Bill Melendez (of Disney, Warners and UPA) is one of the last surviving animators from the golden age still working today. Of course his greatest fame came as the director/producer of the Charlie Brown specials and features. With Halloween just around the corner, and in honor of the 40th anniversary of the “Great Pumpkin” TV special, the guys at JustMyShow.com have posted a brief phone call with Bill as a podcast. It’s always fun to hear his voice and to hear him recall the good old days.
Just last week I’d been posting on the upscale urban merchandising initiative Warner Bros. is promoting in an effort to contemporize the Looney Tunes characters. Now this week Disney opens Vault 28, a new store in their Downtown Disney shopping district in Anaheim, which attempts to do essentially the same thing. The L.A. Times wrote a story about in yesterday’s Business section. According to the San Jose Mercury News:
The company also has been trying to reinvent Mickey Mouse and its other characters as trendy and urban. Vault 28, a reference to 1928, the year Mickey debuted in the cartoon “Steamboat Willie,” will sell fashions from celebrity-favored designers and carry lines called Kingdom Couture and DV28, whose clothing depicts classic characters including Tinkerbell, Alice in Wonderland and the Cheshire Cat.
Hey, I’m not against it. At least it’s better than YO YOGI and the “Gangsta Tweety” crap we had to put up with in previous attempts to “hippen” the classic characters. But why not just let the animation speak for itself. There is nothing hipper than that.
If you’ve got 45 minutes to spare, you might enjoy this panel I was on last week at the Disney studio. It was set up by animators Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff to discuss current animation trends discussed in their new book and blog, Thinking Animation. Veteran storyman Floyd Norman, CG director Richard Taylor and I gave our thoughts on various topics. Had I known it’d be recorded and posted online, I might have been more coherent.P.S. Isn’t Floyd Norman the coolest guy in animation?
With several big budget funny animal epics opening almost weekly, 2006 may well go down as the year of CG feature burnout. But 2006 may also be noted for the start of what could, hopefully, be another trend – the dawn of the independent animation revolution. Three strikingly different animated features, being released this year, should be noted. Three, created by individualistic filmmakers who animated their films virtually by themselves.Bill Plympton pioneered the one-man animated feature film. His latest, Hair High, has been on the festival circuit for the past few years, garnering great acclaim. This fall Hair High starts its official theatrical release with initial playdates in Portland, New Mexico and New York City. If you’ve enjoyed Bill’s past features and shorts, you are in for a treat – this is his best yet.Stop motion animator Christiane Cegavske has recently completed Blood Tea And Red String after 12 years of painstaking work. It’s a dark “fairy tale for grown ups” and has posted some great reviews upon its opening last week in Manhattan.Hollywood animator Phil Nibbelink spent four-and-a-half years making Romeo & Juliet: Sealed With A Kiss. According to Steve Gordon on Animation Nation:
Phil animated all 112,000 drawings on a graphic tablet in Flash and painted the backgrounds with Painter. From what I can tell from the trailer it doesn’t look like typical flash, it looks like normal 2D. He also used a program (that I’ve never heard of before) called Moho for some limited shots and crowd scenes.
Nibbelink is trying to compete with the traditional studios’ G-rated kiddie pics. It opens in selected California cities on Oct. 27th.All three share the fact that they are low budget productions; that each is recieving limited theatrical showings; and that each expect to recoup their costs with DVD sales. Each of them provide an alternative to the major studio family fare – and hopefully they will inspire other animators to take a chance on their personal projects.
Cartoonist Patrick Owsley has started a blog. He’s one of the rare few character merchandising artists who seem to be channeling the spirit of the original creators. Patrick was on-staff at Warner Bros. Consumer Products as an Inker/Character Artist from 1997 through 2002 and, while there, created licensing character art of just about all of the classic Hanna-Barbera characters (Flintstones, Jetsons, Huckleberry Hound, Top Cat, etc.), and all of the Looney Tunes characters (Bugs, Daffy, Porky, etc.). Since 2002, Pat’s done a lot of inking on various SIMPSONS comic book stories for Bongo, as well as inking and hand-lettering for the Spumco Comic Book. Lately he’s been creating licensing character art for Classic Media in New York (Underdog, Mr. Magoo and Tennessee Tuxedo, to name a few).He plans to post much of this material – and some of his personal art – on the new blog. And I plan to keep checking in – this guy is good!
The Associated Press posted an obit by John Rogers for Ed Benedict last night, and it’s been picked up by USA Today, ABC News, San Francisco Chronicle and other media outlets today. Of course we informed our readers of Ed’s passing, with a tribute here, back on August 30th. Since the AP story is driving new readers to the Brew today, I thought we’d post a couple great photos, taken by Spumco/Spongebob story artist Richard Pursel. At top is one of Ed and John Kricfalusi holding dolls based on characters they designed (John, on the left, is holding Ed’s Flintstone, Ed is holding John’s doll Jimmy) taken at Ed’s home in Carmel, back in 1996. Below is Pursel getting beaten by Ed and John (click on the pic for the full-sized version). For more examples of Ed Benedict’s amazing talent, please check out this section of Animation Blast online.
