From the current issue of TIME Magazine:
“Brad and I were in the first year of the character-animation program,” recalls Lasseter, “and we bonded with our love of cartoons. At that time animation was thought of as something just for children. But Brad and I believed animation was for everybody. That’s the way Walt Disney made his films. That’s the way Chuck Jones made his cartoons.”
Read the whole piece by Richard Corliss here.
I had the pleasure of meeting Harald Siepermann at Annecy earlier this year. He’s another one of those incredible animation talents whose work is instantly familiar though his name may not be. In recent years, he’s contributed character designs to many Disney features including BROTHER BEAR, MULAN, TREASURE PLANET and TARZAN. Here’s a few of his designs from the latter film:
He’s also one of the co-creators of a popular European comic/animation character named Alfred J. Kwak. The Kwak comics and animated series never made it into the US so I was rather unaware of what it was all about when I first met him. A British friend at Annecy however was duly impressed to meet Siepermann at the festival and tells me that the show is one of the most intelligent and well-produced children’s animated series he’s ever seen.
So when Harald emailed recently to tell me about the newly released Alfred J. Kwak illustrated book, I asked if he could send over a short bit about the character’s history that I could share with Brew readers like myself who may not be familiar with the character. I’ll let Harald tell you the story…
Alfred J. Kwak, the main character of the book, was born as a stage character for a UNICEF children’s musical that Herman van Veen, a popular Dutch entertainer/singer, was asked to create in the early-Eighties. He was not visualised; Herman was doing all the voices and characters by himself, very Danny Kaye-like. After making Herman’s acquaintance backstage one day , I started to do comic strips with the duck, funny enough in collaboration with Hans Bacher [production designer, MULAN].
We were approached by a producer to work on a concept for a 52-part TV-series. The series was produced in Japan, directed by Saito-San, who also was the director of the legendary KIMBA THE WHITE LION. It premiered worldwide (excluding the US) in 1990 and won numerous prizes, mostly because we kept the socio-critical theme of the stageshows. We had episodes about apartheid, whaling, greenhouse-effects and lots of other issues, even about the Third Reich (Hitler was a crow in our show).
This new book, ABGEMACHT IST ABGEMACHT, which in English might be called A DEAL IS A DEAL, deals with the rights for children, ratified by the United Nations fifteen years ago, and plays against the backdrop of a war over oil. Similarities to recent events are absolutely intentional, though we never mention words like Iraq, Bush or Islam. Even if this all sounds very educational, 99% of everything connected to Alfred is purely fun and entertainment. Only if you look a bit deeper, will you see the issues.
The book is not available in the US, but can be picked up from Amazon-Germany.
Miniature babies in celluloid peanuts, whoopee cushions and vibrating eyes. Cartoonist Mark Newgarden will be speaking about these amusing diversions and countless others, as well as signing his new book CHEAP LAFFS: THE ART OF THE NOVELTY ITEM (mentioned HERE) on Tuesday, October 26 at the Barnes & Noble Park Slope (267 7th Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11215).
Saturday, July 31, 2004
Even though I’ve been here eighteen days (Christ, is that all? It seems like a lifetime), this Saturday was the first morning I felt like I was able to get out and watch the city wake up (they party until the morning, and stumble out of bed quite late). I took a walk and met a friendly drunk who staggered down the street as I was snapping a shot of a sign saying “Happiness is the way.” I met a loony street person who gave me a copy of her crazed manifesto, both in English and in Runic, which I plan to have translated.
I met a pair of loquacious drunks who told me to ignore the street person and listen to them.
I got a cup of coffee from another cute waitress, ate a strange sort of sandwich, and had a political conversation with a sharp Icelander who spoke in flawless English.
The studio is shut down for a “Dark Week” during which almost everybody will be on vacation, out of town, and recharging their batteries. We writers, on the other hand, will be in town working our butts off without the distracting interruptions of the production shattering our fragile concentration. It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity to get a ton done while enjoying the scene in the city. I feel as if incredible adventures are about to happen. Or at least a lot of drinking.
