Carl Barks estate auction

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Auctioneers Bonhams & Butterfields will hold an Entertainment Memorabilia and Animation Art sale on June 4th 2007 in Los Angeles, featuring property from the Estate of Carl Barks. The auction will include rare original animation drawings, working storyboards and watercolors from his personal archive. From the press release:

From the early 1940s until the late 1960s, Carl Barks illustrated Walt Disney’s comics and stories and drew the beloved “Donald Duck” character as well as “Huey, Duey and Louie” (adding his own creation “Uncle Scrooge” in 1948). Having never signed his name to a single Donald Duck story, Barks received no biographical notes in any of the Disney comic books (unlike artists of comic book publishers of the 1950s). Barks toiled in privacy for more than 25 years before fans of comics and animation sought him out.

Featured highlights from the Estate of Carl Barks include: a large collection of preliminary drawings for many of his more famous Walt Disney Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge paintings (offered individually, estimates from $600 to $2,000); an unfinished painting of a Saloon Woman in a White Dress (est. $5/8,000); a selection of early paintings from Barks’ private studio including landscapes and historical portraits; a selection of framed and signed gold plate artist’s proofs; unpublished circa 1940s pencil cartoons; early finished watercolors; and a collection of five caricature cartoon drawings done by colleagues of Carl Barks while he was working at the Disney Studios.

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The auction also includes other Hollywood memorabilia, Disneyana and animation art. Los Angeles public preview events are scheduled for June 1-3. Pick up the catalog on the website.

New Animation Blogs

A couple new blogs which I’ll be visiting frequently:

Will Finn

Director/animator/writer Will Finn has started a personal blog. In his introductory post, Will says he hopes to “post thoughts, anecdotes, original sketches and share art and other influences that inspired me to seek a career as a cartoonist in the first place.” So far his blog has convinced me that I really need to see the TV play The Comedian starring Mickey Rooney.

(Thanks to Blackwing Diaries for the tip)

The Cat Piano

And here’s the production blog for The Cat Piano, an upcoming hand-drawn animated short blending beat poetry, film noir flavor, bold production design and lots and lots of cats. The film is being directed by Eddie White and Ari Gibson out of one of Australia’s more promising young animation studios, The People’s Republic Of Animation. Stay tuned to CartoonBrewFilms where another of the PRA’s shorts, Carnivore Reflux (2006), directed by Eddie White and James Calvert, will debut shortly.

Looney Tunes in Allentown

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Opening on Sunday, June 24, 2007, The Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons will fill the Allentown Art Museum’s Kress and Rodale galleries through September 16, 2007. This exhibit is an expanded version of the 1985 Museum of Modern Art retrospective, curated by Steve Schneider (author, That’s All Folks, The Art Of Warner Bros. Animation), consisting of over 150 drawings, paintings, cels, and animated films of Warner’s classic cartoons from the 1930s through 1960.

If you are anywhere near the New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia area this summer, you gotta go. The exhibit’s opening will be celebrated with a public preview party on Saturday, June 23, 2007, from 6 to 8 PM. For more info, go to the museum website.

Chronicle Blogging

Rooty Toot Toot
Development piece by John Hubley from UPA’s Rooty Toot (1952).
From the collection of Mike Glad.

The folks at Chronicle Books, publisher of the finest pop culture and design books, including books by both Brewmasters as well as all of the “art of” Pixar books, have launched a new blog. All the book editors are participating and they’re already posting some meaty entries. Alan Rapp, who edits art, photography and design books, and is the person who should be thanked for making Cartoon Modern a reality, has just posted his first entry. He’s chosen to write about one of my favorite topics: me. Ok, ok, actually the topic of the post is mostly about you: readers of Cartoon Brew and Cartoon Modern. Remember in December 2005 when we asked for your suggestions on the cover design of Cartoon Modern. Alan remembers that. He writes about the lingering lessons of that democratic experiment in book publishing:

The online buzz around the making of [Cartoon Modern] was unique in my experience, and attested to the convergence of the fusty old industry that is illustrated book publishing (read: slow) and the hypercatchy medium of blogs (fast). When Amid conducted an inclusive, non-binding poll of his readers to vote on the various jacket designs that had been proffered so far, the results were eye-opening.

What we had pragmatically hoped for—clear consensus—was not achieved. Instead, the big ideas behind the internet came to life: divergent, informed, impassioned opinions that represented the wide spectrum of the audience for this book. No cover direction was clearly favored, but the community around the book was invested in the process, pointing to potential new models of how we announce and make books.

So congratulations to Amid and the readers of Cartoon Modern and cartoonbrew. You all helped make this book a success and taught a small but significant to an “old media� company and editor.

