Wanted to point you in the direction of a small Chicago collective, Chewbone Animation, who are nearing completion of a 5-minute animated short: A Time For All Seasonings. They’ve been at it for two years and their production blog displays some promising sample animation.
An early plug for my monthly movie gig with Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys. As always, the live musical program will be preceded by a selection of several cinematic goodies, screened in glorious 16mm celluloid. Join us, October 5th at 8pm, at THE STEVE ALLEN THEATER (Center for Inquiry-West), 4773 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood (Two blocks west of Vermont — Plenty of FREE parking in the rear). Admission $15. – a bargain!
I know two things about Lorelay Bove.
1.) She’s a character animation student at CalArts.
2.) She has some beautiful paintings on her BLOG. I’d describe them as Mary Blair-ish, but they’re not quite; she’s definitely got her own thing going on and I can’t wait to see more work by her.
The 2006 edition of the Ottawa International Animation Festival marked my fourth straight year that I’ve attended the festival. Instead of writing about which films I liked, which I’ll be doing plenty of over the coming weeks, I thought I’d address a more fundamental issue: why do I go to festivals like Ottawa in the first place?
The short answer is that, for people who work in the industry, festivals are some of the best places to broaden your horizons about the state of the art. Living in an industry town like LA, there’s a tendency towards artistic stagnation and developing an inbred mentality about what constitutes quality animation. Attending a festival, especially one with high standards like Ottawa, is a refreshing slap in the face, a wake-up call to the wild potential inherent in this medium.
In my opinion, Ottawa, of all the festivals I’ve been too, has the strongest competition programs. This is certainly not a view shared by all. Mark Mayerson recently commented on his blog that he found the competition programs to be “a major disappointment” this year. But in my book, the Ottawa film selections are the highlight of each festival. Ottawa’s artistic director Chris Robinson is the perfect tour guide to the dauntingly complex world of indie animation, and he and his staff do an amazing job of pulling together exciting uncompromising screenings. They manage to program an interesting mix of mainstream favorites like Guilherme Marcondes TYGER, Joel Trussell’s WAR PHOTOGRAPHER and the SNL TV FUNHOUSE cartoon “Journey to the Disney Vault,” along with an eclectic range of experimental, student and narrative shorts. Even when I don’t like some of the films they choose, I can always respect their choices, which is more than can be said for some other major animation festivals.
I certainly didn’t dig every film that screened in Ottawa. One film in particular that frustrated me was Suzan Pitt’s EL DOCTOR. At 23 minutes, it’s not exacly a short film and requires a significant investment of effort to understand. But a couple days after I’d seen the film, I began to wonder, Did I dislike her film because it was a bad film or because of my own personal prejudices about what animation should be?
That, in a nutshell, is what Ottawa does. The competition selections force you out of your comfort zone and ask you to appreciate animation in all its many wonderful forms. After reading Chris Robinson’s article about EL DOCTOR and talking to other people about the film (juicy festival gossip: the shriveled docter in the film is supposedly based on Jules Engel), I’m ready to give Suzan’s film another try. I can’t guarantee I’ll like it anymore the second time around, but my experience with this film is exactly why I enjoy Ottawa so much. It’s a challenging environment that forces one to discard their rigid attitudes about cartoons and confront their preconceived notions about the animated art form. To everybody out there whose idea of short form animation is Disney’s LITTLE MATCHGIRL, give a festival like Ottawa a try sometime. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover a new world of animation that you never knew existed.
Of course, the other reason to attend festivals is to meet friendly inspiring animation folk from around the globe. I saw many old friends and made plenty of new ones. Besides the folks in the photos below, some of the other fine people I had the chance to hang out with were Isaac King, Tom Knott, Tabitha Fisher, Luc Chamberland, Trixy Sweetvittles, Alex Manugian, Warren Leonhardt, Steve Stefanelli, Tamu Townsend, Helder Mendonca, Chris Dainty, Chuck Gammage, Rita Street, Dav-Odd, Bill Robinson, Martine Chartrand, Lee Rubenstein, Jessica Plummer, Marv Newland, Ted Pratt, Irene Kotlarz, Dave Cooper, Esther Jones, Tony Lamberty and Kelly Armstrong. I’m surely leaving out many other people so please forgive my overtaxed memory. Before the photos, here’s a few other Ottawa reports worth checking out:
Ward Jenkins on Drawn! about the films
John Martz on Drawn! about John K. and Bob Clampett
Cool Flickr set by Bill Robinson
Continuing coverage on the fps blog
Alan Cook: Part 1, 2, 3
Ken Priebe: Part 1, 2, 3, 4
Japanese filmmakers Takeshi Nagata & Kazue Monno,
who won an honorable mention for their
experimental short LIGHTNING DOODLE PROJECT [PIKAPIKA]
Director Michael Sporn who won for Best Short Animation Made for Children
for his film THE MAN WHO WALKED BETWEEN THE TOWERS
Incredible Brazilian animator Guilherme Marcondes (TYGER)
Nick Fox-Gieg, director of A GOOD JOKE (and yes, it is a good joke)
Animation director and ASIFA-East prez David Levy,
who is also author of the excellent book
YOUR CAREER IN ANIMATION: HOW TO SURVIVE AND THRIVE
CODENAME: KIDS NEXT DOOR creator Mr. Warburton
who won Best TV Animation For Children.
Me and Sheridan student Alan Cook
The festival’s technical director André Coutu (left) and artistic director Chris Robinson
Jose Pou, FPS editor Emru Townsend and Pilar Newton
Filmmaker and professor Brooke Keesling and Laika director Mike Wellins
Brazilians in Ottawa: I suck because I only recognize
Anima Mundi festival co-director Lea Zagury (third from right)
and Guilherme Marcondes (far right). Please send idents.
Guru Studios founder Frank Falcone, festival conference director Maral Mohammadian,
festival sponsorship director Azarin Sohrabkhani and me
JibJab co-founder Evan Spiridellis inspired the crowd
with his talk about “The Rise of the Independent Creator”
Filmmaker Anabel Rodriguez and me
The Little Explorer is an alternative band out of London. Aaron Bradbury is an animator from Derby. The Fool Looks at the Finger that Points to the Sky is a remarkably cool CG music video by Bradbury set to Little Explorer’s music. His website details the production with concept art and video tests. Worth a look.
KOMANEKO, a theatrical cartoon series from Japan, is so nauseously cute and adorable it just might make you feel dirty. It’s about a stop-motion cat who wants to make her own stop-motion animated short. Man, talk about postmodern. The five episodes can be viewed in the YouTube playlist below. The official Japanese KOMANEKO site is HERE.
(Thanks, Arthur Bristol)
Yes, that’s me as “Scientist #3″ in Teddy Newton’s new film, THE STUDIO OF TOMORROW. I’ve been spending the last few days helping Teddy (of Pixar and Boys Night Out fame) by being an extra in his live-action comedy short – a film which demonstrates how modern technology will improve the “future” of the animation industry. Teddy will wrap principal photography this week, with editing and post production scheduled over the next few months. I’ll post more information on this film later on, down the road, when it’s finished and available for viewing. My part is very small (it’s one of those blink and you’ll miss me cameo roles), but if you’re alert you’ll also catch Mike Mitchell (Spongbob, Ren & Stimpy, Sky High), Tom Winkler (Doodie.com), Lou Romano (Pixar, Powerpuff Girls), Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles) and other animation notables, in bit roles. It’s a hilarious concept – one which every BREW reader will particularly enjoy.
I’ve known about this exhibition for a while, but it didn’t occur to me that I should post about it until a friend mentioned that it wasn’t on the Brew. An amazing exhibit of classic Disney artwork opened on September 15 at the Le Grand Palais in Paris. The show is called “Il Etait une Fois Walt Disney” (“Once upon a time, there was Walt Disney”), and folks who have attended are calling it one of the greatest animation exhibits ever. Didier Ghez of the Disney History blog has an interesting write-up about the exhibit, wherein he describes its importance:
What brings the whole thing to another level is the very concept of the exhibition: it is a quest to understand what works of art (especially European ones) inspired the art of Disney artists. Based on the seminal book of Dr. Robin Allan, Walt Disney and Europe, the Grand Palais exhibition displays works by the greatest European masters, like Gustave Dore, Heinrich Kley, or even Breughel, German expressionists and French architect Viollet le Duc alongside Disney concept art, layouts and backgrounds. And as all of you know, Disney’s artists works do not pale in front of those of those masters. In fact the association is mind-boggling: if you are a layman, the quality of the concept artists’ works become even more obvious and you start understanding that Walt had some really outstanding individuals working for him, that he was not the only one who drew everything and that the Studio was far from being a factory. If you are a Disney enthusiast you are bound to be stunned by connections with famous or less famous works of art from the past that you were not aware of.
