In today’s New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell ponders Pixar’s success and the possible demise of hand drawn features.
“Every few decades an entire field of filmmaking ends because of a single technical innovation. “The Jazz Singer” finished off silents by popularizing synchronized-sound movies. The introduction of Technicolor has been slowly choking off black-and-white pictures, with the exception of the odd music video or art-house film. And now, because of the successive digitally animated box-office winners from Pixar, hand-drawn animation seems to be on the way to theatrical obsolescence.”
Look, No Hands: Pixar’s Killer App By ELVIS MITCHELL
On Friday May 7th at 7:30pm, The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present a screening of all the animated & live action short film nominees & winners from the most recent (76th) Academy Awards. The Academy screening will be hosted by John Lasseter (Pixar).The screening will include Harvie Krumpet (winner) and Destino (Dali & Disney), Gone Nutty (Blue Sky), Boundin’ (Pixar) and Nibbles (Chris Hinton). The AMPAS screening appears to be the only place these films will be screened all together. Apollo Cinema is bringing an 2004 Oscar program (sans John Lasseter) to a theatre near you: Here’s their release schedule
During 2002 and 2003, the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ran a weekly series, every Monday night for 75 weeks, each week one of the Best Picture winners accompanied by the Best Cartoon Short winner and other assorted goodies. Begining Monday May 17th , the Academy will present a ten-week sequel: “Great To Be Nominated”.Each week a restored 35mm print of a nominated feature will be shown with a nominated short (in 35mm) – as well as newsreel footage, Trailers, Out-takes, and other rare material.
NOTE: July 12 a 35mm restored print with original titles of HOLIDAY LAND, the first Columbia Color Rhapsody cartoon, starring Scrappy, will be screened.
July 26th The first public screening of the 35mm restored Popeye special, POPEYE MEETS SINDBAD – You’ve been warned: DO NOT MISS THIS SCREENING!
Here’s the full schedule: May 17 – SEVENTH HEAVEN (27-28) w/ Plane Crazy
May 24 – IN OLD ARIZONA – (28-29)
June 7 – THE LOVE PARADE (29-30)
June 14 – SKIPPY (30-31) w/ScreenSong “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”
June 21 – THE CHAMP (31-32) w/Mickey’s Orphans
June 28 – LADY FOR A DAY (32-33) w/Building a Building
July 12 – ONE NIGHT OF LOVE (34) w/Holiday Land
July 19 – LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER (35) w/Who Killed Cock Robin?
July 26 – ANTHONY ADVERSE (36) w/Popeye Meets Sindbad
Aug. 2 – A STAR IS BORN (37) w/Little Match Girl
Aug. 9 – ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND (38) w/Mother Goose Goes Hollywood
Aug. 16 – MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (39) w/The Pointer.The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, California.
A few interesting animation artist websites I’ve run across recently…
Ben Balistreri, who has done design work for Disney and Nickelodeon, has a lot of his work samples up at SaltySugar.com along with a preview of a forthcoming personal comic project. Ghostbot.com is the website for three different animation artists, including Roque Ballesteros, creator of the stylish Wild Brain webcartoon series JOE PARADISE. Tim Biskup, whose work is always a treat, has a redesigned site at TimBiskup.com. Greg Araya, whose short film CRIMENALS (a hard-boiled concoction of Chester Gould comics and Anthony Mann film noir dialogue) is currently making the festival rounds, has a nice step-by-step description of how he put the film together HERE.
Harry Babbitt, who did the distinctive laugh of Woody Woodpecker in the 1948 Kay Kyser hit record “The Woody Woodpecker Song”, has died at age 90 in California. Babbitt was a member of the Kyser’s band from 1938 to about 1949 and appeared in seven movies alongside the bandleader. This BBC News article exaggerates Babbit’s role in relation to Woody, but Babbit’s laugh is indeed heard in the Lantz cartoon WET BLANKET POLICY (1948).
Here’s something we don’t see everyday: an article in Thursday’s Orange County Register on Paul Frees. The piece mentions a new book, “Welcome, Foolish Mortals …” by Ben Ohmart (Bear Manor Media, $29.95), which can be ordered from the publisher at paulfrees.com
A reminder – if you are in Southern California this weekend:Friday April 23rd at 7:30pm – Ray Harryhausen will be at the Academy presenting five newly restored 35mm prints of his fairy tales – which he produced, directed and animated in the forties and fifties – with additional footage of abandoned projects and a panel discussion hosted by Leonard Maltin. Admission is only $5.00 for the general public. Check the Academy’s website for further details and ticket information.You can also catch Ray (and a SHREK 2 preview) on Sunday in Pasadena at Bruce Schwartz’s monthly Comic Book and Science Fiction Show.On Saturday April 24th at 3pm at the AFI Campus in Hollywood is Asifa-Hollywood’s monthly screening – hosted by yours truly – A Tribute To UPA with 35mm prints (thank you Mike at Sony Pictures Repertory), Tee Bosustow and a panel discussion with UPA veterans – and rare video footage. Get the address here.
