New Anime at the Egyptian

Aachi & Ssipak

Roughly a month from now, on Saturday March 31st, the American Cinematheque and The Japan Foundation are presenting a double bill of two new animated features at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Blvd.

Aachi & Ssipak from Korea will screen at 11am. According to a synopsis found on koreanfilm.org the film is “about a futuristic world powered entirely by human feces. With the government anxious to control this sole, important source of energy, they install special sensors on its citizens’ anuses to monitor production, while controlling the populace by distributing addictive popsicles.” Sounds good to me. Watch the very cool first five minutes here. I can’t wait to see this on the big screen.

A reception with food and drink follows at 12:30pm and a second film, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, the new feature from the Japan’s Madhouse studio, will screen at 1:30pm.

After the second film will be a panel discussion with the filmmakers (the directors of both films are scheduled to attend) moderated by producer Ken Duer (The Animatrix). This entire event is FREE! You must RSVP at www.jflalc.org and pick up your tickets at the door on the day of the show.

1960 US Navy spot by Bobe Cannon

1960 US Navy spot by Bobe Cannon

After Robert “Bobe” Cannon (the genius director of Gerald McBoing Boing) left UPA around 1958, he began to do a lot of commercial freelance. Among the places he worked was Playhouse Pictures, where he directed and animated this :20 second spot for the US Navy featuring a somewhat Thurber-esque cat and dog talking about their owner’s decision to join the Navy.

Despite the bare-bones simplicity of the piece (or perhaps because of it), it’s highly effective and does a great job of communicating the message. The commercial didn’t have much ad agency involvement as far as I can tell. The circular script where the characters repeat one another’s words was written in-house by Chris Jenkyns, who was the primary writer/storyboard artist at Playhouse.

Lee Lennox’s “Girl and the Sea”

Girl and the Sea

The Presets’ “Girl and the Sea” is an incredibly lovely mixed-media music video directed by Lee Lennox. It’s not a new video—it was released in 2005—but now, a hi-res AVI has appeared online over here. The video, which is obviously an homage to Russian master Yuri Norstein, deserves to be seen in this higher quality to be fully appreciated. Lee Lennox is represented by Draw Pictures in the UK (click on “Promo Directors” on the site to see more of his work).

(Thanks, Philip Rogosky)

Janet Klein

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Once again this Thursday night – and every first Thursday of the each month – Jerry Beck will be the opening act for Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood.

Janet and her boys play authentic 20s jazz music live, and I start the proceedings by providing about 45 minutes of vintage musical shorts and cartoons in glorious 16mm monophonic movie projection. It’s a lot of fun – and if you’re in the area, I highly recommend you check out the show. Janet and her band are amazing! Here’s a clip of Janet teaching you how to play Tonight You Belong To Me on the Ukulele. Come on down!

Thursday, March 1st, 8:00 pm
The Steve Allen Theatre
4773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
(West of Vermont, across from Barnsdale Park)
$15 323-666-4268 for reservations
More info at JanetKlein.com

How William Shatner Deals With Producers/Execs

This hilarious MP3 clip from the Howard Stern Show features an excerpt from a commercial recording session by William Shatner. Listen to the interaction between Shatner and the clueless producer. The relevance of it to animation should be clear to anybody who’s ever worked in the industry; I never thought I’d say this but we definitely need more Shatner-type artists in the animation biz.

Jules Engel on Bambi

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These three caricatures, above, are of Jules Engel enacting part of a storyboard on Bambi.

Don’t strain your eyes. Click here to see a full size version of the first one, the second and the third. Christine Panushka, Professor of Animation and Digital Arts at USC, has been cataloging Engel’s archives and papers, and has been finding some amazing things. Christine says:

I have been carefully sorting through Jules estate trying to preserve any relevant materials. Besides these wonderful caricatures, the archive documents Jules’ artistic practices, his teaching processes, his time spent working in the animation industry, for Charles Mintz, Disney, UPA and Format Films, and his personal life.

CalArts and I have agreed that we will work to place the archive at an institution where the materials will be preserved properly for the future and be available for scholars.

Christine will keep the Brew informed as to where this material ends up. In the meantime, we’d love to know who did these sketches. If you have any idea whose work this may be, email us or post a comment below.

Dookie-Poo

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There have been many cartoon characters based upon… uhh, shall we say, doo-doo.

From Spumco’s Nutty, the Friendly Dump to South Park’s Mr. Hankey, and not forgetting doodie.com, Burgerlog and Winnie the Pooh (Winnie is a doo-doo, take my word for it).

Now Manny Galan (who in real life is Director of Animation for Nickelodeon’s on-air promotions) has just created Dookie-Poo, and it’s a real contender for biggest brown lump of the year. (I mean that in a good way). Galan says:

This whole endeavor is just my way of keeping as much control over one of my own creations as possible. And doing something outside of the NICKELODEON system.

His characters are charming and the website is a lot of good clean fun. There’s a CG music video by upstate NY studio Virtual Persuasion, a cool Theatre section filled with small animations and short films, an interactive fun page and of course, a blog. Give it a look.

Three Trees Make a Forest Contest

Three Trees Make A Forest

Ok, as promised in the post about the book last Friday, we’re giving away two copies of the book Three Trees Make a Forest, courtesy of the folks at Gingko Press.

The first two people to correctly post the answer in the comments below will win the book. Here’s the question:

One of the artists in Three Trees Make a Forest, Ronnie del Carmen, has had one of his drawings appear in almost every issue of Animation Magazine published in the last decade. What company/organization/product is his drawing advertising?

The Contest Is Now Closed! The winners are Chad Townsend and Peter Avanzino. Thanks to all who participated. And be sure to read Ronnie’s great story about how the ad came to be at the bottom of the comments section.

Oscar ’07: The fallout from the “Happy Feet” win

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Happy Feet won. Does it matter?
The sad fact is, it may.

I won’t deny that Happy Feet was a well made, entertaining film. I liked it personally. It does qualify under the definition of an animated film. But it doesn’t respresent the medium.

Unfortunately, the win by Happy Feet will reinforce to the powers-that-be in Hollywood that motion capture is a valid subsitute for authentic character animation. That live action writers, directors and actors can make a “cartoon” without the skills honed by decades of accomplishment created by Walt Disney and his successors.

Oscar winning animator and Academy member Gene Deitch sent us his thoughts:

So, exactly as I feared, a Performance-Capture movie has won the Oscar, masquerading as an Animated Film.

HAPPY FEET is a good movie, full of charm, and with something important to say. Bravo!

But now, what about us? To paraphrase what General Douglas MacArthur once said, “Old animators never die, they’ll just fade away.” I just read that Disney will be setting up a new studio, dedicated to performance-capture production. I’m personally lucky. I’ve had five of my shorts nominated, one which actually won the Oscar. So I’ve had it.

Even better, my long-time client – nearly 40 years – Weston Woods/Scholastic, is virtually immune from mo-cap and even CGI, as they produce short films adapted from children’s picture books. Practically the only way they can be made is with traditional drawn animation. So my harangues against accepting performance-capture films for the Animation Feature Film category have not been in any way an effort to save my personal skin. I grieve for our craft in general, and for those skilled traditional animators, who will increasingly be shunted off into special-effects work. Their only hope of getting back into the big time of feature film animation will be if a powerful enough producer, with a powerful enough story, brave enough to finance a graphically advanced production – something that can only be drawn – immune from mo-cap – who will give frame-by-frame animation a chance to live. Aardman is still clinging to clay, and they may survive, but where is there a future for feature-length drawn animation?.

May the Power of Pegholes be with us!

My first thought last night was that this is the first time the Annie Award didn’t portend the Oscar winner. That made me a bit prouder of my fellow Asifa-Hollywood members who do indeed honor films created by actual animators.

I agree with most of Gene’s points – and share his discomfort with this new technique. To clarify, Happy Feet is an animated film – but it’s not a cartoon. To paraphrase Gene, where is the future of the feature length cartoon?

The plus side? 2007 is an exciting year for authentic animated features. Between Brad Bird’s latest, Shrek III, Bee Movie, the stop motion Coraline and the hand drawn Simpsons there seems to be some potential – both at the box office and with the Academy – to reverse Hollywood’s mind in this matter.

Perhaps this win will cause Warner Bros. to now take animation a little more seriously, after a history of botched releases (notably The Iron Giant and The Ant Bully). Perhaps this will inspire John Lasseter and the revived 2-D team at Disney to really prove themselves, to blow us away with something that mo-cap can never be – and force Hollywood to return the art of animation to the hand of the artist.

Let’s hope.

Tehran International Animation Festival

Tehran International Animation Festival

The 5th Tehran International Animation Festival (English website) kicked off yesterday in Iran and continues through March 1. It’s a festival that I doubt many Brew readers will be attending anytime soon. Still I think it’s worth pointing out for a couple reasons. The first reason being that their website offers a good sense of the animation being produced in Iran today. Just check out the national competition page to see stills from a wide variety of contemporary Iranian shorts and commercial projects. The international competition offers more standard festival fare like Run Wrake’s Rabbit, Gaelle Denis’s City Paradise, Andreas Hykade’s The Runt, and Georges Schwizgebel’s Jeu, as well as features like Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle and Christiane Cegavske’s Blood Tea and Red String.

The most interesting feature on their website is that the festival is producing two hours of live video programming every day of the event and the programs are in English. If you miss the live broadcasts, the programs are also archived here. I watched a portion of the Day 2 (Morning) program and there’s a roundtable discussion with an Iranian animation director and a book author. The majority of their talk is focused around, what else, but Flash animation and its impact on the industry. Also cool to see was an interview with an independent Iranian filmmaker about his CG short in competition, A la Mode (the interview is about three-quarters into the program). From the constant barrage of skewed, inflammatory media coverage of Iran in the Western media, one would never even know that artistic activities like animation happen in Iran, much less that the country has a thriving and fast developing animation industry. This website provides a rare look into their industry and shows that no matter what part of the world you live in, sooner or later you’re going to be using Flash and Maya.

Tehran photo found on Flickr

Monday Morning Reading

Ryan Larkin

Just a few interesting bits I’ve run across recently:

Perhaps the best tribute I’ve read to Ryan Larkin is this piece by animation artist Joe Gilland at Animation World Magazine.

The inspiring Michel Gagné, who maintains an impressive balance between personal projects and mainstream studio work (Pixar, Nickelodeon), discusses what he’s been doing lately in this interview.

Filmmaker Joanna Quinn and her producer, Les Mills, talk about their award-winning film, Dreams and Desires.

A Red-Hot Trade Ad

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I just came across this trade ad from a 1945 issue of Box Office Magazine. Click on thumbnail image at left to see it in full size.

Now this is the way to sell a cartoon short – with Sex. Apparently MGM was hot to promote “Red” and had big plans for her. The ad reprints a trade article claiming Red Hot Riding Hood had 15,000 bookings – with more to come! The article wrongly credits the film’s direction to Fred Quimby (Avery’s name is no where in sight). Imogene Lynn, of Artie Shaw’s orchestra, is credited as Red’s vocalist in The Shooting Of Dan McGoo.

If you’re interested in seeing Dan McGoo, the short will be released on DVD as part of Tex Avery’s Droopy – The Complete Theatrical Collection on May 15th.

NY/LA Animation Events on March 2

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Here’s a heads up on two unusual animation screenings on Friday night, March 2nd—one in New York, the other in Los Angeles.

In New York, Marv Newland is appearing in person a retrospective of his amazing International Rocketship short films. The screening includes such classics as Lupo The Butcher, Anijam, Pink Komkommer and many more – projected in 35mm! This event will occur at the Two Boots Pioneer Theatre on East 3rd Street near Avenue A, at 7pm.

