There’s occasionally some fairly amusing Google ads that get posted on our site. Tonight, I saw one for “Bachelor’s Degree in Animation from a Christian Perspective.” The ad was for Regent University in Virginia, which has recently started its own animation program. From the fact sheet on the website: “Regent Undergrad is one of only a few universities in the nation to offer a bachelor’s degree focused on Animation from a Christian perspective. That means you’ll study animation from a faith-based perspective. It’s a unique atmosphere that applies belief to make believe.” This program should teach those heathens at CalArts a lesson or two.
The July-August issue of RES Magazine (Vol. 8, No. 4) is a comics and animation issue. Subtitled DRAWN FROM LIFE, the magazine contains an interview with Genndy Tartakovsky, new comics by Mark Newgarden, artwork by Seonna Hong, writing by filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowski, articles about cartoonist Joe Sacco and anime master Hayao Miyazaki — and actual animation (on a companion dvd) by animator Matthew Vescovo. All this and more – at the newstand now.
The Ward-O-Matic has an excellent post about Ward Kimball’s classic 1953 Disney short MELODY. The film is filled with incredible graphics, which animator/director Ward Jenkins has thoughtfully documented with dozens of frame grabs. It is even more impressive when one considers that it’s the first film Ward Kimball had ever directed. Most directors would be lucky to achieve a film of this caliber once in their entire career, but Kimball surpassed himself immediately with his follow-up film TOOT WHISTLE PLUNK AND BOOM (also released in 1953). Though MELODY is somewhat disjointed in its story construction, it’s a visual delight the entire way through — one can feel Kimball’s giddiness and newfound freedom as he experiments with all the different graphic styles (greeting card cut-outs, children’s-style drawings, off-register lines over shapes, etc.) that had been off-limits while he had been an animator on the Disney features. Besides Kimball’s designs, the film also features solid graphic contributions from Eyvind Earle and Victor Haboush. Earle has unfortunately passed away, but Vic is still around and doing well. He designed the film’s Calder-esque opening titles, among other styling duties on the film. (And lucky for me, I get to see Vic later this morning.)
Just for fun, here’s title cards for a few shorts which will be included in my forthcoming Chronicle book on 1950s animation design. It’s a shame that industrial and educational films from that period are so difficult to see nowadays because many of those films feature terrific design and animation. Luckily, one of the films below – STOP DRIVING US CRAZY (1959) – is readily available for online viewing at Archive.org. Also, I should mention that the reason you’ll be seeing images from these films in the book is because of film collectors like Mark Kausler and Mark Newgarden who generously allowed me to scan in their prints. Thanks guys!
[Earlier posts related to my 50s animation design book HERE and HERE.]
Those wacky cartoonists at Meathaus.com have created a 218 page sketchbook featuring 31 artists – including several pages by animators Ralph Bakshi, John Kricfalusi and Katie Rice. Intriguing doodles, sketches and scribbles for $12.95, this book, entitled Go For The Gold, is not available in stores. It’s printed-on-demand through lulu.com. I really appreciate that they sent me a review copy.
Throughout next week, I’ll be doing some plugs for animation-related products and events at the upcoming Comic-Con International San Diego (July 14-17). And what better place to start than Mark Kausler’s fantastic hand-drawn animated short IT’S THE CAT (2004). On Thursday, July 14, Mark will screen his film and discuss its making in Room 3 of the Convention Center from 1:30-2:30pm. During the presentation, he’ll also screen some classic cartoons which inspired his film. Immediately following the screening, Mark will be selling original cel set-ups from IT’S THE CAT at the ASIFA-Hollywood booth (#5473). Buy a couple cels and support Mark in his quest to keep classic cartoon animation alive. He’s already hard at work on his next short film, and with support from fans, he’ll hopefully be able to make many more hand-drawn shorts in the future.
Norm Prescott, co-founder of FILMATION (pictured above at left with Hal Sutherland in the middle and Lou Scheimer at right), passed away on July 2nd according to close friend and business associate Fred Ladd.Prescott was a popular Boston radio personality in the 1950s. He got involved in animation as a writer/producer (with Ladd) on two feature length projects, PINOCCHIO IN OUTER SPACE and JOURNEY BACK TO OZ. When Fred Silverman (at CBS) was looking for a low budget studio to produce SUPERMAN for Saturday morning in 1966, Prescott teamed with Lou Scheimer to form Filmation – and convinced Silverman to give their studio a shot. The rest is history.Prescott appeared (as himself) in the movie DISC JOCKEY (Allied Artists, 1951) and later did occasional voices on his various cartoon series – such as the animated STAR TREK and SHAZAM!
If you are in Hollywood tonight and are looking for things to do – I highly recommend you spend an evening with Janet Klein And Her Parlor Boys. I’ll be there again with my “opening act”: several 1930s musical shorts and cartoons projected in glorious 16mm, preceeding a wonderful evening of live 1920s/early 1930s jazz, rag-time, blues and novelty songs. The fun starts at 8pm tonight, Thursday night July 7th, at the Steve Allen Theatre, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., (two blocks west of Vermont, across from Barnsdall Park, in the Los Feliz area). We do this the first Thursday of every month. Please check Janet’s website (under “Showtime”) for more details.
Louis O. Hertz, ASIFA-Atlanta president and a fixture of Atlanta’s animation scene, passed away from cancer on Monday, July 4. Hertz’s career stretched back to a stint at UPA in the 1950s. Read his obituary at the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION and a nice personal remembrance by animator Ward Jenkins at the Ward-O-Matic.
JamesBaxterAnimation.com is up and running. The company’s mission statement: “James Baxter Animation is a new studio where the focus is on great hand-drawn animation, storytelling and artistic freedom.” Can’t argue with that. Baxter also indicates on his site that he’ll soon launch a lecture series teaching the finer points of hand-drawn animation.
You mention the “French Mary Blair”â€¦ Do you know the “Dutch Mary Blair”, Fiep Westendorp? Perhaps Holland’s greatest illustrator, her quirky, vibrant drawings spent half a century in the center of mainstream Dutch cultural life. She started out as a newspaper illustrator, but made her name drawing and painting a series of homespun books for young people (somewhere between picture books and chapter books) by Annie M.G. Schmidt. Schmidt’s writing is sweet and folksy, but Fiep’s illustrations make the stories come alive.
Jip and Janneke, two of her silhouetted characters who live in a full color world are national treasures and as ubiquitous in Holland as Tintin is in Belgium. Check out one of many sites devoted to her stuff HERE.
I grew up with Fiep’s work. I had stacks of her books written in indecipherable Dutch but filled with immediately recognizable, emotive drawings that made me want to draw, and to draw as I do. Fiep died a few years back just as Amsterdam mounted a series of retrospective exhibits. Americans will be able to see some cool originals this winter when the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art mounts a show on Dutch Picture Book Illustrators this winter (the show, I’m told, is going to travel to NYC in December as well). Her stuff is well worth checking out, and if you ever go to Holland you should be sure to check out her retrospective book collection “Getekend: Fiep Westendorp (Drawn: Fiep Westendorp)”.
France’s equivalent of Mary Blair is not one, but two artists. Lefor Openo is the pseudonym of French illustrators Marie-Claire Lefort and Marie-Francine Oppeneau. They produced lots of great posters and advertising art during the 1950s and 1960s, and THIS SITE is packed with examples of their work. (via PCL LinkDump)
Here’s a fascinating piece on legendary Disney animator Ward Kimball’s toy train collection and the recent auctions of the trains which grossed around $5 million. For those prices, I’d want real trains…
Andrew Young’s PuppetVision Blog has pointed out this website listing dozens of vintage cartoon character hand puppets. Making three dimensional figures out of flat cartoon characters was not as refined an art back then as it is today – thus we mainly ended up with deformed versions of our favorite animated pals as puppets and dolls. This website provides a good overview. The two pictured above (TV’s Koko the Clown and Katnip) are better than average – go to the website to see a very depressing Droopy, Little Roquefort and Mr. Jinks.