I’m very proud to announce that Frederator Studios’ OH YEAH! CARTOONS has given a greenlight to produce a character I created called HORNSWIGGLE.For the next few months I will be producing a pilot with the fine folks at G7 Animation. I won’t be talking about it much here – that’s because I’ve started a new blog over on the Frederator website where I will be discussing the entire creative and production process as we go along. The cartoon should wrap in March and air in the fall 2006. Wish me luck!
For the last several years, the artists of Disney Publishing’s Global Design Group have been having a ball illustrating the Little Golden Books based on their latest feature films (including FINDING NEMO and HOME ON THE RANGE) in the style of classic Mary Blair, Mel Crawford, J.P. Miller illustrations. Case in point: Lori Tyminski’s art on the just released CHICKEN LITTLE. Totally worth buying.
Last year Mark Ackland and his partner in crime, Riccardo Durante, completed a series of short films produced by Nelvana for their anthology series “Fun Pak”. Those shorts were called “Gruesomestein’s Monsters”. The show premiered in Canada on a channel called YTV and one of the shorts made it into the Nicktoons Film Festival last year.Now, in an effort to get more exposure for their works, the boys have set up a blog (with permission of Nelvana) that they will update weekly where they will post everything from concept designs to rough poses to clean designs, to bgs, etc.
Animation director Ward Jenkins wrote a blog post about the recent deluge of blogs by animators and illustrators, and he attributes this phenomenon to four factors. Read his thoughtful piece at the Ward-O-Matic.
“You’ve got to embrace [computer animation] or there isn’t going to be a place for you.” It was with that ultimatum, Walt Disney Feature Animation chief David Stainton proudly tells us, that he fixed the studio’s animation division. You see, the silly artists at Disney had been using the wrong tool for the past decade. But Stainton put his M.B.A. from Harvard to good use and figured out that if the artists simply changed their tool from pencil to computer, the Disney films would stop sucking so hard.
Superficial changes in technique aside, this must-read article in yesterday’s NEW YORK TIMES makes it apparent that there remains a clear absence of leadership and creative direction at Disney. The quintessential example of the studio’s continuing animation woes can be found in the story of CHICKEN LITTLE, or rather the “stories” of CHICKEN LITTLE. Somebody explain to me how you begin a film as the tale of “a young girl who went to summer camp to build confidence so she wouldn’t overreact” and end up with the story of “a boy trying to save his town from space aliens?”
At Disney, there is such an unbelievable disregard (downright contempt) for story that it would almost be comical, if the resulting films weren’t so thematically hollow and emotionally shallow. Of course, the type of drastic story overhaul we’re seeing on CHICKEN LITTLE is nothing out of the ordinary at Disney (eg. KINGDOM OF THE SUN to THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE; SWEATING BULLETS to HOME ON THE RANGE), and it is one of the root causes of the studio’s abominable output over the past decade. Read between the lines of this NY TIMES piece, heck, just read the piece, and it becomes obvious that there’s little new under the sun. The CG Disney characters may be a lot shinier and the camera will swirl and twirl until everybody’s dizzy, but their filmmaking process, CG or otherwise, is still diseased at its core, and sadly will remain so as long as imperious corporate hacks like Stainton run the show.
Another new piece worth reading is Richard Corliss’s “Can Mickey Find His Mojo?” in this week’s edition of TIME MAGAZINE. Corliss puts a more positive spin on Disney’s upcoming slate of CG films, and informs us that CHICKEN LITTLE comes replete with Barbra Streisand jokes. I’m sure Stainton couldn’t be more pleased.
Jared Deal and Garnet Syberg-Olsen have lots of fun stuff to look at over at Carnival Cartoons.
Here’s some interesting news that I hadn’t heard before. Nickelodeon Animation is giving up their Burbank studio at 231 W. Olive Avenue. Sale price: $19.5 million. This is the studio where they’ve produced most of their recent shows including SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE ROBOT, THE X’S, and AVATAR. Nick will continue leasing the space until January 2008, but after that, they’re moving to an as-yet unannounced location and the company that owns the building (apparently not Viacom) has put it on the market.
The Burbank studio has been in operation only since spring 1998. The building was originally priced at $20.5 million, but it’s been reduced by $1 million, according to the website for Ramsey-Shilling Commercial Real Estate Services. The studio specs and sale offer can be found in this downloadable PDF. What isn’t clear yet is the exact reason for the move, though it’s reasonable to assume they’re leaving because they need a larger pad. As it is, Nick is currently leasing several other buildings in the Burbank area to house their entire staff. If anybody has more details, let us know. And remember, if you work in the studio, it’s never too early to begin dismantling the building fixtures and starting your own Nick studio memorabilia collection.
Update: I’ve received a couple emails that imply that Nick isn’t leaving the building, but that ownership of it is changing hands. For example, one reader writes:
In re-reading the Nick Building sale information, I conclude this offer doesn’t mean NICKELODEON is giving up the space. It seems the owner of the building (apparently NOT Nickelodeon or Viacom) is selling it and touting the fact that Nick has a long term lease. The property may change hands (ownership) and maybe Viacom will buy it. They can afford it. I’m surprised they didn’t own it to begin with. So the offer to sell the building, in theory, does not mean Nick is going anywhere.
Another person writes:
Here’s my best guess. I don’t believe that Nickelodeon or Viacom ever OWNED the building, they just had a 10 year lease (until 2007 or 08). Probably it’s the owner that’s selling it, ALONG WITH THE NICKTOONS LEASE. No change afoot.”
To continue what we started in the “Animation Blog Season” post, here’s a handful more animation artist blogs that I’ve been enjoying recently. Also, a quick note: please bear in mind that, though I’d very much like to, it’s impossible for me to list every new animation blog out there.
Uwe Heidschoetter‘s somewhat unpronounceable name (at least for me) hasn’t prevented me from enjoying all the elegant drawings on his blog. From the bio on his site: “I have an education in Design and 2d Animation. Now I work as a 3d Animator in Hanover.”
Robin Joseph is a designer/story artist at House of Cool. Jerry had plugged his work way back in June ’04 when Robin had a website, but he’s since shut the site down and started his own blog. His work shows a strong Ronald Searle-influence, and that’s never a bad thing.
What’s better than independent American animation? How about independent American animation commissioned by a propaganda arm of the US government. Brew reader Joel Schlosberg directs us to this campy mid-70s short posted on Archive.org:
Vincent Collins’s 200 (aka BICENTENNIAL) is an odd mix of patriotic Americana and post-Sixties psychedelic imagery, produced by the American government to commemorate the bicentennial.
Celebrate America HERE.
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 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)
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.
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.”