Philips Broadcast of 1938 by George Pal

Philips Broadcast of 1938

There is a beautiful copy of George Pal’s advertising short Philips Broadast of 1938 currently available on the Europa Film Treasures site. It’s almost overwhelming to see animation that’s so fun, so colorful, so individualistic and so stylish. This was produced exactly seventy years ago, yes, SEVENTY years ago, and yet it feels as fresh and contemporary as anything being produced today. Case in point: a musician on YouTube put one of his tracks over the film. While the music isn’t timed to the animation beats, this simple experiment drives home how well the animation holds up in contemporary times.

What is most amazing is that George Pal managed to achieve these wondrous results through an archaic replacement animation technique that involved carving thousands of individuals puppets. One could well assume that today’s vastly superior and powerful technologies would be capable of producing even more spectacular imagery, and yet we end up swimming in gobs of the insipid and uninspired. At the end of the day, tools are besides the point. Animation such as Pal’s requires something more…it requires elements that have been largely absent from mainstream animation for many years: the imagination of an artist and an understanding of the possibilities of the medium.

(via Mark Mayerson)

Bunny Mooning?

The controversy over California’s Proposition 8 is nothing compared to one Japanese fanboy’s campaign to marry cartoon characters. To be specific, this is aimed more toward winning a manga girl, not an anime babe. A coo-coo otaku named Taichi Takashita has launched an online petition which he plans to present to his government to establish a law on marriages with cartoon characters. Within a week he has gathered more than 1,000 signatures through the Internet.

As a Comic Con veteran of over 30 years, none of this surprises me. If anything, I’m surprised how many news sources have posted this story.

(Thanks, Lev Polyakov)

Disney’s Archive Series: Story

Disney Archive Series Story

The first volume in the Disney Archive Series is coming out in a few weeks. I saw the galleys for this a while back and it’s a real treat if you’re looking for a collection of beautiful story artwork. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon for $31.50. Here is the book description:

With an introduction by John Lasseter-and very little else in the way of words-this first book in The Artist Series lavishly showcases the most brilliant story artwork created by such luminaries as Bill Peet, Don DaGradi, Joe Rinaldi, Roy Williams, Ub Iwerks, Burny Mattinson, and Vance Gerry for such films as Steamboat Willie and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Alice in Wonderland and 101 Dalmatians. The art will be displayed in its full glory with all the notes, flaws, and hole punches that were so much a part of the story development process. Featuring the best examples-many never published before-as well as some pieces by unidentified artistsm, Story will be the must-have art book for collectors, artists, and Disney fans.

Bert and Harry Piels Commercials

Some of the most influential and popular TV commercials of the 1950s were the Bert and Harry Piels Beer spots created by UPA (and later on animated by Terrytoons). Much of their popularity was due to the great dialogue tracks provided by Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding (aka Bob and Ray) and the appealing animation directed by Gene Deitch. If you’ve been wondering where you could see these, Asifa-Hollywood has just posted a whole slew of the early ones on their Animation Archive blog. Go there now!

Walt & El Grupo Website and Review

Walt and El Grupo

The documentary Walt & El Grupo, directed by Ted Thomas, son of animator Frank Thomas, now has a website at WaltandElGrupo.com. The film documents the goodwill tour of South America that Walt Disney and select members of his staff took during 1941. The trip was taken at a turbulent time in history, just as America was entering WWII and smack-dab in the middle of the infamous Disney studio strike. It ultimately helped inspire the studio’s Latin America compilation features: Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.

We’d previously posted a review of the film by Karl Cohen on Cartoon Brew. Yesterday, I ran across a new review by Scott Kirsner of the Cinematech blog. It’s a mixed critique: Kirsner appreciates the film’s “jaunty Latin American soundtrack and its sense of context” but says it ends up “feeling too much like an itinerary-based family slide show.” He adds that “the film suffers from a major personality void,” because none of the eighteen Disney personnel who went on the trip are interviewed in the film (owing to the fact that they’re all deceased). Needless to say, I’m still really looking forward to seeing the film.

