Today I’m pleased to announce the upcoming publication of the first-ever Cartoon Brew book. Inside UPA is a 64-page volume offering an unprecedented look into the legendary UPA animation studios. Packed with over fifty photos, most of which haven’t been seen in decades, the book offers a rare glimpse into what it was like to work at the mid-century’s greatest design-oriented animation studio.
Like the studio itself, this book is a bit of an experiment. It’s an animation book that treats artists like the stars they are and allows them to be appreciated in a way like never before. Personally I think it’s quite the appropriate companion to my earlier book Cartoon Modern because as that book focused on artwork and animation, this book recognizes the artists who made those groundbreaking films a reality.
Inside UPA captures long forgotten moments from the studio’s history including such images as John Hubley sketching dancer Olga Lunick during the production of Rooty Toot Toot, Aurie Battaglia and Leo Salkin working on the unproduced James Thurber feature The White Deer, architect John Lautner talking to UPA animators about his building plans for the studio, Pete Burness and Mister Magoo voice Jim Backus going through a storyboard, Gene Deitch and Cliff Roberts having an impromptu jam session at a picnic, and a late-night production staff meeting at the Smokehouse Restaurant.
Inside UPA, which measures 7.5″x8.7″, is a softcover with french flaps and b&w interior. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go towards the production of the UPA documentary that Tee Bosustow is working on so every purchase helps to further advance the documentation of the studio’s output. The book also includes a six-page filmography, which is the most complete UPA filmography to ever appear in print. It includes not only the studio’s theatrical shorts, but also its industrial and training films, TV commercials and shows, and other special projects.
The book is available in a numbered edition of 1000 copies. It’s a limited run and certainly not the type of book that will be available forever. The pre-order price (valid through September 15) is $35 (plus S&H). After that date, the price increases to $45. Fifty of these copies will come with a bookplate signed by UPA veterans who are still alive. These are available at $150.
Dutch animator and illustrator Fons Schiedon has a lot of impressive work on his website FonzTV.nl, and none more so than the educational piece Teen Facts: Hormones, which employs a beautifully-executed split screen concept and features some really fun and appealing animation. The short is currently screening at the Nemo Science Center in Amsterdam. Also it’s worth noting that Schiedon is currently art directing a new children’s TV series, The Incredible Adventures of Kika and Bob which will air this fall on Discovery Kids in the US.
Below is an interview with Schiedon from designFLUX where he talks about his work and influences.
This is a must-read article in the New York Times about the new deal that South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have struck with Viacom. The deal, which is reportedly worth $75 million to its creators, includes a three-year extension of the series and the creation of SouthParkStudios.com, an incubator for new projects that, I believe, Parker and Stone will have an ownership stake in.
The most attention-grabbing part of the deal, and very likely a first for the creator of an animated TV series, is that Viacom has agreed to give Parker and Stone a 50-50 split of ad revenues on digital platforms, though not on television. The deal was made possible thanks to the duo’s lawyer, Kevin Morris, who in 1997 had the foresight to demand that the creators would share in any revenue not derived from the episode airings on cable. What was then a seemingly minor contract clause has today “created what may be a new model in the balance of power and money between creative artists and companies like Comedy Central,” as so succinctly put in this op-ed in the Times. The precedent-setting contractual victory of the South Park creators is a cause of celebration for all creators, as the antiquated exploitation-based business models of the entertainment industry crumble in this new digital age and artists slowly but surely begin to receive equitable compensation for their creations.
Van Eaton Galleries, in conjunction with the Creative Talent Network, is holding a unique event featuring a tribute to some of Disney Heroes of Imagination, past and present. Honorees for the evening are Rowland Wilson, Joe Grant (above), Walt Stanchfield and Mel Shaw. From the press release:
There will be an exhibition of art, never-before-seen-publicly, from the private collections of family, friends and colleagues of these artists on display throughout the gallery. Attendees will receive a commemorative brochure that includes biographies of each artist and a collection of statements and anecdotes from the many celebrated artists who have shared studio space with these great talents.
The Disney Heroes of Imagination event will be held on Saturday, September 15th, 2007 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm at Van Eaton Galleries, 13613 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks, California. RSVPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s are now being taken. Anyone interested in attending should call (818) 788-2357.
No doubt you’ve seen this fine performance by Miss Teen South Carolina, but have you seen her follow-up interview on The Today Show where she reveals that she wants to study and become, such as, a visual effects artist. Frankly I think she’d be squandering her talents working in vfx when she so clearly has all the makings of an animation executive.
Adam Yaniv, an animator at Rhythm & Hues by day, recently pointed me to this small personal project he created as an entry in Heinz’s Top This TV Challenge.
What’s notable about this spot is how he used a combination of 3D software and Flash to achieve the hand-drawn look. Cel shaders in CG programs generally bother me because in order to create a hand-drawn look, they attempt to mask the CG, and the end result is neither fish nor fowl. Yaniv, on the other hand, used CG only as a foundation to assist the hand-drawn process. He explained the pipeline to me via email:
“I use 3D as kind of my blue pencil phase, getting the characters down in simple shapes, animating their action in front of the camera and so forth. Then I move into traditional frame-by-frame cleanup, using Flash in this case. The key is that cleanup is done in the same exact way that it would be in 2D, no cut corners. Meaning that I make judgment calls on every frame pertaining to model, volume, line-quality and animation style same as I would in 2D. So I use the best of both worlds, it’s all in the technique.”
Yaniv has plans to use this process in future personal projects. He’s excited about the potential of the process citing its flexibility to make changes right through the end of production, the sped-up timeframe in which hand-drawn animation can be created, and the ability to distribute the workload across a team of animators.
It should be noted that Aardman’s recent multiple-award winning short The Pearce Sisters uses a somewhat similar technique, beginning with CG roots and ending up with a hand-drawn look. Though Yaniv’s technique isn’t groundbreaking, it excites me to see artists experimenting with the digital tools at their disposal and finding ways to make technology work for them. As more and more artists like Yaniv embrace hybrid approaches, we can finally put to rest the tired 2D versus 3D debate and recognize the possibilities that exist when digital and hand-drawn are combined.
Lest we forget: This year marks the anniversary of Disney’s biggest commercial cartoon star: Fresh-Up Freddie.
It was fifty years ago (in 1957) when the Leo Burnett Agency created the Freddy ad campaign for 7-Up and its sponsorship of Disney’s prime time Zorro TV series. The Disney studio made the commercials and designed the character (essentially a hybrid of Panchito and the Aracuan Bird from The Three Caballeros). I’ve seen very few of them myself, but luckily, like everything else, they are now showing up on the Internet. There is a nice long Freddie commercial currently featured at The Museum of Broadcast Communications website near the start of the American Bandstand episode (at the 1:50 mark). And here’s another one from YouTube:
These spots are nice, but they are nothing Walter Lantz or any other commercial cartoon studio couldn’t do just as well. Commercials were not really part of Disney agenda…perhaps he should have stopped doing them 35 years earlier, after Tommy Tucker’s Tooth.
This morning, from 9:30 to 10am (PST), tune in to S.W. Conser’s radio program Words & Pictures for an interview with Pixar sound designer Gary Rydstrom. Rydstrom also directed the studio’s most recent short Lifted. Portland-based listeners can listen on KBOO 90.7fm, and folks elsewhere can listen to a real-time webcast at KBOO.fm.
The Word & Pictures audio archives also houses interviews with Understanding Comics author Scott McCloud, animation director Marv Newland (Bambi Meets Godzilla), and this recent chat with Jerry and I, which marks the only time the Brewmasters have done a joint radio interview.
I’ve mentioned it before but the new Cinderella storybook, illustrated with Mary Blair’s conceptual artwork from the Disney feature, is arriving into bookstores this week. There’s also this article in Publisher’s Weekly which talks about how the project came to fruition, and more importantly, offers the news that two more Disney storybooks using Blair’s concept art are scheduled: Alice in Wonderland in ’08 and Peter Pan in ’09.