(Thanks, Matthew Hunter)
In case you were wondering, as I was, what the Oscar-qualifying feature film, The Dolphin, Story of a Dreamer, is: look no further:
UP has nothing to fear. 20th Century Fox is currently releasing the film in South America. UPDATE: Reader Eric Graf informs us that The Dolphin will play at the Laemmle Claremont 5 starting December 11 – same theater and week as A Town Called Panic, per the Laemmle Theatres website.
(Thanks, Matthew Gaastra)
Artist Mark Bodnar has been having fun painting a new batch of his bizarre cartoon-inspired visions. His latest art show, “And We All Go”, will open on Friday November 6th at the La Luz de Jesus Gallery (4633 Hollywood Blvd.) in Los Feliz, and there is an opening reception Friday night from 8-11pm. The exhibit runs through November 29th – but you can see much of it online on the gallery website. Fun stuff!
…because I always think of car insurance when I’m watching a Disney feature.
(Thanks, Jon Reeves)
Once again, yours truly Jerry Beck will be a guest today on Stu’s Show on Shokus Internet Radio. This will be my eleventh or twelfth (I’ve lost count) visit to discuss all things animation with Stu and his listeners, live beginning at 4:00 p.m. PDT (7:00 p.m. EDT). Topics this time will include the upcoming Mighty Mouse DVD box set from CBS, forthcoming classic cartoon DVDs from Warner Bros. and your phone calls. As always, listeners will be encouraged to call in with their questions and comments on the station’s toll-free telephone number. Click here for more details. Oh, and if you miss the live broadcast today, the show is rerun in the same time slot during the next six days.
ASIFA-Hollywood has announced its Winsor McCay Award recipients for 2009: Tim Burton, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Bruce Timm. The award is given in recognition of career contributions to the art of animation.
Tim Burton, of course, has had a strong influence on the world of animation. Burton began his career as an animator (Tron, Fox And the Hound) at the Walt Disney Studios where he directed his first shorts, Vincent (in stop motion animation) and Frankenweenie (live action). He co-produced the CBS Family Dog series, and returned to Disney to make Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, directed by Henry Selick) and later co-produced the stop-mo feature James and The Giant Peach (1996). In the past decade, Burton co-directed the stop-motion Corpse Bride (2005) and created an internet animation series, The World of Stainboy (2000). Burton is currently developing Frankenweenie as a full length animated feature.
Bruce Timm forever changed the world of TV adventure cartoons with his visual take on DC Comics super heroes, beginning with his co-producing Batman: the Animated Series in 1992. Timm began his career in animation at Filmation, doing layouts on He-Man and Flash Gordon. He did storyboards for Ralph Bakshi (on Mighty Mouse: the New Adventures) and John Kricfalusi (Beany & Cecil). While working on Tiny Toon Adventures, he helped create a new take on Batman. The success of that series has led Timm to redesign the entire DC Comics universe in various Warner Bros. Animation series as Superman, Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited.
Jeffrey Katzenberg is the CEO of Dreamworks Animation. Katzenberg was responsible for reviving the fortunes of Walt Disney Feature Animation with his supervision of The Little Mermaid, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Beauty and The Beast and The Lion King. Katzenberg left Disney in 1994 to team with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen to create Dreamworks SKG, where, as head of the animation studio, he oversaw the production of such hand drawn animated features as The Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado and Spirit. Switching to CG production, the studio since produced a string of hits including Shrek (and its sequels), Madagascar (and its spin-offs) and Kung Fu Panda.
The awards will be presented at the 37th Annual Annie Awards scheduled for Saturday, February 6, 2010 at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles, California.
Veteran animation director Gene Deitch and his wife Zdenka were invited to the Xiamen International Animation Festival (Oct. 30th-Nov. 3rd) in China — Gene as the main foreign guest and keynote speaker, and Zdenka as a jury member. However, Communist government authorities took one look at their passports, and made the irrational assumption that because they were both in their eighties, they were unfit to travel, and decided not to issue them visas.
