HARVEY COMICS POST 9/11

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Fox News is reporting that veteran Harvey Comics editor Sid Jacobson and long time Richie Rich artist Ernie Colon are teaming up on a serious re-telling of the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. Illustrating simultaneous events side by side on the page, using the timelines of the hijacked planes as laid out in the 9/11 commission’s findings, The 9/11 Report: The Graphic Novel is said to use the comic medium “to chilling effect”.

“I think we have taken a terribly important document, which I wish every American would read, and done it in a way that makes it far easier for people to grasp,” said publisher Thomas LeBien of Hill and Wang, a division of the prestigious Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

This is reported to be the first in a series of graphic novels by Jacobson and Colon. Next up, the stories of Malcolm X and Ronald Reagan. Seriously.(Thanks, Harry McCracken)

Bob Iger Axes Song of the South?

From yesterday’s entry on the blog of animation writer Earl Kress:

But getting back to “Song of the South,” there are two things I do know. It was definitely on the schedule to be released as one of the “Treasures” series, and Bob Iger, new head of The Walt Disney Company, recently sat down and watched it. It’s definitely not on the schedule any more.

UPDATE: Mark Evanier has more details about Iger’s specific reasons for not releasing the film. Iger said at the Disney shareholder’s meeting last month, “Owing to the sensitivity that exists in our culture, balancing it with the desire to maybe increase our earnings a bit but never putting that in front of what we thought were our ethics and our integrity, we’ve made the decision not to re-release it.”

I AM 8-BIT TONIGHT

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The new edition of I AM 8-BIT (“an art show inspired by videogames from the ’80s”) opens tonight at Gallery 1988 (7020 Melrose Ave, LA, CA 90038) from 6-11pm. There’s way too many artists to name here, but a list of exhibiting artists, including loads of animation folk, can be found HERE. For those that can’t make it, be sure to pick up a copy of Jon Gibson’s just-released book I AM 8-BIT, which includes artwork from both last year’s show and the new show.
(Artwork above by Rex Hackelberg)

Fyn Stec Auction

We mentioned this last week: this Thursday, April 20th, there will be an auction at Cartoon Network benefitting Fyn Stec. Fyn is the young son of current Nickelodeon and former Cartoon Network art director Paul Stec (FOSTER’S) and his wife Dayla Corcoran (production coordinator on DEXTER’S LAB and SHREK). Fyn has recently been hospitalized with a rare form of liver cancer and the auction is raising funds to help defray medical expenses not covered by their insurance.

Lots of artwork by lots of terrific artists has been posted online and anybody can bid on them through midnight of Wednesday, April 19. You can also bid at the auction at Cartoon Network Studios (300 N. 3rd St, Burbank 91502) on Thursday, April 20th, from 5:30-8pm. Below are a couple of the pieces by Craig Kellman (top) and Genndy Tartakovsky (bottom).

Paintings by Craig Kellman and Genndy Tartakovsky

The New Cartoon Network

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Here’s a roundup of news related to our earlier post about Cartoon Network’s rebranding efforts, and its new programming direction, which is showing less cartoons and more live-action programming. In the past few months, the network had begun airing live-action features like DUMB AND DUMBER, ACE VENTURA 2 and HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS, but tonight, CN began airing reruns of SAVED BY THE BELL, the first time in its history that it has aired a completely live-action TV show. The news of CN’s live-action shift has not been well received in the online community. Cartoon fans have good reason to be concerned, and one person has already started a PETITION asking the network to stop airing live-action programming.

A recent article in TV WEEK had this quote from Cox cable spokesman David Grabert addressing Cartoon Network’s shift in programming: “We always closely watch what programmers do, especially if they make changes that take them away from how they sold us the service. This is the first we’ve heard of these plans, but if we feel like they’re going too far, we’ll let them know.” Grabert’s statement suggests that if enough viewers complain to cable operators like Cox, they may step in and take some action forcing Cartoon Network to return to its original programming charter.

Brew reader David Silva wrote in from Mexico to let us know that the Latin American version of Boomerang (the classic cartoons arm of Cartoon Network) has also switched from showing older cartoons to a mixture of cartoons and live-action. He writes:

Boomerang Latin America (English version here) is no longer for classic cartoons… it has been turned into a children and teenage-oriented channel. Yes, the channel still has classic TV shows, but it’s also showing a bunch of teenage dramas and edutainment shows. Which, of course, are not cartoons. The focus has changed completely.

