Plympton vs. Gondry

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Remember a couple months back when Kanye West commissioned two music videos for the same song? One was from Bill Plympton, the other from Michel Gondry. We wrote about it HERE and HERE. Now, Bill Plympton writes in his JOURNAL about how he got associated with Kanye. Apparently, West had originally commissioned a super-expensive video from Gondry, but wasn’t satisfied with the results, so he got Plympton to create a new video in one week. For those that want to compare the versions, here’s Gondry’s version (the animation director of this video was Peter Sluszka) and here’s Plympton’s version. It’s interesting to note how the visuals add an entirely new layer of meaning and effect to the song. Personally, I prefer Plympton’s hand-drawn version, with its raw, smudgy style, which is a more honest expression of the song’s earthy (if somewhat labored) tone. Gondry’s slick, candy-colored treatment, on the other hand, screams, “Look, how big my budget was!” in every shot, and, in my view, largely misses the point of the song.

A Call for Web Designers

The call has been answered. Thanks!
I did this a while back for another project I was working on, and I received some really good leads, so let’s try it again. A project I’m working on right now requires a web designer. It’s a cartoon-related deal and a paying gig (but on a small budget). I’m not looking for any web designer though – I need somebody who has a thorough knowledge of CSS, Web standards and blogs (MovableType/WordPress). Flash won’t be needed. The only way I’ll know if you’re right for the project is if I see examples of work using these elements, so please email me at amid (at) animationblast (dot) com with samples of your work or a link to an online portfolio. Thanks everybody!

Unseen Animated Features

Wanna see a new animated movie voiced by Paul Giamatti, Brad Garrett, Sean Astin and Evan Rachel Wood? Then get yourself over to Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Finland or Denmark during April and May when the hand drawn cartoon feature ASTERIX AND THE VIKINGS opens there in movie theatres. This film is but one (of many) produced by A. Film A/S in Copenhagen, the largest animation studio in Scandinavia, that never played in Peroia (or New York and L.A. for that matter).And it’s also one of dozens (hundreds?) of animated features that never make it past the Atlantic Ocean. Chris Panzer wrote an excellent article for AWN about the glut of these foreign features not coming soon to a theatre or DVD rack near you anytime soon. I’m sure that there are more than a few duds among these offerings – but how many potential TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE or MIND GAME’s are we being denied?

WILLIAM STURM

Your history lesson for today: William Sturm (1906-1981) was a noted 20s-30s Fleischer artist and 40s Disney animator who later drew comics and had one of the more successful television commercial studios of the 1950s. His home town of Budd Lake, New Jersey has posted this small web tribute to man and his life. (Note: The research isn’t entirely accurate – but it’s sweet).

Blast 9: The Saga Continues

John Sibley Drawing

Last October I proudly announced that I had started working full-time on the oft-delayed ANIMATION BLAST #9. Well, that lasted a good couple weeks until I got thrown back into intense edits for the CARTOON MODERN book. And once again I was forced to set aside BLAST 9 and not achieve my self-imposed deadline. Fortunately, all the revisions on CARTOON MODERN were finally wrapped up last week and I’m back full-time on BLAST 9. I’m hesistant to announce a new date, but I hope to wrap the issue up by the end of January and have it back from the printers by the end of February. This issue has been in the works for an incredibly long time and I certainly don’t want to create the sense that I’m holding onto people’s money without delivering, so if anybody is dissatisfied with the long wait, please send me an email and I’ll immediately issue a refund.

The image at the top of this post is an animation drawing by John Sibley from THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD. There’s a great article about Sibley in BLAST 9 by Pete Docter, and I fully expect that you’ll be able to read it one of these days.

Walt’s People, Volume 2

Walt's People, Volume 2

WALT’S PEOPLE, VOLUME 2 was released recently and it’s a wonderful collection of rare and enlightening interviews with Golden Age animation artists including Friz Freleng, Grim Natwick, Frank Tashlin, Ward Kimball, Floyd Gottfredson, Herb Ryman, Frank Thomas, Dale Oliver, Eric Larson and Woolie Reitherman. The self-published series is edited by French author Didier Ghez, and contributors include Disney experts such as Robin Allan, Paul F. Anderson, Michael Barrier, J.B. Kaufman and Jim Korkis. The book weighs in at a hefty 375 pages, and sells for under $20 at Xlibris.com. And while you’re at it, pick up Volume 1 as well, which has interviews with Marc Davis, Milt Kahl, Rudy Ising, Bill Tytla and Ken Anderson, among others.

Tooning In

Tooning In is a snort-out-loud-funny ONION-esque blog about the animation industry. The creators of the blog, who’ve chosen to remain anonymous, are all artists who work in the industry. They skewer just about everything under the sun from independent animation to anime, but the funniest (and truest) entries are those that take aim at producers and executives and all the awful decisions they make.

