If you are in L.A. today, get yourself over to The El Capitan Theatre tonight for a screening of a newly restored LADY AND THE TRAMP, preceeded by a panel (at 7pm) with Andreas Deja, Stan Freberg, Eric Goldberg, songwriter Richard Sherman, Disney restoration man Theo Gluck and hosted by Oscar nominee John Canemaker. I’d never miss this, but I’m committed to my monthly film & music show at the Steve Allen Theatre (tonight at 8pm).
Michael Sporn, on his excellent blog, has posted a bio of animator Tom Johnson from the October 1935 issue of Max Fleischer’s in-house publication Fleischer Animated News. Johnson isn’t discussed much, but he was one of the steady staffers at Fleischer (mainly on POPEYE) and Famous Studios. He also animated the original Jack-In-The-Box Paramount NOVELTOON opening of the 1940s.
We couldn’t state it any better than this: Neal Gabler in the New York Times today on the Disney-Pixar merger.
…the seeming conflict between Disney and Pixar was never about old technology bowing to new. It was about aesthetics and how technology best served them. …it isn’t C.G.I. itself that has made their films so wildly successful. Rather, it is the narrative craft with which those films were made. …Disney is doing something that perhaps no other corporation of this size has ever done: actively de-corporatizing itself. It is reassigning authority from the bureaucracy to a small group of creative individuals. It is, in short, trying to resurrect Walt Disney and his early hands-on management style.
And the nomineees are:
Badgered (A National Film and Television School Production) Sharon Colman
The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation John Canemaker and Peggy Stern
The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello Anthony Lucas
9 (UCLA Animation) Shane Acker
One Man Band (Pixar Animation Studios) Andrew Jimenez and Mark Andrews
Congratuations to all the nominees, particularly to our friends at Pixar and John Canemaker. This is a fine set of nominees. Here’s my quick take on the films:BADGERED is the “laugh” film. The quickest way to an Oscar nomination (and sometimes a win) is to produce a film that has some big laughs. BADGERED is about a sleepy badger who lives in a mountain that becomes a nuclear missile silo. It’s no more original than an old Barney Bear cartoon, but it’s nicely drawn and very very funny.
THE MOON AND THE SON is Canemakers powerful autobiographical account of his relationship with his father. Strong, absorbing, skillful – and clearly hard for the Academy to ignore.
JASPER MORELLO is an amazing half-hour fantasy “mini-feature” done with some combination of silhouette cut-outs and CG (or for all I know, it’s entirely CG). Beautifully art directed, great Jules Verne-esque story, and produced at very high level of craft.
Shane Acker’s “9″ is supposedly a student film produced at UCLA – but it’s an extremely well made, slick, professional piece of science fiction filmmaking. Excellent CG art direction and animation.
ONE MAN BAND is another great Pixar short – as lavish and handsome as any of their feature films, and just as clever. Produced in widescreen CinemaScope, BAND once again shows the range of subject matter and the strong character animation talent the studio is known for.UPDATE: Our friend Steve Segal weighs in on “9″: I attended Shane Acker’s talk at Siggraph and he wasn’t really a student when he made 9. He had already worked on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as an animator. And I believe he was working at Rhythm & Hues at the time. He had gone to UCLA years ago and went back to take advantage of their equipment. That in no way deminishes his achievement; it is basically a one man operation with the help of some friends (no small feat to compete with Pixar).
The nominees are:
Howl’s Moving Castle (Buena Vista) Hayao Miyazaki
Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (Warner Bros.) Tim Burton and Mike Johnson
Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit (DreamWorks Animation SKG) Nick Park and Steve Box
CG was shut out. Big smile on my face…This is a great list of nominees. I thought the hand-drawn HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE was one of Miyazaki’s best (though I know many who disagree with me on that), the puppets of TIM BURTON’S CORPSE BRIDE took the craft of stop-motion animation to the heights of the art, and WALLACE AND GROMIT combined storytelling, character animation, and big laughs into a feature-length adventure with skill and charm. I loved them all – but may the best man, dog and rabbit win.
Get your fix of 60s kitsch at Bubblegum Fink – a blog full o’ fun stuff like comics, saturday morning cartoons, record covers, model kits, toys and lots of memories of things I’ve long forgotten about.