I’m emailing you because, as far as I can see, this change has not happened in the United States. But I am afraid that it will, and sooner than you’d expect. Cartoon Network’s situation is frightening, and the more I see these things happening, the more it makes me think that they’re trying to turn the channels into another version of The Disney Channel.

UPDATE: Animation artist Jamie Badminton writes from the UK:

Just wanted to let you know that the Toonami channel we have in the UK has been showing ‘Parker Lewis Can’t Lose’ of all things since March, along with a science program and and an extreme sports magazine show!! Worryingly, the allotted timeslots for these shows increased the following month so it can’t have been a total failure with audiences. It baffles me that they would ever consider sacrificing their once-focused broadcasting plans for early 90s teen comedies!!

We’ve had ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on Cartoon Network-UK several times too. I’m sure there are enough talented animators that could fill these slots with shows if given the half the chance. Thanks for highlighting it the problem – I have quite a lot of affection for what Cartoon Network once was. ‘Foster’s Home’ and ‘Samurai Jack’ have been the most outstanding animated series of the last 10 years and that is primarily because the artists have had a solid rock of studio support around them ever since the days of World Premiere Toons, letting them hone their skills in one place with the same constant team (something that had not been possible since animation’s golden age). I’d hate for that to be compromised just because some bright spark decides that ‘kids don’t like cartoons anymore’ based on one month’s viewing figures!!

Hubley’s Last Commercial

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Michael Sporn shares his memories of working on the last commercial that John Hubley ever directed. It was a spot for Vlasic Pickles that didn’t go over too well with the agency. Sporn’s posts – PART I and PART II – include some great thumbnail poses by animator Phil Duncan and also the revelation that Hubley was responsible for designing the Vlasic Pickles stork mascot, which is still used by the company today.

The Making of Pinocchio

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Brew reader Chris Olson found an old issue of POPULAR MECHANICS with a behind-the-scenes look at the making of PINOCCHIO, and he was kind enough to make scans of the article for other Brew readers to see. The PM issue (volume 1, no. 73) was released in January 1940, a month before the film was released. The article emphasizes the technical aspects of the production, and includes some bizarre and incredible photos, such as the “mad scientist”-looking sound fx guys above. Other photos show people mixing cel paint dyes, toying around with electrical equipment, painting puppets and doing all types of things that one doesn’t typically associate with an animated production.

It’s also interesting to note that not a single artist is identified in the photo captions or article. The only person named is Walt Disney. I’ll try to right that wrong by identifying a few of the individuals. The story artists on the title page are (left to right) Ted Sears, Otto Englander and Webb Smith. The animator at top of page 6 is, of course, Bill Tytla, and the woman painting the model of Pinocchio on page 7 is Helen Nerbovig (who also happened to be the wife of background painter Bob McIntosh). If you can identify other people, let me know.

UPDATE: Michael Sporn writes that the animator looking at the fox on the second page is Norm Ferguson.

UPDATE #2: Jeff Peterson writes that the model maker with the clock at the bottom of page 7 is Bob Jones. There was an interview with him in Issue 37 of THE E TICKET.

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REFREDERATOR

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Starting tomorrow, Frederator Studios establishes ReFrederator.com, a daily vintage cartoon video podcast – and you don’t even need an iPod to enjoy it. ReFrederator will feature classic public domain cartoons with Mighty Mouse, Daffy Duck, Betty Boop, Little Lulu, Felix the Cat, and many many more favorites as well as numerous miscellaneous ComiColor shorts, Merrie Melodies and Rainbow Parades.New episodes will appear daily Monday through Friday, grouped into weekly themes. The first week features a Mother Goose theme, beginning with a 1935 Humpty Dumpty cartoon from Ub Iwerks, followed by Mighty Mouse in Wolf! Wolf! (1945) and the Oscar-nominated Pigs in a Polka (1943) by Friz Freleng. The week will wrap up with Poor Cinderella (1934) the only color Betty Boop cartoon, and Foney Fables (1942) a parody of Disney fairy tales.Programming for ReFrederator is headed by producer Eric Homan and illustrator, cartoonist, and scholar Dave Kirwan. For a free subscription, search ReFrederator in the iTunes Podcast Directory, or visit ReFrederator.com and click “subscribe.” They also have a dandy ReFrederator Store featuring a cool Leslie Cabarga logo on a variety of shirts, backpacks and undergaments.

