The Best of Cartoon Brew: Jan/Feb 08

We’re going to begin doing a regular roundup that indexes some of the more noteworthy items on Cartoon Brew. Here are some of the news items that created the most buzz and generated the most discussion during the past couple months. Any that we missed?

The Little Island by Richard Williams
Superjail
• Hatti Noel as Hyacinth Hippo: Part 1 and Part 2
1930s Wartime Japanese cartoon
• The Rocky and Bullwinkle statue: Part 1 and Part 2
Spongebob Rectal Thermometer and Spongebob Voice-overs
Kung Fu Panda Trailer
In by Philipp Hirsch and Heiko Tippelt
Why Don Hertzfeldt Probably Won’t Win An Annie
Marcell Jankovics’s Fehérlófia
Lili Chin and Eddie Mort Abandon Flash Animation
Diznee’s Aladin and Ratatouille Knock-off
Studio 4°C’s Genius Party
The Hard Lessons of Kwicky Koala
Academy Ignores Animation for Best Foreign Film
Usavich
Who Writes Cartoons?

Raggedy Ann & Andy (1977) TV spot

I found this original TV spot for Richard Williams’ Raggedy Ann & Andy (1977) in my collection, and thought it was a hoot. Note the “rolling eyes” reaction of the adult at the 32-second mark. With all the great respect Williams showed for – and credited to – his master animators, it saddened me back then that this film was simply marketed by distributor 20th Century-Fox as a typical kiddy film; pure Saturday matinee fodder. Obviously is was a children’s film – but it was also a rare challenge to Disney’s cartoon dominance (The Rescuers was released two months later) in a what was debatably the worst decade ever for animated features (Bakshi’s work excepted).

To commemorate Friday’s release of Fox’s Horton Hears A Who!, I thought this comparison in how an animated film was sold back then, versus today’s massive marketing campaigns, was worth noting.

Comic Book Comics

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Comic book writer Fred Van Lente and cartoonist Ryan Dunlavey have teamed up to create Comic Book Comics, a concise illustrated history of comic strips, comic books and yes, animated cartoons. I just picked up a copy at my local comics shop this week and all things considered, it’s pretty good. Jack Kirby and Max Fleischer seems to get extra attention in the first issue. Among the names who will be profiled in forthcoming editions are Stan Lee, Walt Disney, Roy Lichtenstein, R. Crumb, Winsor McCay, Will Eisner, Osamu Tezuka, Harvey Kurtzman, Art Spiegelman, Steve Ditko and Bob Kane.

Fred and Sharon’s Movie Productions

Throughout the history of the animation art form, there have been a select group of innovators who have pushed the medium to its limits and explored the potential of animation to its fullest. These artists include Winsor McCay, Walt Disney, Max Flesicher, Tex Avery, John Hubley…and now, I’m pleased to announce, Fred and Sharon.

Fred and Sharon, hailing from Kelowna, Canada are redefining the possibilities of filmmaking and animation by producing movies for any type of occasion. You can learn about their skills by watching this introductory piece below, entitled “Who Needs a Movie.”

Of course, Cartoon Brew is an animation website and thankfully for us, Fred and Sharon are specialists in the art of animation. They work in a dizzying array of styles, including hi-end computer animation that is seamlessly integrated into live-action settings…

to a traditional hand-drawn look…

to more painterly and experimental styles of animation…

For more of their filmmaking magic, visit FredandSharonsMovies.com or their YouTube page. And when you see them accepting an Oscar, just remember that you read about them on Cartoon Brew first.

Hanako and Stitch

There’s an intriguing story in yesterday’s news wires about how Disney is producing a new TV version of Lilo and Stitch specifically targeted towards Japanese audiences. The new series, titled Stitch!, which will be produced by Japanese animation studio Madhouse (Ninja Scroll, Cardcaptor Sakura), replaces the orphan Lilo with a Japanese girl named Hanako, and transplants the setting from Hawaii to a tropical island in Okinawa, Japan. The series will premiere on Japan’s Disney channel in October.

Popeye and Friends

popeyefriends1.jpgFor Popeye completists only: To be released the same day (June 17th) as Popeye The Sailor Vol. 2, 1938-1940, Warner Home Video will be appealing to kids and families with a special one-disc release containing eight color episodes from the 1978 CBS Saturday morning series, The All-New Popeye Hour. The eight cartoons include: Abject Flying Object, Ship Ahoy, I Wouldn’t Take That Mare to The Fair on a Dare, Popeye Goes Sightseeing, Chips Off The Old Ice Block, Popeye The Plumber, Swee-Pea Plagues
A Parade
and Polly Wants Some Spinach.

