Cartoon Brew TV #5: Hairyman

Steven Subotnick‘s film Hairyman began as an interpretation of an American folk tale from the South, but the idea evolved in an unexpected fashion that weaves back and forth between narrative and abstract imagery. The film’s striking images were created on underlit etched cels rubbed with lithographic ink, as well as some scenes that are simply ink-on-paper.

Subotnick, an independent filmmaker and a teacher at Rhode Island School of Design, is a graduate of the experimental animation program at CalArts, which was run by the late Jules Engel. In this video interview with Engel, he talks about how he came to accept Subotnick specifically into the school’s animation program.

Here is some background about Hairyman from an interview that Subotnick did with Lumen Eclipse:

‘Hairyman’ was shot on film. By the way, I had to shoot it three times, because there was a burr in the camera’s transport mechanism which kept scratching the negative. The film was inspired by a folk tale from Appalachia called ‘Wiley and the Hairy Man.’ It was about a wild, half-devil, wild man, who lives in the forests and eats children who wander in. A little boy named Wiley, with the help of his grandmother, tricks the Hairy Man three times, which magically makes Wiley safe. I developed three characters based on the folk tale: Hairyman, of course, and I changed the boy to a little girl, and the grandmother. And, rather than tell the story — I did actually storyboard the story several times, but I realized I was more interested in what the characters were rather than the folk tale. I began animating the characters improvisationally – like improvisational theater. When I accumulated enough scenes like this, I began editing them, and working with sound. I kept rearranging sequences until particular cuts began to suggest a narrative flow. So the narrative was woven out of the original improvisational scenes.

For the sound, I worked with Caleb Sampson. He was a sound designer who had worked with other independent filmmakers, like Flip Johnson and Amy Kravitz. He was one of the founding members of the Alloy Orchestra. I met with him actually for an earlier film. I went to his studio with my film, and he said ‘I found this zither recently.’ It was missing strings and it was all out of tune, but he began strumming the zither. We played the film, and the two of us just kept making noises with the zither and our voices, watching the film. At one point, he started screaming and grunting while he played. Well, it didn’t work for the film I was scoring, but later, when I was working on ‘Hairyman,’ I pulled out Caleb’s screaming and zither. His sound was a crucial element to ‘Hairyman’.

British Style Genius Opening

Paul Greer, who is the head of 3D at British design studio BDH, offers a description of how they made the title sequence for the BBC TV series British Style Genius by blending stop-motion with CG:

I thought you might like to know about the title sequence to the new BBC series “British Style Genius” that myself and my colleague, Orla Handley created recently at BDH.

Orla designed the concept and logo which was made up as an actual label which she then slowly and methodically unpicked and filmed in reverse using stop frame. We then took this animation and added the strings and threads in CG to give the impressions the label was being created by a giant off-screen sewing machine, the music by Metronomy helped with this feeling.

Orla took the basic animation and made 5 different versions to illustrate each fashion era described by each programme.

Gene Deitch Tribute in San Francisco

Gene Deitch will be the Guest of Honor at the 3rd annual San Francisco International Animation Festival (SFIAF), a four-day event from November 13th through 16th at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema.

Deitch will discuss his career in animation and show highlights of his work on Saturday morning Nov. 15th at 10:30am. Another highlight of the festival is the opening night event, Sita Sings The Blues Thursday, November 13 at 6:45 pm, with Nina Paley in person.

On Friday and Saturday, the festival will screen The Best of Annecy 2008 and several other retrospectives including a screening and discussion with Bay Area animation collective Encyclopedia Pictura. Bill Plympton will be there in person with his latest feature, Idiots and Angels and there will be an advance screening of Ari Folman’s Waltz With Bashir.

Go! Get the ticket information online or call (925) 866-9559.

An Appreciation of Marky Maypo

Marky Maypo

Editor’s Note: We’d like to welcome animation director Eric Goldberg in his first post as a regular Guest Brewer.

One night as I was Googling around indifferently, I thought to myself, “Gosh! I haven’t seen those marvelous Hubley Marky Maypo spots in at least 30 years. I wonder if I can find them on the net…” (I always think to myself with three dots at the end…) About a second and a half later, my search yielded four of them, on a website linked to the company that still makes and sells Maypo after all these years. These spots made a huge impression on me when I first saw them on TV – I was four – and they still do to this day. I know Jerry posted these a couple of years ago, but they’re certainly worth revisiting – and if you’ve never seen them before, enjoy! Here is the original spot:

I’d file them under the sub-heading of “The Pleasures of the Deceptively Simple.” Yes, they’re stylized. Yes, they’re graphic. They’re also masterpieces of communication and entertaining advertising, boasting many innovations and good old-fashioned traditional know-how. First, there’s the soundtrack: John and Faith Hubley recorded semi-improvised dialogue, charming mistakes and all, with their young son Mark, making the character sound like a real kid. Wow, what a concept!

The Hubleys later used this technique in their many personal short films – with their offspring in films like Moonbird and Cockaboody, and almost as talented adults like Dudley Moore and Dizzy Gillespie in films like The Hole and The Hat. Then there’s the design and animation. UPA-style flattened (practically vertical) perspectives, graphic curlicues that somehow behave like oatmeal, and character animation – most of it by master animator Emery Hawkins – that has, despite the stylization, form, weight, timing, tons of appeal, and all the other stuff you would expect in a beautifully crafted traditional production.

Here are links to three others: here, here and here. While the last spot doesn’t quite hold up for me, compared with the other three, they’re all marvelous, and, I think, worthy of some serious scrutiny. The Hubleys were masters at making the abstract appealing and accessible, and it’s great to see these ads again as the precursors and colleagues of their innovative Storyboard short films of the late 1950s and early ’60s, especially The Tender Game and The Adventures of *, decent prints of which I hope to upload in future posts. Thanks for playing.

Banksy’s Pet Shop Open in NY

Banksy

Prankster/graffiti artist Banksy opened the Village Pet Store And Charcoal Grill in NYC yesterday. The tiny storefront installation, which is his first show in NY, runs through October 31. An article in the UK Independent offers more details about the show, including this statement from the artist: “I wanted to make art that questioned our relationship with animals and the ethics and sustainability of factory farming but it ended up as chicken nuggets singing.”

Though the only animation-related piece is the “aged Tweety” animatronic (picture above), the entire show should strike a chord with anybody who loves animation. The animatronics (including chicken nuggets, hot dogs, fish sticks, a make-up applying rabbit and a horny monkey) move in funny and unexpected ways that bring to mind an animator’s eye for detail. It’s also worth noting that the mechanics and the fabrication of the animatronics are top-notch Hollywood quality. (During my visit, I overheard from an insider that a large team of modelmakers and technicians was employed in producing the animatronics).

It’s located at 89 7th Avenue (between West 4th and Bleeker) in Greenwich Village. If you can’t make it, videos of the animatronics can be seen on the show’s website.

“Water Curses” Fan-Created Music Video

Water Curses

To teach himself Flash CS3, Russell made a fan video for the song “Water Curses” by Animal Collective. The result is a fun-to-watch piece of abstract animation. He writes in the video’s online description:

I started making this in an attempt to learn Flash CS3. There are two basic layers in this animation, a flash layer at 24fps, and a stop motion powdered charcoal layer at 12fps. They are mixed together in nifty ways with After Effects. I started to get a hang of things in the second half of the video, so, sorry if the first half isn’t as interesting.

There are more details about the making of the video posted on his blog Music to Video.

$9.99

9.99

$9.99 is a new clay animated feature-length movie opening in Los Angeles for an Oscar qualifying one week engagement on December 12th. It’s based on a story by Etgar Keret (Wristcutters: A Love Story), was directed by New York-based film-maker Tatia Rosenthal (Blues Clues), and produced in Australia with voice overs from Anthony La Paglia and Geoffrey Rush.

Looks intriguing. I don’t know much about it, there is no trailer online, but I’ve been told Asifa-Hollywood members will be getting an Annie screening next month.

Don Hahn book event

In conjunction with the release of the new book, The Alchemy of Animation, Woodbury University and ASIFA-Hollywood will hold a book signing and panel discussion hosted by author/producer Don Hahn. The panel will include several of the best animators working today, including James Baxter (Beauty and the Beast, Enchanted), Mike Belzer (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Bolt) and Nik Ranieri (Hercules, The Princess and the Frog). They plan to share their insights into process of making animated films across a variety of mediums – traditional, computer and stop-motion animation.

Monday, October 20, 2008, 7:00 p.m
Fletcher Jones Foundation Auditorium
Woodbury University
7500 Glenoaks Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91510

Proceeds from the sale of books at this event to benefit the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive. To RSVP please email [email protected] The deadline to RSVP is October 17, 2008.

New Feature: Comments of the Moment

Because of our moderating duties, we read a lot of fascinating post comments from Cartoon Brew readers, and this got us thinking, Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way that we could highlight some of these comments for the entire Brew readership? So last weekend our web design guru Rob Kohr added a fun feature: Comments of the Moment. The new section is located in the right-hand column throughout the site. In this section we’ll shine the spotlight on thought-provoking and noteworthy comments from Brew readers.

Rumor Central: Lasseter Knocks Keane Off “Rapunzel”?

Rapunzel

A local LA animation student who asks not to be named sends in this rumor that’s too juicy not to share:

Just a bit of info from one of our teachers here. Apparently Glen Keane was kicked off Rapunzel yesterday by Lasseter. Word around the campfire is that Lasseter didn’t like the latest reel.

7 years, man. 7 years Glen’s been working on this. The skinny is that the directors of Bolt will be taking over. No word about if Glen is still involved in any way.

Truth or fiction?

UPDATE: Floyd Norman confirms in the comments that this rumor is indeed true.

UPDATE #2: Ain’t It Cool News has published a follow-up story to our initial report. They reprint a letter from Ed Catmull that says that Glen has lessened his directing responsibilities to “attend to some non-life threatening health issues.” Co-director Dean Wellins has also removed himself from the project for unspecified reasons. They are being replaced by directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard. Keane will stay aboard Rapunzel as a directing animator and exec producer.

UK Green Party Spot Remixes Classic Animation

Brew reader Graeme Edgeler points out an appealing Green Party animated spot created for elections in the UK earlier this year. Not only is the commercial inspired by Fifties animation design, it also seamlessly integrates animation and characters from two 1950s public domain industrial films: It’s Everybody’s Business and Stop Driving Us Crazy. It’d be cool to see more mashups between classic cartoons and new animation, just like how older songs are sampled and remixed by contemporary musicians.

Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 6

Two weeks to go – Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 6 will go on sale – and I’ll be plugging it several times in the next ten days. Sixty newly restored cartoons (like Page Miss Glory above and Bear Feat below) and dozens of extras. I admit I’m biased as I had something to do with shaping contents of this series, but this is really one of the best of the group.

Two highlights, as far as I’m concerned: #1 the original titles restored to the Henery Hawk/Sylvester/Foghorn Leghorn classic Crowing Pains (picture below left – click thumbnails to enlarge) which features additional dialogue, animation and music unseen and unheard in 60 years! #2 Martha Sigall’s audio commentary on the Leon Schlesinger Christmas Blooper reels. Martha talks about being at the studio in the 1930s, while identifying every staff member appearing on screen – including herself!

And that’s NOT all, folks… stay tooned for more details.

“Don’t Cry for Me, I’m Already Dead” by Rebecca Sugar

Rebecca Sugar comic

Don’t Cry for Me, I’m Already Dead is a tearjerker of a comic about brothers who communicate only through Simpsons quotes. The artist is Rebecca Sugar whose “dirty” renditions of cartoon characters were featured on the Brew last year. Her mad drawing skills continue to knock my socks off.

Also don’t miss her droll student film Johnny Noodleneck:

…and this fine bit of dance animation:

Mickey Mouse Can Live!

We posted about a London Telegraph article recently in which they reported that Muslim cleric Sheikh Muhammad Al-Munajid had declared that Mickey Mouse is “one of Satan’s soldiers” and must die. That cleric has now released a YouTube video in which he says that his words were translated inappropriately and that it would be silly to claim that a cartoon character should die. It’s clear in the original video, even with the misleading translation, that he’s not referring to cartoon mice, but people will hear what they want to hear. Now, if only the cleric would release a video explaining how he achieves those amazing CG backgrounds in his videos.

(Thanks, Sam, for pointing this out in the comments section)

Azur and Asmar

Michel Ocelot’s animated feature Azur and Asmar will open October 17th for a one-week run at the IFC Center in New York City. This film, from the director of Kirikou and the Sorceress, was picked up by The Weinstein Company last year and never got a wide theatrical release. GKIDS is presenting the US Premiere engagement of of the film as part of it’s ongoing New York International Children’s Film Festival.

Upcoming festival features include Sita Sings The Blues (with Nina Paley in person) playing Nov. 8th and 9th at the IFC Center, and Lotte from Gagetville (Estonia) January 24th at the Symphony Space. For ticket information click here.

Jerry on Stu’s Show

Once again, tomorrow Wednesday October 8th, I will be the featured guest on Stu’s Show on Shokus Internet Radio. This will be my eighth visit to discuss all things animation with Stu and his listeners, live beginning at 4:00 p.m. PDT (7:00 p.m. EDT). Topics this time will include the upcoming Popeye Volume 3 DVD box set from Warner, the new Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 6 and our plans for Cartoon Brew TV. As always, listeners will be encouraged to call in with their questions and comments on the station’s toll-free telephone number. Click here for more details. Tune In, Turn On and… Call Us!

Cartoon Brew TV #4: The Last Temptation of Crust

Today offering on Cartoon Brew TV is The Last Temptation of Crust, a graduation film created by Dax Norman at Ringling School of Art and Design. It’s a CG short quite unlike any other that we’ve seen recently, and is directed with an assured sensibility that brings grittiness and cartooniness into the world of computer animation.

Dax Norman’s creative endeavors don’t end with this short film. In fact, he can’t stop creating, whether it’s bowling pin characters (buy them here), paintings, psychedelic animation tests and various artistic experiments. His home on the Internet is DaxNorman.com.

Dax Norman will be participating in the comments section so if you have any questions for him, feel free to ask. We also asked Dax to give us background on the project. Here, in the filmmaker’s own words, is everything you need to know about The Last Temptation of Crust:

It is a true honor to be included on Brew TV, thank you so much. This website is an invaluable tool for animation artists and fans alike.

I’d like to tell a bit about where “The Last Temptation of Crust” came from. This tome, as wacky as it may seem, is based on a true story, so I will begin at the “First Temptation of Crust.”

It was less than a year before I was to start production on my senior thesis at Ringling School of Art and Design, in Sarasota, Florida. As I was walking home from school I noticed something glowing. This object that caught my eye would later capture my imagination. Sitting on a bus stop bench, with a streetlight shining upon it, was a perfectly pristine piece of cherry pie, encapsulated in a clear to-go box.

Here is where most people would say they looked around, wondering if anyone was watching, or if it was some kind of trap. I guess that’s just not the kind of person I am. I inhaled the pie. It was absolutely scrumptious.

One of the factors that might have contributed to this automatic response I had to the pie would be my love for food, and more particular, free food, as anyone who witnessed me trolling all of the free pizza events at Ringling can surely attest.

So after this happened, I went about my walk home, and thought little of it.

Only a day later, in my concept development class, I was called upon by my teacher, Jamie Deruyter, to tell the class a nugget of story that could possibly be good for an animation. So of course I told about the pie. Everyone reacted favorably to the story and that is when I realized it could be a viable idea. Basically, it is a man vs. self-situation, where the character decides whether to eat the pie, or not.

The next semester was pre-production; this is when I began creating storyboards, character designs, and an animatic that would form what was to become “The Last Temptation of Crust” the next year.

Brent Lewis, a classmate, came up with the title. “The Last Temptation of Crust” perfectly encapsulated what I wanted to say in this story, and almost acts as a concept statement in and of itself, as well as being an ironic play on the Martin Scorsese movie title.

During the course of the year, the story kept evolving and mutating during production. My wife actually came up with the idea for the band-aid part, which was spectacular. Once I built Frank Finkerton, the protagonist, in 3D, he took on a life of his own. I was just having fun thinking of ways he could become sloppier.

I really wanted to limit the dialogue and try to tell the story with little words. Frank Finkerton makes lots of noises, but only says two words.

The look of the film was also very important to me. I had not really seen any gritty CG environments, so that is something I wanted to shoot for. Everything I have seen in CG is too clean and shiny for my sensibilities. Animation is an exaggeration of real life, so I wanted to portray the world based on how I see it. Unfortunately, the world Frank Finkerton lives in is not an exaggeration; I would routinely find band-aids, old socks and discarded lobsters on my walk home from school. I looked heavily at the paintings of Edward Hopper, and the photography of William Eggleston for reference and inspiration.

Last but not least, a few words on the character, Frank Finkerton. My goal was to make a character that I could imagine existing outside of this one isolated story. In my favorite movie, “The Big Lebowski,” the Coen Brothers do this perfectly and I think that is a reason why the film is so beloved.

I sought to make a character that is not idealized in any way. Frank is basically a likeable goofball, but he thinks he is the coolest guy in town. He is a legend in his own mind. The biggest compliment I would get, upon seeing Finkerton, is that people would say, “I used to know a guy like him.”

Originally, Frank was conceived as an odd amalgam of Bill Murray’s Big Ern from Kingpin, Randy Quaid’s cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation, and R. Crumb. Around the time I had started animating the piece, however, I found a book in the Ringling Library that blew my mind, “Wolvertoons” by Basil Wolverton. This was a major revelation to me, and no doubt would partially form the way Frank would act. I even made a drawing after I was finished, of Frank Finkerton in Wolverton’s style, as homage.

His actual movements, oddly enough, were subconsciously inspired by my own. My wife says she sees a lot of the way I act in him.

The actual production for the short was 6-7 months long and included modeling, texturing, rigging, layout, animation, lighting, rendering and compositing. I did all of this for “The Last Temptation of Crust” myself, but with considerable guidance and advice from my teacher, Keith Osborn, as well as classmates and all of the Ringling Faculty. The talented Neil Anderson-Himmelspach composed the original score for the short.

My next CG short that I recently started modeling characters for, continues where “The Last Temptation of Crust” leaves off. Frank Finkerton heads into the bowling alley seen in the short. Finkerton will aim to win the affections of an unknowing lady at the lanes. It will be called “Llavarse los Manos” (To Wash the Hands).

The Secret is Out: Cartoon Brew TV is Here!

Cartoon Brew TV Logo

A big THANK YOU to our readers. We’re positively delighted that so many Brew regulars have been discussing and embedding the new episodes of Cartoon Brew TV onto their sites. We obviously don’t have the deep pockets of video outlets like Atom, iTunes, Channel Frederator, or YouTube, but thankfully we have a wonderful dedicated community of animation lovers, and with your help we’ll eventually let everybody know where they can find lots of great animated shorts that can’t be seen anywhere else. We also wanted to thank animation historian Harvey Deneroff for taking the time to pen this thoughtful review of our first three episodes. Keep spreading the word about Cartoon Brew TV!