As I mentioned back in March, ForeWord Magazine, the only literary trade journal devoted exclusively to covering independent publishers, had nominated my book, The Hanna Barbera Treasury, for Book of the Year.
The winners were announced yesterday at the Book Expo in Los Angeles, and apparently the Hanna Barbera book was the first place (Gold) winner in the Popular Culture category. Congratulations to me! I’ll be heading down to the Book Expo today to find out what exactly winning this award means (and I’ll be autographing copies of the book there at 4pm).
The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco will be presenting a major exhibit of Harvey Comics artwork, “From Richie Rich to Wendy the Witch: The Art of Harvey Comics” from June 28 through November 30. Casper, Wendy, Richie Rich, Hot Stuff, Sad Sack, Joe Palooka, Little Dot, Little Audrey and many more will be showcased with original art from various Harvey comic books and merchandise by stalwarts such as Warren Kremer (1921-2003), who along with animator Steve Muffatti (1880-1968), defined the Harvey look.
The exhibition features artwork by Warren Kremer, Ernie ColÃ³n, Sid Couchey, Howard Post, Fred Rhoads, Ham Fisher, Dom Sileo, Marty Taras, and many more. Image above, a Bill Tytla Little Audrey gag drawing, will not be in the show (but you can click here to see a larger image). Details regarding the opening reception and other upcoming Harvey events will be announced shortly on the Museum’s website.
It’s getting crowded in outer space. In addition to Wallâ€¢E and Space Chimps, nWave Pictures is releasing Fly Me To The Moon, a 3-D animated family film this August in Imax Theatres (hence the overt science angle). Trailer below, production blog here.
Parents of children beware: it seems that Cartoon Network, in its middle age, has developed a fascination with young boys. A recent article in Variety, describing the new direction of network, sounds off the alarms with the headline “Cartoon Network Eyes Young Males.” In it, various Cartoon Net execs try to justify their new perversion by explaining that the network “has a strength with boys” and that they want to rebuild themselves as “the home for boys.”
Most disturbingly, the writer of the article warns that Cartoon Network has “set their sights on male teens and tweens” and plans to have boys’ action shows “up the wazoo.” After years of masquerading around as a network that offered cartoons to viewers of all ages and genders, they’ve finally succumbed to their true feelings and revealed plans to seduce young boys exclusively into watching their channel with enticing boy candy like Ben 10,Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Remember, the next time you see Cartoon Network lurking around a school playground, it may not be as innocent as it looks. They like young boys now.
Disney’s upcoming direct-to-video Tinkerbell series has just released its first trailer – and it’s feeling less like classic Disney and more like Sex And The City for fairies (the pixie kind, of course). Here’s John Lasseter introducing a clip and Tink’s voice (Mae Whitman):
In addition to his role as Gazoo on The Flintstones, Korman voiced characters on several other animated shows and movies, including Hey Arnold, The Wild Thornberrys and Buzz Lightyear. (The less said about his involvement with this, the better.) He’ll best be remembered by his appearances with Carol Burnett and Tim Conway. And as Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles, he certainly won’t be forgotten. As a tribute, here’s a sample clip of Korman as Gazoo:
This video from 1980 is not what you think. It’s a game of volleyball played between the Disney execs and animation artists of the time, including Chris Buck, Tim Burton, Mike Gabriel and Darrell van Citters. Video was shot by animator Randy Cartwright and the play-by-play is by John Musker, whose contempt for Disney management of the time is barely restrained. This line by Musker had me chuckling: “Ron Miller tries to save it and the ball bounces off his head. The rest is self explanatory.” It’s a delightful piece of cartoon history.
The screening has two of my favorite shorts directed by John Hubley and made in collaboration with his wife Faith: The Adventures of * (1957) and Tender Game (1958). Even better, these are both newly restored prints. Every print of Tender Game I’ve ever seen has been faded and muddy. The opportunity to see restored versions of these classic films on the bigscreen is truly something to be excited about and I can’t wait to check them out. The program is 100 minutes long so expect plenty of other shorts on the program as well. It’ll be introduced by the daughter of the Hubleys, filmmaker Emily Hubley, along with jazz scholar and author Ed Berger.
