DO-IT-YOURSELF GIGANTOR

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Japanese robot maker Vstone Corporation has just released its latest consumer product: Tetsu-jin 28 (aka Ironman 28 – or Gigantor™, as it’s known as in the U.S.). Based on the Japanese manga and classic anime series, the remote-controled robot – which is 15 inches high and weighs 5.5 pounds – comes as a kit you have to build yourself. If you construct it correctly, its arms and legs should move smoothly and it will walk around like a human being. But no, it doesn’t fly. The price is in the ballpark of $3 thousand dollars. For specs (in Japanese), to order one, or just to look at the box art, go here.(Thanks, Edwin Austin)

Studio 4°C’s TEKKON KINKURITO

TEKKON KINKURITO

The upcoming feature TEKKON KINKURITO, scheduled for Japanese release in December 2006, is produced by Studio 4°C, the Japanese animation outfit behind MIND GAME. It is based on the comic BLACK AND WHITE by Taiyo Matsumoto, and is being directed by Michael Arias, a first-time director who was previously a segment producer on THE ANIMATRIX. Pixar story artist Enrico Casarosa saw a portion of the film in Japan last month while visiting the studio, and he speaks highly of it on his blog. A lo-res version of the trailer can be seen HERE. Here’s to hoping that the film isn’t neglected like MIND GAME and actually receives some distribution in the US.

THE BROTHERS QUAY IN LA

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’s annual Marc Davis Lecture will be presented on Friday, April 21st. In a year that saw two stop motion films made in Britain nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar, it seems appropriate that the spotlight be cast on London’s most notorious stop motion artists. The Brothers Quay, in their first-ever speaking engagement in the United States, will discuss their work and screen clips from their unique, film noir-esque animations. This is a rare opportunity to meet and greet these two incredible filmmakers. Admission is only $5. For more details, visit the Academy’s website.

2006 CG IMPLOSION

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Get ready to hurl.With billboards and bus posters for ICE AGE 2 (opening today), THE WILD (4/14) and OVER THE HEDGE (5/19) plastering the city, I’m reminded that this could be the year of Hollywood’s rude awakening (re: computer animated features). Hey, I’m an optimist. I don’t want these films to fail. My hope is for animators to remain employed, to make great movies. But then I see something like THIS.Hollywood will get what what it deserves. And it can’t come too soon for me.

Animation Blast #9 Almost Done

Just a brief update on the status of ANIMATION BLAST #9: I’m almost done with the issue and planning to send it to the Canadian printer in the next couple weeks. It should definitely be out by the end of April. A huge thanks to everybody for their patience.

Here’s something I had to cut from the issue this week. It’s a DePatie-Freleng era thumbnail board by one of the issue’s featured artists, John Dunn (1920-1983). I have no idea whether it was for production (unlikely) or just a personal idea. I also don’t know if there’s more to the board; these three pages are all that exist at the moment. There’s a bitter undercurrent in a lot of Dunn’s humor, and it comes through rather strongly in these boards.

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John Dunn Storyboard

John Dunn Storyboard

John Dunn Storyboard

Yuri Norstein’s HERON AND CRANE (1974)

If you have an extra ten minutes to spare today, you can spend that time no better than watching the lyrical short HERON AND CRANE (1974) by Russian animation genius Yuri Norstein.

Here is a bit of background about the film that I found online:

Norstein’s third feature is based on a Russian fairy tale. It marked the first of several collaborations among Norstein, his wife, the artist Francesca Yarbusova, and a cameraman Alexander Zhukovsky. To achieve Norstein’s artistic vision, they invented a special piece of equipment which allowed them to animate on layers of glass. Norstein’s original script was not approved by the studio administration. Veteran director Roman Kachanov was assigned to serve as project “supervisor” and write an acceptable script. Unbeknownst to the studio administration, Norstein filmed the original script. Thanks in great part to support from Fyodor Khitruk, Norstein’s HERON AND CRANE – with Norstein credited as co-writer – was approved for distribution after numerous additional clashes with the studio management. Very Popular in the former USSR , the film also won many honors abroad.

A dvd of Yuri Norstsein’s complete works can be purchased from RussianAnimation.com or Amazon. There’s also a fairly new book out about Norstein written by Clare Kitson – YURI NORSTEIN AND TALE OF TALES: AN ANIMATOR’S JOURNEY – which I’ve heard good things about.

