ANIMATION AT MOMA IN JUNE

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Anne D. Bernstein reports from New York:

There is a TON of animation-related programming at MOMA this month.There’s a Miyazaki retrospective June 3-30. Thirteen films and one is the North American premiere of HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (on Monday June 6th at 8:30pm).Also, BEFORE MICKEY: EARLY ANIMATION MASTERWORKS FROM GEORGE EASTMAN HOUSE on June 1 and June 11. Program includes Domestic Difficulties (Mutt & Jeff, 1916), Felix Gets Revenge (1922), Felix Trips through Toyland (1925), Felix Flirts with Fate (1926), and Felix Kept on Walking (1926) Scaling the Alps (1928), Sky Scrappers (1928). Felix Trifles with Time (1925), the Fleischer Studios’ Trapped (1923), Paul Terry’s Scaling the Alps (1928), and two Oswald the Rabbit cartoons.And Wednesday June 22 at 6:30 there is a program called PIERRE HUYGHE ON ANIMATION. He “leads a public conversation about animation and recent developments in techniques and processes.”

Who is Pierre Huyghe and how does he rate holding court on animation at the Museum of Modern Art? I dunno – but here’s some info.

MADAGASCAR

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Dreamworks Animation’s MADAGASCAR is heading for a wonderful $40 million dollar plus opening weekend box office gross (ranking either #2 or #3 behind STAR WARS III, depending on its Sunday grosses against THE LONGEST YARD) and deserved success on the big screen. MADAGASCAR is a lot of fun – a pleasant summertime entertainment that is – for me – the best package Dreamworks has put together thus far.While SHREK I & II are funnier films, and have better stories, the character designs (with several exceptions) never appealed to me. ANTZ and SHARK TALE had their pluses and minuses as well. But with MADAGASCAR, Dreamworks really nailed it. It looks great, is packed with visual & verbal wit, and is directed and paced to get the maximum laughs.Oh, and the marketing is really great. Really. I mean, the film is called MADAGASCAR – They could have (and maybe should have) named it THE ZOO CREW (or does DC Comics own that title?) or THE NEW YORK GIANTS (does the NFL own that one?), or something… but they are pushing a film called MADAGASCAR, and have succeeded in selling tickets.With THE CORPSE BRIDE, HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, CHICKEN LITTLE and Dreamworks/Aardman’s WALLACE & GROMIT coming, a very good year for animated features is shaping up.

BAMBI SCREENING

bambiposter.jpgDisney’s newly restored digital version of BAMBI will get the big-screen treatment at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences on Wednesday June 15th. At 8pm Leonard Maltin will host a tribute to the film, with special guests, original art and the restored film projected in L.A.’s best screening room.And if that isn’t enough, the Academy’s current exhibition Toon In: Animated Movie Posters from the Cudequest Family Collection will be open for viewing in the Academy Galleries after the screening.It’ll be quite a night for cartoon buffs. I’ll be there myself. General admission is $5. For more information visit oscars.org

The Must-(Not)-Have Animation Book of 2005

DRAW THE LOONEY TUNES

Here’s a book that’ll put you on the successful and rewarding career path of becoming a corporate whore licensing artist. DRAW THE LOONEY TUNES: THE WARNER BROS. CHARACTER DESIGN MANUAL is a reprint of “the textbook used by in-house artists to learn the ropes at Warner Bros.” The book includes vellum overlays, landscape four-color foldouts, vintage cartoon stills and step-by-step instruction. The introduction is by WB Consumer Products president Dan Romanelli. Nothing like having the executive responsible for “Gender-Confused Tweety” (see below) introduce a book about properly drawing classic WB characters. I’m ashamed to say it’s from my publisher, Chronicle Books, but hey, nobody’s perfect, right?

PINK PANTHER BABIES

pantherbabies.jpgJune 21 through 23rd at the Jacob Javitz Convention Center in New York City is the annual Licensing International Show – the yearly showcase of corporate misunderstanding the basic appeal of beloved classic cartoon characters.This year MGM will continue it’s line of “Baby Pink Panther” with Baby Ant & Aardvark, Baby Inspector Clouseau and… is that Baby Fester?? (The horse from Hoot Kloot? You’ve got to be kidding me…)

TWEETY – MALE OR FEMALE?

tweetyblonde.jpgFirst they give the Looney Tunes an extreme makeover as Loonatics, now they are preparing a sex change for Tweety!The latest issue of LICENSE magazine has this article touting Warner Bros. current merchandising push toward women – children and adults.

