I want to thank everyone who showed up last Friday night at the Comic Con for my annual WORST CARTOONS EVER screening. You haven’t lived until you hear a crowd of over 500 people singing the MIGHTY MR. TITAN theme song. If you couldn’t make the show, I have this year’s all-new program on DVD-R and will gladly sell you a copy for $15. (post paid). Ordering information and a list of the contents are on my Garage Sale webpage.
Mark Mayerson rips apart the new book CREATORS: FROM CHAUCER AND DURER TO PICASSO AND DISNEY by British historian and journalist Paul Johnson. According to Mark, the book is riddled with errors about the animated art form, such as:
Winsor McCay is misspelled. Max Fleischer is erroneously credited for Felix the Cat. The Three Little Pigs was released in 1933, not 1932. Alice in Wonderland was released in 1951, not 1957. Carl Stalling was a composer, not an animator. It’s Carl Eduarde, not Edwards. It’s Grim, not Jim, Natwick. It’s Tytla, not Tytler. It’s Ted Sears, not Wears.
What’s particularly disgusting about Johnson’s text is not only the factual inaccuracies, but that he may have deliberately falsified history to promote his personal agendas. For example, his description of how the Disney strike happened is a complete fabrication, but it makes sense that he would write something like that after reading this Wikipedia article about Johnson, that says, “In his Enemies of Society (1977), following a series of articles in the British press, he vehemently attacked the trade union movement for what he saw as its violence and intolerance, terming them as ‘red fascists.’ He also at this time started to inveigh against liberal and left-wing causes.”
Check out Mark’s blog for more of his thoughts on Johnson’s book.
The Ottawa International Animation Festival is right around the corner and the selections for its 2006 edition were announced last week. The full list of films in competition and showcase screenings can be found HERE. My immediate thoughts are that (a.) the selections look really solid and (b.) I’m glad that there’s far fewer films being screened in Ottawa than at Annecy. The Ottawa festival takes place September 20-24.
Chuck Jones once said in an interview that when he wanted to draw believable human characters, he would pattern his drawing after Sam Cobean’s because his “characters always looked to me more like life than life itself.” Prior to becoming a NEW YORKER cartoonist, Sam Cobean had worked in the animation industry at Disney and Columbia. One of Cobean’s earliest print assignments – a WWII-era US military training pamphlet – has now been posted on-line HERE. Subject matter aside, I think Cobean’s drawings are absolutely amazing: funny, direct and super-appealing. If I’d seen any comic book in San Diego with drawings of this caliber, you can bet I’d be raving about it right now.
This is the biggest animation history find since fragments of Elmo Aardvark began appearing in the 1990s! Two copies of the long lost, early sound RUFUS cartoons (1929) have been discovered and restored by the Deleo Animation Trust.In reality, RUFUS is the brainchild of Dutch illustrator-animator Raoul Deleo. The first Rufus restoration, “Bouncin’ Buddy” was screened in competition at Annecy 2006. For other examples of Deleo’s work, click here.(Thanks, Karl Cohen)
Here’s an odd one.We are the Strange is an independent animated feature film about “two outcasts caught in the middle of a deadly battle between bizarre monsters on their way to the ice cream shop”. The trailer is a bizarre combination of Brother Quay-like stop motion, CG and anime, and well worth checking out. It was created by someone called M dot Strange. Video game producer Shane Neville just posted an interview with Mr. dot Strange, on his webblog.
Just what we need – a revival of Jay Ward’s animated classic, George of the Jungle. However, a new series currently in production is apparently based more on the Brendan Fraser live action movie than Ward’s original Saturday morning cartoon. The website of Vancouver’s Studio B (who are producing the 26 half hours) has pre-production art from the series that at least somewhat resemble the original Jay Ward designs. The image above was distributed by Classic Media at the Licensing Show last month in New York – I guess they figured they’d go in a new, Cartoon Network-derivative direction (especially as Cartoon Network U.S. and Europe will air the show in Fall 2007). Oh well… I wish them luck.
