Bob Thomas’s The Art of Animation

The Art of Animation

Michael Sporn has been scanning some beautiful photos and artwork from Bob Thomas’s classic long out-of-print 1958 book about Disney called The Art of Animation. So far he’s done two posts about the book (first post, second post). Even better, and especially if you read Spanish, Michael points out that Ernesto Pfluger has scanned and posted the entire Spanish-language version of the book on his blog. Even if you can’t understand the text, the imagery is a delight. I think I speak for a lot of classic animation fans when I say that I’d like to see this book reprinted.

Also, I love this comment by cartoonist Eddie Fitzgerald about the photos in Thomas’s book: “The artists look so hardcore, so professional! I love the serious faces of the four artists looking at the cel, the one with Al Dempster on the extreme left. I even like the picture of the ink and painters. Everybody looks like they’re soooo good at what they do!” Eddie is so right. The artists in these photos defy the stereotype of animators as goofballs. These guys were professionals in the truest sense of the word, and the films they created reflect their dedication to the art and craft.

Björk’s “Wanderlust” by Encyclopedia Pictura

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Björk’s new music video for the song “Wanderlust” is AMAZING! It’s a staggeringly original mix of live-action, stop motion, CG and puppetry directed by San Francisco-based Encyclopedia Pictura (aka Sean Hellfritsch and Isaiah Saxon). The “regular” version debuted today, but they’ve also produced a stereoscopic 3D version that requires special glasses. This would definitely be something special to see on the big screen.

UPDATE I’ve removed the YouTube link because the directors of the video emailed to tell us that they’ve put up a beautiful hi-res Quicktime version of “Wanderlust” on their website, and they’d prefer if people could see this version. I think you’ll prefer seeing this version too.

Below is a ‘making of’ video and here is an interview with the directors about the challenges of producing the video in 3D. And these are the complete production credits.

Aesop’s Fables Hankie Book

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Is it a book or a set of hankerchiefs? I’m not exactly sure what this is, but clearly it’s another example of bizarre Van Beuren cartoon merchandise from the early 30s. Brew reader Anita Holmes found it and shared these photos (click on images below to enlarge) with us. Beloved Van Beuren regulars Don Dog, Puffie, Al Squirrel and The Countess each get a full page (or hankie).

The hard to see words on the bottom left hand side say, “‘Tis Maytime and the fables gang Are dressed in colors bright. Genuine Aesop’s Fables Film Characters.” The right hand bottom says “We watched them as they danced around The pole in sheer delight.” Copyright Sept. 1, 1931 by The W.R. Woodard Co. By Permission of Van Beuren Corporation.

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Cool Animated Titles

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If you are a fan of animated opening titles, as I am, you’ll want to take note of these three items:

• A special tribute to Bob Kurtz is being featured on the Forget the Film, Watch the Titles website. Kurtz has done a number of distinctive animated film titles, mostly in cooperation with top title designers. So far the site has posted seven: City Slickers, Max Dugan Returns, Are We Done Yet?, The Pink Panther, Straight Talk, Honey I Blew Up The Kid and Four Rooms – and more to come. Kurtz himself contributes comments on every sequence posted.

• Here’s a new animated film title you really should see. It’s a remarkable piece, heavily inspired by the work by Oskar Fischinger, created by Paris based design studio Deubal, for the recently released French film Ça Se Soigne?. Comments by the title’s designer, Olivier Marquezy, also appear on the Submarine Channel site.

• And finally, an incredible oversized 320 page book which surveys the history of movie title design has just been released by BIS Publishers. Uncredited: Graphic Design & Opening Titles in Movies sheds insight into the work of dozens of title designers, including such artists as Saul Bass, Pablo Ferro, Maurice Binder and Milton Glaser. It retails for $55, but Amazon has it for $34.65. Highly recommended.

Jerry Beck meets Joan Rivers

Not the most embarassing moment in my life, but it comes pretty close. By popular demand, and as a Brew 4th Anniversary special, here’s my appearance on Joan River’s syndicated TV show, Can We Shop, in February 1994. The longest eight minutes of my life:

There was absolutely no prep for this show. I met Ms. Rivers on the set. I have no idea what she would ask – and they had no idea what I might say. The show needed a “Looney Tunes expert” and they located me in L.A. on a Friday, flew me to tape the show in New York on Monday. I recall the day this was taped there was a horrible blizzard hitting the city. I took the opportunity of being in Manhattan to schedule a meeting at The Museum of Modern Art later that day to pitch a Famous Studios retrospective. Thanks to Joan Rivers flying me into New York for this, the February 1995 Cartoons From Times Square screenings and Famous Studios reunion at MoMA took place – one of the greatest moments of my professional life.

