Igor and Space Chimps

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Interesting year at the box office. Horton Hears A Who was a huge box office success. Kung Fu Panda and Wall•E are going to be gigantic hits.

Fox (Space Chimps), Warners (Clone Wars) and MGM (Igor) will join in with several “B-pictures” later this year. They look intriguing from their newly released trailers, but you be the judge: Igor has possibilities. Space Chimps features the ubiquitous voice work of Patrick Warburton.

Whaddya think?

Malice in Wonderland by Vince Collins

I’ve linked to Vince Collins’s animation before, but I hadn’t run across this hallucinogenic 1982 piece of animation he made called Malice in Wonderland. Quite appropriately, it was pointed out to me by Christy Karacas, who’s currently working on a trippy animated series of his own, Superjail. It’s probably NSFW but don’t let that stop you. Creator Collins also has a MySpace with an entertaining account of his animation career thus far and links to more of his work.

Gary Panter’s book tour

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Gary Panter (designer of Pee Wee’s Playhouse) has a new book from PictureBox Inc. Panter is doing a book tour this month that might be of interest to Cartoon Brew readers, including a show in Chicago where he’s introduced by Chris Ware and an LA signing introduced by Matt Groening.

Note these dates:
Saturday, May 10th, Gary Panter at PictureBox Departmental Store, 121 3rd St. in Brooklyn NY.

Saturday May 24th at 1 pm, introduced by Chris Ware at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL.

Tuesday May 27th, 2008 at 7:30 pm Lecture and Slideshow, at Skylight Books, introduced by Matt Groening, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA.

For a complete list of other appearences including San Francisco, Texas, New York, Mexico, click here.

(Thanks, Hiland Hall)

YouTube’s Most Viewed Original Animation

Recently I became curious to find out what is the most viewed original piece of animation on YouTube. The answer turned out to be a bit of a surprise: Charlie the Unicorn. The original posting of the short has nearly 23 million views, while another copy of the short is approaching 9 million views. There are dozens of other copies of the film floating around YouTube, so it’s safe to say that Charlie the Unicorn now has well over 32 million views on the video sharing site.

Anyway the reason I mention all this is that the creator, Jason Steele, recently unveiled the long-awaited followup Charlie the Unicorn 2 (posted below). In less than a month, the video has garnered nearly 1.5 million views on YouTube. Jason also has a website Filmcow.com that offers hi-res QuickTimes of the shorts and an online store selling Charlie merchandise.

The two Charlie the Unicorn shorts are firmly rooted in the contemporary strain of nonsensical non sequitur humor. Sometimes this type of humor works (Pen Ward’s Adventure Time) and most of the time it doesn’t (Family Guy, almost everything on “Adult Swim”). In the case of Charlie the Unicorn, I have to concede that the humor works nicely, and the clumsy animation only heightens the effect. I wasn’t expecting this short to be the most viewed original animation on YouTube, but looking at the success of Charlie can perhaps offer some clues about the type of cartoons that resonate with today’s online animation audiences.

Disney’s Roadside Romeo

For those of you who think Beverly Hills Chihuahua will be the worst Disney CGI film of the year… submitted for your approval, Roadside Romeo:

Admittedly this Bollywood knock-off of Lady and the Tramp will only be released in India (on October 24th), but it’s still a Disney film. Oh, and check out the second teaser trailer for more furry-fan goodness. It’s a small world, after all…

“Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy”

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A new exhibit opening at the Met today, entitled “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy,” is dedicated to exploring the “symbolic and metaphorical associations between fashion and the superhero”:

Featuring movie costumes, avant-garde haute couture, and high-performance sportswear, it reveals how the superhero serves as the ultimate metaphor for fashion and its ability to empower and transform the human body. Objects are organized thematically around particular superheroes, whose movie costumes and superpowers are catalysts for the discussion of key concepts of superheroism and their expression in fashion.

The exhibit is accompanied by a visually striking catalog designed by Abbott Miller. The Pentagram blog offers a preview of the book.

It’s been interesting to watch the convergence of fashion and comics over the past few years. While fashion designers are looking towards superhero comics for inspiration, comic artists and illustrators are jumping boldly into the world of fashion design, with notable examples including Paul Pope’s recent work for DKNY and James Jean’s designs for Prada.

