Annie Awards coverage

Annie Awards photo

Photos and article about the Annies at CGSociety.org. I enjoyed this excerpt from the article about Jerry receiving his award from June Foray:

Foray listed the many achievements of recipient Jerry Beck, far too many to place here, including his blog cartoonbrew.com – though she admitted, “I don’t have a computer so I haven’t seen it,â€? to the amusement of the audience.

(photo above, l. to r.: Jim Smith, Steve Worth, Mike Fontanelli, Eddie Fitzgerald)

Best. Birthday. Ever.

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Yes, it’s me with my June Foray Award.

I just got in from a wonderful night at the Annie Award ceremony, and yeah, it’s my birthday today. What a wonderful present and what a fantastic party.

Ratatouille was the big winner last night, winning several Annie Awards including Best Animated Feature, Best Director and Best Writing (Animated Feature). I’m a bit too tired to recall all the winners, but Pixar’s Your Friend The Rat won for best short, El Tigre for Best Children’s TV Animation, Creature Comforts America for Best Animated Program, Power Shares Escape Average (Acme Filmworks) won for Best Commercial, and Surf’s Up, The Simpsons and Robot Chicken took home other prizes.

It was a blast to be surrounded by some of the greatest names in animation (Groening, Bird, Kricfalusi, Canemaker, Keane, etc.). Tom Kenny did an amazing job as the master of ceremonies (more about this in a future post). The new venue, at UCLA’s Royce Hall, was terrific. If you were there please share your memories of the evening in our comments bellow.

Ain’t It Cool ‘toons

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Harry Knowles (of Ain’t It Cool News) has posted a top ten list (with YouTube links) of his some of his all-time favorite animated films. These include Disney’s Music Land, MGM’s Peace On Earth and Little Buck Cheeser, UPA’s The Tell-Tale Heart, George Pal’s Tulips Shall Grow, Ub Iwerks’ Balloon Land and Skeleton Frolic, Will Vinton’s Closed Mondays and Max Fleischer’s Great Vegatable Mystery and Ants In the Plants.

A fine list with a lot of great films.

Script That Classic

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With all the debate over scripts versus storyboards, animation writer Steve Marmel (Fairly Oddparents, Danny Phantom, et al) has jumped into the fray, and put his money where his mouth is.

Marmel, on his Animation Writers blog, has started a contest challenging writers to craft a script from a classic Bob Clampett cartoon. The film chosen, Falling Hare, was selected by scripter Marmel with the help of Stephen Worth of the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive, one of the most outspoken on the subject of storyboard-driven cartoons.

Once he receives qualified entries, Marmel plans on reaching out to other board artists, directors and story people to help judge and give opinions, but would like the final arbiter of this to be Stephen Worth himself. Marmel asks Worth:

Pick the best of the bunch. Show script writers what’s right. And in return, you can take the worst of the bunch, and gut it.

Here’s what happens when a winner is picked. I will see that the winner is paid a “teleplay fee” for a short-subject script – as determined by the IATSE/TAG 839 rules. I think it’s a little less than $2000. This may be out of my own pocket… (and) I will personally make an in-kind donation to the ASIFA-Archive.

The contest will begin when Worth accepts the terms Marmel proposes. For more information, go to Marmel’s blog.

New Art from The Haunted World of El Superbeasto

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto

New stills have appeared online from the forthcoming direct-to-video Rob Zombie feature The Haunted World of El Superbeasto. Chris Battle, who did some work on the film, posted a few of the images on his blog with this accompanying thought:

“Above are some of the better pics that actually retain the brilliance of Carey Yost and Mark Colangelo’s original art, but judging from some of the other pics, the final product is falling a bit short of what it was supposed to be. I guess that’s what happens when the studio shuts things down way too early and sends everything overseas before it’s ready in order to concentrate on sure-fire winners like ‘Everybody’s Hero’…”

That’s disappointing news to hear. Back in August 2006, Jerry had written on the Brew about the promise of this project.

UPDATE: Multiple well-placed sources inform us that El Superbeasto is still being prepped for a theatrical release and not direct-to-video.

Brad Bird Interviews

Brad Bird

Brad Bird has done a couple radio interviews in the past week which are worth a listen. The first interview refers to him as “Big Bird” and “one of Pixar’s chief polishers,” but beyond that unnecessary cuteness, it’s a decent chat in which Bird discusses what’s wrong with Hollywood filmmaking and expresses reservations about how animation is treated at the Oscars. The second interview gets off an to equally bad start when the host refers to animation as a “genre” and Bird has to correct him. It eventually picks up, especially when he discusses how he came onto Ratatouille midway through the film’s development. The latter interview also features unintentional moments of comic relief by historian Charles Solomon who makes heroic efforts to correctly pronounce the name Ratatouille.

(Thanks, Jakob Schuh, for the first interview link)

Prada’s Trembled Blossoms

Trembled Blossoms

Trembled Blossoms, a short film advertising the new Prada line, is worth pointing out not for its animation, which is a blend of awfully inept mo-cap and awkward CG effects, but for the simple fact that Prada is using animation to promote its clothes. Illustrator James Jean has posted some of the concept artwork that he created for the film, and for the record, it’s far more pleasing to the eye than the finished product.

(via NotCot.org)

Mimiche

Here’s a rare treat—thanks to YouTube. Milton Knight discovered this upload of a rare 9.5mm silent home movie film featuring Mimiche (a character previously known as Mish-Mish). About the animators, Milton says:

The Frenkel Brothers (Hershel, Salomon and David Frenkel) were pioneer animators in Egypt. Moving to France after WWII, one brother continued the series for home movie consumption. Here it is, proving himself still under the spell of John Foster and George Rufle’s TOM AND JERRY cartoons!

While we are on the subject, here’s another animated rarity on YouTube, from France — a cartoon by Andre Rigal about the prevention of accidents at work, Monstres Museles .

Rhapsody Of Steel

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ASIFA-Hollywood’s Animation Archive has post a complete Quicktime movie of John Sutherland’s industrial film Rhapsody of Steel (1959) on their site. At the time it was released, it was the most expensive animated industrial film ever made.

It’s a pretty spectacular film, with incredible design by Eyvind Earle, Maurice Noble and Victor Haboush, music by Dimitri Tiomkin, and animation by Irv Spence and Emery Hawkins. It was directed by Carl Urbano.

Mickey Mouse anniversary PEZ dispensers!

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Check out these Limited Edition 80th Anniversary Mickey Mouse Pez.
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This commemorates the 80th anniversary of both Mickey Mouse and Pez candy. These three Pez dispensers (above) — “Steamboat Willie”, “Pie-eyed Mickey” and “Millenium Mickey” — are available separately or as a “Mickey Through the Years” limited edition set (at left). They are just now hitting stores (and ebay). The set is a nice package, with three different Mickeys in a beautiful black metal collectors tin. There were only 400,000 of these made, and they come packaged with a repro Mickey movie poster. There are also a pair of black & white Mickey and Minnie head dispensers that are pretty cool too.

(Thanks, Jon Cooke)

Why Don Hertzfeldt Probably Won’t Win An Annie

Everything Will Be OK

There are five nominees for Best Short Subject in this year’s Annie Awards, which will be presented by ASIFA-Hollywood tomorrow evening:

• Everything Will Be OK – Bitter Films
• How to Hook Up Your Home Theater – Walt Disney Feature Animation
• Shorty McShorts’ Shorts “Mascot Prepâ€? – Walt Disney TV Animation
• The Chestnut Tree – Picnic Pictures
• Your Friend the Rat – Pixar Animation Studios

One of these films—Don Hertzfeldt’s Everything Will Be OK— is a true underdog because of unfortunate circumstances surrounding this year’s voting in the shorts category. The issue was first brought to my attention by an ASIFA-Hollywood member who contacted Cartoon Brew about the situation. I was struck by the unfairness of the matter and decided to look into what happened. I’m bringing this matter to light in the hope that all future Annie nominees will be given a fair shot at winning the award.

The Annie Award rules for short subjects specify that voting members must view all of the films before voting for a winner. Members can view the films through a password-protected online website that shows the films in their entirety. However, Hertzfeldt’s film was never shown to online voters in its entirety until the last day of voting. Here is a timeline of what happened, which has been confirmed by both ASIFA-Hollywood president Antran Manoogian and Hertzfeldt’s manager, Jeremy Platt of Spectacle Entertainment Group:

January 15, 2008: Online balloting begins. All of the films in the short subject category are posted in their entirety, except for Hertzfeldt’s Everything Will Be OK, for which there is only a six-second clip from the 17-minute film. (See UPDATE below which says that other films may not have been shown properly either.)

