ANIMATOR AUTOBIOGRAPHY

heidi's bookGetting rave reader reviews on Amazon.com is Animatrix: A Female Animator, How Laughter Saved My Life By Heidi Guedel.I haven’t read the book yet, but Guedel is a well respected figure. She started at Walt Disney Productions in 1972, where she progressed up the ranks becoming one of the first women promoted to Animator at Disney in 1978; having worked on Robin Hood, The Rescuers, Pete’s Dragon, and The Small One. She’d begun work on The Fox and the Hound, when, in 1979, she and 15 other animators left Disney Studios to work with Don Bluth on The Secret of NIMH (she was part of the original core group of “Disney Defectors”).At Bluth, she also worked on An American Tail and Dragon’s Lair. After Bluth moved his animation studio to Ireland, Heidi remained in the states, free-lancing on many computer games and educational projects. In 1995, Heidi animated for Warner Brothers Feature Animation, earning screen credits on Space Jam and Quest for Camelot.Read a sample page at AuthorHouse.com

The Comics Journal: Special Edition

THE COMICS JOURNALThe new issue of THE COMICS JOURNAL: SPECIAL EDITION is well worth picking up. There are varying combinations of interviews with Al Hirschfeld, Jules Feiffer, Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware: for example, a joint interview between Feiffer and Ware, Spiegelman separately interviewing Hirschfeld and Feiffer, and so on. Lots of good material to soak in. The issue also features a critical analysis of THE SIMPSONS, a look at an unpublished Jack Davis comic strip, an interview with WWII cartoonist Bill Mauldin who died last year, and a look at the work of early-20th century cartoonist/fine artist Lyonel Feininger. All this terrific material is contained within the first 100 pages or so. The second half of the 192-page book is hardly as inspiring, comprised mainly of comics from 31 different modern artists addressing the theme of “The Shock of Recognition.” Fortunately, the good is separated from the bad, and one can conveniently tear out the entire second half of the book without missing anything of value. Here’s the link to order the JOURNAL at Amazon.com.

HE-MAN GETS A MAKE-OVER

From an MTV press release:vh1On May 17th, the animated comedy series “Ill-ustrated” will return to VH1. The half-hour series is based on the web-site CampChaos.com and skewers celebrities, politics, and rock stars, along with other aspects of popular culture. The show also satirizes its own network, occasionally ripping other well-known VH1 programs.Sketches in the series debut include: the cartoon character He-Man being visited by the Fab Five from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” who determine He-Man is already “pretty gay,” Yogi Bush and Bubu Cheney drilling for oil in Jello Stone Park and a trailer for the film ‘sequel’ “Passion of the Christ II: Beyond Thunderdome.”

ASIFA’S VIRTUAL ARCHIVE

The International Animated Film Society (aka ASIFA-Hollywood) has embarked on an ambitious project to expand the offerings of the current ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Center in Burbank to include an animation archive, museum, library and research facility for the benefit of the animation community, students and general public. The first phase of this project involves the creation of a VIRTUAL ARCHIVE which will house images, movie clips and sound files pertaining to the art of animation. This will be the ultimate artist’s “clip file” gathering together hundreds of thousands of digital files and making them instantly accessible by a simple keyword search. For more detailed information check out this press release.

KILL BILL ANIME PREQUEL

kill billAccording to Internal Correspondence Vol. 2 (aka ICv.2) Quentin Tarantino is planning to write and produce an anime feature film, which will serve as a prequel to his two Kill Bill films.Production IG is expected to create the film, which will be done in the same style as the animated segments in Kill Bill I. The prequel will provide Bill’s backstory by explaining how he became such a ruthless killer. Tarantino will write and produce (but not direct) the anime prequel.

