10K Comments on the Brew!

Comments Please

We reached a milestone earlier in October that I think is worth mentioning: 10,000 reader comments on Cartoon Brew. We only launched comments in mid-February of this year, and we reached the 10,000 mark in under 8 months, which averages out to around 42 comments a day.

What has surprised both Jerry and I is not just the sheer number of comments but the consistently high quality of participation that we receive from industry professionals, cartoon buffs, and animation students alike. Sure, online discussion by nature lends itself to some silliness, but there’s also a lot of lively, passionate and informed discussion on the Brew. For this the credit has to go to our readership, which certainly must be one of the most knowledgeable animation communities on the Internet.

Comments moderation is not an easy task for us and takes up a significant amount of time. That includes fixing people’s links and formatting, emailing readers when a comment is inappropriate or off-topic, despamming comments that accidentally end up in the spam filter box (over 25,000 pieces of spam to date), and in general, keeping things in order. However, we believe that the effort has been more than worth it; we’ve learned a lot from the comments and feel it adds a valuable dimension to the Brew. So here’s to the next 10,000 comments and beyond.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what the most commented upon posts were on the Brew. These posts by no means represent the finest comments, but they are revealing in that they highlight what has generated the most reaction amongst our readers. As it turns out, bad animation will do the trick every time.

119 comments: New George of the Jungle in Flash

118 comments: Worst. MoCap. Ever.

116 comments: How Many Licks Does It Take To Make It CG

109 comments: Brew Review: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie Film

108 comments: Here Comes Trouble

105 comments: Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Incompetence

More on the Schulz Book

Schulz and Peanuts

There’s a lot more reaction appearing online to David Michaelis’ new book Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography. In the Wall Street Journal, Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson gives the book a positive review, saying that Michaelis has written a “a perceptive and compelling account of Schulz’s life” that “finally introduces Charles Schulz to us all.”

Editor & Publisher has an excellent piece highlighting many of the revelations in the book and the family’s objections to them.

Charles Schulz’s son, Monte, who we’ve already pointed out isn’t pleased with the book, posted a comment on our previous Cartoon Brew post further detailing his objections. Here’s his comment in full:

“The point of objection to this biography of my father is how much is simply untruthful, and deliberately so. There are many factual errors throughout the book; there are people who are give authority to speak about our family who have no insight to do so; and there are so many elements of my father’s life that David deliberately left out of the book, that it really is impossible for anyone outside of our family, or Dad’s circle of friends, to come to any genuine conclusions. I can tell you absolutely that he was not a depressed, melancholy person, nor was he unaffectionate and absent as a parent. Honestly, the quote I’ve really wanted to give the press, after reading both the early of the manuscript and the final book, is this: “The book is stupid, and David Michaelis is an idiot.â€? That said, I had a six year on-going conversation with him about this book, and like David quite a lot. But I was shocked to see the book that emerged, because it veered so drastically away from what he told us he intended to write. Which is why we’ve been so militant in our response. Incidentally, the material David edited out of the book is even more outrageous. The fact is, after reading the book, I decided I’d learned more about David Michaelis than I did about my dad. I found that interesting.”

UPDATE: A new in-depth comment from Charles Schulz’s son, Monte Schulz, as well as his sisters Amy and Jill, can be found in the comments below.

Song of the South plays Philly

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I don’t know how this happened, but I just found out that Song of the South had a public performance in the Philadelphia last Tuesday night. The Chestnut Hill Free Library showed it twice, apparently without protest. Sam Adams of the weekly Philadelphia CityPaper gave the film a plug with a nicely written overview.

Was this an authorized showing – or did they screen an old VHS? Can any institution book the film? When will Disney release the film on DVD? Inquiring minds want to know.

Brickfilms and the Amateur Animation Community

Brickfilm

There was a front page article in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal about the brickfilm community. Brickfilms is a general description for any film made using LEGO bricks, and most of these shorts employ a stop-motion animation technique. For more information about brickfilming, see the definitive online resource BrickFilms.com.

I wish somebody would do a more in-depth exploration of all the new animation filmmaking techniques that have emerged as a result of today’s abundance and accessibility of digital technologies. Thanks to new ideas like Flash, Machinima, and brickfilming, there are more people producing animation today than there have ever been in the history of the art form. There are easily thousands, if not tens of thousands, of creators who are currently making their own animated shorts. Granted, in most cases these animated pieces are unable to transcend the novelties of their techniques and truly resonate as films, but the simple fact that there are so many people producing animation independently is a notable paradigm-shifting moment in the animation world.