As a bonus, in the theater lobby at MoMA there’s currently a mini-exhibit of John Hubley’s artwork from Adventures of *. (Michael Sporn offers extensive photos from the exhibit posted on his blog). I’ve already had a peek at the exhibit which includes some of the most exquisite and visually striking pieces of art I’ve ever seen created for an animated film. What makes John Hubley among my favorite animation artists of all time is not simply that he created such amazing artwork, but that he figured out how to make it work in the context of movement. There is no shortage of pretty artwork in animation nowadays, but too often the artwork betrays the fundamental purpose of the art form–movement–and is created with slight consideration to its role within the continuity of a film. Hubley, on the other hand, created pieces of art that, while beautiful when viewed individually, are even more thrilling to view as a collective whole working in the service of his films. There’ll be no better opportunity to experience what I’m talking about than at MoMA this coming Monday.
This Friday, May 30, ASIFA-San Francisco is holding a tribute to animator and director Richard Williams, in honor of his 75th birthday this year. The screening begins at 7:30pm at the Exploratorium in San Francisco (in the McBean Theater). Membership and parking are free, though you may have to be an ASIFA-SF member, which is a bargain at $25/year.
Films that will be screened include:
* His Oscar-winning short A Christmas Carol (1971)
* I Drew Roger Rabbit (1988), a rare British documentary about Williams
* Commercials made for TV in Great Britain, Europe, Canada and the US
* Two clips from the feature Raggedy Ann and Andy (1977)
* Title sequences for Pink Panther features
* Surprise footage
Williams will not be present in person at the event, however, he is a member of the short film jury at Annecy next month, and is also the subject of a tribute/retrospective at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in September. These appearances probably have a lot to do with the forthcoming release of his highly anticipated Animation Masterclass Lecture Series on dvd (shot in front of a live audience at Blue Sky Studios).
That’s what I love about Cartoon Brew, I learn something new everyday!
I never knew anything about string holders. The Bosko and Honey pieces I posted yesterday turned out to be string holders from the collection of Eric from Warnerart. Says Eric:
I actually have two sets of these and I’m looking to sell one. I understand they are the only sets in existence. String holders themselves are not unusual collectibles. There’s quite a large market for them. Hakes has several vintage character based string holders currently on auction. As we know, Bokso collectibles are extremely rare (Honey maybe even more so) so seeing Bosko and Honey depicted in 3D plaster relief was a stunner! They apparently date to the 30′s and were acquired from an elderly couple who collected string holders.
Some animation-related deaths to report from the past few months:
Dick Sutcliffe, the creator of Davey and Goliath, passed away on May 11 in Dallas at the age of 90. Here is the New York Times obituary.
Jack Hanrahan died last April 28 at the age of 75. He wrote for many animated TV series in the 1960s, and then later in the 1980s, including Birdman, Banana Splits, Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles, Heathcliff, Snorks, Inspector Gadget, and The Care Bears. This obituary from the Cleveland Plain Dealer talks about the difficult final years of his life. I was quite saddened to hear about his passing. I’d wanted to interview Hanrahan for a book project I’m currently working on, because he had worked closely with Ward Kimball in the early-1970s. I discovered the name of the Cleveland nursing home he was staying in on Monday, April 28, literally the day he passed away. I had been planning to call him the following day, but that afternoon I read the notice of his passing on Mark Evanier’s blog. Some times things just aren’t meant to be.
Mel Leven (far right) in Babes in Toyland (click for bigger image)
Lastly, singer-songwriter Mel Leven, passed away last December 17, 2007 at the age of 93. He most famously wrote the classic Disney song “Cruella de Vil” for 101 Dalmatians. He wrote songs for numerous other Disney productions including Noah’s Ark, Donald and the Wheel, It’s Tough To Be A Bird and also appeared in the studio’s live-action feature Babes in Toyland. Also notable, Leven wrote and performed some entertaining songs for UPA shorts such as Miserable Pack of Wolves, Three-Horned Flink and all four of the “Ham & Hattie” shorts including the Oscar-nominated Trees and Jamaica Daddy. Leven was also the voice of numerous animated advertising characters including Crackle for Kellogg’s Rice Krispies and the Folgers coffee bean. To read more about him, see this biography or read an interview with Mel’s son, Bill Leven.
Following the lead of Gobelins and other French animation schools, Lycée technique des Arts et Métiers in Luxembourg has began to make their student produce animated shorts in groups instead of individually. They switched over to the group productions in the 2006-07 school year and have posted their first batch of group-produced student films online.
The short below, Le Chat Noir, caught my eye while leaving me more than a little confused. It’s made by Xavier Gorgol, Rony Hotin, Sébastien Genre and Yoann Robert. Please feel free to offer your explanation of the film in the comments.
A client has found this pair of 9” x 6.5” plaster or chalk string holders in the shape of Bosko and Honey. On one edge of Bosko’s face, the words “Vitaphone Copr.” is embossed; on the other edge, it says Bosko. I’ve never seen anything like them, but I figured if anyone knew about these, it had to be you. Any thoughts on value?
Sorry, Dave. I’ve never seen anything like these before. I almost wonder if they weren’t merchandising, but perhaps theatre publicity to promote the early Looney Tunes? Perhaps one of our readers know something? If so, let us know – or call David directly at 1-800-872-6467, ext. 1232.
“Untooning” cartoon characters seems to be turning into a bit of a trend, as evidenced by Jerry’s last post about live Simpsons and the work of Pixeloo. Worth1000 recently held a Photoshop contest that asked readers to create realistic versions of their favorite cartoon characters. Entries can be viewed here and here.
Bio-Hazard is a thesis film produced at SVA by Andrew Falicon. It’s a funny short with plenty of send-ups of anime conventions and absurdist non-sequiturs sprinkled throughout. Part of its humor derives from the production problems that Falicon experienced during the making of the film. He explains in the YouTube description:
“[The film was] due near the end of April, and in mid-February in a freak slip of the finger on my keyboard I deleted a folder containing all the scanned animation for about 40% of the original work. BUT ITS COOL BECAUSE IT WAS BACKED UP ON DVD, RIGHT? WRONG, my DVD drive then stopped working, and then the two DVDs were corrupt when I tried them on another PC. So I had to cut out 30 % of the film, rearrange it and GET THAT SHIT DONE. In 2 and 1/2 months…”
The animation is by CTTV, a new independent studio. Bill Kroyer and Howard Grossman are the producers, Stephen Silver (Kim Possible) designed it and Tom Sito directed the entire season. Ten episodes were produced and they begin airing on July 9th at 8pm. The program’s website contains only a brief promo clip, but I’ve been told it will be updated with more stuff very soon.
Tony White has just posted onto YouTube his classic animated short Hokusai: An Animated Sketchbook. He offers some background about the film:
“This was my first ever… and still my favorite… short animated film! I created it in my spare time while I was still a director/animator at the Richard Williams Studio in London during the late 1970′s. I actually started the film after we had completed ‘A Christmas Carol’, when I was Richard Williams’ own personal assistant at the time. ‘Carol’ went on to win the first of Dick’s three Oscars. When my own ‘Hokusai’ film won a British Academy Award I moved on to set-up the ‘Animus Productions’ animation studio… a creative entity I led for a further 20 award-winning years. The film itself was inspired by the wonderful sketchbooks of Hokusai. When I saw them I realized that this artist was indeed a true animator at heart… he just didn’t have the knowledge or the technology to be one in his lifetime. I therefore sought to bring his drawings to life for him, as homage to his genius.”
In recent years, many artists at feature animation studios like Pixar, DreamWorks and Blue Sky have become involved in self-publishing art books and graphic novels. The Disney artists have remained noticeably absent from the scene…until now. A whole slew of Disney Feature story artists and directors are getting ready to release a fun-looking 72-page graphic novel anthology entitled Who is Rocket Johnson?, in which they answer the question posed by the book’s title. The book, limited to 1,000 copies, will debut in July at the San Diego Comic-Con and will sell exclusively at booth 2302.
Contributing artists are:
The book also features a painted cover by Paul Felix and pin-ups by Glen Keane, ChenYi Chang, Byron Howard and Arthur Adams. There’s a book blog at WhoIsRocketJohnson.com and an official announcement at the blog of Paul Briggs.
Folks in the Bay Area have a chance to see Brad Bird's The Iron Giant on the bigscreen for two days next month–June 7 and 8. The screenings will take place at the Cerrito Speakeasy Theater. Be forewarned though: the screening is a part of the San Francisco Chronicle‘s “The Poop Presents” children’s film series so there’ll likely be a lot of noisy and sticky children in the theater. More details at the Chronicle website.
This one is worth pointing out not because it's a great piece of work but because it's an interesting experiment and also serves as a reminder that animation as an art form is now well over one hundred years old. In honor of the 100th anniversary of one of the earliest examples of a fully-animated film, Fantasmagorie, a new CG remake has been produced called Fantasmagorie 2008. The film is the brainchild of Rastko Ciric, a professor at the University of Arts in Belgrade, Serbia. The film also incorporates the footage from Ã‰mile Cohl‘s original 1908 film. The film can be viewed in its entirety at Fantasmagorie2008.com
The film had its premiere in Paris last month during a retrospective of the films of Emile Cohl. Upcoming screenings include the Nitrate Film Festival in Belgrade and the Hiroshima International Animation Festival. A stereoscopic 3D version also exists.
