Hanna Barbera Treasures

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Here’s an early heads up on one of the several books I’ve been working on this past few months. It’s just been announced publicly in the latest edition of Diamond Comics Previews, so I see no reason not to mention it here. The Hanna Barbera Treasury is a unique coffee table art book celebrating Hanna Barbera’s legacy (mainly the 50s and 60s TV series) through visuals including original production art, rare merchandising material and obscure comic books. It’s shaping up rather nice, I’m having a lot of fun with it, and it’ll make a nice gift for that cartoon fan on your holiday list. It’s being lavishly produced by Insight Editions, the folks who did the Surf’s Up and Monster House coffee table books. Look for it to go on sale in October.

Popeye DVD: Bonus Materials

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This is the original main title, unseen for 70 years, to Popeye The Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves, shot with my cel phone camera off a TV screen with glare.

I promise you the visual and sound quality of this cartoon (and 59 others) on Warner Home Video’s Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938, Vol. 1 is outstanding. If it were only the 60 cartoons alone it would be worth the $64.98 suggested retail price ($45.49 on amazon). But the collection (on sale July 31st) is loaded with additional content. Here are the bonus materials currently scheduled for inclusion:

Disc 1

Commentaries:
• Popeye the Sailor by Michael Barrier with Animator Dave Tendlar
• I Yam What I Yam by Animator Mark Kausler
• Blow Me Down! by Animators Jorge Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua
• I Eats My Spinach by Michael Barrier with Dave Tendlar
• Wild Elephinks by Historian Jerry Beck
• Sock-a-Bye, Baby by Historian Glenn Mitchell
• Can You Take It by Filmmaker Greg Ford
• A Dream Walking by Director Eric Goldberg

Full Length Documentary
I Yam What I Yam: The Story of Popeye the Sailor

Popumentaries
• Mining the Strip: Elzie Segar and Thimble Theater
• Me Fickle Goyl, Olive Oyl: The World’s Least Likely Sex Symbol

From the Vault
• Colonel Heeza Liar at the Bat
• Domestic Difficulties [1916 Bud Fisher Short]

Disc 2

Commentaries:
• Beware of Barnacle Bill by Jerry Beck
• Choose Yer “Weppins� by Greg Ford
• For Better or Worser by Greg Ford
• You Gotta Be a Football Hero by Jerry Beck
• King of the Mardi Gras by Michael Barrier with Jack Mercer
• Adventures of Popeye by Historian Glenn Mitchell
• The Spinach Overture by Historian Daniel Goldmark

Full Length Documentary
Forging the Frame: The Roots of Animation, 1900-1920

Popumentaries
• Wimpy the Moocher: Ode to the Burgermeister
• Sailor’s Hornpipes: The Voices of Popeye
• Bobby Bumps Puts a Beanery on the Bum [1918 Bray Short]
• Feline Follies [1919 Pat Sullivan Short]
• The Tantalizing Fly [1919 Bray short]

Disc 3

Commentaries:
• A Clean Shaven Man by Writer Paul Dini
• I-Ski Love-Ski You-Ski by John Kricfalusi, with Eddie Fitzgerald and Kali Fontecchio
• Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor by John K., Eddie and Kali
• The Paneless Window Washer by Mark Kausler

Popumentaries
• Blow Me Down! The Music of Popeye
• Popeye in Living Color: A Look at the Color Two-Reelers

From the Vault
• Modeling [1921 Out of the Inkwell short]
• Invisible Ink [1921 Out of the Inkwell short]
• Bubbles [1922 Out of the Inkwell short]
• Jumping Beans [1922 Out of the Inkwell short]
• Bed Time [1923 Out of the Inkwell short]
• Trapped [1923 Out of the Inkwell short]

Disc 4

Commentaries:
• Lost and Foundry by John K., Eddie and Kali
• Protek the Weakerist by Jerry Beck
• Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves by John K., Eddie and Kali

Popumentaries
• Me Lil’ Swee’Pea: Whose Kid is He Anyway?
• Et Tu, Bluto? Cartoondom’s Heaviest Heavy

From The Vault:
• A Trip to Mars [1924 Out of the Inkwell short]
• Koko Trains ‘Em [1925 Out of the Inkwell short]
• Koko Back Tracks [1927 Out of the Inkwell short]
• Let’s Sing with Popeye [1933 Fleischer short]

Report from Platform #3

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Yes, it’s Jerry sniffing Gromit’s butt. A cel phone photo snapped at Platform Animation Festival, Portland OR — Thursday, 6.28.07, 04:00 pm

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Amid gives a great presentation on designer Tom Oreb. Two photos by Tom Knott, Platform Animation Festival, Portland OR — Wednesday, 6.27.07, 04:20 pm

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Jerry meets Marge Champion on Broadway – in Portland Oregon. Photo snapped on my funky cel phone by Toby Bluth. Platform Animation Festival, Portland OR — Thursday, 6.28.07, 05:00 pm

Ratatouille is the Best Animated Film Since…

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I was talking to my good friend Victor Haboush yesterday and he had an endorsement for Ratatouille that I just had to share. He says, and I quote, “It’s the best animated film since Pinocchio.” That’s a pretty bold statement but Vic is somebody whose taste I trust. And that’s not just because he’s worked on classics like Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians. Or because he worked on Brad Bird’s first feature The Iron Giant (and which he doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for as he does Bird’s latest). It’s because Vic knows what he’s talking about and because he’s always frank about what he thinks of things. If Vic says it’s good, then it probably is.

The San Diego Comic Con is Coming!

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Still in Portland, but I’m already looking forward to going San Diego for the Comic Con — only four weeks away!

I have two things on my schedule for San Diego so far: 1. A POPEYE DVD panel scheduled for 4pm on Thursday July 26th (room to be announced later) and 2. my all-new WORST CARTOONS EVER screening at 9pm on Friday July 27th in Room 6CDEF. If you want to meet me, here are two great ways to find me.

More details on these and other events for animation fans will be posted on Brew later in the month as we get closer to the date. Hope to see you there!

Terrytoon Animators at work, 1939

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Asifa-Hollywood’s Animation Archive has unearthed and posted a rare silent 8mm film shot by animators at Terrytoons detailing the process of making an animated cartoon. This color film, from 1939, was shot by artist Larry Silverman and was recently found in the estate of animator Carlo Vinci. The film features key Terry personnel, from Director Connie Rasinski to musician Phil Schieb, producing a cartoon called Harvest Time. The Archive has also uploaded the finished short.

Cartoon Dump!

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Do you love great animation? Are you a fan of quality cartoons? Well, if so, you will be appalled and horrified by my latest co-production, Cartoon Dump, a new web TV series premiering this summer on CartoonBrewFilms.com.

Cartoon Dump is the unholy alliance of my annual Worst Cartoons Ever screening and the warped mind of writer/ producer/ comedian Frank Conniff (“TV’s Frank� from “Mystery Science Theater 3000�).

Our first podcast will premiere online in August, but on July 11th our cast will perform a live performance of the show at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood. If you are interested in attending the live show, information is posted here. In the meantime, check the Cartoon Dump MySpace page and become one of our friends!

M.I.A.’s “Boyz”

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M.I.A.’s new music video “Boyz” is a brilliant mashup of contemporary Jamaican dance and lo-fi abstract animation. It’s easily one of the more original and exciting animated music videos that I’ve seen in a while. The animation is not simply an afterthought here but really serves to bring out the colorful style and energy of the dancers, who according to this ‘making of’ video, comprise a who’s who of the Jamaican dance scene. Comparisons have been drawn to Paper Rad though personally I find the graphic style far more successful in the context of this video than I do in most of Paper Rad’s work. Not sure who’s responsible for the animation; the live-action video was directed by Jay Will.

(via BB)

Report from Platform #1

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Day one at Platform. Got into Portland around 2:30pm and was whisked to the very cool Ace Hotel. After a quick check in, I headed to a meeting of jurors (I’m one of the judges of the TV category). After that, one by one, I started running into friends from L.A., New York, Vancouver, Europe… Linda Simensky, Danny Antonucci, Bill Plympton, Tom Knott, Adam Snyder, Heather Kenyon and, pictured above, director Yvette Kaplan, producer John Andrews and author-animator John Canemaker. It’s begining to feel like a festival. The opening night screening was teriffic – every film shown was great. The standouts were Aardman’s new 2-D short, The Pearce Sisters (directed by Luis Cook), Apnee (directed by Claude Chabot) and Herzog and the Monsters (a student film by Lesley Barnes). That was followed by a party and even later was a mock debate/screening, “Humor vs. Abstract” with Bill Plympton (arguing humor) and Joanna Priestley (in favor of abstract).

If day one is any indication, this festival is going to be a winner.

Woody Woodpecker event

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In honor of the forthcoming Woody Woodpecker and Friends DVD box set (on sale July 24th), Universal Pictures will be holding a premiere event at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on Wednesday July 11th, admission FREE! In addition to a preview screening of 12 cartoons featured on the upcoming DVD, there will be a panel of guests discussing the life and career of Walter Lantz. Panelists will include Leonard Maltin, June Foray, and Billy West. To find out how you can get in and reserve a seat, click here: StoryMakers Studio’s Salute to Woody Woodpecker and Walter Lantz.

My friends at StoryMakers Studio (who are producing the Chinese Theatre event) told me they will make a limited number of reserved seats available for Brew readers, so if you’re interested, I strongly suggest reserving your free tickets today because it’s going to fill up fast.

In the meantime, get a sneak preview of the disc set, with video previews and downloads here: WoodyWoodpecker.com

En Route to PLATFORM!

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Today’s a travel day. Amid and I are en route to Portland for the Platform Fest. If you want to find us, check this post for me, and this one for Amid.

Even though I’m a participant and judge, I’m going up there as much a spectator as anyone else. Can the festival organizers pull it off? Can a U.S. animation festival work? These are the questions that will be answered this week. One thing’s for sure, they’ve loaded the event with great screenings, panels, guests, exhibits, installations, tributes, picnics and parties. It should be a blast.

What JibJab Could Teach TV

I’ve never understood the thinking of some people who try to create a hit video online so they can get a TV deal. If you’ve already created something popular online and have established a dedicated audience, then why do you even need TV? Of course, saying this is muching easier than actually doing it. TV is proven and established; the online world is still frightening and largely unexplored as a business model.

But even today there are some people who believe strongly enough in online possibilities that they’re bypassing TV deals in favor of developing their online brand. One prominent example is the animation studio and entertainment portal JibJab, run by brothers Gregg and Evan Spiridellis. In this new interview with Gregg Spiridellis, he offers some worthwhile insights into how JibJab is developing its online brand, and doing so without relying on the corporate world of television. It’s a thought-provoking read which makes one realize that there are even bigger and better opportunities awaiting animation creators online than in the once-dominant TV industry.

Jules Engel: Master of Animation

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Need another reason to visit Los Angeles this summer? The Tobey C. Moss Gallery on Beverly Blvd. (across the street from the famous El Coyote Resturant) will be exhibiting the animation art of Jules Engel from July 14th through August 31st.

This exhibition is being held with the cooperation of Engel’s estate, and will cover his career from Disney, through UPA and Format Films. An opening reception will be held Saturday July 14th from 2pm to 5pm.

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An Interview with Platform’s Irene Kotlarz

The Oregonian offers an interesting interview with Platform Animation Festival director Irene Kotlarz. She offers some bold thoughts in the discussion, including this comment about what sets Platform apart from other animation festivals:

It was decided early on that it would be a 21st-century festival, and that would make it different from the other animation festivals out there. They’re all based, in my view, on a premise that grew up around the time of the first animation festival, which was in Annecy, France, in 1960. That premise is really based on theatrical screenings of animated shorts and features and around the idea of animators as auteurs — real postwar European arthouse cinema with art with a capital “A.” The Cold War was a big influence back then, and there was this idea of animation as the universal language. So a big theme was man’s inhumanity to man, and you saw lots of what I call the “naked bald man film,” with arctic wind on the soundtrack. Most festivals are still pushing the idea of the single artist. But we’re trying to make a major departure from that kind of thinking. I’ve always taken the view that there’s a larger historical and cultural context to art, and the context now is totally different. Now we have the Web and video games; the computer revolution has finally happened. And I think that at a lot of festivals, Internet animation is a poor relation. But we’ve gone out of our way to see that they get the same status as traditional animators.

Ratatouille Triumphant

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Brad Bird at last night’s world premiere of Ratatouille at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

The best film of the summer will be released next week. Not best animated film – best film, period. The reviews are literally unanimous – 100% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes.

I saw the film and add my name to the chorus. It’s brilliant! But what really excites me is that once again Pixar, and Brad Bird, have pushed the envelope, progressing the art and storytelling potential that can be accomplished with computer graphics. And this is a film Bird took over and reworked — usually a recipe for disaster. Not this time.

The animation and art direction are superb. Every creative descision seems just perfect – from casting to design and through every plot twist and turn. The 2-D graphic end credits should be noted – once again the Pixar animators tease us with the possibility of what a traditionally hand drawn Pixar cartoon might feel like. And the final tagline in the end credits gave me the biggest smile of the night:

“Our Quality Assurance Guaratee: 100% Genuine Animation! No motion capture or any other performance shortcuts were used in the production of this film.”

Don’t miss it.

Notes from Annecy

Peter and the Wolf

Another edition of Annecy has wrapped and the winners have been announced. The top short film prize, the Annecy Cristal, went to Suzie Templeton’s Peter and the Wolf (pictured above) which also won the Audience Award. Other deserving shorts which took home prizes include Andreas Hykade’s The Runt, Samuel Tourneux’s Même les pigeons vont au paradis and Luis Cook’s The Pearce Sisters. Tom Brown and Daniel Benjamin Gray’s t.o.m. won the highest honor for a student film while the feature prize went to Norway’s Free Jimmy directed by Christopher Nielsen. A complete list of winners is here. I’ll be writing more about many of these films over the coming months.

There’s much that I could write about the festival, but I thought I’d take a moment to just talk about why I think it’s so important to attend animation festivals like Annecy. Living in LA, as I do, it’s easy to become complacent and think that you know everybody in the animation world. But then you go to a festival like Annecy where you see thousands of animation artists, and not a single one of them is from LA or NY, and you begin wondering where the heck you’ve landed. It’s a humbling experience and a reminder that today’s animation world is far more vast and diverse than ever before.

There are talented artists producing animation in every corner of the globe and festivals create the ideal forum for an exchange of ideas and techniques (or drinks, as the case may be with most animation types). I had the opportunity to meet and mingle with many of the international animation set last week including Juan Pablo Zaramella and Silvina Cornillón from Argentina; Israeli Ariel Belinco, co-director of the prize-winning Annecy short Beton (watch it here), Australian James Calvert of The People’s Republic of Animation and Vijayakumar Arumugam from India.

Then there’s all the Europeans at the festival, all of the British and the Germans and the Dutch and the Danish and the French and so many more that creating a list of the people I hung out with would run pages long. Even the loft I was staying in housed a fascinating melting pot of animation folk including French animators like like Sebastien Dabadie, Sebastien Laudenbach and Claire Fouquet, and Saschka Unseld of Germany’s Studio Soi.

People come from many countries to attend festivals but everybody speaks the same language of animation. It’s a varied and nuanced language that becomes ever so evident at a place like Annecy. There’s nothing more refreshing than going to a place that shows you animation is not just George of the Jungle but also George Schwizgebel.

I’ve posted links below to other bloggers who have some pics and thoughts from the festival. Considering how many people were there, it’s surprising that so few people have written about it. If you have a blog post about Annecy, please share in the comments:

Uli Meyer

Boris Hiestand

Matt Jones

Elliot Cowan

Hans Perk – I and II

The Duffy twins

Felix Herzog presents a nice collection of sketches from artists who attended the festival

Amid, Lisa and Uli
Yours truly with Lisa and Uli

The 3 Minnies: Sota, Tonka and Ha-Ha

The Three Minnies

This week on Cartoon Brew Films, we are happy to present another rare animated film long considered lost: The 3 Minnies: Sota, Tonka and Ha-Ha.

In 1949, Republic Pictures (best known for their B-Westerns and Saturday matinee serials) released a series of cartoons under the banner “Jerky Journeys”. These were low budget satires of travelogues, written by radio comedy writer Leonard Lewis Levinson, and narrated by Jack Benny Program regular Frank Nelson (“Yeeeeesss”). To keep costs down, Levinson wrote the films in such a way as to have as little animation as possible, and convinced Republic that this would be a perfect way to demonstrate the studio’s patented cut-rate “TruColor” (red & green) film process.

Financial restrictions, however, didn’t stop Levinson from hiring several of Hollywood’s best artists, including background painters and designers Art Heinemann, Pete Alvarado, Bob Gribbroek, Paul Julian and effects animator Miles Pike, to help bring these comedies to life. The resulting films are fascinating. An early example of what Chuck Jones might term “illustrated radio”, the “Jerky Journeys” give us a glimpse at a direction Hollywood animation did not go—or might have gone if UPA hadn’t come along. Like an animated version of an article from a ’50s issue of Mad Magazine, these are literate parodies of travel films familiar to audiences of the day.

Four Jerky Journeys were produced, but only two are known to exist and The 3 Minnies is the only surviving entry in color. Take a look at it here. I think you’ll agree this film is unique, original and in many ways, far ahead of its time.

Amid@Platform

Platform Animation Festival

I’m still recovering from Annecy but the Platform Festival is coming up in Portland in a few days and it promises to be another intense animation-heavy week. Jerry has already offered his appearance schedule for Platform so I thought I’d offer a list of programs I’m involved with up there. For those of you who prefer Jerry- and Amid-free animation events, you’ll be pleased to know there’s plenty of those as well, including promising presentations by Smith & Foulkes, James Jarvis, Scott McCloud, Henry Selick, and Aardman founders David Sproxton and Peter Lord. Here’s what I’ll be doing:

Tuesday, June 26, 4 pm – 5:30 pm
Northwest Film Center: Whitsell Auditorium / Portland Art Museum
Design Daze: Mid-Century Modern Design: A screening of rare Fifties animated shorts including the superb John Hubley/Bill Hurtz industrial More Than Meets the Eye, a 35mm print of Ward Kimball’s Melody and the Ronald Searle-designed Energetically Yours.

Wednesday, June 27, 4:30 pm – 6 pm
Winningstad Theatre
Tom Oreb, the Man of a Thousand Designs: An in-depth examination of Tom Oreb’s work as a designer. His designs will be examined from all angles—what his responsibilities were as a designer and character stylist, how his work was interpreted by the animation crew, and how character design fits into the broader context of a film’s production design.

Thursday, June 28
2:30 pm – 4 pm
Winningstad Theatre
“Work for Free! Getting Your Work Out There on the Web”: My name isn’t listed on the program but I think I’ll be participating on this panel. The panelist lineup would be quite solid even without my inclusion. It includes Megan O’Neill (Atom Entertainment), Sarah Phelps (eatPes.com), Rick Prelinger (Prelinger Archives), Fred Seibert (Frederator Studios/Channel Frederator) and Alex Williams (SplashCast).

Kirikou to Become Stage Musical

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Variety is reporting that the Michel Ocelot’s animated film Kirikou and the Sorceress is set to make the transition to a stage musical this fall. Ocelot has also written the musical’s libretto and additional lyrics. Playbill reports:

The French/Belgian film is a retelling of an African folk tale that centers on a young African boy who must save his village by ridding the world of an evil sorceress.

The animated version ignited controversy when distributors refused to release it in some areas because of the natural nudity depicted in the films – some went so far as to request airbrushing of male and female nudity. Ocelot maintained the nudity was an essential element in portraying African culture and refused to allow any changes to the film. There is no word on whether the stage adaptation will follow suit.

It’s a real shame that Ocelot’s amazing, literate, artistic animated features have never gotten proper (or any) distribution in the United States.

Drinking and Drawing @ Platform

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Cartoonists going to the Platform International Animation Festival in Portland next week will be invited to be part of an experimental collaborative animated film. Dan Meth will round up 100 artists and have each draw 7 frames of a new unscripted short cartoon — on location at a bar full of cartoon fanatics. Sounds like fun. You can sign up in advance by contacting Dan at dammeth-at-danmeth.com.

MONTREAL: Frédéric Back Exhibit

The Man Who Planted Trees

Montreal folks have been getting some awesome animation exhibits lately. Philip Street writes about one that he saw recently:

Brew readers might want to know that even though the Disney exhibit at the Montreal Musée des Beaux Arts closes this weekend, there is another exhibit just down the street in the Loto Quebec building (500 Sherbrooke St West) featuring the work of Frédéric Back. Sketches and gouache paintings from the ’40s and ’50s, as well as storyboards and production art from several films, are on show on the main floor until August 5. Amazing and inspirational stuff.

Frédéric Back also has an impressive new website at FredericBack.com.