What’s one of our favorite recurring topics here at Cartoon Brew? Of course, it’s the “Preston Blair swipe,” which is when an illustrator-hack pilfers artwork from Preston Blair’s classic animation textbook and uses it for their own commercial projects. The latest swipe was found by Adam Koford in Orlando, Florida. If you want to visit this shrine of cartoon incompetence, Adam has geotagged the location on Flickr:
To promote their tangy soda drink Irn Bru (the number one soft drink in Scotland), Scottish soft drink company Barr have created a cheeky homage to Raymond Briggs much loved christmas classic The Snowman, the commercial is also causing a bit of a stir due to the current hysteria in the UK over advertising junk food to children.
Read about the controversy HERE or watch the commercial below:
Yesterday’s NEW YORK TIMES had an article by Charles Solomon about Disney’s new plan to produce animated short. The article states that four animated shorts are in development:
“The Ballad of Nessie,” a stylized account of the origin of the Loch Ness monster; “Golgo’s Guest,” about a meeting between a Russian frontier guard and an extraterrestrial; “Prep and Landing,” in which two inept elves ready a house for Santa’s visit; and “How to Install Your Home Theater,” the return of Goofy’s popular “How to” shorts of the ’40s and ’50s, in which a deadpan narrator explains how to play a sport or execute a task, while Goofy attempts to demonstrate – with disastrous results.
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UPDATE: The storyboard art in the NY TIMES article, including the image above, is by Wilbert Plijnaar.
The nominees for the 34th Annual Annie Awards have been announced. The complete list is posted here. Here’s a sampling of some of the nominees:Best Animated Feature
Cars – Pixar Animation Studios
Happy Feet – Warner Bros.
Monster House – Columbia Pictures/ImageMovers/Amblin Production
Open Season – Sony Pictures Animation/Columbia Pictures
Over The Hedge – DreamWorks AnimationBest Animated Short Subject
Adventure Time – Nickelodeon
Fumi and the Bad Luck Foot – Thunderbean Animation
No Time For Nuts – Blue Sky Studios
Weird Al Yankovic “Don’t Download This Song” – Acme FilmworksThe Awards will be presented Sunday February 11th at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA. For more information click here. Congratulations to all the nominees.
Mark Evanier is the first to note the passing of my friend Sid Raymond. Raymond was best known as the voice of Baby Huey and Katnip for Famous Studios during the 1950s. He also did voices for Terrytoons and radio, and appeared in many classic TV shows (including The Honeymooners) and movies. He made a fortune playing a bartender in a series of commercials for Schlitz Beer in the early 1960s.That’s a picture of Sid and I, above, taken in Vancouver during the voice recording sessions for the new Baby Huey cartoons produced by Carbunkle Cartoons for Harvey Entertainment in 1994. If you want to see a larger version of the photo click here. I not only spent a whole week with Sid that year, but subsequently met up with him in New York (where he took me to breakfast at the Friars Club, and to a party at Jackson Beck’s apartment!). If that weren’t enough, I visited with Sid and his lovely wife in Miami where he showed me several pieces of Famous Studios memorabilia. We kept in touch throughout the years – and Sid never stopped working! He was on The O.C. last year – that was his last appearence on screen. Say what you will about the Famous Studios cartoons, the voice work is teriffic. Stang, Mercer, Beck, Questel and Raymond are hilarious, and give classic vocal characterizations.Howard Weinberg made a documentary about Sid a few years ago, Sid At 90 which is well worth buying. Below is a brief clip from the film where Sid discusses voicing Baby Huey, his small part in The Prize (1963) and excerpts from his Schlitz Beer commercials.His niece wrote about him on my My Space. He will be missed.
Today marks the launch of the Animation History Archive on Flickr, a new group I started where we can all share interesting visual bits of animation history. Hopefully this can be sort of like a ‘show and tell’ of classic cartoon history and, in time, become a valuable visual resource for artists everywhere. Here’s a quick description of what can be posted in the group:
Visual materials related to Golden Age animation and animation artists. “Golden Age” means 1920s-1950s, though depending on the material, it could also encompass a few things in the ’60s and ’70s The material posted could include sets of storyboards, layout drawings, old magazine articles about animated films, photos of animation artists and other ephemera related to the industry (for example, gag cartoons or the currently incuded Top Cel union newsletter covers drawn by animation artists).
If you’ve got things in your collection that you want to share or just want to see cool stuff from other people’s collections, you can join the group here:
Not my favorite decade for animation, but James Eatock of Busta Toons Productions (the folks behind the He Man/She Ra blog) is starting cereal:geek, a new magazine that focuses strictly on animation from the eighties and, he says, “challenges the perceptions of the reader”.Eatock envisions a glossy publication, published on a quarterly basis, with articles, illustrations, scripts, storyboards, “a wealth of unseen production materials from your favorite shows, and interviews with those individuals that helped shape this particular decade of animation history”. Visit the website and register your interest and you will receive updates about the magazine in preparation for its January 2007 debut.
It’s been a Ralph Hulett kind of week around here. First it was his Christmas cards, now here’s a link to ONE GOT FAT, a bizarre (borderline disturbing) live-action bicycle safety film that he art directed in 1963. The real highlight might be the film’s amusing narration, which comes courtesy of character actor (and “Fractured Fairy Tales” narrator) Edward Everett Horton.
(Thanks, Patrick McCart)
UPDATE: Kevin writes to let us know there’s more info about ONE GOT FAT in the comments section of this post at the Animation Guild blog.
UPDATE #2: Ralph Hulett’s son, Steve, writes in with more info about the film:
This thing was filmed in La Crescenta (up above Glendale) in the summer of ’63. It was directed by William Dale Jennings (who also wrote the script and whose idea it was to make the cyclists monkeys.) Jennings later wrote the novel “Ronin” which has become kind of a cult classic, and the John Wayne epic “The Cowboys,” (1971) based on Jennings’ novel of the same name.
Max Hutto, the cinematographer, had been a director on “Fibber McGee and Molly” in its radio heyday. Hutto, Jennings and Hulett formed a small film company they named “Interlude Films” and proceeded to make a few short movies, all shot on 16mm. My dad provided most of the start-up cash. The company was only in business a few years, and this is the film that has had a weird half-life on the Internet. It went out of copyright years ago, and showed up on YouTube. Somebody saw it and made a spooky music video out of it, and both continue to circle the globe on the Internet.
Father made the monkey masks out of papier mache, and did the titles. He also drove our ’61 Chevy Greenbrier van that drove alongside the monkeys as they pedalled along La Crescenta streets. (They tied the van’s sliding side door open and filmed through the opening.) My younger brother Ralph is the monkey running on foot. My mother Shirley is one of the women (the blonde one) who is knocked into a tree. (I remember being steamed I wasn’t in it. I was too tall.)
Here is everything you ever wanted to know about BEWITCHED – the 1964-1972 ABC TV comedy series about a regular guy who marries to a immortal magical witch. This page has more than you ever thought possible about the show’s Hanna Barbera opening titles: frame grabs, audio, alternate titles, etc.(Thanks, Mike Owens)
Hmmm… the trade papers usually don’t post new stories over the weekend. Here’s one that popped up this morning in The Hollywood Reporter about Disney laying off 160 people in Feature Animation. It’s never a good sign when a company announces news late Friday so it appears in print Saturday (traditionally less people watch or read news on Saturday). The L.A. Times also has the report today:
“The management team at Walt Disney Animation has determined that each film will dictate its own appropriate production schedule,” Disney Studios spokeswoman Heidi Trotta said. “The result of this necessitated a reduction of staff.”
Brewster Rockit is a very funny sci-fi parody comic strip running in the L.A. Times and many other papers accross the country (via Tribune Media Services). Today’s strip was right up our alley. Perhaps Brewster’s fictional outer space Cartoon Network is starting to show live action? Now that would be science fiction – wouldn’t it?
The fourth in a series of holiday gift-giving suggestions from your pals at Cartoon Brew.
If you pick up one dvd of foreign animation this holiday season, make it the ANIMATED SOVIET PROPAGANDA four-dvd box set from Films by Jove. I’ve been working my way through the set for the past week and every disc is packed with unbelievable material that I’d never seen before. The films, created between the mid-1920s through the mid-1980s, are separated into four categories:
Disc 1: American Imperialists
Disc 2: Fascist Barbarians
Disc 3: Capitalist Sharks
Disc 4: Shining Future
As can be expected from the disc titles, the films are shamelessly propagandistic, taking aim at everybody from the Americans and the British to the Germans and Fascist ideology. The films have an endearingly kitsch quality at first, but after a few hours of watching this stuff, the material begins to take on a more depressing tone, and one begins to feel sorry for the Russian people who were fed this manipulative garbage for decade after decade.
What’s really fascinating about these films, however, is how much creative effort the Russian animators put into the visuals. They clearly believed in the messages of the films, and though they had little control over what they were saying, they could exercise their imagination with how they presented the same tired slogans. There’s a spirit of experimentation from the earliest films on the disc. For example, SAMOYED BOY (1928) uses regional art styles of northern Russian peoples and BLACK AND WHITE (1933) is graphically mature in a way that few cartoons in the US were in the early-30s.
The Russians weren’t tied down by the demands of creating entertainment cartoons with recurring characters; their assignment was to get across a particular message, and as such, they focused more on the filmmaking aspects than on character and personality development. Though in some of the later films, like SOMEONE ELSE’S VOICE (1949) and THE ADVENTURES OF THE YOUNG PIONEERS (1971), they also exhibit a solid grasp of traditional character animation principles.
If you’re looking for visual inspiration, there’s enough graphic ideas scattered throughout these dvds to keep you busy for a long time. A few of the visual highlights for me: INTERPLANETARY REVOLUTION (1924) is animation at its most Constructivist with photo montage and strong graphic design; the heavy use of black shadows in THE PIONEER’S VIOLIN (1971) gives Mike Mignola a run for the money; THE SHAREHOLDER (1963) is a 23-minute powerhouse of beautifully animated, elegantly staged characters that evoke high-style magazine illustration; and SHOOTING RANGE (1979) uses colorful, gritty ’70s style graphics that somehow still feel fresh today.
With politically-oriented films such as these, providing context is imperative to understanding the works and each disc is supported by a half-hour documentary. The documentaries are appreciated, but I thought they could have been even more helpful to a layperson like myself who isn’t well versed in Russian history. There were snippets of interviews with some of the filmmakers, but I would have liked to have seen longer versions of these interviews instead of extended clips of films that were already on the dvd set (though the clips that had narrative explanation added were very useful). Also, I’d be curious to find out just how much of this propaganda was seen by the average Russian compared to other forms of animation; non-propaganda characters like Cheburashka and Fyodor Khitruk’s version of Winnie the Pooh were also popular among Russian kids so they obviously were exposed to other types of animation. But this is all nitpicking. The dvd set, produced by Joan Borsten, is a must-have for any fan of foreign animation; it’s not only an incredible survey of Russian propaganda animation, but also of the development of the animation art in Russia.
The set is $89 at the Films by Jove store. The website also has a set of notes about the films and offers for viewing a part of the documentary included on the dvd.
Below are some of the inspiring visuals that you can find on the set: