MORE SCARY LICENSING SHOW STUFF

superbabyI’m still poring over all the Licesning Show material sent into the Brew by our New York spies.Warner Bros. KRYPTO THE SUPERDOG and THE BATMAN (a new animated series not by Dini & Timm) look very good – but I noticed that they were offering SUPERBABY licensing. Scary!rick tracyMeanwhile Tribune Media Services were offering “younger, hipper” versions of Little Orphan Annie (now simply “Annie”) and Dick Tracy (as “Rick Tracy”). Very Scary!annieAnd our friends at Classic Media mention in their promotionals some things I hadn’t read before – Gerald McBoing Boing is being developed for Cartoon Network, and George Of The Jungle has 26 new half hours in production through Studio B (in Canada) – both scheduled for 2005.

BELVISION

belvision ink and paint staff
Belvision’s ink & paint staff working on PINOCCHIO IN OUTER SPACE (1965)
(Click on picture above for larger image.)

While everybody was in Anncey last week, French filmmaker Philippe Capart was in Los Angeles and handed me a copy of his new documentary, “BELVISION: The Goldmine At The Bottom Of The Corridor” (that’s the english translation).Even though it was in French (no subtitles) I could tell this is a superb work, documenting the history of a pioneering Belgium studio that first animated Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, not to mention Bozo The Clown, The Smurfs, the feature Pinocchio In Outer Space and even a pilot for The Flintstones (if my video card wasn’t broken I’d display some grabs from the clips in the documentary – man, the French “Flintstones” look cool – I’ll try to update this post with an image when I can).There are interviews with key surviving personnel, as well as Fred Ladd, Norm Prescott and Larry Harmon. But the highlights are the vintage behind the scenes film clips (apparently Belvison shot behind-the-scenes footage for most of their productions) and scenes from classic French animated TV films and commercials… stuff we American rarely see.
I remember seeing their limited Tintin animations on (U.S.) TV in the early 1960s – it got me interested in the character, whose exploits were being serialized in CHILDREN’S DIGEST (anyone remember that publication?).I don’t know where anyone could see this documentary, but I assume Philippe will be submitting it to animation festivals. I understand it ran on Belgium television a few months ago. Hopefully someone will translate it and air it in the U.S. someday. It’s a fascinating chapter in animation history and I highly recommend this film.

Annecy Report #3

annecy 04In Robert Kohr’s Thursday Annecy report posted at AnimatorsUnite.com, he writes about the jubilant atmosphere of the screenings: the paper airplanes, the scream-along Rabbit/Carrot trailer, the open-air screenings and other sorts of craziness that went down at Annecy. The atmosphere that he so accurately describes is one of the things that’s most difficult to capture through the written word. The pure enthusiasm and joy for animation that I sensed in Annecy is one that I’ve rarely experienced in Los Angeles, even with all of our cartoon events and myriad animation artists living here. The last night of the festival, I was sitting in the “American Bar” next to some Annecy locals, including one named Francois who works as a webmaster for a French bank. Between his limited English, and my even more limited French, he managed to communicate to me how much he appreciates animation and how he wanted to thank all the artists who come to Annecy every year from around the world. Annecy is indeed something special; it’s a world-class celebration of the animated art form in a gorgeous setting and among wonderful people. Outside of the complimentary festival press pass, I paid for the whole trip out of my own pocket, and while it’s put something of a pinch on my finances, I don’t regret spending the money one bit. If you love animation, you owe it to yourself to visit Annecy at least once. Now for a few final thoughts from the festival…

