Will Finn Analyzes Chuck Jones

One Froggy Evening

Animator and director Will Finn recently watched the entire Warner Bros. output of Chuck Jones and has composed a thoughtful blog post analyzing the work of Jones. Lots of good insights throughout, especially this spot-on comparison between the work of Jones and fellow WB director Bob Clampett:

“Unlike his arch rival Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones wants to prove to us that he is smart, tasteful and always in control of everything. Clampett of course is ultimately “in control” too, but his genius is for giving the genuine impression that all Hell is breaking loose onscreen. Much like that other Jones, namely bandleader Spike, Clampett makes us feel (frequently throughout an entire film) that every person in his troupe has gone out of their minds. This never happens in Jones’ world because he won’t allow it. Clampett’s embrace is wider: he can grasp the highbrow world of surrealism in one hand and the lowbrow crudeness of burlesque with the other–he has no boundaries. Boundaries are Chuck Jones’ stock in trade, his main theme is pitting the rational against the irrational. Even when he adopts the point of view of an irrational character, (as with the Coyote), he only does so to mock himself.”

Animation Show contest

animationshow4.jpg

The fourth edition of The Animation Show continues it’s rollout across the United States with openings in Los Angeles (The Nuart), Boston (Kendall Square), Washington DC (E Street Cinema) and San Diego (Ken Cinema) this week.

I’ll be in attendance at the Nuart on Friday where filmmakers Mike Judge (King of the Hill) and Steve Dildarian (Angry Unpaid Hooker) will do a Q&A after the 7:30pm show.

In honor of the theatrical release of Vol. 4 we will have two trivia contests this week. The winners will recieve a copy of the just-released MTV-Paramount Home Video DVD of The Animation Show Vol. 3. The contests will be posted here Wednesday and Thursday at 1pm Eastern/10am Pacific. For more information on The Animation Show and when it’ll play in your town, visit the website.

Three Books Worth A Look

Here are three cartoon and film-related books that aren’t on my bookshelf but will be soon.

Herge

The Adventures of Herge: Creator of Tintin by Michael Farr appears to be a well researched and nicely illustrated volume about the legendary comic artist.

Wordless Books

Wordless Books: The Original Graphic Novels by David Berona came out last month and it is packed with STUNNING artwork that falls somewhere between comics, illustration and fine art. The book also discusses the work of Milt Gross and Fleischer animator Myron Waldman, who created the 1943 graphic novel Eve.

Subversive Cinema

I’ve always wanted a copy of Amos Vogel’s influential Seventies book Film as a Subversive Art and didn’t realize until recently that it had been reprinted. The book is inspiring and packed with lots of black-and-white stills. Animation filmmakers are also sprinkled liberally throughout the text.

Flip The Frog coloring book

flipcoloring.jpg

Chris Lopez has posted all the pages of a vintage Flip The Frog Coloring Book on his ComicCrazy blog. The beautiful artwork for this rare licensed piece was certainly done by the cartoonists at the Ub Iwerks studio. Says Chris:

The remarkable thing about this coloring book is that the colored pieces are original to the printing. They are beautifully done, too. The back cover is the same as the front, so I only posted one side. The cover is holding together by the slimmest of pieces. I dare not scan this book again. It’s stored away for safe keeping.

Chris also posts scans of complete comic book stories on his blog – including this Mighty Mouse classic by Jim Tyer!

Awards Night at the Insectarium

insectsawrds.jpg

My “uncle” in New Orleans, Wayne Daigrepont, has just checked out the new Audubon Insectarium (“the first major attraction to open after Katrina!”). He reports that:

“…within its giant & wonderful splendor is a CGI animated film (with interactive seats!!), starring caricatured bugs with the voices of Jay Leno, Joan Rivers, & others! The 10-min. film is quite fantastic….(not unlike the “Tough to be a Bug” film at Disney).”

The CG-animated film, produced by Hollywood-based computer graphics studio Super 78, features a bug-like Rivers performing her typical preshow red-carpet interviews. The show, called the Awards Night Theater, was commissioned by Audubon Studios, and created by Technifex, a theme park ride producer. It’s described as a “sophisticated multisensory theater presentation is a 4-D experiential theater that pokes, prods, spritz’s, buzzes and shakes guests while teaching them about the wonders of the insect world.” CG Supervisor Robert Rose has some images and video clips from this project up at his website.

Quick Draw artist

qdraw2.jpg

My friend Fred Patten owns this original Quick Draw McGraw painting (click on it above, or here, for enlarged image) created for a frame tray puzzle. Both of us are stumped as to who may have painted it. I’m no expert on merchandising art, but it doesn’t look like the usual suspects at Western Publishing to me (Pete Alvarado, Mel Crawford, Hawley Pratt, etc.) – or is it? Anyone have any theories?

Demystifying Motion Capture

polarzombie.jpg

“Performance Capture technology is here to stay!”

