THE CORPSE BRIDE QUESTION:

Tim Burton was a Disney animatoranimation artist and has been long associated with animated films including FAMILY DOG and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Not counting student films made before 1982, CORPSE BRIDE is only the second animated film which Burton recieves director credit on. What was the first?Contest Over!The winners were B. Baker, Brendon Connelly and Joe Queen. They were the first correct answers.The answer I was aiming for was VINCENT (1982). In response to some of the other entries, Tim did not recieve a director credit on NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS – and FRANKENWEENIE was a live action film. Several readers noted THE WORLD OF STAINBOY – an internet cartoon – which I would have accepted as a correct answer. However, our winners were the first three entrants and regardless, they answered VINCENT. A lovely rolled one sheet poster of CORPSE BRIDE is being mailed to them from Warner Bros.Thanks to everyone who entered – now go out and support the film!

Tim Burton Says Hand-Drawn isn’t Dead

Tim Burton shares his thoughts about Hollywood’s misguided attitude of favoring technique over story and content:

In Hollywood, they think drawn animation doesn’t work anymore, computers are the way. They forget that the reason computers are the way is that Pixar makes good movies. So everybody tries to copy Pixar. They’re relying too much on the technology and not enough on the artists. The fact that Disney closed down its cel animation division is frightening to me. Someday soon, somebody will come along and do a drawn-animated film, and it’ll be beautiful and connect with people, and they’ll all go, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do that!’ It’s ridiculous.

(Thanks, Josh Moshier)

CORPSE BRIDE CONTEST

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Tim Burton’s CORPSE BRIDE opens on Friday in selected cities – and next week it opens everywhere else. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m certainly looking forward to it. We’ve got several posters to give away – courtesy of Warner Bros. – so tomorrow morning, bright and early, 8am PST (11am on the East Coast) we will have one of our quickie trivia contests. First three people to submit the correct answer to the question posted at that time wins the prize.

Miyazaki Knows how to deal with Hollywood

Hayao Miyazaki offers a terrific new method for dealing with pesky Hollywood movie executives: threatening them with samurai swords. An excerpt from an interview that appeared in today’s GUARDIAN paper:

Miyazaki taps a cigarette from a silver case. The Disney deal suits him, he explains, because he has stuck to his guns. His refusal to grant merchandising rights means that there is no chance of any Nausicaa happy meals or Spirited Away video games. Furthermore, Disney wields no creative control. There is a rumour that when Harvey Weinstein was charged with handling the US release of Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki sent him a samurai sword in the post. Attached to the blade was a stark message: “No cuts.”

The director chortles. “Actually, my producer did that. Although I did go to New York to meet this man, this Harvey Weinstein, and I was bombarded with this aggressive attack, all these demands for cuts.” He smiles. “I defeated him.”

Guy Ritchie, the next Richard Rich?

A backhanded compliment if ever there was one. Live-action director Guy Ritchie says he was so inspired by Brad Bird’s THE INCREDIBLES that he’s decided to set aside live-action and make a “children’s animated film.” Because after all, INCREDIBLES was nothing more than a kiddie cartoon anyways. Emru Townsend at fps magazine eloquently explains everything that is wrong with Ritchie’s announcement so I don’t have to.

Wallace+Gromit-Katzenberg=Good

Jeffrey Katzenberg says in the NY TIMES that he didn’t have much hands-on involvement in the upcoming Wallace & Gromit feature: “Any coaching that Nick [Park] and Steve [Box] got from me, or anybody, was incidental. From the beginning, their instincts have been perfect.” Lack of Katzenberg meddling also means that we might finally see a DreamWorks cartoon that is entertaining and enjoyable.

ANIMATION AT REDCAT

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If you live in L.A. and can’t get to Ottawa next week – several screenings at Disney Concert Hall’s REDCAT Theatre in October might help. From Thursday Oct. 6th through Saturday Oct. 8th there will be three screenings of New International Animation.On October 6th, NEW ANIMATION FROM HONG KONG, CHINA AND JAPAN will feature several new shorts and the acclaimed Chinese feature MY LIFE AS McDULL. Friday night, October 7th, showcases HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE ANNECY FESTIVAL which includes new shorts by John Canemaker, Anthony Lucas and Ali Taylor. On Saturday night, PHANTOMS AND DREAMS is a program of more personal and experimental work, by the likes of Maureen Selwood, Raimund Krumme and Alex Budovsky, among many others. All programs start at 8pm. For more info check www.redcat.org

DAFFY FOR A DOLLAR

daffypresident.jpgReader Lynn Fava reports:

I don’t know if you have any Dollar Tree stores near you, but thought you might want to know that they are carrying Chuck Jones’ book “Daffy Duck for President” for (you guessed it) $1 each.