TONIGHT IN NY: Kim Deitch Cartoon Screening

Kim Deitch

Looking for something to do in NY tonight. Check out “Cartoon Movie Night with Kim Deitch” (son of Gene, creator of Waldo the Cat). The FREE screening is open to the public and takes place at 7 pm at MoCCA (594 Broadway, Suite 401, between Houston & Prince). Here is a description of the event:

Kim Deitch will host a Cartoon Movie Night featuring rarely seen animated cartoons from the 1920s and 1930s hand-picked for the occasion from Deitch’s own personal collection. This period of animation inspired Deitch’s signature character Waldo the Cat and is the subject of his acclaimed graphic novel The Boulevard of Broken Dreams, which is featured in the exhibit. As a special Halloween treat, MoCCA will also display for one night only selected specimens from Deitch and spouse Pam Butler’s extensive collection of antique toy cats. The blurring of fact, fiction and autobiography in Deitch’s work is a major focus of Kim Deitch: A Retrospective, and this display will present a rare opportunity to see the historical artifacts that motivate the fictional narrative in Deitch’s graphic novel Alias the Cat.

(Thanks, Anthony Kibort)

Rocket Jo by Julien Charles

Rocket Jo

It’s plenty refreshing to see a CG character that is designed with a sense of caricature in both his appearance and physical movement. Rocket Jo is a series of 52 one-minute shorts created by French animator Julien Charles for French TV network France 3. The shorts, produced by Millimages and 2d3d Animations, are slated for premiere in January. Julien explains that the series focuses on a single character, Rocket Jo, who makes his own jetpacks and attempts to fly in each episode. He writes that he’s trying, “to put the focus on storytelling and animation with just with one character, no speaking and a blue gradient for the set.” He has set up a production blog about the show, and one of the episodes can be viewed on this page (click on the “Play” button).

Gnomes and Trolls: The Secret Chamber

Gnomes and Trolls

How could Sweden, a country that is synonymous with tasteful and elegant design, turn out an animated feature that is so decrepit-looking and painful on the eyes? The trailer for Gnome and Trolls: The Secret Chamber is so pitiful that it almost plays like a parody of a children’s animated movie. A sequel called Gnomes and Trolls: The Forest Trial is already in production.

(Thanks, Tobias Lind)

Disney Comics get topical!

Worthy of noting in this week before the U.S. elections, Gemstone’s Uncle Scrooge #381 (on sale this week, cover pictured below left) features a story (Breakfast of Champions by Bruno Concina and Lara Molinari) about Scrooge trying to promote his name brand marmalade by getting celebrity endorsements on the cheap. Along with thinly disguised actors and sports stars, the celebs include spoofs of our presidential candidates as well (including Governor Palin).

While I’m at it, I might as well plug Gemstone’s entire line of Disney comic books. The current editors, writers and artists really know the classic characters, and their love of Disney lore comes through on every page. In addition to the terrific new material, they aren’t stingy on reprinting classic work by Carl Barks, Floyd Gottfredson and Paul Murry. Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #696 (pictured below right) doubles as a special issue for Mickey Mouse’s 80th anniversary. Along with rare Gottfredson and Romano Scarpa Mickey comics material, they’ve got a new birthday story by Byron Erickson and Cesar Ferioli. Not to mention what I think is the first-ever modern publication of a 1929 Iwerks ad drawing from PLANE CRAZY’s sound re-release (see portion in center thumbnail below)!

New Works by Fons Schiedon

It seems that the talented Dutch animator and illustrator Fons Schiedon is always working on something interesting. We’ve written about him in the past (here and here), and more recently he’s been cooking up a variety of projects that are worth mentioning.

Fons Schiedon Painting

Fons has a painting show “Revolution Deformation” opening on November 6 at the Concrete Hermit (5A Club Row, London, UK). The show features various explorations of his personal character Jesus who “is an anamorphic figure that lends itself to the projection of ideas, and can withstand the intuitive process of painting, without losing its own features.” More info about the show on his website.

Also not to be missed is this delightful collection of key backgrounds and character designs that Fons created for the animated TV series Kika & Bob, on which he served as head production designer.

Fons Schiedon Background Painting

Last but not least is this striking loop of a walking woman that was projected onto a building last summer:

Detroit Institute of the Arts spots by Julian Grey

I like the simplicity of these two new line-animation spots for the Detroit Institute of the Arts, which were made to help increase attendance at the museum. The animation is hand-drawn and composited in After Effects. They were directed by Julian Grey of Toronto’s Head Gear Animation. Check out both ads below:

CREDITS
Title: “Son of Hatman” and “Thinker”
Client: Detroit Institute of Arts
Creative Agency: Perich Advertising + Design, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Director: Julian Grey
Production Company: Head Gear Animation, Toronto
Producer: Kathryn Rawson
Animators: Sean Branigan, Julian Grey
Compositor: Nick Fairhead

The 3-Year Old Cartoon Connoisseur

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the first post by regular Guest Brewer Linda Simensky. The picture above is from from her cameo appearence in episode 6 of PBS Kids’ WordGirl.

