Anime Tours

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My friend Ben Applegate is working for Digital Manga, a Japanese comics publisher that owns a tour outfit called Pop Japan Travel. They do tours of Japan for fans of anime, manga and other weird and obscure subcultures. It all sounds pretty cool to me – I wish I had the time to go on one of these tours myself. The least I can do is give him a plug (and maybe they’ll give me a press discount – hint, hint).

Ben writes:

“We’re doing a tour in January and February of Tokyo and the Sapporo Snow Festival and we’ve added some extremely cool stuff to it: a sponsorship by Japanese anime mag publisher Gakken, a visit to Studio Pierrot (which animates Naruto, Bleach, pretty much every third action anime ever seen on Toonami), and a meeting with Hideyuki Kikuchi, a great Japanese horror writer whose best-known works are Wicked City and Vampire Hunter D.”

Tickets for this tour, known as the Cold Steel Tour, are on sale only until Dec. 15. The group departs Monday, January 28 and returns Wednesday, February 6. Other activities on the itinerary include a trip to the Ghibli Museum, a ride on a water ferry designed by Leiji Matsumoto (Space Battleship Yamato), and tours of traditional Japanese sights and modern Tokyo. The tour costs $2,500 plus a $200 fuel surcharge, and it includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Tokyo, full hotel accommodations, bilingual guides every step of the way, all transportation and entry fees, and a customized guide book with maps, culture notes and a language primer designed for anime fans.

For complete itineraries and reservations, see www.popjapantravel.com!

Drawing The Sailor

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Our buddy Oscar Grillo (above) writes about his latest exhibit of drawings and paintings inspired by a certain spinach eating sailor-man. Drawing The Sailor was part of Animacor ‘07, an international animation festival in Cordoba, Spain held last week. Grillo has posted a photo report on his blog.


popeyetrapezead1.jpgClick on this image at right to see a full-size newspaper ad from March 16th 1934 (a Friday), promoting the the first-run release of George White’s Scandals. This Fox film shared the bill with the latest Paramount Popeye cartoon, The Man On the Flying Trapeze, which was released the same day. This rare original newspaper ad demonstrates that block booking was not always in practice during the golden age – that a cartoon from one studio could (and often did) play with a feature from another studio.


While we’re at it, here’s one more plug for Bob Jaques’ excellent new blog which studies the great Popeye animators from the Fleischer era. He’s updating it regularly and posting a lot of good information – go here often: Popeye Animator ID.

St. Trinian’s Girls Are Back

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Ronald Searle fans can thank the upcoming live-action St. Trinian’s feature for the following book: St. Trinian’s: The Entire Appalling Business. No word yet on what exactly is contained within the book, but it’s cheaply priced, will be released in a couple months, and collects a whole bunch of classic Searle cartoons that have been long out-of-print in the US. Good enough for me.

Also, New Yorkers will be happy to know that there is currently an exhibition of original Ronald Searle artwork at the Forbes Galleries. The show, “Ronald Searle: A Lifetime of Drawing”, spans his entire career “from his drawings in a Japanese POW camp, to his early success as a magazine and book illustrator, to the enormously popular series of ‘St. Trinian’s’ drawings, to his work for movies and businesses, to his famous drawings of cats.” Admission is free. Gallery address and hours can be found here.

Animated at the Australian National Portrait Gallery

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Animator Matt Taylor informs me of an innovative exhibition he’s taking part in at Australia’s National Portrait Gallery. The show, “Animated”, takes a detour from conventional self-portraiture and offers fourteen animated portraits made specifically for the exhibition by Australian animators, including Anthony Lucas (The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello), Jonathan Daw (currently working on Adam Elliot’s new stop motion feature), Rick Bull, Anita Fontaine, Troy Innocent and Arlene TextaQueen. The show takes place entirely online and the pieces can be viewed on the gallery website through December 2008. It is curated by Michael Desmond and Gillian Raymond.

The Shine Gallery

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Bernie Shine is one of the biggest private collectors of classic American animation memoribilia. You can see a small part of Bernie’s Disney collection on the DVD Mickey Mouse In Black and White Volume 2 (Disc one, on the bonus segment Mickey Mania: Collecting Mickey Merchandise).
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In addition to his cartoon collection, Bernie has a fascination with novelty products from the early-mid 20th century. He’s collected thousands of unique items from dusty warehouses, closed factories and old stores, in mint condition and never used. For years he’s been selling off some of his excess items on his website.

He’s just opened a cool new retail store at the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles. It’s located along the Third Avenue side, next door to Pinkberry. It’s an absolute must-visit destination for any cartoon buff or pop culture historian. One of the unique items I picked up on my first visit there last night was this ornate Popeye coaster (above, click it for a larger look) for $3. (He’s got dozens of them!)

If you are in L.A. or planning a visit, do check out the new Shine Gallery at the Farmer’s Market. It’ll be well worth your time, and Bernie himself is frequently there at the shop to answer questions. In addition to Shine’s complete line of authentic novelties, the store (and his website) has incredible one of a kind merchandise for sale (check out this Flip The Frog figurine).

Whatever happened to…?

staitondog.jpgDavid Stainton – According to Chuck Oberleitner:

The Walt Disney Company no longer employs David Stainton, former head of what was once Walt Disney Feature Animation. Stainton, who was last believed to be working for Mickey overseas in a warehouse at the far backend of the Tokyo Disney property, is back in the Los Angeles area. He is reported to have hung his shingle out and is doing business under the name of Henry’s World Media. Stainton owns a dog named Henry.

ts111.jpgThom Schumacher – Still President of Disney Theatrical Productions; he’ll be appearing in person at Barnes and Noble at The Grove (Los Angeles) on December 13th at 5:30pm, to sign copies of his new book (co-written with Jeff Kurtti) How Does the Show Go On: An Introduction to the Theatre.

King of the Hill exhibit in Texas

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Currently at Texas State University-San Marcos, just south of Austin, there’s a wonderful exhibit on The Making of King of the Hill. Writer and executive producer Jim Dauterive has donated 11 years worth of material to the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State. This vast amount of material includes original scripts, story pitches, production notes, promotional material, model sheets, research notes, and even tapes from the unseen, live-action spin-off Monsignor Martinez. The exhibit is on display through December 14, but all the material has been made available for research.

Last Saturday night, Dauterive was on-hand to discuss the show’s history – as well as to answer questions from admiring fans. For more information on this exhibit use this link. And click here for a page that includes a pdf of the complete archive inventory.

(Thanks, Jess Price)

New Disney Oswald Merchandise

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Disney consumer products design manager Juan Ortiz recently started an “official unofficial” blog about Disney Store merchandise and the artists behind them. Ortiz hopes to post a lot of original drawings, designs and product that may or may not make it to the store shelves. He’s currently posting about the first wave of Oswald Rabbit items. Check them out at The Disney Store Shelves.

The Number #1 Movie

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Above, Saturday night at The Grove; The Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles

Say what you will (and most of you have) about Bee Movie, but it’s being reported that it will take the number #1 slot this weekend at the U.S. box office, its second week of release. It’s on track to gross over $100 million by Thanksgiving weekend.

I’m not looking to start another thread bashing the film – I liked it and, yeah, I wrote the Art of book, so I’m a bit biased – but I tend to agree with Steve Hulett that success leads to more health in our industry, and hopefully to more diversity in subject matter and visual styles in future animated films. You can add my congratulations to all the artists involved.

