Good stuff worth checking out.
Nate Pacheco: Talented artist and Flash technical guru who has worked on Renegade’s HI HI PUFFY AMI YUMI and ELMO AARDVARK Web cartoons, among many other things.
Brandon Scott: A student at Sheridan whose paintings have a distinctive sense of color and design.
Miles Thompson, of animation and painting fame, has started his own blog.
Clarke Snyder has started a new blog, Inspiration Grab-bag, where he’s posting artwork that inspires him. So far, lots of terrific frame grabs from Disney’s PIGS IS PIGS and scans of Mel Crawford illustrations.
We asked yesterday evening for artists to send in their thoughts about the Disney/Pixar deal. Below are a select number of the responses we received. The feelings are mixed between excitement, cautious optimism and outright disappointment.
Perhaps the best comment of the day.
From former Disney animator and director Will Finn:
This is like seeing the orcs being driven out of Middle Earth. I am overjoyed.
From the legendary Floyd Norman:
Not too many guys can say they’ve worked for both Walt Disney and John Lasseter, so I can offer a unique perspective.
Different cultures at Disney and Pixar? Naw, it’s the same culture. Eisner’s managers simply choked all the creative life out of Disney. The Disney culture is finally returning to Disney. Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs and John Lasseter will be returning it shortly. This is good news for all of us who love animation, and the Disney legacy in particular.
From a ‘CalArts alumni’:
Can you believe that? An animator in charge of Feature animation? Am I dreaming? Is Walt smiling right now? An artist, who has made short films, and feature films, studied figure drawing, can draw and animate, used an Oxberry camera, went to Cal Arts, and loves the medium to death…is in charge of animation? Is there anything better that this? Pinch me I’m dreaming. I can’t sit still, I can’t wait any longer…give me more great stories and characters!All hail John Lasseter!
NY director/animator Michael Sporn:
Ever since the advent of PIXAR, animation has been in flux. The computer continues to readjust the medium. PIXAR, again, is the player and it can only help the artform (for at least a short while). Jobs will be lost and shifted and reprogrammed. Hopefully, the films will get better. Hopefully, 2D will show up somewhere on the horizon and that will grow as well (I have a vested interest in 2D).
At the very least, Disney now has someone who knows the problems and knows the different media we use. That can’t be bad.
Remember that Eisner and Katzenberg, revitalized animation before they brought it down to where it is now. It only took a few years for that part of the soap opera to happen. Before them, there was only Don Bluth and maybe Spielberg and a lot fewer jobs.
From an ‘old-school’ Disney Feature artist who has worked there since the 1980s:
After seeing John Lasseter attempt to introduce computer animated film techniques at Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1983 (the Where The Wild Things Are test) to no avail, and after living through the two-picture-a-year toon boom flood of the 90′s, and then watching in amazement the strange paradigm shift that forced some of the best 2D talent in the world out the door along with the award winning directorial team of Ron Clements and John Musker, has made my 23 year career with Walt Disney Feature Animation quite a ride. But the thought of John Lasseter coming back home to Disney at this time of loss and creative confusion is nothing short of a miracle. WOW…
(click on image for larger version)
The drawing above is from somebody who prefers to remain anonymous. He also writes:
As a former Disney Feature Animation artist, my initial reaction upon hearing the news was expressed in this little doodle. Just soaking it all in at the moment…I can’t really see a downside at this point, given that it seems as if the creative reins at Animation are being handed over to Pixar. I almost have to pinch myself: John Lasseter is now Creative Head of both Disney Animation AND Pixar Animation Studios (and Principle Creative Advisor to WDI )…wow !
Amazing what a corporation will pay to purchase an outside company that will arrive to effectively implement a tried-and-true (then forgotten) production philosophy of concentrating on story, development of characters and letting the directors be the final word… So, what WILL become of the soon-to-be-laid-off (banes of the industry) “creative executives?” Hey, they’re so damn creative, maybe they’ll get together to start their own entertainment company. This is simply the best news to come from Disney in at least ten years – although Eisner’s recent departure is a close second.