Proof That There’s No Greek Cartoon God

Phevos and AthenaLast night, during one of Lewis Black’s rants on THE DAILY SHOW, he did a great bit on the two deformed lumps that are serving as the mascots for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. The characters – Phevos and Athena – are inspired by a 2,700-year-old Greek terracotta doll, but as Black put it, they look more like dicks in sweaters. What’s especially humorous is that it took two committees of painters and gallery heads to pick this design from 196 submissions. As the UK’s GUARDIAN reasoned, “Perhaps they were all having an off day.” The designer of these two blobs, Spyros Gogos, who is not surprisingly an ad agency creative director, says that he wanted the design to evoke, “The brotherhood of man, equality of the sexes and participation irrespective of victory.” Here’s a LINK to an animated commercial featuring these characters, an ARTICLE about how people don’t find these characters very appealing, and an amusing EDITORIAL by the GUARDIAN. Of course, this is hardly the first time an Olympic mascot has looked so silly (remember Atlanta’s Izzy?).

DOWNLOAD JAY WARD, UPA & HARVEYTOONS

harveytoons onlineMovielink, the broadband video-on-demand service, announced today it has launched a new “Cartoon Classics” section on its Web site through a licensing agreement with Classic Media and its affiliate, Bullwinkle Studios.Movielink will make over 350 half-hours of classic cartoon programming available for download. Under the terms of the agreement, consumers can download episodes of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, as well as classic Famous Studio (Harveytoons) cartoons with Casper the Friendly Ghost, Joe Oriolo’s TV Felix the Cat, and UPA’s Dick Tracy and Mr. Magoo.

DISNEY’S LAST DUD?

Financial website Motley Fool has posted this editorial by Rick Aristotle Munarriz, which asks “Remember when Disney’s golden animated features drew huge crowds and rave reviews?”Munarriz says… “Disney has been slowly dismantling its animation division… that could be a huge mistake. Blaming the medium instead of the messenger is akin to blaming your tailor because you gained a few pounds. You simply can’t make a blanket statement that hand-drawn animation is dead and that computerized renderings are the way of the future.”Would Finding Nemo have bombed if it were hand-drawn? I doubt it. Would Home on the Range have been a box-office blockbuster if the barnyard critters were dolled up on high-end Silicon Graphics machines? Nope.”There are plenty of computer-animated television shows out there, but the favorites are hand-drawn like SpongeBob and Rugrats. It’s not the format. It’s not pixels versus inkblots. It’s the story.”

The Next Big Thing…

MUCHA LUCHA! creators Eddie Mort and Lili Chin have figured out what the next big trend in animation will be: Christian anime! Of course they’re joking, but you just know somebody somewhere is developing this for real right now. Also in their update yesterday, they posted some cool artwork from their new project ENDSVILLE, which Eddie describes as their “Kustom Kulture/Ed Roth is God” series. Check out their blog HERE.

ASTRO BOY MONEY

astro boy yenYou’ve heard of Disney Dollars?
In Japan, it’s Astro Bucks!Tokyo’s Takadanobaba district will start using Astro Boy currency this week, according to an ABC News article. The currency features the image of the famous anime hero, and many shops, organizations and Waseda University will use the currency for community revitalization efforts and environmental activities.
The article states: “Astro Boy’s strength was measured in horsepower and therefore 1 horsepower of the currency will be equivalent to 1 yen. The bills come in denominations of 10, 100 and 200 horsepower.”
Buddy, can you spare an Astro-dime?

VITAPHONE FILMS

vitaphoneI picked up a great reference book over the weekend (at Ray Courts Hollywood Collector’s show at the Beverly Garland Hotel). VITAPHONE FILMS by Roy Liebman is a helluva reference work.It’s a 455 page reference book, with lots of great stills, cataloging every feature, short and cartoon released under the Vitaphone banner. Each film has a Vitaphone “release number” (which is not the same as Warner Bros. cartoon production numbers), release date and other data (for cartoons he includes a one-line plot synopsis).I’m still digging through the entries, but I just found a release number for a PHILBERT trailer and an ADVENTURES OF THE ROAD-RUNNER trailer. Who knows what else is in here?
Here’s the Amazon link

