NICKTOONS FESTIVAL

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Calling all filmmakers: The Nicktoons Network Animation Festival is accepting animated shorts (up to 10 minutes in length), between now and May 31, 2006 for its 3rd annual competition. This year Frederator Studios is partnering with both Nicktoons and Kidscreen Magazine to select the shorts for the fest.The festival will kick off with a two-day live event at the Nicktoons Studios in Burbank, Calif. on Saturday, Aug. 12 and Sunday, Aug. 13, 2006. Selected entries will air on the Nicktoons channel during August and one will be selected to win a $10,000 Grand Prize. Rita Sreet and Eric Homan are co-producing and judges (to be announced) will include Seth (Family Guy) MacFarlane. Any animation technique is acceptable: Flash, traditional cel, stop motion or CG. For more info go the Nicktoons Fest website or check out their blog.

TUNES FOR TOONS – REMINDER

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Tomorrow afternoon, Saturday, April 29th, ASIFA-Hollywood is holding a special film program focusing on the music in classic Hollywood cartoons. Animation historian Daniel Goldmark will be there to discuss the music and musicians behind our favorite cartoons. Bring along your copy of Daniel’s great new book, TUNES FOR ‘TOONS and get it autographed. Meet us at 3:00pm, over at the American Film Institute, in the Steven Ross Screening Room (Warner Bros. Building). The address is 2021 N. Western Ave. in Hollywood, CA (a block north of Franklin Ave.). Directions to AFI campus HERE. ASIFA-HOLLYWOOD members admitted FREE, non-members gotta pay $10 bucks.

SPANKING TOONS

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If the goodie-goodie Harvey Comics aren’t punishment enough for you, then this news ought to brighten your day. Apparently the mischevious antics of Little Audrey, Little Dot, Wendy the Witch and even Richie Rich contained the requisite comeuppance spanking scene enough times for someone to start a website devoted to them. These and other kinky discipline sequences in comics are part of spankingtoons.com.(Thanks to our pal Milton Knight for bringing this perversity to our attention)

MORE UNCLE REMUS BLUES

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The debate over Disney’s SONG OF THE SOUTH rages on. Though it’s not much of a debate… everyone wants it released on home video. Song-of-the-south.net has a great FAQ to get you up to speed. Golden Age Cartoons has a continuous thread on the subject. And of course there is the petition. Brett Wickham just wrote a passionate plea, on LaughingPlace.com, for a common sense release of the film:

Come on! Everybody knows the film was conceived in a less socially evolved time. If you truly don’t think people will “consider it in the context that it was made” then frame it for them. “Song of the South” deserves a proper seat at the celebration of a more evolved Disney – a U.S release on every available format for everyone to see.

Speaking of common sense, what kind of image is that (above) to place in the original lobby cards for the film? Three little boys, facing away from the camera, staring at poor little Ginny who has been pushed in the mud. Doesn’t this film have enough controversy?

1940s Columbia Cartoons

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Thad Komorowski has posted three classic Columbia cartoons on his blog Identifying Animators and Their Scenes: THE FOX AND GRAPES (1941, dir: Frank Tashlin), CHOLLY POLLY (1942, dir: Alec Geiss) and THE SCHOONER THE BETTER (1946, dir: Howard Swift). Interesting sidenote: Chuck Jones acknowledged that he based his Roadrunner/Coyote series on the Tashlin short FOX AND GRAPES. These cartoons are next to impossible to see nowadays in the US so enjoy them on Thad’s blog.

LA TIMES Festival of Books

Festival of BooksThe largest literary festival in the US, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, takes place this weekend (April 29-30) at the UCLA campus. On Sunday, at 10am, I’ll be speaking at the festival’s only animation-related panel, called “Animation: New Frontiers in the Art & Medium.” Honestly, I have no idea what that topic means, but at 10am on a Sunday, I can hardly be expected to know what anything means so it shouldn’t be much of a problem. The panel is hosted by esteemed cartoon historian and NY TIMES animation writer Charles Solomon. Other panelists include authors Daniel Goldmark (TUNES FOR ‘TOONS: MUSIC AND THE HOLLYWOOD CARTOON), Mark Cotta Vaz (THE INVISIBLE ART and THE ART OF THE INCREDIBLES) and Norman Klein (SEVEN MINUTES: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF THE AMERICAN ANIMATED CARTOON).

