Okay, it’s no Oscar nominee, the character designs suck and the animation (despite a few nice shots) is no where near Pixar’s polished perfection – but HOODWINKED caught me off guard and I found myself laughing often during the industry screening I attended this morning. I’m not recommending anyone go out and see it – but if you do, you might actually have a good time with it, as I did. The script, vocal characterizations, direction and songs (yes, songs) are very well done.HOODWINKED opened this week at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood to qualify for Academy Award. The film, as you may have already heard, is a “Fractured Fairy Tale” spoof of Red Riding Hood, done in the style of The Usual Suspects crossed with (choke) The Family Guy. I guess I’m just here to report that the film isn’t a total bust (an easy impression to get from the posters, trailers and those damn ugly character designs) – it will be interesting to see what kind of money it will generate without a full scale family marketing campaign and a brand name distributor/producer behind it.
We’ve just learned that animation designer Charles McElmurry passed away on December 5th.McElmurry began at Disney in 1940 but was soon drafted into the Marine Corps. After the war, he moved to New York to work as an illustrator while living in Connecticut. Art Babbitt was instrumental in getting McElmurry into John Hubley’s Storyboard Productions as a layout artist/designer. He also worked at John Sutherland Productions and Quartet Films. McElmurry’s design work will be better known with the publication of Amid’s CARTOON MODERN next spring. Here’s a link to a tribute posted on daughter Jill McElmurry’s BLOG.
UPDATE: More thoughts about, and artwork by, Charles McElmurry at the Cartoon Modern blog.
The post title pretty much says it all. The House of Blues (Downtown Disney, Anaheim) will host “An Evening With John Kricfalusi” on Wednesday, December 28. But people hoping to see John belt out a few tunes are out of luck. The event description says, “John will be discussing the creation of REN & STIMPY as well as telling stories and showing never before seen REN & STIMPY cartoons and ending with a Q&A session.”
Pixar story artist Ronnie del Carmen is chronicling the adventures of the Pixar artists who are currently in New York for the opening of Pixar: 20 Years of Animation at MoMA. If you can’t make it to New York, the exhibition catalogue can be purchased at the MoMA bookstore. Also, there’s some good lectures planned in conjunction with the exhibit: John Lasseter speaks at MoMA this Friday, Ralph Eggleston and Bill Cone discuss the art of the colorscript on January 6, and Gary Rydstrom and Michael Giacchino offer insights on the art of sound design on January 20.
UPDATE: More thoughts on the MoMA show from animator Michael Sporn.
If you’ve ever wondered how Scrooge McDuck is related to Potcrack McDuck, or which of Donald Duck’s exs had an affair with Manuel Gonzales, then THIS is the family tree for you. The most important thing I learned from this is that somebody needs to teach the concept of birth control to all the Disney ducks.
(Thanks, Dai Kun)
Our friend Michael Sporn has arrived online with a beautifully designed website and blog at MichaelSpornAnimation.com. Mike has been a fixture of the New York animation scene for many years. When he started in animation during the 1970s, he worked with John and Faith Hubley (COCKABOODY, EVERYBODY RIDES THE CAROUSEL), Richard Williams (RAGGEDY ANN AND ANDY) and R.O. Blechman (SIMPLE GIFTS). He started his own studio in 1980 where Sporn has spent a significant portion of his career creating elegant hand-drawn children’s book adaptations in a wide range of illustrator styles including those of William Steig (DOCTOR DESOTO), Quentin Blake (STORY OF THE DANCING FROG) and Chris Raschka (YO! YES?, HAPPY TO BE NAPPY). One of his latest films, THE MAN WHO WALKED BETWEEN THE TOWERS, an adaptation of a children’s book by Mordicai Gerstein, is shortlisted at the Academy and is a strong contender for an animated short Oscar nomination this year.
Blue Sky Studios is holding an AUCTION to benefit the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The auction runs through December 19 and includes original pre-production artwork and maquettes from ICE AGE and ROBOTS. All proceeds (minus auction fees) will go directly to either the Red Cross or The Humane Society.
