ANIMATION PRESERVATION

balloonlandThis upcoming Saturday, May 22nd at 3:00pm, ASIFA-Hollywood presents Part Two of a demonstration and discussion of animated film preservation and restoration, this time focusing on sound films from the late 1920s through
1940s.
UCLA archivist Jere Guldin will lecture and screen rare restored prints of cartoons from the golden age of animation. Topics covered will include sound restoration techniques; early sound formats; recovery of original titles; and comparisons of Technicolor shorts preserved from original successive exposure negatives and sole-surviving nitrate prints.
Preserved films to be shown include the Toby the Pup cartoon, CIRCUS TIME (1930); the Ub Iwerks ComiColor Cartoon, BALLOON LAND (1935), and Flip the Frog short, FLYING FISTS (1931); the Fleischer short subject explaining sound-on-film, FINDING HIS VOICE (1929); and many others.

Saturday May 22nd, 2004 • 3:00pm
THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE
TED ASHLEY/WARNER BROS. SCREENING ROOM

2021 N. Western Ave.
Hollywood, CA
ASIFA MEMBERS: FREE! Non-Members: $10.00

PLANE CRAZY

I posted this a while ago on my Cartoon Research site, but since the date is coming up soon, I thought I’d repost this info here on the Brew:

plane crazyThe Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will be performing the score to PLANE CRAZY live, at UCLA’s Royce Hall on June 5, 2004, preceeding a screening of Buster Keaton’s STEAMBOAT BILL JR.
Alexander Rannie will be reconstructing the music and sound-effects exactly as they were recorded, utilizing rare extant material. Rannie, who has worked on numerous projects in film and television (including THE REN & STIMPY SHOW), has previously composed scores for several of the Alice comedies shown on the Disney Channel.
Rannie says, “As far as I know, this will be the first performance of “Plane Crazy” with the reconstructed original Carl Stalling score.”
PLANE CRAZY premiered on May15, 1928 as a silent, but was never widely released. Carl Stalling provided a pastiche of popular and traditional tunes (a compiled score) for the sound version released as a result of the immense popularity of “Steamboat Willie.”

The Art Of Silver

THE ART OF SILVERWith the plethora of sketchbooks being published by animation artists nowadays, it takes a little extra effort to stand out from the pack. Designer Stephen Silver has managed to do just that with his newly published sketchbook THE ART OF SILVER, a ful-color 160-page hardcover book. I’d enjoyed his first sketchbook from a couple years back, which was printed in a far more humble 32-page b-&-w comic book format, but I hardly expected such an ambitious follow-up. This book redefines what it means for an artist to self-publish a collection of their work, with page after page of handsomely printed sketchbook drawings, illustration work and caricatures drawn in an impressive variety of media including gouache, Prismacolor, brush pen and ink. The lush printing gives the reader the added bonus of being able to see Stephen’s light blue and red pencil roughs under his clean-ups.

Also included is Stephen’s professional work from animated projects he’s designed: CLERKS: THE ANIMATED SERIES, DANNY PHANTOM and CRASH NEBULA. His design work from DISNEY’S KIM POSSIBLE is missing, most likely due to legal reasons, and while it would have been nice to see, the huge variety of art already in the book more than makes up for the absence of those designs.

THE ART OF SILVERLike many of the most original and creative animation artists, Stephen is predominantly self-taught. He’s developed his own distinctive way of drawing, in which he places an emphasis on rhythm and flow, combined with a strong sense of personality, which perhaps owes to his artistic training as a theme park caricaturist where the goal is to capture a person’s likeness. Another throwback to his caricature days is his affinity for drawing heads, which he explains is one of his favorite drawing subjects.

Throughout the book, Stephen shares ideas about drawing, such as how he likes to draw multiple characters on a page to see their shape contrasts and his “figure eight” design technique. The greatest insight can be gained though by simply flipping through the pages and studying the impressive range of one artist’s work. The binding of the book indicates that this is Volume 1, and hopefully in the future we’ll be seeing many more volumes of Stephen Silver’s work. THE ART OF SILVER also has a foreword by film director Kevin Smith and a backword by MAD artist Tom Richmond. For ordering info, visit Silvertoons.com.

Seinfeld+Animation=Tonight on NBC

supermanAiring on NBC tonight is THE ADVENTURES OF SEINFELD & SUPERMAN from 8:44-9 pm. The live-action/animated combo will be hawking American Express in this odd sweeps month programming stunt. The special will be comprised of the first Seinfeld/Superman webisode “A Uniform Used To Mean Something,” which premiered online a couple months ago, as well as the premiere of the second installment called “Hindsight.”