Read his full post on the Chronicle blog.

A couple other quick notes about Chronicle which may be of interest:

* To celebrate their 40th anniversary, Chronicle will be giving one reader 40 free books every month this year. Enter the contest on this page.

* Hot news: Chronicle is turning one of my favorite blogs into a book. Get ready for Geoff Manaugh’s The BldgBlog Book. If you’re a fan of architecture, urban planning and futuristic landscapes, this promises to be an amazing book. The only downside: it won’t be out until 2009.

Viacom sells Famous Music

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Well, there goes Popeye the Sailor Man, It’s A Hap-Hap Happy Day and Casper The Friendly Ghost. Not the characters (they were sold off years ago), but the theme songs and music from 80 years of Paramount Pictures. Viacom announced today the sale of Famous Music to Sony/ATV.

“This is a milestone event for Sony/ATV Music Publishing,” said Michael Jackson (yes, that Michael Jackson. He co owns Sony/ATV). In addition to all the Fleischer and Famous Studios cartoon themes (which include Superman, Little Audrey and Herman and Katnip’s Skiddle Diddle Dee) the Famous Music catalogue includes 125,000 songs, including themes from The Brady Bunch and Star Trek, songs from Broadway shows such as A Chorus Line and The Producers, and hundreds of pop tunes and Academy Award winning soundtracks.

The Famous brand name dates back 1912 when Paramount Pictures founder Adolf Zukor created Famous Players. In 1942 when the studio removed the Fleischer brothers and established their own animation studio, they named it Famous Studios, a sister company to Famous Music. All that tradition comes to an end today.

Up-and-Coming: Miwa Matreyek & David O’Reilly

Digitopia by Miwa Matreyek

Wanted to put the spotlight this morning on two young animation filmmakers whose work has caught my attention and who I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from in the future.

Irene Kotlarz, the director of the upcoming Platform Animation Festival introduced me to the work of Miwa Matreyek, a recent grad out of the CalArts Experimental Animation program whose films combine CG, illustration, live-action and live performance. There’s the sense of a well-formed artistic voice throughout her films, which is uncommon among younger filmmakers. Her work can be viewed at SemiHemisphere.com. Be sure to check out the “Digitopia” video.

Moving on, a few months back I posted a link to a rather experimental bit of CG called RGBXYZ. At the time, I didn’t know who had produced the shorts. It turns out that the filmmaker is David O’Reilly from Ireland. More of his work can be seen at DavidOReilly.com. It’s always exciting to see somebody taking CG into a more stylized direction, especially when they’re as fearlessly experimental as OReilly has shown himself to be. He has a digital short called WOFL which has some fascinating compositional ideas and camera moves. I was also surprised to find out that he did the animation for Shynola’s Beck music video “E-Pro,” which is also posted on his site.

WOFL by David OReilly

Pingwings Rediscovered

Pingwings

Tony Mines of Spite Your Face Productions sent me a note about an early-1960s British animated series, The Pingwings, which had been considered lost for the last forty years. The prints were recently found again and a small label in the UK has released the entire series onto dvd. I asked Tony if he could shed a bit more light on this stop-mo series. Here’s what he says:

Pingwings is, so far as I can gather, the very first production by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin’s Small Films. The pair would go on to create pre-school classics like The Clangers, Bagpuss and Noggin the Nog that generations of British children and parents have grown up with. I mention it because while the latter are household names over here, Pingwings is almost completely unknown. Which is criminal, because it’s amazing.

Demonstrating a gleeful disregard for the shortcomings of filming stop-motion out of doors, the show concerns the adventures of a family of wooly penguins that live in a farmyard. Even the most famous of Small Films work is notoriously low-tech, but here you can see how they started out, working literally out of a barn.

Shown only once in the UK, the series was thought lost until recently, and has now been released on DVD, under a small label here. You don’t even seem to be able to get it on Amazon. The DVD contains all three series of 6×5(ish) minutes episodes.

One of the greatest thing about it is to watch how everyone involved develops over the three series. Not only do the Pingwings themselves grow a little older as the show progresses, but story elements and new characters come into play that you can see were developed and reused in later series, notably Bagpuss and The Clangers. In that sense, it forms the blue print for a whole generation of programming.

Here’s a clip from the first episode:

The Great UPA Debate

Madcap Magoo

It all started on John Kricfalusi’s blog in a series of posts where he analyzes UPA’s modern graphics, comparing them to traditional character animation as practiced by Warner Bros., Walter Lantz and Terrytoons.

Michael Sporn then responded on his blog, igniting a series of comments that are, in no particular order, thought-provoking, frustrating, insightful and maddening. Whatever your opinion, it’s a fun read.

Fleischer/Famous lettering

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One of my guilty pleasures, when watching Paramount cartoons from the mid-1930s through the late 1940s, is admiring the incredible “Fleischer lettering” in the main titles (and occasionally in the body of the cartoon itself). I’ve never been able to identify the mystery studio calligrapher, but this person’s unique work is as much a part of the studio’s style as the animation, voices and music. This lettering style first shows up right before the Fleischer studio moves to Miami and is prevalent throughout the 1940s Famous Studios period (you can view some of this work on my Paramount Original Titles page). This individual also did the Famous Studios logo, Fleischer/Famous letterheads and in-house publications.

Graphic designer Mark Simonson has just created two new fonts based on “Fleischer lettering” and they look terrific. Coincidentally, Mark has also been working on a font resembling to my second favorite classic movie lettering: Columbia Pictures titles (most recognizable from Three Stooges shorts, Sam Katzman serials and just about everything Columbia released from the late thirties through the mid 1950s). But I digress. I’ll be ordering his Fleischer styled Snicker and Kinescope later this week.

Harry-Go-Round

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Good news! Harry McCracken’s blog is back.

McCracken, former editor of Animato, current editor of PC World and webmaster of Scrappyland, has promised to step up the pace of his blogging at Harry-Go-Round, which he has just redesigned.

Also check out his many fun-filled archived articles and galleries like Those Wonderful, Memorable, Never-to-be-Forgotten Animation Restaurants of Yesteryear, his virtual museum of 8mm Cartoon Home Movie Boxes, and a curious section of Mystery Art.

The Beagles

In all my years of watching and collecting animated cartoons, only a scant few of the shows I grew up with have eluded my review in recent years. One of those, The Beagles, has just surfaced this week on You Tube. It’s a clip of the opening — a kinescope, in black & white — but it’s all we got.

The show was Total Television’s (Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo) final production and it aired two seasons (26 episodes) on CBS during 1966-68 (Saturday afternoons at 12:30pm). That’s Sandy Becker doing a Dean Martin impersonation for Stringer, and Allen Swift as Scotty their agent. Toontracker reports the possibilty that all the master elements are lost due to being thrown away. The show was never syndicated, and hasn’t been seen since 1968. Even though the characters are not a parody of The Beatles (as reported in numerous cartoon histories), I suspect King Features (who had the cartoon rights to The Beatles) or the Apple Corps. themselves may have had a hand in this series mysterious disappearence.

Whatever happened, thanks to Freenbean, some of my brain cells can now rest easy with the Beagles garage band theme song now restored in my memory bank.

Hollywood’s Men of Action

1935 Everyweek article
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Shane Glines of the indispensable Cartoon Retro has sent over a fascinating 1935 article, titled “Hollywood’s Men of Action,” from Everyweek Magazine, a Sunday newspaper supplement. The Depression-era piece plays up the high salaries possible by working in animation.

There’s some interesting things about the article. For one, it has the only photo I’ve ever seen of Lantz animator LaVerne Harding. (I think the male animator at top is Norm Ferguson; does anybody know for sure.) Also curious, it mentions Flintstones designer Ed Benedict as one of the top Lantz animators. This was still relatively early in his career so it’s interesting that he got top billing over more experienced Lantz animators like Bill Nolan.

Of particular note is this section where Walt Disney explains why women don’t make good animators:

Ordinarily Disney keeps from 30 to 40 men in his apprentice room. The apprenticeship lasts from six months to a year.

As a rule this class is composed entirely of young men. Seldom is a girl found among them. For some inexplainable reason, women don’t make good animators. At the present time there is only one in the entire business—Verne Harding who works on Oswald at Universal.

“I don’t know why girls should be poor animators but they are,” Disney declares. “Very frequently they are better artists than men but for some reason they lack the knack of getting smooth action into their drawings.”

This quote from Walt is also amusing:

“I’ve often been told how lucky I am not to have any stars to go temperamental on me,” Disney remarks. “It’s true I never have any trouble with Mickey, the three pigs or any of my characters. But don’t ever think animators can’t be temperamental. Say, they can be just as bad as any star you ever saw.

“Occasionally one will have an off day on which he can’t draw anything worth while. Then he has to be pampered and pulled out of his slump with all the diplomacy that would be used on a star.”

CONTEST: The Ancient Book of Myth and War

Ancient Book of Myth and War

CONTEST OVER! I thought it was a fairly difficult question but obviously not for Brew readers. Before I could even get to my computer, over a dozen readers had responded correctly. The first two correct answers, and thus the winners, are Jennifer Klein and Joe Apel.

Of course, everybody can be a winner if they pick up a copy of The Ancient Book of Myth and War. Support some great artists and buy your copy today!

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We’ve got a good one today. We’re giving away TWO signed copies of the handsome new art book The Ancient Book of Myth and War created by four of Pixar’s most talented: Don Shank, Scott Morse, Lou Romano and Nate Wragg. All four artists will be signing each copy.

Winners will be the first two people to correctly post a response in the COMMENTS section to the following question:

Two of the book’s artists, Scott Morse and Lou Romano, have the distinction of receiving art training from which famous Warner Bros. layout artist/background designer, and what are the contemporary artists trained by this Golden Age legend collectively known as?

(Note: Folks who have already won something from Cartoon Brew in the past year or two are ineligible for this contest.)

The CIA and the Filming of Animal Farm

Orwell Subverted

When the CIA isn’t busy destabilizing other countries, they apparently like to help animation studios create cartoons. At least that’s the premise of an interesting new animation book I just found out about from FPS Magazine. The book, published by Pennsylvania State University Press, is Orwell Subverted: The CIA and the Filming of Animal Farm by Daniel J. Leab. It takes an in-depth look at the making of Halas & Batchelor’s Animal Farm, the first feature-length British animated film, and the CIA’s influence (and interference) during the production of that film. From the book’s description:

Recently, a number of works have been written–notably, those by Frances Stoner Saunders and Tony Shaw–that make reference to the underlying governmental control surrounding Animal Farm. Yet there is still much speculation and confusion as to the depth of the CIA’s interference. Leab continues where these authors left off, exploring the CIA’s dominant hand through extensive research and by giving fascinating details of the agency’s overt and subtle influences on the making of the film.

Leab’s thorough investigating makes use of sources that have been excluded in past accounts, such as CIA papers retrieved through the Freedom of Information Act and material from the Orwell Archive. He also incorporates the testimonials of animators John Halas and Joy Batchelor and, most significantly, the previously unexplored archive documents of Animal Farm producer Louis de Rochemont.

The book has a hefty $55 price tag, but FPS says that there’s a 20% discount if you call 1-800-326-9180 and mention the code OSRC. I should also point out that, though the topic sounds fascinating, it’s hard to recommend this title without having seen it. The author’s clumsy use of the word “filming” in the title immediately raises a question in my mind about how accurate his technical understanding of the animation process is. To be fair though, the book seems to focus more on the political intrigue surrounding the film’s development than the actual production process.

Where Are the UPA Shorts?

UPA

If there’s one question I’ve received more frequently than any other since the release of Cartoon Modern, it’s “Where can I see the UPA films?” There’s a lot of Golden Age animation being released onto dvd this year (Droopy, Popeye, Lantz cartoons, Tom and Jerry, etc.) but the catalog of classic cartoons produced by United Productions of America (UPA) during the 1950s remains completely off the radar. The studio produced just over ninety shorts and these films have not enjoyed a major release since a series of VHS tapes released the late-’80s.

It’s depressing that the only suggestion I can offer to folks looking for these films is to search for twenty-year-old out of print VHS tapes. I think it’s about time that Columbia pulled together a decent box set of all of the studio’s shorts, a package that gives us the classic characters (Gerald McBoing Boing, Mister Magoo, the Fox and Crow) along with the studio’s groundbreaking one-shot shorts (The Unicorn in the Garden, The Tell-Tale Heart, Rooty Toot Toot, The Jaywalker and Madeline). Until then, you can find some of the UPA shorts on video sharing sites. I’ve included links to all the ones I could find below, though unfortunately, if there’s one animation studio whose work doesn’t deserve to be seen in this crummy compressed Flash format, it’s the graphically intensive filmmaking of UPA.

Robin Hoodlum (1948)
The Magic Fluke (1949)
Gerald McBoing Boing (1951)
Rooty Toot Toot (1952)
The Tell-Tale Heart (1953)
Christopher Crumpet (1953)
The Unicorn in the Garden (1953)
Ballet-Oop (1954)
The Rise of Duton Lang (1955)

Nicktoons Animation Festival

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I don’t normally endorse corporate animation contests, but the one my friend Rita Street has been co-producing (with Frederator, the fourth year in a row) for the Nicktoons Network is a fair, well run and ultimately, an entertaining showcase for animators working in all techniques and media.

The top prize is ten grand and nominees are telecast on the Nicktoon channel in August. The deadline to enter this year’s contest is next week (June 1st). Calling all filmmakers: Go to the website and check the rules and requirements.

More Beany & Cecil Boards by Bruce Timm

Beany and Cecil storyboard

A few weeeks ago, I posted a few pages of Bruce Timm storyboards from The New Adventures of Beany and Cecil (1988). I also said if any reader wanted to scan in the entire set of Timm storyboards from this episode and share them with the online community, I’d be happy to send over my copies. Brew reader Micah Baker took me up on the offer and has generously scanned the boards for everybody. He’s posted the entire storyboard set onto Flickr. Also, another reader has posted the finished episode onto YouTube so if you’re curious to see how Timm’s work was adapted to film, compare his boards to the cartoon below.

Len Glasser’s Safety Shoes

Safety Shoes

After a bit of an unexpected lag, we’ve debuted our latest film on CartoonBrewFilms: Safety Shoes (1965) directed and designed by Leonard Glasser. This film is part of our Rarities section and it is truly worthy of that distinction as it has rarely been seen since the early-’70s. It was commissioned by the Lehigh Safety Shoe Co. after the company’s first film about safety footwear flopped with audiences. Glasser decided that the only way to make a film about shoes watchable was to turn it into a loony non-narrative assortment of animated bits and live-action skits.

Working with a barebones budget but plenty of animation and acting talent, Glasser and his studio Stars and Stripes Productions Forever, turned out Safety Shoes which ranks as one of the most off-the-wall screwball advertising films in history. Preview clip, film history and purchase link can all be found here. And after you see the film be sure and submit questions; Len would love to hear from you.

As a sidenote, we’re going to be adding loads of new content to CartoonBrewFilms over the upcoming summer months with new films planned for every week. Some of our upcoming releases include Chansoo Kim’s Vaudeville (US), Eddie White and James Calvert’s Carnivore Reflux (Australia) and Joost van den Bosch and Erik Verkerk’s The Shoebox (The Netherlands). We’ll be posting a more complete release schedule on BrewFilms soon.

Animation Writing Roundup

Berke Breathed

Quick Stop Entertainment has a lengthy interview with Bloom County and Opus creator Berkeley Breathed. Breathed talks about the earlier troubled adaptations of his comics to animation, his current work with Robert Zemeckis to adapt one of his children’s books into a mo-cap feature (“just to annoy the animation community”), and his thoughts on the recent Calvin & Hobbes student film (“Bill [Watterson] is going to have a cow when he sees this. Not that it isn’t terrific. I think it’s like how we’d feel finding our wives naked on YouTube… no matter how hot they look.”)

Godfrey Bjork and Friends

File this one under Tragically Amusing: it’s the Super-Short Animation Career of Godfrey Bjork courtesy of Joe Campana’s Animation—Who and Where blog.

Ren & Stimpy

This essay by Troy Steele is surprisingly insightful, managing to seamlessly weave together a discussion of gender politics in the movie industry, the live-action films of Jane Campion, and the Ren & Stimpy: APC episode “Naked Beach Frenzy,” about which Steele writes:

    Kricfalusi’s sexism is so innocent, so reverent of a sex he clearly doesn’t even begin to comprehend. The inclusion of a grotesquely hirsute male lifeguard only helps to make the women look that much better in comparison. Kricfalusi clearly doesn’t understand women beyond objectification, but at least that pedestal he’s putting an entire sex upon isn’t one of dour victimhood and sour grapes.

    Bill Thompson and Droopy

    WFMU’S Beware of the Blog tells you more than you could ever want to know about one of my favorite voice actors of all time: Bill Thompson, the voice of Droopy. Interesting factoids abound including that Thompson was originally cast as the voice of Fred Flintstone, and that he left show business in the early-’60s to become a business executive at Union Oil.

    Travis KnightInterview with the boss’s son: Animation Magazine interviews Laika animator Travis Knight, who also happens to be the son of Laika owner and Nike founder Phil Knight. I’ve heard many positive things from stop-mo folk about Travis’s animation skills, and it’s clear that Laika is embracing more interesting and promising projects than when the studio was Vinton’s, so I tend to be cautiously optimistic about Laika’s future. (via Ward-O-Matic)

    And finally, the LA Daily News looks at what happens to CalArts students after they graduate with their $120k chararacter animation degrees.

An Animation Legend Has A Garage Sale

Ollie’s Garage Sale

The last surviving member of Disney’s Nine Old Men, Ollie Johnston, has moved to Oregon, and this past weekend, there was a quietly advertised estate sale at his La Canada home. I didn’t attend, but animator Mark Kausler (It’s the Cat) has a lengthy report on his blog (yes, he’s finally blogging!!) along with photos from the sale. DreamWorks animator Donnachada Daly also checked it out and shares a few of his purchases on his blog. Other folks on message boards—here and here—are also posting items they purchased.