Here’s an excerpt from a story titled “Producer Brings Cartoon Know-How To Winery”:

Producer Marcia Crandall, best known in the animation industry as producer of straight-to-video classics such as “Naptime Commandos” “The Kuddle-Lumps” and “The Penguin and Me”, for now-defunct “Great Vids” video, has moved out of tinseltown and is now working her magic on northern Calfornia wines.

“The wine business is a lot like animation in many ways.” Says Crandall. “These are groups of people dedicated to their craft, with skill and passion, serving an audience who appreciates what they do. It’s my job to make sure they don’t get too ‘wacky’ with the wine stuff, and to bring fresh ideas to the table, just like I did when “Great Vids” did the “Andy Capp” adaptation.”

Fans may recall “Great Vids” “Andy Capp”, notable for featuring the beloved English barfly and womanizer as a stuffed teddy bear who can cause dreams to come true. The series prompted howls of protest from the millions of Andy Capp fans around the world.

PLUGS!!

muggydoo.jpgTonight, once again, at 8pm I will be running several vintage 16mm old time movie films at the Steve Allen Theatre preceeding Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys. Join us!Starting Saturday January 7th (and for the next eight weeks) at 10pm, Scott Shaw will take his ODDBALL COMICS show legit. He’ll be performing it live on stage in Hollywood at the Acme Comedy Theatre on LaBrea. If you are in town, don’t miss it!

HERB SCANNELL LEAVES NICK

herbscannell.jpgThe big news in kidvid land today is the departure of Herb Scannell from Nickelodeon. Herb was, for the last ten years, the top guy at Nickelodeon and one of the true good guys in the business.I met Herb before I got involved with Nickelodeon, and he was always interested in hearing what I had to say – though usually it was about reviving the Terrytoons library that the company owned. Herb had an open door policy and would listen to (and carefully consider) any and all new ideas. When I worked for the company between 1994 and 1997, I saw him take the reins from Gerry Laybourne and move the company to even greater success. He was a unique executive who had vision, determination, and a heart.I’m sure Herb is going off to bigger and better things – but I know he will be missed by all at Nick.
Good luck Herb!

CARTOON BREW FILM OF THE WEEK: LES AILES DU PAPILLON

Les Ailes du Papillon

Welcome to a new feature that we’re introducing here in 2006: the Cartoon Brew Film of the Week. Every week Jerry and I will highlight an animated short, music video or commercial that we feel deserves to be seen by a wider audience. The Internet has truly revolutionized the world of animation, and whereas once upon a time, one had to travel to animation festivals to see such films, today everybody can experience the world’s greatest animation from the comfort of one’s own home or office. We want to make sure that the cream of the crop independent animated films are recognized and given the attention they deserve, so we’re going to make our best effort to offer one exemplary piece of animation here every week. And we promise, only the good stuff on Cartoon Brew. If you have your own film that you feel should be the Cartoon Brew Film of the Week, please drop us a line.

Our first film sets the bar for quality extremely high. It’s an exquisite 8-1/2 minute short from France called LES AILES DU PAPILLON (THE WINGS OF THE BUTTERFLY) by 24-year-old Benjamin Gibeaux. Over the last seven months, he single-handedly wrote, animated and directed the film, as well as composed its music, and he just finished it last week.

It’s a sweet and charming story on the surface, but the light tone masks some surprisingly deep political undertones. I personally read it as an allegorical tale of what happens when one country invades another for its own selfish reasons, but does so under the pretenses of helping that other country’s people. However you choose to read it though, there’s no mistaking that the artwork is superb. Color is used in an elegant and sensitive manner, the animation is spare but effective, and the loose calligraphic quality of the drawings remind me at turns of Ludwig Bemelmans, Matisse, and André François.

Benjamin Gibeaux is an artist to watch and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. You can see more of his work at Imagique.net.
(via Llámame Lola)

Cool Historical Finds

Animator/director Joel Brinkerhoff emailed me with a couple of his recent historical discoveries that he wanted to share. I thought they were both interesting observations and worthy of further debate, so here they are:

Wilhelm Busch
Many know the German humorist Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908) to be the inspiration for the comic strip creation of “The Katzenjammer Kids.” I suspect he also may have fathered the outrageous ‘takes’ and gags of the Avery’s and Clampett’s. The accompanying image shows examples of the steamroller pancake gag, the rubber hose body, and very interesting ‘takes’ involving enlarged organs, morphing, multiple appendages, and smearing–all forty years before animation introduced them to a new audience.
(click on image for larger version)
wilhelmbusch.jpg
DUCK AMUCK
Undisputedly Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese created the 1953 classic cartoon “Duck Amuck,” but the ideas and comic bits were around for a long time before they brought them to new light. The springboard seems to be Buster Keaton’s 1924 masterpiece “Sherlock Jr.” In it we find the continuity gags of changing backgrounds and props pulled and replaced. Next, a very specific split-frame gag can be traced to an obscure 1941 Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson adaptation of the play “Hellzapoppin.” Director H.C. Potter continually broke the fourth wall in this self-referencing farce, and created a projectionist joke where the film became stuck with the framing splitting the screen. The characters comment on their condition before the supposed projectionist can make the correction, twelve years before Daffy found himself in the same situation.