The festival organizers wrote that they were bereft and begged Gene to at least film his keynote speech for projection at the opening ceremonies. So a crew came to Deitch’s private studio, and he “performed” a five-minute version of his talk. And Gene has graciously allowed Cartoon Brew to share it with the world. Says Deitch:
“The core of my speech is a pitch for the survival and eventual return to primary favor of “drawn animation.” (Don’t provoke me by mentioning the term “2D” in my presence!)
Below is the 7-minute video Gene prepared for the festival, AND below that is the full text of the actual speech he would have given.
Gene Deitch: Quo Vadis Animation? Animation has come a long way since I was a boy. I was raised in Hollywood and fell in love with movie cartoons at a very early age. In those days – the early 1930s – going to the movies was a giant experience. For one admission ticket -25 to 35 cents for an adult – just ten cents for me – we could see two complete feature films, which in those days were not more than an hour-and-a-half long, a newsreel, a travelogue, an adventure serial, perhaps a comedy “Short Subject,” and a cartoon – sometimes two cartoons.
For me, the cartoon was the best part, but for the movie theater owners it was just another time filler that limited the number of shows he could schedule per day. To earn their place on the program the cartoons had to be wildly funny, and they quickly became formula productions. In Europe they were called “grotesques,” and there was no attempt to imitate reality.
The arrival of television changed all that. With nightly news for the growing mass TV audience, there was no further need for newsreels. Then came all sorts of soap operas, dramas, documentaries, comedy shows, travel features, sports, and of course cartoons galore. Why go to the movies when you had all that at home?
And why should theater owners pay for short subjects when all the people wanted to see was the feature? So soon enough, all we got for the higher price we paid for a movie ticket was one feature film, some advertising and lots of previews of more movies.
It was the visionary Walt Disney, who all the way back to the 1930s saw that cartoon shorts were doomed. He had the impossible dream of making the cartoon become the main feature attraction. To do that he believed that he had to somehow make drawn animation look more realistic. As a 13-year-old kid, I attended the premiere run of Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs at the Hollywood Pantages Theater, I witnessed the first example of a historic change-of-course for film animation. Disney felt that cartoon simplicity could not sustain a feature-length movie. So Snow White contained the dramatic lighting effects, the shadowing, the rounded shading of characters, and the amazing MultiPlane camera depth effects – the first steps toward making animated movies become more and more realistic.
Once began, this became the dominating goal of animation: to become as close to a live action movie as possible. By today, with the development of computers and amazing digital procedures, computer generated animation, motion capture, and stereoscopic 3D. We’re almost there; the perfect imitation of reality with animation. Is this a success? Or is it the end of a blind alley? What next?
As it happened, I began my career in animation at a studio that pioneered the opposite course. “Why should animation, potentially the greatest of all existing art forms, incorporating and blending all of them, limit itself by trying to imitate what a camera does? It was UPA, United Productions of America.
A glorious name for a tiny studio founded on a simple but revolutionary idea: that the whole world of graphic art was open to animation – animation bringing magic and storytelling in every visual style, with no attempt to imitate what the camera will always do better.
I am here to raise a cheer for what I prefer to call Drawn Animation. We who have been raised on the tradition of animated drawings, attempting create what Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston called, “The Illusion of Life,” have been more and more pushed aside and given the demeaning title of “2D” animators. I am quick to remind you that anything projected onto a flat movie screen is essentially 2D. It’s a meaningless term. I repeat that the entire world of graphic art, every drawn or painted style can be animated in any fanciful way, which in turn would lead to the widest range of storytelling and endless visual variety.
Whereas so-called 3D animation, with its amazing refinement, technical dazzle, and natural-looking realism, is becoming more and more alike. Drawing and painting goes back to the beginnings of humanity, and is still a limitless means of expression. It certainly should not be pushed aside in the world of cinema animation!
Of course, I know that there is another branch of animation; Special Effects for essentially live-action movies. That kind of animation – recreation of dinosaurs or entire cities being blown up, and stunt performers saved from injury with the substitution of animated dummies….is hyper reality that I greatly admire and respect. It MUST be extremely realistic and visually convincing! Amazing special effects animation is now so seamlessly blended into live action movies, that we accept it as real. Such movies do not claim or pretend to be animation features.
