Imagination, an experimental indie feature that combines live-action with hand-drawn animation, stop-motion puppet animation, pixilation, and time-lapse, was released onto dvd earlier this week. The dvd offers numerous special features including:
1. “Making Imagination” Documentary with cast/crew interviews
2. “Behind The Animation” Documentary with director Eric Leiser
3. Q&A with the Leiser brothers & Ed Gildersleeve at Sunset 5 Theatres
4. Isolated Film Score
5. Stills Gallery
6. Director’s Statement
Additionally, the film has two theatrical screenings scheduled for this weekend. Tonight, it plays in Portland at the Hollywood Theatre, and on Saturday evening, it screens at the Capitol Theater in Olympia, Washington. Director Eric Leiser will be present at both screenings, as will his brother Jeffrey Leiser, who co-wrote the film and composed the film’s music.
To read reviews of Imagination and find out about future theatrical screenings, visit the film’s MySpace page. The film was previously mentioned on the Brew last July.
Richard Williams’s epic first animated short The Little Island (1958) has been posted online. Highly stylized, dialogueless, serious themes, and over half an hour long, the film definitely takes some effort to sit through. Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating–and surprisingly offbeat–early work by a contemporary animation legend, and well worth a view.
Lasseter has selected Dumbo (1941) and a special program of animated shorts for the evening. The archive’s Honorary Chairman and series curator Curtis Hanson will host the program, which will start at 7:30pm in the Billy Wilder Theater, 10899 Wilshire Blvd. at Westwood Blvd. (in the courtyard level of the Hammer Museum). Advance tickets are available for $10 at www.cinema.ucla.edu. Tickets are also available at the Billy Wilder Theater box office starting one hour before showtime: $9, general admission; $8 for students, seniors and UCLA Alumni.
Seemingly the funniest and cartooniest animated projects nowadays are set in jails. There’s the Japanese CG series Usavich, which was written up here last month, and now there’s Superjail, an Adult Swim pilot from last spring which is being turned into a series.
Superjail is one of those rare pieces of animation that reaffirms my faith in mainstream industry animation. (A clip from the pilot episode is posted below; the full series premieres later this year.) At first glance, it’s an unlikely candidate for greatness: it is, after all, a Flash-animated show for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. But Superjail defies all expectations, both for Flash and Adult Swim. Far from the typical Adult Swim fare of characters standing around with their lips flapping, this show takes advantage of the fact that it’s animated, packing every scene with outlandish visual gags, hilarious drawings, frenetic animation, bright colors and enough gratuitous cartoon violence to fill a thousand Popeye shorts.
The premise of the series is simple: Superjail is an ultra-violent prison complex run by a mad Willy Wonka-esque warden determined to “perfect the art of incarceration.” He is aided by a butch guard Alice, an alcoholic accountant Jared, and the punishing robot Jail-bot. Beyond this basic setup, anything goes. It’s a stream-of-conscious free-for-all that’s both exhilaratingly creative and guaranteed to offend. Heidi MacDonald of The Beat blog called the pilot “the most incoherent, violent and irredeemable thing I have ever seen.” Luckily for her, she hasn’t seen the actual show yet. I’ve managed to peep a bit more beyond the pilot and can say that the pilot is only a taste of what’s to come.The actual series is even nuttier and more insane.
Graphically, Superjail achieves a level of cartoon grotesquerie that would make Basil Wolverton blush. There are also hints of Mike Judge, Yellow Submarine, alternative comics, and Wes Archer’s classic short Jac Mac & Rad Boy . The results are grungy and raw; real cartoons by real cartoonists without any of the on-model fussiness and overcautiousness that hinders most of today’s TV animation.
Superjail is created by Christy Karacas, Stephen Warbrick and Ben Gruber. Karacas is directing the series and Aaron Augenblick, whose Augenblick Studios is producing the series, serves as the animation director. The stories are written by Karacas, Warbrick, Augenblick and other animators on the show, with the finished scripts penned by John Glaser and John Lee. A host of other fine cartoonists and animators are contributing to the series including Fran Krause, Will Krause, Jesse Schmal and M. Wartella.
The show also puts to rest the fallacy that Adult Swim shows are poorly animated because of their small budgets. The creators of Superjail have not only managed to deliver impressive animation on a standard Adult Swim budget, but they’re producing the series entirely in the US, from pre-production through final animation. New York-based Augenblick Studios is cutting few corners on the production, with little reliance on stock expressions and poses, and plenty of original drawing in every episode. Even the impressively laborious animated pan used in the opening titles is being re-animated for each episode with new backgrounds.
