Happy Birthday, Ollie Johnston!

Ollie Johnston

Today marks the 94th birthday of legendary animator Ollie Johnston, the last surviving member of Disney’s Nine Old Men. Let’s celebrate his amazing life with a few pics.

Johnston (right) with Frank Thomas in the 1930s:

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Johnston (seated) with Frank Thomas during the production of SLEEPING BEAUTY:

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Ollie’s animated cameo in THE IRON GIANT:

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His other cameo in THE INCREDIBLES:

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And here’s a nice vacation photo from Ollie’s trip to Hell last year:

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How To Make Your Animation “Not Rubbish”

Tony Mines, director at UK-based Spite Your Face Productions, has come up with two simple and thought-provoking rules for creating “not rubbish” animation. See if you agree and then discuss on his blog. Tony writes:

When creating animation, for one to produce work which can be defined as ‘not rubbish’, one must observe the following two rules. Failure to observe either one will result in animation which can be rightly identified as ‘rubbish’.

Firstly, one must be in the same room as the animation for which one is responsible. Being in the same building is not sufficient, and being in a different postal district or hemisphere is right out.

Secondly, one must recognise that animation in all its forms concerns the creation of sequential imagery, and therefore consideration and attention must be paid to every frame! This does not mean that one must animate consistently on 1′s – rather, it means that supervision be given to each frame, and that the amount of movement and nature of movement therein, be personally observed and considered. Attention to only key frames, or to key poses, shall equally result in ‘rubbish’ animation.

Read Tony Mines’s entire post here.

Run Wrake Commercials

Triaminic spot by Run Wrake

I saw the above spot for Triaminic on TV yesterday, and while not a classic by any means, I thought it had an appealing cut-out aesthetic. Surprisingly enough, a quick search online reveals that it was directed by Run Wrake, who’s been getting a lot of positive attention recently for his animated short RABBIT. You can view a nice sampling of Wrake’s commercial work, including this Triaminic spot, at his ad rep’s website, BermudaShorts.com.

DISNEY’S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR

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For sale on eBay is a rare 16mm Technicolor print of a Walt Disney Wonderful World of Color show, “Magic And Music”. Originally telecast in black and white on Walt Disney Presents in 1958, this is the 1963 color rebroadcast. The most interesting aspect of it is the entire, uncut Pastoral Symphony sequence from Fantasia with all the footage of the black centaurette.Disney has been great about releasing its library in recent years, but racial images (think Song Of The South) are the last taboo the company still keeps under lock and key. The seller has a steep minimum price of $1500 for the item. Considering how rare this material is (and IB Tech prints of anything are scarce) he might just get it.

Why Does Shrek Make Your Eyes Bleed?

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There’s not much of a question that the above publicity image for SHREK THE THIRD is a graphic travesty. That much is obvious. The real question, however, is, Why? How could something look like this especially when there are hundreds of talented artists working on the film and tens of millions of dollars at their disposal. After seeing the above image, Keith Lango, an experienced CG feature animator, wrote an exceptionally insightful commentary on his blog where he discusses the assembly-line system under which big-budget CG films are created and why he feels this flawed production pipeline is more responsible for these type of images than any individual artist working on the films. Here’s how Lango sets up his piece:

It’s almost like nobody ever saw this all together until it was too late. The thing is, if it was made like 99% of the imagery in big budget CG then most likely nobody did see it until it was too late. The problem is not so much with any single artist. That’s because in all likelihood no single artist is responsible for this. It is assembly line imagery. The flaw is in the system under which this is made.

Imagine taking 10 talented solo singers and asking them to sing the US national anthem to the same instrumental track. But due to scheduling conflicts they have to each perform in solo, not as a group. Oh, and gee, we don’t have everybody’s performance here yet so you’ll need to just do your part the best you know how without hearing the others. Naturally these singers are to going to make it the best national anthem they know how. So they sing and sing, beautiful notes that rise and fall- all creating fabulous solo performances. Now take these 10 solo artist’s performances and mix them together in editing. The overall result would be hideous. There are no background singers, nobody is doing harmony, nobody takes the lead because all take the lead. It’d be like some kind of gladiator battle of voices. The jumble of notes flooding forth would cause ears to bleed.

Read Keith Lango’s entire piece here.

Super Rex

Rex Hackelberg model sheet

What sort of top-secret project is talented mad cartoonist Rex Hackelberg developing up in Canada? I don’t know, but the cartoon designs featured in THIS POST on his blog totally blew my mind. The model sheets of the cat and the bespectacled kid – which reminds me of a mini-Ward Kimball – have some of the most exuberant, imaginative and fun poses I’ve seen in a long while. The only thing missing here is some funny loose animation that matches the energy of these model drawings. Let’s hope that’s coming up next.

