Highly recommended is the latest issue of SIMPSONS COMICS (#102, now on sale) featuring a tribute/spoof of Western Publishing Carl Barks classic Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge adventures. Mr. Burns, in a the Scrooge-like role, enlists Homer (as a pants-less Donald-like companion) for his annual summer treasure hunt. Bart, Lisa and Maggie (in the nephew roles) join in as they sail to the Island of Donrosa where they scale Mount Van Horn, seeking the floating key of “Strobl” (“where the ancient tribes of Taliaferro placed it years ago!”), through Gottfredson trench, to ultimately find the “Barks Billions”. All of those italicized names are, of course, references to popular Disney comic book artists. The Bongo Comics line is consistantly good (the Radioactive Man issues are my particular favorites). This story, from Ian Boothby and editor Bill Morrison, deserves our special notice.
As you may recall, in last month’s NY TIMES, film reviewer A.O. Scott erroneously wrote that Henry Selick’s stop motion animation in THE LIFE AQUATIC was computer-animated. Apparently, the writers at the NY TIMES not only can’t tell the difference between stop motion and CGI, they also don’t know what animation is. Joel Schlosberg wrote us this morning about their latest error (reg. req’d):
In today’s New York Times, in the “Week in Review” section, there’s an article commenting on the “SpongeBob is gay” nonsense, pointing out (and rightly so) that there’s a long history of controversy over cartoon characters’ antics, and that the medium of animation is subversive and boundary-pushing. So far, so good. But the list of cartoon characters that have been objected to in the past includes, along with the likes of Bugs Bunny and Betty Boop, Bert and Ernie and the Teletubbies’ Tinky-Winky. So now filming a person in a suit is considered “animation”? It’s just indicative of the unbelievable degree of carelessness affecting much reporting on animation.
Okay, this isn’t animation – but it was an intergral part of early television (and my personal childhood): KUKLA, FRAN & OLLIE.Fran Allison, puppeteer Burr Tillstrom and their puppet pals are fondly remembered on a wonderful website: The Unofficial KUKLAPOLITAN Web Page. It’s loaded with info about the creators and stars of this pioneering TV puppet program – with vintage photos, magazine articles, interviews with the cameraman and director, merchandising, celebrity endorsements, audio (from vinatge records), and video downloads. Even if you have no interest in puppets, this website is a whole lot of fun. It’s my reccommendation of the day!
(Thanks To Anne D. Bernstein for the link)
Speaking of Mickey Mouse (as we were below), Diamond Galleries Scoop.com have posted parts of a 1932 Mickey Mouse Silly Symphonies pressbook – “Not Shorts, but single reel Features!” – highlighting information on the original in-theatre Mickey Mouse Clubs. I really like the Mickey Mouse Fez (right) they were offering to club members back then, long before they came up with the Mouseke-Ears used in the 1950s TV show.
Brew New York galpal Anne D. Bernstein went to see the new Kenneth Anger film tribute to Disney. Here’s her report from MoMA:
The event was sold out. Kenneth Anger wore a bright red sweater and was absolutely loving the applause and recognition. He was upbeat and psyched–even raising his hands over his head like a little kid who just got a basketball in the basket. They showed some early works: EAUX D’ARTIFICE, where a midget dressed in an elaborate robe walks and runs around the Tivoli Gardens in Italy as dramatic classical music blares; INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER, chock full of occult ritual, drugs, shots of a creepy-looking albino guy, and various young, buff, naked men relaxing on a couch (set to a repetitive jarring soundtrack by Mick Jagger); THE MAN WE WANT TO HANG, which consisted of shots of an art exhibit about satanic superstar Aleister Crowley. And then… MOUSE HEAVEN, which is the CUTEST film Kenneth Anger ever made or ever will.I was expecting Mickey to start whipping MINNIE at some point, but the film was peppy and fun. I mean, occasionally the unrelenting parade of hundreds of cartoon mouse toys and other objects (including a Mickey carpet sweeper sweeping a Mickey rug–which got the loudest laugh) is a bit uncanny. Yet it felt like a positive tribute to a powerful icon. Imagine my surprise! The
film was basically a series of montage vignettes set to an eclectic score of tunes from such artists as The Boswell Sisters and The Proclaimers. The Disneyana would often rotate or move in whatever way it was designed to (blinking eyes, dancing, etc.) There was a lot of layering and simple video tricks. It ended with some shiny metallic Mickeys which seemed to evoke Jeff Koons.Anger did speak a bit and had a few animation-related comments: he considers his first films to be little flipbooks that he made when he was a kid; he also noted that the original Mickey design was made up of circles and is therefore “a magical design”.I’m still wondering if his intentions with this project were really as straightforward as they seemed to be — considering his approach to film as a form of occult magick and his notorious fascination with evil–but anyone could enjoy MOUSE HEAVEN with or without exploring some complex and disturbing underlying take on Mickey. But I suppose the idea of Mickey as fetish is hard to escape! PS: He edited it on an Avid at his cameraman’s home. Sir Paul Getty and the Rockefeller Foundation provided the funds.
The winners of the Nicktoons Film Festival (produced by Frederator and ANIMATION MAGAZINE) were recently announced and the $10,000 Grand Prize went to Mark Simon and Travis Blaise’s TIMMY’S LESSONS IN NATURE. The Producers’ Choice award was given to Elizabeth Ito’s CalArts film WELCOME TO MY LIFE. Eight other finalists were also chosen:
Charlie and Chunk by Eric Fogel, Rockville Centre, NY
April by Jiwook Kim, Valencia, Calif.