Here is an interesting piece of fiction from the current issue of The New Yorker: CAT ‘N’ MOUSE by Steven Millhauser.
It may fall through, by the AP is reporting that Sony is in talks to buy MGM.What does that mean to us? Well it would combine the theatrical UPA libray with the DePatie-Freleng cartoons – as well as the Screen Gems (Scrappy, Fox & Crow), and a bunch of TV series from Dilbert and Real Ghostbusters to Mighty Orbots and Super President!Perhaps the basis of a (another) new animation channel? It would also return MGM to its historic Culver City backlot (which Sony now owns), but I digress…
Mark Evanier offers more insightful thoughts about the contract renegotiations of the voice actors on THE SIMPSONS. I think ultimately we both arrived at the same conclusion: that the actors deserve more money.
ASIFA-Hollywood has started two new blogs: one that keeps people posted on the general activities of the organization and another dedicated solely to ASIFA’s Animation Archive Project.
BREW reader Gerit Vandenberg points out a rare small-press book currently posted on eBay: Neal Seymour’s novel RE-ANIMATING WALT. I’ve never heard of the book, but apparently it’s an amusing fictional what-if account of Walt Disney’s resurrection. Here’s Gerit’s description:
The book aspires to the innocent flavor of a Hardy Boys Mystery… Two young guys trying to make a buck working the janitorial night shift at a cryogenics lab accidentally hit the wrong switch with a mop handle, and presto! –unthawed living Walt. They whisk him home under the cover of night and nurse Walt back to human functionality. Walt then hangs out with the two lead characters and spins stories about the past and helps them film their own movie packed with Disney values.
I would love to see this concept realized into a film where Walt gets his revenge on Eisner with an electrical storm backdrop! The author also has a real penchant for technical details and he makes Walt describe the virtues of old Mitchell movie cameras. It’s a geek’s delight and a stupid, sloppy book. I love it!
Gerit also offers this dialogue excerpt from the part of the book where Walt is regaining consciousness…
“Am I in Heaven?” asked the patient whose voice was getting stronger and stronger by the minute. “It’s not quite what I expected. I didn’t go to church, but I always believed I was a Christian.”
“No, you’re in Studio City and we’re trying our best to warm you up,” said Tim.
(Thanks to Gerit for the news item headline as well. Couldn’t have thought of a better one.)
How do I feel about THE SIMPSONS voice actors asking for pay raises from $125,000 per episode to $360,000 per episode (or from about $3 million to $8 million per year), as well as demanding a share of the show’s profits? Frankly I think as talented as they are, there is no voice actor, not even the venerable Mel Blanc, who deserves that amount of money. Bear in mind, the vocal cast on THE SIMPSONS only puts in 6-7 hours of work per episode, which amounts to less than one month of labor throughout the year.
On the other hand, there’s no denying that the six principal voice actors – Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Julie Kavner, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer – are the true stars of THE SIMPSONS. The animation and artwork are little more than a bland and formulaic stage for the writer’s precious one-liners and cloying pop culture references, which are somehow made more tolerable by the creative delivery of the vocal sextet. The show, which is still the second-highest rated program on Fox, earns the network $2.5 billion each year. And if this money doesn’t go to the voice actors, it also doesn’t benefit anybody else like the artists who toil on the show at Film Roman in North Hollywood or the animators who labor on it overseas. As Mark Evanier points out on his weblog, “The money the actors don’t get paid is money that the studio gets to keep…and even pay out in bonuses to people who have less to do with the show’s success than the actors.” Looking at it from that perspective, it seems that the voice actors are the lesser of two evils in this case, and more deserving of the money, although hardly the most deserving.
For more background on this dispute, here are articles from the NY TIMES and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER which explain the situation. Also this article from USA TODAY talks about the practical implications of the strike for fans of the show, and that’s a shortened 16th season of THE SIMPSONS. What I’m curious about is whether any artists at Film Roman have had to be temporarily laid off because of the strike, or whether there were enough episodes already in the pipeline to keep the production running smoothly?
Grim NatwickUb IwerksASIFA-Hollywood and Vintage Ink & Paint have teamed to produce a series of collectible postcards and limited edition prints honoring great artists from the history of cartoon animation. The first two artists featured in the series are Ub Iwerks (a self portrait) and Grim Natwick (caricature by Chuck Jones). Included with the postcards and prints is biographical information on these important figures.
I just recieved a set of these postcards and they are really nice. I highly recommend these limited editions. A set of 20 5×7 inch postcards (10 of each) are available for $20 a set; and a pair of numbered 8×10 archival digital prints (1 of each) is $30 a set, plus shipping and handling. A significant portion of the proceeds from the sale of these items will be donated to the ASIFA Animation Archive Project.