What word is Bosko using?

Below is an excerpt from a new documentary Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood which aired the other night on TCM. I appear briefly (the clip below is my entire appearence) to point out a line of dialogue from one of my favorite cartoons, Bosko’s Picture Show (1933).

This mystery has been dogging me since Will Friedwald and I first pointed it out in our 1981 Scarecrow Press book, The Warner Brothers Cartoons. To this day I still can’t quite make what word Bosko is using. “The dirty Thug?” “The dirty Fox”? “The dirty F-ck”?

Thou Shalt Not is the best documentary on pre-code Hollywood films I’ve ever seen. It’s available on DVD as bonus feature on Warner Home Video’s Forbidden Hollywood Collection Vol. 2.

Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy

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If you haven’t been a regular reader of Leonard Maltin’s website or his quarterly newsletter – both named Movie Crazy – you should be. Leonard has now collected the best articles from the newsletter into a 410-page trade paperback also named, you guessed it: Movie Crazy.

It’s loaded with incredible interviews with, and articles about, the people in front and behind the cameras during the golden age of Hollywood. It also contains many pieces of particular interest to animation fans. These include an interview with Janet Waldo (voice of Judy Jetson and Penelope Pittstop), a bio of Arthur Q. Bryan (voice of Elmer Fudd), an interview with Betty Kimball (Ward’s wife) and Marie Johnston (Ollie’s better half) on their careers as ink-and-paint girls at Disney, rare Hollywood caricatures by Disney Legend Joe Grant and an amazing publicity photo of Spanky McFarland and Mickey Mouse.

It’s published by Mike (Dark Horse) Richardson’s M Press imprint and available on amazon.com for $13.57 – and worth every penny.

Small World redux

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Whatever your opinion of It’s A Small World (and its unforgettable – no matter how hard your try – theme song) there’s no doubt it’s a work of art and a tribute to its designer Mary Blair.

The Re-Imagineering blog has posted details on the “updating” currently underway at the Disneyland attraction. These “improvements” include adding Disney characters to foreign locales and an expansion of an American presence to the piece -an expansion the blog points out was “…never intended for American audiences from the show’s very inception.

In consciously excluding a large scale U.S.A.-land from It’s a Small World (a lone cowboy and indian in the finale was just enough), the original show writers were asking American audiences to step away from their own national consciousness and take stock in the wider world around them. It’s a Small World was never about nationalistic fervor. It was about finding our common humanity outside our own borders.”

Read more at Re-Imagineering.

The KidMan and Lemon Show

Kidman and Lemon

Cartoonist Rex Hackelberg has posted a ton of development artwork that he created for a project called The KidMan and Lemon Show.

The idea was conceived by animation guru Chuck Gammage and the finished animated promo below was directed and animated by Jamie Mason (aka Hobo Divine). Other credits include Graham Falk (layout), Mike Geiger (inking), Clive Powsey (backgrounds) and Scott Bucsis (music).

The finished product is exactly the type of cute, fun and appealing cartoon idea that I don’t expect any contemporary animation network to produce because…well…because it’s cute, fun and appealing in a day and age that demands loud, obnoxious and ugly.

The Museum

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My pal Sharon Burian sent me some information on the project she just completed:

I want to alert you to a short film that I recently worked on that was one of the top ten finalists for the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker Award for 2008. Go to 2008 finalists and it’s called The Museum. Actually, even though it’s still listed as a finalist, it WON and will screen in 30,000 theaters across the country!!!

Austin Formato, the director, is supposed to receive the award in the middle of March and my guess is they won’t update the site until then, but I figured I would give you a heads up for Cartoon Brew.

The film was made by all UCLA film students and animators. I animated/rotoscoped the entire Warhol painting sequence at the end. Will Kim did the Degas, James Suhr and I both worked on the animation of the Van Gogh (someone else painted the background and her name escapes me), and Donna Segal animated the Picasso. It was a very positive experience all around and I’m so excited that it’s going to screen in theaters!

Congrats to director Formato and his team. To see the short click here.