As a 48 year member of the Hollywood Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, I am one of the people who vote each year for the awards known as Oscars. In my own category of Animation, it becomes harder and harder to distinguish whether a film is in fact basically an animation or live-action movie. Today, every film contains at least some elements of both. Historically and technically, cinema animation involves the creating and manipulating still images that when projected onto the screen in very rapid sequence – faster than the human retention of vision – gives the illusion of motion. So human acting in front of a camera is by that definition not animation. Yet the technology of digital motion capture can be used to convert human acting – pantomime – into designed creatures, which does look very much like animation. So to many people – most people in a cinema audience, if it looks like animation it must be animation!
I’ve given up trying to argue the point, but still have difficulty in voting for a movie in the Animation category which I know to be actually a digitalized manipulation of human acting. and not the illusion of motion created in series of still images. So what? It must soon come down to eliminating a separate Animation category, and allow us to vote for any movie on the basis of the story it tells and how skillfully and artfully it tells it, regardless of the mix of technologies used in its production.
It is in fact getting harder and harder to find a clear definition of what is an animated film, and what is a live action. film! What was The Lord of The Rings, which so deftly combined animation into an essentially live action film? What are the Harry Potter films, including so many animation effects? And now we have the technology called “Motion Capture.” Which does claim to be form of animation. How do we classify Motion Capture -”Mo-Cap?” Many movies today combine all of these elements. How do we classify them? Today, nearly every film is a combination of live-action, special effects and some form of animation. When we see drawings, we’re pretty sure we are seeing animation!
There must be room for the art of drawing and painting to hold onto it’s role in storytelling and the stimulation of imagination. Graphic art and design has a great influence on all of our lives, and we really cannot live a full life without it!
In my on-line book, How To Succeed in Animation I make the claim that animation is potentially the greatest of all art forms, as it combines nearly all of the others. Drawing, painting, music, story telling, literature, acting, theater, singing, dancing.. you name it; all can be incorporated into this miraculous art form do cinema animation! The word animation itself means, “The breath of life.” Why should this potentially powerful medium be limited to literal realism, when the endless possibilities of magic realism are open to it?
I feel this is an important topic for discussion, and I would like to hear your thoughts about it. I welcome your questions and ideas.
Here’s some GOOD Cartoon Network news for a change. The classic Looney Tunes will be returning to Cartoon Network next Sunday. They are already running promos for a six-hour marathon on Sunday, 11/15. Then starting the next day, CN is showing an hour of Looney Tunes each weekday from 11am-noon (Eastern). It’s been nearly seven years since they had a regular TV time slot – and all it took was a disastrous experiment with a live action block to get them back.
Meanwhile, a new Looney Tunes series in production at Warner Bros. has shut down, according to the Animation Guild blog. After four months in production – with a great crew at the helm (that’s a Jim Smith gag drawing, above) – the show, tentatively titled Looney Tunes Laff Riot, will undergo a redesign. Apparently, the first completed episode was screened for higher ups who didn’t like the UPA-esque revamp. The show is expected to resume production in a few months – with new model sheets.
Production continues, however, on a series of 3 minute CGI, 3-D theatrical Looney Tunes shorts – the first one featuring the Road Runner.
If any Warner Bros. artists or Cartoon Network insiders want to write in to clarify or correct any part of this post, we welcome your comments below.
(Thanks, Jon Cooke)
Flip the Frog, Oswald Rabbit, Koko the Clown and Toby the Pup will return to the screen Tuesday night, at the Billy Wilder Theatre in the Hammer Museum in Westwood, CA. Ragtime pianist Reginald Robinson will play in concert with a screening of 1920s and 30s animated cartoons from the UCLA Film Archive. Films will include Koko’s Earth Control, Homeless Homer, Swing You Sinners and Room Runners in 35mm. The program is being presented in conjunction with an exhibition of original art from R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis. The screening is FREE (parking is $3.). For more information visit the Hammer Museum website.
