Animation News To Be Aware Of

1. Chris Meledandri, head of Fox Feature Animation, jumps ship to Universal where he’ll try his best to produce another ICE AGE and not another ROBOTS.

2. What Makes An Animated Pitch Hit? Apparently, teaming with SNL castmembers will do the trick.

3. An animation studio decides NOT to make a talking-animal CG feature?!? What’s the world coming to?

4. Bob Clampett and Ray Harryhausen both attempted to make an adaptation and couldn’t – now Disney and Pixar want to give it a shot. Some are speculating that Andrew Stanton will direct.

Cars Kleenex In Iraq?

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pixarkleenex1.jpgThis may be the silliest observation ever posted on the Brew, but I was reading the paper today and I couldn’t help staring at this photo of Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki with foreign diplomats in conference. I wondered what those red boxes in front of each board member was. Looking closely, I deduced they were boxes of tissues. How considerate. At home I also have several boxes of Kleenex in the same dark red color, in fact they are Pixar CARS Kleenex. Is it possible Maliki offers Kleenex decorated with Lightning McQueen at his board meetings?What next? Spongebob Whistle Pops for dessert?

Once Upon A Time Walt Disney: The Book

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Couldn’t make it to Paris for the landmark Disney art exhibit that closed a few days ago? No worries because next month Prestel Publishing is releasing a 360-page English-version exhibition catalog ONCE UPON A TIME WALT DISNEY: THE SOURCES OF INSPIRATION FOR THE DISNEY STUDIOS. Cover price is a steep $75 but it’s only $47.25 at Amazon.

Now that the show has wrapped in France, it’s headed to Canada where it’ll be exhibited from March 8-June 24 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Colin Stewart, a columnist for the OC REGISTER, is asking the question on his blog that many of us are wondering, “Why won’t any galleries in the US make room for this exhibition?”

Meet Zombie Redenbacher

One more interesting fact about this spot: it was directed at Digital Domain by none other than David Fincher (FIGHT CLUB, SE7EN), who incidentally started his film career in animation (it’s all documented in ANIMATION BLAST 9). The shot towards the end where Orville says, “You’ll like it better…” has some of the funniest (i.e. hideously awful) acting you’ll see in any recent piece of big-budget CG.

A higher-res version of the commercial can be found on the official Redenbacher website. The lip sync is absolutely pathetic. It’s hard to believe this spot was produced by Digital Domain.

The response to this spot has been unanimously negative. Here’s a random sampling of opinions from around the blogosphere:

Y’know, I thought that cannibalizing old footage of Fred Astaire was kind of a tacky idea 11 years ago. But after this, I’m beginning to like the first idea. (via)

While watching Criminal Minds tonight, I saw the most sick and disturbing thing–yes, the commercials featuring a reanimated Orville Redenbacher. If you haven’t seen it, it’s not an old films clip or anything–it’s basically CGI of a man’s corpse dancing around. I’m sorry, but that’s just freaking creepy. (via)

Digital Orville Redenbacher freaks me right out. He is dead. Let’s let him be dead. Because Zombie Orville is just wrong, wrong, wrong. (via)

I just saw the scariest shit ever. A commercial for Orville Redenbacher popcorn in which they used the man himself as a spokesperson. Yes, he’s been dead for some time. They brought him back anyway. So beyond the questionable wisdom of using a dead man as your spokesman, they decided to go totally digital. So now it actually looks like they dug up the old man’s corpse and made it talk and move with marionette strings. The lips don’t even sync with the dialogue! (via)

Earlier Brew coverage of Zombie Redenbacher

UPDATE: Brew reader Tim Curtis says that he expressed his distaste for this commercial by visiting the ConAgra Foods contact page. The toll-free Redenbacher consumer line is 800/243-0303.

I’ve heard back from multiple readers who’ve emailed ConAgra and they’re sending out a form letter to everybody. That letter is below:

Your communication concerning the new Orville Redenbacher TV ads was most welcome, and we appreciate your taking the time to contact us.

