Dreamworks is getting flak over the use of Italian American stereotypes in its new movie, SHARK TALE. While DreamWorks maintains that the movie is a comedy and that its (stereotyped) villains become “heroes”, the Columbus Citizens Foundation is taking the argument public with this response to Dreamworks claims.My question: Is anyone gonna complain about Will Smith’s character?SHARK TALE opens Oct. 1st.
In case you were wondering what ever happened to Alvin, Simon and Theodore:
“Fox 2000 Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Animation and Bagdasarian Productions will produce a live-action/computer-generated event motion picture of Alvin and the Chipmunks…”
Hoo boy! Read the sad story here.
The Museum Of Modern Art in New York is planning a big film-and-video tribute to CalArts that will take place in late 2005/early 2006. The program will highlight the School’s illustrious animation history (it will include student works only, not those of faculty or post graduates). This historical survey will feature films and videos produced by the following departments: Film and Video, Experimental Animation, Character Animation, and Film Directing. Also included are films and videos produced in the MFA program.Current students and alumni are invited to submit their films and videos for consideration. Please send these, along with a CV and any descriptive materials, to:Josh Siegel
Assistant Curator, Department of Film and Media
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019Film prints will be returned. Videocassettes, unless they are unique, will not. The curator of the exhibition, Josh Siegel, also welcomes any suggestions about CalArts graduates and where they might be contacted. Please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oscar Grillo writes this nice memory of how he was inspired by Duane Crowther’s work:
Duane was not only a great animator. He was a great guy… he was my mentor. Aged sixteen I started to work in animation in Buenos Aires. I played a practical joke (I removed the boss’s chair when he was about to sit and he fell on his ass…I was an idiot) and I was fired. I knew I blew my chances to work in animation for the rest of my life. I begged some people in another studio to let me stay with them for no pay. They had a showreel from an American studio named Robert Lawrence Animation. It was terrific…I looked at it frame by frame in the moviola and checked out some of their tricks and techniques. Suddenly I felt that I understood the mysteries of animation and design and I tried to put it into practice. The boss I had played the stupid trick on came to visit the studio and saw the work I was doing then and rehired me on the spot and I started to earn my living as an animator.
Many years later I visited Duck Soup in Santa Monica and through Lee Mishkin I met Duane. He invited me to a great lunch at Musso & Frank and asked me what got me started. I mentioned the Robert Lawrence showreel and he said “What commercials did they have on it?” I said “This and that,” and he said “I made them” so I discovered who was my inspiration and made me do it. God bless Duane, I miss his censoriousness and pessimistic views, but compared with what passes for optimism today he was a genuine and true optimist!
Every so often I see a piece of animation that completely knocks me out, a gem that I never even knew existed. This past weekend I saw such a film: BLUM BLUM. The 3-minute black-&-white short was a student film produced by Duane Crowther in 1949 while he was attending UCLA. Duane was born in December 1928 so he would have been only twenty years old when he made the film. An experienced animator would be proud to have his name on this film, so it boggles the mind that such a mature work was created by somebody who had never animated before. To put it into some sort of perspective, I don’t think that in all the years I’ve attended the CalArts year-end screenings, I’ve ever seen a piece of student animation that exhibits such an innate sense of timing and overall understanding of the animated form.
BLUM BLUM is difficult to describe in words and must be seen to be truly appreciated. It is set to a rather goofy novelty tune by Peggy Lee and seamlessly jumps back and forth between abstract shape animation and character animation. All sorts of innovative UPA-ish modernity are on display throughout the film such as animating a character’s line and shape separately and having a round character flatten out when he turns to the side. When Duane made the film though, UPA had only released a couple Fox and Crow theatricals so his modernist influences must have come from elsewhere. Not surprisingly he started working at UPA-LA shortly after he finished this film. In Gene Deitch’s on-line autobiography, he recalls how Duane was transferred to UPA’s New York studio:
Ted Bethune, the background painter, was a Canadian, and wanted to go home. That presented us with our first crisis, and I got on the phone several times with Steve [Bosustow], imploring him to send me a replacement. Orders were coming in, and we didn’t have a background artist. As my desperation mounted, Steve put his hand over the mouthpiece, but I could still hear him ask someone, “Can you paint backgrounds?”
“Uh-oh,” I thought. “What are we going to get?” Shortly, a handsome 20-year-old with bright black eyes showed up. He painted the worst backgrounds I had seen up to that time. “What else can you do?” I asked plaintively. I could not throw back a fellow Steve sent me.
“I have this reel I animated when I was 18,” he said. I led him into the projection room with no real hope. The animation was sensational. Here was a natural born animator! He became my star. He was Duane Crowther.
The reel that Gene is referring to is, of course, the film BLUM BLUM. It is a testament to Duane’s talent that he became one of two main animators at UPA-NY, the other animator being none other than the great Grim Natwick. Fred Crippen, who’ll be honored at the Ottawa Animation Festival next week, was given his animation training by Duane at UPA-NY and was his assistant animator for a couple years. Even though Fred hasn’t seen BLUM BLUM in nearly fifty years, he still distinctly recalls it as being a terrific film.
After working in New York for most of the Fifties, Crowther returned to LA where he worked on TV commercials for Filmfair, Quartet and Jay Ward Productions among other studios. In the late-’60s, he went to England to work on THE YELLOW SUBMARINE where he animated sequences with the Blue Meanies. In the Seventies, Duane established the commercial studio Duck Soup Productions with Roger Chouinard. He passed away in 1998.
Animator Mark Kausler who kindly showed me BLUM BLUM, and likely has the only copy of the film in existence, also worked with Duane for many years. At some point, I’ll have to bug him for more details about Duane’s work. He told me that after this student effort, Duane never made another personal film. Then again, when somebody achieves perfection on their first attempt, what’s the point of trying again?