Sometimes I think the most creative place in TV animation is in pre-school programming. Here’s a preview of Flipos from the Chile-based PunkRobot studio. Animation director Antonia Herrera says the project is “a labor of love, made with little money and a small, talented team”. A production blog features concept art and storyboards, and the trailer is candy-cane sweet:
Sorry for the late notice, but if you are in L.A. this weekend you might check out the animation panels going on at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood:
On Saturday 11/7
1:15 PM – 2:15 PM: A Crash Course on Character Animation with Eric Goldberg.
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM: Commercial Television Spots: Shortest Shorts with Bob Kurtz.
3:45 PM – 4:45 PM: The Incestuous History of Technology & Animation with Bill Kroyer.
5:00 PM – 6:00 PM: The Importance of Story in Animated Shorts with Jim Capobianco.
On Sunday 11/8
1:15 PM – 2:15 PM: The Making of Pixar’s Partly Cloudy with Peter Sohn.
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM: Short History of Animated Shorts with Tom Sito.
3:45 PM – 5:00 PM: How MTV Rocked the Animation World with Yvette Kaplan and John Andrews.
For ticket prices and more information, visit the American Cinematheque website.
The soundtrack of Fantastic Mr. Fox, like all Wes Anderson films, is loaded with great music that punctuate the situations. Anyone who combines Burl Ives, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones and the Wellingtons’ classic Ballad of Davy Crockett in one film is okay in my book.
Anderson also pays homage to Disney’s foxy Robin Hood (1973) by using its Oscar nominated song, Love. Huston Huddleston edited this video (embed above) using a discarded, unreleased recording which his late father, Floyd Huddleston, co-wrote (with George Bruns) and his mother, Nancy Adams, sang. Huston says:
Huston has also uploaded a rare alternate country version of Phony King Of England written by Johnny Mercer, with additional lyrics by Floyd Huddleston for this version, and sung by Phil Harris, Andy Divine and the Do Gooders.
According to today’s trades, Dan Aykroyd has been cast as the voice of Yogi Bear in Warner Bros. new CGI hybrid flick, Yogi Bear, and Justin Timberlake could be vocalizing his longtime companion, Boo-Boo. Eric Brevig, a veteran visual effects supervisor, will be directing the film.
Anna Faris (late of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) will appear in the film, playing a nature documentarian who meets up with Yogi in Jellystone Park. The film is scheduled for release next year, in December 2010.
Sixteen animated films are needed to enter and qualify in order for five animated features to be nominated for a Best Animated Feature Academy Award. This might be the film that tips the scale in favor of five nominees.
Zeitgeist Films is opening this French-Belgian co-production in New York next month and in Los Angeles in January. However, the distributor had not scheduled the required L.A. qualifying run, so filmmakers Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar took matters into their own hands, filled out the Oscar submission forms and booked the film into L.A.’s Claremont 5 to play there between December 11th and December 17th.
The first teaser was encouraging. This new trailer has lowered my enthusiasm. But I’m not one to judge a film by its previews. I’d like to know what you think.
Yeah, this is another post ragging on Cartoon Network as is spirals down the drainpipe of doom. I was at Meltdown Comics in Hollywood last night where found this flyer (at left, click to enlarge thumbnail), recruiting “male teens” for a new reality show. It reads: “Are you between 13 and 16 years old? Would you like to have a team of Former military SPECIAL FORCES train you and your friends to plan and execute real life missions? Learn how to use night vision? Hydro Reconaissance? Rappelling? Who wouldn’t!”
“We are looking for kids who have real problems that need to be solved by our team. Do you need to get something that belongs to you back from a friend? The Special Forces team will train you to get it back using all the high tech equipment available. Need to be at a family event, but want to take a girl out on the same night? Worry no more, for with this team, you will learn spy-like maneuvers that allow you to be in two places at once! Tired of being picked on? Those days are gone! The team will take you through Commando boot camp where you will transform from scrawny to superhero.”