For more info, there’s an article about the exhibit HERE, a slide show with lots of artwork HERE, and a video and even more artwork HERE. The show runs through Christmas in Paris, and if you’re anywhere in Europe, you’re not going to want to miss this. The exhibit then travels to Montreal where it’ll be at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from March 8 to June 24, 2007. I can’t make the Paris show, but I’m definitely going to check it out when it hits Montreal.
UPDATE: Carbunkle Cartoons animator Colin Giles was recently in Paris and he has high praise for the exhibit. Colin writes:
I’ve just returned from vacation in Paris and London and I must say the Walt Disney exhibition was the highlight of the trip. It blew me away. So many important pieces of Disney Art – Mary Blair, Eyvind Earle, Joe Grant, Marc Davis and many others. It only cost 10 euros to get in and I went around twice just to soak it in. They even had a “Destino” section displaying Salvador Dali’s layouts. The work displayed truly showed that these artists were masters. It really is an important show and anyone close to Paris should make the trip. When it arrives in Montreal it should be required viewing. Seeing boards done by Ub Iwerks for “Plane Crazy” was the highlight for me. It was a very well organized display and really well thought out. I bought the DVD of the exhibition which contains a film made specifically for the show and I’ll be posting screen grabs on my blog.
(Thanks to Will Kane for the links)
Here’s a complete list of the winning films from last week’s Ottawa International Animation Festival. I’ll have my thoughts on the festival posted in a few days.
I had the pleasure of seeing my old friend Marv Newland (Bambi Meets Godzilla) up at the Ottawa Festival last week. He was handing out postcards to promote his INTERNATIONAL ROCKETSHIP Garage Sale this Saturday, September 30th, starting at 9am. If you are in Vancouver, it would be worth a peek for some of the books, animation desks, art supplies, production equipment and other assorted strange goodies that they are getting rid of. The address is 8938 Shaughnessy Street (in the rear). The phone number is (604) 738-1778.
One has to admire artists like Michel Gagné who constantly experiment, push their limits and attempt different forms of artistic expression. Michel recently announced on his website his next animation project, and it’s particularly exciting because it’s such a departure from his previous film efforts. SENSOLOGY is an abstract animated short set to a jazz composition by Paul Plimley. While the film is still a couple years away from completion – it’s scheduled to premiere at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival in 2008 – Michel has posted a teaser for the short and the story of how the project came about on his website.
I’m not quite as industrious as fellow Brewer Jerry when it comes to posting Ottawa reports. I promise to report on it when I return to LA. In the meantime, I offer you this incredibly appealing piece of DENNIS THE MENACE sheet music from 1952. It was sent over by super cartoon music historian Daniel Goldmark. Considering it’s currently 3:30am, I really have nothing else to add so just enjoy the artwork.
So much to do at the Ottawa festival, and no time to blog.I am delighted to meet so many people who read Cartoon Brew up here. I’ve made a bunch of new friends and it’s great to see my old out-of-town buddies Mark Mayerson (we go back over 30 years), Linda Simensky, Michael Sporn, J.J. Sedelmaier, Steve Stanchfield, Mark Langer, Kelly Armstrong – not to mention my regular L.A. colleagues Heather Kenyon, John K., Tom Knott, Fred Seibert – and a host of others, including Chris Robinson and the staff of the Ottawa Festival. Wonderful people, all.The first two days here feature a business conference devoted to Television animation, with many great panelists and talent. One thing that emerged from the conference: Nelvana’s RUBY GLOOM looks very promising.The festival competition is wonderful. It’s not over yet, but the best films I’ve seen so far include Joanna Quinn’s DREAMS & DESIRES: FAMILY TIES, Georges Schwizigel’s JEU, Obom’s HERE AND THERE, Mait Laas’ GENERATIO and Run Wrake’s RABBIT. John Kricfalusi gave a great speech about the influence of Bob Clampett with numerous clips and John’s wonderful commentary on what makes them so great. The festival ran a group of Clampett’s best films, most of them in gorgeous 35mm prints.Well, I gotta get back to the festival. I’ll be back home on Monday night.
Flash producer Aaron Simpson (WB, JibJab), who also runs the indispensable blog Cold, Hard Flash has unveiled “The Flash Animation 10 – The Top 10 Most Influential Online Flash Shorts,” a list created for a lecture he presented last week at the Flashfoward conference. It’s a solid and important list that I largely agree with, though it also illustrates clearly how the majority of online Flash animation still lags artistically in comparison to other animation techniques. Aaron describes below the criteria for a film to make this list:
Over the last month, I’ve culled together a list of 40 Flash-animated shorts worthy of inclusion, and then graded each one on a 1-10 scale in three categories – ARTISTIC MERIT, REACH and INFLUENCE. The top 10 then revealed themselves to me, and the list was born. I took it one further, and interviewed 7 of the 10 creators and their remarks are included here.
Today’s a travel day. I’m on my way to Ottawa to attend the International Animation Festival, this time as a spectator. Last year I was a Judge and presenter of two programs. This year I’m just hanging out, with the intent of watching as many films as I can.I’ll be bringing with me a bunch of Hornswiggle buttons and postcards to give away, and I’ll have a few DVD copies to sell of the all-new 2006 edition of WORST CARTOONS EVER. I’ll be around all week, but you can count on my presence at the Clampett retrospective, Amid’s book signing, the Cult Toons screening and the Animators picnic – so feel free to come up and say hello.
Like the Famous Studios cartoons which inspired (and ultimately dominated) them, Harvey Comics has gotten little attention (or respect) from the comics community at large. But its establishing artists in the 1950s consisted of such talented East Coast animators as Steve Muffatti, Dave Tendlar and Marty Taras. Then a second generation of cartoonists in the 1960s and 1970s – including Howie Post, Ernie Colon, and especially Warren Kremer – did an amazing job creating a comic book universe that kids really cared about, years before cable TV and video games.One of those kids, Mark Arnold, has been publishing a fanzine devoted to Harvey Comics for 16 years. Long before the Internet, his Harveyville Fun Times was all there was for devotees of Casper, Richie Rich and Baby Huey. In case you missed the first fifty issues, Mark has now compiled a 400 page “best of” volume, which is currently being printed “on demand” at Lulu.com. The book contains numerous indexes to Harvey animated cartoons and comic books, as well as reviews, commentary and interviews with Harvey writers and artists.I hope to see further research on the history of Harvey and Famous (in fact, I hope I get a chance to write some of it myself), because there is more there than meets the eye. For now, Mark’s efforts are a real good start.
Three nice cels from Polar Playmates (1946) are currently up for sale on ebay.Polar Playmates, directed by former Disney animator Howard Swift, with characters designed by Charles Thorson, is arguably one of the better cartoons in the later batch of Columbia Color Rhapsodies. Columbia’s Screen Gems studio of the 1940s produced the greatest mixed bag in cartoon history. There were wise guy characters in the Bugs Bunny mold (The Fox & Crow), comic strip adaptations (L’il Abner), surreal experiments (John Hubley’s Professor Small and Mr. Tall), and too many newsreel spoofs (most of them painfully unfunny). Occasionally they’d try something in the Disney vein of personality animation – and Polar Playmates hit the mark with charm and style. The characters were strong enough to be adapted into a short lived series of comics – a back up strip in the earliest issues of DC’s Real Screen Comics. Howard Swift would go on to establish Swift Chaplin Productions, a leading maker of animated TV commercials (with partner Charlie Chaplin), and Columbia’s cartoon library would drift into obscurity (superseded by the acclaimed UPA cartoons in the 1950s). But there are nuggets of gold in that collection – and hopefully someday they’ll be seen widely again.For more information on the Columbia cartoon library, visit my Screen Gems webpage and the Columbia Crow’s Nest website.
Here’s a wonderful event that’s open to anybody and everybody, anywhere and everywhere throughout this planet. This Saturday, September 23, is the 11th World Wide SketchCrawl. What the heck is a SketchCrawl? I’ll let its creator Enrico Casarosa, who also happens to be a story artist at Pixar, explain the idea:
In short, roughly every 3 months we put a call out to people around the world to join in, put pen to paper on a given day for as long as they can (be it 20 minutes or 8 hours) drawing, sketching, journaling about their day and what’s around them. For a day, slow down, look around you, see … and draw or write. Record your day. No specific level of skill is expected ! Anyone is welcome.
We set up a forum where to seek and organize meetings with artists from your area. You can participate in SketchCrawl on your own or with a group of friends. I usually meet groups of artists in San Francisco, where I live. The forums and the Flickr SketchCrawl group also serve as gathering and sharing place after the drawing marathon day. The idea behind this is to get the great feeling of drawing with and at the same time as peoples from all walks of life and from all corners of the world; and ultimately by sharing the day’s sketches and photos on Flickr and the SketchCrawl forums, to see places and details from corners of the world we might not see at all in our lifetime !
Be sure to check out the SketchCrawl Forum to find out who’s organizing a SketchCrawl in your city. For more details, stay tuned to the SketchCrawl blog, and when you’re done, post your art to the SketchCrawl Flickr group.
In the world of animation, you can’t get Punk’d, only Barrier’d. For those who aren’t aware of the meaning of this new verb I just made up, to be “Barrier’d” means that animation historian and critic Michael Barrier has reviewed something you’ve done related to the world of animation. And if you’re familiar with Mike’s reviews, you know it’s guaranteed to be interesting and thought-provoking. In this instance, Barrier has reviewed my book CARTOON MODERN. There’s a lot to chew on in his appraisal and at some point, I’ll think of a more appropriate response, but in short, I agree with some of the points he makes and vehemently disagree with other things he says in there. All in all though, I’m incredibly flattered that Mike took the time to write such a thoughtful review of my book. (Thanks Mike!) This discussion about the merits of animation design wouldn’t have even happened a couple decades ago so definite progress is being made in the recognition of Modern animation artists and their body of work, even if we don’t always reach the same conclusions.
Tomorrow I’m off to the yearly North American gathering of the animation tribe, otherwise known as the Ottawa International Animation Festival. I’m mostly going to catch some fresh contemporary animation, but I’ll also be involved in a few events.
On Friday, September 22, at 9am, I’ll be moderating a panel about Concept Design & Art Direction. It’s going to be a fun panel to moderate because the panelists are both top-notch talents: Erik Tiemens (art director, Lucasfilm) and JJ Sedelmaier (president/director, JJ Sedelmaier Productions). We’ll be discussing the challenges of achieving a successful animated marriage between content and design, with plenty of examples to be shown.
Later on Friday, from 6-7pm, I’ll be doing a book signing for my new book CARTOON MODERN: STYLE AND DESIGN IN FIFTIES ANIMATION. If you purchase the book in Ottawa, you’ll also receive a FREE dvd of some rare ’50s commercials and animated shorts that aren’t available anywhere else. Copies of ANIMATION BLAST #9 will also be on hand. Both the book and mag will be waiting for you at the Aniboutique during the entire festival (or as long as supplies last).
Let me plug a couple other festival events that I’m really looking forward to. First, is the world premiere of Nick Cross’s new animated short THE WAIF OF PERSEPHONE. That’s on Friday at 7pm during this screening. I have no idea what it’s about, but if you’ve been following Nick’s blog, you know this cartoon is going to be something special. Then, on Sunday, September 24, at 2pm, there’s a lecture by JibJab co-founder Evan Spiridellis. It’s titled A Brave New World: The Rise of the Independent Creator, and trust me, there’s nobody more qualified to speak about becoming a successful independent than the Spiridellis brothers. If you want to be inspired, you’re not going to want to miss Evan’s talk.
This was a surprisingly enjoyable listen: it’s a rare 1965 Hanna-Barbera record featuring an original JONNY QUEST story based on Jules Verne’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. The story was written by prolific H-B storyman Charles Shows, and the LP begins and closes with Hoyt Curtin’s superfunky QUEST music. Be sure to look around the rest of the Check the Cool Wax blog for hard-to-find tunes by the likes of Louis Prima, Lalo Schifrin, Ann Margret, Herbie Mann and Colonel Sanders (yes, that Col. Sanders).
ROCK BOTTOM RISER is a sublime music video by Australians Paul McNeil and Brendan Cook for the band Smog. The visuals, painted traditionally and animated in After Effects, at turns evoke Joan Mir– and Raymond Pettibon, but the overall effect is original and completely captivating. The video can be viewed at the Submarine Channel. If you’re headed to the Ottawa Animation Festival later this week, be sure to check out the video in Competition #4 and give a well deserved pat on the back to attending filmmaker Brendan Cook.
Disney historian Jim Korkis follows up on my post about the SNOW WHITE wrap party and sends in this excerpt from an interview he did with Disney animator/director Bill Justice. The entire Justice interview can be found in the third volume of WALT’S PEOPLE.
Jim Korkis: Tell me a little about the “Snow White Orgy” at the Norconian.
Bill Justice: In 1938, “Snow White” was a huge hit. You can’t believe how big it was. Walt and Roy announced that they were going to throw this huge, incredible “thank-you” party for everyone who worked for them. Wives, husbands, children, friends…all of them were invited to a weekend at the NORCONIAN HOTEL on Lake Norco (a desert resort near Palm Springs where Walt would later have his Smoke Tree Ranch hideaway).
All costs from the rooms to food and drink and in fact whatever we wanted to order would be taken care of by Walt. You know at the Studio, there was a strict dress code in those days for employees. Men came to work in jackets and ties although they were allowed to take them off when they sat down at their drawing boards. Women were not allowed to wear pants, and sober-colored skirts and blouses weren’t very appealing. The ink and paint girls were separated from the animators. The Disney Brothers had sent out a memo that if you were in animation you weren’t supposed “to dip your pen in the company’s ink and paint” which was their way of saying, “behave yourself with the ink and paint girls.” If you told a dirty joke within earshot of Walt, you might get fired. He didn’t put up with any of that stuff.
So, anyway for two years, all of us had been under terrible pressure, working long hours day and night to finish “Snow White.” When I came on at the end of production, I still felt that stress. When we arrived at the Norconian Hotel there were pools to swim in, tennis courts, a golf course, music, and plenty of food and alcohol and something just snapped.
An animator picked up an ink and paint girl and dumped her into the pool fully clothed. Followed by others jumping in and all hell broke loose pretty quickly.
Swimsuits flew out the windows. There were naked swim parties, people got drunk and were often surprised what room they were in and who they were sleeping next to when they awoke the next morning.
Freddie Moore walked off one of the upper floor balconies thinking he was on the ground floor and ended up in a tree fortunately. You know, he was one of my idols. I never saw Freddie Moore do a bad drawing. As my wedding gift from my wife, Kim, I got a sketch of a woman’s head wearing a hat done by Freddie.
Walt was horrified at the shenanigans. He and his wife drove home that next morning. He never referred to that party again and in fact if you wanted to keep your job, you didn’t mention it either when you were working at the studio. We never had a party like that again.
Animation designer Pete Emslie wants us to to be aware of a new Canadian cartoon show. Pete writes:
I’d like to direct your attention to this show Yam Roll, as I feel it has been getting a free pass for too long. Currently it airs on CBC in Canada, but I gather it is trying to get picked up by one of the U.S. cable channels as well. Frankly, I consider it an embarrassment and, due to it being on our public broadcaster, a needless waste of taxpayer dollars that should instead be spent on a show with higher artistic and entertainment merit. It is the current poster boy for bad animation design, in my opinion.Also, to be honest, I’m hoping you’ll be able to direct some of your readers to their blogsite so that I can get some much needed support in my dissenting view on the show. As it is, I’m being attacked as a know-nothing despite my longtime experience as a successful character illustrator. I really feel like these folks should have more critical attention focused on their awkward, primitive little efforts.Anyway, here are both the main site and the contentious blogsite of which I speak. I really would appreciate it if you could shine some light on the matter.
Well, that’s what Pete thinks. I’ve heard from readers who say it isn’t all that bad. Apparently
Cartoon Network is planning to air the YAM ROLL cartoons sometime this fall in the U.S. I’ll make up my mind then.