So begins Michael Barrier’s review of CHICKEN LITTLE. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I wholeheartedly concur with every word of Barrier’s review. His assessment could also describe most every other Disney animated feature of the past decade. The benchmark of animated storytelling, art and technology is no longer to be found at Disney, and CHICKEN LITTLE is simply a sad confirmation of that fact.
“Chicken Little is the third elaborate and expensive industrial product (I almost said ‘movie’ or ‘film’) whose principal fabricator (I almost said ‘director’) was Mark Dindal. It is an odd item, even by the warped standards prevailing in Hollywood.”
Among the cool things to see at the Pixar: 20 Years of Animation exhibit opening this week at MoMA is a giant 19th century-style zoetrope with TOY STORY characters in it. But unlike the traditional zoetrope which uses flat animation on paper, these zoetropes have three-dimensional models inside of them. Charles Solomon wrote about it in last weekend’s NY TIMES (reg. req’d, bugmenot.com). Says MONSTERS INC. director Pete Docter of the zoetropes, “When it’s working, you’d swear you can reach out and shake hands with these guys who are coming to life right in front of you.”
(via Michael Sporn’s Splog)
There is no question that Miramax has earned its reputation as a producer of classy live-action films, but when it comes to animation, the Weinstein brothers have proven time and again that they are utterly clueless. Their animation releases throughout the years have included clunkers like FREDDY AS F.R.O.7., TOM AND JERRY: THE MOVIE, ARABIAN NIGHT, POKEMON 4-EVER and POKEMON HEROES. (They do have PRINCESS MONONOKE to their credit, though that film was foisted upon them by Disney and, by all accounts, not a project on which they took the initiative.) Now that they’ve split from Disney and formed The Weinstein Company, the brothers appear intent on maintaining their streak of animated incompetence with HOODWINKED, which opens in wide release on January 13. Fear not, the Weinsteins understand that in this day and age, crappy hand-drawn animated films won’t cut it anymore; today’s audiences demand crappy computer animation, and HOODWINKED promises to deliver plenty of that.
This Reuters article offers some background on the film and says that HOODWINKED’s budget was $15-20 million. To put that into perspective, the Weinsteins could have produced two amazing animated films for $20mil — THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE and MIND GAME — with spare change left over. The reason we don’t see more films like BELLEVILLE and MIND GAME is not that they cost too much or that there aren’t enough talented animation directors who can create such films; it’s that Hollywood’s live-action establishment doesn’t understand (and remains willfully ignorant about) the animated art form. As long as these people continue to call the shots, the great possibilities of feature animation will remain untapped, and the development of the art form painfully stunted. And we’ll continue to see directors like Zemeckis blow fortunes on “uncanny valley” quasi-animated films like POLAR EXPRESS, studios spend tens of millions to produce Saturday morning-quality fare like CURIOUS GEORGE, and producers like the Weinsteins invest in torturously bad projects like HOODWINKED.
The new hand-drawn animation music video for the band They Might Be Giants is well worth checking out. “Bastard Wants to Hit Me” was released as a ‘bonus video’ in early November on the band’s VENUE SONGS dvd and has just been posted online. The video was co-directed by Aaron Sorenson (animation direction) and Courtney Booker (art direction) at LAIKA’s commercial division, LAIKA/house. There’s some strong expressive animation in it with cartoony facial expressions and funny, exaggerated mouth shapes. The video is nominated for an Annie Award in the TV commercial category.
(Thanks, Andrew Tisher)
A voice we all grew up with has been silenced. Gilbert Mack passed away December 5th at age 93. Mack was the U.S. voice of “Mr. Pompus” on the original Astro Boy (1963) and was a member of the New York troup of voice actors who dubbed everything from Gigantor to Godzilla in the 1960s. Mack was also heard as Hawkman on the original 1960s Filmation Superman/Aquaman Hour and recorded numerous Little Golden Records as various Hanna Barbera characters. Prior to his cartoon work, Mack was a vaudevillian and a character actor on radio and early televsion – with numerous appearances on such classic shows as Dick Tracy and The Inner Sanctum.(Thanks, Anthony Tollin)
Take note the name of the photographer on these comic pages! Milton Knight sent us these intriguing panels he found in OUR KID SISTER, a back-up story drawn by Bob Wickersham in COOKIE #16 (ACG, 1948). Milton thinks it might have been written by Hubie Karp.