“This is the biggest wish fullfillment reality show… maybe ever!”
Dear Producers of Going Commando,
I would like your Special Forces Team to overtake the building at 300 North Third Street in Burbank, California. A group of highly paid television executives have taken over a cable cartoon network I used to love, took away all my favorite cartoons and replaced them with a whole bunch of brainless live action reality shows. I wanna kick their ass and take over the channel. Who wouldn’t? I want Looney Tunes and Popeye (and about a zillion other things) back on the air so I can share them with a new generation of kids. This is would be my biggest wish fullfillmentâ€¦ maybe ever!
What a year. Coraline, Up, Ponyo, 9, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs – topped off with The Princess and The Frog and Fantastic Mr. Fox.
In Fantastic Mr. Fox director Wes Anderson injects an adult sensibility, along with his usual indie filmmaking quirkiness, turning a childhood classic into a uniquely satisfying filmgoing experience. As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the best films of the year. The animation style is refreshingly, intentionally retro: Rankin-Bass meets Willis O’Brien, by way of Ladislas Starevich. In this exclusive promo (below) we get a quick peak behind the scenes at the London studio that put it together:
Here’s a few new 3D CGI films coming from Europe… is it me, or do these pictures have a slight resemblance to previous works from Emeryville?
Occhio Kochoi from Paris based TeamtTO is a feature film about birds migrating to Africa — the lead character looks a like he migrated from For The Birds or Partly Cloudy:
Finding Nemo with a turtle? That seems like the premise of Around the World In 50 Years (aka Turtle Vision) from Ben Stassen (Fly Me to The Moon) and Belgium based nWave Pictures. This is a 14-minute large format film scheduled for release to Imax theatres later this year.
A clip of the animation begins, below, at :34 mark and ends at 1:21 mark.
A reminder that tomorrow night Cinefamily @ The Silent Movie Theatre will present a tribute to animator Fred Wolf. We’ll screen rare clips from his movies, TV shows, vintage TV commercials (like the one above), and his award winning shorts during a live on-stage interview with Wolf himself.
Wolf will discuss his career starting at Famous Studios in NYC, working with Shamus Culhane in the 50s, Herb Klynn on The Alvin Show, his collaborations with Harry Nilsson on The Point!, with Frank Zappa producing 200 Motels, and with Peter Yarrow to make Puff The Magic Dragon. We’ll also get into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, his producing commercials, shorts and feature films – and how he ended up animating the iconic opening sequence to The Flintstones!
Join me Tuesday night, November 3rd at 8pm. The theatre is at 611 N. Fairfax Ave. just south of Melrose. The first 100 admissions will receive a free DVD of The Point!, and every admission will receive a free Tootsie Pop! Click here to Reserve Tickets.
Animation historian and cartoon archeologist Steve Stanchfield is back with another double header of rare 1930s cartoons from the long-forgotten Fleischer-rival, Van Beuren Studios. His latest Thunderbean DVDs are The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren’s Tom and Jerry and Aesop’s Fables Vol. 2 – and again, I recommend these highly to anyone – especially those who love 1930s-style rubber-hose animation.
The Tom & Jerry set (with gorgeous Milton Knight cover art) is particularly amazing. These hilarious cartoons are obscure to begin with, so a real treat is the fabulous film prints Stanchfield digs up and lovingly restores. Many of the cartoons look really great, especially A Swiss Trick (1931) from a 35mm nitrate sepia-tinted, spliceless print, with its original titles intact. This is as close as we’ll ever get to experiencing one of these cartoons the way audiences saw them in the early 30s. It really makes a difference.
Also on the T&J set, galleries of original trade ads, posters, home movie boxes, picture books, and four additional cartoons starring Tom & Jerry precursors, Waffles and Don. Stanchfield goes an extra five miles here, with the inclusion of a comparison reel of Tom & Jerry animation against a rare Egyptian knock-off by the Frenkel Brothers. Priceless stuff.
For more information on Thunderbean’s complete line of animation rarities, click here.
