Update From The Dump

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I’m still recovering from yesterday’s all-day shoot for CartoonBrewFilms first original podcast, Cartoon Dump. That’s comedianne Kathleen Roll, above seated, as Buff Badger (the rageaholic animation historian) awaiting her cues, while our director Scott Ingalls strategically places a garbage bag on the set. Last night we had a standing room only crowd at the Steve Allen Theatre for a public preview of the show. Reaction was very positive and we look forward to announcing the start of the series (which will be available online free) next month. Stay tuned…

RIP, Art Stevens

Art Stevens

I was out of town when this news emerged a couple weeks ago but I wanted to make mention of the passing of Disney animator and director Art Stevens. Stevens passed away on May 22 at age 92. His career was notable in that he worked at a single studio—Disney—for nearly four-and-a-half decades. There’s a solid obit at O-Meon.com which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about him.

In the Disney hierarchy, Stevens was not considered one of the star animators, but he made many important contributions to the studio. He was one of Ward Kimball’s two primary animators (the other being Julius Svendsen) during all of Kimball’s experimental projects (Toot Whistle, Plunk and Boom, the space specials, It’s Tough To Be a Bird and Dad, Can I Borrow the Car, among others). Also, The Saga of Windwagon Smith was largely his and Svendsen’s project although directing credit went to Charles Nichols.

I had the opportunity to interview Stevens on a few occasions because of my research on John Dunn and Fifties animation, and he was one of the friendliest and most cordial people you could imagine. It always struck me as interesting that though Stevens worked at Disney his entire career, he was the farthest thing from your typical idea of a Disney animator. Looking at his sketchbooks, a lot of them filled with cats, he obviously enjoyed cartooning, caricature and design far more than the academic drawing we associate with a lot of the classic Disney artists. Stevens’s first gig as a full-fledged animator was on Peter Pan where he was assigned a lot of the marching sequences with the Lost Boys. But just as he had achieved the highest peak in the Disney animation department, he jumped ship and accepted an invitation to join Kimball’s unit where he could do more stylized and cartoonier animation, like the hilarious ‘popping strings’ section that he did in Toot Whistle. It’s pretty clear that he preferred fun and experimentation over the traditional Disney product.

On a sadder note, for the past few years, I’d been trying to get ASIFA-Hollywood to honor Stevens with a Winsor McCay Award for lifetime contributions to the art of animation. Stevens never received the recognition from ASIFA-Hollywood despite my multiple attempts. I’m not privy to the politics or Stevens’s history that denied him this recognition, but I think it’s nothing short of disgraceful for an animation organization to ignore somebody like Stevens. With nearly everybody else who is deserving of that award now dead, it bothered me greatly to see somebody as qualified as Stevens not receive it year after year. It’s too late now to do anything about it, but perhaps we can take solace in the knowledge that despite his passing, Stevens’s contributions to the art form will continue to live on for many years to come, and an ultimately useless award from an even more useless organization won’t do anything to change that fact.

Drawing by Art Stevens
A couple model sheets by Art Stevens for the short Scrooge McDuck and Money (1967). Click for larger versions.
Drawing by Art Stevens

Ratatouille Virtual Sets

Ratatouille virtual sets

Tim Petros, a photographer who specializes in QuickTime VR, was hired to transform the Ratatouille backgrounds into VR movies with sound narration. The results are pretty fun and innovative. I’m surprised we don’t see more creative uses of existing CG assets for film promotions. Tim also makes QTVR movies of cartoon maquettes, like these movies of sculptures designed by Ruben Procopio.

Tonight in Hollywood

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If you live in L.A. you really have no excuse not to go out and have a good time tonight!

Today we are shooting our forthcoming CartoonBrewFilms.com original web series, Cartoon Dump, at the Steve Allen Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. (near Vermont). We’ll be letting the public in for a sneak preview of what we are up to, tonight at 8pm, when I’ll screen some of my very best WORST CARTOONS EVER, and Frank Conniff and our cast will perform some bits of bizarre musical comedy. Tickets are $10 and we think we are going to have a full house. Call (800) 595-4849 to reserve a ticket.

If you can’t get in to see Cartoon Dump, you can trek a quarter mile west to the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre for an event promoting the new Woody Woodpecker DVD.

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Leonard Maltin, June Foray, Tom Kenny and others will be holding a panel discussion about classic cartoons and the Walter Lantz studio. That’s at 7:30pm and it’s free! This too will be recorded for a podcast to be anounced later. So take your pick… and meet us in Hollywood!