HAIR HIGHBill Plympton’s personality is so down-to-earth and unpretentious that it’s sometimes easy to forget that the man is an animation genius. I was reminded of his genius when I saw his latest feature, HAIR HIGH, which had its European premiere at Annecy. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most entertaining animated features I’ve seen in a long time. The film’s story is tight and engaging, the characters are appealing and well defined, and there’s an appropriately eclectic voice cast including Dermot Mulroney, Sarah Silverman, Keith and David Carradine, Martha Plimpton, Ed Begley Jr., Matt Groening and Don Hertzfeldt. But above and beyond all this, the primary reason for the film’s greatness is that it’s designed for animation from the ground up. Bill uses every square inch of the screen to create hilarious gags and sequences that can only be conceived and executed in animation. When a character plays football, the size of his football helmet is molded to match his outlandishly huge hair. When another character has a coughing fit, he doesn’t stop until his innards are oozing on the table in front of him. A car leaves behind a trail of flowers on the road to signify the happiness of the couple inside. Imagination and wit effortlessly flow throughout the film and dare I say, it’s Mr. Plympton’s strongest animated feature to date. As Rod (a character in the film) might say, “HAIR HIGH is really gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood.”

lorenzoThe fifth and final short film competition program at Annecy was pure excellence. The first four competition programs were hit and miss (with an emphasis on the miss), but nearly every short in the last program was solid. Among the more memorable films were CIRCUIT MARINE by Isabelle Favez, THE CRAB REVOLUTION by Arthur de Pins (which deservedly won the Audience Award), RAGING BLUES by Vincent Paronnaud, BID ‘EM IN by Neal Sopata and MOON by Andrea Pierri. The program was also home to the oddest film in the competition, the enigmatic IN by Philipp Hirsch. A significant portion of the audience, myself included, walked out in the middle of this 24-minute film. The Dada-ish looking short generated quite a bit of discussion during the last couple days of the festival and after speaking to folks who managed to sit through it, I regret not having had the patience to make it through the entire film. Also, a couple other films worth mentioning from earlier competition programs: UTSU-MUSUME SAYURI by Takashi Kimura which is about as twisted as animation gets, and Hisko Hulsing’s SEVENTEEN, a dark and entertaining hand-drawn animated short which falls visually somewhere between BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and MTV’S DOWNTOWN.

Saturday, the last day of Annecy, was a time to kick back and relax. Everybody recognized the festival was coming to an end and it seems a good percentage of festivalgoers decided to take it easy in anticipation of the awards ceremony and party on Saturday evening. In the afternoon, there was a wonderful picnic/peddleboat race by Lake Annecy. The hosts were the incomparable Nik and Nancy Phelps and an eclectic group of forty or so folks made it to the gathering. I’m sorry to report that the boat I was in arrived last in the race, despite the star peddling power of Bill Plympton and Ottawa festival director Kelly Neall. It probably didn’t help that we veered off course by over a mile. After the picnic, it was time for the Annecy awards ceremony. Assuming that it would be your typically overlong and tedious awards presentation, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to attending the event. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a beautifully orchestrated, briskly-paced Japanese-themed awards ceremony. After accepting their awards, the winners remained on-stage, sitting on Japanese-style benches and drinking tea, a fanciful touch that worked perfectly. The top two prizes went to Chris Landreth’s RYAN (Special Jury Award) and Mike Gabriel’s LORENZO (Grand Prix Annecy Cristal), both well deserving of their accolades. (And Mike gets bonus points for telling me he’s a regular Cartoon Brew reader.) The closing night party followed afterwards for a superb ending to an incredible week in France.

Here’s to all the awesome people I saw in Annecy last week: Barry O’Donoghue, David Verral, Patrick Smith, Rita Street, Georges Schwizgebel, Lance Taylor, Peter Lord, Kelly Neall, Biljana Labovic, Harald Siepermann, Joseph Gilland, Aron Steinke, Greg Araya & Julie (congrats you two!), Chansoo Kim, Don Duga, Adam Yaniv, Rajesh Chakraborty, Kevin Lofton, Jimmy Murakami, Dan Sarto, Heather Kenyon, Bob and Cima Balser, Giannalberto Bendazzi, Mike Barrier, Will Ryan, David Calvo, Marysia Nowaczynski, Ed Hooks, Signe Baumane, Jennifer Aujame, Celia Bullwinkel, Didier Pasamonik, Tony Tulipano, Jim Campbell, Fernando Pazos, Maryam Fahimi, Mike Gabriel, Raul Garcia, Robert Kohr, Bill Plympton, Felix Gonnert, Claudia Romero, Reglan Brewer, Evelien Hoedekie, Hisko Hulsing, Dick Roberts, Gene and Zdenka Deitch, Nik and Nancy Phelps, Tomm Moore, Paul Young, Emad Hajjaj, JJ Villard, Wouter Sel, Meren Imchen, Jamie Badminton, Jo Jurgens, Andrew Park, Peter de Seve and many many others. See you in Annecy next year!

