FUNNIEST. BOOK. EVER!

comicbookguy.jpgI’ve been laughing all weekend over a copy of COMIC BOOK GUY’S BOOK OF POP CULTURE, one of the small Harper Collins books in The Simpsons Library of Wisdom series.I happen to think Comic Book Guy is the funniest Simpsons character – ever – partly because I know a few comic book dealers like him – and possibly because I posess some of his more appealing traits myself. The book is loaded with humor based on comic book, sci-fi, animation, movie & TV history minutiae. The more you know pop culture (and comic book dealers), the funnier this tome is. 96 pages, in color – Kudos to Bill Morrision and his team of seven writers (and over 20 artists) for making me laugh out loud on every page.

Zathura Actors Hate CG

“I will fully be on record saying I hate CG. I don’t get emotionally invested in video games and likewise I can’t get emotionally invested in something that’s come out of a computer.” That’s what Dax Shepard, one of the stars of the new film ZATHURA, told the METRO NEWS. Granted, he’s promoting a film that uses very little CG and instead relies on old school FX techniques like miniature models, constructed sets and costumed actors, but one wonders if the Jon Favreau-directed film is only the beginning of an anti-CG backlash in Hollywood movies. And what could this mean for animation? Are we going to have a filmmaker come along who decides that animated CG features don’t have enough heart and decides to make a hand-drawn animated film?Joel Schlosberg, who sent in this link, also notes that it’s ironic that Favreau chose to go retro on a film that is based on a Chris van Allsburg book because “earlier adaptations of a story by the same author provided two of the paradigmatic examples of CG excess: Jumanji (one of the earliest) and The Polar Express.”
(Thanks, Joel)

Hellboy at Film Roman

It was announced earlier this week that Film Roman will be producing a hand-drawn HELLBOY direct-to-DVD feature and TV series. The show’s supervising director, longtime Disney TV producer/director Tad Stones (DARKWING DUCK, ATLANTIS: MILO’S RETURN, BUZZ LIGHTYEAR OF STAR COMMAND), has started a production diary HERE. If his first couple entries are any indication, it should be a good read for anybody who’s interested in the show.

THE TEX AVERY AWARD

texaveryaward.jpgHere’s an event I wish I were attending.This Sunday afternoon in Dallas Texas, the Deep Ellum Film Festival honors Brad Bird with the Texas Avery Animation Award. Special Guest Appearances by Nancy Avery Arkley (Avery’s daughter), artist William Joyce and local movie critic Gary Cogill. The event be held on Sunday, November 13th from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the North Dallas High School (3120 North Haskell Avenue), the same high school Tex Avery attended. Admission is $10 with proceeds benefiting Hurricane Katrina victims suffering from cancer. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.def2.org or call (214) 752-6759.

Women get a bigger buzz from cartoons

Finally, something to explain the popularity of Hello Kitty. An article in the NEW SCIENTIST says the results of a brain scan study have shown that women are more easily amused by cartoons than men. Or in scientific terms:

[The researchers] were surprised to find differences in the part of the brain known as the reward centre. The nucleus accumbens, part of the mesolimbic reward centre, is a dopamine-rich area that is most strongly activated when a reward – in this case, a funny joke – is unexpected. The team discovered that when women found a cartoon funny, their reward centre was more active than for men, suggesting the females’ expectation of being amused was lower. But when men found a cartoon unfunny, they showed de-activation in their reward centre, suggesting disappointment.

(Thanks, David Maas)

OLLIE JOHNSTON TO GET MEDAL OF ARTS

Here’s some exciting news: Ollie Johnston is headed to Washington DC tomorrow with his family, Roy Disney and Howard Green for a Thursday ceremony at the White House. He is the first animator to ever receive the National Medal of the Arts Award. Here’s the officicial government press release:

President George W. Bush today announced the recipients of the 2005 National Medal of Arts. Ten medals will be presented by the President and Mrs. Laura Bush in an Oval Office ceremony at the White House on November 10. The National Endowment for the Arts notified the artists of their selection to receive a National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence.”These individuals and organization have all made significant and enduring contributions to the artistic life of our nation,” said National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia. “Whether through pioneering film animation, writing memorable novels, championing jazz, or creating new dance styles, their work has transformed the ways we experience and appreciate the world.”

Other recipients to be honored on Thursday include actor Robert Duvall, musician Wynton Marsalis, and singer Dolly Parton.

South Africa’s First Big Screen Cartoon

Straight Outta Benoni

South Africa recently released its first live-action teen comedy STRAIGHT OUTTA BENONI, and the opening and end credits were both animated. Normally, animated credits are not a big deal, but Michael Robertson, who did in-betweens and clean-up on the end credits, tells me that this is a major milestone for the South African animation community because it’s the first time that locally produced animation content has appeared on the big screen in that country. Animator Jonathan McKay of Eject Media was responsible for creating the intro and Dave Hillier of Network BBDO was the lead on the end credits sequence. There’s an article with more details on these animated segments at AnimationSA.org.

DEREK LAMB R.I.P.

Janet Perlman reports:

I have some very sad news. Derek passed away last night, after having had cancer for a number of years. He has been in Washington State for a few months, where he was staying with his friend Dal Lamagna. His wife, Tracie Smart, was at his side. I understand that he was at peace. I spoke to him last week and he was still enthusiastic about various film and music projects despite being very weak.

Derek Lamb started his animation career with the National Film Board of Canada in the 1960s. He has worked extensively as a writer, director and producer in Canada, the US and Europe, both in commercial and experimental film. For six years, during the 1970s and 1980s, he served as Director of the National Film Board of Canada. He won an Oscar for producing EVERY CHILD (1979). He was most recently an executive producer on the PBS animated pre-school series Peep And The Big Wide World.

KIMBA THE WHITE LION

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Next Thursday, November 10th, ASIFA-Hollywood is staging a tribute to the pioneering anime series KIMBA THE WHITE LION at the Glendale library.KIMBA (aka Jungle Emperor Leo or Jungulu Taitei) was based on Osamu Tezuka’s epic 533 page serialized manga first published in 1951. After the success of ASTRO BOY as Tezuka’s (and Japan’s) first animated TV series, KIMBA was financed by NBC Films and produced by Tezuka’s own Mushi Productions, and became the first Japanese cartoon series produced in color. Ever since its debut in 1965, KIMBA has attracted a loyal cult following.The ASIFA event next Thursday is being presented by KIMBA’s original English-language producer, Fred Ladd. He will present clips from the series and discuss its origins with animator Sadao Miyamoto (an alumnus of Tezuka’s Mushi Productions), Jared Cook, translator & interpreter for Tezuka himself, Hollywood animator (and KIMBA expert) Shawn Keller, and Ms. Sonia Owens, an original voice-cast member from the classic series. For more information (admission prices, location, starting time) see ASIFA-Hollywood.org.

Jamiroquai’s (Don’t) Give Hate A Chance

JAMIROQUAI

Jamiroquai’s first-ever animated music video is an old-school tribute to Osvaldo Cavandoli’s LA LINEA mixed up with mo-cap CGI. The video was directed by Partizan Lab UK’s Alex and Martin. Nothing revolutionary here, but the animation has nice snappy timing, and I like the fact that the CG characters are designed to have both eyes on one side of the head. Check out the Quicktime version HERE or Windows Media and Real versions HERE.
(Thanks, Edward B.)

ACADEMY EXAMINES LIVE ACTION & ANIMATION

jessicarabbit2.jpg

With the recent SCOOBY DOO movies and the upcoming KING KONG remake, combining live action and animation has certainly come a long way from Pete’s Dragon.The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is preparing a panel of experts (names to be announced) to discuss the dynamics of using animation in live action films, exploring the history of the technique(s) and past films – and current challenges of creating a realistic animated performance in the digital age. This screening and panel discussion will be held December 6th at 7:30pm in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theatre. For more information click here.

JANET KLEIN

janetkleinmerry.jpgAs usual on the first Thursday of every month, I’ll be showing several 16mm films at the Steve Allen Theatre (at 4773 Hollywood Blvd. in Los Feliz) November 3rd at 8pm, preceeding a live concert by Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys.I usually run a few Fleischer cartoons to set the mood, then Janet and the band perform a few songs from the golden era. It’s a madcap, zany, fun-for-all good time.Join us!

Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppets

Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppets

The ever-innovative Michel Gagné has posted the twelve INSANELY TWISTED SHADOW PUPPETS interstitials and bumpers that he created for Nickelodeon’s “Halloween Shriekin Weekend.” They are short but ingenious pieces of Flash animation. Michel’s kinetic, in-your-face style of timing and animation creates an energetic mood unlike any other animated film I’ve seen recently. As part of his contract with MTV, Michel wisely negotiated that he be allowed to show the unedited spots on his website, and these “Director’s Cuts” versions currently on his site differ significantly from what aired on Nick. After watching them my only thought is, I want to see more Gagné animation!

Welcome to Cartoon Modern

Cartoon Modern

Today I’m launching a new blog, Cartoon Modern, dedicated solely to 1950s animation design. It is a supplement to my forthcoming book of the same name, CARTOON MODERN: STYLE AND DESIGN IN 1950S ANIMATION, which will be released by Chronicle Books in April 2006. I’ll be updating regularly and sharing all sorts of rare research and visual material that I’ve gathered during the course of writing the book. Over the coming year, expect to see lots of great artwork by the likes of John Hubley, Ward Kimball, Mary Blair, Tom Oreb, Eyvind Earle, Maurice Noble, Ed Benedict and many other lesser known (but equally talented) 1950s-era animation designers. The site address is:cartoonmodern.blogsome.com