My friend Philippe Videcoq is selling 25 Disney items in an upcoming Christie’s movie memorabilia auction. Among many drawings and layouts, he’s selling three extremely rare items : a three page synopsis from Alice the Beach Nut (the penultimate in the series), typed in 1927; a United Artists Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies Press book; and a 191 page folder entitled Future Fantasias compiled by studio researcher Bob Carr at Walt’s request before Fantasia’s premiere, detailing all possible musical choices for sequence replacements or sequels to Fantasia.
Phillppe sent me some details on the Future Fantasias folder:
During the making of the film, he asked Robert Spencer Carr to keep track of all ideas and projects discussed at the studio for quick reference and further discussion. Carr (March 26, 1909 — April 28, 1994) was Director of Educational Research for Walt Disney Studios. After he left the studio, he became Special Advisor to NICAP. He also served with the Army Orientation Service, produced educational films for the State Department and teached communication at the University of south Florida. He was also an American writer of science fiction and fantasy (selling his first story to Weird Tales at age 15) .
As stated in the opening memo to Walt, this was given to him on October 23, 1940 as a “field manual” for his trip east. This trip was Walt’s trip to New York for the world Premiere of Fantasia, 23 days later (Nov. 13, 1940). Of course, in view of the film’s disappointing box-office returns, the cost of the revolutionary Fantasound system in the theatres, and a closing foreign market due to World War 2, Walt put all these projects aside, but many ideas would eventually turn out as sequences in the package features: Peter and the Wolf in Make Mine Music (1946), Flight of the Bumble Bee (renamed Bumble Boogie) in Melody Time (1948), Rhapsody in Blue and The Firebird in the long-awaited sequel Fantasia 2000. Debussy’s Clair de Lune was even animated, ending up as the Blue Bayou sequence in Make Mine Music. Finally, two suggestions (Valse Triste and Afternoon of a Faun) were eventually used by Italian animator Bruno Bozzetto in his Fantasia spoof Allegro non Troppo (1977).
The folder lists all musical studio properties (and titles advised for copyright), story numbers assigned to pieces, detailed story research, development and production notes, as well as the Deems Taylor dialog written for many pieces (and often recorded, with recording dates). It also includes complete proposed programs for eventual sequels, and a nine page transcript of a story meeting held at the studio on may 14, 1940, with the participation of Walt, Leopold Stokowski, Joe Grant, Ben Sharpsteen and Ed Plumb.
The photograph (above, right) of Walt Disney in his office shows the Future Fantasias folder right behind him, on a shelf.
The auction will take place on November 24th in London. For more information click here.
Dr. Sketchy’s is an alternative life drawing salon and traveling artists social club – and it’s coming to California.
It started as a one-time Brooklyn art event and is now a nationwide movement. Founded in 2005 by artist Molly Crabapple, Dr. Sketchy’s Roadshow inaugural tour will take place throughout California between November 2nd and 14th, with stops in Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Long Beach, Sherman Oaks, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Bakersfield, Fresno, Monterey, San Jose, Sacramento and Alhambra. To quote their blog:
Artist and art voyeurs need only bring a $10 donation and their favorite drawing supplies. Dr. Sketchy’s and the Roadshow’s art-centric host venues will provide everything else (top notch models, refreshments, casual networking opportunities, and an all around good time).
No RSVP necessary, but space at each venue is limited. The L.A. date is Thursday November 5th at Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks. Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra will host the show on November 14th. Check the full list of locations and dates here.
More John Canemaker news! John will present his do-not-miss lecture/screening on the art and life of animation pioneer Winsor McCay (1867—1934) at the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, next Tuesday November 3rd.
As part of the lecture, Canemaker presents Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) the way it was meant to be shown — as a vaudeville act with live musical accompaniment (photo above is from Canemaker’s recent screening in Annecy). The program starts at 7:00 pm at the Wexner Center Film/Video Theater, 1871 North High Street in Columbus, Ohio. The event is part of the current Winsor McCay: Legendary Cartoonist exhibit at the OSU Cartoon Library and Museum. For tickets and information, please visit the Cartoon Museum website.