I had a blast last night hosting an Asifa-Hollywood behind the scenes look at MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE ROBOT at Nickelodeon Studios in Burbank. Series creator Rob Renzetti, art director Alex Kirwan and background designer Joseph Holt joined me to discuss the origin of the show, its artistic influences (Astro Boy, Fleischer cartoons and Buffy the Vampie Slayer) and how the series is put together. We screened several episodes on the big screen – I was impressed how much better they looked that way – the design on this show is really superior and worth a closer look.In fact, you can have a closer look, thanks to a limited edition book, now available at the Frederator Teenage Robot Store on Cafe Press.com. I got a copy of this 120 page sketchbook last night, and its loaded with great full page black & white pencil sketches of various characters, prop designs, background layouts and model sheets. Fun stuff and a great glimpse at the work that goes into designing a show. Highly recommended!
Oh, but if all series released a book as this.
If you like CHILLY WILLY – the Walter Lantz penguin character developed by Tex Avery (after a frigid debut by Paul J. Smith) – and I mean really like Chilly Willy, then we’ve got a website for you.Chilly Willy’s Sub-Arctic World is a new fan site compiling everything about the little critter – including streaming video (and plot synopsis) of every one of penguin’s animated appearences.
Looks like I owe a little more than I thought this year – so it’s time to check the archives and put some of my excess materials on ebay.Check my ebay listings the next several weeks while I rid myself of some extra film prints, records, books, videos and publications that I just don’t feel I need anymore. One man’s junk is another man’s gold – and new items will be added every couple of days for the rest of the month.
Here’s a heads-up on an event I’m doing which I’m really looking forward to — “The Art of Animation Timing: A Master Session with Fred Crippen.” It’ll take place on Saturday, May 21st, so it’s still a few weeks away. Basically the way it’ll work is we’ll be showing different examples of Fred’s work from throughout his career, and inbetween the films there’ll be a discussion/Q&A about his distinctive approach to animating and filmmaking.
Fred is certainly one of the most unique animators in the biz. During the 1950s, while he was working at the legendary UPA Studios, he animated seventeen films entirely by himself (4 Columbia theatricals and 13 shorts for THE BOING BOING SHOW). No assistants, nothing. As experimental as UPA was, I’m fairly certain that no other person at the studio in the 50s animated a film entirely by themselves; there were typically multiple animators on each film and those animators each had assistants. And here’s Crippen animating film after film, all by himself, in the short span of two years.
In later years, he created ROGER RAMJET, made over 100 SESAME STREET and ELECTRIC COMPANY spots and worked on numerous Saul Bass film projects. He continues animating and directing today.
One of the great things about living in LA is that we can learn from the cartoon masters who live amongst us. Fred is one of those living legends who has over fifty years of experience in the animation biz, and yet unlike most, has managed to retain a highly independent and personal approach to the art form. I hope everybody takes advantage of the opportunity on May 21st to pick up a few animation tips from Fred. There’s more details on the event at the ASIFA-Hollywood website (bottom of the page).
Two weeks ago we posted the early 30s Oswald business card of Steve Bosustow. Brew reader (and fellow Mindrot contributor) Tom Bertino sent in this similiar rarity (above) from a year or so earlier.One wonders: Was Walter Lantz the only animation producer to give business cards to his animators?
Anne D. Bernstein sent me notice of a current Fanzine Exhibition at Phildelphia University. Now that websites have all but taken the place of personal ‘zines, it’s nice that this original form of self-expression is being recognized.Of course the exhibit I want to see is already online – Toonhub’s magazine page devoted to all animation publications. There have been so few zines devoted to the history, industry and art of animation that they can easily compiled onto this humble page.I got my start writing a regular column for MINDROT back in 1976. At that time it seemed as if EVERYONE who loved classic cartoons either wrote for or subscribed to this fanzine. There was nothing else – at the time – for us who appreciated animation history (FUNNYWORLD preceeded Mindrot, but had practically dissapeared by 1980).I would hope Mindrot, Animato, Get Animated, fps and Animation Blast are preserved and displayed in some Fanzine Hall of Fame someday – and accessible in an archive/library for reference. I value my hard copies of these zines. They still contain valuable research and opinions unavailable anywhere online, and were pioneers in creating a community of enthusiasts, historians and animation artists.P.S. Amid reminds me that a new ANIMATION BLAST (#9) will be available later this year.
Cartoonist pal Scott Shaw! has written a lovely remembrance of his friend and mentor, Gene Hazelton. It’s posted HERE and well worth a read.
I thought it’d be nice to remember Gene Hazelton with a few examples of his short-lived syndicated panel ANGEL FACE from 1957.