It’s refreshing to see a production that puts its budget back onto the screen and gives audiences quality that they can enjoy. I’ll try to write more about the studio’s production pipeline in the future, but suffice to say, Augenblick is one of the few studios that operates with a “no producers” policy.
Superjail will debut on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim line-up in summer ’08 with an initial order of ten 11-minute episodes. Until then, check out some of the earlier shorts by Christy Karacas and Stephen Warbrick like Barfight and Space War.
A few preview stills from the series. Click on the pics for bigger versions.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will pay tribute to Tex Avery and Michael Maltese, both born a century ago in early 1908, on Monday March 24th at the Linwood Dunn Theatre (on Vine Street) in Hollywood. If we have to tell you who Avery and Maltese are, you shouldn’t be reading this website.
Crossing paths at the Leon Schlesinger studio in the 1930s and 40s, their collaborations and later individual career achievements are among the greatest moments in animation history. The Academy’s tribute, entitled Putting Looney in the Toons, includes some of the classic shorts Avery and Maltese worked on together, as well as separately from their individual careers. The program will also feature audio presentations of rare recorded interviews with both Avery and Maltese discussing their careers with film historian Joe Adamson.
Tickets are available for advance purchase beginning next Monday (3/3). General admission is $5.00 ($3. for students). The Linwood Dunn Theater is located at the Academy’s Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study, 1313 Vine Street, in Hollywood. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved. For additional information check the Academy website.
Last week Warner Home Video announced the release date (June 17th) of Popeye Vol. 2.
One of the bonus materials mentioned on the official sales sheet was the 1939 Max Fleischer feature film, Gulliver’s Travels — and this has confused many people (at least according to email I recieved). I’ve just received the actual, final list of bonus materials to be included on this set and Gulliver has been dropped. (I have no idea where they would’ve gotten the print from, or how it would’ve fit on the crammed two disc set). No need to fret, however, over the loss of an oft-seen widely available animated feature. The bonus goodies included in this package are even more exciting — particularly several rare items unavailable anywhere else.
Here then, is the full and accurate list of extra content on Popeye the Sailor Vol. 2:
The Jeep by Historian Glenn Mitchell
Bulldozing the Bull by Writer Paul Dini
Mutiny Ain’t Nice by Filmmaker Greg Ford
Goonland by Historian Glenn Mitchell
A Date to Skate by Historian Michael Barrier with Animator Gordon Sheehan
Cops is Always Right by Historian Michael Barrier with Animator Dave Tendlar
Customers Wanted by Director Eric Goldberg
Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp by Filmmaker Greg Ford
Wotta Nightmare by Historian Jerry Beck
Hello, How am I? by Animator Mark Kausler
It’s the Natural Thing to Do by Historian Michael Barrier with Animator Arnold Gillespie
Popeye Popumentaries Eugene the Jeep: A Breed of His Own – Running Time: 3:14 Poopdeck Pappy: The Nasty Old Man and the Sea – RT: 5:07 O-Re-Mi: Mae Questel and the Voices of Olive Oyl – RT: 8:30 Out of the Inkwell: The Fleischer Story – RT: 48:00
Stealin Ain’t Honest by Director Bob Jaques
Puttin on the Act by Historian Daniel Goldmark
Popeye Meets William Tell by Filmmaker Greg Ford with Animator Shamus Culhane
Popeye Popumentaries Men of Spinach and Steel RT: 6:21
From the Vault Paramount Presents Popular Science (1938 Paramount short; behind the scenes at Fleischer’s Miami studio) – RT: 6:16 The Mechnical Monsters (1941 Superman short) – RT: 11:01 Early Max Fleischer Art Gallery – RT: 3:04 Females is Fickle Pencil Test – RT: 0:29 Stealin Ain’t Honest – Storyboard Reel – RT: 6:00 est. I’m Popeye the Sailor Man Vintage Audio Recording – RT: 2:27 (audio only)
Michael Sporn Interviews Jack Mercer – RT: 6:12 (audio only)
A little creativity goes a long way, which is why this hand-drawn music video created by Nadia Barkate, Marion Cruza and Eider Gutierrez is such a delight. It’s for the Spanish rock group Paniks. (via BoingBoing)
* Pixar story supervisor Ronnie del Carmen writes about the celebration at the studio following their Oscar win for Ratatouille. Identifications for the above photo of Pixar story artists can be found on Ronnie’s blog.
* Production designer Bill Cone (A Bug’s Life, Cars) has started a blog to showcase his plein air pastel paintings.
