Several days ago Amid posted some harsh reactions to Disney’s new 2-D short, The Little Matchgirl, screened at Annecy. I saw the film a few months ago at the studio and I don’t know what all the fuss is about. The Little Matchgirl is a sweet film, filled with beautiful elaborate images and teriffic traditional animation. The fact that it was finished at all under the old management is a minor miracle. Thankfully this won’t be the last 2-D film the studio ever makes – and it’s certainly no disgrace to the great Disney brand name. Bill Desowitz wrote a good behind the scenes article (with clips from the film) over at VFX World. Ron Barbagallo has an extensive interview with director Roger Allers here. It may not be as artsy as Destino or as dazzling as Lorenzo, but I have to give the studio some big points for making the effort to keep the hand drawn art alive.
For those of you who have gotten your fill of the original Preston Blair Animation book, Clay Croker has posted pages from an even rarer 1946 book by animator/comic book artist Ken Hultgren on his Argle Bargle blog. Hultgren was a Disney animator of the 30s, 40s and 50s who is probably better known these days for his volumes of comic art on dozens of miscelleaneous books like HA-HA, GIGGLE, and COO-COO COMICS, as well as on numerous Disney comic books.
Art by Jim Flora is being posted by guest blogger Irwin Chusid this week on Leif Peng’s Today’s Inspiration blog. Chusid, author/editor (with Barbara Economon) of The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora is showcasing rarely seen 1950s commercial art by Flora (1914-1998). Flora’s only connection to animation was as an inspiration to animators, especially Gene Dietch – who returned the favor by adapting Flora’s childrens book, The Fabulous Fireworks Family as a Terrytoon (released in 1959). More Flora can be viewed at JimFlora.com and at JimFloraArt.com.
Rik Maki began his career as a baseball pitcher in the minor leagues for seven years before trading in his wooden bat for a wooden pencil. He became a freelance cartoonist and advertising illustrator, and worked for the National Film Board of Canada, before coming to America 1978. He’s spent the past 18 years designing characters for Disney and Pixar, for such films as THE LION KING, FINDING NEMO, A BUGS LIFE, HERCULES, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, TREASURE PLANET and DINOSAUR. This week Maki will mount an exhibition of his original sketches at Van Eaton Galleries. The opening reception is Wednesday, June 21st, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. and he’ll be there, sketching all night long at his animation desk. Admission is free and everyone is welcome. The Van Eaton Galleries are at 13613 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, California. The art show runs through July 8th. For more information, visit Van Eaton’s website or call them at (818) 788-2357.
Reason #7 (of 12) for the Implosion: The trailer for EVERYONE’S HERO.
Cartoon film collector Joe Busam recently post this slide show of his progress painting a nursery, in the style of a generic early-1930s cartoon, for his soon to be born grandson. Joe told me the backstory on this home project:
When daughter Susi asked me to paint a mural for the nursery, she requested 1930s cartoon characters. Specifically she wanted the style of the Harman & Ising WB cartoons. We both have always love them for their style and unique energy. However she didn’t want recognizable characters. Once we established a theme I went to work researching the cartoons for barnyard animals. I then put together the farm kids who are actually the two main characters from Pagan Moon in disguise. Originally the color scheme was going to be based on two strip Technicolor. As it turns out Susi liked the original B&W layouts so much that when I added color it seemed anti climatic to her. Full spectrum color turned out to be too much. In desperation, I added a tint to the original B&W art and that clicked with both of us. Now that I see it enlarged on the wall I think it was a wise choice. More colors would have been pretty overpowering.
Busam is an animator at the PPS Group, a commercial production house in Cincinnati, Ohio. He also works in digital film restoration/preservation and last year produced a dvd, Monster Kid Home Movies, which has received a lot of positive reaction.I’d love to be able to hire him to do my whole house this way.(Thanks, Joe Dante and Tim Lucas)
You won’t see this as bonus material on the LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION dvd series. Here is the rare 1944 George Pal Puppetoon, Jasper Goes Hunting featuring an authorized, cross-over of one studio’s star cartoon character appearing in another studio’s animated short subject series. This cross-over was approved shortly before Leon Schlesinger sold his studio, and characters, lock stock and barrel to Warner Bros. Nothing like this would happen again until Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies in 1972 – and the cameo appearances in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988). Mel Blanc does the vocals (of course) and Robert McKimson drew the animation. Paramount owns the rights to this film, all the Puppetoons, Fleischer cartoons and Terrytoons… (don’t get me started)… so don’t hold your breath expecting to see these on dvd anytime soon.
Don Hertzfeldt writes us:
I thought the cartoon brewery might like a heads-up about the big Bitter Films dvd due for release this summer. We have been working on it for, well, too long now but it’s finally upon us and is looking like it will not disappoint. The whole package is sort of a thank-you gift with a bow on top to all our fans and friends over the last ten years, so we’re doing our best to reach all the assorted drifty riff-raff out there who enjoy the cartoons.