Bert by Moonsung Lee, White Plains, NY
Skippy by Amanda Spalinski, Valencia, Calif.
Robot Family: The Slick Salesman by Chris Harding, Prairie Village, Kan.
Medusa: The First Date by Pierce Davison, Leederville, Australia
Kenya by Jonti Picking, London, England
Polygon Family 2 by Hiroshi Chida, Tokyo, Japan
For more info on the winners, go HERE.
I’ve been excited about the next film from Chris Sanders (LILO & STITCH) ever since I saw the first examples of concept art, but after reading this plot summary on IMDB.com (what would we ever do without the IMDB), I’m more convinced than ever that Sanders and Disney have got a major hit on their hands:
“A dog is banished from his Taliban home in Afghanistan, and the only one who will take him in is a poor soldier from Texas. The two share adventures that threaten to tear them apart and a true love that brings them closer together. In the end, they both find the true meaning of Christmas, along with a cantankerous old Tajik named Goudarz.”
And if you believe that, I have a really nice original production cel from TOY STORY to sell you.
(Thanks to the Drawing Board for the tip)
Couple good articles to recommend. First, at SaveDisney.com, “In Defense of Disney’s Uncle Remus” is an in-depth piece that argues for the release of Disney’s THE SONG OF THE SOUTH (1946), but also presents the case for why people have, through the years, felt the film is insensitive and racist.
Next is this fascinating and thought-provoking piece by Paul Graham that is as solid a primer as I’ve ever read on the aesthetics of good design. Graham presents a compelling case for why concepts like “taste” and “design” are not as subjective as they are generally made out to be in contemporary society, but rather rooted in certain universal values. All of the principles he discusses can be easily applied to animation: sadly, they most often are not.
(link via Cartoon Retro forum)
The Internets will never be the same. Harry McCracken has launched the long-awaited Scrappyland.com, a site dedicated to celebrating the Depression-era monochromatic goodness of the 1930s Mintz Studio cartoon star Scrappy. The folks at Sony/Columbia prefer to horde the classic Scrappy cartoons in their vaults rather than allowing the public to view and appreciate them, but fortunately Harry has single-handedly lifted Scrappy out of obscurity and brought 21st century awareness to one of the pinnacles of 1930s American culture.
The new TIM BURTON stop-motion feature is coming and it looks good: see the trailer HERE.
Set the TiVo tonight: Brewmaster Jerry Beck will appear as a guest on The Screen Savers which appears on Comcast’s digital channel, G4techTV. The Screen Savers is a daily live broadcast that features the latest internet/video game/consumer electronics news. I’m not sure what they are gonna ask me about, but I’ll be plugging my new book and the BREW. The show airs live at 4pm Pacific, 7pm Eastern – and will rerun later at midnight and sometime over the weekend.
Oh, log this one under super-ridiculous!My pals over at Animation Magazine sent me the heads up on today’s New York Times article, covering the conservative right going after Nick’s SpongeBob as a possible symbol of gay America and therefore bad for kids. Good grief! Can’t sponges hold hands with starfish anymore????!!! Well…on the upside, at least it’s keeping cartoons on the front page of NY Times online! The Times article is HERE (reg. req’d). Other reportage (no reg. required) HERE.
Academy Award winning animator Gene Deitch has a few thoughts on THE POLAR EXPRESS and the definition of animation – and I am taking the liberty of posting them here (because I agree with him):
I’ve been reading in various film journals, and in the popular media that POLAR EXPRESS is being referred to as an “animated film,” and is hoping for an Oscar in the Animation Feature category. This greatly concerns me, as a threat to our art and craft.We’ve seen plenty of technological development in animation, from the praxinoscope, through paper and cel animation, CGI computer animation, Flash, etc. but they all adhere to the same basic principles. Whatever the merits or demerits of POLAR EXPRESS as a film, I don’t believe that Motion Capture, being basically the same as any live action film, that is action created in real time, is consistent with the definition of cinematic animation. I would say the same for string marionette film, TEAM AMERICA, which is also not cinema animation.Many years ago John Halas invited me to construct a technical definition of cinema animation, which I attempted to do, avoiding all limited terms such as “frames” or “film,” but getting down to the very basics.POLAR EXPRESS, it seems to me, opens up the possibility of a whole new category, which may possibly develop; Motion Capture, as a way of creating a special kind of virtual reality. Whether it’s a good thing, or a blind alley, is another subject for discussion. In the meantime, here follows my personal attempt to define what animation basically is, technically. So far, no one has challenged it, and it has been part of my book on animation for many years.”CINEMATIC ANIMATION: The recording of individually created phases of imagined action in such a way as to achieve the illusion of motion when shown at a constant, predetermined rate, exceeding that of human persistence of vision.”
Good friend of the BREW, anime historian Fred Patten was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday, diagnosed with pneumonia.Fred is a Japanese animation expert par excellence, who writes regular columns on anime for NEWTYPE USA, ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE, and numerous other publications. He is very active at comics and sci-fi conventions and his book, WATCHING ANIME, READIING MANGA was just published last month.I know he would love to hear from his friends – donations of science fiction novels would probably be welcome as he recuperates. Fred can be reached at Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital, 4650 Lincoln Blvd., Marina del Rey, CA 90292 or 310-823-8911 ext. 1409Get well, Fred!