Cartoon Brew: 4 Years Old!

fouryearsold.jpgCartoon Brew was launched four years ago this month – and my, how we’ve grown. Below are some thoughts on the anniversary from the Brewmasters:

Jerry Beck
Back in 2003, Amid was updating his Animation Blast website with commentary and news; likewise, I was posting a stream of information and reviews on my Cartoon Research page. I recall a conversation we had at the time, both of us enthused about the potential of the Internet to expand our writing about animation. We were eager to communicate our thoughts, comments and criticism and saw a huge opportunity to expose new talent. This discussion led to our decision to “team up”, and create a new blog to share our ideas on one dedicated site that could lead to something more valuable to us – and our readers. We launched Cartoon Brew on March 15, 2004.

It’s turned out to be the most exciting, fulfilling, pleasurable and yes, time consuming, project we’ve ever taken on. For me, Cartoon Brew is a natural extension of what I’ve always done: communicating with fellow animation buffs and sharing my views, as well as trivia and souvenirs, from a lifetime of cartoon research. I love it.

We’ve watched our humble blog grow from several thousand readers a week to several thousand each day. A little over a year ago we opened our posts to comments from our readers, expanding the conversation to include the entire animation community. I’ve considered all Brew readers to be my friends, as we all share a love for an art form which, despite all its commercial success, is still not completely understood and fully explored by the mainstream public.

And that’s why Cartoon Brew is important to me. If I can enlighten someone to the latest film by Miyazaki, alert you to specific classic animation on DVD, or point even one person towards a Spongebob Squarepants Musical Rectal Thermometer, then I can rest a little easier, knowing I’ve done my job.

Amid Amidi
Wake up, brush teeth, wash face, put on coffee, log onto the Brew. Working on the site has become second-nature to me. I’m always amazed at how many people tell me that Cartoon Brew is one of their essential daily reads, but what I always forget to reply is that it’s exactly the same for me on the other end. The Brew is such an essential part of my daily life. Even on days when I have nothing to say (obviously, those are pretty rare days), I still check into the site to see what Jerry is writing and what readers are discussing.

As we begin our fifth year, we have big plans for the website. We are currently hard at work on a relaunch of CartoonBrewFilms. The idea continues to grow and morph but our goal remains the same: making quality animation available to a wide audience while making filmmakers money for their work. We’re also looking at numerous ways to extend the Cartoon Brew community, both through real world events and through online sites. Along those lines, we recently started a Cartoon Brew Facebook community (for Facebook members only) that allows readers to interact with one another through the discussion boards, and share links to films and articles with one another. Whereas the comments section on the Brew is for specifically responding to items that we post, the Facebook community is an opportunity for any reader to initiate a discussion or post interesting items.

This is also a good time to thank a few of our friends without whom we couldn’t be doing this site: the fine design team at Also Design who redesigned our website and logo, the sales team at Federated Media who help bring us corporate advertisers that we could otherwise never get on our own, and Leslie Cabarga who came up with the original set of Brew logos…remember these?

Cartoon Brew logos

J.J. and Friends

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Next Thursday, share an interactive evening with some of the most influential and creative artists on the east coast: J.J. Sedelmaier (producer of Beavis and Butt-Head, SNL “TV Funhouse Cartoons,” etc.), Ward Sutton (Village Voice cartoonist and animation designer) and Barry Blitt (political cartoonist, NY Times, The New Yorker, etc.).

The Westchester Arts Council presents J.J. Sedelmaier & Friends: Liberty Readings – Satire, Parody and Freedom of Expression, a panel discussion moderated by Craig Yoe, Thursday, April 3rd at 7:30pm at The Arts Exchange, 31 Mamaroneck Avenue, in White Plains, New York. For information on tickets call 914-428-4220 x 223 or check the website.

Cartoon Snap

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Cartoonist Sherm Cohen (Spongebob Squarepants, The Mighty B) has a great blog where, for the last several weeks, he’s been posting complete comic book stories from the golden age. His latest post is a Milt Gross classic starring Count Screwloose and previous posts include Jim Tyer Heckle & Jeckle (panel above), Sam Spade Wildroot Creme Oil ads, and some of the wildest Jack Kirby, Wally Wood and Dan Gordon comics I’ve ever seen. Check out Cartoon Snap.

Earliest Anime found

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A pair of animated films, discovered last year at an antique market in Osaka, have been identified as two of the earliest cartoons ever produced in Japan. Tokyo’s National Museum of Modern Art has announced the restoration of Jun-ichi Kouchi’s 1917 Namakura-gatana (“An Obtuse Sword” pictured above) and Seitaro Kitayama’s 1918 Urashima Taro (Taro, The Sentry: Submarine). Both films will be screened publicly on April 24th at the Museum’s National Film Center.

PandaPanther

PandaPanther is, hands down, my favorite new commercial studio. Once you see their work, you’ll understand why. This young NYC-based outfit, operating for a little over a year now, is injecting a big whopping dose of artistry into computer animation, and dragging CG out of its literalist photoreal ghetto. It’s headed up by directors Jonathan Garin and Naomi Nishimura, and producer Lydia Holness.

Garin and Nishimura’s CG feels tactile and handcrafted. Their work looks unmistakably digital yet also retains a strong illustrative quality. They also seem to mix techniques quite well, as some of their projects appear to employ “stop motion” sets, like the Zune Arts and Yo Gabba Gabba! ones. Below are a few of their recent projects that I’ve enjoyed, though I recommend checking out everything on their site PandaPanther.com.

Panda Panther

Mika’s Marshmallow Train, an animated short for Yo Gabba Gabba!

Panda Panther

Nokia “Rock ‘n Roll Decadence”

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Tale of the Cheshire Tree

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Interstitals for MTV Tr3s. Full credits and brief interview with the filmmakers on this site.

Panda Panther

Underwater Jungle Disco

Renegade to make Funny Face

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Loud Mouth Lime, Jolly Olly Orange and Goofy Grape are poised for a comeback.

Our friends at Renegade Animation (Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, The Mr. Men Show) have obtained the rights to the Funny Face characters, originally featured on Pillsbury drink packets in the ‘60s, from Boston-based Carson Creations. Renegade plans to produce an animated television series based on the property. The studio is currently producing a pilot episode while seeking distribution and licensing agreements. According to the press release:

The Funny Face television series will be aimed at kids from 6 to 11 and will recall the animation style and the spirit of classic, theatrical cartoons such as Tom & Jerry and Looney Tunes. “It’s a delightful opportunity to be funny in a way that is missing from the cartoon landscape right now,” said Renegade’s Ashley Postlewaite, who will executive produce the series. “These characters are perfect for that style of comedy.” Darrell Van Citters will direct the series. “I can’t wait to get back to the kind of flat-out physical comedy that insired me to get into animation in the first place!” says Van Citters. Michael Giaimo is heading up visual development on the series. Renegade Animation plans to produce the series using its proprietary “paperless” animation pipeline with all phases of the animation process being completed at its studio in Glendale. Renegade is the only animation studio that produces animated television series entirely with U.S. talent.

This sounds like a great idea to me. No word yet if Chinese Cherry or Injun Orange will make cameo appearances.

1933 Interview with Tex Avery

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Jaime Weinman has just posted a rare — and significant — piece of cartoon research: an interview with Tex Avery, from 1933, published in the Dallas Morning News.

It’s a pretty good article in which Avery explains the inner workings of the Walter Lantz studio (where Tex was working at the time). My favorite quote (and there are many) involves his thoughts on what it takes to be an animator. Says Tex:

“The secret in animating is first to have an everlasting sense of humour, next to be able to see the commonplace in a funny way and most important of all, to be able to sketch your idea so that the other person will think it’s funny.”

The image above is from Five And Dime (1933) a picture Tex worked on around the time of the interview. It will be included in the forthcoming Woody Woodpecker and Friends Vol. 2.

Hanna Barbera Treasury – now Leather Bound!

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Imagine curling up in your comfy recliner chair, snug in your smoking jacket, slippers and monocle, pipe in your mouth and brandy snifter at your side, perusing your personal leather bound copy of The Hanna Barbera Treasury.

Yes, The Easton Press has just published a limited edition leather-bound edition of my H-B book for royal sum of $147. (payable in three monthly installments of $49.00). I don’t have one myself – I didn’t even know they were publishing such an edition – but I’d certainly recommend it for the cartoon fan who has everything – and I do mean everything! Place your order here.

Friday late-night Brew Radio

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Here’s one for you night owls: Once again I’ll be discussing classic cartoons with Morgan White Jr. on Boston’s oldest and biggest radio station WBZ 1030AM Friday night (or early Saturday morning, depending on where you are). Tune in or listen live on the Internet, tomorrow night (3/28) at 11pm Pacific (3/29, 2am Eastern). Live phone calls will be taken, and questions will be answered. Join us!

Bakshi Talk

Tied in to the release of the new book about his life, BlackBook magazine offers a no-holds-barred interview with Ralph Bakshi. I’m not a fan of the man, but I respect what he’s done for the art form. In a few sentences below, he explains quite well what separates him from the average joe who works in this industry:

“I never for a minute thought, Ralph, you’re broke, and you can’t compete with Disney. Go out and do a commercial film. Go out and do Mary Poppins 2, Bugs Bunny 3–you could make fortunes. But, not caring about money or merchandising allowed me to extend the medium. I mean, I did Heavy Traffic, and that’s not at all a commercial picture: a Jewish mother trying to chop the Italian father’s balls off and a kid who never got laid. So, what I’m saying is, success isn’t why I work. Money isn’t why I work.

“People throw away their lives today on that shit. I know guys in L.A. who have hundreds of millions of fucking dollars, and I think, when are you going to stop this shit? I mean, what are you doing here? Jeffrey Katzenberg still gets up at five in the morning to run this shit at DreamWorks, and gets 300 fucking million dollars for Shrek 5. What is that? He’s a billionaire, and he directs Shrek 5 and 6 and 7, like he’s trying to prove something.”

Pixar art exhibit at L.A. Auto Museum

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Starting this Saturday the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles (at Fairfax and Wilshire) will be hosting an Art of Cars Exhibition. It’s a great way to see some of the original watercolor paintings, pastel drawings, three-dimensional pieces, and pencil and marker sketches created in the process of developing the 2006 Pixar animated feature. Admission price is $10 for adults, $3 for children and the Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday and holiday Mondays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The exhibit runs through November 2nd.

Woody Woodpecker #2 Preview

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This’ll be the first of several previews and unabashed plugs I’ll be doing in advance of the April 15th release of Woody Woodpecker and Friends Vol. 2.

Above is one of the menus, and at left (click to enlarge) is the back cover of the DVD package. Universal has also just refreshed the Woody Woodpecker.com website with info on Volume 2 including new clips, a photo gallery, complete cartoon and bonus listing and more. Check it out!

A Danny Bonaduce Post, Finally!

Our rules for how to submit news items for Cartoon Brew consideration are quite clear, but that doesn’t stop PR folks, who have clearly never read the website, from constantly sending us wildly inappropriate items to post on the Brew. We get dozens of these emails every week. For the most part, I junk them without even opening them, but this one from CBS was so bad that I couldn’t resist sharing with readers. I’ll spare readers the pain of linking to their awful Flash animation, though it’s online if you wish to torture yourself.

Wed, 26 Mar 2008 17:38:03 -0700 [05:38:03 PM PDT]
From: “Walworth, Cori” [email protected]
Subject: “Danny Bonaduce Life Coach”

Just wanted to run a fun idea by you, the Danny Bonaduce Life Coach show has a new mobile episode running tomorrow, it’s starring Pam Anderson.

On this episode, called “Pam Anderson: Mammiforous Matrimony”, Danny and his sidekick Catchphrase are summoned to save Pam from a failing career and failing marriages by becoming match makers. Will Danny’s skills save her from another divorce?

If interested I can send you the episode for you to review and post on your site. Be one of the firsts…

Thank you and hope to hear from you soon.
Cori Walworth
CBS Media Relations
323-575-2119

Stan VanDerBeek

Stan Vanderbeek
(Photo © Amy Drown)

I’m currently fascinated with the work of avant-garde filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek (1927-1984). There seems to be a dearth of information available about him online or in print which is a shame as he was a genius and innovator in so many respects.

In the mid-1950s, he began creating experimental collage animated films with a quick-cutting approach that prefigures the “MTV style” by decades. I’ve posted two of his shorts below–A la Mode (1959) and Science Friction (1960). The moment I saw these, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Terry Gilliam’s animation work, so it’s little surprise that in this interview, Gilliam cites Vanderbeek’s film Breathdeath (1964) as the inspiration for the animation style in Monty Python.

A La Mode (1959)

Science Friction (1960)

VanDerBeek was a relentless experimenter, even going so far as inventing a new type of theater, the MovieDrome, in which people watched films while laying on their backs. The theater used multiple screens to show “collaged projections of slides, film loops, hand-drawn animation, collage animation, live-action footage, and video images.” In other words, he was VJ’ing decades before the term even existed.

MovieDrome

Another fascinating experiment of his was Violence Sonata, a public television special which mixed a prerecorded video work combined with a live studio audience’s response and interaction from viewers at home. When the show first aired in 1969, it was presented on two different channels, requring viewers to place two TV sets side-by-side to appreciate the full effect. More info and a short clip from the film can be seen here.

He collaborated frequently with avant-garde artists from other artistic discplines, such as filming the Happenings of Allen Kaprow and Claes Oldenburg, or working with John Cage and Merce Cunningham on the multimedia piece below (additional info about this project on its YouTube page):

VanDerBeek was also an early pioneer of computer animation, and worked to find ways of marrying art and technology. Here’s a 1972 video that shows him at work at MIT, followed by a CG short he made using the computer.

And to top it all off, he has a pretty awesome gravesite too.

Ray Pointer on Stu’s Show

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Animator, filmmaker, and cartoon historian Ray Pointer will be dispensing his wealth of knowledge for two full hours on Stu’s Show all this week (March 26th through April 2nd) from 7pm to 9pm Eastern, 4pm to 6pm Pacific on Shokus Internet Radio. Ray will discuss his career, including meeting his idol Max Fleischer and eventually becoming a top authority of the Fleischer Studios. Click here and listen!