Scary Flash Animation

Some sick perverted souls in South Korea came up with this piece of Flash animation. It might make you queasy. It might make you hate animation. If you know what’s good for you, just don’t click on this link. Seriously, DO NOT CLICK ON THIS LINK. If you clicked on that last link, then for heaven’s sake, please don’t click on this one HERE! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
(Thanks?, Karl Cohen)

FLEISCHER COLOR CLASSICS

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Film buff John McElwee posted another great entry on his blog about old cartoons. This time offering some perspectives on Fleischer’s Color Classics series. McElwee acquired a 1937 booking ledger from a rural North Carolina theatre, allowing him to compare actual rental prices for Paramount shorts against RKO (Disney Silly Symphonies) and MGM (Happy Harmonies) cartoons. This is great information.

“…a Silly Symphony through UA, Woodland Café, was $5.00 flat, while a later Donald Duck (Self-Control) through RKO got $5.25. Paramount took only $2.00 for a December 1937 booking of Christmas Comes But Once A Year, but that Fleischer Color Classic was by then an oldie, having come out the previous December, so terms were a little more favorable for this run. Otherwise, this theatre doesn’t appear to have used the Color Classics, although they did book heavily on the Popeyes (I Like Babies and Infinks cost $4.86). The best money for cartoons from this venue seems to have been collected by MGM, whose Bosko and The Pirates got $6.65, while Bosko’s subsequent encounter with the Cannibals netted $6.95 for the Metro exchange. Just a lot of numbers for long-ago, and long forgotten, bookings — but they give us some insight into the selling end of the cartoon business, at a time when such nickels-and-dimes as these kept small showmen, and big studios, afloat.”

(Thanks, Mark Mayerson)

GREAT TO BE NOMINATED

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It’s back! Randy Haberkamps’s great series of Monday night screenings at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Great To Be Nominated (Part 3), resumes in April. Every Monday night starting April 10th, the Academy screens a Best Picture nominee from each year, along with nominated live action and animated short subjects, newsreels, outtakes and special in-person guests. The prints (including the cartoon titles pictured above) are the best ones available (usually studio vault prints), and the Academy’s Goldwyn Theatre is state-of-the-art. For a complete list of films, the schedule and directions, go to the Academy website for details. A pass for the entire 2006 series – 20 evenings – is $30. Tickets for individual evenings are $5 a piece. What a bargain!

Eisner Ruins Something Besides Disney

If Michael Eisner talks and nobody listens, does he still have a talkshow? The debut of Eisner’s new series on CNBC tanked with a 0.0 Nielsen rating and a 0 share on Tuesday night, the lowest rating possible. CONVERSATIONS WITH MICHAEL EISNER lost 82% of the total viewers from its CNBC lead-in, a rerun of the gameshow DEAL OR NO DEAL, and ended up with 95,000 total viewers, including 39,000 adults 25-54 (the network’s desired demo). For the record, most of the show reviews haven’t been very positive. All I can say is that it’s incredibly refreshing to finally see Michael Eisner muck up something that isn’t related to Disney or animation.

ASTERIX AND THE VIKINGS

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Maybe it’s me – or maybe I’m just nostalgic for an old fashioned hand drawn animated feature – but this Asterix and the Vikings looks pretty darn good. I’m really anxious to see it.We’ve mentioned this flick before. It has no planned U.S. distribution, despite a great English voice cast which includes Paul Giamatti (as Asterix), Brad Garrett (as Obelix), Sean Astin, Evan Rachel Wood and John (“Bender”) DiMaggio. A FILM in Denmark produced the animation, which looks great (see the teaser trailer on the official site). It opens over the next few months in Europe. I’m rooting for an American pick-up.

TOONWORLD TV CLASSICS

My friend Wayne Daigrepont has a cell phone and just found out he had Toonworld TV Classics. Here’s his email to me:toonworld.jpg

So here’s my cell phone, right?? It only has 5,000 gadgets I don’t know about yet. In my fiddling-faddling with it….I find I can (and do) get “tv” (images only in increments of “stills”)….It is via Sprint, and it is a download called MobiTV. The Channel is 28 (ToonWorld TV). They play such non-stop (& non-interrupted) toons as Roger Ramjet (!), all Harveytoons! (theatrical Caspers, Baby Huey, Herman & Katnip, etc.) & “The Dick Tracy Show,” (yes…. with allllll those “politically incorrect” characters”). The fee is $10 a month….and its image is pristine!!