I used to work for John Lasseter at Pixar and I can tell you there is no greater supporter of animation, both computer and hand-drawn than Lasseter. I am a bit surprised at the buyout. I would have preferred Pixar stay small and keep doing what they do well. I am also concerned that he will spread himself too thin. But I am happy about Pixar having control over sequels of their own films. I would love to see Brad Bird do another Incredibles adventure. Toy Story 3 is in production at Disney without Lasseter’s involvement and the staff must feel uneasy right now (of course, they should have felt uneasy when they took the job). I look forward to some great improvements in Disney animation and some cool new ideas in the parks.
What bugs me the most is that this is just such a slap in the face to any idea of artistic integrity. Over the years, Disney has transmogrified from an animation studio into a global empire of consumerism whose main product these days is some kind of vague sense of ‘family-ness’ or something. They’ve forgotten their roots to such a degree that they thought the reason nobody wanted to see Pocohontas 2 is that it wasn’t, y’know, /computer pictures/. So shut the whole thing down. No wait, let’s just buy the best animation studio out there, and then WE will be the best again right?
The problem is that this is a company who has become so fucking bland that their very name has entered everyday English as a word meaning something along the lines of ‘to sanitize something to the point that it sucks.’ I just can’t see how that won’t happen here.
Any artists at Pixar, Disney or beyond with thoughts on what the sale means — for Disney, Pixar, the animation industry as a whole? Are artists at Pixar happy or disappointed with this deal? What about Disney artists? Email your thoughts over to amid at animationblast dot com. Your name will be kept anonymous if you want. I’ll post some of the more interesting ones on the Brew. Please keep your thoughts concise and to the point.
Here’s the email that Walt Disney Feature Animation President David Stainton sent out today.
From: Stainton, David
Sent: Tuesday, January 24, 2006
To: All Employees
Cc: Iger, Robert A.; Cook, Dick
Subject: passing the torch
an old blessing reads: “may you live in interesting times.” well, apparently we are actually living in those times!
as a result of the changes announced today, i will be leaving animation after 14 amazing, exhilarating, frustrating, exhausting, and very wonderful years. this will happen quickly, as John and Ed are ready to jump right in. they are truly icons of our world, so i can’t feel TOO bad about passing the torch to them. please welcome them as warmly as you have welcomed me.
most of all, i want to make sure that you know the purchase of pixar is NOT about a lack of confidence by bob and dick in what we are doing. on the contrary, in recent days they have gone out of their way to praise what we’ve accomplished. they know what we know: we have rebuilt animation at this company, landed a hit our first time at bat in CG, built amazing teams at circle 7 and dts, and have a fantastic slate of projects going forward. these are great achievements, recognized by everybody who has watched us grow over the past three years. my real wish for you is to feel proud, confident and excited about where you are going.
as exciting as it will be for me to strike out in a new direction, my home will always be here. you’ve taught me everything. i will always love you, your talent, and the great movies you make.
And don’t let the cute dog fool you. Just so there’s no mistaking about Stainton, here’s what the director of a recent Disney feature had to say about him, just prior to Disney’s purchase of Pixar. (Both director and feature shall remain unnamed to protect the innocent.)
I LOVE the idea of Lasseter taking over Disney Feature! The only thing that would be better is if David Stainton is tazered, maced, and peppersprayed, and then frogmarched out of the building, stuffed into a burlap bag and thrown into the LA river. Oh, and a video of the above in an easily downloadable format for my iPod.
In case you haven’t heard — now it’s official. Jobs is Disney’s largest shareholder. Any way you slice it – he’s now the big cheese. Pixar President Ed Catmull has become the President of the new Pixar and Disney animation studios. Lasseter is CCO (Chief Creative Officer) of the animation studios and Principal Creative Adviser of Walt Disney Imagineering. Link to official press release from Disney and Pixar.
Former ANIMATO! editor (and current PC WORLD editor) Harry McCracken asks the questions that are weighing heavily on the collective mind of the animation community right now. For example, “Does John Lasseter want to run Disney animation?,” “Will Disney stop releasing pap?,” “Might we see the Pixar folks make some hand-drawn features?,” and “Does the Pixar name disappear?” Harry’s insightful list of questions and thoughts can be found on his blog Harry-Go-Round. He also invites others to share their own questions about the merger.