UPDATE: Another fine animator/director – Steve Segal – offers some thoughts about the DUCK AMUCK entry:

Thank you for the insightful treatise on “Duck Amuck.” Any discussion that brings attention to “Sherlock Jr.” is OK with me. In a sense, the earliest animations broke the fourth wall since the early chalk talk animations showed the animator’s hand. That was followed by Fleischer’s Inkwell series, where the animator is as visible as the toon, plus Koko and Bimbo can be seen having heated discussions with the animator. Another early cartoon that seems to echo Jones’ classic is “Comicalamities” (1928) where Felix argues with the animator and talks him into making his girlfriend cuter.

“Renaissance”, an animated feature from France

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Here’s the most intriguing 2006 animated film I’ve heard about. Actually, it’s the only intriguing 2006 film I’ve heard about, but that’s another story. RENAISSANCE is a French feature directed by Christian Volckman that’s scheduled for release in March 2006. It looks to be in a noirish sci-fi vein and is entirely in black-and-white. I’m assuming March is the French release date, but a quick search on Google reveals that the North American distributor is (believe it or not) Disney so perhaps we’ll be seeing this film soon in the states. I’d never heard of Christian Volckman, but apparently he directed a well received short film in the late-90s called MAAZ. There’s a bit more about him and a clip from MAAZ posted at AWN.

Here’s the big question mark. The film’s character animation was created using motion capture techniques. Fortunately, unlike some awful uses of mo-cap, like Robert Zemeckis’s performance capture characters in THE POLAR EXPRESS, the production design here seems to be sufficiently stylized enough to mask the look of the technology. It’s a little difficult to tell from such a small sampling of animation, but there’s reason to be hopeful. There’s also some more clips and information about the film posted at Twitch.
(Thanks, Gérald Guerlais)

John K Interview

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This is hands-down the funniest John Kricfalusi interview I’ve ever seen. It’s not funny because of what he says, but rather because the Canadian TV program for which this interview was done decided to create a Flash animated version of John (above) to deliver his words. There is no better example of irony than to see an incompetently drawn, awfully animated John talking about how people can’t draw worth a damn today. At least nobody can say he’s wrong this time.
(via hydrocephalicbunny)

ANIMATED FEATURES OF 2006

2006 begins – and I’ve just updated my running list of animated features. It’s going to be an interesting year for theatrical animation. Is this the year where CG goes bust and Hollywood comes to it’s senses? (Well scratch that last part, “comes to its senses” – that’ll never happen).openseason2.jpgAlready I have listed at least 15 films scheduled for major theatrical release (16 if you count the wide release HOODWINKED will get later this month). Twelve are what I’d now label as traditional computer generated films. One (CURIOUS GEORGE) is essentially hand drawn, another (MONSTER HOUSE) is in the technique I call “Zemeckis motion capture” (also known as uncanny valley), and still another is in the strange “computer enhanced rotoscope” world of Richard Linklater & Bob Sabiston (previously seen in WAKING LIFE, this year in A SCANNER DARKLY).Two films are about inanimate objects coming to life (Pixar’s CARS and Threshold’s FOODFIGHT), and two are about the lives of stylized human characters (Disney’s MEET THE ROBINSONS and IDT’s YANKEE IRVING).Here’s the scary part – eight films scheduled for release between March and November (almost on a monthly basis) are about a group of anthropomorphic animals on a grand adventure (think last year’s MADAGASCAR). Here’s the list I’ve compiled thus far:

Blue Sky’s ICE AGE 2: THE MELTDOWN (3/31), Disney’s THE WILD (4/14), Dreamwork’s OVER THE HEDGE (5/19), Warner Bros. THE ANT BULLY (8/4) and HAPPY FEET (11/17), Sony’s OPEN SEASON (9/29), Nickelodeon Movies’ BARNYARD (10/6), and Aardman’s FLUSHED AWAY (11/3).

So the question is this: Will all of them succeed – or will Hollywood’s CG boom implode? Can the already-eroding moving-going audience support a steady stream of similar sounding pictures? Can the DVD backend for such derivative material maintain the level of sales required for the producers to recoup their investments? Most importantly, can all these films be good?The industry has survived one VALIANT – can it endure an onslaught of such product? As I said up front – It’s going to be an interesting year.