Toonworld TV Classics launched in 2003 and mainly broadcasts public domain Popeye, Superman, Betty Boop, Gumby and The Three Stooges shorts. They have also partnered with Classic Media to show Mister Magoo TV cartoons and Rankin Bass holiday specials. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal.

POW! BAM! WHAM!

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Holy Animated Sound Effects! As a child of the 1960s, I was a huge fan of the 1966 BATMAN TV show. So I have to say I’m delighted with the uber-geekiness of this Argentinian website devoted to Adam West and the series. My favorite page here is a complete index to the animated sound effects that would cover every fight scene. There are also alphabetic and episode numeric indexes to where each sound effect was shown.

Identifying Classic Animators

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My new favorite blog of the moment is Thad Komorowski’s “Identifying Animators and Their Scenes.” The site has only been up for a few days and it’s already packed with excellent material. As the name of the blog implies, its concept is dead simple: post clips from Golden Age cartoons and identify who animated the scenes. For example, check out this great post about Walter Lantz shorts where Thad identifies scenes by Fred Moore, Ed Love, Pat Matthews and Grim Natwick. Absolutely incredible detective work. The site has plenty of other animation clips posted already, animated by the likes of Emery Hawkins, Virgil Ross and Manny Gould.

If there’s one thing that ties together the work of all of these distinctive animators, it’s how beautifully they communicate with cartoon imagery. I had the sound on my computer turned off when I first started viewing these clips, and I’d watched four or five clips before even realizing that there was no sound. There are significant lessons to be learned here about visual storytelling and clarity in staging and acting.

One more impressive thing worth pointing out: according to Thad’s Blogger profile, he’s only 16-years-old. These crazy animation historian types…they’re getting younger everyday.

COMMUNIST PROPAGANDA

russprop.jpgFilms by Jove, owners of the Russian Soyuzmultfilm Studios film library, has invested more than $3 million to digitally restore the 1,500 animated films in the collection to their original splendor. Now the company has opened a website, russiananimation.com, making this amazing library of rarely seen films available on DVD. Among the highlights: Animated Soviet Propaganda.

From 1924 to perestroika the USSR produced more than 4 dozen animated propaganda films. They weren’t for export. Their target was the new nation and their goal was to win over the hearts and minds of the Soviet people. Anti American, Anti Capitalist, Anti Fascist, some of these films are as artistically beautiful as the great political posters made after the 1917 revolution. A unique series. With a unique perspective. Includes commentary by a leading Soviet film scholar.

Also check out this collection by one of the world’s greatest animation artists: The Complete Works of Yuri Norstein. Great stuff.

UPA LAST NIGHT

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Larry Loc on the ASIFA-Hollywood blog posted a bunch of photos he snapped at last night’s UPA TRIBUTE at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Two of Larry’s pix are posted above, one an image from the landmark 1945 film, BROTHERHOOD OF MAN (left), and the other of Bill Melendez and Willis Pyle (at right).I’m not very good at doing followup reports, but I’ll say I had a very good time. I was surprised at the huge crowd that turned out for the event, coinsidering the lack of publicity (outside of this website) for it. Just a couple of notes: My old friend, animator/director/teacher Howard Beckerman came in from New York. I wish I spent more time talking to him last night, my only regret; I want to thank Dave Bastian for bringing two vintage UPA posters for display (a Jolly Frolics “Ragtime Bear” one sheet and a MAGOO MERRY-GO-ROUND compilation show poster from 1953); Thanks to Mark from BOING BOING for interviewing me for an upcoming podcast – I hope I made sense. Thanks to Tee Bosustow for making this event happen – and to everyone who came out to make it quite a night. If anyone else posts a report on the screening, let us know.

UPA TODAY

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The image above is a black-and-white still from one of the last non-Magoo UPA theatrical shorts, THE JAYWALKER (1956). It’s a strange film – not quite successful – but a good looking picture that introduced a new character, Milton Muffet, who tried to endear audiences with his pedestrian (pun intended) humor about his jaywalking obsession. Bobe Cannon directed the film, the last of a small set of adult social comedies (which included the superior FUDGET’S BUDGET and CHRISTOPHER CRUMPET) which really defined UPA’s contemporary attitude (moreso than the popular Mr. Magoo cartoons that UPA is best known for).FUDGET’S BUDGET (1954) is one of the UPA classics that isn’t shown much these days, but if you’re in LA tonight you have a rare chance to see it on the big screen and meet some of the members of UPA’s legendary crew. 6:00 pm at the Egyptian Theatre. See you there.

