Hoodwinked

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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.

Bastard Wants To Hit Me

Bastard Wants To Hit Me

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)

GILBERT MACK (1912-2005)

gilmack.jpgA 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)

CARTOONIST UNION PARTY

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Ya’know, I was thinking recently how we don’t post many pictures of ye brewmasters on this blog. Here’s one snapped of me tonight at the Animation Guild’s Holiday Party at the Pickwick Center in Burbank. Hundreds of Los Angeles based animators showed up, including veterans Willie Ito, Art Leonardi, and Lou Scheimer. Animation Nation’s Charles Zembillas snapped a bunch of pictures and posted them on his Animation Nation forum. As you can see, good time was had by all!

Help design the cover of my book

Cartoon Modern cover concept

I’m still working on my Chronicle book CARTOON MODERN, which is all about 1950s animation design. Right now, my editor, the design folks at Chronicle, the book designers and I are all working diligently to figure out a cool cover design. I’ve posted a bunch of the cover concepts on the CARTOON MODERN blog and I want to hear what everybody thinks. There’s a lot of options and your comments will help us forge a direction for what the final cover will look like. The more opinions, the merrier, so please participate.

JibJab’s Big Box Mart

Big Box Mart

I’m sure a lot of people have already seen this short. BIG BOX MART premiered on THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO back in October and since then has been seen online by many millions more. Still, I wanted to point it out here because it’s one of my favorite shorts that JibJab has produced. (JibJab, for those unfamiliar, is the six-year-old Flash animation studio started by brothers Evan and Gregg Spiridellis). As is typical of their work, the concept and lyrics are top-notch and the Flash animation is snappy and well timed, but on top of that, there’s a new level of graphic sophistication in their photo cut-out/collage technique that sets BIG BOX MART apart from the studio’s earlier films. The backgrounds have a greater level of detailing with thoughtful attention to color styling, and the layouts and camera moves take good advantage of deep space possibilities. It’s exciting to see this increasing graphic ambitiousness in their work, and as JibJab continues to receive other high-profile gigs, hopefully we’ll see even more of it.

Beyond producing solid Flash cartoons, JibJab also deserves props for doing something that very few other animation creators are able to do nowadays: reach an audience of millions without subservience to traditional studio distribution models. Flash producer Aaron Simpson, of Cold Hard Flash, summed up nicely JibJab’s unique accomplishments: “They create, develop and produce their own properties; they distribute to a massive audience online and beyond; they partner with media empires like MSN – all while maintaining ownership of their properties and brands.” JibJab is fulfilling the promise of online animation in an impressive manner, and they continue to innovate and experiment with progressive ideas like their ‘audience participation’ films. Here’s to their continued success, and to the hope that more animation creators can learn from how they’ve managed to exploit the potential of the Net.

JibJab’s films, including BIG BOX MART, can be seen on their site Jibjab.com. Also, a collection of some of their most well known shorts is available on the just-released JIBJAB: THE EARLY YEARS dvd.

CANEMAKER IN L.A.

John Canemaker is coming to Los Angeles and that is always a treat. He’s going to be giving a lecture at LACMA (The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, to you) on January 14th, on Winsor McCay and he’ll be signing his newly revised book as well. Two days earlier ASIFA-Hollywood members can meet and greet John at the Dreamworks campus in Glendale. That night, Thursday January 12th, Canemaker will screen his (soon to be Oscar nominated) new film, The Moon and The Son: An Imagined Conversation as well as several rare cartoon shorts that have influenced his work. I’ll moderate a Q&A with him. Mark you calender now for two rare nights with this acclaimed animator, educator and historian.

ANNIE AWARD NOMINATIONS

Asifa-Hollywood has released its list of nominees for the 2005 Annie Awards. The winners will be announced at a star-studded ceremony on February 4th at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. Corny Cole, Ty Wong and Fred Crippen will be recieving Winsor McCay Lifetime Achievement Awards. Tickets are now available now for the event.Congratulations to all the nominees!

Monday Morning Inspiration

Leonard Weisgard

For today’s inspiration, I want to highlight three new artist blogs which have a strong focus on showcasing the inspiring work of others. There promises to be much inspiration found at all three of their sites.