I tawt I taw…a new Tweety. Warner Bros. Consumer Products has given Tweety a new twang–lengthened eyelashes, a brightened beak, and a floral hair accessory.According to Jordan Sollitto, executive vice president of worldwide marketing, Warner Bros. Consumer Products, “Tweety is not a media-dependent property. Tweety has equity among girls ages 4 to 8 and women in their 20s and 30s. Tweety has had continuous performance at the cash register, transcending media exposure. When we spoke with girls and women about Tweety, they weren’t as interested in talking about media or a movie around Tweety. They relate to the character as it relates to merchandise. Tweety’s cuteness, according to our research, was the driving characteristic,” he explains.

Nowhere in the carefully worded article is Tweety refered to as a “he” or a “she” (for the record, Tweety is a male character). A selection of the new female Tweety fashions can be found here. I’m particularly fond of the itty-bitty Tweety String Bikini myself. But how far are they going to go with this?

Celebrating Pixar’s 20th Anniversary

Pixar postcards

THE ART OF PIXAR: 100 COLLECTIBLE POSTCARDS will be out in November from Chronicle Books. The postcard set, published in celebration of Pixar’s twentieth anniversary, includes concept art and stills from every Pixar feature and short film to date. Also forthcoming from Chronicle is a coffeetable history of Pixar penned by Mark Cotta Vaz and Leslie Iwerks. Details still to come on the book.

WARNER ART

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Animation collector Eric Calande has posted his impressive collection of original Looney Tunes cartoon cels, backgrounds and drawings on a new website WARNER ART.COMAmong all the beautiful pencil art, Maurice Noble color layouts and vintage cels is my favorite piece – a background from PRIVATE SNAFU VS. MALERIA MIKE (1944). Thanks for sharing your excellent collection with us, Eric!

TIMEBOMB

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Here in Los Angeles, the “art theatres” (the Egyptian Theatre, the Laemmle and Landmark chains), usually precede each film program with one or two commercials. And one of them is usually a visually creative piece for KCRW, a local NPR affiliate. Brew reader Chris Romano has just completed a theatrical spot for KCRW, “TIME BOMB”, which will be running all summer long on the big screen. For a sneak preview, visit Chris’ Toonlets.com website.

Impressions of Fred Crippen

I don’t think anybody recorded the Fred Crippen event we did this past weekend at the AFI, but somebody really should have because Fred offered a lot of great insights into his career and craft. Here, however, is visual documentation of the event courtesy of DreamWorks animator Jeremy Bernstein, who filled up his sketchbook with some great impressions of Fred and myself, as well as Jerry Beck and Bob Kurtz. Click on the images for larger versions. Thanks, Jeremy!

Jeremy Bernstein drawing

Jeremy Bernstein drawing

Jeremy Bernstein drawing

And another random page from Jeremy’s sketchbook, with a terrific drawing of animator Sean Szeles on the right…

Jeremy Bernstein drawing

KIM POSSIBLE Q & A

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Kim Possible co-creators Robert Schooley, Mark McCorkle, and director/co-producer Steve Loter will appear at EnigmaCon 2005, this Saturday May 28th, 2005 at the University of California, Los Angeles.UCLA’s Enigma club combines Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Gaming and Real Science to bring a day of movie screenings, panels, vendors and gaming to the UCLA campus to benefit tsunami relief efforts. Other guests include author Harlan Ellison, Babylon 5 writer/producer J. Michael Stracynski, Elfquest artist Wendy Pini, and many, many more from the fields of movies, animation, video game development, comics, etc. Robert Schooley writes:

Mark, Steve and I have only done this once before and that was a month after the show premiered. So we’d like to get the word out to anyone who enjoys the show to stop by and say ‘hello’.As an added bonus the crack squad of Disney lawyers have given their blessing to allow Steve to do some sketches to auction off for the Tsunami charity that this con supports.

For more info, check out http://www.enigmacon.org(Alan Bodner original inspirational art above is © Disney)

ROCK & RULE

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I want to thank UNEARTHED FILMS for sending me a copy of their forthcoming dvd of ROCK & RULE.Nelvana’s 1984 cult sci-fi masterpiece has never gotten the attention, or distribution, it deserved. Steve Biro and the guys at Unearthed have done a lavish, first class job preparing this film for dvd. The 2-disc package includes a making of documentary, audio track commentary by director Clive Smith and a production sketch gallery. A second disc is loaded with bonus materials including an alternate version of the film, the great Nelvana TV special The Devil & Daniel Mouse and a behind the scenes making of it, workprint material, the complete script and a 12 page color booklet of interviews (put together by our pal, Emru Townsend of fpsmagazine.com).The film itself never looked this good. Restored from the original negative with a newly remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack. The street date is June 7th. Highly recommended!

OSCAR GRILLO’S FAUSTO

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From our pal, Oscar Grillo:

Publisher Ediciones de la Flor just published this book. It is profusely illustrated by me (around 50 illustrations) -”Fausto” is a famous poem written in 1866 about two gauchos meeting in the Pampas after one of them saw an opera in the city and believed he had actually seen the devil. It is a comic masterpiece, unfortunately for you, this version is in Spanish but my pictures alone are worth the price.

