Your Friend The Rat

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Apparently a new Pixar short – their first with extensive 2-D traditional animation – will available on the Ratatouille DVD and Blu-Ray Discs (on sale November 6th). The short was directed by Jim Capobianco, who says he was particularly inspired by Ward Kimball, and was written by Jeff Pidgeon and Alexander Woo.

Sci-Fi.com has some more information. Animated-News has posted several stills.

Cinematic Titanic

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Slightly off topic, but fans of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and Cartoon Dump will appreciate this news.

Original MST3K writer/performers Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Josh Weinstein and Mary Jo Pehl have re-teamed with creator Joel Hodgson to create a whole new movie spoof comedy machine, Cinematic Titantic.

Details on this new show will be posted on Joel’s new website as it develops. Frank and I are still producing Cartoon Dump, and Joel (as “Dumpster Diver Dan”) is still part of the regular Cartoon Dump cast at our live shows each month. I wish the cast and crew of CT the best of luck with this new venture… consider me your number #1 fan!

“We The Robots” by Chris Harding

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Independent animator (and former syndicated cartoonist) Chris Harding (Learn Self Defense) launches a new online comic strip today called We The Robots. There are thirteen comics currently posted and new ones scheduled weekly. I tend to be a fan of just about everything Chris does and this latest project is no exception. It should be noted that the strip is loosely related to the next animated short that he’s currently working on. He explains in one of his blog posts:

“It’s hard to explain the relationship between the animated Work In Progress, and the non-animated comic strip that goes with it. Both take place in the same fictional world of robots. The short is more broad and doesn’t revolve around any specific robot, where the comic strip has several regular characters.”

Janie Reitherman R.I.P.

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Howard Green sends us this sad news: Janie Reitherman — Woolie’s widow — passed away on Saturday at her home in Burbank from complications due to cancer. She was 83 years old. There will a memorial service for her this Saturday at 11 am at Crippen Mortuary (2900 Honolulu Ave in La Crescenta) followed by a reception at her home in Burbank. She is survived by three sons: Bruce (voice of Mowgli, Christopher Robin) of Summerland, CA; Richard who lives in Orange County, and Robert who lives in Half Moon Bay. Janie attended the special “Jungle Book” evening at the El Capitan Theatre on Sept. 6th.

(Pictured above, Robert, Woolie, Richard and Janie)

Fear(s) of the Dark

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Back in February 2006, I wrote about an intriguing French animated feature Peur(s) du Noir (Fears of the Dark), which is a black-and-white anthology of scary stories. Each of the stories has a distinct look designed by alternative comic artists and illustrators like Charles Burns, Lorenzo Mattotti and Richard McGuire. The English trailer can be viewed here (Quicktime) and the film website is here. The film opens on February 13, 2008 in France. No word yet on whether there’ll be an international release.

Snapshots from the Valley

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hermanhenry.jpgOver the weekend, Mike Kazaleh snapped this picture (above) of the window of a North Hollywood chicken resturant. Their mascot is an obvious swipe of Paramount Pictures beloved (and long-forgotten) 1940s cartoon star, Henry the Henpecked Rooster (at left, with co-star Herman the Mouse). Did they think we wouldn’t notice? I love how he’s dressed like a pimp and pointing towards the resturant’s “B” rating.

Meanwhile, last night, I was driving past the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive in Burbank and snapped this pic, below (with my funky cell phone). After two years, we finally have signage – classy metal signage – on our headquarters building on Burbank Blvd. It looks great, and now you have no excuse not to find it. Next time you are in the area, please drop in.

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Bee Movie

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After months of seeing clips, excerpts, storyreels and tons of production art, I finally saw the finished film for the first time today.

Let me back up a little. About fifteen months ago I began working on latest volume in Chronicle Books ongoing “Art Of” series, The Art of Bee Movie. I’d been a fan of Jerry Seinfeld’s since viewing the first episode of his famous TV series in 1989. Working on this book project allowed me to take a first hand look at the making of a modern animated CG feature and the rare chance to immerse myself with the spectacular preproduction sketches, paintings, visualizations and character designs that both made it and didn’t make it in the finished film.

