It’s a shame the latest Scrat short was removed from GoogleVideo yesterday, but today the Blue Sky artists have another treat for us. Check out the Blue Sky Studios Challenge, a new joint artists blog. Artist Jake Parker explains:
Some of us at the studio are actively participating in our own little jam blog. Every week we set a topic and then everyone does their take on it. It’s open to the whole studio so sometimes you get designers, and other times you get production assistants contributing. For the most part it’s Animators, story artists and designers who participate.
At long last, Bill Plympton’s latest animated feature HAIR HIGH premieres tonight in New York City. It is screening for one week (Oct. 18-25) at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater (155 East 3rd St, between Ave A&B). This is, in my opinion, Plympton’s strongest animated film to date, featuring a compelling narrative in addition to loads of great laugh-out-loud visual gags. The film is difficult to describe though this synopsis does a pretty good job: “An outrageous Gothic myth from the 1950′s, HAIR HIGH is the legend of a teenage couple murdered on prom night who return as undead skeletons one year later for revenge. The film is a unique romantic comedy with a zombie-horror twist.” Plympton makes the idea work and he makes it work well.
Every guest at the premiere tonight will receive a drawing from Bill, and he’ll be making additional appearances at the theater throughout the week. Cast members and other guests (including the “Krazy Kock” chicken mascot) will also appear at the premiere. Online tickets can be pre-ordered HERE. The official film website can be found at HairHigh.com.
The other night I had a chance to screen the 3-D version of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. All things considered, the folks at ILM who converted the film (which was not shot in 3-D in the first place) did a pretty good job. And since it wasn’t designed for 3-D there weren’t many opportunities to have things go deep into the background or pop off the screen, but the effect holds up pretty well throughout the picture. A new introductory countdown piece (featuring a pumpkinhead jack-in-the-box) is the best 3-D gag in the picture. The new Walt Disney Pictures logo looks pretty cool in three dimensions too. This online featurette tries to explain what they did to achieve the new 3-D effects.The original Henry Selick film was always a lot of fun (and let’s not forget Joe Ranft’s important contributions to the story) – and Danny Elfman’s operatic score is one his greatest achievements. A new Special Edition soundtrack album (I snagged a freebie at the screening) contains Danny’s original demo tracks and some great covers by Fionna Apple (Sally’s Song), Marilyn Manson (This Is Halloween) and Fall Out Boy (What’s This?).The new Nightmare opens in theaters this Friday, October 20, along with Pixar’s 3-D short Knick Knack.
Here’s a book I can’t wait to have and hold (and read!). Russell Merritt and J.B. Kaufman have been researching the history of Disney’s Silly Symphonies for a decade. This year, in conjunction with a screening at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival (held last week), the book has finally been published. However, I have no idea how to order a copy or from where. In the meantime, we can whet our appetities by reading Merritt and Kaufman’s film notes for their Pordenone presentation, and this essay they wrote for the on-line Walt Disney Family Museum.
Tower 8 is a growing online narrative that’s told through a series of experimental animations by myself and other directors, centered on the idea that in the future, the earth has undergone major change: its natural resources are near depleted, the oceans have receded and creativity has become a physical force. As of right now we just have the first video up, about a city that has a band as its army that it sends out to defend itself.
It’s a good looking, ambitious piece of work. Danny and his partners, Gavin Brown and Ashtnmike, have also set up a production blog to update its ongoing progress.
Slow day at the Brew. So here’s a lovely animated short, courtesy of YouTube, by the celebrated Czech filmmaker Jiri Trnka. It’s The Merry Circus (1951). Although Trnka is well-known for his puppet films, this piece uses cut-out animation and has a lovely picture-book illustration style to it.It’s split into two parts – part one is below. Part two is here: The Merry Circus – Part 2This and many other great Jiri Trinka films are available on DVD.(Thanks, Firoz Hussain)
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 (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.
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.
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?
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.
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!