BP Gets Animated

Getting screwed at the gas pump does seem to have one slight upside: oil companies are now flush with money to blow on frivolous ad campaigns, and some of these might be animated. For example, last spring, British Petroleum (BP) spent $35 million on a cartoon campaign that includes three animated spots (watch them below). The design aesthetic of these spots is typical contemporary—loud and generic (‘iconic’ in Pictoplasma speak). On the plus side, the spots do a nice job of utilizing the BP logo and exploring the possibilities of three-dimensional space. The animation was directed by Ian Kovalik at Mekansim. Slate offered a review of the campaign and I’m inclined to agree that nobody really cares about brand loyalty to oil companies today, only which station has the cheapest fuel. The days of Chevron’s talking cars are long gone; there’s little that the price-gouging oil companies can do to make themselves look warm and fuzzy, and it’s certainly not going to happen with a campaign as artifical and contrived as this.

(Thanks, Mike Milo)

Book Signing: The Hanna Barbera Treasury

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Don’t judge this book by it’s cover… or the guy holding it.

I’m very proud to have been part of a team that helped assemble this fantastic new gift book, The Hanna-Barbera Treasury. My goal with this project was to try to recall the original visual appeal of HB 1960s TV stars and I think we suceeded. The book lavishly reprints images from original animation art, comic books, dolls, toys, merchandising, along with over a dozen removable collectibles. There is a smile on every page. Writers Martin Goodman, Earl Kress and Bob Miller helped me compile the text in record time. Much of the memorabilia came from the Hanna-Barbera collection housed at the Warner Bros. archives (though several images and comics came from my humble stash). Mike Van Eaton loaned us a bunch of animation art and former H-B head honcho Fred Seibert wrote an wonderful introduction. The book goes on sale later this month and I’ll be doing a book signing / launch party at the Van Eaton Gallery in Sherman Oaks, CA on Saturday Dec. 1st (from 1pm to 3pm). Please drop by and geek out with me on all the Saturday morning goodness.

THIS WEEKEND: Michael Sporn at MoMA

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Starting today and continuing through the weekend, New Yorkers will be treated to a three-part Museum of Modern Art retrospective of the work of director Michael Sporn. The films being shown include Sporn’s adaptations of classic children’s books by the likes of William Steig, Quentin Blake and Mordicai Gerstein, as well as his adaptation of the Lewis Carroll poem “The Hunting of the Snark.” I wish I was out east for these programs because I have enjoyed the pared-down elegance of the few Sporn films I’ve seen over the years like Doctor De Soto and The Man Who Walked between the Towers. The films being screened are:

Program 1: New York Stories
Five short films by Michael Sporn: Mona Mon Amour, Champagne, The Man Who Walked between the Towers, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile, The Little Match Girl

Program 2: Fables
Four short films by Michael Sporn: Doctor De Soto, Abel’s Island, The Red Shoes, The Hunting of the Snark

Program 3: A Peaceable Kingdom
Five short films by Michael Sporn: Goodnight Moon, The Marzipan Pig, The Amazing Bone, Ira Sleeps Over, The Story of the Dancing Frog

On Monday, November 12, the series concludes with a discussion between Michael Sporn and John Canemaker. Here’s the description of that program:

An Evening with Michael Sporn
The artist takes part in a conversation with animation historian/filmmaker John Canemaker and MoMA assistant curator Joshua Siegel. The discussion is illustrated with clips from Sporn’s award-winning animated films, including a new short, Pab’s First Burger, and an excerpt from his feature-length work-in-progress about the life and work of Edgar Allan Poe. Sporn’s career is also traced through his commercials, public service announcements, title sequences, and visuals for the Broadway stage.

Historian Michael Barrier also has some thoughts on Sporn’s work that are worth a read.

Jerry Beck visits Cartoon Research

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That’s me (at right) today with curator Lucy Shelton Caswell at the incredible Cartoon Research Library, housed in the Wexner Center on Ohio State University.

Wow! This is the place. Everything from McCay to Manga – an incredible collection… perhaps the collection of comic strip art and artifacts in the U.S. I saw rare Winsor McCay, Milton Canniff, Noel Sickles, Schulz and on and on… If you live in Ohio I urge you to visit and support this incredible resource. If you live out of town, add this to your vacation plans next year (a big Jeff Smith exhibit is being prepared now for next spring-summer, May 10-Aug. 17, 2008).