The book, just going on sale this week, is loaded with much of the incredible art that didn’t make it, and early versions of characters, props and places that ultimately helped the filmmakers realize Seinfeld’s script. There’s enough good stuff here for ten different visual versions of the film. The book is justified if only to preserve the amazing unused material that Craig Kellman, Nico Marlett, Christophe Lautrette and Tony Siruno produced, and I’m proud to have done my part to preserve it.

Obviously I’m biased about the finished film. If you are (or were) a Seinfeld fan, you won’t be disappointed. It’s funny – very funny – and sweet (no pun intended). The film is a “screwball comedy”, as just about everything in it is about getting laughs, telling jokes or a set-up for a comic set piece. It has a good story and I even learned a few things about bees I never knew before (some of them factual: like how honey is produced; some of them fanciful: that bees can talk). Producers Christina Steinberg and Jerry Seinfeld also attended todays screening and were clearly jazzed by the reception the film got: almost non-stop laughs from begining to end (this was a screening for members of the Producer’s Guild – not Dreamworks employees).

Members of ASIFA-Hollywood, ASIFA-East and ASIFA-San Francisco are invited to a members only sneak preview screening on Tuesday night (10/30) in their respective cities. I’ll be there, in Hollywood, to do a Q&A with the directors after the film. Can’t wait to see it again. I’m buzzed.

Max & Co

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Here’s another film to look out for.

The winner of the public prize at this year’s Annecy Animation Festival was a stop motion puppet film called Max & Co. Produced by a relatively new studio called cinemagination with puppets constructed by mackinnon and saunders (responsible for the Corpse Bride models), it’s the first feature film by brothers Fred and Sam Guillaume. Currently playing on the festival circuit, Max & Co is now scheduled for a theatrical release in Europe next February. Here’s a link to the trailer.

(Thanks, Russell Peet)

NICKTOONS on Page Six

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Move over Paris and Britney. I’ve made The New York Post Page Six today.

Nothing scandalous. Just a clever plug for the new coffee table art book, Not Just Cartoons, Nicktoons!. It was my sincere pleasure to interview all the creators of Nicktoon series for this project, and the book turned out to be quite a visual feast. You’ll find it at your local bookshop this week. It’ll be easy to spot – It’s the one with a dust jacket covered in green slime.

Waterloo Festival of Animated Cinema

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I wish this festival were in Los Angeles – or anywhere in the United States. But I’m thankful it’s presented anyplace at all. Located in beautiful Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario Canada, The Waterloo Festival of Animated Cinema is the annual film retrospective dedicated to showcasing the latest unreleased international animated feature films – in an actual movie theatre, the way they’re supposed to be seen.

This year the four day festival runs from November 15-18. Screenings will be held at The Gig Theatre (the Hyland Cinema) in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. The festival opens Thursday Nov. 15 with the Canadian premiere of Leslie Iwerks’ The Pixar Story. Other films screening this year include: A-Film’s The Ugly Duckling and Me; Korea’s Aachi and Ssipak; France’s The Killer of Montmartre; Bjork’s Anna and the Moods; the Czech puppet horror film One Night In The City; and the infamous Norwegian CG feature Free Jimmy.

Two films document the development of one of Brazil’s leading animators, Otto Guerra: Wood & Stock: Sex, Oregano and Rock ën Roll, and Rocky and Hudson. Anime is represented with Five Centimeters Per Second, and SOS Metro Tokyo Explorers. Other Festival selections and premieres include RH+ and Film Noir.

Last but not least, the Festival will be holding the premiere of Ladd Ehlinger Jr.’s Flatland the Film. Director and animator Ehlinger will present the film in person and take Q&A after the screening – and the festival will be presenting the film and the Q&A session not only to the attending audience, but to the entire world via the Internet.

