NOTHING LIKE THIS

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Okay, check out this cool music video based on a track by the late hip-hop producer J Dilla. Nothing Like This was produced by Brooklyn based Mixtape Club for Producer/Director Daniel Garcia (sample his incredible work here) for Adult Swim and Stones Throw Records, as part of a mixed media project called Chrome Children. Two other animated videos directed by Garcia will be posted soon on the Adult Swim site. For more information on Chrome Children go here.(Thanks, Delirio & Kaos)

BILL MELENDEZ PODCAST

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Bill Melendez (of Disney, Warners and UPA) is one of the last surviving animators from the golden age still working today. Of course his greatest fame came as the director/producer of the Charlie Brown specials and features. With Halloween just around the corner, and in honor of the 40th anniversary of the “Great Pumpkin” TV special, the guys at JustMyShow.com have posted a brief phone call with Bill as a podcast. It’s always fun to hear his voice and to hear him recall the good old days.

WALT’S VAULT 28

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Just last week I’d been posting on the upscale urban merchandising initiative Warner Bros. is promoting in an effort to contemporize the Looney Tunes characters. Now this week Disney opens Vault 28, a new store in their Downtown Disney shopping district in Anaheim, which attempts to do essentially the same thing. The L.A. Times wrote a story about in yesterday’s Business section. According to the San Jose Mercury News:

The company also has been trying to reinvent Mickey Mouse and its other characters as trendy and urban. Vault 28, a reference to 1928, the year Mickey debuted in the cartoon “Steamboat Willie,” will sell fashions from celebrity-favored designers and carry lines called Kingdom Couture and DV28, whose clothing depicts classic characters including Tinkerbell, Alice in Wonderland and the Cheshire Cat.

Hey, I’m not against it. At least it’s better than YO YOGI and the “Gangsta Tweety” crap we had to put up with in previous attempts to “hippen” the classic characters. But why not just let the animation speak for itself. There is nothing hipper than that.

THINKING ANIMATION PANEL

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If you’ve got 45 minutes to spare, you might enjoy this panel I was on last week at the Disney studio. It was set up by animators Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff to discuss current animation trends discussed in their new book and blog, Thinking Animation. Veteran storyman Floyd Norman, CG director Richard Taylor and I gave our thoughts on various topics. Had I known it’d be recorded and posted online, I might have been more coherent.P.S. Isn’t Floyd Norman the coolest guy in animation?

ANIMATED FEATURES BY SOLO ARTISTS

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With several big budget funny animal epics opening almost weekly, 2006 may well go down as the year of CG feature burnout. But 2006 may also be noted for the start of what could, hopefully, be another trend – the dawn of the independent animation revolution. Three strikingly different animated features, being released this year, should be noted. Three, created by individualistic filmmakers who animated their films virtually by themselves.Bill Plympton pioneered the one-man animated feature film. His latest, Hair High, has been on the festival circuit for the past few years, garnering great acclaim. This fall Hair High starts its official theatrical release with initial playdates in Portland, New Mexico and New York City. If you’ve enjoyed Bill’s past features and shorts, you are in for a treat – this is his best yet.Stop motion animator Christiane Cegavske has recently completed Blood Tea And Red String after 12 years of painstaking work. It’s a dark “fairy tale for grown ups” and has posted some great reviews upon its opening last week in Manhattan.Hollywood animator Phil Nibbelink spent four-and-a-half years making Romeo & Juliet: Sealed With A Kiss. According to Steve Gordon on Animation Nation:

Phil animated all 112,000 drawings on a graphic tablet in Flash and painted the backgrounds with Painter. From what I can tell from the trailer it doesn’t look like typical flash, it looks like normal 2D. He also used a program (that I’ve never heard of before) called Moho for some limited shots and crowd scenes.