Apnée by Claude Chabot

Apnee

I’d heard good things about Claude Chabot’s Apnée but unfortunately missed its screening at Platform. Luckily the film is posted online over HERE. While the film is little more than a graphic gimmick, it’s a well done piece proving that even photorealistic CG can be effective when applied in the proper artistic context. Also worth noting: it’s been pointed out that Apnée bears more than a passing conceptual resemblance to a 2001 animated short: Daniele Lunghini and Diego Zuelli’s Le Foto Dello Scandalo. You can judge for yourself by watching that film on YouTube.

BNN Interstitials by Greg Lawson

Dennis en Dylan

Greg Lawson, owner of Amsterdam-based animation studio Lawson & Whatshisname, is directing a series of 40 interstitials for the Dutch TV station BNN. The 8-second spots, which depict humorous moments in the lives of three twenty-somethings, are being broadast daily on BNN as well as on the site DennisenDylan.nl. I’m digging the loose feel of the hand-drawn spots, which are designed by Johan Klungel and animated by Lukas Krepel, Dario van Vree and Liaf Lijbers.

Simpsons in Vanity Fair

Conan on The Simpsons

Vanity Fair has published an extensive oral history about The Simpsons. The piece includes the thoughts of everybody from cartoonist Gary Panter to Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch, as well as many people who have worked on the series including Brad Bird, Gabor Csupo, Kent Butterworth, Bill Oakley, Larry Doyle and Hank Azaria. The same issue of VF also has an interview with Conan O’Brien discussing his time working on the series. I think the following comment from Conan really hits the nail on the head about why the humor on the Simpsons more often than not feels so tired and lacking in spontaneity:

By the time an episode came out, you had maybe heard the script read through like 20 times, and if for some reason the joke wasn’t getting a laugh on the 21st time, you had to rework it. Sometimes your first pitch is your best pitch, but over time, if you revisit it constantly, you’ll grow weary of it, it will start to wilt, and then you’re just coming up with a different pitch that’s maybe not necessarily better. Obviously it’s clearly a strength of The Simpsons that by the time you see it, things have been road-tested and thought about and so much work has gone into it. But sometimes I felt like, “Let’s bake the pie and serve it.”

RIP, David Hilberman

David Hilberman

ASIFA-San Francisco president Karl Cohen forwarded a note to let us know that UPA co-founder and one of the last of the truly great animation legends, David Hilberman, passed away on July 5. Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1911, Hilberman began his animation career at Disney in 1936. In a little over a year, he had advanced to the layout department where he worked on shorts such as Farmyard Symphony, The Ugly Duckling and Beach Picnic. In 1939, he became the first production layout artist to begin working on the feature Bambi but it wouldn’t last long.

Unhappy with the precarious job situation of some of his friends at the studio, like Zach Schwartz, Hilberman became involved in union organizing efforts and eventually became one of the artist leaders of the 1941 Disney strike, along with Art Babbitt. Six years later, in a HUAC hearing, Disney singled out Hilberman for instigating the strike and claimed that he was “the real brains of this and I believe he is a Communist…I looked into his record and I found that, number one, that he had no religion, and number two, that he had spent considerable time at the Moscow Art Theatre studying art direction, or something.”

Hilberman told John Canemaker in a 1980 magazine interview that “up to the war, for about three years, I was a Communist. Once the war came along everybody plunged into the war effort, everybody’s on the same side, and I of course went into the Service. The strike itself was not Communist-led. I was floored when some obviously Communist-inspired material was put up on the bulletin board.” Disney was also correct that when Hilberman was 21, he had spent time traveling through Russia, and worked backstage at the Leningrad State People’s Theatre and attended classes at the Leningrad Academy of Fine Art.

After the strike, Hilberman cemented his place in animation history by founding United Productions of America along with Zach Schwartz and Steve Bosustow. Hilberman told the origins of UPA to Canemaker as follows:

After the strike I went to the Art Center and studied art for a while. The war came along and I was working on a puppet venture that John Sutherland was putting together. I went to Warners for a year, then went into war work. While working at Graphic Films, Les Novros’ outfit, on war training films, Steve Bosustow came in one day. He had promoted the idea of making a film strip to the Hughes safety director, which they then felt they could sell all over the country because there was such a need for it. Les Novros turned it down. They weren’t interested in getting involved in any speculative field. I told Steve to come over to where Zach Schwartz and I had rented space in the Otto K. Olesen Building in Hollywood as a studio—some place we could paint and study, have a studio of our own to work in away from the animation shops. Steve came up and we decided we would go ahead and make the film. That’s how UPA got started.