Disney’s Story of Menstruation

After posts about Disney’s forays into VD prevention and gonorrhea drugs, I’d be remiss to not post Disney’s 1946 film THE STORY OF MENSTRUATION. The film is available on YouTube, something that was kindly pointed out on We-Make-Money-Not-Art.com. While not exactly a classic piece of animation, its kitsch value is unsurpassed.

UPDATE: Disney historian Jim Korkis wrote in with some interesting info about STORY OF MENSTRUATION. Here’s what he says:

Disney’s “The Story of Menstruation” was originally delivered to the International Cellu-Cotton Company on October 18, 1946. It has been estimated that the film has been seen by approximately ninety-three million American women. Neither sexuality nor reproduction is mentioned in this influential film, and an emphasis on sanitation makes it a more a hygienic crisis rather than a maturational event.

In fact the entire film is very quiet, subtle, formal and clinical. “Menstruation is just one routine step in a normal and natural cycle that is going on continuously in the body,” soothes the narrator while she reminds us that there is an accompanying free book available in case the information supplied by this film is so overwhelming that a viewer isn’t able to retain it all.

That booklet was entitled “Very Personally Yours” and was filled with promotional material for Kotex brand feminine products and included Disney artwork from this educational short. The 1947 edition has a cover that features a somewhat sophisticated female hand holding an engraved card that says “Very Personally Yours” with no hint what the contents might be. My copy (thanks to eBay) is approximately 5 by 7 inches, small enough to slip into a purse, with twenty pages of text. In the side margins are drawings from the film but interestingly, there is no Disney copyright in evidence anywhere in the book. The final text pages are very directly aimed at promoting a variety of Kotex products for feminine hygiene. Since the Disney film was run for at least two decades after its creation, the booklet was updated over the years and I don’t know how much of the Disney artwork remained in later editions.

RICHARD FLEISCHER (1916-2006)

Ray Pointer just informed us that film director, Richard Fleischer, son of animation pioneer, Max Fleischer, passed away in his sleep last evening. He was 89. Mr. Fleischer, who had just released his teling of his father’s career in OUT OF THE INKWELL: MAX FLEISCHER AND THE ANIMATION REVOLUTION, in June had been in failing health for the better part of a year. He leaves behind a most impressive body of work in films including 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, BARABBAS, FANTASTIC VOYAGE, DR. DOOLITTLE, TORA, TORA, TORA, SOYLENT GREEN, THE JAZZ SINGER (with Neal Diamond), CONAN THE DESTROYER, and RED SONJA.

ANIME ON IFC

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Everyone is getting into the anime act. Anime is cool among the kids and teens (thus its presence on Kids WB, Cartoon Network, Toon Disney, Nicktoons, etc.), sci fi fans (Sci-Fi Channel), tech nerds (G4TV), and classic film geeks (TCM). I half-expect to see an anime series start appearing on The Weather Channel soon.Starting April 1st, The Indepedent Film Channel will begin running Akira Kurosawa’s SAMURAI 7 (do you think it was the name “Akira” or “Kurosawa” that attracted them to pick up the show?). To help promote this series, filmmaker Dan Persons has created several “Anime in the USA” mini-documentaries (3 minutes each) for the IFC website. Animation director Kevin Alteri (BATMAN: TAS), producer Frank Gladstone (IDT), anime historian Fred Patten and yours truly (that’s my talking head in the frame grab above) participated with our comments and observations. You have to work a bit to find these mini-films, but here are the directions:Go to IFC.com (or, if for some reason you have trouble bringing that page up, try ifc.com/news); and click on “UNCUT ON DEMAND” at the top of the page. Once the viewer pops up, click on pause to stop the startlingly loud promo clip, click on “SERIES” on the right, then click on “SAMURAI 7.” The two episodes of “Anime In The USA” should be at the very top of the list.

The Wonderful World of Gonorrhea

I didn’t think there was any way to top today’s post about Disney’s venereal disease film.Alex Kirwan, art director of MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE ROBOT, proved me wrong, by sending over this hilarious 1944 LOOK magazine ad wherein Mickey Mouse fights gonorrhea by experimenting on other mice, and then ends up taking the gonorrhea drug himself. It looks like there’s a second page to the ad, based on the numbering, but you’ll get the idea. Fridays just don’t get any better than this folks.

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LOOK magazine ad

Walt Disney Presents…VD Attack Plan

VD Attack Plan

I used to think the most bizarre Disney film was THE STORY OF MENSTRUATION. That was, until I saw VD ATTACK PLAN (1973), an educational short about that most Disney of subjects: venereal diseases. The film was directed by Nine Old Man, Les Clark, and animated by Charlie Downs, who manages to create some really interesting movement for a main character who has no arms or legs. Here’s a short article about the film. And you can watch the film below, in its entirety, courtesy of Google Video:

(Thanks, Benjamin Plouffe)

UPA’S TELL TALE HEART

I guess there is no escaping the fact that it’s UPA week here at CARTOON BREW and on Amid’s CARTOON MODERN (Mike Sporn’s Splog has even jumped on the bandwagon).

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We will be screening UPA’s classic THE TELL TALE HEART (1953) on Sunday evening at the Egyptian. It’s a masterpiece for several reasons – the storytelling in limited animation, James Mason’s powerful vocal track and, of course, Paul Julian’s incredible colors, layouts, and paintings. THE TELL TALE HEART was filmed in 3-D, but for reasons lost to time, was not released this way. (No 3-D prints or dual negatives have ever been found – I suspect they never got to Columbia Pictures in the first place. Perhaps some unopened UPA storage locker in Burbank contains the missing negative.) By 1953 the UPA studio was at its height artistically, and was the darling of the critics (and the Academy) for starting an artistic revolution – moving Hollywood cartoons away from rounded Disney animals to angular human characters and modern design. THE TELL TALE HEART was certainly something different. Not since Fleischer’s SUPERMAN series had animated shorts tackled a dramatic story. This was not only a drama – it was an Edgar Allen Poe horror film. And the media took notice – most notably with a four-page story in Time Magazine and a four-page color spread in LIFE. Columbia gave it a full scale publicity push, with newspaper advertising (above) and a modest trade campaign for the Oscar. THE TELL TALE HEART was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to Disney’s “UPA-influenced” TOOT WHISTLE PLUNK AND BOOM. The casting of a major A-list Hollywood actor, James Mason, was certainly a coup for UPA, and speaks to the studio’s status as an industry player at that time. Only Disney had used such stunt casting in the past, and mainly for their feature films.TELL TALE HEART built on the innovations of GERALD MCBOING BOING, ROOTY TOOT TOOT, and the creation of Mr. Magoo. While it didn’t lead to further dramatic Hollywood cartoon shorts, its influence is still felt in numerous ways, in numereous international and independent films produced since. And that’s why it’s a classic.

The film can be seen this Sunday at the UPA Tribute at the Egyptian Theatre in LA.

ASIFA’S “CARTOONS” MAGAZINE NO. 2

cartoonmag2.jpgIn addition to discounts and/or free admission to local animation events, ASIFA members (of any chapter in the U.S. or worldwide) also recieve a great new magazine edited by the Ottawa Animation Festival’s Chris Robinson. The second issue of CARTOONS, The International Journal of Animation (published by John Libbey, dated Winter 2005) has just arrived in my mailbox. This new edition has 64 color glossy pages of worthwhile articles, reviews and images, including excellent pieces on Dana Parker by John Canemaker, Bob Clampett by Martin Goodman, and a review of Mind Game by Andre Coutu. There are informative articles about animation in Agentina, Israel, China, stories about filmmakers Jean Image, Zagreb’s Bordo Dovnikovic and much much more.Kudos to Libbey and Robinson for creating such a superb package. It’s another great reason to join ASIFA. With seven local chapters in the U.S., and twenty more groups internationally, ASIFA sponsors international festivals (like Zagreb and Annecy), the ANNIE Awards, an animation archive, informative websites, and a worldwide linked community. Local Hollywood members get free DVDs and exclusive screenings of virtually all new animated features. The price of the yearly membership pays for itself. Now with CARTOONS, a free first class publication not available for sale anywhere, a membership in ASIFA seems vital. For more information on joining your local area group, click here.

UPA Addendum

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Just a quick note to follow-up on Jerry’s post below. Prior to the screening, there will be a private reception at the Egyptian Theatre from 4:30-5:30. If anybody wishes to mingle with the UPA veterans in a more intimate setting, you can attend the reception by RSVP’ing by this Saturday to Tee Bosustow: bosumedia [at] yahoo.com. The cost is $15 and can be paid at the door.