Out west we have the 99 Cents Only stores which seem to carry the same stock. I haven’t checked my local one yet, but the book is certainly worth a dollar.

POPEYE PANCHINKO

Reader Aaron Neathery sends in this observation:

I saw this on Ebay and had to share. popeyepinball.jpgI really, really don’t understand Pachinko, but the new (not too bad) QT clips on the Sammy site do give me a hankering for some fever dream-inspired Popeye anime. Frankly, I think King Features should consider it. After all, through the work of Popeye fan Osamu Tezuka, the Fleischer style lies close to the roots of anime and manga. A Japanese production would probably maintain more fidelity with Segar and Fleischer than past American efforts (Popeye and Son). Lord knows I’d watch it.

Studio 360 on The End of Hand-Drawn Animation at Disney

Studio 360, a program on Public Radio International, ran a 7-minute segment last weekend on the end of hand-drawn animation at Disney. The piece has some nice comments from historian John Canemaker and animator Tony West (co-director of DREAM ON SILLY DREAMER). The show also did a shorter segment about the passing of Joe Ranft with more thoughts from Canemaker. You can listen to both segments at the Studio 360 website, but I have no idea how long the audio files will be available, so you may want to head over there soon.
(Thanks, Ovi Nedelcu!)

Update: Tom writes in, “Your readers might want to know that they have a podcast feed at Studio 360. The episode on the end of Disney hand-drawn animation can be downloaded, for a limited time,
HERE.”

Trusted Computing

Trusted Computing

Here at Cartoon Brew, our general focus on entertainment-related animation makes it easy to forget that animation is a sophisticated visual medium that can also be used to educate and inform audiences. I was reminded of this when I ran across a new animated short by Lutz Vogel and Benjamin Stephan called TRUSTED COMPUTING, a visually striking “message film” about the potential hazards of the computer industry’s move towards a trusted computing platform. The film offers an introduction to this technology in layman’s terms, and gets across its point in a surprisingly effective manner, especially for a non-technical person like myself. Well worth checking out.
(via Plasticbag.org)

Hurricane Relief For Artists

We know that a lot of animation exec types read this site so here’s a message for you folks. Following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, the School of Art at Louisiana State University is desperately seeking art supplies for children, college students and displaced adult artists. Dori Littell-Herrick, the chair of animation at Woodbury University, believes the animation industry can help. She writes:

I was very moved to hear, among all the calls for water, for food, for emergency supplies, a call for sketchbooks and markers, crayons and paint, for the artists, the art students, and the young people of the Louisiana area, who need a way to put their grief and fear and loss down in the form of art.

I’m asking how the animation community can come together and help, and asking you to pass this up the line at the studios to ask if they can help.We all know that loads of paper, pencils, markers and other art supplies sit around in studios, unused, only to get thrown away. How many of us have pulled supplies out of the trash can and taken them home. Now there is a place in need of all the supplies we can muster.

Below is the original call for help from Stuart Baron, director of the School of Art at Lousiana State University. Contact details are included:

This is the only expedient way to contact you that I can think of and am making the following appeal.

I am asking for your help in the ongoing efforts to aid the people of New Orleans and Louisiana. Here in Baton Rouge we have a great need for art supplies for the evacuees who are being housed and educated in the city and at LSU. We have four cohorts in desperate need of supplies: children and adults now living in shelters throughout the Baton Rouge area, children who are entering the public schools whose budgets are currently overtaxed and overwhelmed by the doubling of enrolled students, college art students from New Orleans now enrolled at the School of Art at LSU, and professional artists who have lost not only their supplies but their life’s work.

The East Baton Rouge Parish School System is a separate entity and one that I cannot speak for, but the others are those that I can directly reach in this effort. Any art supplies, especially drawing pads, sketchbooks, pencils, markers,watercolor sets, crayons, charcoal, printmaking supplies, sculpture tools, papers, rulers, t-squares, and anything else that is not toxic or dangerous (e.g. oil paint chemicals) is sought to give these souls ways to express their feelings and impressions of this unmatched national tragedy as well as diversion and solace in their uprooted circumstances. Of course, any gift in kind to the University has tax benefits, but your heartfelt willingness to help us in this time of abject need will not go unappreciated or publicly unnoticed. I cannot possibly explain to you the depth of hardship that now exists and the necessity for life-sustaining support. Art is such a powerful means of achieving those true expressions of loss, fear, confusion, grief, and, most importantly, hope, which words alone cannot convey. No donation would be too small.