GOLDEN APPLE MOVES

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My local comic book store, Golden Apple Comics on Melrose Avenue, is moving to a new location this week.The first day I moved to L.A. (from New York City) in 1986 my first question to my new co-workers was “where are all the local comic book stores?”, and was directed toward Golden Apple. I walked in to the Melrose store that day and immediately felt at home. Bill Liebowitz was behind the counter and I told him how happy I was to find this place. We became instant friends and my once-a-week visits have become a weekend ritual for 20 years. A few years later Bill was the first to support my efforts to launch and promote Streamline Pictures, and we did several animation related events together throughout the years. Bill’s passing a few years ago has been a terrible loss to the local fan community. But his widow Sharon and son Ryan (and the incredible store staff led by Tony Edwards) have kept the store and its activites going without missing a beat.The old store, due to its Hollywood location, has been featured in numerous news stories and several Hollywood movies. Its clientele includes big stars (I’ve personally stood on the checkout line with Michael Jackson, Joss Whedon, Samuel L. Jackson, Seth Green, etc.). So now they are moving (supposedly because the landlord unexpectedly and unreasonably wanted to jack up the rent). I personally think the new location (7018 Melrose) will be a good thing for the business. They are moving next door to Gallery 1988 on the corner of LaBrea and Melrose. Stan Lee will be there (to cut the ribbon) on Wednesday morning, November 1st, at 10am.So will I.

HAPPY FEET vs. Fred Astaire

HAPPY FEET vs. Fred Astaire? Is that really even a contest? It’s a testament to Astaire’s talent that using only a cane as a prop, he can outdance and outentertain $100 million worth of flashy CG effects. Of course, as Canadian animator Colin Giles points out on the above link, it might have helped Warner Bros. if they’d chosen to do a tap-dancing animal cartoon with animals that were anatomically built for tap-dancing.

MIND GAME on YouTube

MIND GAME

YouTube user Zak78 has posted a 10-part playlist of Masaaki Yuasa’s fantastic film MIND GAME (2004). As I’ve written before, MIND GAME is an animated feature unlike any other, and while a compressed Flash file is hardly the ideal way to experience the film, it’s one of the only ways since the film hasn’t received any dvd/home video distribution in the US or Europe.

(via Gagaman)

Sanjay Patel’s LITTLE BOOK OF HINDU DEITIES

Sanjay Patel's Little Book of Hindu Deities

Feeling a little rusty on your Vishnus, Shivas and Ganeshas? Look no further than Pixar animator Sanjay Patel’s new illustrated guide THE LITTLE BOOK OF HINDU DEITIES: FROM THE GODDESS OF WEALTH TO THE SACRED COWS. As some may recall, Patel self-published this book a couple years ago under the title LITTLE INDIA. The book was a hit and now it’s been picked up for mainstream distribution by Plume, an imprint of Penguin Publishing. Patel has expanded the book in scope and size and it’s scheduled for release next week. It’s available on Amazon for $11.20.

(Thanks, Will Kane)

SEALED

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I don’t want rub anymore salt in the wound, but Romeo And Juilet: Sealed With A Kiss opened today in several theaters in Southern California with the most horrendous review I have ever read in the L.A. Times. Registration may be required to access the Times webpage, so I’ll post some choice quotes from the review by Sam Adams:

A genuine tragedy, although not in the Shakespearean sense…A comprehensive list of what’s wrong with “Romeo & Juliet: Sealed With a Kiss” would stretch farther than the unabridged works of William S. But it begins with the notion of a just-for-kids take on a play whose climax is a double suicide. Don’t worry: There’s no dying here. Just an unending torture, 77 minutes that feel longer than an uncut Hamlet.The massacre of great drama might be at least forgivable were “Sealed With a Kiss” not so manifestly shoddy. The radioactive hues of Nibbelink’s blobby, graceless animation sear the eye like an atom blast… most of the movie’s voices are so heavily post-processed in an attempt to sound “funny” that what’s left of Shakespeare’s dialogue is rendered nearly unintelligible… In an astonishing display of poor taste, Nibbelink periodically breaks up the mushy stuff with scenes of Mercutio barking insults at his rival tribe – insults that are most often racist jokes with the offending epithet replaced by the word “Capulet” (i.e. “What do you call 500 Capulets on the bottom of the ocean?” “A good start.”)… That’s not suitable for all ages – it’s suitable for no one.

