TCM’S CARTOON ALLEY

gable.jpgTurner Classic Movies will debut a new monthly half hour program tomorrow morning (Saturday 10/6 at 9:30am EST/ 6:30am PST), CARTOON ALLEY, a showcase for classic cartoons in the Turner library.Now that Cartoon Network has abandoned their classic library (Boomerang doesn’t count in my book – and besides, the rumors of that channel going with exclusively pre-school programming have been getting hotter with each passing month), it’s great to see TCM pick up the ball, and hopefully present these cartoons as the classic films they are. The first outing highlights Warner Bros. cartoons with Clark Gable charicatures (Hollywood Steps Out, Coo-Coo Nut Grove, Malibu Beach Party), the second episode (in December) contains Christmas themed cartoons and the third (during January) features various Oscar nominees. The show is tucked away at wee hours so set your VCR’s & TiVo machines. Consult the schedule on their website for showtimes.

OSCAR QUALIFIED

oscar.jpgAccording to Daily Variety, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has officially qualified 11 films for competition in the animated feature race. The 11 are Disney-Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” Disney’s “Home on the Range” and “Disney’s Teacher’s Pet”; DreamWorks’ “Shrek 2,” “Shark Tale” and “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence”; Paramount-Nickelodeon’s “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie”; Warner Bros. “Polar Express” and “Clifford’s Really Big Movie” (two ends of the spectrum, both distributed by WB); Masquerade Films’ “Sky Blue” (Korean anime); and Pentamedia’s “The Legend of Buddha” (traditional 2D from India).The Academy has an eight-16 rule for animation features: For there to be a category with three nominations, eight features must open within a given year. For five nominations, there must be 16 or more. The Academy’s executive committee of the short films/feature animation branch declared these 11 eligible. That panel technically has the right to state that there will be no category this year, but it is expected to recommend to the board of governors on Dec. 14 that the award be given. Oscar nominations will be announced Jan. 25, and winners will be unveiled Feb. 27.

Incredibles Reviews

When the clock strikes midnight tonight, Brad Bird’s THE INCREDIBLES hits theaters–and yes, there’s a 12:00am showing. I was going to celebrate with some links to reviews, but it’s easier to simply point you to Ken Bautista’s Pixar blog, which is doing an excellent job of collecting pointers to reviews and other Pixar stuff on the Web (including items relating to John Lasseter’s CARS, which won’t show up until next year).

Oh, OK, one INCREDIBLES review link: When I looked, Ken hadn’t yet pointed to David Edelstein’s rave review at Slate, which intriguingly says that it’s one of his favorite live-action (sic) superhero movies ever.

Election Wrap-Up

MUCHA LUCHA creators Eddie Mort and Lili Chin offer this message on their fwak! blog – “TO OUR US FRIENDS: Remember… the answer to extreme conservatism, is a creative, free-spirited and humane, counter-culture. Stay positive and creative.”

One of the most thoughtfully written ‘depressed artist’ commentaries I’ve read on post-election blues is at this blog of a local LA graphic designer. And master animator Oscar Grillo offers his bleak and succinct across-the-Atlantic cartoon commentary on the election (sketched out on the back of an envelope).

Warner Bros. Cartoon Companion: It Lives!

One of the most essential animation reference works ever created is E.O. Costello’s Warner Bros. Cartoon Companion–a remarkably erudite guide to the studio’s films and history, and particularly to the cultural references the cartoons contain. I liked it so much I put it on my list of the 100 Greatest Things About Animation.

The WBCC first appeared almost a decade ago, and a few years after that, it found a home on Spumco’s Web site. But it’s been a long time since it was available there. And I, for one, have missed it.

I’m tickled to report that I’ve just heard from E.O. that the Spumco edition of the Companion is available again at this site. E.O. cautions that this version has some bugs and other little glitches, and hasn’t been updated. He plans to address both of these issues, and invites Cartoon Brew readers to send him suggestions at this address. Even in a somewhat raw form, it’s great to have the WBCC back. If you never knew it in the first place, you’re in for a treat…

100 GREATEST CARTOONS

looneyrec.jpgIf you are still smarting over yesterday’s election, one remedy is to cast your vote on Britian’s Channel 4 website – where they are sponsoring a 100 GREATEST CARTOONS poll. This is part of their research for a new TV special they plan to produce honoring the winners.They have an alphabetical list of pre-selected nominees (mixing features as diverse as A Bug’s Life and Akira, next to TV shows like Battle of the Planets, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels and Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, along with characters such as Beavis & Butthead, Betty Boop and Huckleberry Hound!). You can vote for these pre-selected nominations – or write-in your own candidates.

Pictoplasma Conference Report

The 1st Pictoplasma Conference On Contemporary Character Design & Art (my previous comments HERE) took place in Berlin, Germany from Oct. 28-30. Character designer Harald Siepermann (TARZAN, MULAN, BROTHER BEAR) who was profiled on the Brew a couple weeks ago, attended the conference and kindly shares a few thoughts about what he saw there:

The purpose of Pictoplasma is to create a collection of characters that promote products or tell stories, or exist simply as a character or an icon. A quote from the program: “Industrial production conditions have created a universally applicable visual vocabulary. The recent increase of ideograms on Internet sites, adverts and packaging, street art and company logos can also be interpreted as a developing universal language. These characters however are not the result of standardised production conditions but are the outcome of the desire and ability to communicate with increasing numbers of people networks.”

I was amazed at the variety of the events at the Pictoplasma conference. There were many artists who presented their work, beautiful and innovative stuff from creative minds like Rinzen, Gary Baseman and lots and lots of others. I had expected to see a lot of soulless designy characters, fit for t-shirts and CD covers, without a personality or a story to tell. To be frank, I had expected to feel like a wine connoisseur in an exhibition of fancy bottles or labels. Of course those things were there too. As you know, some of them even aim for that approach, like Annlee, the character, which opened the screening by telling you that she is a product, a shell without a ghost, right to your face. Personally, that is not my cup of tea; there’s just too much obvious artificial self-pity in this.

But thankfully, there were also presentations by studios like Passion Pictures, showing the development of “The Gorillaz” and a preview of their future projects (SCARY GIRL and THE LOST THING), as well as studio aka, both of which I found extremely interesting. With aka’s work, I was particularly fond of JOJO IN THE STARS, a labor of love by one of aka’s art directors. It is in black-and-white and reminiscent of the ELEPHANT MAN, ERASERHEAD and Fellini’s LA STRADA. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. What these studios do – namely in British commercials – is utilize their state-of-the-art style to transform icons into characters, give them a story and most of all, appeal. Both Passion and aka have a way of dealing with 3D and incorporating it into their commercials and music videos that is extremely refreshing, innovative, and taking it further than anything I’ve seen in a major Hollywood studio production. This, at least for me personally, offers a glimpse at what could be (and should be) the future of computer animation, an approach that is so completely different from everything that DreamWorks and Disney have to offer. What I saw even made me think over my aversion against 3D and sort of reconciled my feelings about CG. It makes me hope for a different style and a different understanding of its possibilities as a storytelling medium.

I would recommend the conference to anybody who is looking for a forum that shows how the subculture deals with characters instead of the major studios. It is characters in the hands and hearts of the people, instead of the understanding of character by Hollywood executives. They, the young people on the street as well as the artists, are inspired (or not) by what they see in the movies and advertising and they make it their own. I found it very inspiring. It’s up to us to complete the circle and bring the fresh stuff that these designers are creating back into our animated features.

No More Pride?

CNN is reporting that NBC is about to quietly cancel Dreamworks’ FATHER OF THE PRIDE, the pricey and apparently lousy (I haven’t seen it) animated series about Sigfried and Roy’s lions.

Why did I never get around to watching the show? In part because just about every animation fan I respect who saw it was revulsed by it. But subconsciously, I think, I was also put off by the Sigfried and Roy angle–there was just something wrong about animated, cuddly S&R animals showing up so soon after poor Roy’s unfortunate incident. I’ll bet that a goodly percentage of America felt the same way.

Anyhow, yet another prime-time animated series has failed. Looks like bad computer animation is no more of a surefire thing than bad hand-drawn animation. Who knew?

ANIMATION IN LAGUNA BEACH

Aubry Mintz of the Laguna College of Art & Design writes in to inform us about an exciting event there:michfrog2.jpg

I am the chair of an Animation Program in Laguna Beach CA. We are running a great show for our students but have enough seats to open it up to the public. This is totally free and a great opportunity to honor Chuck Jones and meet and listen to some animation veterans.Laguna College of Art and Design will be hosting a very exiting event Saturday Nov 20th. We are fortunate to be able to showcase a collection from the archives of the Chuck Jones Foundation in our school gallery. We will be showing the development of Chucks work from though process to creation of his characters and fine art. Also we are honored to have Animation director (Looney Tunes Back in Action, Pochahontas) and good friend of Chuck’s, Eric Goldberg visiting. We have rented out an old movie theatre in Laguna and Eric will be screeing some of Chuck’s rare films and dissecting the work frame by frame.Also that evening there will be the gallery opening and industry meet and greet from 7-9 at the college.

For more info & directions go to www.lagunacollege.edu

“I’m Betty Boop, and I Approved This Message…”

popeyeprez.jpg
(From POPEYE FOR PRESIDENT, 1956)

I scarcely need remind anyone that today is one of the most important days in the history of American presidential campaigns. Yes, today is…well, it’s the day that the new cartoon DAFFY DUCK FOR PRESIDENT (based on a 1997 Chuck Jones book) is released as part of the LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION VOLUME 2.

Yep, in this country, anyone can grow up to run for President – and sometimes it seems like being a cartoon character actually helps. Heck, if you were a Fleischer or Famous Studios character, the chances that you threw your hat into the ring were remarkably high.

Herewith, a look at some of the elections in which at least two cartoon candidates ran, the bottom line on who I would have cast my vote for if I’d had the chance, and a trivia tidbit or two:

Betty Boop versus Mr. Nobody versus Mutt versus Barney Google (1932)
As the country sunk ever deeper into depression, Betty Boop battled the eerie and unlikable Mr. Nobody in BETTY BOOP FOR PRESIDENT, while the funny papers chronicled the campaigns of Bud Fisher’s Mutt and Billy De Beck’s Barney Google, both of whom had run before. This time around, Mutt represented the Lion Tamers and Barney was the nominee of the Square Deal Party. The bottom line: I would have enthusiastically voted for Betty, and in fact, the end of the cartoon indicates that she did indeed become president in 1932. Fun facts: Betty’s victory presaged Grampy’s later election as mayor in THE CANDID CANDIDATE; Barney’s running mate was Fanny Annie Boggs.

Pogo versus Popeye versus Bluto (1956)
Walt Kelly’s practical possum ran for the second time in ’56; the same year, America’s favorite one-eyed sailor ran against his bearded arch-rival in the Famous Studios cartoon POPEYE FOR PRESIDENT. Popeye was the nominee of the Spinach Party, Bluto represented the Blutocratic Party, and it was all eerily prescient of the Bush/Kerry race – the candidates beat the tar out of each other only to find themselves tied on election day. (The tie is broken by Olive, who had herself run in 1948′s OLIVE OYL FOR PRESIDENT.) The bottom line: My heart would have been with Pogo, but I suspect that in the privacy of the voting booth, I would have opted for Popeye’s track record of courage. Fun fact: Popeye and Dwight Eisenhower (whom some reference works say won in 1956, although the cartoon shows Popeye in a victory parade) were both bald, genial military types.

Fremount and Pogo (1960)
If you can find a copy of Walt Kelly’s POGO ELECTION EXTRA collection, grab it – it chronicles the bizarre campaign of Fremount, boy bug, who only knew how to say “Jes’ fine,” and who was forced out in scandal when it was discovered he was a cannibalistic Ant Lion. Veteran candidate Pogo was drafted in his place. The book doesn’t definitively state who won the election, but in the Okefenokee Swamp, only Porkypine voted for Pogo (who voted for Porky). The bottom line: This year, I would have gone Pogo. Fun fact: Twenty years later, the 1980 stop-motion film I GO POGO pitted Pogo against Fremount.

Magilla Gorilla versus Yogi Bear versus Alvin (1964)
Hanna-Barbera squared off two of its characters in a comic book (here’s Scott Shaw’s excellent campaign analysis). And Don Markstein reports that Ross Bagdasarian’s cherished chipmunk also threw his hat in the ring in a Dell comic book that year. The bottom line: I have trouble stomaching Yogi or Magilla in five-minute cartoons, so the idea of four years’ worth of them in the White House is a non-starter – Alvin wins almost by default. Fun fact: I owned a 45-rpm recording of the Yogi Bear theme song as a kid, and can still sing most of it.

Snoopy versus Pogo (1968)
By 1968, Pogo was a positively Stassenesque figure, while Charles Schulz’s beloved beagle was the subject of “Snoopy for President,” one of the Royal Guardsmen’s last, least inspired Snoopy-related songs. The bottom line: Once again, I would have gone with the possum. Fun fact: Both Richard Nixon and Pogo ran in 1968 after having lost in 1960.

Winnie the Pooh versus Howard the Duck (1976)
Pooh ran in a promotion for Sears’ kids’ clothes and was the favorite son of Disneyland; Howard was the candidate of the All Night Party in Steve Gerber and Gene Colan’s classic comic book. The bottom line: Who was Pooh trying to kid? He was born in the UK and therefore ineligible to run. But I would have voted for Howard in any event – I liked his street smarts. Fun fact: Howard’s campaign collapsed when The Daily Bugle published a forged photograph of him taking a bubble bath with his close personal human friend Beverly Switzler.

So ends my history lesson – get out there and vote, everybody!

Introducing Harry McCracken

We’d like to welcome our new Guest Brewer – Harry McCracken – one of the most knowledgeable cartoon connoisseurs around. We’ve always enjoyed hearing his thoughts on both the classics and modern animation, and we think you’ll enjoy Harry’s insights as well. Here’s a bit more about the man:

Harry McCracken is the editor-in-chief of PC WORLD (the world’s largest monthly computer magazine) and a new consumer electronics publication called DIGITAL WORLD. But animation fans may associate him more with ANIMATO!, the animation magazine he edited from 1987-1991. These days, he hangs out at his own site, HarryMcCracken.com, and is readying Scrappyland.com, the first Web site about the Mintz Studio’s greatest character. Harry is also a contributor to ANIMATION ART, the new book edited by Jerry Beck. And he’s belonged to APATOONS, the animation apa, for a startling 22 years. [McCracken caricature by Barry Blitt]