For Your Consideration

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released the names of the 12 films submitted (and potentially qualified) for a Best Animated Feature Film award this year.

“Alvin and the Chipmunks�
“Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters�
“Bee Movie�
“Beowulf�
“Meet the Robinsons�
“Persepolis�
“Ratatouille�
“Shrek the Third�
“The Simpsons Movie�
“Surf’s Up�
“Tekkonkinkreet�
“TMNT�

Only three will be nominated. Care to take any guesses?

Grim Natwick’s Scrapbook

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No one animator’s career covered the history of animation, with so many important cultural touchstones, as Grim Natwick. His work spanned the entire 20th Century, influencing and contributing to all the important studios, characters and films. When he died at age 100 (in 1990), Steve Worth was given the task of organizing the hundreds of pieces of animation artwork he had personally saved from his career. Worth is currently in charge of ASIFA-Hollywood’s Animation Archive and has now curated an amazing exhibit culled from this material. He has also created an on-line exhibit catalog, with much of the art and commentary outlining Natwick’s life story.

But nothing compares to seeing this artwork in person. It will be on display at the ASIFA-Hollywood space on Burbank Blvd. for the rest of the year. I highly recommend you check this out if you are in the area.

GRIM NATWICK’S SCRAPBOOK
An Exhibit Presented By The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive
2114 W Burbank Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91506
Now Showing, Tuesday through Friday 1pm to 9pm

One (CG) Froggy Evening

Graphic design students from Brazil attempt to recreate Chuck Jones’ One Froggy Evening in CG as their finals project. Here is the two-minutes they created:

And for comparison, this is the Jones original:

UPDATE: Virgilio Vasconcelos, one of the students who made the film, offers some background about the reason for the project. He wrote in the comments below:

“As a regular Brew reader, I never thought our project would be shown here.

Before anyone yells that we had killed the masterpiece, I would say that everything was done only for learning purposes. We never wanted to say that CG is better or even that we could make something comparable to the original.

We never had formal education in animation (neither do we have where to study animation where we live), so our goal was to study a classic from a great master frame by frame to see if we could learn something. I believe it was quite successful on its goal: we have learned a lot.

The original, 2D one, is an all-time classic. Just incomparable. Chuck Jones is my hero, and I thank him and all fellas at Golden Age who motivated us to learn about animation.”

Worst Cartoons in Columbus

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I’m en route to Columbus Ohio today to screen The Worst Cartoons Ever at the Wexner Center tomorrow night (11/8). The actual screening starts at 7pm.

But join me first at 6:00pm for a book signing – I’ll have free Hornswiggle buttons and postcards to give away, and I’ll be bringing an advance copy of my new book The Hanna Barbera Treasury to show off.

This will also be the launch party for my new DVD with Rembrandt Films, The Worst Cartoons Ever Made!. We shot video of me introducing these awful animated shorts in a big empty field during the picnic at the Platform Animation Festival in Portland. The video came out great – if you can’t get out to Columbus or the San Diego Comic Con, this is the next best thing. Order your copy today from Rembrandt.

The District! Arrives in North America

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FPS magazine reports that film distributor Atopia has acquired the North American rights to The District! (Nyocker!). The 2005 Hungarian feature, directed by Aron Gauder, did quite well on the festival circuit, but has otherwise been difficult to see. Atopia’s limited rollout includes engagements at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin beginning November 16, the Cinematheque in Winnipeg in late November, and Cleveland’s CIA Cinematheque in late January. Additional cities and dates will be listed on the film’s MySpace page.

Having seen the film at the Ottawa International Animation Festival a couple years ago, I’d say that it’s commendable more for what it attempts than what it accomplishes. It’s definitely worth a look though, and in fact, I’m curious to see it again myself as a standalone film instead of in the overwhelming and hectic film festival setting. The trailer is below, but first, the film synopsis:

A group of teens from the wrong side of Budapest’s tracks band together to make themselves rich by traveling back in time, burying a horde of wooly mammoths under the city’s streets, then returning to the present and drilling for oil. As creators of a new oil-producing nation, their scheme draws the attention of Putin (who uses the district’s Russian hookers as spies), Blair and George W. Bush. In the midst of it all, star-crossed teen love is in bloom.