One week later: Balloting in this category is suspended. According to ASIFA-Hollywood president Antran Manoogian, “…[A]ll ballots that had been cast in the category up to that point were deleted, and those
individuals who had voted were instructed to go back and view the new video, and vote again.”

At this point, Hertzfeldt’s manager messengered over a dvd copy of the film so they could get the entire version posted on the online ballot. But instead of posting the entire film, ASIFA-Hollywood posted an incomplete 13-minute version of the 17-minute film. The film abruptly ends in the middle but voters have no idea that they’re watching the incomplete version.

January 31, 2008: Don’s manager, Jeremy Platt, discovers that the film is incomplete yet again and calls ASIFA-Hollywood. According to Antran Manoogian:

“Upon further investigation, it was determined that the reason for this error was because the DVD of “Everything Will Be OK” that had been provided for the ballot was defective, which resulted in the last few minutes of the film not appearing on the video, with the other shorts.

“Luckily our video editor was able to figure out a way to transfer the corrupt file of the missing footage, and the complete version of the film was uploaded onto the ballot, immediately.”

Platt contends that the dvd was fine, pointing out that they were able to eventually post the complete film from the same dvd. Also, with the running time printed on the dvd package, it should have been doubly clear that a 13-minute version was not the full film.

February 1, 2008: The complete version of the film is online for its first full day, but online voting also ended on this day. The entire version of Everything Will Be OK was posted on the site for just over 24 hours of the two week voting period.

That only a 6-second version was shown initially is unfortunate but could be chalked up to human error. A stupid human error, since it should’ve been obvious that it wasn’t a six-second film, but an error nonetheless. However, to be so careless as to not properly post the film the second time around is grossly negligent on ASIFA-Hollywood’s part. After screwing up once, it’s unfathomable that they didn’t double- and triple-check the second posting of the film.

Hertzfeldt’s manager Platt thanks ASIFA-Hollywood president Antran Manoogian for being attentive to the situation and taking steps to remedy it. Yet, Platt also says that he has not seen this level of “sloppiness” in any other major film award. The sloppiness has likely cost Hertzfeldt any shot at an Annie this year, and Platt tells the Brew,”We’re disappointed in the process and with how this award was carried out, but we’ll just move on.” Platt says that Don Hertzfeldt, who is busy finishing up his next short, is taking the whole situation in stride and doesn’t worry too much since winning awards is not the reason he makes films in the first place.

For ASIFA-Hollywood’s part, president Antran Manoogian tells the Brew that his organization, “believes that all the nominees were reasonably considered for the award.” He also accepts full responsibility for Hertzfeldt’s situation:

“Although it would have been ideal to have been able to start the voting all over again, with balloting set to close the next day, and the Annie Award taking place a week later, it was not possible to extend the voting period without jeopardizing the timely delivery of the voting results…While one could argue that many parties could be blamed for this situation, ultimately ASIFA Hollywood takes full responsibility for what happened, and intends to take whatever action is necessary to insure that this type of an incident does not occur again in the future.”

The decision to offer an award in the category this year hasn’t pleased everybody, including the ASIFA voter who initially made Cartoon Brew aware of the problem. Though he has asked to remain anonymous to avoid possible repurcussions, he tells me:

“In my honest opinion, if they don’t do the right thing this time – throw out the votes again  for another re-vote period – then they ought to just admit they made a gross error and declare there to be no winner in this year’s category, since the voting was so clearly flawed.  To admit all their mistakes but “go on with the show” anyway (and break their own printed rules about watching all the films) is not something I would call ‘animation’s highest honor.’

“It’s not fair to the other nominees either, because whoever wins that award is going to get it under these fishy circumstances that turn the trophy into tainted goods. I truly do love the ASIFA organization and what they are trying to do, that’s why it’s so important for me to see things like this done right.”

Whether Hertzfeldt wins tomorrow night or not is besides the point. The integrity of the voting process was seriously compromised in one of the Annie Award categories this year. In the future, ASIFA-Hollywood must put in place new and stricter safeguards to ensure fairness towards all its nominees and maintain the intregrity of its highly respected and coveted industry award.