Nibbelink is trying to compete with the traditional studios’ G-rated kiddie pics. It opens in selected California cities on Oct. 27th.All three share the fact that they are low budget productions; that each is recieving limited theatrical showings; and that each expect to recoup their costs with DVD sales. Each of them provide an alternative to the major studio family fare – and hopefully they will inspire other animators to take a chance on their personal projects.

PATRICK OWSLEY’S BLOG

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Cartoonist Patrick Owsley has started a blog. He’s one of the rare few character merchandising artists who seem to be channeling the spirit of the original creators. Patrick was on-staff at Warner Bros. Consumer Products as an Inker/Character Artist from 1997 through 2002 and, while there, created licensing character art of just about all of the classic Hanna-Barbera characters (Flintstones, Jetsons, Huckleberry Hound, Top Cat, etc.), and all of the Looney Tunes characters (Bugs, Daffy, Porky, etc.). Since 2002, Pat’s done a lot of inking on various SIMPSONS comic book stories for Bongo, as well as inking and hand-lettering for the Spumco Comic Book. Lately he’s been creating licensing character art for Classic Media in New York (Underdog, Mr. Magoo and Tennessee Tuxedo, to name a few).He plans to post much of this material – and some of his personal art – on the new blog. And I plan to keep checking in – this guy is good!

ED BENEDICT

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The Associated Press posted an obit by John Rogers for Ed Benedict last night, and it’s been picked up by USA Today, ABC News, San Francisco Chronicle and other media outlets today. Of course we informed our readers of Ed’s passing, with a tribute here, back on August 30th. Since the AP story is driving new readers to the Brew today, I thought we’d post a couple great photos, taken by Spumco/Spongebob story artist Richard Pursel. At top is one of Ed and John Kricfalusi holding dolls based on characters they designed (John, on the left, is holding Ed’s Flintstone, Ed is holding John’s doll Jimmy) taken at Ed’s home in Carmel, back in 1996. Below is Pursel getting beaten by Ed and John (click on the pic for the full-sized version). For more examples of Ed Benedict’s amazing talent, please check out this section of Animation Blast online.

Benedict, Pursel and Kricfalusi

HORNSWIGGLE LIMITED EDITION

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Hornswiggle, the cartoon short I produced for Frederator’s Random Cartoons show, will be broadcast on Nickelodeon sometime in 2007. The latest word is that the formatted half hour (consisting of three six minute shorts) will air on the Nicktoons Network starting in January, and during the rest of the year the individual cartoons will air separately, as interstitials, on Nickelodeon. I’ll keep you posted with actual dates and times when I find out more information myself.Meanwhile, in related news, former Disney animator Jason Peltz has started sculpting a Hornswiggle maquette! Jason has made, through his Orlando-based Peltz Productions, numerous maquettes for various clients (see his website for samples of his great work). Check out the one he made for Bill Wray’s Cartoon Network pilot King Crab, Space Crustacean.Jason’s sculpt of Hornswiggle is turning out so good (see the work-in-progress pics above and below), I’ve decided to make a small herd of them available for sale. The final painted versions, mounted on a base, will be available November 1st. Further reports in the next few weeks will update Jason’s progress. If you are interested in purchasing one of these beauties, drop me a line at jbeck6540-at-aol.com, and I’ll put you on the list. The cost will be $75. (post paid).

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FLOAT by Stephen Watkins

FLOAT by Stephen Watkins

Backspace is a new video podcast showcasing “experimental short films to provoke your imagination.” It’s created by 20-year-old Stephen Watkins, who describes it as follows:

“Backspace is my Honours year research project in Communication Design at RMIT University (Melbourne). I was intrigued by podcasts and their growing popularity. Through my research project I generated a series of short experimental films and I could see potential for a podcast to circulate these films to a wider and more diverse audience.”

He’s only released one episode so far, FLOAT, which features animated letters and numbers floating around Melbourne. It’s well worth a view. I’ve already subscribed to his podcast and look forward to future episodes. He also has some other interesting video projects posted on YouTube.

DATE WITH DIZZY (1956)

What an awesome way to start a Monday morning! Josh of the Jazz:Animated blog has posted onto YouTube the difficult-to-find 1956 John and Faith Hubley film DATE WITH DIZZY. The live-action short features the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet as they attempt to compose a cartoon jingle for a product called “Instant Rope Ladder.” The film is a parody of the TV commercial biz (note how clueless the ad agency guy is), but the three commercials shown in the film were all actual spots that John Hubley had produced back when his studio Storyboard was based in Los Angeles.

Josh’s write-up about the film is quite insightful so let me direct you to his text HERE. Also be sure to check out the rest of his blog, which is turning into a superb compendium of jazz-related animation material. It’s extra nice to hear these jazz cartoons being discussed from the vantage point of a musician.

More About The New Live-Action Cartoon Network

A quick follow-up to last Friday’s post about Cartoon Network’s first original live-action production. An individual who’s familiar with Cartoon Network politics, but who prefers to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, wrote me the following:

“Who says a cartoon has to be animated?”

This was said/asked constantly by Atlanta programming execs, Burbank development execs, and marketing execs in their attempts to “explain” their interest in live action projects. I heard it at least once a week the last few months I was at the studio.

The other excuse often tossed around was that it was all Ted Turner’s fault. The story going around was that Ted was “originally going to call it the ‘Acme Network’ but changed his mind at the last moment.” As one head of development kept saying, “If only Ted had gone with the original name, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

It’s great that they’ve been able to rationalize this boneheaded programming shift to themselves. Now if they could just explain to the public why a station called Cartoon Network is increasingly creating and airing live-action content.

CALLING ALL CARTOON WRITERS!

If you’ve written for TV Animation, you might be eligible for a 2006 Writers Guild Award. The Writers Guild is looking for nominees in this category and sent along this information:

Awards are presented in simultaneous ceremonies in New York and Los Angeles in February. For those in the east, details and submission forms can be found online at wgaeast.org and in the west at wga.org – or you can call the Writers Guild of America East at (212) 767-7805 or the WGA West at (323) 951-4000.It’s free and easy to apply. You don’t even have to be a member of the Writers Guild. Your script must air (or have aired) for the first time between December 1st 2005 and November 30th, 2006. The deadline for submissions is October 13th, which is next Friday. So hurry up! You might wind up with an impressive and heavy industry award!

TIMBERWOLF

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In case you were wondering (like I was the other night) what ever happened to Chuck Jones’s final productions, the Thomas J. Timberwolf internet cartoons… well wonder no more. I found them here. Not sure how much Chuck was involved with these, outside of character design, but they are pretty good for early Flash animation efforts.

LOONEY TUNES MURAL IN HOLLYWOOD

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I got some photos of the bizarre DRx Looney Tunes mural in Hollywood, which I mentioned in this post a few days ago. It fills an entire wall… and apparently the painting “evolved” over several weeks. Below is a later, more gruesome, version. Click on photo below for a larger image.With Looney Tunes for all intents and purposes off the air (save for a precious few appearances on Boomerang and TCM), and the LOONATICS revamp on Kids’ WB! ruining the characters as a children’s brand, I will give Warner Bros. some credit for not giving up on the original designs and aiming this marketing effort towards older teens and adult consumers.

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Here’s a music video (below) I found on YouTube relating to this new merchandising agenda. For more information about this DRx campaign, check out the What’s Up, DRx website.

Terry Teachout on Why YouTube Rocks

Despite some missteps on YouTube’s part, like the unnecessary removal of dozens of public domain cartoons from its site, I’m still a huge fan of the service. WALL STREET JOURNAL drama/art critic Terry Teachout recently wrote a must-read article that explains far better than I can why YouTube is such a revolutionary site. While Teachout’s piece focuses on the treasure trove of musical material that has popped up on the site, the same can be applied to animation. Over the past year on the Brew, we’ve linked to dozens of animated shorts on YouTube that would have otherwise been impossible to see by the average animation fan.

Just last month we linked to John and Faith Hubley’s classic MOONBIRD (1959) and I’d wager that more people saw that film on YouTube than have seen it in a theater in the past twenty years. The film, however, has already been removed from YouTube due to copyright violations. Teachout calls these YouTube-fearing companies “short-sighted” in his article, but as he makes clear, YouTube is the beginning of something far bigger. Says Teachout:

As any economist can tell you, supply creates its own demand. Disseminating high-culture TV and radio programming for free via the Web is among the simplest and most cost-effective ways to expand the audience for the fine arts. Every time a Web surfer in South Dakota or South Africa views a YouTube video by Louis Armstrong or Arturo Toscanini, he’s making a discovery that could change his life — not to mention his concert-going and record-buying habits. I can’t think of a better bargain.

The bottomline is that YouTube has proven that there is a market for quality entertainment, whether it be music performances or animated shorts. Now it’s only a matter of time before other companies start making legal, higher-quality copies of this material available for a few bucks per download. An exciting new world of animation is about to open up, and YouTube deserves a heap of credit for helping make that world possible.

Most Ironic Exec Quote of the Week

We’ve known since April that Cartoon Network is abandoning its original programming charter and slowly moving into producing live-action instead of animation. This week they announced their first original live-action production – a movie called RE-ANIMATED. Here’s CN exec Michael Ouweleen’s take on the project:

“[E]ven though we are featuring live-action characters, it still had to be done the Cartoon Network way.”

Live-action done the “Cartoon Network way?” That might almost be funny if it weren’t for the sad fact that America’s only dedicated cartoon channel has decided that audiences no longer like cartoons and that it could better serve its audience by showing them the same live-action fare that’s already available on hundreds of other channels.

THE Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema

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I’ve been complaining for years about the fact that very few of the animated features produced outside the U.S. ever get distribution (or even shown) in North America. One outlet, however, is The Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema (WFAC) – located in beautiful Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario Canada – a bona fide annual film festival dedicated to showing many of these inernational animated feature films in an actual theatrical setting – the way they’re supposed to be seen.This year the four day festival runs from November 16-19. The full program will be posted on November 1st, but already scheduled to screen are:

Fimfarum 2 (Jan Balej / Aurel Klimt / Bretislav Pojar / Vlasta Posp”�ilov�, Czech Republic, 2006). Four adaptations of Jan Werich’s stories “for small children and clever adults,” by four master Czech puppet animators of different generations. Fire Ball (Wang Toon, Taiwan, 2006). An animated telling of the Chinese classic “Journey to the West”. Gin-iro no Kami no Agito (“Origin: Spirits of the Past” – Sugiyama Keiichi, Japan, 2006). From Studio GONZO, set in a future world 300 years from now, in which nature has turned against man. Kirikou et les B’tes Sauvages (“Kirikou and the Wild Beasts” – Michel Ocelot, France, 2005). Sequel to the wonderful Kirikou and the Sorceress. (pictured above) Knyaz Vladimir (“Prince Vladimir” – Yuri Kulakov, Russia, 2006). The story of the rise of the historical figure Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavovich (960-1015 A.D.). Pettson and Findus: Pettson’s Promise (Anders S�rensen / J�rgen Lerdam, Denmark, 2005). The story of a Swedish Santa Claus. Princes et Princesses (“Princes and Princesses” – Michel Ocelot, France, 2000). A retrospective screening of one of Ocelot’s most beautiful and creative films, in silhouette animation. Princess (Anders Morgenthaler, Denmark, 2006). A clergyman returns home after years of missionary work abroad to take care of his orphaned niece when his sister, a porno star, dies from drug abuse. Robotech: the Shadow Chronicles (Dong-Wook Lee / Tommy Yune, U.S.A., 2006). A new film based on the anime TV series of the 1980′s that began modern anime fandom in North America. Shisha no Sho (“Book of the Dead” – Kawamoto Kihachiro, Japan, 2005). The spirit of a long-dead prince begins to haunt a young noblewoman whom it has mistaken for an ancestor.

