Bob Camp Remembers Me!

Since May, Jason Anders has been interviewing some the best artists working in animation on his Fulle Circle Productions blog. Bookmark this one. He’s just posted a chat with Bob Camp, and Bob was nice enough to recall the crazy days (circa 1989-90) when he shared an office space with me, John K. and Carl Macek. Imagine that! (Strange, but true – Lynne Naylor and Jim Smith were also crammed in there with us). Check out the interview here. And check out Camp’s own blog, loaded with his amazing artwork.

Fear(s) of the Dark and Delgo are coming!

There’s suddenly a flurry of last minute 2008 theatrical releases of animated features. Check out these two I’ve just added to the checklist:

Fear(s) of the Dark, which we mentioned here back in February ’06 and October ’07 is finally receiving an art house release through IFC Films. It’ll play for one week at the Nuart Theatre in West L.A. begining October 31st.

Freestyle Releasing has announced a Dec. 12 release date for its computer-animated fantasy movie Delgo. We first mentioned this film back in December ’07. A new trailer has been posted online.

Could we possibly hit the magic number needed (15) in order to nominate five animated films for Academy Award consideration?

The Nutty Professor in CG

Hey Laaady…

We usually have a problem when Hollywood takes a classic animated property and creates a CG update. I’m not sure what to make of The Weinstein Company’s new Nutty Professor direct-to-DVD CG animated feature (on sale November 25th from Genius Products) but it features the voice and participation of Jerry Lewis himself, recreating his iconic role as Julius Kelp!

Drake Bell (Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh) is cast as his grandson Harold. The plot goes like this:

When Harold gets his hands on the recipe for his grandfather’s secret elixir, he creates a potion that drastically transforms his personality to be more confident and suave. Unfortunately his alter ego is also obnoxious and destructive. Much like his grandfather before him, Harold must face his insecurities and fears while learning to believe in himself without the help of any special concoctions.

I love Jerry Lewis (heck, I even enjoy Drake Bell) so I’m hoping its a decent film. Maybe they’ll send me a review copy (hint, hint)?

Good Morning New Orleans!

This morning, I appeared with film critic Dave Dubos on Good Morning New Orleans to hype Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 6. We taped a fifteen minute interview yesterday at KTLA studios in Hollywood. The KTLA newsroom is in the exact building on Sunset and Van Ness which was home to Leon Schlesinger Productions in the 1930s and 40s (as as seen in the 1940 short You Ought To Be In Pictures). Dubos says the whole interview will appear later today on the WGNO website as a podcast – but you can check out my one minute broadcast appearance on the ABC26 website now.

UPDATE: I just got the link. Click Here to watch the full 15 minute interview.

Alice’s Birthday

The footage in this promo reel looks like a lot of fun to me.

All I know about this Russian Flash animated feature is what’s published on Wikipedia:

Alice’s Birthday, is an upcoming 2009 Russian flash-animated feature film directed by Sergey Seryogin and being made by the studio “MASTER-FILM”. It is based on one of a series of stories by well-known writer Kir Bulychyov about Alisa (Alice) Seleznyova, a young girl living in the second half of the 21st century.

I just hope it garners a U.S. release.

(Thanks, Tim Tweidelman)

Fredrikstad Animation Festival

Fredrikstad

If you’re in Norway this week, I hope to see you at the Fredrikstad Animation Festival, which takes place this Wednesday through Sunday. Among the events at the festival is a day-long seminar on Friday, October 24, entitled “American Masters of Animation: American Animation from Disney to PES.”

At the seminar, Andreas Deja will be talking about Disney’s Nine Old Men and PES will offer a masterclass on his approach to directing stop-motion animation. They’ve also wrangled me into being part of the program, and while I don’t exactly qualify as a master in anything (unless you ask my mom, in which case I’m a master in everything), I’ll be doing a lecture about the works of Fifties design masters like Bobe Cannon, Ward Kimball, Tom Oreb, Ed Benedict and John Hubley. Even more exciting, I’ll be interviewing Gene Deitch, an honest-to-goodness animation legend, live on-stage.

I’m going to pick Gene’s brain about everything he’s done, from creating the classic TV series Tom Terrific

…to making mind-bendingly trippy political allegories like The Giants

…and who knows, maybe we’ll even talk about these:

In other words, this Friday will be damn awesome if you’re in Norway! There are also plenty of other fine screenings and presentations planned throughout the week. See you in Fredrikstad!

(PS – If Brew readers have any suggestions for things to see in Oslo and Fredrikstad, please drop a line in the comments.)

Cartoon Brew TV: Peanuts Ephemera

Cartoon Brew TV Peanuts

Welcome to another edition of “Brew Vaults.” Every three weeks on Cartoon Brew TV we present a long-lost piece of animation history along with brand-new audio commentary by animation historian Jerry Beck and other special guests. This week we’re offering several rare animated spots featuring Charles Schulz’s beloved Peanuts characters. We dedicate this episode to Peanuts animation director Bill Melendez who passed away last month. Watch the Peanuts episode of Brew Vaults right here!

Jerry’s Tuesday Triple Header

Take your pick: yours truly, Jerry Beck, will appear on stage, on screen and in print tomorrow, Tuesday October 21st.

In Print: Tuesday is the official publication date for my latest book – a tie-in to Dreamworks latest box office blockbuster, The Art of MADAGASCAR: Back 2 Africa. As usual with these books, the behind the scenes art – pre-viz material in pencil, ink, and conceptual paintings – is incredibly gorgeous. Craig Kellman was the chief character designer and the book is loaded with his sketches and paintings. Whatever your opinion of the Madagascar films, this art is worthy of collecting and keeping in book form – and I’m proud to have been a part of it.

On Screen: I appear both on screen and in voice-over on the indispensable Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 6. Over 60 restored, digitally remastered Warner Bros. cartoons from the golden age of animation. A Mel Blanc documentary, Christmas Party blooper reels, and uncut World War Two era cartoons including Russian Rhapsody, The Ducktators and Herr Meets Mare. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, The Three Bears, The Goofy Gophers, Tweety, Sylvester, The Road Runner and Coyote. Here are 28 reasons to buy it today!

On Stage: Live and in person Tuesday night at 8pm I’ll be screening a selection of strange and creepy Halloween related animated cartoons at the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Avenue in Hollywood. The vintage prints will be in 16mm and 35mm and special guest animators will show their films and discuss their ghastly influences. To buy tickets for this Animated Spook-tacularclick here.

Cartoon Brew TV #6: Peanuts Ephemera

(Alternate commentary-free version: This link will allow you to watch the original cartoon without audio commentary)

You’re A Madman, Charlie Brown!

This week from the Cartoon Brew TV’s “Brew Vaults”, we offer several rare animated spots featuring Charles Schulz’s beloved Peanuts characters. We’re dedicating this episode to Peanuts animation director Bill Melendez, who passed away last month. First, the rarely seen theatrical trailer for the initial feature-length Peanuts movie, A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969). This trailer was the first 16mm film I ever bought (at a New York Comic Con in the 1970s) and it led to a lifetime of collecting cartoons on film, so it holds great nostalgia for me. I actually saw A Boy Named Charlie Brown at Radio City Music Hall (it was the big Christmas attraction that year). I still recall how odd it was to see such simplistic animation on the huge Music Hall screen–a screen which usually played host to Disney’s latest fully-animated masterpieces. In retrospect, the film is one of the best pieces of Peanuts animation, comparable to the earliest Peanuts holiday specials. Schulz, as usual, wrote the screenplay and retained a smattering of the adult-skewing wit that had all but disappeared from the Peanuts TV shows produced at this time. Poet-Composer Rod McKuen wrote the four songs in the film, and they are pretty good. The movie was a huge hit, becoming the number one film the week it was released, and ultimately spawned three sequels.

Following the movie trailer, we dive into “Animated Peanuts B.C.B.C” (Before Charlie Brown Christmas). The first time the Peanuts crew were animated was to pitch the Ford Falcon compact car in commercials created for Ford Motor Company. Ford also sponsored The Ford Show (1957-1961) starring country entertainer Tennessee Ernie Ford. Playhouse Pictures, a commercial animation studio in Hollywood made up primarily of ex-UPA employees, was commissioned by the J. Walter Thompson ad agency to create a new Ford sponsored animated opening each week for the Ford Show. In 1960-61 they decided to use the Peanuts characters in several of the actual show openings. Note that the first gag here uses Paul Frees as the voice of Charlie Brown! This is followed by a Ford car spot promoting the 1961 Falcon models. This commercial features my favorite Peanuts character, Pig-Pen. Unlike the later Charlie Brown TV specials and movies (and a bit like the old Dell Peanuts comic books), these Ford spots represent Peanuts with the least creative involvement by Schulz, who was known to write and draw almost all Peanuts material himself.

In a 1984 interview with the Museum of Broadcasting, Bill Melendez recalled his first encounters with Charles Schulz and Charlie Brown:

Well, I was doing Ford commercials at J. Walter Thompson when it was decided that Charlie Brown would be the spokesman for the Ford Falcon. I was told Charles Schulz was very shy and reticent about commercializing his strip. So I went to San Francisco and met Sparky and we hit it off. I told him what we did, and he nodded and said, “All right, we’ll try it.” He was very leery of getting involved with “Hollywood types” as he used to call us.