MO WILLEMS UPDATE

mo better booksMo Willems (SHEEP IN THE BIG CITY) tells us he will be attending the Chicago BOOKEXPO:

“I’ll be at the Disney/Hyperion tables plugging my new kids books THE PIGEON FINDS A HOT DOG! (sequel to the Caldecott honored DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS!) and KNUFFLE BUNNY: A CAUTIONARY TALE (which utilizes cartoon characters over black and white photos). I’ll be giving the lunch address at the ABC (children’s booksellers org) and discuss how I use animation production techniques for books while at BookExpo, where one of my originals will be awarded to an “outstanding” bookseller (the Pannel award).
I’ll also be signing for the public at Chicago’s printers row on that Saturday.”

More info at www.mowillems.com

BOOKEXPO & LICENSING SHOW

incredibles bookbaby pink pantherTwo big industry events are right around the corner – BOOKEXPO AMERICA June 3-6 in Chicago and LICENSING INTERNATIONAL June 8-10 in New York.These are the two biggies for people in the trade – and its the place to be to see what will appear in bookstores and toystores for the next 12 months. I’m not planning to attend either show this time around, but I’ve been to each in recent years and they are quite extensive. For example, this year MGM plans to unveil a “Baby Pink Panther” line (see image above right) at the Licensing Show, and Disney licencees will show off their INCREDIBLES tie-in books (see left) at BookExpo.And here’s a clue for loyal BREW readers attending the BookExpo: seek out the Chronicle Books display for information on Amid’s upcoming projects… and locate Harper Collins Design for an upcoming top-secret Jerry project.

CANEMAKER IN PRINT

Always happy to post a John Canemaker update: The current May/June issue of PRINT (“America’s Graphic Design Magazine”) has two new writings by Canemaker:
a book review of William Moritz’s biography of Oskar Fischinger “Optical Poetry”( p. 24+);and a profusely illustrated essay on Andreas Hykade, Germany’s controversial independent animator: “Jesus, Elvis and Me” (pp. 70-76).

FOODFIGHT

The following are excerpts from an article, “For This Animated Movie, a Cast of Household Names” By Eric A. Taub published in today’s NY TIMES:

Threshold Entertainment, a modestly sized animation and special effects company that has never made a full-length animated film before, hopes to go “Toy Story” one better with “Foodfight!,” an animated movie that takes place in a supermarket after the lights go down.The company has the right to use animated versions of 80 name-brand products and their associated characters, including Charlie the Tuna and the Brawny paper towel man. The movie is not expected to be released until late 2005, at the earliest, and the company does not yet have a deal with a distributor.”The movie looks wonderful,” said Mark Mills, president of Motion Picture Magic, a product placement company in Encino, Calif. “Threshold will be considered to be the new and upcoming Pixar.”

Read the whole piece HERE. (Thanks to E. Lurio for the link)

KID BEGS DISNEY TO KEEP 2-D

An eighth grader wrote an editorial in today’s New York NEWSDAY, begging Disney not to abandon traditional animation:

During spring break, my family and I took the animation studio tour at MGM Studios in Florida. A man showing us a few sketches and backgrounds from the new Disney movie “Home on the Range,” said something startling. He said that Disney plans to stop making animated movies drawn by hand and shift to the newer 3-D computer animation technique, which was used in such hits as “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo.”
When we heard this, almost everyone in the room gasped. How could Disney end all those years of wonderful 2-D animation in favor of a computer?

Read the rest HERE.

Emeryville Turning Into Pixarville

The SAN FRANCISCO GATE has a piece HERE about Pixar’s ambitious expansion plans. The studio has a 20-year, $325 million development plan that could result in three new buildings with 544,000 square feet of space. The studio’s current space is 218,000 square feet. Also on the drawing board is a six-story 1,801-space parking garage. The best news though is that Pixar believes over the next couple decades they’ll be adding 1,350 more jobs to their current 625-person payroll.

Linkin Park’s “Breaking the Habit”

BREAKING THE HABITSunday’s LA TIMES had a short piece on the new Linkin Park music video “Breaking the Habit” which was supervised (and according to the TIMES, mostly animated by) Kazuto Nakazawa of the Japanese studio Production I.G. Nakazawa was also responsible for the graphic animated sequence in KILL BILL VOLUME 1. The Linkin Park video, which has already debuted in the UK, will start in full rotation on MTV and MTV2 in the US with a “Making of the Video” program premiering on May 24. The video depicts the troubled lives and emotional conflicts of various people living in a gritty, urban apartment high-rise.

