THE LITTLE PUPPET BOY

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Johannes Nyholm is a fascinating visual artist, animator and filmmaker from Sweden. He’s currently working on a stop motion serial, and the first episode is now online. The Tale of Little Puppetboy, Chapter 1: A Lady Visitor is bizarre fun. And check out the rest of Nyholm’s work on his website, which offers many fine examples of his commercial music videos and personal short films.

DOG DAYS OF ANIMATION

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Disney story artist Paul Briggs has started an unusual art project/blogsite called Dog Days of Animation. Says Paul:

It all began back in 1996 when I wanted to ask a colleague in the animation industry for a drawing. I was embarrassed to ask because I knew the pressure of being an artist and having to “think” of something to draw. So, I decided to use this photo of a random dog that I took one day in a flower shop. I had no connection to the dog so therefore there were no expectations of the subject matter from my end as well. All I wanted was the artists to represent themselves.

Most of the drawings are done by Paul’s Feature Animation colleagues at Disney – including Chris Sanders (above), Alex Kupershmidt and Aaron Blaise. Twenty drawings have been posted so far, but Paul tells us he has over sixty drawings in total that he’ll be putting up over the next several months. If you’re interested in participating or want to see a photo of the original dog, visit this page.

UNDER THE CHERRY TREE

Under the Cherry Tree

It’s always refreshing to see stylized applications of CG animation as opposed to today’s ubiquitous photoreal approach. “Under the Cherry Tree” is a new music video that combines cut-out characters (which look to be done in CG) within a dimensional, yet stylized and evocative, setting. It was conceived and directed by Dael Oates of Animal Logic for the Australian electronica/rock group Telemetry Orchestra. We also wrote about the group’s earlier music video, “Suburban Harmony”, a few months back.

Director of MALE RESTROOM ETIQUETTE Speaks

Overman, the director of the unbelievably popular Machinima film we mentioned yesterday, MALE RESTROOM ETIQUETTE, has posted an entry on his blog in which he theorizes why his film has become so popular. Lots of interesting ideas in his post. I particularly agree with this final thought he offers:

In closing, someone asked me recently, “What is a good machinima?” My answer, which may get published elsewhere too, was this: A good machinima is a film which is not intricately wrapped up in it’s own “machinima-ness”… I believe the best thing machinima can do for itself is forget that it is machinima and remember that it is film.

WHAT’S UP, DRx?

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Forget LOONATICS.It seems the classic Looney Tunes characters are getting another makeover, in a slightly different manner, with Warner Bros.’s full support. Three weeks ago, I noticed a mysterious new mural on a wall near my home in Hollywood (on LaBrea, near Melrose). It featured Bugs, Daffy, Tweety and Sylvester in an operating room – a strange, but cool, piece. I looked into it and it turns out to be the work of a Dr. Romanelli (an artist, clothing designer and “brand reconstructionist” also known as DRx) who has been engaged by WB to spearhead a new line of urban marketing and alternative merchandise.The DRx line will include everything from a clothing collection (by upscale Japanese clothing label Over The Stripes), to a high end DRx/BUGS vinyl toy (by Span of Sunset). The official launch of this art project-slash-marketing effort will commence this Friday with an opening at the 181 Martel gallery space. I got myself invited. The gallery will also be unveiling a limited edition DRx/Looney Tunes Converse Chuck Taylor sneaker that night. I know a certain orange furry monster who might like that for Christmas.

Cartoon Modern in Scotland

Projector Festival

I’m super-excited to announce that I’ll be headed to Scotland for the Projector 2006 festival, which takes place next week from October 11-14. The festival takes place in Dundee, Scotland, about a one-hour drive north of Edinburgh. I’ll be doing a “masterclass” about 50s design on Friday, October 13, and will also be presenting a couple different programs of rare 1950s animated shorts. If you’re anywhere around the festival, these are screenings you’re not going to want to miss. Even though I’ve personally seen all the films in the 50s programs, I’m anxious to attend the screenings myself because there’s nothing quite like seeing amazing animation design projected via film onto the bigscreen, the way it was meant to be seen.