It used to be that animation was the realm of specialists. Even a couple decades ago, an amateur would have to make a significant investment in resources to produce anything. Today, however, any 9-year-old can create animation using the laptop and digital camera in front of them. To my mind, this mainstreaming of animation production is one of the most exciting developments that has happened in years. It has yet to pay off in any appreciable manner but I can’t help and think that with so many young people knowledgeable about the animation process, good things won’t come from it.

UPDATE: I just noticed that the top post on BoingBoing is about the first brickfilm festival in Europe, which will take place tomorrow in Sweden.

(Image at top of this post from the brickfilm Gefunden – Found by GoLeGo. Watch it here)

Disney in Argentina, 1941

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We’ve all seen the 16mm color footage of Walt Disney visting South America in 1941. Now, courtesy of the Buenos Aires Ministry of Culture website, comes a segment from a 1941 newsreel (in Spanish) showing a little more of Mr. Disney’s trip to Argentina. Couple of nice shots of Disney signing his name and sketching (sketch above right) with Argentine cartoonist Ramon Columba (sketch above left).

Anyone care to translate the narration?

(Thanks, Oscar Grillo)

Cartoon Dump #5: Spunky and Tadpole

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A little boy and his brain challenged teddy bear.

Spunky and Tadpole was one of the worst cartoon shows ever made. Originally distributed in 1958 by Guild Films, the show was quickly outclassed in every department by Hanna-Barbera’s Huckleberry Hound and trounced by all other kiddie competition. Your tip off that this going to be awful is the cheesy title card touting “Beverly Hills Productions.” There is nothing Beverly Hills about this production!

On the plus side, it does feature Don Messick doing voices… however, the ugly artwork, minimal animation and shoddy production values justify its place in the Cartoon Dump. The fifth episode of our original live-action/animation podcast is now up on CartoonBrewFilms.com

2D or Not 2D Animation Festival

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The second annual 2D OR NOT 2D Animated Film Festival will be held at the New Everett Theatre in Everett, Washington, on November 2nd and 3rd.

This year’s fest is promising to be even bigger and better than last year. The theme of Friday night’s event (11/2) will be Girls Night In (Animation), hosted by Nancy Beiman (Ex-Disney animator), Kathie Flood (Microsoft Games Producer) and Kureha Yokoo (Pixar supervising animator). On Saturday afternoon, artist/designer/animator Michel Gagne will show a unique selection of his amazing work for publishing, TV and the Movies. Saturday evening’s keynote speaker is Don Hahn (producer of Disney’s The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas).

There’s also an international animation competition, meet-and-greet networking opportunities and special feature screenings. For festival information contact Ken Rowe, Festival Director at ken-at-animaticus.com, or visit 2dornot2d.org. For ticket information contact The New Everett Theatre.

Cold Rush

Cold Rush

Cold Rush is a new French student film created by Mikael Lynen, Simon Corbaux, Tristan Urbin and Rémi Certhoux at the Supinfocom school. My enthusiasm for the film was slightly dampened by the plodding pace of storytelling and unsatisfying ending, but the short has a lot going for it including a grand cinematic vision and a well-conceived near-monochromatic production design. As a piece of student CG, it’s undeniably impressive, and from a technical standpoint trumps many professional CG productions. Watch the film HERE (57mb QuickTime file) and read more behind-the-scenes details at CGSociety.com.

(Thanks, Tim Bjorklund)

Book Update: Inside UPA

The printing is now finished on the first-ever Cartoon Brew book, Inside UPA, and the book is currently en route to LA. They are scheduled to arrive the week of Oct. 15-19 and they’ll be shipped out to people who pre-ordered shortly thereafter.

Of the 1000 books in this very limited edition, the first 50 of them are a super-limited signed edition which come with a bookplate autographed by surviving UPA veterans. Tee Bosustow, son of UPA co-founder, Steve Bosustow, is currently in the process of getting the bookplates signed, and he should have them completed by the end of October. The artists who have signed them so far include Fred Crippen, Bob Dranko, Alan Zaslove, Erv Kaplan, Bob McIntosh and Willis Pyle, and there are many more signatures to come. Twenty-three of the signed copies are already gone, twenty-seven remain. You can purchase a signed or unsigned copy at UPApix.com. And remember that all proceeds go towards the completion of Tee Bosustow’s UPA documentary project.