By 1946, Hilberman had served a brief stint in the Army, and he and Schwartz had sold their shares in UPA and moved to New York to set up a TV commercial animation studio called Tempo Productions. Schwartz and Hilberman soon split up, and Hilberman partnered with Bill Pomerance to continue Tempo. By the early-1950s, Tempo had become one of the largest TV commercial studios in the US, but was shut down by the blacklist around 1952, at which point Hilberman moved to England. One of Hilberman’s more prominent animation projects during the 1950s was directing the Ronald Searle-designed industrial film Energetically Yours (1957). Eventually Hilberman returned to the United States, where he helped start the animation program at San Francisco State College in the 1960s. He finished his animation career working at Hanna-Barbera on shows like The Smurfs and The Kwicky Koala Show, and the feature Once Upon a Forest.

UPDATE:
* The 1980 John Canemaker interview with David Hilberman is posted online at Michael Sporn’s Splog. Read the entire thing HERE.

* UPA director and designer Gene Deitch wrote us the following about Dave Hilberman:

All who survive those stirring times will be saddened at the death of Dave Hilberman, the co-founder of my natal animation studio, UPA, and truly of the whole idea of UPA, and the profound effect it had and still has on the art and craft of animation. As a fresh recruit, coming in just as Dave was leaving the studio, I never worked with him, only absorbing his ideas second-hand. For me he was already a legend. I learned in due time something of what Dave went through – how dangerous it was to be different from the mainstream – when I too was investigated, grilled and hounded by the McCarthyites.

Now, with Dave, Zack and Steve all gone, how many of us early UPAers are left to remember and pass on how difficult it was to be different in the 1950s? I’m sorry that I didn’t have a chance to know Dave better, and to learn from him personally. All who continue to push the animation envelope today owe very much to Dave Hilberman’s vision and fortitude.

Another great one is gone…

San Diego Comic Con: Animation Programming

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They’ve just posted the complete schedule of programming for the San Diego Comic Con, July 26-29. Below I’ve extracted the animation related programming highlights – this is by no means the only programming of interest to our readers (we highly recommend Mark Evanier’s comics history panels, for one), nor does this represent a complete listing of all animation related activities. You’re advised to plan ahead and check the full schedule yourself.

Thursday

11:30-12:30 Nickelodeon: Making Fiends An animated web series which is becoming a new Nicktoon. A panel and sneak peek with creator Amy Winfrey. Moderated by Claudia Spinelli, executive in charge for Nickelodeon. Room 2

12:30-1:30 Cartoon Network: Ed, Edd & Eddy: The Final Goodbye Danny Antonucci, the creator of the show says goodbye. Joining him are Samuel Vincent (voice of Edd), Peter Kelamis (voice of Rolf), Janyse Jaud (voice of Sarah, Lee Kanker), Scott “Diggs� Underwood (storyboard director), and “Big Jim� Miller (storyboard director). Room 1AB

huckhead.jpg2:45-3:45 Hanna Barbera Retrospective A look back at the lives and times of two of the greatest characters in the history of animation, Bill Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Animation author/historian Tom Sito moderates a panel that includes voice director Andrea Romano, actor Gary Owens (Space Ghost), author Michael Mallory, plus animators Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone who will discuss Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale, Joe Barbera’s final animated project. Room 6B

popeyehead.jpg4:00-5:00 Popeye: Well Blow Me Down! Discussing the new Warner Bros. DVD collection, Popeye The Sailor 1933–1938 Volume 1. Panelists include King Features exec Frank Caruso, cartoonist Stephen DeStefano, cartoon historian Jerry Beck, and others. Room 6B

5:00-6:00 Cartoon Network Sneak Peek A behind-the-scenes look at Cartoon Network’s newest project. Room 3

5:00-6:00 Bill Plympton Goes to the Dark Side Plympton will screen a couple of his brand new shorts, including Shuteye Hotel, and then show selected clips from his newest film, Idiots and Angels. A Q&A session will follow. Room 5AB

magoohead.jpg6:00-7:00 UPA: Mavericks, Magic, and Magoo Tee Bosustow, son of UPA founder Stephen Bosustow, looks at the lasting legacy of his father’s studio, UPA, with screenings of rare films and commercials and footage from his upcoming documentary on the studio. Long-time UPA animator Fred Crippen, creator of Roger RamJet, joins the panel. Room 3