For more information contact program curator Joseph C. Chen via email wfac-at-wfac.ca or through the festival website.

Animated Documentary About Pablo Ferro

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Mark Webster of Motion Design blog offers a preview of a fascinating film which I hadn’t heard of: a full-length animated documentary about legendary film title designer Pablo Ferro (Dr. Strangelove). The film which is scheduled for release in ’08 is based on interviews with dozens of Ferro’s friends and colleagues including Angelica Huston, Andy Garcia, Beau Bridges, Stan Lee and Norman Lear. Before becoming involved in film titles, Ferro worked in animation at NY studios like Elektra and Academy, as well as co-owning his own commercial studio in the early-60s called Ferro, Mogubgub and Schwartz.

The Ark

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Not as exciting as the new Lucky Luke film, but the Argentinean feature, The Ark (el Arca), certainly looks ambitious – and should have the furry fans salivating. Here’s the trailer. Interesting that it is distributed by Buena Vista International (aka Disney). The Ark will screen in Los Angeles, one time only, on Saturday November 17th at 5pm, at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. (I’ll be at the Raggedy Ann reunion at the AFI that day myself).

Animation in Columbus Ohio

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Coming up in November is a series of unique animation programs at the Wexner Center for the Arts, on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus. All of them are well worth your time – and take particular note of the one on November 8th.

Tuesday November 6thThe Short Films of the Brothers Quay – 7pm
Thursday November 8thThe Worst Cartoons Ever (with Jerry Beck in person) – 7pm (book signing at 6pm)
Tuesday November 13thLillian Schwartz: Selected Works – 7pm
Thursday November 15thThe Best of The Ottawa International Animation Festival – 7pm
Friday November 16thExperimental Animation since 1933 – 7pm (I highly recommend this show).

If you can get to central Ohio on November 8th, please drop by and say hello. And while you are there don’t forget to check the Ohio State University Cartoon Research Center (and see their current exhibit of rarely seen Milton Caniff art).

Bill Watterson in College

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Like Schulz’ Peanuts, Bill Watterson’s classic comic strip Calvin and Hobbes was beloved by many and still has a devoted following – despite it’s retirement in 1995. Tim from the Calvin and Hobbes: Magic on Paper website has unearthed a selection of Watterson’s student artwork, from his days at Ohio’s Kenyon College, drawn for the school newspaper and the 1980 yearbook. Considering that new Watterson art is rare, it’s great to see some old stuff that’s new to our eyes.

Now Playing: Iwerks’ Pixar Documentary

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Starting today, Leslie Iwerks independent documentary The Pixar Story will begin a small Oscar-qualifying run in 14 select cities across the United States.

The film contains never-before-seen footage from the Pixar library, along with exclusive interviews with some of the key players in the Pixar story including John Lasseter, Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs, George Lucas, Brad Bird, Michael Eisner, Bob Iger, Tom Hanks, Billy Crystal and more. Go see it if it’s playing in your area – it’s incredibly informative and very entertaining.

SCREENING SCHEDULE: October 23-25, 2007
Chicago – Landmark Century Centre Cinema
Dallas – Landmark The Magnolia
Detroit – Landmark Maple Art Theatre

October 30 – November 1, 2007
Washington DC – Landmark E Street Cinema
New Orleans – Landmark Canal Place Cinema
Denver – Landmark Chez Artiste
Seattle – Landmark Metro Cinemas

November 6-8, 2007
San Diego – Landmark La Jolla Village Cinemas
Boston – Landmark Kendall Square Cinema
Atlanta – Landmark Midtown Art Cinema
Milwaukee – Landmark Downer Theatre
Indianapolis – Landmark Keystone Art Cinema
Minneapolis – Landmark Lagoon Cinema

November 13-15
San Francisco – Landmark Lumiere Theatre

Iwerks’ award-winning theatrical documentary The Hand Behind the Mouse-The Ub Iwerks Story will be included on the forthcoming Disney Treasures: Oswald The Lucky Rabbit dvd, on sale Dec. 11th.