramount lost the rights to Lulu in 1947. Paramount then vigorously exploited the character with records, comic books, dolls and toys in the early 50s, long before it sold the rights to Harvey Comics. So let’s take a moment to pause and reflect on Little Audrey, pretty much forgotten today, part of another era of animated cartoons.
Donald leads a tormented life on the unforgiving streets of Duckburg, where sometimes he must betray his own conscience to make ends meet. Donald has to raise his 3 nephews, deal with his girlfriend and put up working for his stingy uncle; the richest duck in town.
Sounds like Carl Barks? Think again. From Icelandic comedy group Mid-Island, comes this mock trailer about the lives and times of Donald Duck… in Danish and filmed in the style of Lars von Trier’s Dogme 95.
For those of you still recovering from the overdose of eye-candy contained in TCM’s UPA: Jolly Frolics Collection here’s a additional blast of 50s design goodness you simply gotta-have. Animation archaeologist Steve Stanchfield has just released his latest DVD compilation: Mid Century Modern Animation. It’s an incredibly cool set of theatrical cartoons, industrial films and vintage commercials that embraced the modernism movement of the era. Disney fans: this set features the largest collection of those 50s Disney “Alice in Wonderland” Jello promos, stylized Tinkerbell Peter Pan Peanut Butter commercials, and the Nash and Rambler automobile spots featuring Tom Oreb’s redesigned Mickey Mouse, Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket.
Other highlights on the disc include a rare reel of the Soundac TV Weatherman shorts and a Shamus Culhane commercial sample reel. I hate to admit it, but Steve located a much better copy of UPA’s Magic Fluke than the one that appears on the Jolly Frolics set (it’s from a rare 35mm Technicolor print but contains a few splices). UPA’s industrial Big Tim, from a beautiful 35mm IB tech nitrate print, and John Sutherland’s Oreb/Haboush design masterpiece Destination Earth, transferred from a mint 16mm IB, are here. There’s much much more – shorts and oddities, like Grantray Lawrence’s lost pilot Planet Patrol, a rare workprint of a Paramount Popeye cartoon, and Zagreb’s The Cow On The Moon (1959).
The quality of this material is superb, the presentation is perfect and the DVD is labeled “Vol. 1″ – indicating that Steve has more goodies up his sleeve. Check out these frame grabs below – if this is your cup of tea, I highly recommend you pick up his Mid Century Modern Animation as soon as you possibly can.
If you are unfamiliar with the life and work of John Halas (1912-1995), or simply know his name from his feature length Animal Farm (1954) – or TV cartoons like Do-Do The Kid From Outer Space (1964) – you owe it to yourself to watch this 12 minute tribute. Released online today in celebration of her father’s 100th birthday, Viviene Halas produced this short documentary about her dad (one of the founding fathers of ASIFA, co-director/co-producer of numerous animated shorts and commercial films, and author of several important books on animation) containing some rare footage and reminiscences by studio survivors.
In 1982, Alan Kay and Bob Stein of Atari’s Research Group began conceiving the idea of an “intelligent encyclopedia”. They hired young hot-shot Disney animator Glen Keane to create pitch art, to help visualize the concept to Atari’s owners (at the time): Warner Bros. Stein, now co-founder of The Institute for the Future of the Book, has posted the lost Keane drawings on his if:book blog. Check out the nine images, which are surprisingly accurate in their prediction of how we use the internet.