Set the TiVo tonight: Brewmaster Jerry Beck will appear as a guest on The Screen Savers which appears on Comcast’s digital channel, G4techTV. The Screen Savers is a daily live broadcast that features the latest internet/video game/consumer electronics news. I’m not sure what they are gonna ask me about, but I’ll be plugging my new book and the BREW. The show airs live at 4pm Pacific, 7pm Eastern – and will rerun later at midnight and sometime over the weekend.
Oh, log this one under super-ridiculous!My pals over at Animation Magazine sent me the heads up on today’s New York Times article, covering the conservative right going after Nick’s SpongeBob as a possible symbol of gay America and therefore bad for kids. Good grief! Can’t sponges hold hands with starfish anymore????!!! Well…on the upside, at least it’s keeping cartoons on the front page of NY Times online! The Times article is HERE (reg. req’d). Other reportage (no reg. required) HERE.
Academy Award winning animator Gene Deitch has a few thoughts on THE POLAR EXPRESS and the definition of animation – and I am taking the liberty of posting them here (because I agree with him):
I’ve been reading in various film journals, and in the popular media that POLAR EXPRESS is being referred to as an “animated film,” and is hoping for an Oscar in the Animation Feature category. This greatly concerns me, as a threat to our art and craft.We’ve seen plenty of technological development in animation, from the praxinoscope, through paper and cel animation, CGI computer animation, Flash, etc. but they all adhere to the same basic principles. Whatever the merits or demerits of POLAR EXPRESS as a film, I don’t believe that Motion Capture, being basically the same as any live action film, that is action created in real time, is consistent with the definition of cinematic animation. I would say the same for string marionette film, TEAM AMERICA, which is also not cinema animation.Many years ago John Halas invited me to construct a technical definition of cinema animation, which I attempted to do, avoiding all limited terms such as “frames” or “film,” but getting down to the very basics.POLAR EXPRESS, it seems to me, opens up the possibility of a whole new category, which may possibly develop; Motion Capture, as a way of creating a special kind of virtual reality. Whether it’s a good thing, or a blind alley, is another subject for discussion. In the meantime, here follows my personal attempt to define what animation basically is, technically. So far, no one has challenged it, and it has been part of my book on animation for many years.”CINEMATIC ANIMATION: The recording of individually created phases of imagined action in such a way as to achieve the illusion of motion when shown at a constant, predetermined rate, exceeding that of human persistence of vision.”
Good friend of the BREW, anime historian Fred Patten was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday, diagnosed with pneumonia.Fred is a Japanese animation expert par excellence, who writes regular columns on anime for NEWTYPE USA, ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE, and numerous other publications. He is very active at comics and sci-fi conventions and his book, WATCHING ANIME, READIING MANGA was just published last month.I know he would love to hear from his friends – donations of science fiction novels would probably be welcome as he recuperates. Fred can be reached at Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital, 4650 Lincoln Blvd., Marina del Rey, CA 90292 or 310-823-8911 ext. 1409Get well, Fred!
Ever since Amid posted the note about the Irv Spence diary, I’ve been thinking and thinking about himâ€¦Irv, I mean. I could swear I had some info about that diary from a Women In Animation oral history interview conducted by Sari Gennis, Libby Simon and me. I’ve got a call into Libby about that, however, in my search for info on Irv I came across these two sweet drawings Tom Ray did for me ten years ago that I forgot I had. After an apprenticeship at Schlesinger’s, Ray worked for almost every studio including John Sutherland Productions, WB (where he worked on more than 40 productions), MGM, H-B, Marvel and later at WBTV on TINY TOONS, Walt Disney on the 101 DALMATIONS TV show and at Sony on the MEN IN BLACK TV show. Cool to think he was able to bridge the gap between the Golden Age and modern cartooning. Plus, I just like these little drawings; they have so much life.
One universal truth is that you meet the coolest people at animation film festivals. I met Richard O’Connor at Ottawa on a panel and was completely taken with his single-minded nature, intense opinions and super-human ability to make Asterisk, his indie studio in New York, a success. Richard just sent me four shorts that I really like. Here’s what the press release says, but let’s just say I highly recommend FLYING V. Check it out HERE.
They Might Be Giants and Disney called on Asterisk to create four pieces based on original TMBG songs for the dvd HERE COME THE ABCs. Asterisk created each video with a different look and approach. D&W uses puppets composited into watercolor environments; FLYING V uses the comical illustration style of underground cartoonist Sam Henderson; T SHIRT is animated in a classic WB style; and CAN YOU FIND IT? is a low-fi homage to WHERE’S WALDO? The films will also air on the Playhouse Disney preschool block on The Disney Channel. Good on ya, Richard!
In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I would like to guide you to a lovely cartoon produced by Clifford Cohen’s non-profit, Animaction, here in Hollywood, California. Animaction’s Awareness Through Animation program has helped thousands of “children of all ages develop effective communication skills and address critical social issues through the creation and production of short animated films.” Basically Animaction goes to a school, spends one to two days and helps the students work together to create a public service announcement on a topic of importance to that community. One of my favorite works that has come out of this powerful institution is THE DREAM, a look at the ideals of MLK. You can view it on the PBS website.
Ray Harryhausen is making several live appearences in L.A. during the next few weeks to promote his book (which I got for Christmas) and a new DVD (which I watched last night). The new DVD is called RAY HARRYHAUSEN: THE EARLY YEARS, and it’s a must-have for fans of Harryhausen, stop motion animation, students of Hollywood history and everyone who grew up with Jason and the Argonauts and Famous Monsters of Filmland.This dvd collects Harryhusen’s rare Mother Goose Stories and Fairy Tales, newly restored and more vivid and vibrant than they’ve ever looked. This dvd also collects all of Ray’s early stop motion experiments, tests, commercials and wartime training films. There is a nice featurette on the making of The Tortoise & The Hare that shows the modelmaking and painstaking process required to make these films. And that’s only disc one.On disc two are various interviews with Ray (sometimes with old pals Forry Ackerman and Ray Bradbury) including his recieving a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and an extensive interview with Leonard Maltin at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. There are still photo galleries, tributes by famous filmmakers and a wonderful mini-documentary on the restoration of these fairy tale films and test fragments. There is more material than I can list – suffice to say, check the website and buy this dvd. It goes on sale February 1st and I highly recommended it.
Media Alert: Brewmaster Jerry Beck is scheduled to appear as a guest on Comcast’s video game channel G4techTV (aka G4TTV) next Friday, January 21st. I’ll appear on Screen Savers, a daily live broadcast that features the latest internet/video game/consumer electronics news. What I’ll be doing on this show, I have no idea. But I’ll plug the Brew and my new book ANIMATION ART. The show airs live at 4pm Pacific, 7pm Eastern – and will rerun over the weekend.
I’d never heard of cartoonist Robert Osborn before today.Cartoonist Paul Giambarba has started a new weblog devoted to cartoonists past and present, and his first lengthy entry is devoted to Osborn, and his drawings of Lt. Dilbert, USN – a character who appeared in thousands of posters and service manuals describing all sorts of hazards to U.S. Navy pilots during World War II. Milton Caniff’s Male Call is the subject of his next posting.Also check out Giambarba’s other blog 100 Years Of Illustration & Design where he examines the likes of Howard Pyle, Haddon Sunblom and Norman Rockwell, among others. Beautiful stuff.
The United Nations has announced the release this week of The Three Amigos, a series of 20 short, professionally produced animated Public Service Announcements designed to encourage the use of condoms to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the world. The three animated condom characters are named – get this – Shaft, Stretch and Dick.
“The launch today at the United Nations by Firdaus Kharas, Producer and Director of the series, signifies the start of the world’s largest integrated behaviour modification programme. The Three Amigos is a groundbreaking HIV/AIDS prevention strategy, strongly supported by Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has called the PSA’s “a powerful communicating tool”, has written an open letter to broadcasters around the world which he calls “an impassioned plea” to “use these PSA’s. They cannot be played enough”. The Three Amigos is currently playing continuously in South Africa, the Netherlands and Canada. As of today, an international roll-out will offer the PSA’s free to broadcasters, NGO’s and community groups in any country.”
I’m a huge stop-motion fan, so was interested to score a DVD copy of Australian filmmaker Peter Cornwell’s WARD 13 last week. In addition to some impressive awards in 2004 for this 14:35 minute-long mental trip, Cornwell’s short boasts some pretty spectacular fight scenes. The website for the film is also pretty tricked-out (www.ward13.com.au) and includes a few tidbits of backstage info like:
“The seemingly endless corridors of the Art Deco hospital in WARD 13 are in fact just three 75cm-long modules which clamped together on a metal L-profile slide rail. In many shots, the camera appears to track smoothly with the characters as they run or motor down the corridors. In fact, both camera and figures were stationary, and it was the corridor modules that were moved along with each frame. The size of the movement varied with the apparent speed of the characters. As each module moved out of frame, it was carefully detached from the others and reclamped at the front, perhaps with different model furniture and props or a fake door flat.”
Definitely worth seeing for the animation in the action scenes.
Yesterday while Steve Jobs revealed the new iPod in San Francisco, the electronic wizards in Japan revealed their own cutting edge technology. For the cutting edge of your butter knife, that is!This new “super toaster” introduced by Sanyo imprints Winnie The Pooh on your white bread. Now you can have your Pooh and eat it too!
One of the gigs I have had the privilege to work on recently was THE NICKTOONS FILM FESTIVAL (last episode on this Sunday at 7:00 pm, PST) with Frederator Studios. As a co-producer, I got to screen a ton of really great cartoons from around the world. And while we were still doing our call for entries I got to ask my friends for suggestions on shorts they’d like to see submitted. One great friend, Rick Sayre, said, “You would be totally hip to run WEEBL AND BOB.”
Now, if you don’t know Rick there are three interesting things to consider about him. One: he can find the best chocolate and wine in any town in the world – always an important asset for a good friend. Two: he’s one of those genius types that works over at that little old shop called Pixar and served as supervising technical director on THE INCREDIBLES. Three: you try to listen when a cool guy like that gives you advice.
Ever since Rick clued me in to Weebl, a.k.a. U.K.-based Jonti Picking, I’ve been hooked on the Flash series WEEBL AND BOB as well as his other Monty Python-esque and perversely silly shorts like THE LORD 3. The WEEBL AND BOB series definitely has its particular following, but I highly recommend it simply for its shameless surrealism-meets-every-ball-shaped-guy world. Plus, if you want to get a full dose of Weebl-ism, there’s a brand new DVD out on the site. (Go to http://www.weebl.jolt.co.uk/)
After you check out WEEBL AND BOB, I also suggest going HERE and checking out the “toons” header. There you’ll not only find odd little gems like the can’t-get-that-damn-music-out-of-your-head KENYA and a really super out-there series from Michael Firth called SALAD FINGERS.
The next time someone chides you for collecting stuff, send them to this website.Scroll down to see this guy’s impressive “Cartoon Figures Collection” (near the bottom of this long-loading page). And you call yourself a collector?