Director Michael Sporn reports that Golden Age animator Lu Guarnier passed away on December 29, 2007. Guarnier started at Warner Bros. in the 1930s but animated for most of his career in New York at studios like UPA-NY and John and Faith Hubley’s Storyboard Productions. Michael Sporn offers memories of Guarnier on his blog.
In the past few years, it’s been encouraging to see so much creative student animation coming out of countries like South Korea and India, places that were previously known only for turning out production artists for Western service work. Most of the work I see in festivals doesn’t turn up online, but 22-year-old Rohit Iyer, a senior animation student at NID (National Institute of Design) in Ahmedabad India, sent in a recent example of work that he created for MTV India and Kamasutra condoms during an internship at MTV last year. The spot, titled “Rani Bonkeshwari,” can be viewed HERE. Iyer offers a few background notes on the production:
“The script was written by an MTV writer named K.M. Ayappa. I did all the animation myself, starting from the designs and rough storyboard to final composite. The process comprised of creating artwork in Adobe Photoshop which was then animated and composited in Adobe After Effects. The whole spot took about a month to animate. The commercial has become quite popular here in India. It’s currently on air on the MTV India network.”
We’ve been preparing for this event for
months… weeks… days… at least several hours!
Cartoon Dump invades New York tonight at 8pm, live at Comix 353 W. 14th St. (Just east of 9th Ave.) NY, NY 10014.
Order Advance Tickets HERE or call the box office (212) 524-2500.
Pictured clockwise from above left: Kathleen Roll (Buf Badger), Jerry Beck (Producer), Frank Conniff (Moodsey the Clinically Depressed Owl) and Erica Doering (Compost Brite). Join us tonight!
If there’s one thing the animation blogging community guarantees, it’s plenty of controversy. The latest squabble that has evolved is about who wrote animated shorts and features during the Golden Age of animation. In one corner is Steve Worth of the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive, who claimed that artists drew storyboards and that “THERE WERE NO CARTOON SCRIPTWRITERS prior to 1960.” (his emphasis). On the other side is historian Michael Barrier, who offers evidence that Bill Cottrell was one example of a scriptwriter at Disney in the 1930s. Then there were artists like Bill Peet who did both screenwriting and storyboarding on a film like 101 Dalmatians.
In a recent Variety interview, director Brad Bird offered some comments, which while not specifically addressing this argument, seem to be quite appropriate. Bird said, “The whole question of writing for animation is skewed. There isn’t a giant difference between animation and live action. You need characters, stories, themes. It’s called good storytelling…I write scripts first, before the work gets to the storyboarding stage. But I write with the knowledge of what animation can do.” His comments make perfect sense, but with the caveat that the animation world rarely attracts storytellers the caliber of Brad Bird and Bill Peet, which is why animation suffers today and why engaging storytelling is the exception instead of the rule. A sidenote: the Variety link above is also worth checking out to hear about some of Bird’s favorite film writers.
The ultimate Looney Tunes collectible, the historic Bob Clampett studio on Seward Street in Hollywood, is for sale.
I don’t know the whole history of the building, but in addition to being the home base for the animated Beany & Cecil show, it’s where Klasky Csupo got its start, the Tracey Ullman Show Simpson’s bumpers were created and first episodes of The Simpsons produced. Several post production companies have used the space over the years, and daughter Ruth is currently running Clampett Studio Collections on the second floor.
And it’s where Bob had his incredible memorabilia-filled office, where he welcomed fans like me in to chat about the great Warner Bros. cartoons of the ’30s and ’40s. The building has been the family for over 40 years and holds many great memories. I hope it ends up in good hands.
One of the most unexpected surprises at theaters last year was the box office success of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Nearly everybody expected a modest showing, better performing than the Underdog pic, but certainly not a blockbuster. The film, however, is now Fox’s second highest grossing film of the year (behind only The Simpsons Movie), and with over $160 million to date, it is showing no signs of letting up. By the time it leaves theaters, it will have surpassed the grosses of The Simpsons Movie, Ratatouille and 300.
Obviously, we’re going to be seeing a lot more CG Alvin over the next few years. But perhaps this will also convince Viacom (Paramount Home Video) to release the awesome original Sixties animated series, The Alvin Show, produced by Format Films. It’s amazing that nobody at Viacom has awakened to the fact that they’re sitting on a goldmine with this TV series. Then again, this is the same company that owns the libraries of Terrytoons, Puppetoons, Famous and Fleischer (including Betty Boop). Apparently, their home video strategy is “We don’t like to make money.”
Despite the film’s box office success, it’s still an embarassing project to be involved with if you’re a major part of its creative team and you consider yourself to also be an artist. This became clear when actor Patton Oswalt made an offhand comment on his blog about how he and comedian Brian Posehn were both offered the role of Ian, the agent, and how they both rejected it because of its awfulness. David Cross, who took the role, was so peeved by the notion that he was a sell-out wrote a five-point blog post defending his decision to be involved in the movie. Thankfully, the film’s animation director Chris Bailey, doesn’t have to write a blog post defending his work on the film. Because unlike live-action actors, animation artists have no choice but to work on shit. It’s the only game in town sadly.
I’ll be in New York on Tuesday. I understand it’s very cold there. Perhaps they can use this product.
This has got to be one of the more bizarre Looney Tunes licensees.
(Thanks, Joel O’Brien)
Dayton Allen, Tom Morrison, Lionel Wilson, Doug Moye, Allen Swift… these are a few of the performers known to voice characters in Terrytoons. Now add Jo Miller to the list of those who lent their talents, anonymously, behind the mike for producer Paul Terry.
