The latest Inkwell Images’ dvd, MUTT AND JEFF: THE ORIGINAL ANIMATED ODD COUPLE has been officially released.The tall and short comic duo, created by cartoonist Bud Fisher in 1908, quickly became a part of American culture. They were one of the earliest comic strip characters to be adapted to animation, beginning in 1916, and were among the first animated characters to display distinct personalities. Animation historian Ray Pointer has compiled many rare prints for this collection — including Cramps (1916), Flapjacks (1917), Where Am I? (1925), The Big Swim (1925), Dog Gone (1926), A Kick For Cinderella (1926), Where Am I? (1930 sound color version), The Globe Trotters (1927 black and white version) and The Globe Trotters (1930 sound color version) — and bonus materials including posters and variant versions of some of the cartoons. We applaud Mr. Pointer for continuing to produce such tributes to the origins of American animation. For more info, visit Inkwell Images Ink.com
Cartoon Network sends me screeners for their new shows and specials at least once a month, and I generally toss them straight into the trash to save myself the aggravation of watching contemporary TV animation. On a whim though, I decided to check out the latest one they sent for the new series CAMP LAZLO, set to debut July 8.
CAMP LAZLO was created by Joe Murray, whose earlier creation ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE aired on Nickelodeon in the mid-90s. He has spent the past few years pursuing children’s book illustration and other non-industry activities. The show is a graphic delight. The designs are crisp and appealing, and the animation is solid and moves nicely (with the occasional bit of creative action that is very funny, like the camp nurse who only rolls around in her swivel office chair without ever bothering to stand up). The strongest visual element in the show is the excellent art direction by Murray and art director Sue Mondt (POWERPUFF GIRLS), along with their crew of layout artists and bg painters, which includes SAMURAI JACK’s Dan Krall (check out his website to see some of his concept paintings for the show). The backgrounds are thoughtfully composed, and packed with inventive organic shapes and creative color schemes. The painting style uses a heavy textural approach, with a lot of visible “brush” and “colored pencil” effects, which seems perfectly appropriate to the show’s outdoor setting. It also shows that ‘modern’ backgrounds are possible without relying on the hard-edged geometric shapes that are so prevalent in designed animation nowadays.
The show owes a strong visual debt to Nick’s SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS. Some of the characters, like Slinkman and the Dung Beetles, look like they are designs taken right out of SPONGEBOB, but beyond these obvious examples, there is an overall graphic clarity and simplicity to the character designs that emits a heavy SPONGEBOB vibe. It’s not only in the design that the SPONGEBOB sensibility is felt, but many of the character expressions in LAZLO also look like they were taken directly from SPONGEBOB boards. This is not because the artists were copying Nick’s underwater series, but rather because many of the LAZLO artists are alumni of SPONGEBOB, including three of the show’s six storyboard directors: Kaz, Kent Osborne and Sam Henderson. The similarities to SPONGEBOB end however with the visual direction of the show; storywise and contentwise, unlike SPONGEBOB, CAMP LAZLO has minimal appeal and entertainment value for anybody outside of its target six-to-ten-year-old range.
CAMP LAZLO is an outright success artistically, but it falls apart where most other children’s animated series also tend to falter: specifically, annoying voice acting where too often speaking with a funny voice substitutes for acting, incessant dialogue, stock character types with underdeveloped personalities, and generally uninspired plotlines and storytelling. Fortunately, these elements are not offensively bad — say, on the excruciating level of a FAIRLY ODDPARENTS — but it is enough to prevent me from wanting to watch the show again.
It is incredibly perplexing to me that why, on a show with so many distinguished artists, the filmmakers feel the need to cover the artwork and action with wall-to-wall dialogue. Not even the talkiest Billy Wilder films have as much dialogue as some of these modern animated TV series. It’s not as if the characters are saying anything witty or having thoughtful exchanges of dialogue; they just yak, yak, yak, explaining every bit of action and every feeling they’re experiencing. On more than one occasion, I noticed a scene where the joke was purely visual, yet they had a character injecting a comment on top of the action. Not only was this unnecessary, but also incredibly distracting. For all the talking, it is ironic how little the show actually says. CAMP LAZLO lacks a strong point-of-view that compels the audience to make any type of emotional investment in the characters, or to feel one way or the other about their actions. In other words, it is typical, generic children’s TV animation. . . good-looking, but ultimately empty and unsatisfying.
Floyd Bishop at Bishop Animation does good work.
We just finished our latest short, “Opposites Jamboree”, an educational film. Kids tend to get a lot of things backwards or switched around. This short talks a little bit about opposites. It’s in the spirit of the old Sesame Street cartoons and borrows heavily from animation design from the late 50′s. You can see a portion of the film on the gallery page of our site bishopanimation.com. We used Maya 6.5 for this piece. It was a great break from chrome
spheres, lens flares, and checkerboard floors.
Triple Threat: Tweety, Barney and Shrek
Photo thanks to Harry McCracken
There was an interesting story in the LA TIMES yesterday about corporations trying to shut down Southern California pinata makers who produce counterfeit (and hilariously off-model) pinatas featuring the likenesses of popular cartoon characters such as The Incredibles, Winnie the Pooh, Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob. The lawsuit was filed against two SoCal pinata makers, or pinateros, by Disney, Sanrio, Cartoon Network, Viacom and Hanna-Barbera. It’s too bad that corporations can’t take the enlightened position of MUCHA LUCHA creators Lili Chin and Eddie Mort, who are always ecstatic when they find unauthorized pinatas and other products related to their show. After all, unauthorized merchandise may be the truest indicator of a show’s success amongst the general public, and the long-term financial benefits of keeping the show in the public eye more than offsets the immediate loss of a few bucks to the private entrepreneurs. Alas, the studios are well within their legal rights to go after these pinata operations, and history teaches us that if a corporation can sue, it will.
UPDATE: Nathan Mazur writes:
I think you may have forgotten to incorporate a key piece of information in your latest post regarding the pinata lawsuits. While it is true that the “long-term financial benefits of keeping the show in the public eye more than offsets the immediate loss of a few bucks to the private entrepreneurs”, as copyright and trademark owners it is their legal responsibility to defend said copyright. There are some horribly gray areas in the U.S. copyright law that would allow “work” to casually slip into public domain unless the copyright is defended.
I figured that many readers may be thinking along similar lines — that if the studios don’t sue, they’re in danger of losing their copyrights to these characters. But though these pinatas are illegal, it’s a fallacy that the studios face any risk of having their work fall into the public domain because of such products. Corporations only frame the discussion in such a manner to mislead people into believing that they had no other option but to sue. Worth checking out is this article, “10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained”. From myth #5: “Copyright is effectively never lost these days, unless explicitly given away.” Another recommended bit of reading is this recent entry at BoingBoing.net. The reader comments in that post are very insightful. It’s worth noting that the pinata situation is clearly different from the cakes being discussed in that piece: those cake decals are drawings made by individuals for personal use; these pinatas are made by an unauthorized third-party for sale to the public. But the discussion of copyrights falling into public domain is applicable to both issues.
Digging through the archives today, I came across this two page article from a coverless magazine (I have no idea what publication or what year this is from) detailing the behind the scenes process of making a Betty Boop cartoon! If anyone can positively identify the people these photos, we’d greatly appreciate!
Here’s a sneak peak at Classic Media’s new Gerald McBoing Boing show for Cartoon Network, courtesy of Cookie Jar Entertainment
Disney will host a tribute to the late Joe Grant (1908-2005) on Tuesday night June 28th at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. Leonard Maltin will host, and guest speakers (including Eric Goldberg, Mike Gabriel, Pete Docter, David Stainton, Don Hahn, Burny Mattinson, Dean DeBlois, Roy Disney, among others) will tell personal stories of their collaborations and encounters with the legendary storyman. “Pink Elephants on Parade,” “Baby Weems,” “Willie the Operatic Whale,” and “Lorenzo” will be screened.
Director Kent Butterworth (Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures) has informed us of his current project – and animated feature he created, got funded, and is currently in production on: Lord of the Beans.
Got animation back on the 1st 5 minutes of the movie, and I’ll be posting it as a Promo and showing at VSDA in Las Vegas next month. I’m pretty excited about this – there needs to be more independent cartoons made – Am I the only one trying to do this?
I don’t know how I missed this, but Steve Segal just pointed out the December 2004 issue of MAD MAGAZINE (with The Incredibles on the cover) which featured dozens of cameos (Brad Bird and Steve Jobs, above) of the Pixar staff – and then some. Two of the “unemployed hand drawn animators” look like my pals Eric Goldberg and Nancy Beiman (see below). The MAD spread is loaded with in-jokes and great digs at Disney. Well worth the effort to track down the back issue.
August 9th is Betty Boop’s 75th Anniversary. And if you happen to be in Southern California on Saturday and Sunday July 16th and 17th – and you aren’t at the San Diego Comic Con – you can celebrate a few weeks early in Montebello (look it up on Mapquest). That’s where & when the 20th Annual Betty Boop Festival will be held, sponsored by Heavenly Choice, the world’s largest Betty Boop store. Festival director Denise Hagopian has programmed two full days of events which include a Betty Boop look-alike contest, a Boop swap meet, a collectors club meeting and err… a Betty Boop tattoo show n’ tell.HEAVENLY CHOICE
534 No. Montebello Blvd.
Montebello, CA 90640
Pixar’s latest short film ONE MAN BAND debuted last week at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. The film was written and directed by Andrew Jimenez and Mark Andrews. The short tells the “tale of a peasant girl who encounters two competing street performers who’d prefer the coin find its way their tip jars. As the two one-man bands’ rivalry crescendos, the two overly eager musicians vie to win the little girl’s attention.”
(images via Liudger blog)
Nice still from Tex Avery’s final MGM cartoon CELLBOUND (1955). Note that background painter Vera Ohman and ink & paint supervisor Art Goble signed the certificate on the wall.Amid and I are busy toiling on separate projects… thus the lack of new posts here recently. We’ll be back soon, with several contests and giveaways… as well as more links, critiques, reviews and rants. Stay tooned…
It is an art show commissioned by Ray Bradbury featuring the artwork of CalArts animation students, alumni and one of their key professors, E. Michael Mitchell.There will be many industry professionals attending from live action, visual effects and animation. Both Ray Bradbury and Roy Disney will be in attendance as well. The show runs all day, from 11am to 11pm so there is plenty of time to drop by to be amazed.
RAY BRADBURY Future Fest
Sunday, June 19, 2005
11:00 a.m. trough 11:00 p.m
*Ray Bradbury will be present from 7pm to 9pm
1583 Fishburn Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90063
Remember Beginner Books? The Random House series of books for kids initiated by Dr. Suess with THE CAT IN THE HAT and GREEN EGGS AND HAM?They continue on – and I’m happy to report animator Tony Eastman (under the pen name Peter Eastman) has picked up where his father (animation writer Phil Eastman – aka P.D. Eastman of “Go, Dog, Go!”) left off. Tony has just released FRED AND TED GO CAMPING.
This is my first children’s book. I am doing less animation work, which gave me time to do this book. As you must know, Fred and Ted are from my father’s book “Big Dog… Little Dog”. I did some additional illustrations for that book when it was reissued in a hard cover format. That led to me doing this book. I believe my father intended to do a series of books with these characters and was unable to see it through. I picked up where he left off… almost 35 years later.
Tony is one of New York’s best animators and cartoon directors, and is currently doing storyboards for various New York studios and animation for J.J. Sedelmaier.
Here’s a lost industrial cartoon I’d like to see… THE AMAZING RECOVERY OF INBAD THE AILER. This animated cartoon was shown somewhere during the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and hasn’t been seen since. Sultan Inbad was the cartoon spokesperson for Saraka Laxative, a product of the Schering Corporation. This animated cartoon has all the earmarks of a Walter Lantz production. An 18 page color storybooklet (illustrated with stills from the film) and button were distributed to Fair goers – and that’s all that remains of this piece.If anyone has a film print, let us know. Here are some intriguing images from the production.