At least he’s still pink

Pink Comparison


MGM apparently decided that the best way to celebrate Pink Panther’s 40th anniversary was to hire pop illustrator Shag to redesign him so that the character no longer has the slightest suggestion of appeal or charm. If you’re familiar with Shag’s contrived beatnik-tiki-mod-lounge paintings, then his redesign (or perhaps more appropriately, un-design) should be nothing surprising – stiffly and blandly drawn, awkward angularity, no sense of weight, and little flow or rhythm between the shapes. Somehow this utter contempt for draftsmanship, passing under the banner of “style”, translates to “hip” and “cool”. What’s sad is that now corporations are exhibiting the same lack of taste as the individuals who purchase his paintings, and seeking him out to ruin classic cartoon characters. There are countless artists out there with unique styles, and the draftsmanship skills to back it up, who could have re-interpreted the Pink Panther in myriad interesting ways. Instead, Shag’s insipid renderings of the Pink Panther now adorn New York City storefronts, all sorts of print advertising, and the official Pink Panther website. For the record, I’ve never met Shag and have nothing against him personally, but it angers me to see somebody who can barely hold a pencil ruin the legacy of terrific artists like Panther designer Hawley Pratt, animators Ken Harris and Bob Matz, and directors like Gerry Chiniquy, Friz Freleng and Richard Williams.

The Making of Fritz the Cat

FRITZ THE CATMike Barrier has posted the first part of a very long 1972 article about Ralph Bakshi and the production of his first feature FRITZ THE CAT. The piece was originally published in FUNNYWORLD #14. Check out the article at MichaelBarrier.com. An interesting bit of trivia about historical accuracy: while FRITZ THE CAT is recognized as the first X-rated animated feature, it was not the first X-rated piece of animation released theatrically in the US. The 1971 live-action feature THE TELEPHONE BOOK features a lengthy animated sequence, which though explicit is, like FRITZ, fairly tame by today’s standards. The animation was directed and designed by Len Glasser’s NY studio Stars & Stripes Productions Forever, whose outfit also produced some of the funniest and most inventive TV commercials of the Sixties and Seventies.

TODAY’S ANIMATED FEATURES

It’s a big day in Los Angeles, as two oddball 2-D animated features open in local area theatres.HOME ON THE RANGE is Disney’s final film in a series of traditional hand drawn features dating back to SNOW WHITE in 1937. Even if they revive the animation studio someday in the future, this film will be noted as the last of the original line. I liked it, but the reviews have been luke warm. Roger Ebert was not impressed.tamalaTAMALA 2010 opens at the Nuart Theatre in West L.A. – it’s a bizarro Japanese anime, sort of a “Hello Kitty” from Hell. Vitagraph Films (American Cinematheque) is putting this cool looking picture in art theatres across the U.S.

BREW RADIO

the connectonBrewmmaster Jerry Beck will appear Friday morning on The Connection, a live, daily call-in show that airs on NPR stations nationwide. The program will be broadcast on April 2, from 11am-12noon Eastern Time (8 – 9 am Pacific). It can be heard live on numerous stations nationwide (check here) or on the web. The show will be available on The Connection’s website archive.
Beck will be discussing the future of hand drawn animation in film.

A Cartoon Brew-sclusive

DIS & EIS

APRIL FOOLS!A reliable source from deep within the bowels of the Mouse informs the Brew that Disney is developing a new animated TV series, which wouldn’t ordinarily be a big deal, except that this show is based on an original concept by Mr. Michael Eisner himself. The all-CG project, called DIS & EIS, is being kept under tight wraps. An 11-minute pilot is currently in production. The show follows the gentle kids-in-school formula of DOUG and RECESS, but here’s the twist: the stars are a 10-year-old Walt Disney and 12-year-old Michael Eisner, who happen to be best friends at a school in Marceline, Missouri (for Disney buffs, that’s the actual town where Walt Disney grew up). According to my source, Eisner is insisting that the show exhibit reverence for Walt’s legacy and as a result, the characters will stay very true to their actual personalities: Walt will be sort of the oddball goofy creator type who’s constantly getting into mischief while Eisner is his smart responsible friend always bailing “the Dis” out of trouble. Reportedly, the mean principal of the school that Dis and Eis attend is a caricature of Roy Disney Jr. There will be plenty of other “cameos” by famous Disney personalities. For example, caricatures of the Nine Old Men’s Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston will be used for the school janitors, except that they’ll both be black in the cartoon. Frank will be voiced by Damon Wayans and Ollie will be voiced by David Alan Grier. Sound like a winning concept to me.