Below are some pics from the signing sessions so far. From top to bottom: Erv Kaplan, Bob Dranko, Alan Zaslove, the signed cards, and Willis Pyle, yours truly and Bob McIntosh. About that last photo, I have to say that it was a real thrill to be in the room with not one, but two amazing artists who not only contributed to countless UPA classics like Gerald McBoing Boing and the Mister Magoo shorts, but who also worked on Pinocchio and Bambi. Doesn’t happen often nowadays.

UPA artists

Best of Platform at REDCAT

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Next Monday (10/15) at 8pm in Los Angeles, REDCAT presents Highlights From The Platform International Animation Festival. This is highly recommended to all who may have missed the festival in Portland back in June. The film program includes new animation by award-winning independent filmmakers such as Don Hertzfeldt and Miwa Matreyek, plus work by the acclaimed Luis Cook from Aardman Animations (pictured above). There will be a cocktail party (sponsored by Cartoon Network) following the screening. Free parking at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. More information here.

Captain Carrot Returns!

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Going on sale tomorrow (10/10) is the first issue of a new DC Comics’ three-issue mini-series, CAPTAIN CARROT AND THE FINAL ARK, reviving the Zoo Crew characters created by Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw over twenty-five years ago. The new series is written by Bongo’s Bill Morrison, drawn by Scott Shaw!, and inked by Al Gordon. Scott says:

Not a “kiddie comic” — but, like THE SIMPSONS and ROCKY AND HIS FRIENDS, with a multi-tiered sense of humor that appeals to younger readers as well. The new Captain Carrot explores a world of “funny animals” that mirrors (and parodies) those of more traditional comic books. We also make fun of comic book conventions, J. J. Abrams’ upcoming giant monster movie, DC’s 52 and COUNTDOWN series, Tex Avery, Sergio Aragonés, Prince, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Jack Kirby’s NEW GODS and much more.

Scott and Bill will appear in person tomorrow afternoon from 4pm to 6pm at Golden Apple Comics in Northridge (8967 Reseda Blvd.) to sign the first copies.

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography

Schulz and Peanuts

David Michaelis’ much awaited Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography, the first comprehensive bio of Charlez Schulz, is arriving into bookstores next week. Nat Gertler offers an in-depth review of the book on his blog, calling it “by far the best and the fullest biography of Schulz to date,” though he tempers that by questioning how Michaelis overreached in some of his conclusions about Schulz. Furthermore, according to this article in yesterday’s NY Times, Schulz’ children are none too pleased with the book’s portrayal of their father as a “depressed, cold and bitter man who was constantly going after different women.”

UPDATE: Commentary from Monte Schulz, Charles Schulz’s son, can be found in this followup post on Cartoon Brew.

Becky Fallberg, RIP

Becky FallbergJeff Kurtti writes to inform that Becky Fallberg has passed away at age 84. She worked at Disney from 1942 to 1986 in various capacities including ink and paint, blue sketch artist, checker and in the Xerox camera department. She was Disney’s manager of the Ink and Paint department between 1975 and 1986. She was preceded in death by her husband, Disney writer and assistant director Carl Fallberg (1915-1996), and is survived by a daughter, Carla Fallberg.

The Ten Commandments

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For those who thought Happily N’Ever After was the weakest CG film of the year, or for you who think the upcoming Beowulf or Alvin and the Chipmunks are a desecration of the originals, I give you: The Ten Commandments.

It opens in movie theatres on October 19th from Promenade Pictures and it’s begining to get some publicity coverage. Check out the trailer (and be sure to check the “sizzle reel”). I know the people behind this film mean well, and their intentions are pure, but honestly, Elliot Gould as the voice of God?

There’s some money behind this. They got Ed Naha (Honey I Shrunk The Kids) to write the screenplay, Frank Yablans (former president of Paramount Pictures) to excutive produce, and a voice cast including Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina — and Christian Slater as Moses. I just wish they had put some of that money into the visuals.

These are the people who did that horrendous CG animated Ben Hur on TBN (narrated by Charlton Heston) a few years back. Unlike that film, this one is getting a big-deal theatrical release. And it doesn’t stop here. The production company, Epic Stories From The Bible, is currently in production on Noah’s Ark. I have no doubt these films make a ton of money, but I sincerely wish they looked better. A lot better.

Animation History Round-Up #4

Drawing by Cliff Roberts

• Rediscovering the early illustration work of Fifties-era animation designer Cliff Roberts.

• The new two-disc dvd set of The Jungle Book has spurred some terrific blog posts. Story artist Mark Kennedy shares various thoughts on the film, including some incisive comments on pacing in animated features. Animator/director Will Finn writes an appreciation of Ken Anderson’s work on Jungle Book, and animator/director Michael Sporn talks about why the film is a dull celebrity-driven failure.