The Bitter Films online shop is offering early birds a four dollar discount and random mystery gifts, including original artwork from one of his films or “a happy little doodle from Don on a post-it note.” Don tells us the dvd won’t be available in regular stores for months. All the news is at www.bitterfilms.com. I’ve already ordered.
Last year Tribune Media launched a new syndicated Pink Panther comic strip, by Bill and Eric Teitelbaum (Bottom Liners), and they are still trying to build awareness of it. It’s certainly not running in L.A. So here’s a link to the Tribune Media web page, with several downloadable strips. Since I wrote a book about the Pink Panther, I feel a certain obligation to keep you informed on new Panther developments.
Self-professed “animator, actor, comics artist, archivist, director, collector, writer, historian, painter, packrat, recluse, hermit, crank, and all-around weirdo” Clay Croker (best known for his vocals as Zorak and Moltar on Space Ghost Coast To Coast) now has a blog. He is slowly reprinting the contents of the booklet John Kricfalusi wrote for the out-of-print FLINTSTONES laser disc set. John K.’s interview with Ed Benedict is here and John discusses the individual animators here.
John McElwee, on his Greenbriar Picture Shows blog, recalls the horror of 1960s theatrical cartoon shorts:
These were dark days for animation. It’s a wonder our generation survived it. Never mind the damage sustained by Viet Nam and the drug culture. It was these cartoons that consigned many of us to a lifetime of sloth and indirection.
McElwee discusses the budgets these films were made under – and the meager profits they returned. No wonder they were soon to be history.
An excellent front page story by Claudia Eller on Pixar’s Ed Catmull in today’s L.A. Times (registration may be required). Couple of quotes from the article worth noting:
“Sometimes, it’s the leadership that’s blocking something,” Catmull said in a recent interview in his new office at Disney, a place where animators have griped for decades about being micromanaged. “I’ve always believed that you shape the management team around the talent rather than try to force people into a certain way of doing it.”
Later in the piece Eller notes several of Catmull’s managerial beliefs:
Ed believes that you should always hire people who are smarter than you.Ed believes that it’s more important to invest in good people than good ideas.Ed believes in a “talent-ocracy.” If you make films for everybody, you need to listen to everybody’s ideas, whether they come from a janitor or a storyboard artist.Ed believes that you learn by making mistakes and that success often disguises problems.Ed believes that magic happens when you don’t operate out of fear.
For years, Ray Pointer of Inkwell Images has been compiling the best of early American cartoon art and preserving animation history through a series of self-produced home video releases. Ray not only finds the best prints of this material, but showcases them in their proper historical context with facts, rare photos, advertising art and practical explainations of how the animation pioneers applied their craft.Ray’s latest release, BEFORE WALT, is a must-have for any serious student of animation history. All the important films, the important players and the vital facts are here. The films include the established firsts – Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906), Fantasmagorie (1907), Little Nemo (1911) – and prime examples of vintage Fleischer, Messmer, Terry – and yes, Walt Disney. Ray also includes an informative illustrated insert and his DVD contains bonus cartoons, animators biographies and a silent cartoon poster gallery.Next Saturday, as part of the Centennial of American Animation, Asifa-Hollywood is holding the premiere presentation of BEFORE WALT at their monthly screening on the AFI campus (details here). Ray will be on hand with copies of BEFORE WALT for sale, and will screen some special surprises not contained on the DVD.
We’ve come a long way since Dragon’s Lair. Disney animator Broose Johnson has been applying his talents to a neat new interactive project, The Act, “a romantic comedy filmgame with a unique story, visually stunning graphics and personality animation.” Watch the trailer here. “Using only a simple control knob, players intuitively manipulate the emotions and consequent actions of a short film’s main character while being immersed in an appealing story.”(Thanks, David Silva)
Last year I raved about Craig Yoe’s Modern Arf, but I just got a copy of Yoe’s follow up, Arf Museum, and it’s even better. Is it a book? Is it a perodical? Whatever it is, it’s a series of publications (from Fantagraphics) that seem at first glance like a surreal stream of consciousness direct from Yoe’s brain – but upon closer inspection, it’s clear this is cleverly compiled and meticulously researched, with rare art from the masters of the form; a highly entertaining volume you’ll peruse over and over again. Any book that can artistically connect Picasso, Cliff Starrett, Rube Goldberg, Chester Gould and Curt Swan has got my vote. In this volume, Yoe presents examples of cartoonists and their relation to 20th Century modern art. He also examines the girly gag cartoons of Reamer Keller, cartoonists and tattoos, comic strip giant apes, Charles Bennett’s evolutionary cartoons of the 1800s, unpublished paintings of The Yellow Kid by Outcault, and much much more.If you know who Keller, Bennett and Outcault are you need to get this book now. If you don’t know who they are – you really need to order this book immediately. Buy it here.