If you are interested in getting it, it’s now listed on Amazon.com

Thurl Ravenscroft 1914-2005

frostedflakes.jpgThurl Ravenscroft, who roared “They’re Grrrrreeeat!” in Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger ads and voiced a host of Disney characters, died Sunday of prostate cancer. He was 91.For more than 50 years, Ravenscroft was the voice behind Tony the Tiger, TV’s popular cartoon pitchman for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. He is also well known for his cartoon voice work with Disney and Chuck Jones – including singing the classic “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” – and lent his voice to characters on rides at Disneyland, including the Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Haunted Mansion. Born in Norfolk, Neb., Ravenscroft moved to California in 1933 to study art. By the mid-1930s he was appearing regularly on radio, and by the late-1930s he was singing backup for Bing Crosby. In 1952, Ravenscroft’s voice appeared in the first Frosted Flakes commercial.

HOWARD MORRIS 1919-2005

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Another classic cartoon voice has left us. Comedian-actor-director Howard Morris passed away Saturday afternoon. An announcement was posted by Howard’s son on his Ernest T. Bass homepage.Morris, well known for his appearances with Sid Ceaser and Carl Reiner on YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS in the 1950s, joined the regular cast at Hanna Barbera with his portrayal of Jet Screamer (above) on THE JETSONS in 1962. He also voiced Atom Ant, Mr. Peebles and Breezly Bruin among others for H-B. More importantly, Morris did most of the voices for Gene Deitch’s Oscar winning short MUNRO (1960), was King Features’ BEETLE BAILEY (1962) and enacted several voices on Filmation’s THE ARCHIE SHOW (1968), including Jughead.He was a regular voice in Disney films, a member of the Mel Brooks stock company, and directed numerous 60s sitcoms and comedy features.An enormous talent. Rest in peace.

Fred Crippen Speaks This Saturday

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THE ART OF ANIMATION TIMING: A MASTER SESSION WITH FRED CRIPPEN takes place this Saturday, May 21st at 3pm. It’s at The American Film Institute (Ted Ashley Screening Room, 2021 N. Western Ave. Hollywood, CA). Fred is one of the true living legends of the animation biz — a veteran of the famed design studio UPA and creator of ROGER RAMJET. He has a lifetime of accumulated knowledge about the art form and he’s generously willing to share it all. We’ll be showing plenty of his films and discussing his distinctive approach to animation. Come prepared with your questions.

ASIFA-Hollywood members get free admission as always. Non-members pay $10, but here’s the deal: if you mention Cartoon Brew, admission is half-price ($5) for non-members. For a bit more about the event, see this earlier write-up. See ya there!

Another 50s book update

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Pardon my long silence. Deadlines aplenty. I’m happy to report that all the text for my 50s animation design book is now finished. The pressure of this book has hardly subsided; there are now impending deadlines for images, text revisions and pressing non-book matters (like a little thing called ANIMATION BLAST #9 that I’m itching to finish up and have sent to the printer). It’s interesting to note that there is now nearly three times as much text in the book as originally intended. There is so little information available about most designers from that period that it seemed like a disservice to print an artist’s work without offering proper biographic details and a discussion of their specific contributions to animation design. It’s going to be a huge challenge fitting in all of this text with the images, and not ending up with something that looks like a Chip Kidd book design, but I’m confident that my designer will come up with a classy solution.

MARTHA IN SAN DIEGO

marthabookzero.jpgI’m moved! Now it’s a month of unpacking boxes and reorganizing my storage space. But my long national nightmare is over. Back to blogging!First, I must note that my buddy Martha Sigall is continuing her national book tour – or at least the west coast leg – by appearing at the Chuck Jones Gallery in San Diego this Saturday.If you love the classic Warner Bros. cartoons you will really enjoy Martha’s book, LIVING LIFE INSIDE THE LINES, written from her point of view as an inker & painter at the Looney Tunes studio (and her subsequent stints at MGM, Bob Clampett, Bill Melendez, etc.). She will be signing books May 21st at 2pm at the gallery at 2501 San Diego Ave. in Old Town. Check the Chuck Jones website for more information.

Tonight! Baseman in LA

This Saturday night, from 7-10pm is the opening reception for Gary Baseman’s new art show “For the Love of Toby” at Billy Shire Fine Arts (5790 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232). The show’s novelty stems from the fact that the over seventy pieces of art–wood panel paintings, plush sculpture, vintage photographs and ephemera–are all character-driven. They revolve around Baseman’s creation, Toby, a surreal Fleischer-esque animal who will be instantly familiar to fans of Gary’s work. What’s next…a Toby animated cartoon…perhaps his time has come. A preview of the show can be found at HEAD MAGAZINE.

For The Love Of Toby