Through my Cartoon Research website, I was recently contacted by a woman, Debbi Rigdon, who wanted information on an obscure one-shot Terrytoon, A Wolf’s Tale (1944). Upon inquiring why, Ms. Rigdon replied, as follows:
My grandmother’s name was Jo Miller Frackman (Stage name Jo Miller) and in A Wolf’s Tale, she did the voices of Little Red Riding Hood and the (Mae West style) Granny. My mother was hoping to get the cartoon while my grandmother was still alive (she suffered from Alzheimer’s the last 9 years of her life) but got it shortly after her passing.
I’m attaching a picture of my grandmother from around 1940. Living in New Rochelle, Grandmother was the client of furrier, Paul Terry, who asked her to do the voices for his cartoon project. As far as we know, it was her only one. My mother told me how exciting it was when the family went to the theater to see the cartoon premiere and she was allowed to stay up, LOL! My grandmother was also a comedienne and came in 2nd place the contest auditions for the voice of Betty Boop, when she was 17.
Paul Terry, a furrier? What’s that about?
From what I understand, Mr. Terry was a furrier and my grandparents were both friends and clients. My grandfather was a prominent Jeweler in New York and, as was common with the times, discouraged my grandmother’s career after they married. So aside from performing for some troops and doing a few vaudeville acts, there were few achievements later. She passed away January 1999 at the age of 94.
So now we know. Thanks to Ms. Rigdon (and the internet) we have another piece of the giant jigsaw puzzle of researching animation history. A Wolf’s Tale was a color remake of a black and white 1938 Terrytoon The Wolf’s Side Of The Story, which featured a different actress doing the voices. Below is an excerpt from the 1944 remake featuring Ms. Frackman’s performance:
The current film Juno is one of the smartest, sweetest and funniest films now playing. The icing on the cake is the hand made cut-out style animated opening titles (thankfully at the beginning of the film, where they belong) that really set the tone.
They were created by L.A.’s Shadowplay Studios. Studio founders Gareth Smith and Michael Horowitz specialize in mixed media — check out their short film This Guy Is Falling (2000). And check out Juno when you get a chance.
The Visual Effects Society is holding a panel on Saturday January 19th on The Future of Character Animation. Frank Gladstone (formerly of Disney/Starz/Dreamworks and Warner Bros) will discuss “what new technologies mean to artists” with animators Ken Duncan and Steve Chiodo, producers Don Hahn (Disney) and Michelle Papandrew (Fosters Home), visual effects supervisor Ken McDonald (Sony Imageworks) and puppeteer Dave Barclay (Perform FX).
The panel will commence from 11am to 1pm at Sony Pictures Imageworks (Ince Theatre), 9050 W. Washington Blvd. in Culver City, California. Admission is $20. VES members admitted free, and there are discount prices for members of various unions (TAG) and organizations (ASIFA). Contact VES at (818) 981-7861 to RSVP.
With the new year underway, it seems like a good time to announce that Cartooon Brew now has a bi-coastal presence. As many have surely heard by now, I moved to NYC a couple months ago. My estimable co-editor Jerry Beck continues to take care of business on the West Coast. Our coverage of the animation world will remain largely unchanged, as can be evidenced these past few months. The agenda for the Brew remains the same as always: write about topics that interest us, and that’s what both Jerry and I intend to keep on doing. As an added bonus, perhaps the posts on the Brew begin to reflect an even broader and more diverse tone as a result of my new surroundings.
Personally I’m quite pleased to be in and around the New York animation community. The NY animation scene has appealed to me from afar for a long time. One big reason for that is because artists do things in New York. They make short films, they teach, they cross over into other media, they dip and dabble in everything and don’t pigeonhole themselves as “animation artists.”
Hell, they even make animated features; three local indie animated features are nearing completion Ã¢â‚¬” directed by Bill Plympton, Nina Paley and Emily Hubley Ã¢â‚¬” and a fourth is starting production by Michael Sporn. I point this out not to suggest that a feature is the highest form of expression, but because a feature is one of the most time-consuming and ambitious things that one can endeavor to do in this art form. To embark on an independent feature with limited resources and budget takes guts, and it’s a testament to the drive and dedication of NY animators that so many have undertaken the challenge. Animation and beyond, I’m looking forward to spending some time in this amazing city and experiencing its rich and vibrant atmosphere…and eating lots of pizza by the slice.
There may not be a whole lot that’s funny about the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto, but illustrator Steve Brodner managed to create this political cartoon that works in references to both Pluto and Bluto:
Speaking of Brodner, he not only has a blog that features his latest work, but also a fun new video series on the NewYorker.comÃ¢â‚¬”“The Naked Campaign”Ã¢â‚¬”where he does ‘chalk talks’ about the presidential candidates and places them in context of earlier presidents and cultural figures. The Obama/Lincoln transformation is particularly entertaining. The After Effects animation in these pieces is provided by NY commercial studio Asterisk Animation.
(Thanks, Jakob Schuh)
Thought that Orangina spot was disturbing? Click here to see the trailer for a
Spanish Brazillian rip-off of Ratatouille.
For additional laughs, check out the Amazon link and read the reviews. Pixar, what have you wrought?
I suppose it could be worse. I suppose someone could try making a knock-off of Bee Movie. Nah, that’ll never happen.
(Thanks, Floyd Bishop)