The NY TIMES reports that Disney may announce their acquisition of Pixar as early as tomorrow. According to the TIMES, “the deal would combine Pixar with Disney’s animation unit and give Mr. Jobs a seat on Disney’s board.”
Meanwhile the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER says that today, Disney renamed its corporate building (the one with the dwarf pillars) to “Team Disney: Michael D. Eisner Building.” Buildings are usually named after dead people, and if this Pixar deal goes through, Eisner will hopefully be as good as dead in the company’s future.
“Will great big Disney destroy little Pixar?”: A pretty self-explanatory piece at Reuters.
Finally, a warning from CNN: everything about the Pixar deal is fine, except that Lasseter is unfit to take over Disney Feature Animation because “supposedly he’s spending a lot of time and energy these days on his vineyard.” Whew, I’m glad we found that out before the deal went through.
The great caricature of John Lasseter at the top of this post is by Pixar’s Ronnie del Carmen.
Now in production in Denmark, A.Film is making The Ugly Duckling And Me, a CG feature – as well as a companion TV series of 26 episodes. I’ve enjoyed the work of this studio in the past – but do we really need another fairy tale parody? Ten years ago we were complaining of the overabundance of animated musicals. Now we are being overrun by Fractured Fairy Tales (what hath Jay Ward, by way of Shrek, wrought?). What really hurts my eyes is this Ugly Duckling’s character design seems ripped from Ralph Eggleston’s FOR THE BIRDS. Here’s a clip from the Ugly film-in-progress.(Thanks, B. Connelly)
I just found out that Image Entertainment issued a 3 disc boxed set last month called GEORGE PAL: FLIGHTS OF FANTASY. It includes a great print of Pal’s first feature length film, THE GREAT RUPERT (1950, Jimmy Durante and a stop motion squirrel), and two great productions from Pal historian Arnold Leibovit, his documentary THE FANTASY FILM WORLDS OF GEORGE PAL and his animated compilation THE PUPPETOON MOVIE. I’ve plugged these films a few times throughout the years – now that they are packaged together in this one collection – you have no excuse not to get them now. The bonus materials are worth the price alone. Highly Recommended.
Good piece in today’s LA TIMES – “Walt’s Shoes at Disney Could Be a Fit for Jobs” – that draws parallels between Jobs and Walt Disney.
Today’s NY TIMES discusses how the Disney/Pixar deal might affect Jobs’s other company, Apple.
Also in the NY TIMES, a piece that compares Iger and Jobs to Woody and Buzz.
Disney buys Pixar. Apple buys Disney. A very interesting thought on this blog. If this were Vegas, I’d personally put money on this scenario happening within the next 18-30 months.
I would have preferred that Pixar create its own distribution company and compete with the industry as a full-fledged stand alone player – but this possible buyout by Disney may be the next-best thing. (The worst scenario would’ve been for Pixar’s films to be distributed by another studio – Universal, Sony, or heaven forbid, Warner Bros.). Disney may be buying Pixar – but Pixar will be running the show – at least creatively, from the feature animation point of view. The optimist in me is delighted to have a visionary (Jobs) emerge as Disney’s largest stock holder. An innovative risk taker and business leader, Jobs could truly reinvigorate the studio. The optimist in me is thrilled that an animator (Lasseter) will likely be head of Feature Animation. With a proven love of the medium, and as a skillful filmmaker himself, Lasseter will no doubt push the studio forward and, at the same time, surely find a place for traditional (hand-drawn) animation at the studio that mastered it for so long.There is an opportunity here for an incredible Disney renaissance – as the creative reigns are handed, for once, to the right people at the right time. In this age of big corporations (and Disney is one of the biggest) and “bottom line” thinking, it’s easy to see how this can all go wrong. But I think the pieces are in place for an exciting new era in animation. At least, I hope so.