In L.A. Laemmle’s Sunset 5 in West Hollywood is screening the independent stop motion feature Blood Tea and Red String. Since filmmaker Christiane Cegavske lives in L.A. there’s an excellent chance she’ll be there in person. It plays at midnight on both Friday March 2nd and Saturday March 3rd.

Understanding The Mind Of a Development Exec

There’s an interview with Nickelodeon development exec Peter Gal in the new issue of Animation Magazine and I’d been debating about whether I should make a post about it here on Cartoon Brew. Well, John Kricfalusi saved me the trouble by doing a post about the Gal interview tonight. Unlike John, I don’t have any personal history with Gal. I also have nothing against him, but I was still quite annoyed by the piece. The classic line in the interview: When Gal is asked about the “Do’s and Don’ts of Pitching,” he offers this golden nugget, “Listen to my comments and feedback and really think about them.” I’m not sure if that’s one of the do’s or don’ts.

Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life

Charley Harper

Man, I can’t wait for this one! Ammo Books is getting ready to release what could become one of the must-have books of recent times: a humongous monograph on mid-century illustration legend Charley Harper. The project was initiated by fashion designer Todd Oldham who discovered Harper’s work in 2001 and has been collaborating with Harper since then to put together this book. What’s particularly exciting is that it looks like Ammo and Oldham are doing this right: the format is huge (17×12 inches) and if the cover is any indication, it’s going to be packed with visual goodness. As far as I know, Harper never worked in animation, but his work has inspired countless animation artists from 1950s-era designer Cliff Roberts to Samurai Jack background painter Scott Wills. Animator Nate Pacheco was even trying to translate Harper’s designer into Flash animation last year.

The 420-page hardcover book is scheduled for release in June, and retails for a steep $200 but is only $126 at Amazon. There are also four limited edition versions of the book (each $400) which come with a silkscreen print.

Here’s more about the book from the Ammo website:

Charley Harper is an American original. At 84, Charley continues to make art in his studio in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. He is beloved for his delightful, graphic and often humorous illustrations of nature, animals, insects and people alike. Charley likes to say, that when he paints a bird, he doesn’t count all the feathers in the wings – he just counts the wings. Minimal realism, he calls it, and his unique and precise style continues to resonate and inspire his admirers.

Charley Harper – An Illustrated Life, showcases his illustrations that appeared from 1950-1975 in the Ford Times magazines, as well as in books such as the beloved “The Giant Golden Book of Biologyâ€? in 1961, “Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Twoâ€? in 1961, and “ The Animal Kingdomâ€? in 1968, among many others. His well loved book “Birds and Wordsâ€?, first published in 1974, is considered a classic.

To see a preview of the type of art that will be in the book, check out this nice online collection of Harper’s work.

Charley Harper illustration

Three Trees Make a Forest

Three Trees Make A Forest

In fall 2005, two story artists at Pixar—Ronnie del Carmen and Enrico Casarosa—joined forces with Japanese illustrator Tadahiro Uesugi to put on an exhibit of paintings and drawings. They called it “Three Trees Make a Forest.” Now, Gingko Press has released a beautiful book collecting the artwork from that show.

Unlike many art shows that take place nowadays, there wasn’t a specific theme or high-concept driving this show. It was simply an opportunity for three artists who respect and admire each other’s work to exhibit together. The results are unpretentious and lovely. Uesugi, Casarosa and del Carmen each have their own distinct stylistic approaches, but their work also shares a lot in common, from their fearless use of digital tools over traditional media to the contemplative serenity that surfaces in all their art.

Another trait shared by the three is the brilliant simplicity and directness of their work. One of my favorite pieces in the book is del Carmen’s “Nina Yellow on Blue,” a gouache that appears modest in execution yet offers so much in terms of composition, color and design. There are similar pieces throughout the book by all three participants; pieces displaying an effortless confidence that belies the years of hard work and artistic practice required to achieve such results.