7:15-8:45 The Pixar Story: To Infinity and Beyond – a the latest film by Oscar nominated documentary director Leslie Iwerks. Room 6CDEF

8:30-10:30 Superman Doomsday – the world premiere of Warner Bros. Animation’s made-for-DVD movie with panelists Bruce Timm, writer Duane Capizzi and members of the voice cast. Ballroom 20

Friday
10:30-11:30 Pixar Short Films
Three of Disney/Pixar’s most talented filmmakers, Ralph Eggelston (For the Birds), Andrew Jimenez (One Man Band), and Gary Rydstrom (Lifted) discuss the studio’s short films, with a Q&A session to follow. Room 6CDEF

1:30-2:30 Nickelodeon’s The Mighty B! A sneak peek at The Mighty B!, a brand new Nicktoon with co-creators Cynthia True and Erik Wiese as they screen the pilot episode. Art director Seonna Hong will join the Q&A moderated by Nick exec Claudia Spinelli. Room 2

2:30-3:30 Filmation Spotlight A panel with legendary Filmation founder Lou Scheimer, voice actress Erika Scheimer (She-Ra’s Frosta and Loo-Kee), actor and SF legend Bob Burns, animation director Tom Tataranowicz, voice actor Ron Dante (lead singer of The Archies) and actors from Filmation’s live action. Room 5AB

3:30-4:30 American Dad Seth MacFarlane and the entire cast of American Dad (Wendy Schaal, Rachael MacFarlane, Scott Grimes and Dee Bradley Baker) will read an episode live with exec producers Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman. Room 6CDEF

batmanhead.jpg4:15-5:45 Warner Bros. Animation: The Batman/Legion of Super-Heroes Supervising producer Alan Burnett (The Batman), producer-director Michael Goguen (Batman: The Animated Series), producer James Tucker (Justice League Unlimited), director Brandon Vietti (Superman Doomsday), and story editor/writer Michael Jelenic (The Batman) will be joined on the panel by voice cast members. Room 6B

5:00-6:00 Pitching an Animated Show Eric Coleman, VP animation, development & production at Nickelodeon; Heather Kenyon, senior director of development original animation for Cartoon Network; Jill Stewart, manager, original series, Disney Channel Animation, as well as creators Jorge R. Gutierrez (El Tigre) and Gabe Swarr (Big Pants Mouse), moderated by animation writer/creator Jon M. Gibson. Room 3CDEF

6:00-8:00 Ray Harryhausen and 20 Million Miles to Earth Stop-motion animation genius Ray Harryhausen will speak briefly, answer a few questions, then do live commentary while the film 20 Million Miles to Earth is screened. He’ll also answer more questions as the screening proceeds. Room 6B

6:30-7:30 The Chiodo Bros: Stop-Motion Animation in the Computer Age The Chiodo Bros. look at the surprising changes that computer technology has brought to stop motion. Room 5AB

titanhead.jpg9:15-10:15 Worst Cartoons Ever! Brewmaster Jerry Beck presents all-new, all awful, all-hilarious episodes of audience favorites Mighty Mr. Titan (the physical fitness superhero), Rocket Robin Hood (a spandex-clad space cadet), and Super President (a nuclear-powered weapon of mass destruction) and even more stuff you won’t believe. Room 6CDEF

Saturday
10:30-11:30 Into the Fire Nation: Nickelodeon’s Avatar Season 3 Sneak Peek
Series creator Bryan Konietzko and director Joaquim Dos Santos (Justice League), head writer Aaron Ehasz (Futurama) and voice-over actor Dee Baker (Appa and Momo). Moderated by Eric Coleman, VP/executive producer. Room 6A

10:30-12:00 Animation Writers Caucus: Holy Bleep, Batman! or Censorship and Animation What can’t you say in a cartoon? What can’t you show? Why? Who says? Writers and producers of animated television series tell tales out of school about what they didn’t get to do and what they got away, in a panel sponsored by the Writers Guild of America’s Animation Writers Caucus. Featuring panelists Alan Burnett (Batman), Aaron Ehasz (Avatar), Eric Kaplan (The Drinky Crow Show), Craig Miller (Curious George), and Patric Verrone (Futurama). Room 8

homerhead.jpg10:45-12:00 The Simpsons Meet Matt Groening, Al Jean, David Mirkin, Matt Selman, Michael Price, David Silverman, Matt Warburton, Don Payne, and Yeardley Smith (voice of Lisa Simpson). Moderated by Bill Morrison. Hall H

11:30-12:30 BET Animation Reggie Hudlin (president, BET) and Denys Cowan (senior VP, BET Animation), share their vision for this new venture. Room 5AB

12:00-1:15 Cartoon Voices 1 Mark Evanier hosts his yearly panel with some of the greatest voice talent in the cartoon business. Today’s panel includes Neil Ross (GI Joe), Wally Wingert (Invader Zim), Kathy Garver (Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends), Will Ryan (Disney voice artist), and more. Room 6B

1:30-2:30 Family Guy Creator/star Seth MacFarlane, showrunner/executive producer David A. Goodman and the creative team behind Fox’s sucessful animated comedy. Room 6CDEF

2:00-3:00 State of the Animation Industry Industry experts assess the year in animation and take a look at the future. Panelists include Tim Johnson (co-director, Over the Hedge), Bill Plympton (independent animator extraordinaire), Sarah Baisley (editor, Animation World Network), Aki Umemoto (creative director, Mattel for 25 years and currently creative director of Base Station), Stephen Chiodo (Chiodo Bros. Studio), Aubry Mantz (formerly of ILM, chair of animation at Laguna College of Art & Design), and Kent Braun (DigiCel animation software). Room 8

2:15-4:00 WALL•E – Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) introduces Pixar’s newest star, WALL•E. Stanton and sound designer Ben Burtt (Star Wars) present a first look at Disney·Pixar’s next animated adventure! Hall H

2:30-4:00 Scott Shaw!: Oddball Comics Room 5AB

2:45-4:00 Cartoon Network: Class of 3000/My Gym Partner’s a Monkey – Tommy Lynch and Joe Horn, the men behind Class of 3000, talk about the upcoming season and answer questions. Also Tom Kenny (voice of Philly Phil) and the man himself, Andre Benjamin will appear. Plus, the creators and lead writer of My Gym Partner’s a Monkey, Tim Cahill, Julie McNally Cahill, and Tom Sheppard will fill you in on what’s new for the coming season. Plus, a sneak peek of the upcoming show Flapjack. Room 6A

futuramahead.jpg3:30-4:30 Futurama Matt Groening is proud to announce the long-awaited return of the animated sci-fi comedy classic Futurama! Matt and executive producer David X. Cohen will be on the dais, accompanied by writer Ken Keeler, animation directors Peter Avanzino and Dwayne Carey-Hill, and for the first time together on stage in any universe, actors Billy West (Fry), Katey Sagal (Leela), John DiMaggio (Bender), and Maurice LaMarche (Kif Kroker)! The cast and crew will entertain your questions and present a sneak peek at Bender’s Big Score! in glorious wide-screen format! Moderated by Bill Morrison. Ballroom 20

6:00-7:00 Drawing the Line: The Untold Story of the Animation Unions – Author/animator Tom Sito discusses the secrets behind the animation labor movement, from his new book, Drawing the Line. Room 4

6:30-7:30 The Animation Production Process – What goes into bringing an animated script to screen? Producers Stephanie Graziano (X-Men: The Animated Series), Tad Stones (Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms), and Greg Weisman (Spectacular Spider-Man) take you behind the scenes and into the trenches. Moderated by Shannon Muir, management coordinator at Animation World Network. Room 3

Sunday
10:45-11:45 El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera – Creators and co-executive producers Jorge Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua and supervising director Dave Thomas offer an inside look at what’s coming up this fall on their hit series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera. Then, sit back and laugh as you enjoy a live table read of a never-before-seen episode El Tigre, featuring series leads Alana Ubach (voice of Manny), Grey DeLisle (voice of Frida), Eric Bauza (voice of Rodolfo), and Carlos Alazraqui (voice of Granpapi).Room 6B

12:00-1:15 Cartoon Voices II – Back for more with some of the greatest voice talent in cartoons today! Moderator Mark Evanier talks with Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants), Michael Bell (Rugrats), Gregg Berger (Transformers), Joe Alaskey (Duck Dodgers), and others in this second installment. Room 6B

1:30-2:30 Cartoon Network: Ben-10 – Creator Alex Soto answers the questions you’ve been dying to know. Meagan Smith (voice of Gwen) will be on hand to liven things up. Room 6B

