Animated Movie Titles

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It’s funny how movie title sequences have now been moved to the back of the film. But that hasn’t stopped filmmakers from producing the occasional animated title sequence – which are traditionally better than the films that preceed them. Here is a link to a 2D oil-painted title sequence for the upcoming movie Love in the Time of Cholera (opening November 16th). Animator Paul Donnellon (of VooDooDog) is responsible for this one.

It’s just one of about two dozen collected by SubmarineChannel.com, which has begun gathering recent animated movie titles under the banner “Forget the Film, Watch the Titles”. This is a long term, on-going project to compile the best work in this field. It’s not just character animation: 3D, Motion Graphics and Mixed Media titles are also on display. Well worth a look.

Blokhedz

If the Hollywood establishment isn’t producing the kind of animation you want to see, it may be time to take matters into your own hands. Case in point: this work-in-progress trailer (below) for a locally produced“hip-hop meets anime” feature called Blokhedz. Production designer and VFX supervisor Joshua Geisler sent me some information on the project:

We are a small independent company in L.A. attempting to create this film with a limited budget. The film is based on a comic book mini-series of the same title, and follows roughly the same story line. Earlier this year we produced a short animation test / proof-of-concept piece using 2D character animation and 3D backgrounds. I am the background artist on the piece, and I supervised the compositing of the project. It’s a little rough around the edges, but we learned a lot from the process and we are feverishly working on our design pack to refine character construction and effects development.

I really like the graffitti-styled effects animation. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but its creators are passionate, ambitious and serious about making it work. Good luck to them.

Elk Cloner

Elk Cloner

It’s an encouraging sign for the development of CG animation that we are increasingly seeing young artists creating computer work that is non-photoreal and more evocative than descriptive. A prime example of this is a piece we wrote about a while back: RGBXYZ by David O’Reilly. A more recent bit of stylized CG that came my way is the short Elk Cloner by student filmmaker Jason Fletcher, aka Isoceles, who created it at SAIC. Even after reading the artist statement and supporting documentation (Elk Cloner was an early computer virus that infected the Apple II), I can’t say I have much of a clue of what it’s about. But is a piece worth recommending, and features an original filmmaking voice combined with a refreshingly abstract approach to CGI.

A Disney Animation Filmography

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At the Ottawa International Animation Festival last week, attendees recieved a unique little publicity piece. An eight-inch round cardboard disc which, on the front, was a colorful overview of Disney Feature animation through the decades. On the rear (pictured above) was a somewhat complete listing of all Disney commercially released shorts and features.

Click on the above to see a larger, readable image. All the features seem to be there, but is this really every animated short? I haven’t gone through it with a fine tooth comb… Not to be a complete geek about it, but weren’t there a few oddities that should be included? John Henry (2000)? Off His Rockers (1992)? Oilspot and Lipstick (1987)? I can understand why the Timon & Pumbaa short (Stand By Me) and the Bonkers theatrical were left off. They were really produced by other departments. Does anyone want to check for other omissions?

Bucky & Pepito take a Cartoon Dump

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Bucky and Pepito is considered by many to be one of the worst cartoons ever made. Harry McCracken once claimed the series “set a standard for awfulness that no contemporary TV cartoon has managed to surpass.”

That makes it a perfect candidate for our podcast Cartoon Dump. Episode #3 is now up at CartoonBrewFilms.com and we promise to post a new one each week for the next three weeks. Check it out – it’s free!

TV Felix on DVD

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I never thought I’d say this, but Classic Media’s new DVD collection Felix the Cat: The Complete 1958-1959 Series is better than it has any right to be. In fact it’s probably the best DVD Classic Media has released (unfortunetly, that’s not saying much).felixdvd1.jpg

It collects the first 31 (of 260) made for TV Felix cartoons made by Joe Oriolo in 1958-59. Jack Mercer (voice of Popeye) provides the voices (all of them) and the limited animation is provided by Fleischer/Famous and Terrytoon veterans including Al Eugster, Tom Johnson, Steve Muffatti and especially Jim Tyer (I spotted at least five Tyer tour-de-forces, The Gold Fruit Tree, Felix’s Gold Mine, Do-It-Yourself Monster Kit, Felix The Cat Suit and The Gold Car and The County Fair). The Tyer cartoons are particularly fun – lots of crazy poses and extreme reactions, as expected.