Chestnut Tree

UPDATE: I received an email from Bert and Jennifer Klein, the producers of another film nominated in the shorts category The Chestnut Tree. They tell me that the problems with Hertzfeldt’s film were not an isolated incident and that their film was also not properly shown to online voting audiences. They sent details on what had happened with their film and have allowed me to reprint this portion of their message:

“Our film was entirely omitted the first time around, we didn’t even get a 7 second clip. We contacted Antran [Manoogian] right away, which was probably around the same time as Don’s manager did. The timeline for the rest is correct—they didn’t have our full version up until the Monday before the voting ended. That was 2 FULL WEEKS of trying to fix the situation! It’s a huge hurdle to try and even complete a film, and only us two independents were left out of the race.”

Next Tuesday: Patrick Smith Show in NY

Painting by Patrick Smith

Hot on the heels of his first solo art show last September, New York director and animator Patrick Smith is having another solo exhibit of his paintings, as well as drawings from his animated shorts. The show opens next Tuesday, February 12, at RIOT New York, a visual fx and post-production studio that Smith has worked with closely on both his independent shorts and commercial projects. Opening reception is from 6:30-10pm at RIOT (545 Fifth Avenue, 2nd floor, NY, NY). More details about the show are available at Pat Smith’s website.

David Levy on The Rise of NY Indie Features

My Dog Tulip

When I posted about my move to NYC last month, I alluded to the exciting trend of independent animated features being produced on the East Coast. ASIFA-East president David Levy has penned a new column in the ASIFA-East monthly newsletter Anymator about the growth of indie East Coast features. An incredible seven artists out here are working on or have recently completed independent features: Bill Plympton, Michael Sporn, Nina Paley, Paul Fierlinger, Emily Hubley, Dan Kanemoto, and Tatia Rosenthal.

In his article, entitled “Better Late Than Never,” Levy learns more about these features by interviewing four of the filmmakers: Michael Sporn, Nina Paley, Paul Fierlinger and Dan Kanemoto. It’s a pleasure to hear the filmmakers describing the subject matter of their films: the relationship between a WWII pilot and his father, a film based on the memoirs of British author J.R.Ackerley, a biography of Edgar Allen Poe, and an animated interpretation of the Indian epic Ramayana. Sounds like American animated features are finally growing up.

(Image above from Paul Fierlinger’s My Dog Tulip)

Band of Bugs

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Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, California, has an upcoming art show, A Band of Bugs, featuring work from animators and illustrators such as Lou Romano (above), Don Shank, Alex Kirwan and others. The show will be on exhibit from February 9th through March 3rd.

The opening reception is this Saturday, Feb 9th, from 7pm to 11pm. Admission and refreshments are free and live music will be provided by Insect Surfers. A Band of Bugs is “an art show dedicated solely to those creepy, colorful, and wonderfully weird creatures that we encounter on a daily basis”. Anna Chambers, has prepared cute plush pests for the show; Megan Brain will be showcasing her incredible paper sculptures; and “the girls“, Amanda Visell and Michelle Valigura, provide several unique interpretations of various bugs. The artists will be in attendance on opening night to meet fans and discuss their work.

For more information, contact curator Wade Buchanan (gallery-at-gallerynucleus.com) or visit the Gallery Nucleus website.

Chuck-staposed

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Last week an exhibition of original oil paintings by the late animation director Chuck Jones opened for public viewing at Chapman University in historic Old Towne in Orange California. The exhibition is jointly sponsored by Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, the nonprofit organization founded by Jones before his death, and Chapman University’s Leatherby Libraries. From the press release:

Chuck‑staposed: A Collection of Chuck Jones Oil Paintings from the Humorous to the Sublime reveals some of the more private aspects of the renowned, Academy Award-winning director, producer, artist, and author. The examples of fine art included in this exhibition have their roots in Jones’ formal training at Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts) in Los Angeles and subsequent decades of artistic endeavor; truly a lifetime in art, at its most exquisite, intimate, and meaningful level.

Chuck‑staposed will be on public display at Leatherby Libraries, Chapman University, free of charge, February 2 through February 27, 2008. The opening reception is next Wednesday, February 13th, from 4 to 7 PM. Marian Jones, Chuck Jones’ widow, and Craig Kausen, his grandson, are co-curators of the exhibition and Trustees of the non-profit Chuck Jones Center for Creativity.