Hornswiggle, the cartoon short I produced for Frederator’s Random Cartoons show, will be broadcast on Nickelodeon sometime in 2007. The latest word is that the formatted half hour (consisting of three six minute shorts) will air on the Nicktoons Network starting in January, and during the rest of the year the individual cartoons will air separately, as interstitials, on Nickelodeon. I’ll keep you posted with actual dates and times when I find out more information myself.Meanwhile, in related news, former Disney animator Jason Peltz has started sculpting a Hornswiggle maquette! Jason has made, through his Orlando-based Peltz Productions, numerous maquettes for various clients (see his website for samples of his great work). Check out the one he made for Bill Wray’s Cartoon Network pilot King Crab, Space Crustacean.Jason’s sculpt of Hornswiggle is turning out so good (see the work-in-progress pics above and below), I’ve decided to make a small herd of them available for sale. The final painted versions, mounted on a base, will be available November 1st. Further reports in the next few weeks will update Jason’s progress. If you are interested in purchasing one of these beauties, drop me a line at jbeck6540-at-aol.com, and I’ll put you on the list. The cost will be $75. (post paid).
In case you missed the Gallery 1988 Cheshire Cat show, We’re All Mad Here, don’t fret. The good folks at Vinyl Pulse have posted most of the pieces here and the Gallery itself is selling all of them online. Surreal stuff by the likes of Amanda Visell, Anthony Ausgang (above), Carlos Ramos and many others.
If you’ve written for TV Animation, you might be eligible for a 2006 Writers Guild Award. The Writers Guild is looking for nominees in this category and sent along this information:
Awards are presented in simultaneous ceremonies in New York and Los Angeles in February. For those in the east, details and submission forms can be found online at wgaeast.org and in the west at wga.org – or you can call the Writers Guild of America East at (212) 767-7805 or the WGA West at (323) 951-4000.It’s free and easy to apply. You don’t even have to be a member of the Writers Guild. Your script must air (or have aired) for the first time between December 1st 2005 and November 30th, 2006. The deadline for submissions is October 13th, which is next Friday. So hurry up! You might wind up with an impressive and heavy industry award!
In case you were wondering (like I was the other night) what ever happened to Chuck Jones’s final productions, the Thomas J. Timberwolf internet cartoons… well wonder no more. I found them here. Not sure how much Chuck was involved with these, outside of character design, but they are pretty good for early Flash animation efforts.
I got some photos of the bizarre DRx Looney Tunes mural in Hollywood, which I mentioned in this post a few days ago. It fills an entire wall… and apparently the painting “evolved” over several weeks. Below is a later, more gruesome, version. Click on photo below for a larger image.With Looney Tunes for all intents and purposes off the air (save for a precious few appearances on Boomerang and TCM), and the LOONATICS revamp on Kids’ WB! ruining the characters as a children’s brand, I will give Warner Bros. some credit for not giving up on the original designs and aiming this marketing effort towards older teens and adult consumers.
Here’s a music video (below) I found on YouTube relating to this new merchandising agenda. For more information about this DRx campaign, check out the What’s Up, DRx website.
I’ve been complaining for years about the fact that very few of the animated features produced outside the U.S. ever get distribution (or even shown) in North America. One outlet, however, is The Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema (WFAC) – located in beautiful Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario Canada – a bona fide annual film festival dedicated to showing many of these inernational animated feature films in an actual theatrical setting – the way they’re supposed to be seen.This year the four day festival runs from November 16-19. The full program will be posted on November 1st, but already scheduled to screen are:
Fimfarum 2 (Jan Balej / Aurel Klimt / Bretislav Pojar / Vlasta Posp”ïÂ¿Â½ilovïÂ¿Â½, Czech Republic, 2006). Four adaptations of Jan Werich’s stories “for small children and clever adults,” by four master Czech puppet animators of different generations. Fire Ball (Wang Toon, Taiwan, 2006). An animated telling of the Chinese classic “Journey to the West”. Gin-iro no Kami no Agito (“Origin: Spirits of the Past” – Sugiyama Keiichi, Japan, 2006). From Studio GONZO, set in a future world 300 years from now, in which nature has turned against man. Kirikou et les B’tes Sauvages (“Kirikou and the Wild Beasts” – Michel Ocelot, France, 2005). Sequel to the wonderful Kirikou and the Sorceress. (pictured above) Knyaz Vladimir (“Prince Vladimir” – Yuri Kulakov, Russia, 2006). The story of the rise of the historical figure Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavovich (960-1015 A.D.). Pettson and Findus: Pettson’s Promise (Anders SïÂ¿Â½rensen / JïÂ¿Â½rgen Lerdam, Denmark, 2005). The story of a Swedish Santa Claus. Princes et Princesses (“Princes and Princesses” – Michel Ocelot, France, 2000). A retrospective screening of one of Ocelot’s most beautiful and creative films, in silhouette animation. Princess (Anders Morgenthaler, Denmark, 2006). A clergyman returns home after years of missionary work abroad to take care of his orphaned niece when his sister, a porno star, dies from drug abuse. Robotech: the Shadow Chronicles (Dong-Wook Lee / Tommy Yune, U.S.A., 2006). A new film based on the anime TV series of the 1980′s that began modern anime fandom in North America. Shisha no Sho (“Book of the Dead” – Kawamoto Kihachiro, Japan, 2005). The spirit of a long-dead prince begins to haunt a young noblewoman whom it has mistaken for an ancestor.
Screenings will be held November 16th-19th, 2006 at The Gig Theatre (the Hyland Cinema) in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. For more information contact program curator Joseph C. Chen via email wfac-at-wfac.ca or through the festival website.
Johannes Nyholm is a fascinating visual artist, animator and filmmaker from Sweden. He’s currently working on a stop motion serial, and the first episode is now online. The Tale of Little Puppetboy, Chapter 1: A Lady Visitor is bizarre fun. And check out the rest of Nyholm’s work on his website, which offers many fine examples of his commercial music videos and personal short films.