We understand that using breakthrough technology in this way can raise some eyebrows. However, we have taken the utmost care to replicate Orville’s endearing personality and likeness. Our most important goal is to respect and advance the legacy of the brand’s founder. The Retro ads which have recently aired received an extremely positive reception from consumers, and with the breakthroughs in technology, we are now able to introduce Orville to a whole new generation!

The Redenbacher family is excited for Orville’s return to our advertising and marketing initiatives. Gary Redenbacher, who represents the Redenbacher family, has fully endorsed our direction and he is excited about ConAgra’s efforts to advance his grandfather’s legacy.

As we design future initiatives, your comments will be carefully considered. We appreciate the time you have taken to contact us and your interest in our products.

Sincerely,

ConAgra Foods Consumer Affairs

Fred World

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Art director (Little Mermaid) and production designer (Jimmy Neutron) Fred Cline has just started a blog. Cline was mentored by Lee and Mary Blair in his younger days, and is researching their careers. We need to get him to post video of the rare commercials he has in his possession. He’s also researching the career of Hugh Harman. And maybe he’ll discuss the project he’s working on at Laika. It’s all at Fred World.

Jaws Of Life

Jaws of Life

“Jaws of Life” is a freshly styled music video for the Canadian band Wintersleep directed by Sean Wainsteim (with James Mejia). Wainsteim describes the video as, “A surreal urban environment filled with animals struggling with their humanity, bizarre gems, a giant transforming robotic deer on a rampage and much more.” The video was conceptualized by Wintersleep’s lead singer Paul Murphy, fine artist James Mejia and Wainsteim.

I really enjoyed the uninhibited creativity of the piece and wanted to find out more about the production. Here are some notes from Sean about the making of this video from a recent email exchange I had with him:

This was a labour of love. This is video number five (or six) that I’ve done for this band.Took about a month and a half. The grind was mostly late nights for me for a long time, but I worked with a handful of very talented animators and designers who gave up evenings and weekends from their day jobs to lend some time.

Much of the look is derived from the artwork of designer James Mejia whose style of mixing photo cutouts with unique painted techniques was first used in an earlier Wintersleep video Danse Macabre, and expanded for this project.

We shot SLR stills on a nearby rooftop with another musician as the protagonist and then again with myself as the pigeon headed characters. Except for the images on the television screens, all of the characters in the video were shot on a digital SLR still camera. Everything was hand cut out deliberately loose and quick. This was an aesthetic decision…otherwise bluescreen would have been faster and better – but we wanted to see a different background peeking through.

Pretty much only used Adobe After Effects and Photoshop…and wood n’paint and an SLR cam. Many, many hours of handcrafting minute details, both in and out of the computer, were imperative to maintain the warm and highly detailed feel.

CREDITS (partial list)
Music video: Wintersleep “Jaws of Life” (Labwork Music)
Director: Sean Wainsteim (with James Mejia)
Production company: Sean Wainsteim
Staring Glenn Milchem as “The Man”
Painted Backgrounds: James Mejia
Storyboards and post corrections: Steve Wilson
Cinematography: Vinit Borrison (stills), Andrew MacDonald (live-action)
Animation and Visual FX: Nick Fairhead, Joel Tellier, Sean Conly, Arvydas Slabosevicius, Sean Wainsteim
Typography design: Jenny McCracken
Cut-Outs: Clint Lavado, Rachel Vulliens
Funded in part through generous grants from VideoFACT and FACTOR CANADA.

Jaws of Life

Animation Show Contest

Animation Show boxed setCourtesy of our pals at The Animation Show we have four copies of the new dvd set of the ANIMATION SHOW Volumes 1 & 2 just out from Paramount and MTV Home Entertainment. The first four entrants that answered the question posted earlier today won one of these beauties.

CONTEST NOW CLOSED!
Our winners were Stewart Shaw of St. Albert, Alberta, Canada; Raymond Delgadillo of Pico Rivera, CA.; Ian Jones-Quartey of Brooklyn, NY; and George Col–n of Hayward, CA.

Mary Blair Cannot Be Killed!

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Not sure what’s better – the title of the blog or the actual blog itself. “Mary Blair Cannot Be Killed” is an irreverent but loving tribute to the lasting impact of Blair’s work. The site is new but there’s already lots of fun artwork by various contemporary animation artists including the piece above by Joe Orrantia. And just for the sake of posterity, let me reprint the wickedly cool blog intro here:

The night air stinking with the pungent aroma of perfume, gin and Lady Chesterfields, the celebrated Disney colorist, water color artist and illustrator terrorizes the night and kills everything she sees. Never in the history of the United States has a monster of such size and power, and horrifying hatred of man made itself known! Say your prayers because MARY BLAIR CAN NOT BE KILLED!

(via Thinking Animation Blog)

Classic Italian Commercials

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Last month we posted links to some vintage French and German animated commercials. Now here’s a here whole bunch of 1960s and ’70s animated commercials from Italy. And if you liked those, there’s a lot more ’60s spots at MondoCarosello.com including this Bruno Bozzetto one and some fun TV show bumpers. I didn’t really see many spots that had stand-out animation, but there’s some interesting design throughout, and considering how rare these are, they’re certainly worth a look.

(Thanks, Michael Pinto)

Animation Show Arrives In Theaters and On DVD!

Animation Show boxed set

Today is a big day for our friends at the Animation Show. It marks both the theatrical premiere of their third edition as well as the release of the ANIMATION SHOW Volumes 1 & 2 Box Set. Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt deserve props for creating the Animation Show and providing a way for US animation fans to see quality animated shorts on the bigscreen.

The Animation Show has generously offered 4 boxed sets for us to give away to Cartoon Brew readers. We’ll ask a trivia question tomorrow morning, Wednesday, at 9am Pacific (12ET), and the first four people to answer correctly will each receive a set. The dvd is packed with tons of superb films including MT. HEAD, WHEN THE DAY BREAKS, WARD 13, HELLO, THE MEANING OF LIFE, GUARD DOG and ARIA. It also includes commentaries by Bill Plympton, Corky Quakenbush and Don Hertzfeldt, bonus materials for various shorts, and a mini-documentary about the history of the animated short.

The new theatrical edition premieres tonight in Santa Barbera and Seattle. It’s also playing this week in Boston, Portland, Tuscon and New Brunswick, NJ. For a complete list of cities, go HERE. Here’s the trailer for the third edition:

Zombie Redenbacher

Orville Redenbacher

Files this one under “Commercials For People Who Can’t Get Enough Of Polar Express and Monster House.” Apparently the people who own the Orville Redenbacher popcorn brand feel they can boost sales if they reintroduce their dead pitchman as a grotesque Uncanny Valley-esque CG character. There’s an article in USA TODAY about the new spot along with a short clip. I love this quote from the ad agency guy: “We don’t want people to fall over and faint because Orville’s back.” Somehow, I doubt they’ll be experiencing that problem.

For the record, here’s the appealing real Mr. Redenbacher:

(via BoingBoing)

Footage from Disney’s Enchanted

Enchanted

The first footage for Disney’s upcoming live-action/2d-animated film ENCHANTED has appeared online. A few seconds can be seen at the tail end of this unbelievably annoying Disney promo. Before anybody starts complaining about the generic designs though, bear in mind that the film is parodying these Disney stereotypes.The hand-drawn animation is being produced by James Baxter’s studio. Character designer Harald Siepermann has posted a page of his character designs for the film on his blog.

Hanna-Barbera in the 1970s

Jeff Jonas, an artist at Sony Online Entertainment and the the son of Golden Age animation artist Homer Jonas, has written some hilarious memories of working as a Hanna-Barbera copy boy in the 1970s when he was still a teenager. He offers a disclaimer in the piece:

Sorry these reminiscences are not politically correct, but the world was not PC back then. They smoked and swore and cursed. Some of the tough gals would call me Homer’s puppy, they said I needed a collar and leash…. all this through the cigarette smoke. Yikes… run away!

Still, I’d take Seventies H-B any day over the gloomy corporate boardroom vibe of contemporary LA animation studios. I can’t remember the last time I visited a studio in LA where I didn’t leave feeling depressed and blue.

The Disney Strike of 1941

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Kip W has posted some amazing animation artifacts on Flickr: coverage of the 1941 Disney strike as reported in New York’s leftist daily paper PM. There’s some great cartoon drawings and photos (like the one above) in the articles. Kip initially posted these in Cartoon Brew’s Animation History Archive group on Flickr. Feel free to join – lots of folks are sharing stuff from their collections as we unearth rare cartoon history together.

Girls Drawin Girls

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Girl animation artists drawing girls. Cool. It’s a new book, it’s a gallery show, it’s an event on January 20th at Pehr Space in Los Angeles (near Echo Park). The gals include Anand Duncan (Disney), Anne Walker (Renegade), Nicole Filiatrault (South Park), Shannon O’Connor (Iron Giant), Crystal Chesney (Looney Tunes: Back In Action) and a whole slew from The Simpsons, including Melody Severns, Debbie Bruce, Nancy Kruse, and Jenny Moeller. More info at the Girls Drawin Girls website.

The Golden Age Of Anime

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Forget Astro Boy! Digital Meme has announced an upcoming release of a new DVD collection of vintage Japanese anime that predates Tezuka’s classic by thirty years! The set includes fifty five rare cartoons from the Golden Age of Japanese silent film and early talkie period.

Japanese Anime Classic Collection is a digital collection of hard-to-find anime produced from 1928 through 1936. Entertaining, exciting, and startling, the collection will be treasured by enthusiasts, who will find it a valuable reference tool for retracing Japanese animation from its early roots to what is now universally known as anime. Presented chronologically, these anime have been painstakingly digitally reproduced for DVD viewing. Nothing has been altered or edited except for the integration of music in some titles.Some selections in the set are “record talkies.” These anime came to theaters together with a gramophone record, which provided a separate, simultaneous audio track with music, voice, and effects.

I don’t know about you, but I’m very intrigued. The price is $110.00 (or $40.00 per DVD when sold separately) and it’s scheduled for release on April, 30th 2007. For further details, please check Digital Meme’s website.

China and India’s Animation Boom

The animation industries in North America and Europe may be healthy, but the numbers presented in this newspaper article from Chinese news agency Xinhua are staggering. Can anybody say Chinese animation boom:

* In 2006, China produced more than 81,000 minutes of animation, more than China’s aggregate output between 1993 and 2003.

* By October 2006, nearly 5,500 animation studios had been founded in China. (I’m skeptical of this number, but even 10% of that would be over 500 studios. That’s a lot.)

* There are 447 universities in China with animation departments, and an additional 1,230 schools with professional training for cartoonists.

* Over 64,000 students majoring in animation have graduated from universities with an additional 466,000 currently studying animation.

China’s neighbor, India, has been experiencing a similar boom of its own. This newspaper article from an article this week in Rediff offers some big numbers of its own:

* There are currently 300 animation companies in India employing approximately 12,000 people. An additional 3,000 freelancers work in the industry.

* At least 150 gaming companies also operate in India, employing 2,500 people. Over 13,000 people are expected to be employing in gaming by 2010.

Just to offer a little perspective on these, the largest animation union in the United States representing most major studios in LA, the Animation Guild Local 839 IATSE, currently has slighty over 2,100 active members, and at its all-time peak (in the mid-1990s), it topped out at 2500 members.

While it’s true that the large majority of animation work being produced in China and India is low-grade TV animation – the type of work that was being outsourced a decade or two ago to South Korea and the Philippines – there is an upside. If Korea is to serve as a model, once the outsourced work dries up, the large pool of trained talent will turn to producing their own original projects. Both the Chinese and Indian animation industries are in their infancies and it’s safe to say that we can expect to see a lot of exciting new work coming out of those countries over the coming years as their industries grow and mature.

(Xinhua article via CG Society)

Save The Treasures

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Who’d ever have thought that CHIP AND DALE (1947) would be a more obscure Disney short than DER FEUHRER’S FACE (1943)? Or that THE TRIAL OF DONALD DUCK (1948) would be harder to see than EDUCATION FOR DEATH (1943)? That’s the way it stands now if Disney Home Video has their way.Word is circulating around the Internet that Disney has put a halt to the series of Walt Disney Treasures, the annual set of archival dvds, packaged in a tin container, hosted and produced by Leonard Maltin. The series was close to releasing every short the company ever produced, but has now stopped short of completing the collection of its most important short subject star, Donald Duck. Wartime cartoons, silent rarities, lost Disneyland footage, the complete run of Silly Symphonies – all this and more have been part of the Walt Disney Treasures during the past six years (click here for a complete list).For more information on the situation, or if you want to support the effort to keep these DVDs alive, I refer you to this thread on HomeTheaterForum.com.

Casper Comics

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Leslie Cabarga and I are conspiring to get you to be friendly to Casper – his comics that is!I’ve made no secret of my love for the Paramount Harvey Comics of the 1950s and early 60s. These have been virtually ignored by the comics community, and unknown to animation fans. Now that we’ve completed our personal collections (through eBay and Comic-Con at bargain prices), Leslie and I are compiling a large volume of the 100 best stories, restored from printers proofs and original art, by permission of Classic Media and to be published by Dark Horse this summer. These comics were drawn mainly by the Famous Studios animators: Bill Hudson, Tom Johnson, Howard Post, Steve Muffatti and others. Warren Kremer’s classic early stories will be presented as well. I’m also contributing an introductory essay to this 480-page volume and we’ve got big plans for further editions. I’ll be plugging this again in the coming months, but you can place an advance order now, for Harvey Comics Classics Volume 1: Casper The Friendly Ghost at Dark Horse Comics.

Another Live-Action Show On Cartoon Network

GemberlingCartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” line-up has ordered a pilot for yet another live-action project. This one is based on a series of online shorts called GEMBERLING. There is nothing sadder than reading a news item about Cartoon Network that says, “The as-yet-untitled half-hour project, from John Gemberling and Curtis Gwinn, is tentatively set to be shot this month“ (bold emphasis mine).

Earlier coverage of live-action on Cartoon Network: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Music At The El Cap

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Starting tonight, The El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood is running a sing-a-long revival of MARY POPPINS for the rest of the month. The El Capitan’s resident organist Rob Richards (a loyal Cartoon Brew reader) sent us this tip: Very early on Saturday January 13th, the El Cap will make a brief return to its historic roots as a live performance theater with a special musical program. On Saturday morning, Rob will be performing solo and in duet with Ralph Wolf, 88, a legendary Hollywood pianist (in addition to his Hollywood movie work, Wolf was the rehearsal pianist for the original Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950s). As part of this early bird program, Rob Richards will accompany, on the theater’s Mighty Wurlitzer organ, a restored print of Alice’s Wonderland (1923), the first of the “Alice comedies.” The concert is scheduled to begin promptly at 8 am, concluding at 9:15. Tickets are available at the El Capitan box office. Doors open at approximately 7:30 a.m. The El Capitan Theatre is located at 6838 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood CA.

Soapy Waters

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Stripper’s Guide, a blog dedicated to newspaper comic strips, yesterday posted samples of George Stallings‘ little-known comic-strip Soapy Waters, which ran for a short time in the 1950s. Stallings, a former Van Beuren animator and Disney director and story man spent his latter career writing comic strips, mainly for Disney.This blog is loaded with interesting material. Today’s post is about an obscure solo Lois Lane comic strip from the mid 40s. Who knew? This is good stuff!

Adventure Time

If you couldn’t make it to the ASIFA-Hollywood screening of Frederator’s new Random Cartoons last night, here’s some good news. They’ve just posted one of the funniest shorts in the series onto Google Video and you can watch it now. Pen Ward is a great new talent and his Adventure Time has been justly nominated for an Annie Award. Awesome!Good luck, Pen!

Steve Krantz (1923-2007)

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We should note that producer Steve Krantz passed away last Thursday in Los Angeles from complications of pneumonia. He was 83.Krantz is best known in our world for his production of the first, ultra low budget, syndicated The Marvel Superheroes cartoons in 1966. He also produced Max the 2000-Year-Old Mouse and Rocket Robin Hood. Krantz met Ralph Bakshi while making the ABC Saturday morning SPIDER MAN animated series. His relationship with Bakshi led to his producing FRITZ THE CAT, HEAVY TRAFFIC, and later without Bakshi, THE NINE LIVES OF FRITZ THE CAT. Krantz was also the husband of author Judith Krantz (Scruples, Princess Daisy).