Ward Kimball is the only animator I can ever imagine being caught up in this sort of stuff. This ARTICLE recounts Ward’s involvement with secret unreleased government footage of UFOs. Most intriguing, the piece says that in 1979 Ward publicly screened 15-20 minutes of animation from an unfinished Disney documentary about UFOs. Does this footage still exist? I’d love to see it.
Warner Bros. animation director Mike Milo (Xiaolin Showdown) has a new flash animation:
Sorry for this shameless self-promotion but I am part of a contest run by a Warner Bros’ website called Cartoon Monsoon. It’s a series of cartoons made entirely in Flash and each week they premiere a new cartoon. Well this week it’s MY cartoon “The Jackalope Boyz”! I’ve been in the biz for 15 years and I’ve had 7 projects go through development at WB, H+B, Cartoon Network and Universal and of course you have no idea who I am, so obviously none were ever green lit. Anyway I’m looking to stir up votes for my cartoon and it would only take three minutes out of your schedule.
Good Luck Mike.
Scrappy and Gerald McBoing Boing shake hands with The Inspector and Hoot Kloot – It’s official:Sony has purchased the United Artists/Orion/A.I.P./post 1985 MGM library.
The first review of SHARK TALE is in. “Bottom line: An amusing cartoon that lacks real satirical bite.” Read the whole review on The Hollywood Reporter.com.
I’ve been following the on-going bidding war for the MGM studio (or as I like to call it “MGM/UA”). Time Warner (aka Warner Bros.) was close to acquiring the studio (and its library which includes the DePatie-Freleng Pink Panther cartoons, and the AIP/Orion library which includes FRITZ THE CAT, HEAVY TRAFFIC, ALAKAZAM THE GREAT, PRINCE PLANET, THE WORLD OF HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN, JACK & THE WITCH, etc.)This morning Time-Warner withdrew it’s offer, and has left it to Sony (with it’s under ultilized Screen Gems/UPA classic cartoon library) to pick up the pieces.As I am currently writing a PINK PANTHER Ultimate Visual Guide for DK Publishing, all of this interests me. There are pros and cons to each of these studios acquiring the MGM holdings. If Warners picked it up, dvd sets of the cartoon library would probably make their way to the public rather quickly. Sony on the other hand, has no idea what to do with animated cartoons – nor classic feature films – based on what I’ve seen of the films they’ve already released (and not released) on dvd.
May the best media conglomorate (and cartoon fans) win.
Last month I sung the praises of Benjamin Ettinger’s anime blog AniPages Daily, but it’s worth doing again. During the past couple weeks, he’s posted an excellent beginner’s guide to the history of independent animation in Japan and it’s fascinating reading. I’ve managed to see a handful of the films he writes about including Tezuka’s TALES OF A STREETCORNER (thanks Mark), a retrospective of Taku Furukawa’s work at Ottawa ’02, a couple of Yoji Kuri’s films, and assorted bits here and there, but to be honest, until I read Ben’s pieces I had no idea how all these artists and films related to one another in the context of Japan’s indie animation scene. The story begins in this ENTRY, continues HERE and ends with this POST. If only every blog was this informative and entertaining. And while on the subject of Japanese animation, here’s a nice page that has a listing of all of Osamu Tezuka’s independent films complete with stills and clips. I’d really like to see PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION one of these days.
The Second Annual Benefit for the Cartoon Art Museum will be held Saturday, October 2nd at Pixar. Pixar Animation Studios will host the second annual benefit at 6pm with a special evening on the Emeryville campus.
Over wine and hors d’oeuvres you will see a stunning gallery exhibition featuring the pre-production artwork for the Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Pixar Animation Studios film, The Incredibles, opening November 5, 2004. Guests will then be escorted into Pixar’s state-of-the-art 240 seat theater to hear the artists and wizards behind Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles share their unique perspectives on the movie-making process. After the presentation, guests will have an opportunity to converse with the speakers and other Pixarians.
Special guest speakers ewill include: Gary Rydstrom, sound designer; Andrew Stanton, writer/director, Finding Nemo; Mark Andrews, Head of Story, The Incredibles; Angus MacLane, animator; and Dr. Michael B. Johnson, Pixar R&D.This event will sell out quickly and there are only a limited number of seats available. Cartoon Art Museum members can purchase tickets for the reduced rate of $125, while the non-member rate is $175. Tickets will not be sold at the door.
More information is posted at www.cartoonart.orgCartoon Art Museum
655 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
phone: (415) CAR-TOON
New Yorkers can see BUSHWHACKED!, another Bush-related film festival, this weekend at the 8th annual RESFEST. Here is a description of the show:
A special program for this election year of great viral political films from media jammers (The Yes Men, Bryan Boyce, Michael Moore) around the world, includes some world premieres like Pinocchio (image shown here) which was too hot for MoveOn.org, and a “Schoolhouse Rock”-style animation from Eric Henry, Pirates & Emperors (Or Size Does Matter).
(via Boing Boing)
Eddie Mort and Lili Chin REPORT on their blog that Macromedia is developing a new version of Flash geared towards animators and designers. Mike Downey of Macromedia emailed them this note: “I’m happy to tell you that we’re in the early stages of defining the next version of Flash, code-named ’8ball’, and will be focusing the release on animators, multimedia designers, and digital artists… The next product release is being managed by an entirely new team of long-time Flash and graphics experts (unlike the last release) and we are all super-determined to return Flash to its roots and make it much better for designers and animators. We may not be able to do everything within the next release, but we definitely have Flash back on track for the future.” If you’re a Flash animator, feel free to contribute to the COMMENTS section of Eddie and Lili’s blog and tell Macromedia what features you’d like to see incorporated into the udpated Flash.