• Where did Disney artists live in Los Angeles when they were working on Three Little Pigs (1933)? Hans Perk maps it out for you.

Punchy De Leon

• Two infrequently seen animated shorts for your viewing pleasure: MGM’s The Unwelcome Guest (1945) and UPA’s Punchy De Leon (1950).

• An incredible Betty Boop drawing by Grim Natwick.

Previously on Cartoon Brew:
Animation History Round-Up #1
Animation History Round-Up #2
Animation History Round-Up #3

Cartoon Dump #4: Captain Fathom

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Captain Fathom was the third and final cartoon series produced by Cambria Productions in their patented Synchro-Vox system. This was the technique where the studio spent as little money as possible on animation and super-imposed live action lips on the hand drawn characters. When I saw these as a kid, I thought it was very creepy.

It’s still creepy, and a perfect centerpiece to our latest Cartoon Dump podcast, which we’ve just posted on CartoonBrewFilms.com. Download all four podcasts (thus far) of Cartoon Dump: the worst cartoons—anytime you want them, everywhere you go!

Millard Kaufman writes a novel

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Millard Kaufman – the Academy Award winning screenwriter, who got his start at UPA writing Fox & Crow and co-creating Mr. Magoo – has been getting some press this week regarding his first novel, Bowl Of Cherries. Kaufman, 90, was profiled in today’s Wall Street Journal and had a small interview in this week’s New York Magazine, both pieces playing up the fact that Kaufman co-created the near-sighted Magoo.

Bear Manor Books

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While I was traveling to New York and Canada last week, I had the opportunity to catch up on several new books – including a trio of biographies about three of my favorite classic cartoon voice actors, Paul Frees, Walter Tetley and Jack Mercer.

All three are published by small independent publisher Ben Ohmart of BearManor Media out of Albany Georgia. Ohmart has devoted himself to publishing books based on his favorite performers from old time radio, movies and classic television. His book on Daws Butler (written with Joe Bevilaquca) is highly recommended. The BearManor books are less indepth biography, and more a celebration of the professional careers of each subject; enthusiastic compilations of available facts and rare photos with great anecdotes and quotes.

Welcome Foolish Mortals… The Life and Voices of Paul Frees (by Ohmart, with a foreword by June Foray and an afterward by Keith Scott) was fascinating. I never knew much about the man behind the voices (Ludwig Von Drake, Boris Badanov, the Haunted Mansion, The Beary Family, Super President, etc.), and this career survey by Ohmart does a lot to explain who he was and his eccentricities. I come away with even more admiration for Free’s talents and insight into his offbeat, off-mike character.

Walter Tetley: For Corn’s Sake (by Ohmart and Charles Stumpf) presents all available information on the mysterious Mr. Tetley (voice of Walter Lantz’ Andy Panda and Sherman, of Jay Ward’s Peabody & Sherman) and his acting in numerous radio shows and movies. After a promising start in radio and movies in the 1930s, his career was hit or miss through the early 60s. His final years were particularly depressing.

He Am What He Am! Jack Mercer, The Voice Of Popeye (by Fred M. Grandinetti) relies on conversations and correspondence with the surviving Mrs. Mercer, and in-depth interviews with Mercer himself by Mike Barrier and Tom Hatten (both reprinted here, in full). Great illustrations including trade ads, rare photos and correspondence from Fleischer and Famous Studios highlight the book. Grandinetti spends a little too much time indexing the exact characters Mercer voiced in hundreds of cartoons… a thankless task, to be sure. Mercer is long overdue for recognition of his animation contributions (as an artist, an animation storyman, and the voice of Popeye and Felix the Cat). This book is a small step in the right direction.

All three books contain in-depth filmographies, credits and appearence listings. If you are interested in these performers you might find them of great value. For more information check the BearManor website.

Canadian Women in Animation

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be holding it’s 11th annual Marc Davis Lecture (now known as the “Marc Davis Celebration of Animation”) on Wednesday October 17th. This year the topic is Canadian Women In Animation with a panel discussion featuring Oscar nominees Janet Pearlman, Wendy Tilby, Caroline Leaf, Amanda Forbis and last year’s Oscar winner, Torill Kove (The Danish Poet). Charles Solomon will moderate the panel and host the evening. The program will be presented at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills, starting at 7:30pm. Tickets are $5 (students $3). Click for more info.