I just finished celebrating my birthday. My actual birthday was about a month ago, but I was busy then and kind of distracted and it rained that day, so we didn’t really do much. But there was a high point that day, and it was a big one for me. My daughter asked to watch Bugs Bunny cartoons with me.

A little background first — I have a son, Ethan, who is eight and a daughter, Sara, who is three. They find my job in kids TV mildly interesting, but as far as they know, every kid’s mom works in kids TV. That’s just how life is for them. They do like TV, at least. But as far as ways to kill time, Ethan would just as soon play games. He loves his Wii, videogames and Club Penguin the most. Coming in second would be his Bakugan toys. Next would be Bionicles. Next would be reading or anything to do with Harry Potter. Then we get to watching Bakugan. By the time we get to this point, his free time is all used up.

You’ll notice no mention of funny cartoons. He does watch the occasional funny show, but only if for some reason it isn’t time for Wii. Now one of my major interests in life, as well as my career, is animation — and specifically funny cartoons. So you see the irony here. Others in animation with kids warned me of the “they don’t always like what you want them to like” syndrome. I always knew it could happen to me.

My daughter, on the other hand, is still open-minded and malleable. She does have some definite opinions, and she does love TV. She likes funny things. She hasn’t really discovered computers yet, and she doesn’t play videogames yet. So this was her birthday gift to me — she came shuffling in to the bedroom on the morning of my birthday and said, “Let’s watch some Bugs Bunny cartoons.” I’d have to say this may be one of my biggest accomplishments in child rearing as of late.

We did watch Bugs Bunny cartoons that morning. And we’ve watched on several weekend mornings since. She seems to like Bugs the best, although she is definitely drawn to Daffy as well. And the crazier the gags, the more she likes them. My mother had mentioned to me that by three, she already could see that I liked cartoons, so maybe it just runs in the family.

With that in mind, I spent my Amazon gift certificate getting caught up on the Looney Tunes DVD sets. I already had four of the DVD sets, and with volume six coming out just last week, I realized I had better get volume five. Especially now that I have an eager three-year-old to share them with. (Subliminal advertising: Go buy the Looney Tunes DVDs.) Apparently volume six is the last of this excellent series.

A three-year-old watching Bugs Bunny probably doesn’t seem like a bi deal to many of you, but consider that kids aren’t watching the Looney Tunes the same way we all did. When I started in the kids TV industry in the mid-1980s, I was ten years older than the oldest kids in the audience. We had pretty much the same lives. Sure, they grew up with cable, and we didn’t have it until I was in junior high, but that was the biggest difference. Otherwise we all had had many shared experiences growing up, and watching Looney Tunes on Saturday morning was one of them. Kids now don’t watch the Looney Tunes much — it’s hidden on Boomerang. And there are more funny cartoons available to kids these days — and most of them were made in the past decade, not half a century ago.

You can see why it would be such a big deal that my daughter would want to watch Looney Tunes. So yes, it was a pretty good birthday.

Next up for my daughter — some NFB films. We’ll start slowly.

Cartoon Brew TV #7: From Burger It Came

From Burger It Came (2008) is a humorous and thought-provoking personal tale about how fear can consume our lives. The film really stands out in our eyes for its sophisticated and eclectic approach to visual storytelling. It was directed by Dominic Bisignano in the CalArts Experimental Animation Program.

The filmmaker will be participating in the comments section so if you have any questions for him, feel free to ask. Here are some background details about From Burger It Came from director Dominic Bisignano:

From Burger It Came is a film I made digitally, using 3-D software, photography, drawings, and digital paintings. It is based around experiences I had as a kid growing-up at the onset of the AIDS epidemic. I tried to incorporate as many elements from that period which touched me personally (kid’s cereal, heavy metal, sci-fi movies, Moonies, AIDS, Catholic school) without burying the story.