I don’t know if anyone else noticed today’s OPUS strip by Berkeley Breathed – but it certainly caught my eye. (If anyone can lead me to an online link for it, I’d appreciate it). Breathed has his characters pondering the male dominance of cartoon characters. Spongebob, Mighty Mouse, Mickey, Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Yogi, Huck and Felix (nice to see Felix back in the Sunday pages, but I digress) – 22 in all – appear without copyright notice in the color section today. (Outside of Snoopy, Garfield, Pogo and Hobbes all the rest pictured are of animated origin)Of course the question posed – has there been a single female animal character? (not counting adjunct girlfriends) – is an interesting one. I think Breathed forgets Krazy Kat and Molly Moo-Cow (not to mention the fact that Betty Boop started out as a dog). And, as Brew reader Wayne Daigrepont points out, “the grandmammy of all toondom was female: Gertie the Dinosaur!”And there are plenty of star “human” female cartoon characters – from Tex Avery’s Red and Little Lulu to Angelica – but we won’t go there… for now.
Animation designer/comic strip artist Gene Hazelton passed away last Wednesday at age 85. For a thoughtful account of Gene’s work, see Mark Evanier’s blog. The only major part of Gene’s career which isn’t mentioned in Mark’s obit is his work as art director at Grantray-Lawrence Productions, where he designed hundreds of animated TV commercials between the mid-’50s and early-’60s. I mention this because back in 1999, when I interviewed Gene for ANIMATION BLAST #4, one of the nicest treats of our meetings was when he showed me the designs he’d created for the Grantray commercials. Seeing Gene’s incredible drawings certainly played a large role in sparking my fascination with 50s animation design and inspiring my journey to discover other great designers of that era. I’m saddened to hear that Gene won’t be around to see the results of what he started when my book on 50s animation design comes out next year, but I’m certain his work will continue to inspire many others in the future just as it inspired me.
(Gene Hazelton photo by John Province)
Here’s a quote from a 1954 interview with UPA background painter/experimental filmmaker Jules Engel. Though the Hollywood context has changed, Engel’s message remains as relevant today as it was fifty years ago:
“Since the advent of 3-D and CinemaScope, there has been a great deal of talk by film executives about how they are going to ‘save the industry.’ It’s my opinion if there’s any saving to be done of a business based on creative talent–it will be done by creative talent–not by the men behind the big, oak desks.”
There’s been a lot of griping and grousing recently on animation message boards (HERE, HERE and HERE) about DVNR. What’s that you say? DVNR stands for “digital video noise reduction” and it’s one of the many ways that studios ruin classic cartoons when they release them onto home video. The telecine technology was originally intended as an affordable way of digitally cleaning up dirt and grain when film is transferred to tape. It typically works fine for live-action films, but if used carelessly with animation (as it most often is), it ends up erasing and distorting parts of the image.
For a more detailed explanation of DVNR (also known as DNR) and how it compromises the integrity of the cartoon image, here’s a link to a piece I wrote back in 1999 while I was working at ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE. You’d think six years later, the studios would have learned something, but they’re as negligent as ever. Recent releases of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Woody Woodpecker, Tom & Jerry and Looney Tunes have all been marred by DVNR technology. The irony is that many times when studios release a “digitally restored/remastered” version of a cartoon, it looks worse than in previous “unrestored” editions.
Here’s a terrific new piece at Lyris-Lite.net that specifically illustrates the DVNR artifacting in WB, Disney and MGM cartoon releases. Though the article shows examples of a DVNR’d Disney cartoon, they are incidentally the studio that has been best at preventing DVNR and deserve praise for their generally careful restoration of classic cartoons.
UPDATE: Thanks to Boing Boing for their post about DVNR.
Our 1000th post on Cartoon Brew! It took us just over a year to reach this mark. A huge thanks to all of our readers who check out the site daily, and a shout out to our Guest Brewers who have contributed to the site: Mark Mayerson, Ken Pontac, Harry McCracken and Rita Street. We both still have plenty to write about so let’s commence the next thousand.
This sounds like a fun Bay Area event taking place this Friday, April 8:
Kartoon Kocktail 2005 is the second annual screening of independent animation and comics performance, set to coincide with the Alternative Press Expo. This shimmery, silly two hours of cartoon fun is organized by Stefan Gruber, Davey Oil, Fausto Caceres, and Jesse Reklaw.
Featuring Kartoons by Tom Neely, Stefan Gruber, Melody Yenn, Shynola, Rebecca Rojer, Irene Arifin, Peter Richardson, Seattle Experimental Animation Team, Chris Romano, Kristen McCormick, Jeff Roysdon, Amy Lockhart, Monkmus, Hickee, and Tim Miller.
Complete details HERE.