It’s really worth it for the Tyer shorts alone – but there are several nice bonus features included: Felix’s debut short from 1919, Feline Follies, a promo reel of TV Felix commercial spots, the opening theme song in Spanish and Japanese, and an interview with John Canemaker providing a concise historial overview of the character’s history. The cartoons themselves have been restored from 35mm master elements and look and sound great. Even the package design is pleasing. I guess I like these cartoons for nostalgic reasons. I grew up watching them every day. They are a far cry from the Messmer classics, but a real guilty pleasure for many of us baby boomers. It goes on sale Oct. 2nd.

Tytla animation art for sale

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Bonhams & Butterfields next entertainment memorabilia auction, on Sunday December 9th, will contain animation art from the Estate of Bill Tytla, one of the greatest animators of all time. According to their press release:

The collection includes a cel, animation drawings and preliminary drawings including a celluloid of the character “Chernabog” from Fantasia. The 1940 gouache on celluloid, a close-up of Chernabog’s face (above) from the Night on Bald Mountain sequence, is matted and framed, the 10 x 12-inch work expected to bring $600-800 at auction.

Click on cel above for a larger image. All items for sale in this auction will be posted next month on this page.

Lost and Found

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Independent animator Jeff Scher (who won the New Media prize in Ottawa on Sunday for his TimesSelect piece L’eau Life) made another little film of note, Lost and Found, by tracing over several bits of Fleischer, Van Beuren and Felix animation. I love stuff like this. It’s fun, and takes nothing away from the original works (and may encourage artier types to take a closer look at classic cartoons).

Here’s a contest for the super-nerds in our readership (and I use the tern super-nerds in the most affectionate way – I’m one, too). Whoever is first to name all the clips rotoscoped in Lost and Found will win a brand new DVD collection: Felix the Cat: The Complete 1958-1959 Series. I will select the winner (at my discretion) from comments recieved today (9/25). Winner will be announced on Wednesday.

Canemaker Wins Emmy and Honored in Italy

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Congrats to our friend, and the animation art form’s friend, John Canemaker, who won an Emmy award last night at the 28th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards. His film, The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation, which has already won the 2005 Oscar for Best Animated Short, took home the Emmy in the category of “Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Graphic & Artistic Design.”

Additionally, John will be honored in Italy this October at the 26th annual Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy. He will be the first animation historian to receive the Jean Mitry Award, which is awarded to an individual or institution for their “reclamation and appreciation of silent cinema.” We are aware you are a true pioneer,” write Giornate Festival organizers Livio Jacob and Piera Patat, “making claims for the importance of Winsor McCay and Otto Messmer when even silent film historians were ignoring them.”

The Three Robbers

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For those who doubt it – Hand drawn animated features are alive and well in Europe. Case in point: Die Drei Rauber (The Three Robbers).

Unfortunetly, as stated here before, this is one of dozens of foreign animated films produced every year that don’t get distributed in North America. Our friend Sinem Sakaoglu writes:

I thought it might interest you to know we’ll soon be premiering (so far only in Germany and France) the feature version of The Three Robbers (based on the book by Tomi Ungerer; Gene Deitch produced a six minute short version for Weston Woods in 1972)

It was a relatively small crew that made it all happen and though I now have a few more gray hairs than when I started the project (I did production management and overseas supervision), it was a fun and rewarding time… Hope it gets over to the other side of the pond.

So do I. It looks cute. See the trailer here.

Animation History Round-Up #3

Drawing by Marc Davis

• Disney theme park designs by animator Marc Davis.

• Funny frame grabs from an Iwerks Willie Whopper short.

• Grim Natwick and Dave Hand talk about Norm Fergusons’s rough animation. The post goes well with this Michael Barrier piece, “How Rough Were ‘Fergy Ruffs.’

Alvin storyboard

• There are more funny drawings in this Alvin Show pilot board than in entire runs of most animated TV series nowadays.

• Weightless Life was a recent four-part documentary about the history of Russian animation. The first part of the doc has been translated into English by blogger Niffiwan and posted on his blog. His post is well-annotated with plenty of links to the films and artists discussed in the special.

• A step-by-step painting by classic Disney background painter Ralph Hulett, plus an extra tip about perspective from Hulett.

Ferdinand Horvarth drawing

• Bob Camp is in the house, and he’s started a second blog to post older artwork. Currently, he’s sharing some delightful Disney concept art by Ferdinand Horvarth. There’s more biographical info about Horvarth in this article by Wade Sampson.

• Animator/director Will Finn talks about learning how to draw like yourself and uses a couple classic print cartoonists as examples.

Previously on Cartoon Brew:
Animation History Round-Up #1
Animation History Round-Up #2

Report from Ottawa: Persepolis and Goofy

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From the sublime to the ridiculous…

My laryngitis on Wednesday developed into a full fledged cold on Thursday and Friday, forcing me to to miss many screenings and events at Ottawa this year. However, I did manage to sneak out each day to attend at least one screening or panel (and the picnic) and still had a great time. Of the Competition screenings and International Showcase I attended, I didn’t see any film unworthy of showing. Either it was a great year for short films, or the selection committee really did a great job (or probably, both).

I did catch two significant 2-D films worthy of special note—Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s Persepolis and Disney Animation’s new Goofy short How To Hook Up Your Home Theater.

Persepolis – This is an important film. I’m not saying it’s a great film—or the best animated film of the year—but it’s a good film with a great story. More significantly, we in animation need it.

It’s a mostly black and white 2-D hand drawn cartoon—think Little Lulu, if Lulu grew up in Tehran during the overthrow of the Shah—and strictly for adults. It’s the antithesis of the Hollywood CG blockbuster mentality that is currently stifling creativity in animated feature films. This film’s success could help revive the idea that animated films could be drawn by hand.

It’s based on Satrapi’s own life story and her heartbreaking graphic novel, and it’s been faithfully adapted in such a way as to make palatable a tale which would perhaps be less compelling in live action. It’s both dramatic and comedic, and never dull for a moment. A must see for anyone interested in animation or current world events.

Compared to other recent foreign films, it doesn’t have the character animation and design of The Triplettes of Belleville, or the cutting edge graphics of anime, but it has something those other films don’t – a coherent storyline, told against a backdrop of contemporary life in the Middle East. France has qualified the film for an Academy Award, as its entry for Best Foreign Film. It also has a good shot as Best Animated Feature Film. I’m crossing my fingers for its nomination.


How To Hook Up Your Home Theater – They nailed it.

Unlike other recent tries at reviving Disney classic characters via new shorts (think The Prince and the Pauper or Runaway Brain), the goal of this new film was not to reivent Goofy but to recapture the spirit of the Disney shorts of the late 40s, particularly the Jack Kinney classics like Hockey Homicide or a Goofy Gymnastics. They did it. It all felt right to me.

Though the film boasts the cream of the crop of current Disney animators (Deja, Henn, Baer, Goldberg, etc.), this isn’t an animators film – it’s a director’s picture. Just as Tex Avery’s cartoons are masterfully skewed through his twisted vision, here directors Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton (the first woman to direct a Disney cartoon!) take control, weaving numerous contempory gag situations into a refreshingly old school cartoon structure.

The red burlap opening titles are back. Michael Giacchino provides a perfect Oliver Wallace-styled musical score, and Corey Burton narrates with intonations falling somewhere between John McLeish and Frank Graham. Certain layouts are direct lifts from Motor Mania (Goofy’s home) and How To Play Football (the football field). And there are literally dozens of gags – truly funny ones and several visual in-jokes for those looking extra hard – packed into the six and a half minute running time.

The bottom line: How To Hook Up Your Home Theater feels exactly like a contemporary 1949 Goofy cartoon – and I can’t pay it any higher compliment than that. It’s the perfect film to start the new shorts program with. A nod to the past as the studio looks to the future. I just hope the studio will promote it properly when it decides to release it later this fall.


Despite the haze I was in due to the cold medicines I was on, I understand our blogging panel went pretty well. We had a full house at the venue selected and great questions from our lovely moderator, Maral Mohammadian (Associate Producer at the NFB). Don’t let the drowsy group in the photo below fool you… it was quite a lively panel. (left to right, yours truly Jerry Beck, Jeff Hasulo, Mike Barrier and Mark Mayerson).
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(a photo of four bored bloggers by Alan Cook)

More Backgrounds

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We’ve plugged the blogs of both Hans Bacher and Rob Richards numerous times recently. Both are putting a spotlight on the unsung work of background painters in animated cartoons. Today, Richards posts a composite of the pan shot showing the three dimensional cave (actually an intricate miniature live action set) in Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad The Sailor. Fleischer artisans clearly put a lot of thought, hard work and artistic know how into these Stereo-Optical “set-backs”. Considering how some of these elaborate shots only appear on screen for several seconds, I encourage Rob to create more composites of these. They certainly deserve a closer look.

The World Is Your Canvas

Who needs pencil and paper? Italian graffiti artist and painter Blu paints his animation onto the ground and walls. His latest piece, Fantoche (posted below), was created earlier this month during the Fantoche Animation Festival in Switzerland. It is a brilliant and inspiring creative accomplishment, not to mention an obviously staggering amount of work:

Blu also creates hand-drawn animation and is the subject of a forthcoming documentary, the trailer for which can be viewed here.

(Thanks both to Wilbert Plijnaar and John Luciano)

Now That’s Some Animation-y Animation

There are plenty of gems to mine in this AWN article about the new live-action/animated Cartoon Network series Out of Jimmy’s Head. Nothing however tops this enlightened description of the show’s animation by CN exec Michael Ouweleen: according to him, the animation in the series is “more animation-y, more out there.”

Now, I’ve been in and around the animation business for a number of years but I honestly have no idea how anyone could make animation more animation-y. If it’s already animation, then it can’t be any more of that technique than it already is. Enough of this silliness, my head hurts just thinking about it. I think a little music will soothe my mind. Let’s just hope it’s music-y enough.

Get Well, Mel?

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Above and below are two parts of one interesting piece of WB ephemera that that one of our readers (who wishes to remain anonymous) acquired recently. We believe it may have been a first, more informal get well card to Mel Blanc very shortly after his catastrophic auto wreck on Jan. 24, 1961. This would have been before Chuck Jones did his Magnum Opus card – almost 4 feet long that showed all 14 WB characters lying side-by-side in bed with thermometers in their mouths being attended by a doctor and a nurse with the Doc saying “I don’t know what is wrong with them, they have all lost their voice.” The names seem roughly right for 1961. But were Maltese and Scribner there at that point? Perhaps it was created for another?

Can any of our readers, researchers and historians attribute who it was done for, and who drew it???

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Looney ‘tudes

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Brew reader Steve Flack sends this report from midtown Manhattan:

I was at Midtown Comics in New York City yesterday, buying my weekly comics, and they had a countertop display of pop culture refrigerator magnets. I was shocked when I saw this one (below), with the classic Looney Tunes Henery Hawk character.

Am I right in being confused as to how this passed the licensing department?

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Tom & Jerry Metal

Heavy metal gutairist Sammi Shredd of Atlanta Georgia, recently tried his hand at rescoring Hanna Barbera’s 1945 MGM cartoon Tee For Two. Shredd writes:

I learned the score to a Tom & Jerry cartoon and then performed it entirely on guitar includng most of the sound effects, including a drum track that does not appear in the original cartoon. It took me six months. I play heavy metal, so without purposefully trying to “metal-ize” the music, it nonetheless took on a slightly more aggressive tone.

I don’t want to give the Cartoon Network any encouragement…but if you’re into heavy metal, this isn’t half bad.