The Journal of Cartoon Over-Analyzations

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I remember this site from a few years back and it’s now back online in blog form. The Journal of Cartoon Over-Analyzations doesn’t just analyze cartoons, it over-analyzes them and discovers hidden subtexts to cartoon characters that weren’t evident to even the creators themselves. A lot of it is tongue-in-cheek and seemingly designed to make fun of the pseudo-scholarly dissertations that so many academics have written about cartoons in recent times. Topics include: “My Little Pony is a lesbian-feminist separatist colony,” “Alchemical Symbolism in Smurfs,” and “Chromatic Sexism and Animated Felines.”

Speed Racer and Me

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As I admitted in a post below, I’ve always been a fan of the original 60s anime of Speed Racer. One of my proudest moments came in the early 1990s, when I was co-running Streamline Pictures, and I had the opportunity to concoct my own Speed Racer “movie”.

My business partner Carl Macek had been acquainted with the Rocknowski’s (John and Jim), a father and son, who represented the U.S. rights to the Speed Racer property (I was never sure if they owned the rights outright or managed them on behalf of Tatsunoko studios). One day in 1992, Carl came into the office and told me we had the rights to make a Speed Racer movie – and handed it over to me to create something we could release theatrically. The good news is that the Rocknowski’s gave the old show to MTV to rerun – and it was suddenly a retro hit. The other good news was that I found out that the original series was shot in 35mm (many early anime series were shot in 16mm). MTV was running old, fading 16mm copies… the movie I would create would look pretty amazing in full color and 35mm clarity.

I decided I would make a theatrical “event” by creating an extra long Speed Racer TV show that the college crowd could either watch seriously or goof on, but at least it would be fun. I chose The Car Hater because it explains the gimmicks of the Mach 5 and is a particularly ridiculous episode, and and the Race Against The Mammoth Car as it was a particular favorite from my Channel 11 (WPIX) formative years. I threw in a Colonel Bleep cartoon to bridge the episodes and inserted several vintage animated commercials (from Playhouse Pictures). Rummaging the Rocknowski’s film vault I found the original uncut Mach Go Go Go opening animation and incorporated that into the beginning of the film, and left in all the additional violence I found in the uncut 35mm masters I got from Japan.

We called the theatrical feature, The Speed Racer Show and held our world premiere at the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles. That’s me, above, in front of the one sheet I had “wild posted” all over L.A. (click here to see the full image). The Rocknowski’s brought the original voices (U.S. dub), Peter Fernandez and Corrine Orr, out from New York and they did some local radio (KROQ) and TV (KTLA Morning News) and appeared at the opening night in person. Our first night was a smash, with lines around the block. Radio D.J. Richard Blade (from KROQ) was the M.C. of our first show and interviewed Corrine and Peter on stage. We partied at a local hotel afterward. Next to introducing Katsuhiro Otomo at the New York opening of Akira, this was my favorite moment of the entire Streamline Pictures experience.

The “film” I created was later sold to home video (the title changed to Speed Racer: The Movie). The poster, however, had an afterlife. It was used as a set decoration on the first episode (the pilot) of Friends. It’s prominently featured on the wall of Ross’ new apartment. In fact, it’s the only thing in his apartment (That’s Chandler, below, standing in front of it in the frame grab below – a frame from a hebrew subtitled clip on YouTube. If anyone has a better frame grab, please send it to me).

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So that was my only professional involvement with Speed Racer. I had a great time, met many great people — and I wish the Rocknowski’s, and the Wachowski’s, all the best with their future efforts.

Froot Loops

There is nothing particularly special about the two Kelloggs’ Froot Loops commercials posted below, except that my colleague Leslie Cabarga designed and painted the backgrounds in them.

I had asked Leslie, best known for his underground comics, The Fleischer Story, his illustration work and font design, if he ever made an animated cartoon. He handed me a fading 16mm reel with these commercials. He said they were produced in San Francisco, at Jeff Hale’s studio Imagination Inc. in 1975, about the same time The Fleischer Story was published. Leslie recalls Rudy Zamora Jr. being the director. This was his only professional work in animation.

And yes, that’s Paul Frees as the voice of Toucan Sam.

Speed Racer Goes Crazy

The Wachowski Brothers Speed Racer movie opens this week. I hope the new film is as much fun as the video below. In it, Speed Racer goes psycho. Brew reader John Kearns created it using only footage and soundtrack from the original Tatsunoko cartoon.