Please, please help us by providing what you can. This is only one form of positive intervention, coming quickly from the entire country, that will enable the people and artists of the greater New Orleans area and Mississippi to sustain any possibility of a future whatsoever. All donations can be sent directly to the School of Art office at the address below.

Respectfully,
Stuart Baron
Director, School of Art
Louisiana State University
123 Art Building
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803
225.578.5414 (office)
225.578.5424 (fax)
baron (at) lsu.edu

If your studio is capable of helping, let us know, and we’ll keep Brew readers posted on what the animation community is doing to help Katrina victims.
(via ASIFA-Hollywood blog)

NY Trip Report: 50s Design, New Books and Mind Game

Thanks to Jerry who’s been holding down the Brew fort while I was away in New York City. I was out there working on the design and layout for my upcoming 1950s animation design book. I’m pleased to report that the book is coming together really nicely. It’s been a long, occasionally difficult, journey getting to this point, but everything’s on track and the massive amount of artwork and text is slowly but surely taking form as a mighty solid book. I have to give props to Chronicle; they’ve been immensely supportive and helpful throughout the entire process. Last week, my editor offered up an additional sixteen pages, bringing the book’s total page count to 192. My designer and I will definitely be putting those extra pages to good use.

Newgarden and Canemaker books

Also, a couple more New York book plugs. My cartoonist friend Mark “Garbage Pail Kids” Newgarden is wrapping up work on a coffeetable collection of his cartoons and artwork called WE ALL DIE ALONE. I’ve seen handfuls of his work before, and I’m really looking forward to finally seeing an extensive collection of Mark’s funny and skewed cartoon work. The book will be out in October from Fantagraphics. Also, got to visit with the esteemed John Canemaker and had a chance to see the new revised edition of his book on Winsor McCay. No surprise here, but it’s yet another must-have Canemaker book. When I got back to LA, there was a review copy waiting for me in the mail and I can’t wait to dig in. Classic cartoonists rarely get this type of classy coffeetable book presentation, but if anybody deserves it, it’s McCay. Even if you already have the earlier version of John’s Winsor McCay book, there’s more than enough new material in this revised edition to justify the purchase.

As a sidenote, Mark Newgarden also treated me to a cartoon screening of some of the weirdest classic cartoons I’ve seen in a while. If Jerry Beck is the master of the “worst cartoons show” then Mark is king of the “oddball cartoons show.” Among the highlights:

* An early-1960s John Sutherland industrial, FAMILIES OF STEEL, which is the only time illustrator Boris Artzybasheff designed characters for an animated film. Other notable elements in this short: groovy Sixties color styling by Bob Dranko and goofy dancing steel animation by Art Babbitt.
* The cheapest, most poorly animated UPA film I’ve ever seen, a no-budget project for the American Cancer Society called SAPPY HOMIENS (1956). Half of the film is a live-action sequence starring UPA storyman Leo Salkin thinking about how he’s going to make the cartoon. “So bad it’s good” certainly applies in this case.
* One of the most grotesquely designed stop motion films ever, a gem from the 1920s called IN THE SPRING. It’s stop motion bizarreness on a “Charlie Bowers” level and even includes a dog milking a cow. If anybody out there knows who did this film, please let us know.

The other animation highlight of my New York trip was finally getting the chance to see the much-lauded animated feature MIND GAME (2004), directed by Masaaki Yuasa. The film was screening as part of the Museum of Modern Art’s anime film series, and as far as I know, it’s the first time the film has received theatrical play in the United States (Tamu Townsend writes that the film’s first US theatrical screening was actually this past June at the NY Asian Film Festival). If ever there was an appropriate rebuttal to the modern American animator’s insistence of imposing live-action scripts and filmmaking techniques onto the cartoon art form, MIND GAME is it. This film is fully and truly animated, from conception through execution, every one of its frames stretching the medium to the limits of its expressive potential. Comparisons between MIND GAME and other animated films are simply inadequate. Granted, at moments it recalls FANTASIA, YELLOW SUBMARINE and Bob Clampett’s Warner Bros. shorts, but its sum total is more than any of these; MIND GAME stands alone as one of the most fearlessly original and creative pieces of animation ever produced.

