Der Fuehrer’s Face

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David Lesjack, on his Toons At War blog, has begun series of posts about Disney’s 1942 Academy Award winning short Der Fuehrer’s Face.

David’s blog is normally filled with odds and ends, interesting bits of obscure information and minutiae on Disney’s World War II animation. These latest posts on Der Fuehrer’s Face contain all sorts of new things I’ve never seen before – the original sketch (possibly by Kimball) for the sheet music, posts on Oliver Wallace and Spike Jones, comic strips and merchandising. Fascinating stuff.

Chris Ware Animates

Chris Ware animation

Superstar cartoonist/designer Chris Ware (Acme Novelty Library) apparently animates too. Here’s a four-minute segment he did for Showtime’s new series This American Life, based on the public radio program of the same name which interviews ordinary Americans about events in their lives. The story in this short strikes me as being more interesting than the animation, which doesn’t particularly enhance the audio track in many ways. All the same, it’s interesting to see Ware doing animation. It’d be even more interesting if he collaborated with an animator who understood his work and wanted to build on his graphic style in animation.

(Thanks, Adam Koford)

John Hubley’s Flat Hatting

John Hubley's Flat Hatting

We’ve debuted a new film on CartoonBrewFilms. It’s John Hubley’s Flat Hatting, a rare 1946 US Navy training film produced at UPA (at the time, still called United Film Productions). I’ve watched and studied this film countless times and I never get tired of it. There is so much graphic daring in the artwork of this film, and it is a terrific example of how beautiful animation can be created with a limited budget and small crew.

My introduction to the film came eight or nine years ago while I was working at Spumco. I was watching Tex Avery’s Symphony in Slang when John K happened to walk into the room. He said, “If you like that, then check out this film,” and pulled out a copy of Flat Hatting from his personal collection. Both of us assumed the films had the same designer since the guy in Symphony in Slang (designed by Tom Oreb) looks somewhat similar to the lead character in Flat Hatting. Of course, I later found out that Flat Hatting was the genius of John Hubley. And now, you can find out too just how much of a genius Hubley was by picking up a copy of Flat Hatting on BrewFilms.

Walter Tetley

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Walter Tetley is a name you may not know, but you’ve definitely heard his voice.

He’s best known for his role as Sherman in Jay Ward’s Mr. Peabody (the Peabody’s Improbable History segments of Rocky & Bullwinkle), and he also did voice over for Walter Lantz (as Andy Panda and Reddy Kilowatt) and Warner Bros.

New York’s radio station WFMU posted a nice tribute to Tetley (1915-1975) on their blog yesterday. Check it out to learn more about the man behind the quintessential “kid voice”.

Disney Dog Food

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Okay, I promise to stop posting silly Disney food products–as soon as they stop making them.

Brew reader Michael Eilerman snapped this pic of Old Yeller Dog Food at his local Kroger’s supermarket last week. Memo to Disney: Old Yeller had rabies! Tommy Kirk has to shoot him at the end of the flick. It’s a very disturbing film. I’m not feeding my dog any of this stuff!

What’s next? That Darn Cat-food?

Earlier: Mickey Meat Burgers, Disney Tomato stickers, Mickey Mouse Liver Paste, and Popeye Paté.

New Peter Pan DVD Ruined?

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I haven’t seen the new Peter Pan 2-Disc Platinum Edition, but according to the prolific UK animation director Oscar Grillo, the dvd is a mess. Many animation enthusiasts have complained about Disney’s film “restorations” in the past, and knowing Grillo’s keen eye, it’s easy to believe this is as bad as he says. I’d be curious to hear more comments from other Brew readers who have watched this new dvd release, particularly if you’re familiar with earlier theatrical releases and home video versions. Here are Oscar’s thoughts:

Yesterday I saw a copy of the newly released “Peter Pan Special Edition” and I ALMOST HAD A HEART ATTACK!!! Granted, Peter Pan is no Pinocchio, but I like it very much. The transfer, digital enhancing, sound and image ARE ALL HORRIBLE!! They’ve “strengthened” all the lines and darkened the backgrounds and altered the colours to a degree that now Peter Pan looks like one of those classic “Porky Pigs” rotoscoped in Korea in the Seventies using Rapidographs. I must have seen Peter Pan more than three hundred times and most of them in the cinema. I know the film very well. This version truly shocked me. I won’t talk much, I suggest people compare this version with any of the previously released video or DVD editions and you’ll see for yourself what I mean and complain to those responsible. When a madman damages the “Night Watch” by Rembrandt (it actually happened), he ends up in a psychiatric hospital; when a corporation ruins an animation classic, they sell it as a “special edition.”