Admission to the festival and the panel are both FREE. Other events that may interest BREW readers are the following: “Ray Harryhausen in Conversation with Richard Schickel” (Saturday, 10am), “Chip Kidd in Conversation with Charles Solomon” (Saturday, 11:30am), and “Mike Mignola in Conversation with Nick Owchar” (Sunday, 2:30 pm).

Animation Blast #9 Update

Any day now ANIMATION BLAST 9 should be wrapped up and sent to the printer. I’ve passed my biggest personal hurdle on the issue – the article on animation storyman John Dunn-and it’s well on its way to being completed, with only a few more interviews to follow through on. This week I expanded the magazine from 100 to 108 pages to accomodate a larger piece on Dunn (it’s 32 pages now). Even with that expansion, the longest piece in the issue is still Taylor Jessen’s incredible 33-page history of the animated feature TWICE UPON A TIME. It’s going to be a good issue.

Here are a few random gag drawings and sketches by John Dunn that I had to cut out of the issue recently.

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Drawing by John Dunn

Drawing by John Dunn

Drawing by John Dunn

Drawing by John Dunn

Drawing by John Dunn

Drawing by John Dunn

Drawing by John Dunn

Rick Goldschmidt sings!

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I have no idea if this new CD by animation historian Rick Goldschmidt is any good – but any excuse to post some new artwork by animation designer/artist Dave Sheldon (Spumco’s LOG commercials, Nick’s Tales from the Goose Lady, etc.) is always worth doing. Goldschmidt is the author of several excellent books on Rankin/Bass and frequently updates RankinBass.com. The CD features 10 songs written and performed by Goldschmidt along with members of the GIN BLOSSOMS, THE BLACK MOODS, THE NEVERLY BROTHERS and his own band THE STARVING ARTISTS. Rick is sending me a copy. I’ll let you know what I think after I hear it.

MOUSE TRACKS

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Oh boy! I’ve been waiting for this one. Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records by Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar is coming out next month. Here’s the book’s cover – drawn by George Peed, brother of Bill Peet, best known for designing the characters for The Mighty Hercules, doing Peter Pan Record sleeves and Disney board game art.

Hollis and Ehrbar explain why Walt and Roy O. Disney resisted going into the record business for over three decades, until the success of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” convinced Roy to take the plunge. Under the guidance of its first president, Jimmy Johnson, the record company experienced both feast and famine in the retail marketplace. Detailed in the book are the teen-pop success of Annette Funicello, the Mary Poppins phenomenon, a Disney-style “British invasion,” and even a low period when sagging sales forced Walt to suggest closing the division down. “There aren’t many areas of Disney left to be chronicled, and this is a subject that means a lot to us,” says Hollis.

A new website, mousetracksonline.com has gone live, and it will be expanded in May with updates and special information corresponding to the release of the book.

QUEER DUCK – THE MOVIE

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QUEER DUCK was one of the funniest internet cartoons in those golden years before the dot.com boom went bust. Now Queer Duck: The Movie is coming out in July. The voice cast includes Jim J. Bullock, Billy West, Maurice La Marche, Tim Curry, Conan O’Brien, David Duchovny and Kevin Michael Richardson. According to the Paramount press release:

Queer Duck, his boyfriend Openly Gator, and their friends Bi-Polar Bear and Oscar Wildcat come busting out of the closet on July 18, 2006 when they make their outrageous feature length animated debut on DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment and Icebox Productions.Filled with irreverent, no-holds-barred comedy and 15 brand new songs/musical numbers, this brazen extravaganza is created and written by Mike Reiss, four-time Emmy winner for his work on “The Simpsons” and creator of “The Critic,” with animation directed and designed by Xeth Feinberg.

My good buddy Xeth Feinberg is also the mastermind behind BULBO (my favorite Internet cartoon character), and we understand he animated the entire 75 minute QUEER DUCK feature in his New York City apartment. I look forward to seeing this.