A Book About Golden Books

Golden Legacy

Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became An American Icon Along the Way is a book chronicling the behind-the-scenes history of the famous children’s book publisher. Though it is published by Golden Books, it appears to be more than your average corporate fluff piece, and seemingly has lots of original historical research. It is also copiously illustrated with illustrations and photos, and includes coverage of all our Golden Book favorites including Mary Blair, Gustaf Tenggren, Aurelius Battaglia, JP Miller, Alice and Martin Provensen, Mel Crawford and Tibor Gergely, among others. If anbody has actually read the book, please share your thoughts about it in the comments.

Animation Studies Vol. 2

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Volume 2 (2007) of the Society for Animation Studies‘ peer-reviewed on-line journal is now available for download (as a PDF or html file) on the Animation Studies website.

The Animation Studies journal consists of academic papers written mainly by scholars and historians, making for a somewhat dry reading experience. However, the topics are interesting – and intelligent discourse on animation is always a good thing. The online publication is available free of charge, and the articles are licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Contents of Vol. 2 include: Animated Appeal: A Survey of Production Methods in Children’s Software by Tom Klein; (The) Death (of) the Animator, or: The Felicity of Felix by Alan Cholodenko; The Two Golden Ages of Animated Music Video by Gunnar Strom.

And last but not least, Amy Ratelle’s article Half-breed Dog, Half-breed Film: Balto as Animelodrama (which opens Volume 3) sums up the kind of article this journal specializes in. If this is your thing, click here.

Ghostbot Vid For No More Kings

Pete Mitchell, frontman of the band No More Kings, writes to Cartoon Brew:

“i’ve checked cartoonbrew pretty much every day for the past year and a half, and it never ceases to provide inspiration. i’ve always been a huge fan of ghostbot‘s work, and i finally had the pleasure of hiring them to animate my new music video.”

The music video, for their song “Michael (Jump In),” can be seen below. More behind-the-scenes details about the production of the animation are being posted both at the band’s blog and on the Ghostbot blog.

Art Deco In Animation Presentation

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The American Cinematheque and the Art Deco Society are presenting a lecture by David Pacheco, Walt Disney Art Classics creative art director, who will detail the history of Art Deco design in the art of film animation. A special focus of the presentation is on the deco stylization of Walt Disney’s FANTASIA (1940), along with examples of animation from various Max Fleischer short cartoons including Betty Boop and Superman. Hopefully they will screen Page Miss Glory, Merry Mannequins, and All’s Fair At The Fair (pictured above). The seminar will take place at the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Blvd. on Saturday March 22nd at 2pm. Admission: Cinematheque and Art Deco Society members $5; Student/Senior $8; General admission $10. For more info visit the Egyptian Theatre website

Return of the Gremlins

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Dark Horse Comics has announced a Disney Gremlins book-signing taking place next week. A special signing at the Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store in Hollywood will be held on Wednesday evening, March 19th, to celebrate the release of The Return of the Gremlins. This new comic book, by Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson, updates the characters created in the Roald Dahl’s aborted Disney wartime Gremlins project. Dean Yeagle, the artist on the comic book, and Leonard Maltin (who wrote the introduction to the hardcover Gremlins reprint) will be joining Richardson at the signing.

The Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store is stocking up on the various Gremlins books, toys and statuettes. Here are the details: The event will be from 6:00- 9:00pm. Richardson, Yeagle and Maltin will sign between 7:00-9:00pm. The Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store is located at 6834 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood, CA. Should be a fun event. See ya there!

Flip #11

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There is a reason I plug Steve Moore’s online FLIP magazine every month: It’s damn good! The latest edition, now up, features the amazing DEAN YEAGLE discussing Zander’s Animation Parlour – with clips of several classic Jack Zander commercials (Freakies cereal, Good n’ Plenty candy, Crest Cavity Creeps, etc.); features on artist SUE BLANCHARD, illustrator RICHARD MORGAN and an interview with toy collector/creator/Pixar character designer JEFF PIDGEON. Go here and flip out!

Animating From Behind Bars

Superjail is an animated series set in the cooler, but Brew reader Dominic Bisignano points out that there’s a non-profit organization called Giant Elephants Roam that teaches actual prisoners how to animate. The website features short animation tests created by inmates at the Antelope State Valley Prison in Lancaster, California, which is where the pilot program is currently underway. The program was conceived by CalArts student Vita Rabinovich. Below is an example of animation created by inmate “Doc.”