Just when you thought cel animation was dead and shipped to Siberia: PRINCE VLADIMIR, a Russian production, will be released in the U.S.S.R. next month. Directed by Yuri Batanin, a veteran of the Soyuzmultfilm Studio, it’s apparently the first of two feature length films about the heroic king – the second is in preproduction now and scheduled for a 2008 release. The website is loaded with images, information and trailers.(Thanks, Brendon Connelly)
Sting (at right) is featured
in THE SWEATBOX (2002)In all the delirium over the wonderful Disney-Pixar news this week, one burning question remains to be answered:Can Disney finally release THE SWEATBOX now?You’ve probably heard about THE SWEATBOX – some of us were lucky enough to see it at a film festival or during its Oscar-qualifying one week run in Los Angeles back in 2002. Filmmakers John-Paul Davidson and Trudie Styler were given unprecedented access to Disney Feature Animation to document the making, and ultimate meltdown, of the film KINGDOM OF THE SUN (which later evolved into THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE). Certain Disney execs did not come off looking too good in the final cut and the film – controled by Buena Vista – has been sitting on the shelf ever since. I know this won’t be Iger-Lasseter’s first priority, but we are hoping the film won’t be forgotten. It’s a great document of how mismanaged Disney animation was for the last half dozen years, and a permanent reminder of what happens when clueless Hollywood executives run amok over talented creatives.
Miayazki is the talk of several websites right now (due to his films being showcased this month on TCM), but another international filmmaker equally worthy of such praise is France’s Michel Ocelot. His features and shorts are rarely shown in the U.S., but next month Ocelot will be on hand at the Museum of Modern Art to introduce his latest feature Kirikou and The Wild Beasts. The screening is part of a MoMA series called Grand Illusions: The Best of Recent French Animation, which will be presented February 23-March 6, 2006.
This primer on contemporary French animation will showcase: a Ruritanian romance (Paul Grimault’s marvelous The King and the Mockingbird), a swashbuckling adventure (Jean-FranÃ§ois Laguionie’s Island of Black Mor), an ecological parable (Jacques-Rémy Girerd’s Raining Cats and Frogs), an African folktale (Michel Ocelot’s Kirikou and the Sorceress), a dark Russian fable (Francis Nielsen’s The Dog, the General, and the Birds), and a film that defies all pigeonholing (Sylvain Chomet’s Triplets of Belleville).
Excellent films, historically significant and highly entertaining. Go.
In case you haven’t heard — now it’s official. Jobs is Disney’s largest shareholder. Any way you slice it – he’s now the big cheese. Pixar President Ed Catmull has become the President of the new Pixar and Disney animation studios. Lasseter is CCO (Chief Creative Officer) of the animation studios and Principal Creative Adviser of Walt Disney Imagineering. Link to official press release from Disney and Pixar.
Now in production in Denmark, A.Film is making The Ugly Duckling And Me, a CG feature – as well as a companion TV series of 26 episodes. I’ve enjoyed the work of this studio in the past – but do we really need another fairy tale parody? Ten years ago we were complaining of the overabundance of animated musicals. Now we are being overrun by Fractured Fairy Tales (what hath Jay Ward, by way of Shrek, wrought?). What really hurts my eyes is this Ugly Duckling’s character design seems ripped from Ralph Eggleston’s FOR THE BIRDS. Here’s a clip from the Ugly film-in-progress.(Thanks, B. Connelly)
I just found out that Image Entertainment issued a 3 disc boxed set last month called GEORGE PAL: FLIGHTS OF FANTASY. It includes a great print of Pal’s first feature length film, THE GREAT RUPERT (1950, Jimmy Durante and a stop motion squirrel), and two great productions from Pal historian Arnold Leibovit, his documentary THE FANTASY FILM WORLDS OF GEORGE PAL and his animated compilation THE PUPPETOON MOVIE. I’ve plugged these films a few times throughout the years – now that they are packaged together in this one collection – you have no excuse not to get them now. The bonus materials are worth the price alone. Highly Recommended.
I would have preferred that Pixar create its own distribution company and compete with the industry as a full-fledged stand alone player – but this possible buyout by Disney may be the next-best thing. (The worst scenario would’ve been for Pixar’s films to be distributed by another studio – Universal, Sony, or heaven forbid, Warner Bros.). Disney may be buying Pixar – but Pixar will be running the show – at least creatively, from the feature animation point of view. The optimist in me is delighted to have a visionary (Jobs) emerge as Disney’s largest stock holder. An innovative risk taker and business leader, Jobs could truly reinvigorate the studio. The optimist in me is thrilled that an animator (Lasseter) will likely be head of Feature Animation. With a proven love of the medium, and as a skillful filmmaker himself, Lasseter will no doubt push the studio forward and, at the same time, surely find a place for traditional (hand-drawn) animation at the studio that mastered it for so long.There is an opportunity here for an incredible Disney renaissance – as the creative reigns are handed, for once, to the right people at the right time. In this age of big corporations (and Disney is one of the biggest) and “bottom line” thinking, it’s easy to see how this can all go wrong. But I think the pieces are in place for an exciting new era in animation. At least, I hope so.