The LA TIMES had this interesting quote from MTV’s exec VP of music Tom Calderone: “It’s anime, always going to be a little edgier. You can’t do anime that feels like bubble gum. It’s always going to have a dark side.” Calderone’s quote is telling in that it illustrates what anime has come to represent in the United States. Not merely a look or style of animation, anime is where people turn when they want to produce cartoons featuring mature, edgy and intelligent storytelling. Anime’s near monopoly on adult animation however doesn’t mean that it’s the only style available to filmmakers. Involving, emotionally satisfying stories are possible in myriad visual styles, including fluid Disney-style animation. Sadly though, decades of infantile and incompetent storytelling by the modern Disney studio, Katzenberg, Bluth and others have forced filmmakers to avoid like the plague the lush appealing style of animation pioneered by the Golden Age Disney studio. At least we can be thankful that intelligence has finally found a home in animation, even if it means for now these type of stories are being told exclusively through Japanese animation.
(“Breaking the Habit” image from Anime UK News)

SIMPSONS Voice Actors Still Fighting?

The NY DAILY NEWS reports that even though Fox Television announced over a week ago that they’d reached a deal with THE SIMPSONS voice cast, the six actors still haven’t signed their new contracts. According to the paper, the actors are “balking at Fox’s 11th-hour demand that they help promote SIMPSONS DVDS and other products – for which they won’t be paid.”

Thanks Mark!

A hearty thanks from Jerry Beck and myself to Mark Mayerson for being our first guest contributor, and a superb one at that. Over the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed reading his insightful perspective on the TV animation biz, and we’ve heard from numerous other folks thanking us for his pieces. Thanks again to Mark and stay tuned for our next guest contributor who we’ll be announcing soon.

Thanks and Some Requests

This is going to be my last contribution to Cartoon Brew. I’d like to thank Jerry and Amid for having me as a guest for a few weeks and I hope that my contributions were useful to somebody.

Having talked in generalities about TV animation, I’m now going to get specific and talk about myself. Monster By Mistake has wrapped up production and now I’m writing new scripts and pitches which I’ll be taking into the marketplace later this year.

One market that I hope to crack is the direct-to-video computer animated feature. I’ve got a script for one ready to go and another script in progress. If there are any home video producers reading this (or for that matter, any feature producers) who’d like to see the material, please contact me through the Catapult Productions website (which is way overdue for an update; that’s what happens when you’re neck deep in production).

Another goal I have is to find an agent. I’m not interested in an agent to rep me as a writer-director so much as I am interested in an agent to represent Catapult Productions as we try to launch new properties for TV, home video and (someday, please!) films. If there are any interested agents out there or folks with representation who might be willing to give me a referral, please contact me through Catapult Productions.

Once again, thanks to Jerry and Amid for a great website and for giving me the opportunity to be part of it. -Mark Mayerson

Directing TV Animation Part 3

It’s rare in TV animation these days for the director to be in the same location as the animators. On Monster By Mistake, we were lucky to do the first 26 episodes entirely under one roof. For the second 26, I was able to keep the animation local, though the modeling and lighting were done elsewhere.

When working with a group of animators, a director soon learns their strengths and weaknesses. Some are better at dialogue than action. Others are better at comedy than emotion. Ideally, each sequence should have a reason for being in a show and the director’s job, through casting animators, is to put that reason across to the audience as strongly as possible.

There are live action directors who claim that casting is the most important part of their job. If you get the right performers for a role, you’ve solved most of your problems. Sadly, in TV animation, casting the animators isn’t seen as a priority. Usually, when an animator needs more work, the animator is just handed whatever is ready to go.

When the director and the animators are not in the same country, the director has no input into animator casting. It may be done by an overseas supervisor or by a manager of the subcontracting company, but it might be ignored. The director is left trying to create performances by remote control, using various methods of pre-production.

Poses come from the storyboard and layouts. More poses may be added on the exposure sheets by the sheet timer. The problem with this approach is how poses are timed. Because animation has been going overseas for so long, many sheet timers actually have no experience animating. They tend to play it safe on timing. Also, there’s a lag between timing the sheets and the animation coming back. Often the sheet timer is already off the production when the animation returns, so there’s no chance to learn from mistakes and improve timing for later episodes.

There’s no question that when a director is able to work in close contact with animators you get a better result. It’s a shame that this has become a luxury in the TV animation business.

AAAGGH! MY EYES!

