Every Cartoonist Counts

Two and a half hours. That’s how long it took me to cast an early vote on Friday afternoon. Let’s put it this way: the wait was so long that people were ordering food on their cell phones and having it delivered to them in line. When I departed the Beverly Hills polling station, there were still over two hundred people waiting. If the lines weren’t bad enough, so many people had voted earlier in the day that they had run out of those cool oval-shaped “I Voted” stickers.

Well, sticker or no sticker, this is an important election, folks, and both Jerry and I want to urge Cartoon Brew readers to exercise their right to vote on Tuesday, November 2nd. The Brew will not collectively endorse a candidate, like some other pop culture sites are doing, nor are we going to link to sites that might be considered partisan. But a quick anecdote. I was chatting recently with animation veteran Victor Haboush and he told me that he considers the vote he’ll be casting next week to be the most important one of his lifetime. Those words carry a bit of weight coming from somebody who’s been around for more than a few elections and who was part of the invasion of Normandy on D-Day. So take a cue from Vic and participate in this election. And remember, arrive early if you want a sticker.

PIGTALE

Brew pal Ovi Nedelcu’s new comic PIGTALE debuts on January 12, 2005. Ovi has worked as a character designer/visual development artist on a number of animated series including XIAOLIN SHOWDOWN and ZETA PROJECT. His new bi-monthly comic project, published by Image Comics, has a similar animation-inflected style with crisp design work and a dynamic sense of staging. PIGTALE is the story of amateur private investigator Boston Booth and his talking pig Clyde, and their attempts to save the city of Portland, Oregon (not that it’s particularly worth saving, but that’s besides the point). Take a look at this PREVIEW and all the positive REVIEWS from folks in the biz.


JACKY’S WACKY WORLD

Scott Shaw informs us:On Thursday, November 4th, the multi-talented Jack Mendelsohn — creator of the classic Oddball comic strip, comic book and Paramount animated cartoon JACKY’S DIARY, among many other animated projects (including YELLOW SUBMARINE) — will be honored by The Writer’s Guild of America, West with their Lifetime Achievement Award for Animated Cartoon Writing.The event will take place on Thursday, November 4, 2004, at the Writer’s Guild of America, West headquarters at 7000 West Third Street, Los Angeles, CA 90248, 323/951-4000. A reception begins at 7:00pm and the awards ceremony starts at 8:00pm. Reservations are NOT necessary.

“Polar Express” Nonsense

I haven’t liked what I’ve seen so far on THE POLAR EXPRESS, but I’m willing to give Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks the benefit of the doubt – for now. However, the hype machine is getting on my nerves. Like this quote from director Zemeckis:

“I think when you see the movie, you’ll realize it’s absolutely nothing like an animated movie,” Zemeckis said. “You’ll see such subtlety in the performance of these characters that you would have to have the genius-of-all-genius animators. In my opinion, there’s no animation in the world that could have created it.”

Is he kidding?It’s motion capture – the CG equivalent of the rotoscope. This quote is not unlike the B.S. hype that surrounded Bakshi’s LORD OF THE RINGS in ’79. Wait’ll Zemeckis sees THE INCREDIBLES. And Hanks (aka Woody) should know better.You can read the article that goes with the quote here.

Brad Bird Interview

There’s an insightful interview with Brad Bird at AnimationTrip.com. Here’s Brad talking about creating personality through movement:

One of my problems with full animation is, often times, people do beautiful movement, but it’s not specific movement. Old people move the same as young people, women move the same as men, and fat people move the same as thin people… and people don’t move the same. Everybody moves differently. If you guys were to just freeze the way you are right now, you’re both here, sharing this moment, but in very unique ways. [Brad looks at Chris] Like, you’ve got no shoes on but you’re nicely dressed at the same time. You’re kind of off to one side, but your head is counterbalancing it, tilted to the other side like that…it’s specific to you. I wish more people would pay more attention to how things move. I don’t mean just studying how things move…that’s important to know how weight shifts and all that. But it’s also the attitude of people. I feel that a goal that we set out in this was to have every single character have their own way of moving and have it be very specific. And even though it may change from animator to animator, we came to a very specific agreement on who this character was and what kind of moves they would do.