It’s beginning to look official. Britain’s TELEGRAPH is reporting today that Pixar’s board will meet on Monday to approve Disney’s $7 billion takeover bid. The deal would make Steve Jobs the single largest Disney shareholder. It’s a little too early to begin discussing the implications of what all this means, but this is truly as massive a shakeup in the animation world as could be imagined. At this point, it’s easy to see it going either way: either Lasseter and company will shine their creative light upon Disney helping to revitalize the Mouse’s slumbering animation division or Disney’s corporate bureaucracy will drag down Pixar with it and we’ll enter a new era of films like THE INCREDIBLES MEET WOODY AND BUZZ. One thing is for certain: there’s going to be a hell of a lot to talk about on the Brew here in 2006.
HOODWINKED writer/director Cory Edwards recently defended criticism of his film on Animation Nation. The primary purpose of Edwards’ post is he would like everybody to believe that the reason HOODWINKED looks the way it does is because of the film’s meager production budget combined with the inexperience of his Philippines production crew.
I initially wrote a lengthy response addressing his comments, but afterwards realized that my thoughts could basically be summed up in two brief ideas:
1.) The budget of HOODWINKED was not the primary barrier to its low artistic quality. Sylvain Chomet’s THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE was produced for a slight $8 million and Masaaki Yuasa’s recent masterpiece MIND GAME was produced for a similarly low figure. My favorite Bill Plympton feature, HAIR HIGH, was produced for well under $1 million. These films, however, were created by artists who understood the medium of animation and who wanted to exploit the unique possibilities inherent within the medium; the films were also created by artists who understood their budget going into the production, and the possibilities and limitations of what such a budget presented. If anything, a small budget can be a blessing that allows filmmakers the freedom to take creative risks that would not be possible on a big budget feature. But HOODWINKED lacks any such artistic motivation. The only vision behind this film, as far as one can tell from the finished results, is a shrewd opportunity to capitalize on the fairytale-skewering success of the SHREK franchise. The production was clearly set up to create a lame CG knockoff of SHREK, and not to create a distinctive animated film appropriate to the budget, like TRIPLETS, MIND GAME or HAIR HIGH.
2.) Edwards argues that the film wasn’t made by executives, but by struggling filmmakers. Yet, in true executive fashion, he blames the artists for the film’s shortcomings: “I KNOW the animation could be better! The film was made with the skill levels we had at the studio we could afford,” he says. Real artists don’t blame the other hard-working artists on their crew for their film’s shortcomings. In fact, the visual deficiencies of HOODWINKED originated long before the overseas studio ever got its hands on the film. In the latest issue of ANIMATION MAGAZINE, there are hand-drawn model sheets from the film, and the model sheets are as poorly designed as the CG characters in the film are modeled. In other words, the skill levels of the overseas artists seem to have been fine, and they did a good job of translating the designs to CG, but the artwork they had was weak to begin with. Similarly, the quality of animation was likely the result of the direction the overseas artists were receiving rather than their own doing. It’s disingenuous to blame the overseas production crew for problems that could have been addressed in pre-production if the filmmakers had had a more solid grasp of the animation medium.
Edwards says that the only way he can create something of artistic value is for somebody to give him more money. “If I direct more animation, my first choice will always be to make it in the U.S. and for a much bigger budget.” Perhaps first he could explain though why HOODWINKED looks the way it does when he already had a more than adequate budget to create a quality piece of animation.
Cory Edwards, director/writer of HOODWINKED, defends criticism of the film and discusses the process of its production on the Animation Nation forums.
Animation character designer and PIGTALE comic creator Ovi Nedelcu has just released a new book of his drawings and designs called DESENE: SKETCHES & SCRIBBLES. The full-color hardcover book is 104 pages and has a foreword by director Henry Selick. I haven’t seen the book yet, but I’ve always enjoyed Ovi’s work and I’m sure there’s solid work throughout. There’s a 10-page preview of the book HERE and it can be ordered at Amazon.com. Ovi will also be doing a signing in LA next Saturday, January 28, at Meltdown Comics from 6-8pm.