I constructed the soundtrack (with the exception of SFX) first, recording myself recalling these episodes to people that I did not know. I then recorded an interview with my mother, and a script performed by an actress named Trudy Forbes. I spent about one year constructing the narrative. In my mind there were four elements that needed to converge for the story be complete:

1. My narrative about fear (told to the audience)

2. My mother’s narrative about fear, both hers and mine (told to the audience)

3. A conversation between us (spoken to one another)

4. Some popular ideas about the subject of AIDS at the time (told through the part of the teacher).

I am influenced greatly by American folk music and traditional storytelling, and my intention with this film was to do a sort of “’round the campfire” sort of narrative, but with modern subject matter which may or may not be easy to hear or talk about. Because of the voice overnarrative, I was careful to try and construct the visuals in a contrapuntal way to the soundtrack, as opposed to merely illustrating the dialogue the whole time.

Serge Bromberg in New York

Attention New Yorkers! This Saturday, November 1st, master film collector Serge Bromberg returns to the Big Apple, and will present rare prints of animated shorts that he has discovered and restored, accompanying them with anecdotes and piano music, in a program created especially for the French Institute Alliance Francaise. Bromberg, the Annecy Animation Festival creative director and archivist behind Lobster Films, is one of the great champions of classic animation, silent films and world cinema. I highly recommend attending this screening to meet and greet Serge in person.

Some program highlights will include:
• Fantasmagorie, Emile Cohl, which first screened in France 100 years ago.
• Cartoon Factory (Koko the Clown) by Dave and Max Fleischer, 1924.
• The Sinking of the Lusitania, Winsor McCay, 1918.
• Egged On, Charley Bowers and H.L. Muller, 1926.
• Tulips Shall Grow, A George Pal Puppetoon, 1942.
• and more!

This special screening will be held at Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street, New York, NY at 7pm. Admission: $10 ($7 for Students with ID). For more information please go to the French Institute Alliance Francaise (fiaf) website.

Trailer for Klasky-Csupo’s Immigrants

In case you were wondering “Whatever happened to Klasky-Csupo?” — Here’s your answer:

This trailer says Immigrants (L.A. Dolce Vita) opens next week, but I think that’s the Hungarian release date. The film still has no U.S. distributor that I’m aware of, but it will screen at the American Film Market in Santa Monica on November 5th and 6th.

(Thanks, Lev Polyakov)

Cartoon Dump w/Patton Oswalt

As many of you know, every month (on the fourth Tuesday evening) I co-produce a comedy/cartoon show, Cartoon Dump, at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood. If you are in the area, this month will be a great one to drop in on. It’s our annual Halloween show and our “treat” is special comedy guest is Patton Oswalt (see Update below). The “trick” is a bunch of really horrible cartoons like Mighty Mr. Titan, Super President and an appearence by a certain friendly ghost.

UPDATE: Due to a changed shooting schedule, Patton Oswalt will not be in tonight’s Cartoon Dump show. Patton sends his regrets and promises to return in a future Cartoon Dump show. Filling in for Patton tonight will be a comedian so awesome that he can only be described right now as “Special Surprise Guest!

Join us this Tuesday, October 28th, at 8pm. The Steve Allen Theater is located at 4773 Hollywood Blvd (two blocks west of Vermont Ave.). You can buy advanced tickets here!

The AFI Fest

The 2008 AFI Fest starts on Friday (Oct. 31st) and runs through November 9th at several venues (but mainly at the Arclight Hollywood) in Los Angeles. There are several animation events of interest – all of them highly recommended.

On November 4th and 5th, there is a screening of Adults Only Cartoon Shorts which includes Mike Roush’s The Hidden Life of the Burrowing Owl (pictured above), Clemens Kolger’s CuteCuteCute and various episodes of Signe Baumane’s Teat Beat of Sex.

Bill Plympton will be here in person November 5th and 6th showing his latest feature Idiots and Angels; there will a retrospective showing of Yellow Submarine at the Cinerama Dome (on November 5th), and premiere screenings of Waltz With Bashir (on Nov. 1st and 7th).

I’m also intrigued by the documentary Imaginadores which explores the history of Argentinean comic books with new animation of some of the country’s classic comic characters. Check the trailer here. It’s being screened on November 5th and 6th.

Roadside Romeo secretly released in L.A.

This almost escaped our notice… but not quite! Disney has quietly opened Roadside Romeo today (we posted the trailer back in May). It’s “Absolutely ‘howl’arious!” says the India Times in a four-star review.

Should you wish to see this flick, it’s playing at the NAZ 8 Cinemas in Artesia, with English subtitles. The theatre is located at 6440 E. South Street, in Lakewood, CA. It’s playing all week at 5:00 6:00 7:00 8:00 9:00 10:00 and 11:00pm.

Move over Wall•E – Roadside Romeo is now qualifed for for an Oscar nomination!