Better late than never: this weekend’s NY Times offers a profile of Shigeru Miyamoto, the prolific Nintendo game designer responsible for Donkey Kong, Mario and Zelda. The article’s belabored point–that Nintendo is like Disney–is driven home by no less than eight mentions of the Disney name. There is perhaps a prophetic idea buried in that comparison though. If Mario serves as any example, it would be safe to predict that in the coming decades, the next batch of classic cartoon characters will emerge not out of traditional film or TV, but rather out of video games and other forms of interactive media.
Speaking of Miyamoto, here’s a recent short featuring him–A Really Really Brief History Of Donkey Kong directed by Gabe Swarr.
I’m a longtime fan of the incredible (and overlooked) stop motion paper cut-out animation sequences created by Bill Justice and Xavier Atencio for the Disney Studios in the late 1950s and early 60s. These remarkable little films have escaped wide attention by appearing in some of the least of Disney’s efforts during this period (their titles for The Parent Trap (1961) being an exception). The design and direction are top notch – and remember, these were created completely by hand, and animated frame by frame under a camera. None of the computer shortcuts employed by South Park here.
It’s hard to get the Sherman Brothers tune out of your head from the opening titles to The Mis-Adventures of Merlin Jones (1964):
This one is a little un-P.C., from the featurette A Symposium Of Popular Songs (1962):
Disney designer Kevin Kidney has posted his own tribute to these works on his blog, showcasing his own intricate recreations of these paper puppets (created with partner Jody Daily). Check it out here.
I’ve got a busy month ahead, and if you’re in the Los Angeles area you can share it with me:
â€¢ Tuesday May 27th: Join Frank Conniff (TV’s Frank), Erica Doering and me – along with guest comedian Jimmy Pardo – at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood for another hilarious live action and animation performance of Cartoon Dump. The show starts at 8pm. Advance tickets sold here.
â€¢ Saturday May 31st: I’ll be signing copies of The Hanna Barbera Treasury at Book Expo America, at the Los Angeles Convention Center – in the author’s autograph area – at 4pm to 5pm.
â€¢ Tuesday June 3rd: I’ll be doing a Q&A with directors Mark Osborne and John Stevenson at an Asifa-Hollywood members screening of Kung Fu Panda. We’ll be screening the film in Imax at Universal CityWalk. If you are a member of Asifa Hollywood you will recieve the details via email and snail mail. If you live in the L.A. and aren’t a member of Asifa, you should be. We do free screenings like this all year long.
â€¢ Wednesday June 4th: Listen to me discuss classic cartoons with Stu Shostack on internet radio, Stu’s Show. We’ll be taking your phone calls as well. The program airs live 7pm to 9pm Eastern/4pm to 6pm Pacific.
â€¢ Thursday June 5th: I’ll be doing my regular monthly thing of showing 16mm film prints of vintage musical cartoons with Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys. Show starts at 8pm at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood. Make your reservation here!
â€¢ Tuesday June 10th: I’ve joined the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Ave. I’ll be doing a program of Pre-Code Cartoons at 8pm and will precede the screening with a short speech on the topic. Should be fun!
A terrific interview in Film & Video with filmmaker Nina Paley, who completed a full-length animated feature by herself…on a Mac…for $200k. Making an animated feature isn’t easy, and there’s a lot of costs associated with one that the average person doesn’t even consider. Take, for example, the problems she describes with making film prints:
“Its world premiere was at the Berlinale. And Berlin only shows 35mm, at least in the section I was programmed in. I wanted to do a DCP [digital cinema package], and I was looking forward to doing a DCP, but they couldn’t show a DCP at Berlin. So suddenly I had to make a 35mm print, and I had no money. So I posted on my blog that this had happened: “The good news is, I’m going to Berlin. The bad news is, I need $30,000.” I actually ended up raising about $15,000 from strangers – some of them were friends, but people donated $15,000 that month. That was really freakin’ exciting. I also got a freelance job around that time, and I borrowed money from friends and family. So I was able to make a 35mm negative and get the sound done, and we got a print.
“Now there are three prints circulating. One of them is about to become a French-only print, because it’s getting French subtitles burned into it for Annecy [the International Animated Film Festival, in Annecy, France], which only accepts 35mm prints with subtitles. It’s all very expensive for an independent filmmaker. I am out of money and in debt and I have about $13,000 in bills coming. And I just have no idea how I’m going to pay for them.”