UTSU-MUSUME SAYURI

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Don’t say I didn’t warn you. UTSU-MUSUME SAYURI (THE STRIKING DAUGHTER SAYURI) is a delightfully bizarre CG short from Japan. I first saw the film at a couple festivals back in 2004 and both times the audience reaction could be described as something between shock and utter admiration for how imaginative and surreal this film is. Everything in the film, including direction, animation, design and music was done by one person – Takashi Kimura. It can be viewed online at iFilm.com.

Conspiracy Theory Rock

Conspiracy Theory Rock

This weekend, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE is airing an episode comprised entirely of Robert Smigel’s animated SATURDAY TV FUNHOUSE shorts. But there’s one short that’s guaranteed not to be on the line-up: CONSPIRACY THEORY ROCK. The 1998 SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK parody, animated by J.J. Sedelmaier Productions, criticizes corporate ownership of the media and takes some sharp jabs at NBC owner General Electric. Needless to say, the cartoon aired only once on NBC before being locked away in their vaults, and it has even been cut out of reruns of that episode. Smigel recently discussed the short with the NY TIMES: “It just struck me as really funny to do it on our own network. I was somewhat delighted that they were O.K. to do that, and then they reconsidered. It’s hard to get angry about it.” Thanks to the Internet, everybody can watch the short HERE.

1944 POPULAR SCIENCE ARTICLE ON “THREE CABALLEROS”

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The posting of the January 1940 Popular Mechanics article on Disney’s PINOCCHIO last week has inspired me to dig out this September 1944 issue of Popular Science. The magazine’s 6 page article is focused around the innovations of The Three Caballeros, Disney’s first large scale attempt, in color, to combine live action and animation. Unlike the earlier piece however, Disney animator Ward Kimball, storyman Ernie Terrazas (pictured above), and background painter Art Riley are credited in captions.

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DISNEY DOUBLE

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This Russian website documents, with frame grabs, some of the many times Disney animators recycled animation from one film into another. I’d love to see an expanded version of this listing (in English). Missing from this Russian post are the numerous appearances of the whirlpool from the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence in Fantasia and the windblown weed from The Old Mill.(Thanks, Bob Miller)

Tenggren’s GREMLINS

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This magnificent painting appears in the current Illustration House “Illustration Art Auction” catalog. The title of the piece is “Gremlins and Fifinellas on an airplane.” It’s by Gustaf Tenggren, and it’s a watercolor illustration for “What Every Pilot Knows,” by Quentin Reynolds for Collier’s magazine (October 31, 1942). The caption for this image reads “It’s no joke to be sitting up at 20,000 feet� and hear them chattering among themselves out on the wings.” Quite a different interpretation of these characters than the Walt Disney/Walt Kelly/Bob Clampett versions we know and love. (Read the Disney version here.)In case you are interested in bidding for it, the auction takes place in New York on Saturday, May 20th. The pre-auction estimate is $9,000 – $12,000.
(Thanks, Don Brockway)POSTSCRIPT: Disney historian Jim Korkis adds: “While I have great respect and appreciation for Gustaff Tenggren, somebody made an error labelling the artwork Gremlins and Fifinellas on an airplane. According to the mythology that Roald Dahl developed with the Disney artists, gremlins are male, fifinellas are female, widgets are baby gremlins/fifinellas, and spandules are high altitude gremlins. There are no female gremlins on this airplane.”

UPA EVENT ON DVD

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Many readers of this blog have written in to ask about getting a recording of the big UPA Event at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood last month. In response to the requests, Tee Bosustow (who taped the event for an upcoming documentary on his father’s studio) has decided to offer a DVD of the panels for $40. (This price is only good through the following week; thereafter he will charge a higher price for it.) In addition to the DVD, Tee will throw in the full-color program book that attendees received that night and pay all postage costs (U.S. only). Tee says:

The DVD includes the opening montage of UPA characters, especially created to open the event, Jerry Beck’s opening comments, the 1951 UPA behind-the-scenes clips, scenes from the work-in-progress UPA documentary, plus highlights of the two panels at the Egyptian, as well as the panel Asifa-Hollywood had at the AFI about two years ago. It runs about an hour, a tad under, and it has menu buttons to start at the top, or go directly to the film clips, or panel discussions.But, at this time it doesn’t include any of the UPA cartoons that were shown, since we don’t yet have the rights to include them. But, once we get the rights, we will send the updated DVD to everyone who bought an advanced copy.The First Panel at the Egyptian includes; Bill Melendez, Willis Pyle, Alan Zaslove, and Mark Kausler. The Second Panel at the Egyptian is; Fred Crippen, Sam Clayberger, Lou Romano, and Amid Amidi. And, the Panel at the AFI was Bob McIntosh, Joe Siracusa, Alan Zaslove, Eddie Friedman, Fred Crippen, and Mel Leven. All, of course, were moderated by some guy named Jerry Beck.

If anyone has questions, email Tee at bosumedia (at) yahoo.com. If you are ready to buy, make a check out to Artist in Me, LLC and mail it, postmarked on or before May 1st, to:Tee Bosustow
6633 Woodley Avenue, #9
Van Nuys, CA 91406Include your mailing address, of course. Tee is also selling the program for the event separately, without the DVD, while they last, at $10.

TUNES FOR ‘TOONS SCREENING

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Next Saturday, April 29th, ASIFA-Hollywood is holding a special film program and lecture illustrating the world of music as seen through classic Hollywood cartoons. Animation historian Daniel Goldmark will be discussing the story behind the musicians who made our favorite cartoons sing. Vintage cartoons will be screened (several in 35mm). Bring along your copy of Daniel’s great new book, TUNES FOR ‘TOONS and get it autographed. This special event is happening next Saturday, April 29th, at 3:00pm, over at the American Film Institute, in the Steven Ross Screening Room (Warner Bros. Building). The address is 2021 N. Western Ave. in Hollywood, CA (a block north of Franklin Ave.). Directions to AFI campus HERE. ASIFA-HOLLYWOOD members admitted FREE, non-members pay $10 bucks.

SPUMCO LIVE!

Spumco cartoons, the way they were meant to be seen: on the big theatre screen!Jot this down: John Kricfalusi will be making an appearence to introduce a screening of his best cartoons (uncut!) at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, on Sunday night May 28th at 6:30pm. Earlier that same day, across the street at 4pm, John will be making an appearence at Every Picture Tells A Story, the bookstore/gallery, which is hosting a month long exhibit “The Art of John Kricfalusi”. John will be on hand to personally sign original art and prints which will be for sale.

Jazz Cartoon Friday

If anybody has ever wondered why the 1930s-1950s are referred to as the Golden Age of animation, these four shorts below should provide the answer to that question. The theme is jazz, the cartoons are beautifully animated and effortlessly entertaining, and they’re all courtesy of individual users who posted them on YouTube.

MINNIE THE MOOCHER (1932, Fleischer)
Director: Dave Fleischer
Music: Cab Calloway

PIED PIPER OF BASIN STREET (1945, Lantz)
Director: James “Shamus” Culhane
Music: Jack Teagarden
Thanks to Kevin Langley for posting this on YouTube.

“All the Cats Join In” from MAKE MINE MUSIC (1946, Disney)
Director: Jack Kinney
Music: Benny Goodman

DIXIELAND DROOPY (1954, MGM)
Director: Tex Avery
Music: Scott Bradley

More about Cartoon Network

I received this email from a former Cartoon Network artist, who prefers to remain anonymous but has worked on a number of their projects and speaks frequently to people working there today (both execs and artists). He offers some perceptive thoughts about the network’s “swindling of the viewership” and why CN is adding more and more live-action to its schedule.

I would like to start by thanking you for your dogged coverage of Cartoon Network’s baffling new programming slate. This issue demands the exposure you are giving it. Bravo.

I’ve worked on and off for Cartoon Network for many years in Atlanta, New York, and LA, and I keep in touch with many friends at the Williams Street compound in Atlanta. Friends who have a front row seat of this swindling of the viewership. The troubling thing to me, at this point, is that I have not yet read the real logic fueling this hackneyed shift in programming.