A full schedule of Projector events can be found at ProjectorFest.com. Festival director Susie Wilson has put together a strong slate of screenings and talks that also includes Chris Landreth of RYAN fame and sound designer Larry Sider, a frequent collaborator with the Brothers Quay. It promises to be a lot of fun. I’m also going to try and check out Edinburgh for a day or two. If there’s any good animation sights to see over there, let me know at amid [at] animationblast [dot] com. Below are some of the shorts that I’ll be screening at Projector:

50s design in Scotland

Miyazaki and Son

If anybody is in need of some tough love from Dr. Phil, it’s probably Hayao Miyazaki and his eldest son Goro. This Reuters article about GEDO SENKI (TALES OF EARTHSEA), the first film by Goro Miyazaki, is quite revealing, sad and funny all at the same time. Among the details revealed in the piece:

  • Goro Miyazaki says, “For Hayao Miyazaki, now that I’ve made one movie, as far as he’s concerned I’ve become a sort of rival.”

  • The opening scene of Goro Miyazaki’s film has a prince stabbing his father to death.

  • The elder Miyazaki didn’t directly tell his son his thoughts about the film, but relayed them through a Studio Ghibli producer.

  • Goro Miyazaki wrote a blog entry about his father titled, “Zero Points as a Father, Top Points as a Director,” and claims that “From the time I became aware of things up to the present, we have almost never talked.”

    I must say though, in one sense it’s refreshing to see somebody like Hayao Miyazaki who cares so much about his art that he’s willing to put it above his family’s happiness. Great works of animation like SPIRITED AWAY and PRINCESS MONONOKE certainly aren’t made without sacrifice. Perhaps animation would be better in the States if more people were willing to make those type of sacrifices for their films.

    UPDATE: Just in case it wasn’t clear that the entire post above was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek, let me say that I was not seriously suggesting that the quality of American animation directly correlates to how little time one spends with their family. I feel silly even writing that, but judging from the number of emails I’ve received, a lot of people didn’t quite get that (due to my own poor communication skills).

  • NY TIMES on the CG Glut

    The NY TIMES published a piece today about the glut of poorly performing animated CG films. That’s hardly news to anybody working the industry. The article has your typical pass-the-buck quotes from execs, like this one from Nickelodeon’s Julia Pistor: “I think audiences are saying, ‘I’ve seen a lot of computer animation and it’s not so special anymore.” Of course, Julia. Audiences must surely be tired of the computer animation technique itself, not by the poor decision-making of animation execs who have continuously greenlit poorly conceived, derivative, stupid films over the course of this CG animation goldrush. On another note, the most interesting “news” revealed in the piece is that DreamWorks and Aardman have had a falling out and FLUSHED AWAY will be their last film together. To my knowledge, that’s the first time this news has made print.

    Note: Use BugMeNot if NY TIMES registration is required.

    (Thank, Mark Gilson)

    The First Machinima Hit?

    Machinima is a CG animation technique that uses real-time, 3D gaming engines for its imagery source as opposed to traditional CG software like Maya. The technique has been around for a while, though for the most part, Machinima has remained on the fringes of animation and pop culture. That may be changing however with the release of a recent film that could be classified as the first breakout Machinima hit. The film is MALE RESTROOM ETIQUETTE directed by Overman, and it uses the SIMS 2 game engine for its graphics. The 10-minute film starts off as a mock-instructional film but winds up documenting the world’s toilet apocalypse.

    The film has been blowing up online since its release on September 14 with hundreds of blogs linking to it. It was featured on YouTube’s front page last weekend – the first for a Machinima film? – and has received over 1 million views on YouTube in the past three days, and over 1.5 million views total. If anything, this film should go a long way towards proving that Machinima is a technique capable of resonating with mainstream audiences as long as the storytelling and filmmaking are on a par with other forms of animated filmmaking. We’ll keep on top of further developments about this film.

    UPDATE: Alessandro Cima, director of the Machinima film DRACULA’S GUEST, points out this WIRED article from last January that highlights a couple of progressive Machinima films, including his own. He also writes:

    I think with a software tool completely focused on Machinima filmmaking and separated out from any sort of a game environment, Machinima will indeed be a powerful medium. For now, it’s still a bit too difficult to make games flexible enough to tell real stories. I had to pull my footage out of the ‘Movies’ game and render my own soundtrack in order to get around the game’s limitations. But very soon some enterprising company will give us a complete, powerful Machinima-making application.

    Watch MALE RESTROOM ETIQUETTE BELOW:

    WE’RE ALL MAD HERE

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    Gallery 1988 on Melrose and LaBrea is opening another theme show on Saturday, based around the Cheshire Cat from Disney’s Alice In Wonderland. For one week only, amazing art and vinyl toys will be on display celebrating the surreal feline created and animated by Ward Kimball in the classic 1951 animated film. Opening reception begins at 7pm. If it’s anything like past openings there, it’ll be quite a crowd.

    According to LA TIMES, Sony Invented Squash & Stretch

    The LA TIMES published a piece today by Josh Friedman with this mind-bogglingly ignorant sentence about animation:

    [OPEN SEASON], based on the humor of cartoonist Steve Moore, introduces a technique dubbed “squash and stretch” that allows the cartoon characters to change shape during action sequences.

    I hear the animators working on HAPPY FEET have also come up with an exciting new technique. They call it a “walk cycle.” What will they think of next?

    UPDATE #1: Paul Naas writes the following:

    I saw the item out of this morning’s L.A. Times about squash and stretch, and dropped a quick email to the author, Josh Friedman. To my surprise, he responded quickly, saying:

    “Sorry about that. I’m working up a correction for Tuesday’s paper.”

    Quite a difference from the response a few months back from Mick LaSalle and his ridiculous comments about facial animation. I’m looking forward to seeing if the correction actually appears.

    UPDATE #2: Story artist Jenny Lerew comments about the LA TIMES piece on her blog Blackwing Diaries.

    UPDATE #3: The LA TIMES indeed ran a correction in Tuesday’s paper. It reads:

    An article in Monday’s Business section reporting the weekend box-office results incorrectly described as new the “squash and stretch” technique used in the film “Open Season.” The method, which enables the cartoon characters to change shape during action sequences, has been used before.

    Open Season Opens a Weak #1

    OPEN SEASON

    Sony Pictures Animation’s first CG feature OPEN SEASON opened in the #1 slot last weekend albeit with a weak $23 million (estimated) from 3,833 theaters. Box Office Mojo points out that this opening only seems good when compared to the weak box office of other recent CG films like EVERYONE’S HERO and THE ANT BULLY. It also notes that DreamWorks’s SHARK TALE opened on this same weekend in 2004 with $47.6 million. After this year’s glut of derivative, concept-deprived, gutless CG animated films, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing many more of those $40+million openings, save for the occasional quality pic. Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment prez Yair Landau attempted to put a positive spin on the OPEN SEASON debut: “This is our first time out and we don’t have a track record or an existing brand that parents can look to. So we’re very pleased to open Open Season comparable to the level of The Polar Express or Monster House that had the [Robert] Zemeckis and [Steven] Spielberg names attached to them.”

    It’s hard to imagine that there’s many Sony execs who are actually pleased with this opening. The amount of money they spent on OPEN SEASON clearly indicated that Sony thought it was capable of playing ball with CG’s big boys (Pixar, DreamWorks and Blue Sky) and instead they’ve turned out a big budget film that will end up grossing in the neighborhood of a mid-range feature like JIMMY NEUTRON or BARNYARD. I’d be particularly worried if I were Sony since their next CG feature is yet another ‘talking animal’ pic – SURF’S UP – and judging by the film’s recently released TRAILER, not a particularly good one at that. It’s a real shame that a studio filled with as much talent as Sony doesn’t have the vision to allow its artists to work with quality ideas. They’ll be paying for it at the box office, as evidenced this past weekend.

    TWICE UPON A TIME Online

    So, you say you’ve read Taylor Jessen’s amazing piece about the production of TWICE UPON A TIME (1983) in ANIMATION BLAST #9 and now you want to watch this rare film. You’re in luck. Somebody has posted TWICE UPON A TIME in its entirety on YouTube. The choppy compressed video hardly does the visuals justice, but it’ll have to do until Warner Bros. releases the film onto dvd someday. A YouTube playlist with all the segments is below.

    3 Trees & 3 Flowers in November

    The must-see LA art show of the fall season has been anounced. “3 Trees and 3 Flowers” opens November 4 at the Gallery Nucleus (30 West Main Street, Alhambra, CA 91801). This is the second edition of the successful show that took place last year called “3 Trees Make A Forest.” The “3 Trees” are Japanese ilustrator Tadahiro Uesugi and Pixar story artists Ronnie del Carmen and Enrico Casarosa. They are joined this time by three female Japanese illustrators: Yoko Tanji, Icco Sasai, and Wakako Katayama. More details about the show can be found at the Nucleus website or Enrico’s blog. Enrico has also announced that Gingko Press is publishing a book of art from their first show, which should be released by November. The book can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

    3 Trees & 3 Flowers