Dan Goodsell with an emphasis on kids’ food packaging, cereal art and other mid-century ephemera.
Will Kane for all things mod.
Eric Sturdevant and his great taste in mid-century children’s book and magazine illustrators.

UPA Tribute in Paris

Dusty of the Circus

Jerry mentioned a UPA tribute coming to LA in February, but folks in Paris can get their fill of UPA this month. There will be a film tribute to the studio’s work on December 13 at the Espace KODAK (26 rue Villiot 75012 PARIS). The screening starts at 7:30pm and is being organized by L’AFCA (Association Française du Cinéma d’Animation). The film line-up includes some of the classic standards like GERALD MCBOING BOING, WILLIE THE KID and BARE-FACED FLATFOOT, but it also includes a lot of rare BOING BOING SHOW shorts like THE OUTLAWS, TWO BY TWO and DUSTY OF THE CIRCUS. Another rare piece of UPA on the line-up is a version of FROSTY THE SNOWMAN, directed in 1952 by Bobe Cannon, which is something that I’d personally love to see.

RUDOLPH RESTORED!

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Several of the original animation puppets from the 1964 Rankin/Bass TV classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer have been found:

“Stored casually among the household holiday décor of a former Rankin / Bass employee, the Rudolph and Santa puppets came out every December to take their place under the family Christmas tree. With last year’s 40th anniversary celebration of the television special, and the recent multi-million dollar merchandising of everyone’s favorite holiday characters, the owner realized there might be some public interest in revealing these lost treasures.”

Kevin Kriess of TimeAndSpaceToys.Com purchased the models and is restoring them with plans to display them at various comic book conventions in 2006.(Thanks to Jim Downey)

FPS Magazine Charity Auction

The fps magazine annual charity auction begins today and runs through December 9. All of the profits from the eBay auction will be donated to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Lots of nice cartoon stuff is available for bidding including:

Limited edition Gorillaz action figures donated by Kid Robot, including the sold-out Noodle Red Edition, limited to 2000 copiesFragile Machine posters signed by Aioneko’s Ben Steele, donated by the Waterloo Festival of Animated CinemaTim Burton’s Corpse Bride movie posters, including marquee posters signed by animation co-director Mike Johnson, donated by Warner Bros.

Mastercard’s Mary Blair Tribute

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I’ve been wondering who did this Mastercard commercial I keep seeing on TV, which is a nicely done hand drawn piece, but perhaps a bit too derivative of the Mary Blair-designed Disney short THE LITTLE HOUSE (1952). A quick online search reveals that it was directed by Sarah Roper out of Sherbert in the UK. The Sherbert website has many nice examples of work by the studio’s various directors. Also should be noted that Blair’s LITTLE HOUSE is coming out on dvd next week, on the must-have Disney Treasures “Rarities” dvd.

Animation Studios of the World

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Disney animator Clay Kaytis, creator of The Animation Podcast, has created a great new MAP that allows you to see exactly where different animation studios are located around the world. The map can be edited by other users, who can each contribute addresses that they know. Clay explains the idea on the Animation Podcast:

Wayfaring is a new site that allows anyone to make custom maps and stick pins in them for whatever purpose they want. Of course, my first idea instinct was to make an animation map. I started it by putting on all the studios whose locations I was sure about. I know there are many more, so if you know where you work, add it to the map. Anyone can add to it, but I think you need to register.

UPDATE: Stop motion animator Tennessee Reid Norton wrote to let me know that stop motion animators have been doing a similar map project for the past few weeks. Their map is HERE.

ODD BOOKS ONLINE

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Animation writer Anne D. Bernstein (“Daria”) has started a website to sell Odd Books Online, “eclectic books for eccentric people”.Amongst the odd books and mod books in her initial offering, THE GREAT AMERICAN CHEWING GUM BOOK (1976), a first edition of THE ALICE B. TOKLAS COOKBOOK (1954) and a rare first issue of COMEDY MAGAZINE (1980).Anne has just started the site and plans frequent updates. Her descriptions of the books are fun to read too.