Oscar Nominees on YouTube

Two very good animated shorts, both nominated for an Oscar in 1995, have turned up on YouTube. In the short but amusing BIG STORY, a stop motion Kirk Douglas argues with himself. The film was directed by David Stoten and Tim Watts.

Michael Dudok de Wit‘s THE MONK AND THE FISH is a beautifully designed and animated short by an artist who understands how to use the animation medium to tell a story. I’m sure many have already seen this short, but if you haven’t, here’s your chance.

Chatting About Cartoons in London

There’s a solid animation lecture series currently happening at London’s Science Museum in conjunction with the Pixar: 20 Years of Animation exhibition. The series – Talk Animation! – continues through June 9. Upcoming speaker highlights include directing duo Smith & Foulkes, Philip Hunt of Studio aka, and stop motion director Barry Purves. More details HERE.

Cartoon Brew Film of the Week: The Tale of How

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The Tale of How is a mostly CG animated short produced by the South African animation collective Blackheart Gang. Credits are Marcus Wormstorm (music, writer), Cherie “Ree” Treweek (design/illustration), Jannes Hendrikz (creative director/2D animation and compositing) and Justin Baker (lead CG animator). According to the filmmakers, the story is about an octopus named Otto, “and he’s an island that all the Piranha birds live on. His broken heart has made him mean, and he eats piranhas even though he’s not hungry.” The lush, densely layered visuals look completely unlike anything else out there. Blackheart Gang doesn’t fall into the all-too common trap of using computer animation to make photorealistic art, instead creating a fluid and organic world that draws upon the tradition of illustrators like Rackham, Nielsen and Beardsley.
(Thanks, Craig Clark)

THE LOOKING BOX

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Here’s some fresh talent. Two young Dutch animators, Joost van den Bosch and Erik Verkerk (Ka-Ching Cartoons), have posted a test section of their new film, a clever, well designed CG piece produced to look like paper cut-outs in stop-motion animation. Bosch and Verkerk developed this idea as a concept for a television series during their graduation at the Arts Academy in Rotterdam. According to them:

“It comes from an old tradition in the Netherlands of young children using old shoeboxes to make small theatres from cardboard figures. Through one small round opening on one side of the box one can look at the small motionless stages in 3D. The lid of the box can be used for lighting the ‘stage’. It is called a ‘kijkdoos’, a looking-box. Like a 3D drawing. In our animated series, thirteen short adventures come to life in ‘shoebox’ style.We are both very big fans of the old 30′s cartoons and wanted to make something that was influenced by that era – and hopefully can create films that will be as timeless funny as they are. At the same time we thought it would be nice to combine it with this old dutch tradition of making these lookingboxes which pushed us into the style it is right now. At the moment we are in production on our graduation film, which will be the pilot for the series, and will be finished at the end of June. The producers at il Luster Productions already are making plans to develop it into a real televison series.”

The completed film is going to be about ten minutes (six minutes of animation and four minutes of live action). We wish them luck. More information on their website.

Ambiguous DUO RETURN

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After almost four years, J. J. Sedelmaier Productions and Robert Smigel, the creators of NBC’s Saturday Night Live “Saturday TV Funhouse” cartoons, are bringing back Ace and Gary, The Ambiguously Gay Duo, to host the “Best of Saturday TV Funhouse” on NBC, airing April 29th. This is the first ever collection of animation shorts to run as an SNL special. The ninety-minute program will showcase the recurring series of “Funhouse” segments including “The X-Presidents,” “Fun with Real Audio” and of course “The Ambiguously Gay Duo.” The SNL animated special will feature new material especially animated for this show, with Ace and Gary as the show’s hosts interacting “live” with the current cast throughout the program. Ace and Gary are voiced by Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell of “The Office.”

CARTOONS: NO LAUGHING MATTER

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Heads up, New Yorkers! The Film Forum is presenting CARTOONS: No Laughing Matter?, a program of new animated shorts begining Wednesday, May 10th. These new works, by eight well known independent animators, include Suzan Pitt’s bizarre Mexican fantasy, “El Doctor” (pictured above), Lisa Crafts’s “The Flooded Playground”, a nightmare of childhood fears, the latest film from George Griffin, “It Pains Me to Say This” and JJ Villard’s riff on Charles Bukowski, “Son Of Satan”. Films from Andy & Carolyn London, Suzie Templeton, Chris Shepherd & David Shrigley and Debra Solomon are also included. CARTOONS: No Laughing Matter? will play for two weeks, May 10-23, and they say the program is not appropriate for children.