Get Well, Alex Anderson

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ASIFA-San Francisco president Karl Cohen recently checked up on the whereabouts and condition of Alex Anderson (nephew of Paul Terry, Jay Ward’s original partner, creator of Crusader Rabbit, Dudley Do-Right, and Bullwinkle). According to his wife, Pat:

“He had a little setback 3 weeks ago. He fell and severely bruised his hip. He is now using a walker and slowly progressing. He was very agile before that.”

Get Well cards are greatly appreciated. His address is:

Alex Anderson
c/o Flanders Court
25661 Morse Drive
Carmel, CA 93923

“How A Sausage Dog Works” (1971) by Julian Antonisz

How a Sausage Dog Works

I recently stumbled upon the work of Polish director Julian Antonisz (1941-1987), a previously unknown (to me) master of the camera-less animation technique. Like most people, when I think of camera-less animation, the type of films that immediately pop to mind are by filmmakers like Len Lye and Norman McLaren. It’s a revelation to discover Antonisz who has such a refreshingly unique take on the technique. A well known figure of the Polish animation scene, Antonisz made dozens of films between 1967 and 1986, including the anarchic Dada-infused How a Sausage Dog Works which can be viewed below. YouTube also offers us his first film, Phobia (1967).

Antonisz is a largely unknown figure in the West, but if the nearly 100,000 views on YouTube and dozens of comments in Polish are any indication, his work seems to be better recognized in his native Poland. I discovered a rough English translation of the film courtesy of YouTube user Wodzu and have posted it below the film, though chances are it’ll simply add to your confusion.

Translation
[min:sec]
[00:04] this is how a simple electrical mechanical “hitter-knocker” works
[00:18] this is how a cherry-”kapacitron”(???) works
[00:23] this is how a dyfusional pimbdziaula works
[00:30] this is how a electro-”cabbager” works
[00:38] this is how a steel-koziówka(???) works
[00:45] this is how a safety pin works
[00:49] and other very very-complex inventions
[00:59] and how does a dachshund work?
[01:06] this is how a dachshund works
[02:26] dachshunds have a head
[02:34] a middle
[02:39] and rear part of body
[02:44] inside he have intestine
[02:47] eventually, everything that lives, have some intestines inside
[02:57] dachshund have 3 emotional states
[03:05] he can be angry
[03:11] furious
[03:20] and he can be sad, sorrowful
[03:27] he can be joyful, happy
[03:32] he can be happy
[03:41] [song] …because i’m afraid of emotions, here and there
[03:45] he can be cheerful
[04:00] EWARYST (it’s very strange and funny first name)
[05:02] don’t destroy a dachshund! because it is very complicated mechanism. even a computer is a piece of cake, compared to dachshund
[05:29] don’t destroy the kitty!
[05:38] don’t destroy the pike!
[05:50] don’t destroy the “zurawka”!
[06:12] because these are animals which we need to live
[06:21] rather try to model ourselfs on a nature
[06:30] let’s build quiet muscle-power engine!
[06:41] small estimate
[06:53] one butterfly’ eye is built from thousands of biological photo-diodes
[07:05] the cost of one german photo-diode type FG-70 is 75zl
[07:15] times 20.000 = 1.500.000
[07:28] times 2 eyes…
[07:33] 3.000.000
[07:34] when we destroy one butterfly, we destroy very high class device with biological value
[07:45] 30 million zlotych! (yes, she should have said 3 milion zl, but director of this film asked caretaker of block of flats where he lived for giving her voice to film, that’s why announcer sometimes has problems with the reading ;) )
[07:54] don’t destroy the dachshund!!!