Or so says the Visual Effects Society who will be holding a seminar on motion capture techniques on Saturday night, June 29th. Demystifying Motion Capture Techniques will be held at the Sony Pictures Imageworks studio in Culver City and will feature guest speakers from ILM, Henson Digital, Sony and others. More information on this event is here.

Annecy Countdown

Annecy

One half of Cartoon Brew, namely me, will be attending the world’s largest animation festival next week. If you’re going too, drop a comment below. Lots of interesting programs slated for Annecy this year: a screening of the Israeli animated feature Waltz with Bashir, a celebration of Émile Cohl with live piano accompaniment by the festival’s artistic director Serge Bromberg, a presentation by Richard Williams, a lecture on Winsor McCay by John Canemaker, a sneak preview of Bibo Bergeron and François Moret’s new feature A Monster in Paris, two behind-the-scene presentations about the making of Jacques-Rémy Girerd’s new feature Mia et le Migou and the Irish feature Brendan and the Secret of Kells, Bill Plympton’s new feature Idiots and Angels screened in 35mm for the first time and the world premiere of Disney’s new short Glago’s Guest and Pixar’s latest short Presto. Sound like a decent week if you ask me.

Kung Fu Panda Talkback

kungfudream.jpg

Dreamworks Kung Fu Panda opens today. I’ve seen it twice now and I think it’s a great film. It works on all levels – humor, action, heart, as well as artistically, etc. – but most importantly it’s pure entertainment. See it this weekend if you can. Oh, and here’s a tip: stick around after the end credits for an additional scene which concludes the story.

The purpose of this post is to solicit readers opinions of Kung Fu Panda. Please respond below only if you’ve actually seen the film (we will not post comments here by those who have not).

THIS WEEKEND IN NYC: MoCCA Art Festival

Engine Room

The MoCCA Art Festival is coming up this weekend in Manhattan. I’ve heard only good things about the event; it’s been described to me as kind of like a mini-San Diego Comic-Con, comprised entirely of people who are serious and appreciative of the comic art form. In other words, no sword play or collectible card games at this convention.

Many animation folk will be present at MoCCA: Chris McDonnell will be at the Meathaus table promoting the new book he created about Ralph Bakshi, various Blue Sky artists will be there to launch the new volume of Out of Picture, and other artists like Mo Willems, Bill Plympton and JJ Sedelmaier will be presenting projects at various booths. Also, on Saturday, Plympton will receive the 2008 MoCCA Art Festival Award, and on Sunday the festival will present a program of contemporary Nordic animation. Complete exhibitor list and programming guide can be found on the MoCCA website.

MTV Wants Animators For Reality Show

Engine Room

Animation contests are not a popular subject around the Brew, but this one sounds intriguing enough to mention. MTV is currently recruiting animators, designers and filmmakers from around the world to participate in a show called Engine Room, in which four teams (Europe, the US, Asia and Latin America) compete for a chance to win $400,000 in cash plus lots of tech gear from Hewlett-Packard. The contest was described to me by an MTV producer as “a design/animation-based reality show.” The show is casting through the end of June, and will be filmed for four weeks beginning in mid-July.

Here’s a bit more description from the materials he sent me:

Each team will be made up of four members with one or more of the following talents: graphics and web design, animation, filmmaking, and sound mixing. Each team member will need to make sure they’re making the most of their unique talents if their designs are going to stand up to criticism from our panel of experts.

The Engine Room is a unique opportunity for talented creatives to compete in a high pressure, highly creative environment — and the prize will give the winners a massive head start in their professional lives.

As sponsors of the show, Hewlett Packard are there to ensure that the stars are working on top of the best hardware they’ve got to offer, with a selection of cutting edge design packages.

MTV channels will be screening Engine Room on-air and online across the world this autumn, but this is so much more than a reality show. This is the perfect opportunity for young talent to shine.

I’d mistakenly posted earlier that they’re only looking for Europeans, but there are slots open for all regions. To submit a portfolio or for additional details, visit MTVEngineRoom.com or email engineroom [at] mtvne.com.

Jerry on Stu’s Show this afternoon

mickeyradio.jpg

Brewmaster Jerry Beck will be broadcasting once again, live on Shokus Internet Radio today, Wednesday June 4th from 4pm to 6pm Pacific time (that’s 7pm to 9pm for you in the Eastern Time Zone).

Stu Shostak and I will be discussing the Universal fire, Looney Tunes Vol. 6 and all other classic animation. If you have a specific question you want answered, call in during the broadcast toll free (888) 746-5875. If you miss the show, it’ll be rerun for the next seven days at the same time. Tune in!

New Anime book by Ladd and Deneroff

ladddeneroff.jpg

Harvey Deneroff has announced on his blog the forthcoming publication of his new book with Fred Ladd, Astro Boy and Anime Come to the Americas. The book details the story of Ladd’s involvement with bringing Astro Boy (and by extension, Japanese anime itself) to America in the early 1960s. Ladd was significantly involved with Tezuka’s pioneering series and subsequently responsible for bringing Gigantor, Kimba The White Lion and Sailor Moon to U.S. audiences.