True Characters

Story artist Jenny Lerew has posted another excellent entry about storytelling in animation on her blog, Blackwing Diaries. This time, she tackles the importance of creating honest, likeable characters that the audience can relate to. It seems like an obvious point, and yet, the type of characters which she speaks about are missing from the vast majority of contemporary feature and TV animation.

ANIMATION BENEFIT AUCTION

On April 20th, Cartoon Network will be holding a silent auction to benefit Fyn Stec. Fyn is the young son of current Nickelodeon and former Cartoon Network animation art director Paul Stec (Fosters) and his wife Dayla Corcoran (production coordinator on Dexter’s Lab and Shrek). Fyn has recently been hospitalized with a rare form of liver cancer. They are raising funds to help defray the astronomical medical expenses that won’t be covered by insurance. Craig Kellman, Chris Reccardi, Lynne Naylor, Tim Biskup, Craig McCracken, Seonna Hong, Miles Thompson, Don Shank and many other great artists are contributing art for this cause. The studio will be open next Thursday night from 5:30 to 9:00pm, and they’ll be live music. Here is a website with more info. Here is a blog with updates on Fyn’s progress. Please help!

POOH ON THE SIDEWALK

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Better watch where you step!As if there isn’t enough s–t in Hollywood already, now there’s permanent Pooh on the sidewalk. From the AP:

Johnny Grant, the honorary Mayor of Hollywood, poses for a photo with from left, Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore and Tigger during a ceremony yesterday, celebrating Pooh’s 80th anniversary with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. Pooh, created in the 1920′s by British author A.A. Milne, debuted as a cartoon character in the 1966 Disney featurette “Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree,” and went on to star in dozens of films, specials and several cartoon series.

Cartoon Network

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An article in last week’s VARIETY reports that not only will Cartoon Network continue to air live-action films like ACE VENTURA and DUMB AND DUMBER, but that they’re also beginning to plan production of original live-action TV series and movies. Now I know a lot of people are probably going, What the hell? Why is Cartoon Network going to produce live action?

I, for one, however applaud this out-of-the-box thinking on the part of the CN execs. After all, just because a channel is called Cartoon Network doesn’t mean they actually need to air cartoons. That’s so obvious…so 20th century. By giving audience what they’re not expecting, Cartoon Network is showing it’s a risk-taker, and that they aren’t afraid to add an element of surprise to their programming.

The execs at Cartoon Net have stumbled upon a secret that will revolutionize the cable industry, and that’s if you ignore the name of your channel and just air whatever you feel like, the possibilities for programming are endless. If this catches on, I predict an exciting renaissance in cable TV. No longer will channels be limited to their tired routines. Seriously, how many weather reports does the Weather Channel really need? Imagine how much more interesting it’ll be to catch NBA games on The Weather Channel. And sports on ESPN? Been there, done that. What ESPN really needs to distinguish itself from the competition is a month-long film tribute to Edward G. Robinson. The idea could potentially even spread to individual shows. Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor? We all saw that coming a mile away. But the O’Reilly Factor hosted by Oprah – now that’s what I call some innovative television. It’s a wonder that nobody’s every thought of this before, and to think we owe it all to those geniuses at Cartoon Network.

URMEL AUS DEM EIS

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URMEL AUS DEM EIS is a German CG animated feature slated for release in August 2006. You can suffer through the trailer HERE. I’m not sure what the translation of the title is, but I think it’s something along the lines of, “Our attempt at making an obnoxious, bland, charm-deprived, aesthetically repugnant, American-style CG film.” The film, produced by Ambient Entertainment, is based on a fondly remembered German marionette TV series from the late-1960s, though chances are it won’t be fondly remembered after this film is released. On a sidenote, is anybody keeping track of the number of animated features in recent years that have used Sister Sledge’s song “We are Family” in their trailer or in the final product? And has anybody considered, instead of having a song that spells out to audiences that the characters are like family, wouldn’t it be more impressive to create characters who exude warmth and personality, and communicate that feeling of family through their actions?