Screenings will be held November 16th-19th, 2006 at The Gig Theatre (the Hyland Cinema) in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. For more information contact program curator Joseph C. Chen via email wfac-at-wfac.ca or through the festival website.

Virgil Widrich’s FAST FILM (2003)

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FAST FILM (2003) by Virgil Widrich is one of those films that reminds me why I love animation in the first place: it’s a medium in which you can literally do anything you want. This film blew me away when I saw it at Annecy in ’04 so I was excited to find that my friends at the Animation Show have discovered it on YouTube. Usually the things that make an animated film great are the story, characters and animation, but FAST FILM is one of the rare instances where a film is great primarily because of its technique. The visuals were achieved by printing out thousands of film frames (over 65,000 to be exact) and folding them into three-dimensional shapes. The paper-objects were then photographed and composited in After Effects. I can’t even imagine the effort it took to mash-up hundreds of live-action films, often times with three to four films in each scene, and make it all work in a narrative context. It’s an incredible creative achievement.

The film is unlikely to ever find release in the US due to the fact that it uses unlicensed imagery from over 300 live-action features. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying it online. There’s a lengthy interview with the director, Virgil Widrich, and details on how to purchase the dvd, at the film’s official website. Be sure to also check out the “making-of” video and photos for more fascinating insights into the production process.

Here’s the film on YouTube:

THE ANCIENT BOOK OF MYTH AND WAR

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Five Pixar artists are currently working on a new hardcover art book called THE ANCIENT BOOK OF MYTH AND WAR. It’s scheduled for release in February 2007 under Scott Morse’s publishing imprint Red Window. Participating artists are Scott Morse, Don Shank, Ricky Nierva, Lou Romano and Nate Wragg. Some of them have started to post bits and pieces from the project on their blogs and it looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Why Did Fox Bury Mike Judge’s IDIOCRACY?

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One of the biggest film mysteries of 2006 still remains unanswered: Why did Fox bury the release of IDIOCRACY, the new live-action film by KING OF THE HILL and BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD creator Mike Judge? Today’s LA TIMES has an op-ed piece by Patt Morrison about this topic, though it doesn’t really offer much in the way of answers. I’m surprised that the LA TIMES didn’t treat this as a news story and interview people like Judge to get to the bottom of the story. A Fox spokesman says in the piece that the film was always planned as a “limited release” but limited releases rarely (if ever) get treated this poorly, especially for a well-reviewed film from an established filmmaker like Judge. I’m more inclined to agree with the line of reasoning presented by the TIMES’s Morrison:

Did Judge’s film, by sheer happenstance, mirror Rupert Murdoch’s blueprint for a Fox-fed nation of fat, dumb and happy? Is the problem a threatened lawsuit over the way “Idiocracy” treats corporate America? Starbucks in 2505 serves speedy sex acts with the coffee, and Carl’s Jr. and H&R Block get the same rough handling. But that’s why studios have lawyers, and that’s why we have the 1st Amendment.

Perhaps it’s been cast out of distribution Eden for the same reason that Newsweek made “Losing Afghanistan” its cover story last week in every country except the United States. We got a cover story about a celebrity photographer….And that would be because Americans are being mollycoddled and infantilized. If we’re not getting the truth – even delivered via satire – it might be because leaders think we can’t take it, or they may be afraid of what we might do if we did get it. President Bush dismissed leaked intelligence reports critical of the Iraq war because they could “create confusion in the minds of the American people.” Goodness no; don’t confuse us with information.

And since Fox won’t allow people see the film, you can download a PDF of the film script HERE and find out what you’re missing.

Previously on Cartoon Brew: Jerry Beck reviews IDIOCRACY

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