MIND GAME

The film’s brilliance doesn’t stem simply from the variety of visual styles and techniques that it employs, but rather from how director Yuasa incorporates style and technique into a thematically-complex, emotionally-involving narrative. To borrow a thought from animation critic Ben Ettinger (the individual who first turned me onto this film), “Few films I’ve ever seen combined artistic experimentation and comprehensibility in as thought-provoking and mind-bogglingly imaginative a package as this one…Never have I seen animation that was simultaneously so constantly interesting and exciting and that served a greater purpose than mere surface-level titillation. It all works together perfectly, and every moment has surprises.”

My mind is so swamped with other things at the moment that I can’t devote the time to writing a proper review of this film, but rest assured I’ll be writing plenty more about MIND GAME in the months to come. This film heralds the arrival of a new age of the animated film where art, technology and story will be integrated in previously unimaginable ways. Here are links to more MIND GAME praise (and believe me, not a single word of it is hype):

Phil Hall on FILM THREAT
Joshua Smith on Cartoon Brew
Mark Mann at Twitch
A.O. Scott in the NY TIMES (free reg. req’d)
and a huge archive of MIND GAME coverage at Ben Ettinger’s AniPages Daily

KIDTOON FILMS

Following up on my post below about the theatrical release of the new TOM & JERRY movie, Michele Martell of KIDTOON FILMS wrote in to clarify what her company does:

I just saw your posting about Kidtoon Films and our theatrical releases of new animated movies for kids and thought I’d drop you a note to give you some background.The theatrical distribution arm, Kidtoon Films, is part of Sabella Dern Entertainment – a production company run by Paul Sabella and Jonathan Dern. Paul and Jonathan were the co-heads of MGM Animation (ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN 2)for most of the 90′s, and I’m sure you are aware of Paul’s experience and reputation in the field (especially given your book on Pink Panther!).One of the primary motivations for creating Kidtoon Films was our awareness that much of the animation being produced for kids these days is destined for the direct-to-DVD market, and we believed that there would be a theatrical audience for this content. The response from audiences, theatre circuits, and the companies making and releasing these films has validated that belief. In particular, we are happy to be working closely with the folks at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, as it has such a great legacy in animation and cartoons.In addition to new films, we are also showing cartoon shorts – some classic such as Casper the Friendly Ghost, and new, award-winning shorts like “Gopher Broke” from Blur Studios. We see this new theatrical pipeline as a way to create additional opportunities for animation of all kinds – shorts or features, 2D or 3D, made independently or by studios, and from the US or international territories.

ORIGINAL CARTOONS

frederatorbook.jpgOh Yeah!For over ten years, Fred Seibert has been championing the production of funny, original cartoons – first as president of Hanna Barbera in the mid-1990s, and since 1997 with Nickelodeon and his Oh Yeah! Cartoons program. Fred has promoted his cartoons throughout the years with clever limited edition promo postcards which only went out to select few (only 200 of each were printed). These featured special artwork by the likes of Seth MacFarlane, Tim Biskup, Dave Wasson, Craig Kellman, Vincent Waller, Miles Thompson and many other current cartoon notables. You can see the postcards on his Frederator Studios website – but even better, the card artwork is being collected in a 256 page full-color book, beautifully printed on slick glossy stock – with informative text pieces (including an introduction by yours truly).This is no Cafe Press affair, it’s a big, honest-to-goodness real live book (published by Easton Studio Press)! And I’m impressed! It officially goes on sale November 30th, but Fred is selling a few advance copies on his website now – at a $10 discount, and with two free Frederator collectibles: an actual studio postcard and an original Frederator silkscreen poster. For more information, see www.Frederator.kz

FRED PATTEN UPDATE

Our dear friend Fred Patten suffered a stroke last March. I’m happy to say he’s recovering nicely (slowly, but nicely) – and he now has a new webpage which is being updated with his current health status and activities. Fred is the foremost U.S. historian on Japanese anime – and his contributions to my forthcoming book, THE ANIMATED MOVIE GUIDE, were invaluable.Get well Fred – I need you for the revised edition!