* How does a graphic designer fit in at Pixar? Rataouille title designer Susan Bradley explains her role at the studio in this interview.
This year it takes place on Saturday, March 1, at 1pm. Tributes will be paid to:
Renee Alcazar Â· Roger Armstrong Â· Dick Arnall Â· Warren Batchelder Â· Max Becraft Â· Pat Boyd Â· Sheila Brown Â· Erica Cassetti Â· Harvey Cohen Â· Alberto De Mello Â· Greg Drolette Â· Walker Edmiston Ray Erlenborn Â· Natatcha Estebanez Â· Becky Fallberg Â· Mary Lou Ferguson Â· Ben Ferrer Â· Lu Guarnier. Ed Hansen Â· Terry Harrison Â· Florence Heintz Â· Dave Hilberman Â· Dick Hoffman Â· Steve Krantz . Ryan Larkin Â· Carol Lundberg Â· Celine Miles Marcus Â· John Marshall Â· Roberta Gruetert Marshall . Tom O’Loughlin Â· Henry Ortiz Â· Brant Parker Â· Nicole Pascal Â· Charles Nelson Reilly Â· Will Schaefer . Charlene Singleton Â· Ken Southworth Â· Art Stevens Â· James Street Â· Iwao Takamoto Â· Aleksandr Tatarskiy . Caren Terry Â· Jim Thurman Â· Elbert Tuganov Â· Al Wilson Â· Jack Zander
The Afternoon of Remembrance is free of charge and is open to all. No RSVPs necessary. Food and refreshments, 1 pm * Memoriams, 2 pm
Hollywood Heritage Museum (Lasky-DeMille Barn)
2100 N. Highland (across from Hollywood Bowl), Hollywood, California.
The image above can only mean one thing: Brewmaster Jerry Beck will once again be broadcasting live on Shokus Internet Radio.
Tomorrow, Wednesday February 27th from 4pm to 6pm Pacific time (that’s 7pm to 9pm for you in the Eastern Time Zone) Stu Shostak and I will be discussing classic cartoon DVD compilations like Popeye Vol. 2, Woody Woodpecker Vol. 2 and other classic animation DVDs. If you have a specific question you want answered, call in during the broadcast and ask me, toll free (888) 746-5875. Click here to listen in. If you miss the show, it’ll be rerun for the next seven days at the same time.
Brew reader Michael Losure is a graduate student at the Texas A&M Viz lab who recently finished work on a couple of projects worth a look.
The first is a 3 minute CG short, just finished, named Goobees. It’s a darkly comic film about the inner workings of a vending machine, with a senario that’s a cross between Braveheart and Candyland. Losure and his partners — Seth Freeman, Tony Piedra, Patrick O’Brien — spent 18 months making the CG short inbetween taking classes and dealing with other college obligations.
The second is a stop-motion music video for the band Motion City Soundtrack. A fellow A&M lab student, Lauren Simpson, won an mtvU contest to direct a music video. Losure became the lead animator and editor. The resulting video, It Had To Be You, is a lot of fun – and a pretty good song. Losure adds:
I’m sending the films to you because I’m proud of them as films, not because I think the actual character animation itself necessarily meets Cartoon Brew standards. I have a strong interest in animation, but my schooling and job (I’ll start an FX position at Dreamworks this summer) are more technical. The viz lab specializes in the technical side of computer graphics – and on merging artistic skills with the technical – but there is no specific coursework in animation. I don’t think we’re very well known in the animation industry as a whole (probably because we don’t usually produce animators or shorts), but a lot of our graduates end up in various TD positions at the big animation companies (Seth and Tony are now at Pixar doing rigging and matte painting, and Patrick, Lauren and I are signed with Dreamworks for lighting and FX).
Pretty good for student work at a school that doesn’t teach animation per se. Pixar and Dreamworks are lucky to get you.
Cartoon Dump resumes its monthly Los Angeles performances tonight at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood. Our February show includes our regular cast — including MST3K’s Frank Conniff, me (above left) and “Cue Card Goddess” (above right) — the worst cartoons ever made, and special comedy guest star Morgan Murphy.
It’s a great big load of fun. And don’t take my word for it… read Peter Sanderson’s rave review at Quick Stop Entertainment. Join us tonight at 8pm!
Michael Knapp, who is currently art directing Ice Age 3 at Blue Sky, has redesigned his website MichaelKnapp.com and added a blog as well. The site includes lots of his development and design work from Blue Sky’s earlier films like Ice Age: The Meltdown and Robots, while his blog offers a preview of his new comic that’ll be published in the soon-to-be-released second edition of the comic anthlogy Out of Picture.