Monday Morning Inspiration: Tex Avery

The word genius is thrown around a bit too frequently nowadays (admittedly, I’m guilty of it myself), but true animation geniuses the caliber of director Tex Avery are few and far between. A 1988 documentary about the man, which I’d never seen, has turned up on YouTube. While it covers familiar ground, it’s a well done tribute that reminds one why Tex was such an incredible director. It also includes interviews with some of Tex’s colleagues who aren’t seen often in documentaries, such as Heck Allen, Mike Lah and Ed Love, as well as commentary from Joe Adamson, June Foray, Chuck Jones and Mark Kausler. I’ve compiled the entire film into a playlist below.

(via Animation ID)

The Venice Chronicles by Enrico Casarosa

Venice Chronicles by Enrico Casarosa

Last week, Pixar story artist Enrico Casarosa finished his personal watercolor comic The Venice Chronicles. For much of the past year, Enrico has been uploading the comic page-by-page to his blog, and at 124 pages, he finally considers the project completed. The entire thing is available to read online, either as a Flickr set or in Slickr gallery format. I’m a fan of Enrico’s distinctive sense of storytelling and humor, and I’m delighted to hear that he’s also looking to release the Chronicles in book form, either as a self-publishing project or through a mainstream publisher.

New Stop Motion Book by Barry Purves

Barry Purves book

Highly regarded stop motion animator Barry Purves has wrapped up a new book called Stop Motion: Passion, Process and Performance which is due in December. The book will be available for pre-order in a few weeks on Amazon and the publisher’s site FocalPress.com.

Here is Purves’s description of the book:

Above all, this book is about the very personal experience, not just mine but others, of being an animator, working laboriously with puppets, and why so many of us still get so much from, as the late Paul Berry described it, ‘dolly waggling’. Just what is satisfying about bringing puppets to life that, for all the hard work, the tedium, and the back aches, keeps us doing it and keeps so many people watching it? It’s not the most prolific of jobs. Other directors make many hours of film in the time it takes us to do a short film. Actors perform the same role several hundred times in the months it takes us to perform our role just once, but even so, there is something deeply satisfying about bringing a lump of latex, metal and cloth to life. At every level, it is a performance, and for those who have never delicately held a puppet, squeezing it gently and sensually into life, that can be a strange concept.

The fully illustrated book also offers advice and insights from various stop motion animators including Tom Brierton, Adam Elliot, Mark Hall, Peter Lord, Ken Priebe and David Sproxton, among others.

Trailers From Hell

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Okay, this is slighty OT, but I absolutely love it.

Our cartoon pal Joe Dante (Looney Tunes: Back In Action) and his movie director buddies John Landis (Animal House), Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Mary Lambert (Pet Sematary) and Mick Garris (Tales From The Crypt) have teamed up to create a website/podcast where they do audio commentary on their favorite exploitation movies—not the films themselves, but the 3-minute trailers.

As they say, “Even a bad movie can have a great trailer.” The initial videos on Trailers From Hell are funny, informative and very entertaining. I already have dibs on doing guest commentary for some animated features from hell (I can think of quite a few trailers that qualify). In the meantime, check out the inaugural offerings. Highly recommended.

Woodpecker Update

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Props to Ruben Procopio — who worked at Disney animation for many years, and whose father was a sculptor at Disney for 35 years — who has been doing great sculpts for Tracy Mark Lee and Electric Tiki. The Woody Woodpecker statues he did are particulary great (and I should know, I have ‘em myself).

Speaking of Woody, my friends at StoryMakers Studio tell me that response to our announcement last week about the big Salute to Woody Woodpecker and Walter Lantz at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood has been tremendous.

Preceeding a screening of 12 Lantz classics, they’ve got a panel with June Foray, Maurice LeMarche and Billy West, who will now be joined by animator Phil Roman and our friend Leonard Maltin — sounds like a fun evening. The panel will be video taped and available online at a later date (to be announced). I’ve been informed there is still a small block of seats available for the live event – which for Cartoon Brew readers is free. To sign up for the event, or to reserve your online viewing pass, click here. If you sign up for the live event or an online viewing pass, you can post questions for the panel.

Thurl, Thurl, Thurl

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Ahhh… The joys of Thurl collecting.

If you love old cartoons (or are simply addicted to Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes) then you have to admire the deep baritone voice of Thurl Ravenscroft (“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”).