RADIO BREW

radio free brewOnce again, Cartoon Research (and Cartoon Brew) takes to the airwaves!Tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday June 16th, at 4pm Eastern or 1pm Pacific Jerry Beck will be a guest on QR77 Afternoons with Dave Taylor on CHQR AM 77 in Calgary. We are going to spend a whole hour discussing classic cartoons and taking your phone calls. You can listen live on the web at the QR77 website. So if you have the time, listen in tomorrow for full hour of cartoon chat!

A UPA CHRISTMAS – IN JUNE

magoo ballStart hanging out near stationery stores NOW!Brew correspondent Tom Giatras sent me this link from Carlton Cards showing off their 2004 Xmas ornament cartoon collection (yes, already). They have some good new ones featuring Dexter’s Lab, Gumby, Rankin-Bass’ Rudolf & Frosty, The Simpsons and Mr. Bill. But for me, the big news is this nice one based on UPA’s Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol! With Gerald McBoing Boing on his shoulder (as Tiny Tim)! Pretty cool.Perhaps Carlton will dig deeper into the UPA line and next year produce Joe Jitsu and Go-Go Gomez Christmas cards, Christopher Crumpet and Pete Hothead wrapping paper, and a Tell-Tale Heart snow globe.

BYE BYE CRUNCH TOONS

junk foodThe difference between this blog and other animation news websites is that, instead of reporting the news of SHREK 2′s box office achievements or the award winning films at ANNECY, we take note that the sale of CRUNCH TOONS (2003-2004) has ended.Poore Bros. has announced today that their saltly snack chips, that had packaging tied into the Looney Tunes brand, has officially failed. They are discontuing the brand as of September 30th. The press release is here.

MY WEEKEND

popeye ali babaI’m back!Where’ve I been? The Missus and me took an anniversary trip (it’s been one year since we got married!) up the coast to Hearst Castle.So I’ve been off the internet for three days, out of touch with the real world, and having a a great time exploring the towns along the US 101. And I found a few cartoon items in the Antique stores along the way… blogging to continue shortly.

Annecy Report #2

annecy 04There was an older gentleman sitting in front of me on the bus a couple days ago, and he was talking to some other folks about Harry Houdini. For some reason, I felt compelled to take a glance at his name tag and find out who he was. It turned out to be none other than the legendary Jimmy Murakami, UPA veteran, independent filmmaker, and longtime animation director in the UK of, among many other projects, WHEN THE WIND BLOWS. That’s the great thing about festivals. You never know who you’re going to meet, but it’s guaranteed to be somebody interesting. I’ve met a bunch of great artists over the past few days including BLAST readers Lance Taylor (whose TV pilot MONSTORIES is in competition) and Jamie Badminton, who is working at Vanguard Animation on VALIANT. I also had a chance to chat with Tomm Moore and Paul Young of the exciting Irish cartoon studio Cartoon Saloon, and fellow Irish studio head Barry O’Donoghue, who produced Teddy Newton and Bert Klein’s BOYS NIGHT OUT and has some other interesting shorts currently in production at his studio Barley Films. Just a few of the other folks I’ve met: animation designer Harald Siepermann from Germany, animator Joseph Gilland from Canada, Vancouver Film School students Aron Steinke and Adam Yaniv, San Francisco musician Nik Phelps, and his wife/producer Nancy, who both do an admirable job of promoting indie animation, and the New York cartoonist contingent (Patrick Smith, Jim Campbell, Celia Bullwinkel and Robert Kohr of AnimatorsUnite.com).