UPDATE: Here’s a gallery of still comparisons from various home video release of Peter Pan. (Thanks, Steve)

New Animation Magazines

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Two new animation magazines appeared in my mailbox last week. Both are very well done, though aimed at completely different audiences.

CARTOONS (Vol. 2, Issue 2, Winter 2006), the John Libbey publication for ASIFA, edited by Chris Robinson, is the best edition yet. This 52-page color, glossy magazine is distributed free to all ASIFA members internationally. I’m not even sure you can buy this anywhere. Another great reason to join Asifa (check here for your local branch).

This issue contains many good articles – among them, Karl Cohen on how ASIFA helped win the Cold War; Martin Goodman on the making of Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue, and Chris Panzner on kids network demographics. But the standout is John Canemaker’s 13-page profile (part 1) of Disney animator-turned-influential Golden Book illustrator John Parr Miller. Per Canemaker standards, the piece is filled with meticulous research, great writing and rare illustrations. This is a must-have.

CEREAL:GEEK is another matter entirely. This isn’t for everyone. This is a lavish 100-page magazine, printed in full color on heavy gloss stock, devoted to 1980s TV animation. Publisher James Eatock understands that the animation of the era was “junk food” (hence the “cereal” of the title), but has a passion (hence the “geek”) for the cartoons he grew up with, and a sense of humor about it. He believes the 80s were a watershed decade where the young TV animators found their voice. I personally have no love for He-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Inspector Gadget, but if you do, then this is for you. There are some in-depth articles, an interview with Larry Ditillo (Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors) and lots of insight into The Transformers, She-Ra and 80s anime. If this excites you, get it. You won’t be disappointed.

“Cool Kitty” Vid Designed by Megan Brain

Class of 3000 music video

If Disney’s early-60s paper cutout short A Symposium on Popular Songs had included black people, they might have looked something like this music video that Megan Brain (mentioned here previously) recently designed for Cartoon Network’s Class of 3000 series. Joe Horne boarded and Chris Staples animated the characters in After Effects. Check it out below.

Brew Review: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie Film

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I saw this film at a free screening today so you don’t have to. And I urge you not to.

AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE (COLON): MOVIE FILM FOR THEATRES is, without question, the worst animated film of the year. It may be the worst film (of any type) I’ve ever seen. A text book example of an unfunny comedy, with poor production values; no craft, no art, no laughs, period. I’ve only seen one episode of the TV series, so I’m clearly not the intended audience for this. But who is? High School drop-outs on pot? I suspect there may be 7 year old out there who may think this is the funniest film they’ve ever seen. If so, I’d be worried about that 7-year-old.

For those unfamiliar with the show, there’s really no premise. It’s about the relationship between three fast-food icons, Master Shake (an idiot milkshake cup), Frylock (a large side of french fries) and Meatwad (a stupid meatball). There is a whole load of unfunny side characters. In an effort to cram as much “funny” into the proceedings, every voice is “funny”, every character name is “funny”, every title card is “funny”, every action is “funny”. All this adds up to incredibly “un-funny”. For those who have been waiting for it, the origin of the characters is explained – and Space Ghost makes an unfortunate cameo (and is killed off quickly).

Needless to say, there’s a fart joke every ten minutes.

Is there anything I liked? The first two minutes, a spoof of the corny “Let’s All Go To The Lobby” trailers (again?) was fun, but after this pre-title skit it’s all downhill. I also like the elaboratly painted one sheet poster art (above), but that has nothing to do (visually or conceptually) with the film itself.

I used to imagine the process of making animated films was fun. This one looks like it was a chore for its creators – it certainly was to sit through. I haven’t squirmed so much in a movie theatre since the time I saw a 1972 Woody Woodpecker as a teenager at the RKO Keith’s in Flushing, New York.

Don’t see it. If you do, demand a refund. Adult Swim owes me 79 minutes of my life.

Cartoon Network: If you really want to hurt the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, you’ll submit this film for consideration, for Best Animated Feature. Now that might actually be funny.

Homage or Rip-off? (II)

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First, London based Matt Clark and Matt Everitt created this short, using dialogue from a Ricky Gervais Xfm radio show. This is one of a series of web shorts, which you can view here.