Three Trees Make a Forest is available on Amazon for $16.50. Also, the fine folks at Gingko Press have given us two copies of the book to give away to readers. We’ll post a trivia question this Monday at 1pm (Pacific time); check back then for your chance to win a copy.

Nina Yellow on Blue

Cool McCool

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Cool McCool was not a great cartoon show. In fact, it was downright poor. Created by Bob Kane (of Batman and Courageous Cat fame), and produced by King Features’ Al Brodax (Yellow Submarine), it originally aired on NBC Saturday mornings in 1966. It’s not bad enough to qualify for my Comic Con Worst Cartoons screenings, and it’s neither good enough to recommend. I could never warm up to the character – I think it’s either his phony mustasche or his lame Jack Benny personality, or perhaps his outdated appearance of what a spy should be. It just doesn’t quite work. This clip on You Tube will give you a taste. A boxed set of the complete series on DVD comes out on March 13th (they sent me an advance copy) and, sadly, I cannot recommend it.

I say “sadly” because the DVD is practically a tribute to my favorite New York City kid-show host Chuck McCann. Chuck (pictured in the center, above) did almost all the voices on the show – and he’s great. Bob McFadden (left, was McCool) and Carol Corbett (right, another New York kiddie show host) did all the other voices and the set features commentary, interviews, classic clips and bonus material all paying tribute to McCann (perhaps best known outside of New York as the voice of Sonny and Gramps in those Cocoa Puffs commercials – and his co-starring role on Far Out Space Nuts). If you grew up watching McCann in the 1960s you might want this DVD just to relive some cherished memories with an old friend. Otherwise, you can forget it.

The Angriest Animation Blogger

I’m often critical of the contemporary animation industry, but my criticisms are nothing compared to this new blog called Anibation Fantasy [site was taken down on 2/27/07]. The author of the blog has decided to remain anonymous, though he says he’s an Annie Award-winning artist who’s been in the industry for over twenty-five years. The writing on the blog certainly sounds like that of a grizzled industry veteran who’s seen it all. It’s hard to go wrong with a blog that has the tagline “I work in animation. I am in hell.” and offers post titles like “WHY THE ANIMATION INDUSTRY IS DOOMED,” “THE ANNIE AWARDS ARE A JOKE,” “HORRIBLE CARTOONS THAT EVERYBODY LOVES,” and “ANGRY WOMEN ARE RUINING ANIMATION.”

Japan Media Arts Festival

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The Japan Media Arts Festival has announced the winners of it’s 10th annual competition and have set up a very nice website offering video of the honored films. Check out the diversity of animation techniques — particularly Alexander Petrov’s moving painting, My Love; the fun designs of Bloomed Words; and whatever-the-technique of Lightning Doodle Project’s Pika Pika.

If you happen to be in Japan between February 24th anad March 3rd, check out the free exhibits, panels and screenings at the Tokyo Metropolitan Photography Museum.

Mickey Styled

Tom Oreb’s Mickey model sheet

Here’s Mickey Mouse as you’ve never seen him before. The 1955 Disney-produced Nash car commercial posted below is as modern as the mouse ever looked. The redesign came courtesy of Tom Oreb, whose original Mickey model sheet is above. Victor Haboush, who did background design on the commercial, told me what happened after the commercial aired:

There was a little kid that used to write Walt telling him to stay away from modern art because it’s Communisitc. So when the commercial came on, he got a letter from this kid, a little malcontent sitting somewhere, and he wrote, “I’m disappointed Walt. I never though you’d succumb. What happened to you?” and Walt went crazy. He stormed down there and outlawed us against using any of the Disney characters in the commercials. I remember at the time everbody was incensed that we couldn’t use them, and it basically spelled the end of the unit. [Companies] were coming for the celebrity; to be able to use Disney characters in their commercials.

(via Disney History)