BILL LIEBOWITZ (1941-2004)

goldenapple.jpgThe Los Angeles comics and animation scene lost a big man today – Bill Liebowitz, owner of Golden Apple Comics passed away this morning from a heart attack.This is sad news indeed. When I first arrived in L.A. in 1986, I asked a friend where the best comic book store was. I was told Golden Apple, and set out to find it. I met Bill behind the counter on my very first visit. He welcomed me to L.A. as one ex-New Yorker to another. I think I’ve seen Bill almost every week since that time. I happen to live a block away from the store at the present time.Bill always reminded me of Phil Sueling, the New York comic book impresario, whom I had also known. Bigger than life, big hearted, open minded and forward thinking. Bill always greeted me with a nickname, “Mr. Animation”, because he knew of my interest in said genre. When I started Streamline Pictures, Bill supported our efforts and was the first to order, and in large quanity, our anime videos. Bill always displayed my books and we did several book signings. In fact, I’m currently doing some lectures locally, this month, due to Bill, and I’ve been helping him arrange an IRON GIANT reunion dvd signing event (Nov. 20th). I was very proud when Bill’s store (and wife Sharon) were featured in the movie FREE ENTERPRISE.I’m still in shock over this news… Check out Golden Apple this week, either in person or on-line – it’ll always be a great store, but it won’t be the same.

Meet Chris Harding

Meet my new favorite animation artist of the moment: Chris Harding. I’d never heard of him until yesterday when I ran across his name on the Persistence of Vision blog. The clips from Chris’s short film MAKE MINE SHOEBOX made me laugh so hard I nearly pissed my pants…which is the highest praise I can offer a cartoonist short of actually wetting myself. Hard to believe that SHOEBOX was a corporate film produced for Hallmark Cards. The animation is inventive, the voice-over narration hilarious and his sense of humor ingeniously skewed. Not to mention Harding has the “Fifties look” down pat. Clips from his other films – LEARN SELF DEFENSE and HE’S A GOOD MONKEY – are equally worthy of praise. This guy is a natural cartooning talent and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. Check him out at ChrisHarding.net.

More on Product Placement In Cartoons

A couple Brew readers wrote in to correct some of my recent sloppy reportage. In this ITEM posted on paid product placements in animation, I incorrectly wrote that SHORTIES WATCHIN’ SHORTIES was a new series. The first season actually premiered earlier this year and this week is the premiere of the show’s second season. But I think I’m still correct about calling the show ‘craptacular.’

Another Brew reader wrote in regarding the same topic and tells me that the NY TIMES also misreported something in their ARTICLE on product placements. The TIMES said that the product references in FATHER OF THE PRIDE were inserted gratis. Apparently, this is untrue. This reader has it on good authority that while NBC did not get paid, DreamWorks has received monetary compensation for some of the show’s product endorsements.

And finally, yet another Brew reader wrote in to say that product placement in animation is not a new phenomenon. According to this person, Disney has engaged in such activities dating back to the Eighties: “Coca Cola was one of several companies that got ‘placement’ on the streets of New York for OLIVER AND COMPANY. The artists were thrilled. During production of the feature, Coke put in soda machines all through the studio which dispensed free soda.”

A Great Day In Iceland

The Brewmasters – Jerry Beck and Amid Amidi – would like to thank Ken Pontac for being our “Guest Brewer” the last couple months and delighting us, and other readers, with tales from his animated sojourn to Iceland. You can see the results of his trip on Nick’s TV series LAZYTOWN. This will be Ken’s last entry on the Brew. We’ll be joined by a new guest blogger on November 1. Thanks, Ken!

Tuesday, August 3, 2004
_________________________

The Sunday pub tour with Thorir was fantastic (the parts that I remember, anyway). I was somewhat negligent in taking pictures or writing down the names of any of the places we went, but here are a couple of images that I probably took, because they were in my camera:

I remember a few things about that night:

> I ate three hot dogs, a slice of pizza, and a big old sandwich.

> I won a jackpot in a slot machine.

>I killed many Vikings.

After drinking until 4AM, the next day was pretty much a waste. I have no recollection or documentation of Monday at all. I was probably in an embarrassing stupor or some such thing.

That brings us to today, when I stepped outside my door to go to the little cafe that’s my home away from home, and while walking down the street saw a woman so remarkable-looking that I was compelled to take her photograph. One thing led to the next and soon she was joining me for a chat and a groove in the little cafe. It turned out that this formidable Amazon was Andrulla Blanchette, Ms. Olympia 2000. We chewed the fat for half an hour, then Andrulla had to hop on a plane to her next She-Hulk-style adventure.

Later that morning I enjoyed a ninety-minute soak and massage at the Nordica Hotel Spa, then cabbed it back to the hot dog stand to undo any of the medicinal benefits of that experience. This was followed with a quick nap and some intense LAZYTOWN writing, all washed down with a delicious dinner of Icelandic sushi (no whale or baby seal included). A few hours later I hooked up with Thorir at Club Nasty to listen to Long John Baldry. The place was packed, but we snagged a corner by the bar where I was able to buy drinks and shoot some great bootleg video of the legendary bluesman. This was the best day in Iceland ever! – Ken Pontac

ANIMATION ART

popeyeToday is the official publication date of the new book ANIMATION ART which I participated in as a writer and General Editor.The book is a 384 page “coffee table” book, a lavishly illustrated general history of worldwide animation, attempting to touch upon every significant filmmaker, event, studio, trend and technique during the last century. It also has a groovy giant eyeball on the cover (that wasn’t my idea).The book was written by a number of animation experts, including myself, Harvey Deneroff, Michael Mallory, Chris Robinson, David Gerstein, Keith Scott, Graham Webb, Mark Mayerson, Harry McCracken, Fred Patten, Will Ryan and Ray Pointer. If you need a crash course in animation history – this one’s for you. To order it from amazon.com, click here.

Japanese Doing It RIght

On his excellent blog AniPages Daily, Ben Ettinger discusses a show that airs on NHK (“Japan’s PBS,” as he puts it) called DIGITAL STADIUM. The program, on the air since 2000, screens short films by up-and-coming animators. Far from just a random showcase of films, each week’s selection of shorts is curated by well known Japanese animation directors. Following the films, there is a roundtable discussion between the filmmakers. At the end of each show, they select a “Hall of Fame” film and again at the end of the season, choose a grand prize winner. All of the “Hall of Fame” films can be viewed ONLINE. Leave it to the Japanese to innovate once again and create an insightful TV program that treats animation with respect.

ANIMATION PANEL

My pals Tom Sito, Roger Shulman and Heather Kenyon are appearing on a panel together on Wednesday night, for the Learning Annex in L.A., simply titled: Learn About Careers in AnimationThe panelists will discuss the state of the animation industry today, where the jobs are – in movies, TV, direct-to-video, traditional drawn animation vs. CGI and the development process. Panelists include:Jeff Howard (moderator): Director of creative affairs, DisneyToon Studios.
Saul Blinkoff and Elliot Bour: Directors, DisneyToon Studios.
Karen Foster: Development executive, Dreamworks Animation.
Heather Kenyon: Director of development, Cartoon Network.
Tom Sito: Director (Osmosis Jones), Animator and storyboard artist.
Robert Souza: Story artist on Shrek, Spiderman and Pocahontas II.
Roger S.H. Schulman: Screenwriter/producer. Credits: Shrek, Balto, Mulan II and The Jungle Book II.Wednesday, October 27, 2004 from 06:45 PM to 09:30 PM. For more info click here.

Incredibles Review

Last night, I walked into the theater hopeful but prepared for disappointment. After waiting for THE INCREDIBLES for what has seemed like ages, I had exceedingly high hopes for this film. The relentless onslaught of hype about Brad Bird’s latest, some of it on this very site, hadn’t helped the cause and further heightened expectations to an unreasonable excess. This film would have to be nothing short of one of the greatest animated films of all-time for me to not walk out of that theater disappointed.

Well, guess what?

THE INCREDIBLES is hands-down, without contest, the most entertaining animated feature I’ve ever seen. Yes, let me repeat that: THE MOST ENTERTAINING ANIMATED FEATURE I’VE EVER SEEN. Greatest film? Perhaps a bit hasty to make that judgement with the film still so fresh in my memory, but I can’t ever recall being so purely entertained and enthralled by an animated feature. This film didn’t just meet my expectations, didn’t just surpass them, it shattered them, crushed them into smithereens. There’s so many things I want to write about this film, so many little great moments and nuances that I want to discuss, but I’m not about to ruin it for everybody else. Experience this film for yourself and then we’ll talk.

One observation though: what was perhaps most impressive about THE INCREDIBLES was the flawless cohesion of its every element. The family dynamic could have easily been hampered with contrived emotion and heavy-handed sentimentality (just think back to the father-son relationship in FINDING NEMO); the non-stop action sequences could have turned into a muddy mind-numbing assault of color and noise, as most action films do today; the supporting characters could have become one-note annoyances that threw the viewer out of the story; the retro mid-century BG stylings could have become excessively ornamental and tacky. Everything could have and yet nothing did. Nothing did because Brad Bird is the best feature animation director working in the biz today, and he has struck the perfect balance between each and every element in his film resulting in an exquisite tapestry of story, character, animation, design, warmth, emotion, humor and satire. Props to Brad, and the entire INCREDIBLES crew – Tony Fucile, Lou Romano, Teddy Newton, Mark Andrews and the countless hundreds others – who have created an amazing cartoon and elevated this art form to new heights. As the credits started rolling, a person yelled out in the theater: “Encore!” I couldn’t agree more.

HELP WANTED!

somewherevci.jpgTwo years ago I helped Kit Parker Films and VCI Entertainment put out a dvd compilation of Max Fleischer Color Classics, under the title SOMEWHERE IN DREAMLAND. It sold moderately well, in fact VCI is completely sold out at the warehouse. Before they do another press run, I’d like to “fix” the problems and upgrade the quality.VCI is going to correct the authoring and technical imperfections (sound pops, menu problems, etc.). I’m on the hunt for better print elements. I’d had several collectors write in to tell me they have a color print of TIME FOR LOVE. If that was you, I’d like to borrow it. If you have better copies (16mm or 35mm film only) of COBWEB HOTEL, FRESH VEGETABLE MYSTERY, PEEPING PENGUINS, or better copies of any of the Color Classics than were on the disc, and are willing to loan them to me, contact me at [email protected]I don’t need any video copies – and yes, I know the original materials are at UCLA Archives, but without permission of Republic/Paramount/Viacom we can’t touch ‘em.
Thanks!

INCREDIBLES PREMIERE PARTY

incredibleswp.jpgI was invited at the last minute, last night, to attend the world premiere party for THE INCREDIBLES. Antran Manoogian (president of ASIFA-Hollywood) had an extra pass and gave me a call (Thanks Antran – I guess it really does pay to be a member of ASIFA!) and luckily I could go – actually, I’m facing deadline hell on a few assignments, but who can turn down a once in a lifetime opportunity like this!Get ready, I’m going to name drop. This was one of those big events, under a tent in the parking lot of the El Capitan theatre on Hollywood Blvd. I saw Jon Voight, Paul Dooley, Jeff Garlin, Sarah Vowell, Craig T. Nelson, Samuel Jackson, Edie McClurg, John Lasseter and Michael Eisner from afar… Tons of celebrities… Antran and I met up with and talked to Matt Groening, and we’ve hopefully convinced him to be a presenter at the Annie Awards in January. He seemed up for it. Then we ran into friends whom we talked with a bit: Bill & Sue Kroyer, Pixar’s Joe Ranft, Teddy Newton and met Lou Romano. I think I’m forgetting who else I talked to and saw… mainly because we closed the place talking to the man of the hour, Brad Bird (who reads the Brew regularly… and said everyone up at Pixar reads it too). I had only met Brad once before, we had lunch in 1995 or so… but he remembered exactly where we ate!What a night. An incredible party for an incredible movie. Gotta get sleep…

The Politics of the Incredibles

This article in the NY TIMES interviews Brad Bird about the beneath-the-surface politics of THE INCREDIBLES:

If such scenes provide some knowing moments for the red-state audience, there may be something hiding in “The Incredibles” for blue-state denizens as well. The villain of the piece, who goes by the name of Syndrome, creates a mechanical weapon of mass destruction to terrorize the world so that he can disarm it and make himself a superhero.

Will some be tempted to think of the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Mr. Bird insisted that it was not his vision of Syndrome, a vision that predated the election of Mr. Bush and the war in Iraq. But, he said, “if you connect that with George Bush, that’s all right with me.”

(via The Disney Blog)

Engel and Braxton History

Here’s a two-minute VIDEO CLIP of the late Jules Engel discussing a conflict he had with Walt Disney about a cartoon frog. He also takes a jab at other Disney artists who were too afraid of Walt to make suggestions: “That was the characteristic of the studio, you know. Nobody would speak up. They were all afraid of him…That was, I think, to a degree a mistake. Even if he would say, ‘No,’ but at least you put another idea in his head or another way of doing something. He wouldn’t bite you.” (Thanks to Wilbert P. for the link)

Animation artist Floyd Norman has written a terrific article for JHM about animator Frank Braxton, who he refers to as animation’s “Jackie Robinson.” I’ve always been curious to find out more about Braxton’s career and this piece sheds much light onto his life and work. Below is a photo published in ANIMATION BLAST #6 of Frank playing the guitar at a Format Films Christmas party (ca. early-’60s). Other people in the photo include Joe Siracusa on drums, layout artist Rosemary O’Connor on far left, and June Foray and animator Rudy Larriva getting their groove on in the center of the pic. Photo was taken by Ruben Apodaca.

IMAGES FROM LOONEY TUNES V.2

bookrevue.jpg bottleneck.jpgbackalley.jpg gloryend.jpg

castles.jpgLook familiar?
It shouldn’t. These are images (mainly original title graphics) from the LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION V.2 that have been restored to these classic cartoons for the first time in over 50 years. And wait’ll you see the restored versions of these cartoons that follow the titles. If for no other reason, this is why you should support the Golden Collection series – which goes on sale Election Day, November 2nd.