It’s about money.

Cartoon Network is showing properties that they buy CHEAP and then broadcast sandwiched between original programming. Then they charge the same advertising rates. Buying cheap and selling at a premium is something that started on the Toonami program years ago. DragonBall Z and the other anime series they slotted were all purchased for next to nothing and yet still pulled in the highest ratings of their entire schedule when shown during the afterschool slot.

I do not know what residuals are due to the creators of shows from their past that are not being shown (Courage The Cowardly Dog, Cow & Chicken, Johnny Bravo, etc), but the price of broadcasting Saved By The Bell repeats is less of a bill for them.

When everyone seems to be completely flummoxed at these changes at the network, I feel compelled to impart what I am quite sure is the real inspiration behind this programming boondoggle: Cartoon Network is simply not bringing in any real money at their channel. There is no merchandise on the market for their shows, there are no fast food toy promos, and there is not any national advertising. (Cartoon Network advertises in LA and NYC only with hopes that the advertising traffic agencies located in those two cities will assume it is nationwide.)

I don’t think it is mere conjecture to state that this newest move by the network is a grim sign of the state of affairs there. Expect a major shake up in the near future. They have been reeling since Betty Cohen stepped down.

UPDATE: Below is a comment from an artist currently working there. He counters that Cartoon Network is not trying to do things on the cheap, and that they are in fact spending a lot of money to develop original live-action shows.

The motivation is definitely money, but not for the reasons your previous source has stated. They’ve always licensed Cartoon shows and now they’re doing live-action, as an “introduction” to more live-action content. They are aggressively seeking original live-action content and have some in development. They are trying to compete with Disney and Nick, who own ratings with shows like Raven and Lizzie McGuire. But they don’t wish to copy the same type of shows, they are looking for something different.

As far as merchandising goes, Warners was in control of it and did little or nothing for the shows as far as toys go. Batman was more important. And now licensing has just recently gone back to Cartoon Network. They are making big strides with top licensing companies and had a good showing at the Licensing Show this year. Also there will be Burger King promos for Foster’s coming soon. I’m not defending their decisions, just trying to clarify what their motivation is, as someone who still works here and has heard it first hand.

UPDATE #2: Another reliable artist who currently works for Cartoon Network wrote in the following:

Your second insider is closer to the point regarding CN and their foray into the live action world. They’ve been getting their butt kicked in the ratings by Disney’s live action-shows like “That’s So Raven” and specials like “High School Musical.” It is all about money but rather than finding and making better animated shows, they continue to make the same old animated product or when they do stumble across new product, they don’t support it once it gets on air. So, much like the 2D vs. CG battle, it’s much easier to blame the medium rather than the management’s choices of content.

Earlier stories about Cartoon Network’s abandonment of animation are here and here.

I AM 8-BIT Artwork

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If you were like me and unable to attend the I AM 8-BIT opening earlier this week, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s many photos of the paintings floating around online. Vinyl Pulse has lots of paintings HERE. And there’s plenty of event photos already posted on Flickr. The caliber of this year’s paintings, both technically and thematically, is quite impressive. Be sure to check out the paintings by animation artists like Steve Purcell, Michel Gagné, Craig Kellman, Sean Szeles, Tony Mora, Scott Morse and Dave Wasson.

THE ART OF PIXAR’S… ARTISTS

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Here’s a chance to see what Pixar artists draw in their off hours. San Francisco’s Canvas Gallery will host Combined Weight, a collection of work by artists from Pixar Animation Studios, “produced in their spare time to show the world through their eyes”. Artists include Daniel Arriaga, Enrico Casarosa, Janet Lucroy, Jennifer Chang, Liz Holmes, Lori Klocek, Mark Holmes, Nate Stanton, Noah Klocek, Paul Topolos, Rich Quade, Robert Kondo, Robin Cooper, Ronnie Del Carmen, Simon Dunsdon, Steve Pilcher, and Steve Purcell. Opening reception is next Thursday April 27th, from 7pm – 12am. The exhibition runs from April 27 throuh May 22nd at The Canvas Gallery, 1200 9th Ave. at Lincoln, San Francisco.