I love the original series. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. SciFiJapan.com has just post a number of excellent SPEED RACER reference pieces well worth reading, and bookmarking.

The first one is nice piece on the creation of the Tatsunoko studio and the origins of the Speed Racer character. The second post is a concise overview of the series, characters and the Mach 5. Read these and you’ll be all up to speed (pun intended).

(Thanks, John Cassidy)

Disney’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua

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What fresh C.G. Hell is this?

Sandwiched between this summer’s Wall•E and the Christmas release of Bolt, Disney is unleashing Beverly Hills Chihuahua, the latest masterpiece from the director of Scooby Doo, Raja Gosnell. It’s yet another CG talking dog comedy (though it’s always nice to hear Cheech Marin – again (remember Oliver and Company) – as a chihuahua). I’ve no doubt it’ll make buckets of money. It opens September 26th.

ASIFA-East Award Winners

Fantaisie in Bubblewrap

The winners have been announced for America’s longest continually-running animation award–the 39th ASIFA-East Animation Festival. The top prize, Best in Show, went to Fantaisie in Bubblewrap, the promising debut of young filmmaker Arthur Metcalf, whose work has previously been profiled on the Brew. Other works that I was pleased to see recognized include Germans in the Woods by the Rauch brothers, A Letter to Colleen by Andy and Carolyn London, Compost by Visual Voice, and The Upstate Four by Fran Krause and Will Krause, the latter being one of the more impressive TV show pilots I’ve seen in a while.

Big Pecker’s

As a follow up to my Major Woody post (below), Steve Moore submitted this outrageous example of potential trademark infringement from Ocean City Maryland, Big Pecker’s Bar and Grill:
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This place is for real, and boasts a large line of merchandising.

P.S. Steve Moore’s latest Flip Magazine is up, this month with a profile of flash animator Xeth Feinberg, artist Fred Warter, several tributes to Ollie Johnston and even gardening tips!

Walt and El Grupo

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Karl Cohen (president of ASIFA-San Francisco) just sent us his first impressions of Walt and El Grupo the new film by Ted Thomas, which I can’t wait to see myself:

I just saw Ted Thomas’ feature Walt and El Grupo that just had its world premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival. It is a documentary about Walt and some of his staff on a goodwill tour of South America in 1941 that occurred during the strike at the studio. It provides an excellent account of why the tour happened and what resulted from the adventure. The story is told using interviews of Latin Americans and relatives of the people who went, footage from Disney TV shows about the trip, lots of still photographs, art work created on the trip, 16mm “home movies” shot by the people who went (often hand held footage and probably shot on Kodachrome film so the colors are still excellent), newspaper coverage that sometimes included grim reminders of the coming war on the same page as a photo of Walt, plus lots of modern footage. One nice design element is Ted uses lots of well registered dissolves between modern color and historic b/w photos often set to charming music. John Canemaker and J. B. Kaufman do a valuable job provided historical details/background information. The documentary has some really important material in it, but it does drag at times. I’m not sure of the length, but it seemed like it lasted about 2 hours.

Walt and El Grupo is really is an impressive accomplishment and provides a great deal of information about the trip, plus rarely talked about details about Disney’s studio and Walt before, during and after the strike. The all too brief segment on Mary Blair is one of many excellent highlights. It also has some interesting comments by people in South America about the films that resulted from the trip (mostly favorable, but…). I hope ASIFA-Hollywood can present it with Ted present, and eventually all Cartoon Brew readers can see it soon on a big screen at a film festival. I assume Disney will eventually release it on DVD; Ted’s earlier work includes the important feature length documentary Frank and Ollie.

ASIFA-East Awards

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Tomorrow night in Manhattan is the big event. And there is still time to get tickets and a good seat. And it’s FREE!

Hobnob with the finest animators in New York City, as ASIFA-East Presents The 39th Annual ASIFA-East Animation Festival. The most anticipated local animation event of the year: Awards, films and a glorious reception afterwards (sponsored by Cartoon Network).

Sunday May 4, 2008
6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Location: Tishman Auditorium at The New School, 66 W. 12th St (bet. 5th/6th Ave.)
Admission: FREE!

Finding Technicolor

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This image just makes me smile.

Shirt.woot, a website devoted to offering tee shirts with unique designs, had this doozy up the other day, Finding Technicolor. It was drawn by New Zealand based illustrator David Creighton-Pester, and I love the Terry/Van Beuren feel to it.