Obama-mation

Barack Obama commercial

Continuing our coverage of how animation is being used in this year’s Presidential election, below are two pro-Barack Obama spots targeted towards California voters. They were commissioned by the Power Pac organization, and created by Eddie Codel and Ryan Junell. Junell, who handled direction and animation, writes about the spots on his website:

“I made these two ads from concept to completion in less than two weeks with the help of Phillip Niemeyer of Double Triple, Blevin Blectum, Tonya Glanz, and several others. Our target is the younger, fence-sitting voter who needs a positive lift to the voting booth.”

(PS: A friendly reminder to keep discussion in the comments focused on the use of animation in the campaign and the effectiveness of the spots. This is not a forum for expressing political views.)

(via Laughing Squid)

Meet Hyacinth Hippo

Hattie Noel

I know what you’re saying to yourself right now: he’s finally lost his marbles and has started posting suggestive photos of voluptuous black women and calling them hippos. But actually the above photo is a rare piece of Disney animation history. It’s a photo of actress Hattie Noel who was the live-action reference for Hyacinth Hippo in Fantasia.

This is one of the “lost” pics from her modelling sessions for Disney artists. For obvious reasons, it’s a bit of Disney history that you never read about in their official histories. Over the years, I’ve seen a couple other reference shots of her, but this one has ended up on eBay (or at least a copy of it has, since the seller is only offering a printout and not the original photo).

(via Disney History blog)

The Making of Timmy’s Christmas

Timmys Christmas

Mike Nassar has written a super-detailed blog post documenting every step of how he and a few other artists produced Timmy’s Christmas, a one-minute Flash short completed in a week. Kudos to Nassar for being so open about his techniques and production pipeline. Whether one is already an expert in Flash or not, it’s fascinating to read such a comprehensive account of how a Flash cartoon was created.

Anime Alert!

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Heads up, East-coasters! Several worthwhile anime screenings are scheduled for later this month.

The Japan Society, in New York, presents Dawn of Japanese Animation from February 13th through the 16th. animeclassicsmall.jpgDigital Meme will coordinate the screening of 38 animated films culled from Japanese Anime Classic Collection, a DVD anthology released last year. It will be the first time ever such a large number of prewar Japanese animated films is shown in the US. Each screening will be accompanying with a live benshi narration by Ms. Midori Sawato. More details here.


The Japan Information and Culture Center in association with the DC Anime Club will be presenting the screening of two anime specials from Production IG: xxxholic (pictured above) and Tsubasa Chronicle on Thursday Febuary 28, 2008 at 6:30 pm. The screening will take place at the Japanese Embassy, at 1155 21st Street, NW, in Washington, DC.

Both Movies are based upon manga by Clamp, and both movies will be shown in Japanese with English Subtitles. This event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and granted on a first come, first served basis. Reservations are required. RSVP to jiccrsvpwinter08-at-embjapan.org
For more information visit the Japanese Information and Culture Center website.

Faking It

Bee Movie

Animator (and Animation Guild Local 839 prez) Kevin Koch has a useful post on his blog entitled “Faking It”, which addresses the topic of what’s an animator to do when assigned to animate shallow and superficial characters. Having working in the animation department on seven DreamWorks features, Kevin is certainly well qualified to speak on the subject. Koch offers a number of solutions, including just doing the job as well as you can:

“If you’re not in a position to make story/character contributions, if that superficial character and shallow, unbelievable story aren’t going to improve no matter how many suggestions you make, then just do the best you can. There are times when I have to remind myself that I’m a pro, I’m being paid to do a job, and the least I can do is a solid professional job. Think of those shots as a technical problems. Look for ways to emphasize the basic principles of animation. Are the arcs as full as they could be, can you pack in a touch more overlap and follow-through, are your poses as clear and well staged as they can be? If you’re stuck having a minor character walk around for no particular reason, make it the sharpest walk in the movie, without upstaging the main action. Remember the oft quoted line, “There are no small scenes, only small animators.”

Radio Nova Spot by Romain Segaud

Commercial by Romain Segaud

“Electro” (download 16mb file) is a stand-out commercial for French station Radio Nova directed by Romain Segaud (previously on the Brew). Segaud’s earlier student works like Tim Tom and Bip Bip displayed great promise and this latest spot continues the development of his unique digital style. I can’t wait to see where he takes it next. Character design on this commercial is by Laurent Nicolas, and the production company is Passion Paris. Complete production credits at Motionographer.com.