Music historian Bob Purse has contributed a lengthy post on WFMU’s blog about his obsession with Thurl’s recording career – and posts many grrr-reat examples from his extensive collection.

Chris McD

Last week at Platform, Jerry and I both received a lot of compliments about our new CartoonBrew/CartoonBrewFilms promo piece. So I thought it’d be nice to take a moment and give credit where it’s due. Chris McD is the artist we commissioned to do our first two promo pieces and we’re quite pleased with how they both turned out. I think that’s because Chris is equal parts designer and illustrator, and he focuses as much on getting the concept and message right as he does into producing a striking visual piece.

I’ve known Chris since his days at SVA when we used to trade Animation Blast and Meathaus issues. Later on, I saw him frequently while I was working at Spumco and he was developing a feature project there for Ralph Bakshi. I actually have no idea how Chris found the time to do these pieces for us since he’s always super busy working on animated series (Yo Gabba Gabba, Tom Goes to the Mayor), designing books (the upcoming Ralph Bakshi one) and serving as one of the guiding forces behind the Meathaus illustration collective, which also has an excellent blog here.

Here are the two pieces Chris did for us. The first is an 8.5″x11″ flyer, the second is a double-sided 5.5″x8.5″ postcard (only the front is shown).

Cartoon Brew Films promo by Chris McD

Cartoon Brew Films promo by Chris McD

Boris Kolar’s Woof, Woof!

I love the work that came out of Zagreb Film in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. These years were responsible for some of the funkiest and most inventive cartooning produced by any animation outfit. The Zagreb animators managed to break every rule in the book, largely because they didn’t know the rules. It was a bunch of artists experimenting fearlessly and without inhibition. Sometimes they failed, sometimes they were successful, but the results are almost always fascinating.

Boris Kolar is among my favorite designer/directors at Zagreb. I’ve seen a lot of his work but had never run across Woof, Woof! (1964) until I saw this copy posted onto YouTube. As was customary with many of the studio’s shorts, a single artist (Kolar) directed, designed and animated the entire film (the credits also list an animation assistant). Also like many Zagreb films, Woof, Woof!‘s daring visuals are complemented by an equally trippy sound design. It’s a fine effort that still holds up well. And if you like this one, don’t miss Vlado Kristl’s Don Quixote (1961) and Nedeljko Dragić’s Tup Tup (1972).

Ratatouille Art

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A new Pixar film usually means another great Chronicle Art Of book and, at the other end of the spectrum, another neat looking Little Golden Book.

It’s easy to overlook the Golden Books – and difficult to find them – even in major bookstores. I just came across the Ratatouille one at my local Ralphs supermarket this morning. It’s a 24 page delight (especially for $2.99), with gorgeous art, credited to Scott Tilley, Jean-Paul Orpinas (illustrators) and Tony Fejeran (designer). As a long time fan of vintage Little Golden Books, the recent Pixar volumes are excellent additions to the collection.

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Have you noticed how Pixar’s character merchandising art translates perfectly in two-dimensional and hand drawn versions? That’s due, of course, to the characters basic design and Pixar’s cartooning aesthetic. It’s also due to the calibre of artists assigned to create this ancillary artwork. One particularly cool looking publicity project was a series of images inspired by A.M. Cassandre’s vintage French posters, designed and painted by Stephane Kardos (above) and Eric Tan. It’s this kind of attention to detail, and sense of style, that keeps Pixar ahead of the pack – on screen and off.

Imagination by Eric Leiser

Eric Leiser, a recent grad of the CalArts Experimental Animation program, has completed his first feature film, Imagination, which combines live-action with stop motion. Here is the film’s official website. LA folks can check out a couple midnight screenings this weekend, July 6 and 7, at Lammle’s Sunset 5 in West Hollywood. Other upcoming screenings are listed here.

The film sounds like a real departure from typical animated fare. It’s something I look forward to seeing. Below is the synopsis and trailer:

Dr. Reineger is a child neuro-psychologist who has dealt with extreme and abnormal cases his entire life. He has studied the Woodruff twins intensely for many years and has become confident of at least one thing: the twin Anna has a rare form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome, rendering her unable to cope with reality. As for her sister, Sarah, who has been blinded over the past year by a degenerative eye disease, the Doctor cannot say for sure why her visions map so closely to Anna’s. As he reflects on the twins’ ever increasing symbiosis and unified visions, he begins to see the girls as something quite special and outside of the bounds of his understanding.