On an unrelated T-shirt note, Pen Ward has completed his collection of 12 tee-shirts devoted to his incredible Frederator short Adventure Time. Check them all out here.

(Thanks, Travis Gentry)

PerfectLand by Ben Meinhardt

PerfectLand is an oddly appealing series of Flash-animated shorts created for MTV by Ben Meinhardt. I’ve embedded the first one below and the other three episodes can be viewed on MTV Overdrive. The shorts have an undeniable “green” theme–peaceful nature-loving creatures are constantly attacked by a heavy polluting, industrial villain–but the concept is saved from typical heavy-handed environmentalism because of Meinhardt’s wildly creative imaginary creatures and his skillful animation, which becomes really impressive whenever the cuddly creatures exact revenge. I’m looking forward to seeing more work from Ben.

Mr. Lux

Michael Jantze, former art director at ILM and former newspaper cartoonist (The Norm), has started animating cute little films in flash with traditional animation and Adobe After Effects that have a nice UPA feel. At Your Service is the first in a series.

UPDATE: Recieved some further information about the Mr. Lux shorts direct from its lead animator:

My name is Kelly McNutt, lead animator for Jantze Studios.

It’s great to see that Mr. Lux found its way to Cartoon Brew! But allow me a quick note on how we produced the Mr. Lux shorts: we used a combination of traditional animation (scanned inks, no less) and Adobe After Effects, but no Flash. The individual hand-drawn animation segments were assembled and selectively augmented with AE animation for the sake of efficiency due to a very small production team and relatively short production schedule. The goal was to retain a traditional feel as much as possible and to capitalize on AE’s strengths and minimize its weaknesses by designing around them. I would point you to this other short we created using the same method, but with more traditional animation (as it was a far shorter production): Tech Tips with Boy Norm.

Also, we’ve just this week received word that Mr. Lux has been accepted for Cannes Short Film Corner, so we’re feeling rather enthusiastic these days.

(Thanks, Adam Perry)

An Academy panel on Production Design

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This note just in from Bill Kroyer:

I think this would be of interest to some of your readers: I’m hosting a public program at the Motion Picture Academy on Friday, May 16th about the changing world of production design.

You might remember I do these programs as a member of the Science & Technology Council. The first two were strictly animation focused: THE ANIMATED PERFORMANCE and ANIMATION INVADES LIVE ACTION.

Talking to Ralph Eggleston I was struck by the similarities in spirit but radical differences in tools when comparing his experience as a designer with the classic guys like Robert Boyle. So we put together a show with all the latest technology and lots of Oscar winners to showcase what’s changing and what’s coming.

The Art, Science and Psychology of Production Design will feature onstage presentations by production designers Alex McDowell (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Minority Report), Doug Chiang (Beowulf, The Polar Express”) and Ralph Eggleston (The Incredibles, Finding Nemo). It will also present a real-time pre-visualization demonstration by pre-visualization director Daniel Gregoire (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Spiderwick Chronicles) and a review of new technologies by art director Daniel Jennings (G-Force, Matchstick Men). The program will also include a brief history of production design under the studio system, featuring an onstage conversation with legendary production designer Robert Boyle.

Tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Doors open at 7 p.m. All seating is unreserved. The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For additional information, visit oscars.org.

KRAZY!

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Got a postcard from Marv Newland today. He wrote:

The Vancouver Art Gallery is launching a large scale exhibit on May 16th, to run until September 7th. It is called Krazy!, with a tip of the hat to the Kat. Comics, graphic novels, manga, games (computer) and animated films. Tim Johnson of Dreamworks co-curated the film selection and he did a good job!

This installation is tied into co-curator Bruce Grenville’s new book. Art Spiegelman also helped curate the show and will give a talk May 15th (as will Newland, May 20th, on the history of animation in Vancouver). A list of lectures tied into this exhibit is here. If you are in the Northwest, check it out!

Cartoon Culture: Popeye Soap

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In North America, more kids think of Popeye as a Fried Chicken resturant chain. In Chile, Popeye represents a bar of soap. Brew reader Diego Cumplido sent this in. “I remember doing little sculptures in school made of Popeye’s Soap when I was a kid. It reads “since 1949″ and “the power of cleaning”.

If you find unusual food or product merchandising using classic cartoon characters (aka characters no longer running on American television), please share an image with us.