The book will go on sale in November, from McFarland.

Ralph Bakshi event at Meltdown

mightypearlpool.jpg

Ralph’s comin to town… to party.

Meltdown is hosting a Ralph Bakshi bash in Hollywood next week with a gallery full of original drawings, paintings and animation production art. Chris McDonnell and Jon Gibson will also be on hand to sign copies of their new Bakshi book.

McDonnell tells us:

We are trying to invite as many people from Bakshi Productions’ past as possible. It’s a reunion, it’s a party, it’s Ralph in a room. Ralph is looking forward to talking and hanging with people so he’ll be signing books only as an exception to the rule, if at all. We are looking forward to this really being a great “reunion” for Ralph and all his old artists (and everyone else is welcome of course too).

Join us on Saturday night June 14th. The party starts at 7pm and will go on till 11pm. Admission free. Meltdown Comics and Gallery, 7522 W Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA.

Annecy Sketchcrawl

Annecy by Matt Jones

If you want to do a little drawing at the Annecy animation festival, take note that Flight artists Bannister and Dik Pose are hosting the first-ever Sketchcrawl drawing jam during the festival next week. The event is planned for Thursday, June 12, beginning at 2pm. Full details can be found on the Flight Comics blog. The drawing at top of this post is by Matt Jones, who held a personal Sketchcrawl at last year’s festival.

The Disney-Pixar Merger…Two Years Later

Up

In yesterday’s NY Times there was a lengthy article about how things are going at Disney two years after its merger with Pixar. The Times’ opinion? Things are going pretty damn well. For anybody who has been following the companies closely, as I’m sure many Brew readers have, the Times piece offers little in the way of new information or insights, but it serves as a fairly good overview of what’s been happening during the past couple years.

There will be, I’m sure, the standard complaints of Lasseter and Co.’s continuation of Disney animation outsourcing and direct-to-video sequel productions, but perhaps the question should be asked, Was anybody so naive as to believe that either of these practices would come to a screeching halt when Pixar took over? The Disney corporation is far too big a machine to fuel itself solely on artistic integrity. The hope should rather be that Lasseter can balance the inevitable corporate shilling with enough artistic experimentation and new ideas to keep the Disney brand relevant in today’s entertainment world.

The jury is still out on whether he’ll be able to accomplish that at Disney. The studio’s first two Lasseter-era projects are questionable: a labored bid to repeat past glories (The Princess and the Frog) and a homely-looking deal with a dog and hamster. On the other hand, Pixar’s direction has never been more clear or promising. Pete Docter’s Up, the next feature from Emeryville following Wall-E, had me hooked from the very first image (posted at top). The film features an unlikely lead character, a stubby cane-wielding 78-year-old man, who travels the world by attaching helium-filled balloons to his house. It sounds like one of the most unconventional and interesting mainstream cartoon features in a long while.

Honestly, I believe that there’s too much baggage at Disney–in the form of Walt Disney and the legacy that he created–to allow for the Disney animators of today to produce anything of artistic merit. The studio is spinning its tires in Walt’s legacy, mired with the responsibility of maintaining the “integrity” of the Disney brand and simultaneously stunted with the fear of creating works that are “unDisney.” Disney, when it was actually run by Disney, defined the quality and innovation possible in the art form. That ship sailed over forty years ago and frankly, it’s time to get over it. The studio has been running on fumes for the better part of two decades, and coloring a princess a darker hue won’t alter a single thing, save for adding a few dollars to the value of shareholders’ stocks.

In tying the knot with Pixar, however, Disney can finally have its cake and eat it too. The Pixar brand is still young and malleable; it can be molded in wholly new creative directions like those of Wall-E and Up. Disney proper can continue exploiting its vast catalog of classics (bring on the Tinkerbell features) and perhaps add an occasional new character to the Disney patch (everybody loves a wacky hamster), while Pixar indulges in the risk-taking and innovation that is vital to the studio’s long-term health and reputation. It’s a shrewd bit of maneuvering, whether intended or not, for which Iger deserves a lot of credit. By purchasing Pixar, he assures that at least one part of Disney can live up to the company’s reputation for pushing the art of animation forward.

Summer Flip

flipjk.jpg

Steve Moore’s summer edition of Flip is now online.

In it, Dave Pruiksma discusses the Fleischer Gulliver’s Travels and PD Famous Studios DVDs, Dan Jeup talks about Frank and Ollie, there’s a gallery of work by featured artist John Kleber (above), an interview with Disney Imagineer turned editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes, and much Moore (pun intended!). Check it out here.

Fire at Universal Studios

unifire1.jpg

A fire broke out this morning on the Universal Studios backlot. Current live TV news reports are saying that, in addition to the destruction of the New York street and King Kong ride, the film vaults are threatened.

Let’s pray this isn’t true. In addition to Universal’s own library of classic films (and Walter Lantz cartoons) the studio holds the master elements to Paramount’s pre-1950 feature films.