A short time later, a series of Irish Lotto ads began appearing on television. Brown Bag Animation in Dublin produced these.

Clark and Everitt believe they were ripped off. They’ve confronted Brown Bag about it. Everitt comments about it here and other blogs have written about it as well.

Annecy 2007 Selections

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The official competition selections have been announced for the world’s longest-running animation festival, the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, which takes place this year from June 11-16.

224 films were selected from 1826 entries. The breakdown is:
* 51 short films in competition,
* 51 short films in panorama,
* 51 graduation films,
* 71 TV and commissioned films (34 TV series, 9 TV specials, 20 commercials, 6 music videos and 2 educational films)

If you have the opportunity to attend this festival, don’t miss the chance. It’s an experience you won’t forget.

Buck

Buck

Buck is an incredible design studio that uses animation, anime, and visual effects to create commercials, I.D.’s, and short films for a variety of clients.

They’ve recently completed two jobs for Toyota’s viral Scion ad campaign, Want2BSquare, that are well worth watching: the CG/traditional Tower of Grantville and the stop motion Three Years. Advertising money well spent.

Explore Buck’s website to see their absolutely amazing sample reels.

Announcing CartoonBrewFilms

Cartoon Brew Films

We are happy and excited to announce the launch of CartoonBrewFilms.com, a new site that makes the world’s finest animated shorts available for convenient download to your iPod and personal computer. Our three launch films are Teddy Newton and Bert Klein’s Boys Night Out, Frank Tashlin’s The Lady Said No and Grantray-Lawrence’s The Hope That Jack Built. Films, both classic and contemporary, will be added to the library every week.

Here’s a few brief thoughts from BrewFilms founders—Jerry Beck and Amid Amidi—which should offer a bit more insight into why we’re starting this company, and also explain what sets us apart from all the other animation download sites popping up nowadays.

Jerry Beck

I remember the first time I wanted to collect animated films, back in the 1970s, while I was still in high school. There was no Internet, no home video, no 24-hour cartoon cable channels. I had to find 16mm film prints, which cost a fortune and were technically illegal to own. Because I had such a hard time doing my cartoon research back then, I made it one of my goals in life to find ways to spread information about cartoons and to make available the hard-to-find films themselves.

To that end I created books like Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide and The Fifty Greatest Cartoons. I worked in film distribution, releasing independent and international shorts through the Tournee of Animation, and putting anime, like Akira, into movie theaters and onto home video. Websites like Cartoon Research and Cartoon Brew have been another avenue in my continuing mission to connect animated content with like-minded individuals. Today, we are starting a new venture, but the objective remains the same.

This blog is read by a diverse collection of individuals, from students to cartoon aficionados, from directors and animators at the largest animation studios to commercial directors and independent filmmakers. What binds us all is our passion for the art form, and our desire to discover new animated films of all stripes and colors. CartoonBrewFilms aims to make available the most interesting, highest quality and rarest pieces of animated filmmaking, to offer hand-picked animation not found anywhere else. These are films that are not readily available; they are films that deserve to be seen, enjoyed, studied, discussed.

Not everybody can attend animation festivals like Ottawa, Annecy, Zagreb or Hiroshima, but with BrewFilms, your personal and portable animation festival is just one mouse click away. More importantly, we’re determined to do this in a way that is fair and financially equitable to the animators who are producing these shorts. Filmmakers contributing to our site will be compensated for their films; older films are being licensed from their respective owners. Every purchase you make sends a clear and direct message to filmmakers that you appreciate their hard work and want to see more animated shorts.

We’ve come a long way since I first collecting animated shorts in the 1970s, but I can say with confidence that the best is yet to come.

Amid Amidi

If I had to single out one moment during the development of CartoonBrewFilms where I became confident that we were on the right track, it would be an evening in May about ten months ago. Jerry and I were meeting with our distinguished attorney Ken. The purpose of the meeting was to hammer out the terms of the contract which filmmakers would have to sign so we could sell their work. Seemingly, every time Ken would make a suggestion (the type of suggestions that all good lawyers are supposed to make), Jerry or I would object saying that that wouldn’t be the fairest deal for the filmmaker. In the cutthroat world of business, some might say our desire to create a fair deal for all parties is naive, that it dooms us to failure. That’s not how we look at it though.

We think it’s smart business to create relationships with filmmakers that benefit them financially as much as they do us. There’s enough exploitation of animation artists as it already is; we’re setting out to create something wholly different, a company that supports, promotes and respects filmmakers. Video has barely arrived on the Internet, and like clockwork, the opportunists have already begun exploiting artists through myriad ways: paying filmmakers pennies through ad-based revenue sharing schemes, running “contests” to cheaply acquire new content, and asking you to submit your work for free because it’s “user-generated content.” CartoonBrewFilms doesn’t play those type of games. We aim to become the alternative that everybody has always wanted and nobody has had the guts to create.

This blog, Cartoon Brew, has been a consistent voice in the animation community since 2004; Jerry and I have been in the industry far longer than that. We’re in this for the long haul and we’re committed to making CartoonBrewFilms work. The idea for CartoonBrewFilms will surely continue to evolve over the coming months and years, but what will not change is our commitment to treating filmmakers fairly and with respect. Together—filmmakers, animation lovers and BrewFilms—let’s build a new type of animation company that we can all be proud of.

Animators Up for Pulitzer Prize

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The journalism trade magazine, Editor and Publisher is reporting that the three cartoonists reported to be Pulitzer Award finalists all do animation:

What do Nick Anderson, Walt Handelsman, and Mike Thompson (his latest cartoon above) have in common?

They are the three names leaked to E&P’s Joe Strupp as likely finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. And, as E&P has reported on several occasions, all three are part of a growing group of print cartoonists who also do online political animations.

“The profession is abuzz with this,” one cartoonist told E&P today. This cartoonist (not Anderson, Handelsman, or Thompson) added that he heard all three possible finalists submitted animations with their print Pulitzer portfolios.

This is the first year that video, audio, and other new online entries havebeen accepted by the Pulitzers. (Online text and online still images were previously accepted.)

Anderson, a 2005 Pulitzer winner, is with the Houston Chronicle and the Washington Post Writers Group. Handelsman, a 1997 Pulitzer winner, is with Newsday of Melville, N.Y., and Tribune Media Services. And Thompson, a 2006 Pulitzer finalist, is with the Detroit Free Press and Copley News Service.

(Thanks, Lou Spirito)

Freehead Benefit Concert

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Cartoonist extraordinaire Jim Smith (Ren & Stimpy, Samurai Jack, The Ripping Friends) will be performing a “farewell concert” with the band Freehead on Saturday, March 31, from 4pm until whenever at Safari Sam’s (5214 W. Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA). The concert is for a good cause: to raise money for Freehead band member Richie Hass who is currently fighting multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that affects plasma cells. Lots of other bands are also performing that evening, and Jim Smith notes on his blog that he will “draw and sign anything that holds still long enough.”

Pinocchio Scene by Scene

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There is an important Disney history triple-play going on at three of our favorite blogs.

Michael Sporn got the ball rolling last year by posting the first 23 pages of the animator drafts for Pinocchio (1940). These are the sequence by sequence breakdowns of who animated each shot, scene by scene. Start here to read the earliest scenes.

Hans Perk at A Film L.A. picked up the ball and continued this project by posting the rest of the draft, (backtrack from here), posting several new pages each day.

Mark Mayerson is taking this information and visualizing it into “mosaics”: illustrating each shot with a frame grab, identifying the animators, and offering insightful commentary for each sequence. (Mayerson has previously done this, based on Perk’s collection of drafts, for several shorts including Mother Goose Goes Hollywood, Symphony Hour and Plutopia).

Now, Michael Sporn has now begun posting the original storyboards for the film.

This is a treasure trove of information for one of the undeniable classics of animation. It’s also a great example of what the Internet can do—bringing together information from three sources, in different parts of the world, that now allow us to study the individual work of the artists who brought this masterpiece to life.

Alone, Stinking & Unafraid: Screen Test Dummies

In this new edition of Alone, Stinking & Unafraid, Chris Robinson, the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival, discusses the poor state of feature film submissions that he receives at the festival.

Illustration by Theo Ushev
illustration by Theodore Ushev

Fuck people, ya gotta stop speculating from dustbunnies. Wanna know why THIS and THAT wasn’t in Feature competition at Ottawa in 2006? Cause they weren’t submitted tis why. Ya just had to ask rather than beeeeee-atch about what you know nothing about. We chase stuff we like to a degree, but we don’t beg. You dont want to send your film, I ain’t gonna cry. Course that makes me wonder WHY we’re doing a feature category to being with. We started it cause it was apparently what the masses wanted (course i should know by now that the masses dont know their ass from an elf)…we started it cause apparently everyone was making features now. So okay, we’re friendly, we’re here for ya.. but what happens? Producers don’t bother with animation festivals. Suddenly Annecy and Ottawa aren’t good enuff for their green purposes. They want Toronto, Berlin, Venice. Can understand to a degree, but seems these folks forget that animation festivals were the ones who gave em their place to begin with. They all started with shorts, shorts that relied on festivals to find an audience. But now they’re too good, not just for animation festivals, but animation in general.