Strangly enough, the TIMES review actually makes me wanna go see it. To be fair, the LA WEEKLY was a little kinder. Luke Thompson there simply sums it up like this:

This is one odd concoction, which should find its primary audience among college potheads who like to watch ’70s Hanna-Barbera creations on the Cartoon Network late at night.

Pixar Storytelling Notes by Jeremy Bernstein

Pixar story artists by Jeremy Bernstein

DreamWorks animator Jeremy Bernstein attended the Pixar storytelling seminars last weekend (mentioned previously HERE) and he took some illustrated notes, which he has now generously posted on his BLOG. Actually, it seems like he spent more time drawing the people in attendance than actually taking notes, but I’m not complaining because he ended up with an amazing batch of drawings.

HARVEYTOONS CONTEST

harveytoondvd2.jpgCourtesy of Classic Media and Sony Wonder, this morning we had two advance copies of Harveytoons: The Complete Collection to give away! The first two people that responded with the correct answer to the question below won the prize:

In the climax of the 1948 Noveltoon cartoon, There’s Good Boo’s Tonight, Casper’s new “friend”, a fox, is killed by a hunter. But that’s the happy ending – as the fox quickly emerges from his grave as a ghost and runs off to play with Casper at the iris out.Question: What is the name of the fox?

The Contest is now closed! The correct answer is FERDIE FOX. The winners were Ted Watts of Groose Pointe, Michigan and Jon Cooke of Leeds, Maine. Thanks to all who entered.

Vincent Waller’s Blog

Drawing by Vincent Waller

I think it’s safe to announce that the Internet is officially complete now that director, storyboard artist and all-around creative type Vincent Waller (REN & STIMPY, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS) has started his own BLOG. If his blog proves to be anywhere near as entertaining as hanging around his office, then we should all visit often…and not allow him to get any real work done.

(Image from ASIFA-Hollywood’s Animation Archive)

THE “COMPLETE” HARVEYTOONS

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Okay, I admit it. I love Famous Studios cartoons. Perhaps at some point I’ll go on at length about why I like them so much (partially it’s nostalgia, partially it’s because they aren’t as bad as many people think, and partially because I love to champion the underdog), but as I’m under a tight deadline on a book project I’ll hold off discussing this particular guilty pleasure for now.Sony Wonder has just released a boxed set called Harveytoons: The Complete Collection. “Harveytoons” was the generic name affixed to the 1950s Paramount/Famous Studio cartoons (featuring Casper, Baby Huey, Herman and Katnip, Little Audrey, Buzzy, etc.) when they were originally syndicated to television back in the 1960s, after Harvey Comics acquired the TV and non-theatrical rights to the library. Classic Media owns the collection today and authorized this new set. I haven’t had time to review the whole set, but what we have here are 52 episodes of THE HARVEYTOONS SHOW, a program I formatted for Harvey Entertainment and Fox Kids back in 1998. Unfortunately, this set does NOT constitute “the complete collection” under any condition. For a variety of reasons we did not incorporate the entire Harveytoon library into the original series. Certain cartoons (particularly the Screen Songs) are edited. The fact that their were 78 episodes should tip you off right there. Here’s the list of the original Fox Kids series. Sadly the contents of the DVD set doesn’t even match up to this list (for example, episode 52 on the DVD is actually #53 of the series).Oh, how I wish someone from Classic Media had consulted with me. For one, I would have made sure to include certain cartoons (like the politically incorrect Chew Chew Baby) and it would have been fun to create some bonus materials. The good news is that the cartoons look nice and clean, the cult classic La Petite Parade is included (episode #40 on the DVD) and they’ve restored the original Jackson Beck vocal tracks to Buzzy The Crow.And hey, they sent me two sets to give away on Cartoon Brew! Tomorrow (Friday) morning at 9am Pacific (that’s 12 noon in the East coast) I’ll post a trivia question and the first two correct answers will win one of these babies. (I will only accept entries from the U.S. and Canada) “Dat sounds logical!”

John K. Discusses Color Theory

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John Kricfalusi has an insightful POST on his blog where he discusses color theory in backgrounds. He uses early Hanna-Barbera TV backgrounds as examples which is notable because these cartoons were made on dirt-cheap budgets – it just goes to show that appealing color doesn’t require a lot of money, only good taste. Admittedly, I’m not as big a fan of the H-B backgrounds as John, but he’s certainly found some solid examples here. The BGs in his analysis were all painted by Arminio “Art” Lozzi, who we recently discovered is living in Greece where he had a second successful career as an architectural interior designer for Hilton International hotels and various cruise ship lines. I’m sure John will have a lot more to write about Art’s career and work, but for now, here’s a photo of Lozzi back when he was painting the H-B backgrounds.