One more time: Here’s where you can meet me at Comic-Con International: San Diego today (Thursday), tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday:
RANDOM CARTOONS SNEAK PREVIEW – Clips, interviews and production art from the new Nickelodeon Frederator series called Random Cartoons. Meet the creators, and get cool stuff! Sneak preview clips from various cartoons including MIND THE KITTY, ADVENTURE TIME, MOOBEARD, THE COW PIRATE and HORNSWIGGLE. Thursday July 20, 2:30pm in Room 2JUST ADDED: On Friday night I will be moderating the SNL: Saturday TV Funhouse Panel with Robert Smigel from 7:30 to 9:00pm. The Emmy Award-winning writer, producer and creator of Saturday Night Live’s hilarious animated “TV Funhouse” segments, Robert Smigel. We will be discussing the upcoming DVD release of SNL: The Best Of Saturday TV Funhouse, show clips from “The Ambiguously Gay Duo”, “X-Presidents”, “Saddam and Osama”, “Mr. T” and other favorites, as well as notable “lost” cartoons, banned from the airwaves forever. Q & A to follow! With appearances by animator/director Robert Marianetti and, possibly, Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog (pictured above). Friday July 21, 7:30-9pm in Room 6BThen I’ll run next door at 9pm to present…THE WORST CARTOONS EVER (2006 edition) – My all-new annual screening of rock bottom cartoon crap-ola, includes different episodes of SUPER PRESIDENT, MIGHTY MR. TITAN, JOHNNY CYPHER IN DIMENSION ZERO, as well as new discoveries like Sam Singer’s PADDY THE PELICAN and Harman-Ising’s SIR GEE WHIZ. Friday July 21, 9pm in Room CDEF
I’ll also be appearing at the ASIFA-HOLLYWOOD booth (#5434) on Saturday July 22 at 11am. I’ll be handing out promotional HORNSWIGGLE buttons and postcards at all these events, and everywhere I go. See you there!
Animation Guild president Kevin Koch has written a fascinating post on the Guild blog about how to predict an animated film’s final box office gross based on the opening weekend take. Here’s Kevin’s formula and how it applies to recent CG features:
Total Domestic Gross = Opening Weekend x 3 (for a movie with no legs)
TDG = OW x 4.3 (for a movie with great legs)
Just for fun, here are the opening week multipliers of most CG features:
Polar Express — 7.4
Toy Story — 6.6
Shrek — 6.3
Jimmy Neutron — 5.8
Antz — 5.3
A Bugs Life — 4.9
Finding Nemo — 4.3
Toy Story 2 — 4.3
Shrek 2 — 4.1
Monster’s Inc. — 4.1
Hoodwinked — 4.1
Over the Hedge — 4.0
Ice Age — 3.8
The Wild — 3.8
Cars — 3.7 (so far)
The Incredibles — 3.7
Robots — 3.6
Dinosaur — 3.6
Shark Tale — 3.4
Chicken Little — 3.4
Valiant — 3.3
Ice Age 2 — 2.9
Final Fantasy — 2.8
Doogal — 2.1
In the 1920s, some kids around the Los Angeles area contributed drawings and stories to “The Junior Times” which was an insert of the LA TIMES newspaper. A number of these kids went on to become famous animation artists, including Ed Benedict, Fred Moore and Bob Clampett. I’d never seen an example of Clampett’s work from this paper, but Filboid Studge’s blog has unearthed a 1926 comic (“The Innocent Pussy”) by a 12-year-old Clampett. He also found a 1928 short story by Clampett. If you like this sort of historical crap, you’re definitely going to want to check this out.
Ok folks, the news that everybody’s been waiting for! ANIMATON BLAST #9 will debut in San Diego this week!!! It’s been a long four years since the last issue and I couldn’t be more thrilled that we managed to finish this new edition in time for the Comic-Con. My printer in Canada says the issue looks terrific and they’re FedEx’ing a batch down to San Diego today. BLAST 9 should be on the convention floor first thing Friday morning. I’m getting less issues sent down than I’d hoped so if you want to make sure you get a copy in SD, make sure to pick it up early. The exclusive seller of BLAST 9 at the Comic-Con is Stuart Ng Books (booth #5113). The rest of the issues are also being sent down from Canada, and if you’ve pre-ordered an issue, I’m expecting that they’ll be shipped the week of July 31-August 4.
Clay Kaytis of the Animation Podcast has compiled a nice round-up of animation-related booths at the Con. Among other things, he notes that LILO AND STITCH director Chris Sanders will be at the Club Coconut booth (#2044).
Kazu Kibuishi deserves a lot of praise for what he’s done with the FLIGHT graphic anthologies. He’s managed to bring together a lot of talented folks from the comic and animation communities – both well known and up-and-coming artists – and created an exciting new forum to showcase their work. The newest edition, FLIGHT 3, premiered last month and it’s another excellent edition. The Flight booth (#1131) promises to be a central gathering point for a lot of artists this year; check out the Flight Comics website for a COMPLETE LISTING of which artists will be appearing at the Flight booth and where other Flight contributors can be found on the convention floor. I’ve also heard the Flight booth will be offering some exclusives, including a new sketchbook by Rodolphe Guenoden called DIZ, DAT ‘N DOZ.
Our blogging buddies Mark Evanier, Scott Shaw!, and Earl Kress are moderating (or appearing) on several panels of note at the San Diego Comic Con later this week.Earl Kress will be discussing PINKY AND THE BRAIN and ANIMANIACS on Thursday, 4:00pm in Room 6B.Mark Evanier’s panels are always a highlight of the con. He’ll be hosting the annual Jack Kirby tribute (Friday 2pm, Room 8), interviewing artists Jim Mooney, Jerry Robinson and John Romita, and moderating two panels (Saturday at 2pm, Sunday at 1pm, Room CDEF) devoted to Cartoon Voice actors (including appearences by Billy West, Maurice LaMarche and Bob Bergen, among others). Mark will also be appearing on a panel discussing SHE-RA AND HE-MAN / DUNGEONS & DRAGONS on Friday at 4:30 PM in Room 5AB.Scott Shaw! will be at table I-8, right next to Sergio Aragonés. He’ll also be appearing, sometime during the show, at McFarlane Toys’ booth, which will have the company’s new line of classic Hanna-Barbera action figures (which Scott designed) on display. If you haven’t seen it, don’t miss Scott’s hilarious Oddball Comic Slide Show on Saturday at 4:30 PM in Room 5AB. Even if you have, this is the place to see it again!
Sketchcrawl founder and Pixar story artist Enrico Casarosa is debuting the second volume of SKETCHCRAWLINGS in San Diego. The book is a collection of watercolor sketches and autobiographical comics. Enrico’s stubby self-caricature always delivers a laugh and his storytelling sensibilities are superb – in other words, I can’t wait to pick this one up. He’ll be signing the new SKETCHCRAWLINGS at the FLIGHT comics booth (#1131) for most of Friday and Saturday, and he’ll also be doing a signing with Ronnie del Carmen on Saturday from 2:30 to 4pm at Stuart Ng Books (booth #5113).
Maverix Studios is a San Francisco-based collective of animation and comic artists. They’ll be exhibiting in San Diego this year at booth #5485. Among the artists at their booth will be director/designer Ed Bell, who has a new 40-page sketchbook called OASIS. He describes the book as a “visual prologue” to an animated short that will be starting production this fall. If you can’t make it to San Diego, the book is also available at the print-on-demand bookseller Lulu.com. Another prolific talent who’ll be appearing at the Maverix booth is animator/director Robert Valley (AEON FLUX, Gorillaz videos). He’ll have a book called MASSIVE SWERVE, which compiles his strips and sketchbook pages. That book is also available on Lulu.
I first met John K in San Diego eleven years ago so it’s only fitting to mention that John will be in attendance at this year’s Comic-Con. He’ll be appearing at the Every Picture Tells A Story booth (#4721) on Saturday from 2-5 pm, where he’ll be selling original artwork, as well as signing copies of the brand-spanking new dvd REN & STIMPY: THE LOST EPISODES, which was officially released today. Having worked on these episodes, I’m certainly not the right person to offer an unbiased review – for an objective and impartial view on these cartoons, look no further than the blog of animation authority Eddie Fitzgerald.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in Beverly Hills has set Friday August 18th for A Salute To Norman McLaren. Hosted by animation critic Charles Solomon, the evening will include the screening of thirteen newly restored and remasterd 35mm prints of McLaren’s pioneering work for the National Film Board of Canada. Films include NEIGHBORS (1952), A CHAIRY TALE (1957), BEGONE DULL CARE (1949), STARS AND STRIPES (1940), BLINKITY BLANK (1955) and eight others. A panel discussion will precede the screening; panelists to be announced. Tickets are $5. and the event will be presented at 8pm in the Academy’s Goldwyn Theatre at 8949 Wilshire Blvd. More information will be posted on the Academy’s website.
It’s hardly an everday occurrence that an unknown twenty-something walks into a major studio and is assigned to direct a big-budget animated feature. Today’s LA TIMES has an ARTICLE about that exact scenario: it’s the story of 29-year-old MONSTER HOUSE director Gil Kenan, an artist with no prior track record in feature animation. Unfortunately, it’s a frustrating article because the writer makes a big deal that Kenan is an untested director, yet the piece doesn’t offer any clues as to what’s so impressive about Kenan’s work or what inspired Sony to entrust him with a $75 million film.
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Pixar story artist Scott Morse wins the award for the widest variety of wares being sold by one artist. This year he’s offering custom-painted bowling pins, ukuleles, skate decks (above), hand-bound sketchbooks, t-shirts, the book NOBLE BOY, and various comics he’s done including SOULWIND and VOLCANIC REVOLVER. Morse will be at the Red Window/E-Ville Press booth (#4802). Check out Morse’s blog for a preview of all his products.
Garrett Gilchrist, the chap responsible for the recent THIEF AND THE COBBLER re-edit, has YouTube’d nearly half an hour of classic commercials produced by the Richard Williams Studio. Check them out below:
My book CARTOON MODERN: STYLE AND DESIGN IN FIFTIES ANIMATION will be making its official debut in San Diego this week. These are the first copies that are being sold to the public. My publisher Chronicle only managed to get forty books from the printer so they may not last through the weekend, but they’ll definitely be there when the doors open Thursday morning. I’ll be doing a signing on Friday, July 21st, from 3-4pm at the Chronicle Books booth (#1019). If I find the time, I’ll try to make a special dvd with a few of my favorite difficult-to-find 50s cartoons. Anybody who purchases the book at the signing will receive this lovely dvd as a thank-you gift.
Artist Chris Appelhans has posted some superb concept art that he created for the upcoming MONSTER HOUSE. If the finished “performance capture” animation looked half as cool as Appelhan’s work, I’d be the first in line to see this film when it opens on Friday.
Based on the reaction the film received last month at the sneak preview at the Annecy animation festival, I’d have to predict that MONSTER HOUSE is going to be a hit. Nearly everybody I spoke to who attended the Annecy screening enjoyed the film a lot. The film is apparently entertaining and a refreshing change of pace from the childish animal-oriented comedies that every other animation studio is producing nowadays. A lot of people at Annecy were comparing it to early Spielberg films as well as THE GOONIES. It didn’t win everybody over however. One animator I spoke to walked out of the film after half an hour, saying that there was no reason for the film to be animated in the first place.
Back here in the States, Sony held sneak previews of MONSTER HOUSE last Saturday at 700 theaters. According to Box Office Mojo, attendance was strong at two-thirds capacity, eighty percent of which were families. Sony’s distribution chief Rory Bruer, however, is being extremely cautious with MONSTER HOUSE estimates, saying, “I think we’ll open in the mid-$20 million range, hopefully.” Bottomline: it may not be a very good animated film, but signs are pointing that MONSTER HOUSE will be a very successful animated film.
PS – San Diego Comic-Con attendees can get a sneak preview of the film – in 3D – while at the convention. Here’s the info from the Comic-Con website: Screenings are Wednesday night at 10:00 PM, and Thursday 12:00, 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, 8:00, 10:00 PM and 12:00 AM at the United Artists Horton Plaza theater. Tickets are available at the Sony booth (#3945) on a first-come, first-served basis.
(MONSTER HOUSE concept art via Flight Comics)
My first exposure to the talented artists at Blue Sky Studios was a couple years back when I wrote the ART OF ROBOTS book. The general feeling I got while working on the book was that the development artists at Blue Sky took more of an illustrative/fine art approach to animation design as opposed to the cartoon-oriented production design sensibilities of Pixar and its imitators. This sensibility is front and center in the new graphic anthology, OUT OF PICTURE: ART FROM THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN, a dazzling collection of work by eleven artists who currently work (or have previously worked) at Blue Sky Studios.
It would be a disservice to label this simply a collection of comics or a graphic novel. On every page, there are gallery-quality paintings and illustrations. Freed from the need to conform to the stale narrative routines of modern animated filmmaking, the Blue Sky artists explore looser, more personal storytelling styles which are a perfect complement to their stunning visuals. The artwork is uniformly excellent throughout, but a few of the pieces that stood out for me were David Gordon’s disturbing post-9/11 cautionary tale “The Wedding Present,” Dice Tsutsumi’s atmospheric and beautifully painted “Noche y Dia,” and Daniel L–pez MuÃ±oz’s intensely drawn “Silent Echoes.”
OUT OF PICTURE was originally intended to be self-published, but it was picked up by French publisher Paquet, and is now available in both French and English editions. The English edition, which has just come out, will be available at the San Diego Comic-Con exclusively at Stuart Ng Books. Four of the book’s artists will be signing at Stuart’s booth: Dice Tsutsumi, Robert MacKenzie, Michael Knapp and Nash Dunnigan. The book’s official website is HERE.