Sleep is not part of the schedule at a festival like Annecy. With the exception of one night where I managed a full twelve hours of sleep, all my other nights in Annecy have only generated 3-4 hours of shut eye. But the opportunities to meet all the people mentioned above among many other fine folks more than makes up for the lack of slumber. To give an example of the type of activities available here in Annecy, in the span of the last 24 hours, in addition to watching films, I’ve been to an intimate late-night gathering at the picturesque ANIMATION MAGAZINE villa, a fun little picnic by Lake Annecy with animation folk like Bill Plympton, Georges Schwizgebel, Signe Baumane and Patrick Smith, and a late-night gathering at the incredibly packed “American Bar,” a Scottish pub where mostly English-speaking folks hang out when there’s no other parties going on.

KING BABIES

baby kingsOur spy Tom Giatras snapped this sad shot of a section of the King Features booth, at the NY Licensing Show going on this week. Baby Popeye and Baby Boop are once again being offered to merchandisers who probably have no idea of the legacy of these classic characters. Heck, I don’t know if King Features themselves understand anything about them… Sigh!

STALLING IMPORT

stalling cdA newly released import, Cartoon Melodies: A Tribute To The Classic Warner Bros Cartoons — Music Composed & Conducted By Carl Stalling (retail $9.99) appears to be a reissue of THE CARL STALLING PROJECT from small label Bud Movies in Spain. The 18 track set features music from “Hobby Horse Laffs”, “Porky In Wackyland”, “Curtain Razor”, “Hillbilly Hare”, “Satan’s Waitin”, “Putty Tat Trouble part 6″, “Calling Dr Porky”, “Porky’s Preview”, “The Good Egg”, and “Porky’s Tire Trouble”. (CD also features a bonus multimedia track to play on any Windows system — with information on the artist and other notes). If you’re curious, it can be ordered from Dusty Groove America.com.

POPEYE’S VOYAGE

bill moritzBrew reader Tom Giatras took some pictures (click pic 1 and pic 2) and sends this report from the New York Licensing Show:

Just came back from the above. GOD, I love that show. Anyway…Fears re: the Popeye CGI cartoon’s look seem unfounded. The King Features booth was running a 2-minute demo of the cartoon and the character design is nowhere near as offputting as that one sh–ty press shot would suggest. In fact, apart from the disorienting 3D look of traditionally 2D characters (will Peanuts be next?) and that horrible Popeye Rap they were running throughout the demo, it looks very good.And yep, Baby Pink Panther, Baby Popeye, Baby Betty Boop were there… nauseating.

MERRIE MELODIES MYSTERY

hollywood steps out

Cartoon historian Cole Johnson sent me this jpeg of his cel from HOLLYWOOD STEPS OUT (WB 1941).The odd thing about it is that in the actual cartoon, Jimmy Stewart is wearing a tux – not an Army uniform. Cole thinks this might be the way the film was originally – and changed for its “Blue Ribbon” reissue. My guess is that this was a special cel made for publicity purposes.As HOLLYWOOD STEPS OUT was in production in 1940, and released May 1941, before the US entered the war – and as Stewart joined the Army in March ’41 – and that both characters are on the same cel (they were most likely on separate cels on the production art), I doubt this was an image from the original version of the film.But a damn nice piece of art, Cole. Thanks for sharing it with us.

TAKE AN INKER TO LUNCH

Would you like to talk to a woman who’s animation career spans more than 50 years?Women in Animation Los Angeles presents a salon honoring Merle Welton, who began her life in animation as an inker on Disney’s Snow White. This informal lunch event will be at the Smoke House restaurant on Saturday July 10, 2004 beginning at 12 noon.
Merle will tell tales about her days at Disney, about the fun of working at Filmation and the golden days at Hanna Barbera. The Smoke House is located at 4420 Lakeside Dr., Burbank, across from Warner Brothers. To join this luncheon you need to call WIA’s reservation line (310-535-3838) to reserve a seat.

Annecy Report #1

annecy 04I’d originally planned to write daily reports from Annecy, but there’s so much to see and do here that I’m not exactly finding a whole lot of free time to post daily. What I’ll try to do is post odds and ends about the films I see and people I meet while I’m over in France.

Annecy: I’ve really enjoyed walking around the “old town” area of Annecy, a wonderful maze of narrow streets and perfectly “aged” buildings, perhaps a bit Disney-fied (it seems they construct the facades of the new buildings to look weathered), but nevertheless quite pretty. I’d post photos, but I opted at the last moment to leave my digital camera back home. Photos from my throwaway camera will be posted upon my return to LA. I also inadvertently got lost in the residential areas of the city (Annecy and its surrounding areas have a population of over 100,000 so it’s not exactly a tiny town), and it ended up being a nice way of seeing parts of Annecy that I otherwise may not have had an opportunity to see. I’m planning on getting lost again sometime later in the week to see more of the city.

On Sunday evening, my first night in town, I had a pleasant dinner with Ed Hooks, author of ACTING FOR ANIMATORS. Ed, an actor himself, told me about his next book which he’s just finishing up and it sounds wonderful. For this second volume on animation acting, he’s selected around a dozen animated features, both classic Disney and modern features (including CG and anime), and he’s writing an in-depth analysis of the acting in each of these films. Should be a valuable book for animators.

TOKYO GODFATHER: Like Satoshi Kon’s earlier film MILLENNIUM ACTRESS, this opening night film of the festival also whisked me away into a deep slumber. But that’s not the surprise. Following the film, I ran into animation legend Ray Harryhausen at the opening night party, and we chatted for a bit. He asked me what I had thought of TOKYO GODFATHERS and I admitted that I fell asleep during the film. Ray then gave his review of the film, and in the process showed me why he’s a legend: because he has great taste. Ray said there was absolutely no reason to produce GODFATHERS in animation because it didn’t take advantage of the medium. He also pondered why the filmmakers had designed all the characters to be so unappealing and ugly. I didn’t think there was any way I could have more respect for Ray Harryhausen than I already did, but he showed me a way.

Films: Watching animated shorts is of course one of the main reasons for attending any animation festival and I’ve already seen a handful of good ones. Two highlights have been the impressive CG film RYAN by Chris Landreth (about the life of NFB animator Ryan Larkin) and Mike Gabriel’s LORENZO, which artfully shows the undiscovered potential of blending hand-drawn and digital animation. (For more on these films, check out Mark Mayerson’s comments on RYAN, and Jerry Beck’s thoughts on LORENZO). Roy Disney was in the house for one of the screenings of LORENZO and he received thunderous and lengthy applause. I’ve also enjoyed CALPYSO LIKE SO by Bruno Collet (France) which is a stop motion piece about Robert Mitchum’s quest for an Oscar. Fellow Annecy attendee Will Ryan pointed out that the storytelling in the film was a bit confused, and I agree, but any fan of Mitchum films like NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, THE LONGEST DAY and CAPE FEAR will get a kick out of the film. I’ve laughed hardest at PLASTICAT by Simon Bogojevic-Narath (Croatia). The film’s CG characters are fairly crude, but they are well animated and the concept is great. It takes the cliche of good and evil fairies, which appear above character’s shoulders in countless cartoons and live-action films, and skewers the idea to its ultimate extreme. FRANK AND WENDY HUNGERBURGER from David Snowman (Estonia) was also quite bizarre and funny – something about an evil plan to implant electronic chips into hamburgers to make people want to eat more burgers, the “axis of evil,” and a fly that saves the day. I’m still trying to figure it out.

More to come…

MONSTER ROAD

bruce bickford headsMonster Road is a feature-length documentary by Brett Ingram (Director/Co-editor) and Jim Haverkamp (Co-Producer/Co-Editor) that explores the fantastic work of legendary underground clay animator Bruce Bickford.The reclusive Bickford usually works alone in a small basement studio in Seattle. His films, especially the dark and magical clay animations he created for musician Frank Zappa in the 1970s (see BABY SNAKES), have achieved cult status, even though very little of his 40 year body of work has been released to the public.Bickford will be making several L.A. appearences this month in conjunction with screenings at IFP LA Film Festival. MONSTER ROAD is screening this week in ANNECY and has already won numerous awards at Sundance, Ann Arbor and the Boston Film Festivals. It screens in Hollywood on Tuesday, June 22 at 9:30 pm, Laemmle Sunset Theatre (8000 Sunset Blvd), and Thursday, June 24 at 5:15 pm, DGA Theatre 2 (7920 Sunset Blvd.). Bickford will be on hand at the screenings to answer questions and show some of his original clay sculptures.On Wednesday night June 23rd at 10:00pm at the Sponto Gallery, 7 Dudley Ave. in Venice, Bickford will personally screen some of his latest short films. (I will be screening some rare musical films that night peceeding Bickford’s appearence).

2-D EXPO

gabe drew thisOn June 26th, in Burbank, Asifa-Hollywood is hosting a 2-D EXPO.I am one of the co-conspirators behind this event – and it’s shaping up nicely. Basically it’s a full day of panels discussing the current state of traditional (you know, hand drawn) animation. Confirmed panelists & guests include Eric Goldberg, Shane Glines, Raul Garcia, Mark Kausler, Mike Nguyen, Bert Klein, Tom Sito, Eddie Mort, Lili Chin, Jorge Gutuerrez and Gabe Swarr. Amid and I will be moderating panels.Panels cover topics such as “2-D THE NEXT DIRECTION”, “FLASH ANIMATION”, “DOING IT YOURSELF”, “DISTRIBUTION” and “NETWORK PROGRAMMING”.In the evening we are planning a sneak preview screening of a new 2-D feature (to be announced) and a program of recent UNSOLD PILOTS. There will be a networking area with a few exhibitors, including bookseller Stuart Ng, animators Stephen Silver and Bob Harper, The Animation Show and the Asifa booth which will take consignments, selling artists sketch books and art materials. [email protected] and I’ll point you in the right direction.

THE BUZZ ON “PRIDE”

This doesn’t sound too good:Silence greeted the NBC sales presentation of FATHER OF THE PRIDE, the Dreamworks CG animated comedy based on Siegfried and Roy’s tiger family. According to an AP story, “…bad buzz had started humming for one of NBC’s highest-profile fall series.” Industry analyst Jack Myers wrote, “The reaction of NBC’s advertising clients was so negative that it’s unlikely the program will last on NBC’s schedule.”

AnimationMentor.Com

Here’s a website that looks quite promising: AnimationMentor.com. The concept is an on-line animation school where students can receive personalized animation instruction from pros working in the industry. There’s only a preview video up right now, although I’m told the site will begin accepting students this Fall. Not only does the concept seem well thought out, but the creators of Animation Mentor are all animators actively working in feature animation which means the instruction should be first-rate. If the preview video is any indication, they’ve gotten a lot of their industry co-workers backing the project and they’re aiming to offer a serious alternative to traditional animation schools. Definitely something to keep an eye on. (Thanks to Ted for letting me know about this)

LION KING REUNION

simbaTen years ago, The Lion King not only became the high water mark of the Disney Feature Animation revival, but it also capped the 2-D animation renaissance of the 1990s.
On Monday June 14th in Glendale you can join story artists, directors, producers and animators as they recall the making of this film, and remember a time when animators drew with pencils.Former Lion King story artist TOM SITO will moderate a panel which will include JEFFREY KATZENBERG, both
directors ROGER ALLERS & ROB MINKOFF, co-writer IRENE MEECHI, animator of Scar ANDREAS DEJA, animator of Pumbaa TONY BANCROFT, animator of Timon MIKE SURREY, CGI creator of the Wildebeast Stampede SCOTT JOHNSTON – and others.
All proceeds will benefit the ASIFA-Hollywood Archive Fund.Monday, June 14, 7:00 p.m.
Glendale Public Library Auditorium

222 E. Harvard Ave, Glendale, CAMore info at www.asifa-hollywood.org