Art Lozzi

Katzenberg Speaks About The Future Of CG

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There’s plenty of scary Halloween events coming up over the next few days but I can’t think of any more frightening than this: next Monday, October 30, DreamWorks animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg will be speaking about the future of computer animation at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The event will be at the Statler Hall Auditorium at 2 p.m. According to the ITHACA JOURNAL, “the event is open to the wider Cornell community and affiliated educational partners. Seating may be limited, so early arrival is recommended.”

(via Animated-News)

Preston Blair Swipes: Halloween Edition

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Here’s a topic that never gets old: amateur illustrators who pilfer artwork from Preston Blair’s classic animation textbook and use it for their own commercial projects. Brew reader Trevour Meyer recently found a blatant (and blatantly incompetent) batch of Blair rip-offs at the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, Minnesota and he’s posted them all on his BLOG along with some amusing commentary.

Previous Blair rips on Cartoon Brew: Ohio lottery ticket, Australian restaurant ad and Ohio school mascot.

Awesome Color Fleischer Studio Newsreel

Mike Matei has posted onto YouTube an incredible late-1930s newsreel that shows how cartoons were produced at the Fleischer Studio in Miami. The information contained in the film is nothing new but it’s a real trip seeing 1930s Fleischer artists in vivid full color. Can anybody identify the artists in the film?

UPDATE: A number of people have emailed to let me know that the hi-res version of this film is available on this recent Popeye dvd by Steve Stanchfield.

(Thanks, Tony Mora)

Dan Haskett Interview

Check this out: a brief but thought-provoking INTERVIEW with Dan Haskett, a name that should need no introduction to anybody working in animation today. It’d be great to see somebody do a more in-depth talk with Haskett at some point, but for now, this’ll have to suffice. Here’s a comment that stood out in particular, in which Haskett addresses the lack of black characters in feature animation:

Q: What are the challenges to getting more Black characters in animated movies?

Haskett: We have to make our own movies. I don’t want Disney to do the Black characters. I’ve already seen what they do with the Asian characters and the Mexican characters and the Hawaiian characters and I don’t like it. There’s your image up there but what are you doing with it? What are you saying with this image? I remember during the making of “The Little Mermaid” there was an idea, wouldn’t it be funny to make Sebastian the crab be a Jamaican? And basically what that meant is give him a big, fat lower lip and popping eyes – and that’s what they had in the film. A lot of our folks think that because it’s a cartoon that it’s harmless, that you can put a coon image in a cartoon and it will be harmless. But it’s very important…people remember those images.

We have to make out own stuff we can’t depend on Hollywood to make better pictures. Hollywood is not interested in you. They’ve made allowances but it’s nowhere near where it ought to be. There is still a lot to be done in American animation in multicultural representation.

And here’s Dan speaking about the animation world’s changing landscape:

Haskett: On the horizon is the Internet and how it could change the movie business altogether. It could change the distribution. The Internet has helped a lot of people get into animation who would have otherwise not have tried it. A computer allows them to work solo and not form a studio. Combined with the Internet, the computer allowed a lot of kids to come in and make films without selling their ideas to studios. Right now it’s still in the baby step stage. It could be that they can change everything.

(via Channel Frederator)

Traditional Concepts Driving 3D Rigging Ideas

Bernhard Haux

Here’s a couple short must-see CG demos by animator Bernhard Haux. In the first video, Haux incorporates a dynamic wave principle into his CG rig. In the second video, Haux creates a tool to help make his CG poses cartoonier and more appealing. Animator Keith Lango calls this “a very cool screen space mesh deformer that lets you sculpt the geometry based on the image plane, not just with deformer nodes in the rig.”

It’s always exciting to see artists pushing CG beyond its default mode, not because I want to see CG mimic hand-drawn animation, but because adding the flexibility of drawn animation to CG will only help push the technique forward and allow it to go places we can’t even imagine yet. I’m not sure whether the second tool already exists in the major studios like Pixar and DreamWorks though I assume it’s available to animators in one form or another. What I do know is that the average piece of non-big budget commercial CG could greatly benefit from an easy-to-use tool like this which allows animators to sculpt their poses.

(Thanks, David Maas)

Evan Spiridellis Talks About Being Independent

The Ottawa International Animation Festival has released an AUDIO PODCAST of a talk given at the festival last month by JibJab co-founder Evan Spiridellis. I haven’t listened to the podcast yet but I was there in attendance and it was a terrific and inspiring talk. Evan walks the audience through the trials and tribulations of starting an indie animation studio and his experience is well worth hearing for anyone who’s thinking of becoming an independent. (Note: Only the first half of his talk is posted though I assume the second part will also be posted soon.)

(Thanks, Ward)