Does it bother me… slightly…but in truth I also don’t wanna waste precious festival space for films that already have an audience. That’s not really the point of festivals (in case u furgot). Result? We get what we get and have to deal with it. Often that means a lot of godawful crap like that Romeo Seal Kiss crap or straight to dvd features. Originally we aimed to have 5 features. Don’t think we ever achieved that. Usually hard enough to find 3. Last year I was glad to show Christies and Book of the Dead and sure I did think of the masses when showing Kids Next Door (although, in tv land context, it ain’t bad), but in truth, none of the three entries stroked me to pleasureville. That’s nothing too new. outside of maybe 10-15 short films, I’m generally selecting stuff that don’t clickety clack my track. Problem is though that we’re taking up a total of 6 programming spots (we show all films twice) for 3 non-clacking films. Space is better used showing another 30-40 short films that, hey, likely don’t move me towards stars, but warrant being shown AND will undoubtedly help out a lot of neglected short film animators. And this year, that’s what we will do if the crop of feature submissions continue to smell like your mom after a 2 week bender with kick ass post-xmas elves. Besides, why the need to make a feature? Most of you can’t even conceive for a few minutes, so why the fug do u wanna prattle bout air for 10 x that? It’s not a race kids and if you think it is, then you belong in the F1. I mean, you’re just racing around in circles, going nowhere anyway. At least car crashes are cool.

Chris Robinson is the artistic director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival and a noted author/critic/historian whose books include Between Genius and Utter Illiteracy: A Story of Estonian Animation, Ottawa Senators: Great Stories from the NHL’s First Dynasty, Unsung Heroes of Animation, and Great Left Wingers and Stole This From a Hockey Card: A Philosophy of Hockey, Doug Harvey, Identity & Booze. He lives in Ottawa with his wife, Kelly, and sons Jarvis and Harrison.

Halas & Batchelor Cartoons

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Though mentioned on the Brew back in May, I just stumbled upon a copy of Halas & Batchelor Cartoons today, at my local Barnes and Noble.

halasbook.jpgFirst off, this book is a must-have. John Halas himself was one of the world’s great animators and producers. He was also a pioneering cartoon historian and was one of the founders of ASIFA and the Annecy Animation Festival. Joy Batchelor was an amazing artist, designer and business woman. Together they created Britain’s largest animation studio creating hundreds of films, from experimental avant-garde works to commercials, full length feature films (Animal Farm) and TV series (Do-Do the Kid from Outer Space, among others). 3-D, stop motion, CG and practically every other technique available was tried in their fifty year career together.

The book itself, compiled by daughter Vivien Halas and historian Paul Wells, covers their entire history thoroughly–the personal side and the professional–with numerous illustrations and photographs and a bonus DVD featuring seven of their best short films. The art and images are especially well chosen and a delight to look at. This book covers an important piece of animation history and two pioneers who should never be forgotten. Amazon.com has it in stock at discount. Buy it.

Punk Mickey Vinyls

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We’ve highlighted this new trend before. The high-end, urban fashion vinyl dolls not aimed at the kids or the Disneyland family crowd. From the same Japanese figure maker (Medi Com Toy Corp) who produced the vintage Mickey and Oswald vinyls (mentioned here), here’s an interesting looking pirate Mickey Mouse figurine (above right), a follow up to the companys previous figure, from last summer, where Mickey was molded in homage to the punk band, The Clash.

We’ve come along way since the days of Charlotte Clark.

(Thanks, Mika Tolvanen)

The Animation Show on iTunes

Animation Show on iTunes

Last week our friends at The Animation Show started selling independent animated shorts on Apple’s iTunes. The films from their touring festival are packaged together into short episodes and there’s six episodes currently available. One episode features a couple of personal favorites from the past few years, Ward 13 and Overtime, another is a Bill Plympton compilation with his films Guard Dog and Eat plus a special making-of-Guard Dog, and another episode has Tomek Baginski’s CG shorts Cathedral and Fallen Art. All are priced at $1.99. They can be found in the TV Shows>Comedy section of iTunes.