Jim Tyer, Super Genius

Readers of Cartoon Brew should know the name Jim Tyer. He’s the cartoonist whose each and every drawing will immediately make you laugh, and an animation style you can never forget. At first glance his animation looks wrong, sloppy and way off-model. You wonder how he got away with what he did. But upon closer inspection, you realize the guy knew exactly what he was doing, and was a refreshing counterpoint to the Disney-inspired “illusion of life” other animators were striving to achieve. If there is such a thing as a “cult animator”, Tyer would be leader of the pack.

Thad K., who updates his Animation ID blog with neat things everyday, just posted this incredible Tyer sequence below, from a 1950 Terrytoon, Dream Walking. It really sums up everything we love about this animator.

Covering The Mouse

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I like Disney cartoons. And I like Disney music. So here’s a new Disney blog that pays unique tribute to the songs: Covering the Mouse, a blog dedicated to musicians and singers who have covered Disney songs.

Webmaster Kurtis Findley has just started blogging, posting Disney tunes by the likes of Usher, Bobby McFerrin and LL Cool J. My hope is that he delves into the stranger stuff from the past – like Louis Prima singing Supercalifgragilisticexpialidocious! and Satchmo covering Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.

Animondays

Starting today, animator David B. Levy (president of Asifa-East) starts a new blog, Animondays, which he will update once a week. I’m really looking forward to this, as David has become one of my favorite commentators on animation with his clever, informative columns in the ASIFA-East newsletters and his excellent book, Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive. Here’s hoping David catches the blogging bug and adds AniTuesday, AniWednesday and so on, to his schedule.

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Speaking of Mondays, next Monday night I’ll be presenting my Worst Cartoons Ever! screening for ASIFA-East in New York City. I’ll only be in the city for two days, (as I’m en route to the Ottawa Animation Festival) and I’m hoping to see as many of my old friends and Brew readers there as I can. This is a great way for everyone to meet up and say hello.

The screening will take place at NYU, Tisch School of the Arts, 721 Broadway (between Waverly and Washington Place), Room 017 at 7 PM. The program is technically for ASIFA-East members and NYU students/faculty/alumni only. However, if you are not a member of ASIFA (and you really should be) or not affiliated with NYU, please contact me by Thursday Sept 13th – and I’ll put you on the list. Should be fun… I can’t wait to inflict this bad stuff in the Big Apple.

Mid-Atlantic Comic Con

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Just a reminder that for those of you on the east coast, The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention is the end of this week, September 13 through the 15th at The Clarion Hotel in Aberdeen, Maryland. Among the events scheduled are an in person appearence by Virginia Davis who will talk about working for Walt Disney at the start of his career – and a screening of Ray Pointer’s Alice In Cartoonland program featuring some of the earliest Alice Comedies. Thad Komorowski is running two separate programs of classic animation, A Salute To Frank Tashlin and Golden Age Cartoons there as well. Consult the convention website for more information.

The Chestnut Tree

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Bert and Jennifer Klein just finished producing a very charming 4-minute hand drawn short called The Chestnut Tree. It was directed and animated by a young woman named Hyun-min Lee, who is making her directorial debut. The film was executive produced by Don Hahn. Sorry for the late notice, but it’s screening this weekend for Academy qualification with the filmmakers present at both of the Sunday showings. Here are the details:

Laemmle Sunset 5
8000 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90046
Sun, Sept. 9th, 2007 • 11:05 AM and 11:50 AM

Cartoon Museum Benefit at Pixar

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San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum is holding its fourth annual fundraiser at Pixar Animation Studios next Saturday. Tickets are $200. a piece, a bit steep but all the money goes to keeping the Museum alive. Animation art is a large part what the museum preserves and celebrates. In fact, a Mary Blair retrospective featuring rare concept art, advertising illustrations and children’s book illustrations will be opening in late October and run through March 2008.

At next Saturday’s fundraiser Pixar’s Mark Andrews (Story Supervisor), Dylan Brown (Supervising Animator)and Sharon Calahan (Director of Photography) will be guest speakers. A premiere screening of a new short, Our Friend the Rat, with in person commentary by director Jim Capobianco, will highlight the evening presentation in the main theatre. For more info on the Pixar event, consult the Cartoon Art Museum website.

When Richie Rich was cool

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I know it’s hard to believe, but Richie Rich was a cool dude once.

Once upon a time the character, originally created by Harvey Comics in 1952 as a companion feature in Little Dot, actually had a personality, clever stories and appealing comic art chiefly by animator Steve Muffatti, and cartoonists Warren Kremer and Ernie Colon.

Leslie Cabarga and I spent the summer mining the Harvey Comics vaults and cherry-picked the best of the original Richie Rich comics of the 50s and 60s for a new trade paperback volume due out next month. This is the second of several high quality Harvey Comics reprint books we are compiling for Dark Horse.

If you’ve only been exposed to the latter spin-off comic books of the 1970s and 80s, the cheap animated TV shows or that Macaulay Culkin movie, I urge you to give this volume a look. Amazon has just put our Richie Rich book up for pre-order and has posted the the first several pages, including the entire first six-page Richie story from Little Dot #1 (click the Search Inside: Amazon Online Reader option).

Animated Manhattan

Animated New York

Inspired by the book Celluloid Skyline, which examined the depictions of New York in live-action film, the blog Ironic Sans has a delightful on-going series of posts called “Animated Manhattan” which looks at how New York City has been represented in cartoons throughout the years. So far, they’ve documented an eclectic assortment of animated pieces including features like Fritz the Cat and Madagascar, TV series including The Critic and Futurama, and one-off projects such as the Tom & Jerry short Mouse in Manhattan and the opening titles to Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

(via Animated News)

The Los Angeles Animation Festival

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For 2 days in October, Hollywood gets its first animation festival in over five years – The Los Angeles Animation Festival (Oct.20-21 2007) at the Silent Movie Theatre (611 N. Fairfax Ave., near Melrose Ave., in Los Angeles).

“A festival run by animators for animators.” That’s how festival organizer Miles Flanagan describes his ambitious event.

The weekend will include world premiere screenings (FANTASTIC LALOUX), Gala tributes (Fantastic Planet) and guest speakers including musician Sean Lennon and director Michele Civetta. Every screening is followed by a catered networking party (in the theatre’s Spanish patio). Also of note, my good friends over at Ka-Chew! are co-sponsoring a Rockin Animation music video contest.

For full details, ticket sales and a complete schedule of events/competitions go to the Festival website. See you there!

Bozo’s furniture

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P.S. Forget about the Disney furniture collection.

This Saturday you can bid on Bozo’s personal furnishings. The property of Larry Harmon (a.k.a. Bozo the Clown) is being auctioned off in New York by Tepper Galleries (click on the Sept. 8th preview for detailed information). Nothing too weird is listed, no 16mm prints of Laurel and Hardy, no cels of Butchy Boy. Just a bunch of classy furniture.

What a clown!

Disney exhibit at Forest Lawn

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Some believe that the art of classic character animation is dead. So perhaps it’s quite fitting that the Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale is currently hosting an animation exhibit entitled Visions: The World of Fantasy Art.

Crystal Mora (of the Platform Animation Festival) checked it out:

Knowing very little about the exhibit, I was not only delighted to find some amazing fantasy illustrations on display, but also many pieces on loan from the Walt Disney Animation Studio. Some of the work on display includes maquettes from The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, original character sketches by Glen Keane, storyboards, backgrounds, and concept art from Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan and more!

The entire exhibit itself was not very large, but it’s completely free to enjoy. Having the location be at the top of a large cemetery was a bit questionable, but the drive was lovely (and slightly creepy).

The exhibit is currently running through January 6th, 2008. For more information check the website.

Ben Zurawski’s Flipbooks

So you’re a 23-year-old unknown animator and you’d like your work seen by millions of people on national TV. How do you do it? For Detroit-based artist Ben Zurawski, it was as simple as drawing some flipbooks and posting them onto YouTube. A few weeks ago, one of them was shown on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Here’s the segment:

Zurawski has posted nearly thirty flipbooks so far onto the video sharing site. Some of them take on pop culture figures like Steve Irwin and Stephen Colbert, while others are fairly ambitious graphically and accompanied with sound, like My Disastrous Little Flipbook. His most viewed flipbook, nip-slip flip book (safe for work) has received over 450k views. Ben also accepts commissions to create custom flipbooks, starting from $55.

In this day and age of whiz-bang gadgetry and powerful digital software, Zurawski is proof positive that a lo-fi approach to animation can garner success online, and even get your work featured on late-night talkshows. Here is a link to a recent interview with Ben about his artwork in general.

Nicolai Troshinsky

Nicolai Troshinsky

Born in Moscow and currently living in Spain, 22-year-old illustrator/animator Nicolai Troshinsky creates beautiful lyrical mini-films in a variety of techniques including cut-out (El Paraguas), hand-drawn (Good Morning) and stop motion ( Trenes). There’s nothing flashy about Troshinsky’s work, but his talent and thoughtful approach to art are evident throughout the animated pieces.

(Thanks, Taylor Jessen))

Disney’s Feng Shui

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Notice anything animated about this room?

According to Drexel Heritage, this is furniture inspired by Walt Disney! The Disney Signature Collection is what they call a “life-style brand”. There are over fifty pieces in the collection, none of them featuring any characters, but all inspired by the Moderne office decor of the Burbank studio of the 1940s (with names that make reference to famous locations in Disney history – like the “Kingswell Chair” and the “Marceline Mirror”). Some of these pieces are really nice – but this behind-the-scenes sales video is, at best, a bit pretentious.

So grab your copy of Mike Barrier’s The Animated Man and get comfortable in the “Storyteller Sofa”, grab a drink from the “Buena Vista Bar Cabinet”, and put your feet up on the “Animators End Table”. After a hard day of mocap and key framing, you deserve it.

(Thanks, Brad Constantine)

Magoo’s Christmas Carol

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Calling all cartoon historians! Animator Darrell Van Citters is researching and writing a book about the classic UPA TV special Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. All primary interviews and research have been completed, but Darrell is now looking for anyone who might have additional relevant information, documents, artwork or photos regarding these crew members: Lee Mishkin, Sam Weiss, Steve Clark, Tom McDonald, Hank Smith, Ed Solomon, John Walker, Xenia DeMattia and Earl Jonas.

Anyone who has any information or artwork from either Magoo’s Christmas Carol or The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo is strongly encouraged to contact darrell.vancitters (at) renegadeanimation.com.

Bill Littlejohn Interview

Bill Littlejohn
Above: Bill Littlejohn at Playhouse Pictures in 1962

Whenever I’m depressed about the state of contemporary animation, I think about what inspires and excites me about this art form. One of those things is great animation, the type of abstracted and invented movement (largely non-existent today) that is unique to the medium, and which was practiced by master animators like Rod Scribner, Jim Tyer, Grim Natwick, Bobe Cannon, Emery Hawkins and Bill Littlejohn. Of those animators, only Littlejohn is still alive, and Tom Sito recently did this great interview with the legendary Littlejohn.

I’d often heard the story that during the early-’50s the animation business was so slow that Littlejohn took a job at a car dealership. It’s hard to believe that an animator of his caliber could ever be lacking for work but Littlejohn indeed confirms the story in this interview. Of course, things eventually picked up and from the mid-’50s onwards, he animated for just about every commercial studio in LA including Storyboard, Animation Inc., Playhouse Pictures, Fine Arts Films and many others.

To learn more about Littlejohn, here are a few more links:
Personal memories of Littlejohn by June Foray

A few thoughts about his work from director Michael Sporn

My thoughts on the great drawing in one of Littlejohn’s commercials

Podcasts: Clayberger, Docter & Glines

Sam Clayberger

It’s not just blogs that offer valuable animation-related content nowadays. Here are three recent audio podcasts with three super artists. I’ve listened to them and they’re all worth a download:

Toon In!, hosted by Tee Bosustow, has many interviews with animation artists. The one that caught my attention was the interview with Sam Clayberger. Clayberger was a designer and background painter at UPA between 1953-1958, produced the artwork for the Rocky & Bullwinkle pilot (along with Roy Morita), and has had a long career as a fine artist and art teacher. It’s a delight to finally hear him speak about his career since one never hears much about him, and the bonus is that he’s fun to listen to. The photo above is from Clayberger’s days at UPA.

The Spline Doctors, and in particular, animator Andrew Gordon, have come through with another solid interview with a fellow co-worker at Pixar. This time, it’s Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter, who shares much wisdom about story and animation throughout the discussion.

Last but not least, the Sidebar podcast features a lengthy chat with character designer Shane Glines. While the two interviewers are comic fans with a limited knowledge of the animation process, the discussion is lively, and Shane offers good insights into his personal journey and development as an artist.