Looking forward to it,
It’s not often that a trailer for an abstract/non-narrative animated short interests me enough to want to write about it, but the trailer for Oerd van Cuijlenborg’s upcoming short 8.1, set to Franz Schubert’s 8th symphony, looks pretty tantalizing. It’s a slick combination of FX animation (flames, snowflakes, birds, etc.) combined with pure abstract imagery. Van Cuijlenborg is a France-based animation artist who recently directed a short for Folimage called ZODIAC and also worked on their new feature LA PROPHETIE DES GRENOUILLES (RAINING CATS AND FROGS). His earlier abstract films have a similarly elegant sense of style and rhythm. You can see clips of his work and find out more about him HERE.
Here’s a few journal comments from various Pixarians who attended THE INCREDIBLES wrap party a couple weeks ago:
RotoMonkey.org: “The thing that struck me the most about the evening, aside from Sunday morning’s hangover, was how much joy and pride the entire company took in the film. There was genuine excitement from people who didn’t work on it for the people who did.
EnricoCasarosa.com: All of you out there, you don’t know what’s about to hit you. You can’t possibly imagine … X) I have to bite my lips … can’t say more.
James-Baker.com: I have been eagerly looking forward to seeing this movie ever since I saw the designs around 4 years ago (while at Pixar working on FINDING NEMO). I am happy to say that even though my expectations have steadily being rising over the past few years, THE INCREDIBLES didn’t disappoint on any level. The production design, character design, animation, and story are all fantastic. I haven’t enjoyed a movie so much in ages. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it breaks records at the box office.
And just for the hell of it, here’s a wrap party pic of director Bird with animators Victor Navone and Dave Mullins.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
The alert reader will once again notice that six days have passed since my last entry. Time restraints now allow me to list only the highlights of my adventures. For instance:
I recently went to a sushi bar where I had a chance to eat whale, but I couldn’t bring myself to order it. I felt like I’d paid my indigenous food dues the day before by consuming half a sheep’s head brought to me by a smirking native eager to see if the new guy had the stones to sample the local cuisine. Boy, did he pick the wrong person to dare.
Frikki, the guy who brought me the sheep’s head, had picked it up at a drive-through where they sell the delicacy to busy Icelandic commuters hungry for a taste of face. By the time it reached me the noggin was cold and giving off an unpleasant muttony musk. The side dishes of potato and mashed yellow root thingie were room temperature as well. No matter. I had to geek the face or be pegged as a pussy for the rest of my stay. I channeled my inner caveman and grabbed a mouthful of cheek between my teeth, tearing it off to the appreciative murmurs of my barbaric audience. It tasted just like a cold lamb sandwich without the bread and mustard, except for the rubbery skin, which was similar to neoprene, but gamier. I ate some of the yellow root, but declined the eyeballs, offering them to Frikki instead. I was pleased when he passed on the peepers.
There’s a joint around the corner where they put you in a pen full of baby seals, thrust a club in your hand, and let you have at it (they gut the adorable corpses and cook ‘em for you). I might try that next, but fuck the club; I want to go after their furry asses barehanded.
Ken “Are You Going To Eat That?” Pontac
Top of the food chain and loving it,
A model sheet from the “All the Cats Join In” sequence of Disney’s MAKE MINE MUSIC (1946). Drawings are likely by Freddie Moore. (click on image for larger version)
Here’s a nice appreciation of caricaturist Al Hirschfeld written by fellow cartoonist Bob Staake. (via Shane Glines)
Attention – animation scholars, researchers, writers, students, and fans:Check out the revised Finder’s Guide for the John Canemaker Animation Collection, a valuable resource of historical material on animators and animation. The John Canemaker Animation Collection was founded in 1988 by animator and animation historian John Canemaker. It is housed in the Fales Library and Special Collections at the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library on the campus of New York University (70 Washington Square South in New York City).The large and unique collection includes audio tapes, audiovisual materials, rare books, drawings, flip books, monographs, periodicals, posters, press releases, and transcripts of Canemaker’s personal interviews with a multitude of animators (everyone from J.R. Bray to John Lasseter).
“Every time I complete a book or an article for the New York Times, I donate the research materials to my collection at Fales so other scholars and historians can use it for their projects,” Canemaker said. “For example, the new updated guide reflects materials I have donated over the last three years, including research data and interviews for my books on Mary Blair and Disney’s Nine Old Men and extensive files on the life and careers of Vladimir Tytla, Richard Williams, the Hubley’s and Chuck Jones, among others.”
The John Canemaker Animation Collection is available to scholars and students alike. To make an appointment:
Phone: (212) 998-2596
Fax: (212) 995-3835
Email: [email protected]
Saturday, July 24, 2004
After hastily scribbling an alibi I hook up with Mark and Cole to grab some brunch. We take the clown car to Café Paris for delicious waffles served by yet another blond goddess.
After our meal Mark and I are summoned to the studio to meet with Magnus. Weekends are meaningless in LazyTown; whenever we can get an audience with the boss we drop what we’re doing and grab our notepads (or in my case my iTalk). An hour later we’re at the studio for a crazy gabfest that lasts until late afternoon. Then it’s back to my apartment where a jazz band is playing to a crowd in the plaza beneath my balcony. I crack open a cold Viking and enjoy the sights and sounds. Y’know, I could get used to this.
I head over to a local dive to grab a bite and a beer while working on the notes from today’s meeting. At some point I call it a night and hit
the sack. Tomorrow’s a big day. I have a massage scheduled!
Goodnight and all that jazz,
GUMBY DHARMA is a new documentary about Gumby creator Art Clokey. It’s directed by Robina Marchesi, with new animation by Tim Hittle, and includes interviews with Ray Harryhausen, Henry Selick and Hittle, among others. A rough cut/work-in-progress print will screen tomorrow afternoon at 3pm at the Mill Valley Film Festival. Details can be found HERE. According to ASIFA-San Francisco prez Karl Cohen, the film is not sugar-coated in the least and offers an insightful look into Clokey’s work and life. Says Cohen: “The film is about where his creativity comes from, but instead of this being a cute charming story about inspiration, it is a biography involving several deaths, a childhood interrupted by a broken marriage, a cruel stepfather, rejection and other non-Disney elements. There is much joy in it including Art living with a grandfather who provided him with a new lease on life. Art explains that Gumby is his vision of a world where he can safely celebrate life and that he and all of us can be Gumby. The Gumby episodes are his daydreams of a world he missed growing up.” If you’re unable to make the screening tomorrow, the film is eventually going to be released onto home video.
We are overdue in mentioning Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show. It’s been on for two weeks now (Thursday nights at 8:30pm on The WB Network) and I’ve really enjoyed both episodes that have aired. In addition to the improv comedy provided by Drew and his talented crew, the animated embellishments from Ron Diamond’s ACME Filmworks are delightful, funny and visually arresting. This is a must-watch show for cartoon fans – the greatest collection of animated styles collected in a half hour since Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.That’s fitting as Prudence Fenton (of Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Liquid Television, etc.) is producing the animation with Diamond – and they have assembled an incredible array of talent to back up the comics: Eric Goldberg, Bill Plympton, Scott Ingalls, Mark Cabellero & Shamus Walsh, Bill Kroyer, Chris Prynowski, Paul Vester, Janet Perlman, Marv Newland, John Dilworth and Cordell Barker (to name but a few).The animated bits are outstanding. You can never tell what style of animation is coming up next – cartoon cel, stop motion puppets, rotoscope, CG – and that’s part of the fun of watching the show. Each segment has merit – and the show on the whole is an outstanding achievement (especially considering the short schedules the animators had to work within). I highly recommend you check it out.
I saw this drawing by Tom Oreb (character stylist on SLEEPING BEAUTY and TOOT, WHISTLE PLUNK & BOOM) for the first time yesterday. I’m not sure what it’s from, though it seems to be a design/layout drawing for the DICK TRACY TV series (1960) or a sketch from that era. For all its simplicity, the drawing works beautifully. It has personality, style and humor (the hands especially are funny), but more than anything, it’s just plain fun to look at. Oreb knew exactly where to add little hints of dimension, showing the underbrim of a hat and the inside of a character’s shirt, to give a sense of form to the otherwise flat designs. And below is a page of doodles by Oreb. Not quite as impressive, but still nice to see (click on the image for the full version).
I stumbled across an interesting blog post over at RobotJohnny.com that again mentions the “Uncanny Valley” theory and how Brad Bird has overcome this obstacle with THE INCREDIBLES. This comment in his entry perfectly sums up my thoughts: “The moment I saw the trailer for THE INCREDIBLES, I knew that Pixar had done something that no 3D film had done yet – they had created human characters that had some style to them and that didn’t try to emulate life.”