SHREKSHREK: FROM THE SWAMP TO THE SCREEN is hands-down the ugliest “art of” book I’ve ever seen for an animated film, which is probably owing to the fact that it’s little more than a collection of stills from the film. Let me put it this way: if the US military wants an effective interrogation technique for Iraqi prisoners, there’s no need for naked pyramids and all that silliness – just force the Iraqis to look at this book and they’ll start talking in no time. Then again, I’m sure there’s something in the Geneva Convention that protects people from being exposed to such ugly animation artwork. The only half-decent parts of the SHREK book are the handful of pages showing the pencil development art, which illustrate how appealing and visually enticing the SHREK franchise could be if Katzenberg would only step aside and allow artists to do their job. If you simply must have the book, wait a few months until it’s remaindered, like the “art of” book for PRINCE OF EGYPT which is currently marked down from $45 to $2.95 at HamiltonBook.com.

FOLLOW-UP: JONES MURAL SAVED!

This just in from John Tebbel:

Great news. The power of Chuck Jones triumphs.jones muralDue to the pitching in of lots of folks, chief among them Mr. James Braby of Ernest Neuman Co., an art conservator, who donated their time and expertise to remove the murals and make them safe for moving, the Chuck Jones conference room murals we identified a week ago are going to be saved.The outpouring of attention from everyone who heard of it, especially some of the donors to educational non-profit New Visions for whom Jones sketched the murals on conference walls in a fit of inspiration in 1988, makes it possible for New Visions to change their plans and make a proper home for the works in their new headquarters across town.
Without these donors stepping forward they wouldn’t have been able to keep it; saving conference room artworks isn’t part of their mission statement. To put it another way, this is sort of like re-uniting Shirley Temple with that scruffy terrier she offered to sell to get that operation for her father.Thanks Jerry, thanks to Jones fans everywhere.

The Jones Mural even made today’s New York Daily News

NBC-UNIVERSAL

nbc universalWe should note the merger yesterday of Universal and NBC. Their new tagline is “Imagine The Possibilities”.NBC-Universal is the only megacorp that doesn’t have an animation programming commitment. NBC has no animation production or kidvid block (They run Discovery Kids programing on Saturday mornings) and Universal is content to just churn out LAND BEFORE TIME sequels ad infinitum, so this corporate combo’s possibilities are not very exciting to us.
Could NBC-Universal start a competitive animation channel with their Walter Lantz library, Land Before Time movies and connection to Dreamworks? They could, but why bother?Click here for an interesting AP photo – the kid wearing the SHREK shirt is not out of line: Universal Theme Parks have SHREK attractions and Universal distributes Dreamworks features.

Directing TV Animation Part 2

Directors don’t always have input into character designs for a TV series, but they should. There are many design issues that have enormous impact on production. Design is far more than how a character looks.

In drawn animation, the amount of pencil mileage – the number of lines on a character – has a direct effect on how long it takes to do a drawing. The number of colors on a character determines how quickly color can be applied, whether it’s by hand or by a digital system. Both of these things have an enormous impact on the schedule. If each image of a character is going to take a long time to produce, you’re going to get less animation.

In computer animation, a big issue is intersections. While 3D characters look solid, there’s nothing to stop one surface from penetrating another. A character can easily push his hand through a table or his own body. When you’re dealing with capes, skirts or long hair, you have to be concerned about the potential for intersections. Even something as simple as the design of a character’s neck might lead to intersections when the character talks or moves his head.

The more time the animators spend fixing intersections, they less time they’re spending on new animation. Being human, animators will often avoid moving something if they know that it will end up causing intersections and slow them down.

Non-artists don’t realize that a design implies a style of motion. The audience expects a realistically designed character to move in a realistic fashion. This takes more time than moving a character in a stylized fashion. If you have a conflict between the level of realism in the design and in the motion, the audience doesn’t perceive the character as believable. While a viewer might not be able to articulate it, the viewer knows that things just aren’t right.

Drawn animation deals with this fairly well due to experience. There’s been a resurgence of UPA style design in shows like Dexter’s Laboratory or The Fairly Oddparents because these designs can be moved in a stylized fashion that fits well with TV budgets. Even drawn action-adventure cartoons, such as the ones that Bruce Timm has designed, are stylized. Besides the visual appeal of the designs themselves, they also work with the quality of animation that will be done for the budget.

Computer animation on TV is still grappling with this issue. Certain shows, like Angela Anaconda and several pre-school shows, have taken the stylized design route and use animation that matches the design style well. CGI action adventure shows like Max Steele or Roughnecks: The Starship Trooper Chronicles have gone with a more realistic design that the animation couldn’t live up to. These shows have failed to catch on with audiences and I think that the gap between design and motion styles is at least partially responsible.