Unsung Heros of Animation

Unsung Heros of Animation

I can count all the great books about modern independent animation on one hand…hell, probably on one finger, because there simply aren’t that many. There’s a book coming out this month though that is guaranteed to fill that void. UNSUNG HEROS OF ANIMATION by Chris Robinson promises to be an insightful, much-needed examination of many of today’s leading voices in indie animation. The book (click on cover above for larger version) features profiles on numerous filmmakers including Signe Baumane, Brothers Quay, Paul Bush, Michele Cournoyer, Andreas Hykade, Igor Kovalyov, Ryan Larkin, Priit Parn, Pjotr Sapegin, and JJ Villard, among many others. Being familiar with Robinson’s previous writings, I know these aren’t going to be your run-of-the-mill artist profiles. I’m expecting hard-hitting insights into what makes each of these artists so special and I’m sure Chris is going to deliver.

From John Canemaker’s blurb on the back of the book:

Robinson writes with keen perception and a critical eye; he is sincere, compassionate and always passionate about his subjects, many of whom push the borders of film content and technique wide open. His unfailingly evocative descriptions of the works make one hungry to see them. ‘Let’s end the obscurity here and now,’ demands Robinson, whose new book goes a long way towards doing just that.

The book isn’t listed on Amazon yet, but is being distributed by Indiana University Press in North America. It officially debuts at the Ottawa International Animation Festival later this month.

SUPER SATURDAY CLUB

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ABC’s Saturday morning cartoon line-up in 1969 must represent the pinnacle of low budget, cheapjack, crap-tacular TV cartoon production. But if you grew up with this kind of stuff, you might still have a warm spot in your heart for it. Who can forget (or remember) Hanna-Barbera’s THE ADVENTURES OF GULLIVER and THE CHATANOOGA CATS, Ken Snyder’s HOT WHEELS and SKY HAWKS (pictured above) – both designed by comic book great Alex Toth – Rankin-Bass’ SMOKEY BEAR SHOW, Filmation’s FANTASTIC VOYAGE and their Archies knock-off, THE HARDY BOYS? Not to mention those reruns of made for TV CASPER cartoons…. Ahhh, what a morning!If you crave the nostalgia of those times, check out Steven Thompson’s new blog where he has posted the complete contents of the ABC SUPER SATURDAY CLUB (direct link here), a failed attempt by the network to create brand loyalty to their kidvid programming.

MATINEE MOUSE

tomjerryfastfurry.jpgWhen is a theatrical release not a theatrical release?As someone who is monitoring U.S. theatrical animated releases – for both my website and new book – I’ve established a criteria for what is and isn’t a legitimate movie theatre release. However, with ever-changing technologies and new marketing strategies continually evolvng, I find I’m wrestling with a new dilemma. What happens when a theatre is showing a direct-to-video movie on Saturday matinees, several weeks in advance of their dvd debut? Do I consider that an official theatrical release?An outfit called KIDTOON FILMS has started a weekly theatrical series of kiddie matinees, mixing old G-rated films with new direct-to-video movies. SPOOKLEY THE SQUARE PUMPKIN, THE GOLDEN BLAZE and CANDYLAND have received Saturday and Sunday morning showings in theatres accross the country. Small newspaper ads are taken. The films are digitally projected – no 35mm print is made. This weekend, the new direct-to-video Tom & Jerry movie, The Fast And The Furry (coming out on Oct. 11th) is playing these KIDTOON matinees.These films were never intended for theatrical showing, but for marketing purposes they are made available to KIDTOONS for a short period of time. Shall I consider these “releases” as legitimate? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences wouldn’t, as they dictate a weeklong booking as a requirement. Will I list them on my website? For now, I guess I will. Their lack of a film print might be an excuse not to list them, but within ten years I doubt any film prints will be struck for theatre showings.Such are the concerns of a diligent film historian.

Even Mr. Bill Knew the Levees Wouldn’t Hold

Mr. Bill in New Orleans

A couple days ago on GOOD MORNING, AMERICA, President Bush said, “I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the breach of the levees.” Not true. Even animated cartoon characters knew the levees were vulnerable. The disaster currently unfolding in New Orleans was the subject of a 2004 public service announcement starring the perennially imperiled clay-character Mr. Bill (of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE fame). The transcript of the PSA can be read HERE and the eerily prophetic spot can be viewed HERE. (via The Rude Pundit, which also has an interesting piece titled “Totally Black” in New Orleans).

Donate to hurricane relief at Mercy Corps or Operation USA.