Of course he understands that his drawings are flat, two dimensional designs, and that, for example, the front view is very different from the side view. They are not three-dimensional characters. You can’t turn them around the way we used to turn the Walt Disney characters, who were designed to be round and three-dimensional. To animate Peanuts characters we have to be more inventive, because we tend not to be realistic. We don’t try to ape real live action as we did in animating Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse.

I imagine Sparky must have been curious about how we were going to do it, but he never gave us any kind of a hint or anything at all about what he wanted. So we showed him how we thought it should move, how we thought they should turn, how we thought they should walk and he accepted everything. From then on we hit it off pretty well.

Thanks to Michael Geisler and Stu Shostack for recording the audio track, and Randall Kaplan for his expert sound and picture editing.

New plans for Disney’s California Adventure

The L.A. Times reported yesterday on Disney’s new plans for the California Adventure theme park. The idea now is to redo the park so it’s themed literally around Walt Disney’s personal California adventure. For example, the entrance will resemble Hollywood in the 1920s and, as you make your way through the park, you’ll encounter rides and attractions themed around milestones in Disney’s life: The Mickey Mouse “Fun Wheel”; the “Silly Symphony Swings”; a re-creation of the Carthay Circle Theatre where Snow White premiered; a Wonderful World of Color water show, and so on.

How Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and the rest of the Pixar-themed attractions will fit in with the Disney nostalgia remains to be seen. If it’s not too late I’d like to offer several suggestions of my own:

I’d love to see some reference to the Alice Comedies and Oswald The Lucky Rabbit in the 1920s shopping plaza.

Maybe a ride based on Victory Through Air Power?

How about a a place to play polo?

I always thought they should turn California Adventure into a Retro-Disneyland, recreating the retired rides and attractions from the 1950s and 60s: The Carousel of Progress; The Mickey Mouse Club Theatre showing 3-D Jamboree; The Flying Saucers, and the Monsanto House of the Future. Wouldn’t that be cool?

“In Our Talons” Music Vid by Alan Poon

In Our Talons

“In Our Talons” is a stop-motion music video directed by Alan Poon (repped by Circle Productions) for The Bowerbirds. It has a lovely and naturalistic, almost ethereal, feel to it. A few notes about the production:

Principle animation took 3 months. The stop-motion puppets were custom made for this video. The bird alone took over a month for the puppet fabricators to build with over 300 feathers manually sized and glued on. Most of the miniature sets were made out of foam and clay and then painted, while the clouds were made from cotton.

Credits for “In Our Talons”
Directed by Alan Poon
Produced by Circle Productions & Alan Poon
Cinematographer: Adam Makarenko
Edited by Mark Paiva/School Editing
Lead Animator: Mike Hollenbeck
Animator: Sylvie Trouve, Anibal Davila
Sculptor: Christy Langer
Lead Fabricator: Diana Savage
Set Designer: Adam Makarenko
Set Construction: Joel Harrison-Off
Visual Effects Lead: Yoga Kurniawan
Compositing: Alan Poon & Yoga Kurniawan

BBC2 Ident by Guilherme Marcondes

Guilherme Marcondes

I love this new channel ident for BBC2 directed by Guilherme Marcondes (of Tyger fame). I also love the behind-the-scenes photos that Guilherme posted on his Flickr. He writes about the spot:

This spot was one in a series of six (each directed by a different person) promoting some of the hosts of the most popular shows on BBC2. Bruce Parry presents some wild reality shows in the channel, like “Tribe” and “Amazon”. My job was too create a visual interpretation of Bruce’s own concerns about environment and life in a materialistic society.

We built the “ultimate exploitation machine”, powered by human beings, ravaging the land, sucking nature on one side and spitting consumer goods on the other. We placed the scene inside a mirror box to create a sense of boundlessness to the destructive process imposed by the machine.

Animation credits are:
Direction: Guilherme Marcondes
Production designers: Ryan Heck and Andy Byers
Design: Guilherme Marcondes and Douglas Alves
Animation and Compositing: Guilherme Marcondes
Additional Compositing: John Harrison

SSSR

Hey, I really like these guys. Their work is strange – but fun.

Back in August Amid linked to a United Airlines spot by the Norwegian/Japanese animation collective SSSR. Above is their music video The Mercury Craze for Subtle. Check out their other videos F.K.O. and Swan Meat.

Now, SSSR directors Marc Reisbig and Hanne Berkaak have a new video for indie band Of Montreal for their song Id Engager. Neat stuff.

(Thanks, Jeff Kuykendall)

Corny Cole loses home in California wild fires

Legendary animator and CalArts faculty Corny Cole has lost his home and everything in it during the recent fires in Southern California. Corny evacuated before the fire hit and is unharmed, but his home, pets, and all of his artwork, save for what he has in his office at CalArts, are gone. LA’s KTTV has posted a story about him on their website.

Update #1: The Creative Talent Network held an online fundraiser. The CTN fundraiser has closed and on Oct 24th at midnight the total was $12,168.00 donated. CTN will be handing a cashiers check to Corny for $12,168.00 before Nov. 1st along with the list of donors (See the Comments below for the list of donors).

Update #2: Jeff Pidgeon has informed us that you can make a check payable to Cornelius Cole and mail it to:

California Institute of the Arts
ATT: Trish Patryla, Office of the Provost
24700 McBean Parkway
Valencia, CA 91355

Update #3: CalArts is providing housing for Corny, so he’s being well cared for. They’ve even stocked the place up with food for him. One of his cats has been found alive and well, and Jackie at Cal Arts is checking area animal shelters for more. So keep your fingers crossed.

(Thanks, Nathan Strum & Jeff Pidgeon)

A Bob Hope Auction

This Saturday and Sunday, Julian’s Auctions is having a Bob Hope estate sale in Beverly Hills, California.

A friend of mine who once interviewed Hope asked him if he’d ever seen DC’s Bob Hope comic books. Hope replied he had — and that he saved every issue. It was in his contract to have copies of each issue sent to him as published. (I wonder what he thought of Super Hip?). Alas, those rare personal copies are not among the voluminous material being offered. Can you imagine owning Hope’s personal bound volumes of those beauties?

The only “cartoon” stuff in the catalogue (which can be viewed completely online) are some caricatures by Mort Walker, Milton Caniff, Russell Patterson and others (click on thumbnail below to see this lot). No Techincolor prints of any of the Paramount cartoons he was parodied in (like Popeye’s 20th Anniversary, pictured above), nor any autographed Frank Tashlin scripts. Oh well… thanks for the memories, Bob.

Caroline Attia’s Sarah

This beautiful anti-gun violence TV spot was directed by French animator, designer and illustrator Caroline Attia. This is her first commercial for a U.S. client, Citizens for a Safer Minnesota and Martin/Williams Advertising in Minneapolis. The dialogue was originally conceived and recorded for a radio campaign. Peter Barg of Z Animation exec produced, and Attia designed and animated the entire spot in traditional 2D from her Paris studio (with color done in Photoshop CS3 and compositing/editing in After Effects CS3). Click here for a high rez version.

Canterbury Anifest

The Canterbury Animation Festival ’08 has several seminars and exhibitions running now through the end of the month. Run Wrake (Rabbit) will speak on October 30th. On November 1st, the festival has a full day of activities including lectures by Barry Purves and Aardman Animation, as well as a competition screening and a Bob Godfrey retrospective. An exhibition on the birth of cartoons for British television will run through December 13th at the Sidney Cooper Gallery. If you are in the UK, check it out.

(Thanks, Jim Walker)

Online Animation News Round-Up

Glen Keane as Tarzan

*Disney animator and character designer Jin Kim has started a sketchblog that includes the humorous image above of animator Glen Keane playing the role of his character Tarzan.

* DreamWorks character designer Shannon Tindle is peeved (and justifiably so) about the new Blu-Ray DVD edition of Sleeping Beauty and how all of the DVD’s bonus features and documentary material omit mention of one of the film’s primary visual architects: character stylist Tom Oreb. When I wrote about Tom Oreb in my magazine Animation Blast back in 2001, there was admittedly very little information available about his career. It was only after a year of research and interviews with the likes of Vic Haboush, Ward Kimball, Ollie Johnston, David Swift, Iwao Takamoto, Marty Murphy, Ray Aragon, and Oreb’s sister Mary that I managed to compile a substantial account of his life and work. Today, thankfully, it’s a different story. Everybody is aware of Tom Oreb and his invaluable contributions to the Disney studio…well, everybody it seems except for the people that Disney hires to produce documentaries about their company.

* “Of Cabbages and Kleins” is a thoughtful (and thought-provoking) essay by animation historian Michael Barrier about labor politics, the Disney strike of 1941, animator Phil Klein and liberal journalist Naomi Klein (author of No Logo).

* I can’t remember the last time I’ve been jealous of anybody, but I’m definitely jealous of my animation pal Matt Jones who recently visited the legendary cartoonist Ronald Searle in France. He writes about the experience on his blog. Matt also runs the fine Ronald Searle Tribute blog.

* Richard O’Connor of Asterisk Animation has written an insightful post about collaborating with Kim Deitch and They Might Be Giants on this piece of animation: