Macy’s Parade Archive Photos

The NY Daily News has posted a fantastic 46-image, 70+ year photo history of Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade cartoon balloon characters. Check out image #15 – Behind the dachshund balloon, is a wraparound 2 story 3-D neon, Times Square billboard for Kleenex tissues featuring Little Lulu from 1950. Image #18 shows the Popeye balloon in 1957, #21 contains Superman from 1966, and other photos include Linus the Lionhearted, Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, Betty Boop, and Woody Woodpecker.

(Thanks, Brent Alexander)

Cartoons Hate Families

Did you know that CARTOONS HATE FAMILIES? It’s true, I guess. Otherwise they wouldn’t say in in all caps at christiansagainstcartoons.com. At first I thought it was a crazy over-the-top parody, but it seems to be the real thing. I, for one, would never have guessed that Monsters Inc. is an attempt by the Godless Disney organization to introduce Satanism to innocent children. But sure enough, it is!

This site apparently has not been updated in a year, so I’d hate to push up their numbers and encourage them to post more. Still, it’s an interesting find — in the same way that the life forms one discovers hiding under a rock make for “an interesting find”. It’s too late for me, but you may still be able to save yourself from these filthy, vile cartoons!

(Thanks Joe Dante and special thanks to Dewey McGuire)

Pulsar by Katushi Bowda

By far the coolest thing I’ve seen on YouTube all week is this Japanese short from 1990. From the video description: “This is not clay animation but gypsum animation. This movie was made by Katushi Bowda. It was broadcast by the Japanese TV program ‘EBITEN’. It was contest for amateur short movie directors. And his present occupation is professional Stop Motion Animator.” More recently, Bowda also created a segment for the feature Winter Days. His website (in Japanese) is Bowdas.com.

(Thanks, Tony Mora)

Mickey Turns Urban

Mickey Mouse

Disney is allowing a group of contemporary artists to turn Mickey Mouse ‘street’ through a new program called Bloc 28. The artwork displayed so far on the project’s site is, for the most part, vapid and uninteresting. There’s no real observation about the character of Mickey in any of these pieces, just a little paint splatter and rough edges to make it ‘urban’ enough for people with too much money to pretend that they’re buying art. I’m all for reinterpreting classic cartoon icons in subversive ways, but reinterpreting cartoons with the full sanction of a corporation defeats the purpose. Air Pirates these guys clearly aren’t.

2008 Oscar-Eligible Animated Shorts

Oscar Contenders

Michael Sporn has a complete list of all the animated shorts eligible for an Oscar this year, along with links to their official websites. It’s heartening to see so many powerful and thought-provoking films in contention this year, among them Chainsaw by Dennis Tupicoff, Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor by Koji Yamamura, A Letter to Colleen by Andy and Carolyn London, I Am So Proud of You by Don Hertzfeldt, and Skhizein by Jeremy Clapin. I hope at least a few of these make the final cut.

Fox dumps Cartoons for Infomercials

Another one bites the dust.

Variety reported yesterday that the Fox broadcast network will abandon running cartoons on Saturday morning – and will replace the programming block with infomercials.

Saturday Morning broadcast television lost its allure as a kids destination since the advent of multiple 24 hour-a-day kids cable networks (Nick, Disney, CN), home video (DVD) and the internet, so this is no surprise. And besides, was anyone watching the crap 4KidsTV programmed on that channel? 4Kids was paying Fox $20 million dollars a year to foist things like Kirby: Right Back At Ya! on unsuspecting toddlers.

Fox is actually only replacing two hours (of the four hour block) with infomercials. The other two hours are being returned to local stations. Some of those may run news or sitcom reruns in that slot. If we’re lucky, perhaps some clever independent Fox affiliates will pick up some syndicated animation programming – or better yet, something like the Warner Bros. cartoons. Currently the classic Looney Tunes shorts are homeless (they were dropped by Cartoon Network two years ago) and Warners is actively seeking a new place for them on the tube.

Will Warners syndication execs and local Fox TV programmers see a golden opportunity here? Not likely, but we can always hope.

Cartoon Brew TV: The Shoebox (De Kijkdoos)

Shoebox

Today we offer The Shoebox (de Kijkdoos), a 2006 Dutch graduation film from the animation team of Joost van den Bosch and Erik Verkerk. In this dialogue-less short, a real-life girl experiencing difficulties at the hairdresser finds a solution by watching an unconventional retelling of “Rapunzel” that takes places in a shoebox. Watch Shoebox on Cartoon Brew TV.

Cartoon Brew TV #11: The Shoebox (De Kijkdoos)

The Shoebox is a graduation film created at the Art Academy in Rotterdam by Joost van den Bosch and Erik Verkerk, better known as Ka-Ching Cartoons nowadays. The film’s original Dutch title de Kijkdoos translates literally to “the looking box” and comes from an old tradition in Holland in which children create elaborate dioramas inside shoeboxes.

Since graduating from school in 2006, Verkerk and van den Bosch have worked on the animated series Skunk Fu! and created more short films of their own. The directors will be participating in the comments section so please forward any questions to them. Here are some additional details they’ve provided us about the film:

We wrote this film as a concept for a series, where we always would start with live-action, then a problem would appear the main live action character would find a ‘magic’-shoebox, and when they look inside it they’ll see a story with a similar problem and a solution (animated). This solution would help the live-action character solve their problem.

This film was made with this concept, we’ve got a lot of help from very talented students from the Film Academy to support us with the live-action. They even arranged really good and professional actors for the film. All the animation was created in Maya where we tried to simulate a real paper feeling. We originally tried to do it in stop motion, but the deadline for graduation made that impossible. We animated facial expressions in Flash, then we put it as an animated texture on our paper-3D model to achieve the result we wanted.

The music was all composed for this film and then live recorded by the musicians who were playing and watching the film at the same time. This film was in many ways challenging. We had never done live action before and never done 3D animation before. We also had to do this all in a very short time. We were very happy with the result and it allowed us to graduate with honors.

This film was the start of our company Ka-Ching Cartoons and the start of series of very special projects, we just finished a monster movie (with 3D glasses) called The 3D Machine and we’re currently working on a 25-minute opera about cockroaches.

Looney Tunes and Cartoon Dump

What do Looney Tunes and Cartoon Dump have in common? Nothing… except both are part of the many animation events scheduled for L.A. over the next two weeks.

Tuesday November 25th – Cartoon Dump our monthly comedy and cartoon crap-tacular at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood. This month with Patton Oswalt (guaranteed!) 8pm.

Saturday November 29th – Lou Bunin’s Alice In Wonderland (restored 35mm print) at the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Ave. 6pm.

Sunday November 30th – Don Hertzfeldt in Person at the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Ave. 7pm and 9:30pm.

Friday December 5th – Looney Tunes in 35mm at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. 18 cartoons – Admission: FREE! 7:30pm.

Must-Read Article About the Future of Media

If you read just one article this week, no, make that this month, make it Kevin Kelly’s “Becoming Screen Literate” from last weekend’s NY Times Magazine. It is essential reading for anybody who works in the visual arts. In the piece, Kelly argues that images have replaced words as our dominant form of expressive currency, though we have not yet achieved “screen fluency” that allows us to utilize and manipulate moving images in the same way that we can do with text.

It’s interesting to note that a lot of Kelly’s descriptions of contemporary live-action filmmaking basically describe the process that animation artists have been pioneering for the past century. Even before CGI, animation has always been a more flexible and fluid art form than live-action. Finally, live-action is achieving that malleability, he writes:

For directors who speak this new cinematographic language, even the most photo-realistic scenes are tweaked, remade and written over frame by frame. Filmmaking is thus liberated from the stranglehold of photography. Gone is the frustrating method of trying to capture reality with one or two takes of expensive film and then creating your fantasy from whatever you get. Here reality, or fantasy, is built up one pixel at a time as an author would build a novel one word at a time. Photography champions the world as it is, whereas this new screen mode, like writing and painting, is engineered to explore the world as it might be.

Another major theme in Kelly’s piece is that the line between creator and consumer is blurring to the point where average people are not only consuming visuals but also creating their own through remixing and repurposing existing imagery.

Rewriting video can even become a kind of collective sport. Hundreds of thousands of passionate anime fans around the world (meeting online, of course) remix Japanese animated cartoons. They clip the cartoons into tiny pieces, some only a few frames long, then rearrange them with video editing software and give them new soundtracks and music, often with English dialogue. This probably involves far more work than was required to edit the original cartoon but far less work than editing a clip a decade ago. The new videos, called Anime Music Videos, tell completely new stories. The real achievement in this subculture is to win the Iron Editor challenge. Just as in the TV cookoff contest “Iron Chef,” the Iron Editor must remix videos in real time in front of an audience while competing with other editors to demonstrate superior visual literacy. The best editors can remix video as fast as you might type.

What is most thrilling, however, is Kelly’s vision for the future of media, which is something that I’ve long thought but been unable to put so eloquently into words. Having witnessed the technological progress of the past twenty years, we’re not too far from achieving these possibilities:

With our fingers we will drag objects out of films and cast them in our own movies. A click of our phone camera will capture a landscape, then display its history, which we can use to annotate the image. Text, sound, motion will continue to merge into a single intermedia as they flow through the always-on network. With the assistance of screen fluency tools we might even be able to summon up realistic fantasies spontaneously. Standing before a screen, we could create the visual image of a turquoise rose, glistening with dew, poised in a trim ruby vase, as fast as we could write these words. If we were truly screen literate, maybe even faster. And that is just the opening scene.

Bolt Doesn’t Strike Lightning

Bolt

I’m no expert on the box office, but when Disney’s CG “blockbuster” Bolt opens with less than the studio’s throwaway live-action film Beverly Hills Chihuahua, there’s going to be some eyebrows raised. Here’s some analysis of Bolt‘s tepid opening from BoxOfficeGuru.com:

Disney’s big offering for the holiday season Bolt opened in third with sales that were a bit disappointing. The PG-rated animated flick took in an estimated $27M from 3,651 theaters for a $7,395 average. The debut came in well below what other November toons in recent years have opened to – 2005′s Chicken Little,2006′s Happy Feet, and last year’s Bee Movie all bowed in the $38-42M range. Like Bolt, these films were non-sequels and did not have Thanksgiving to provide a boost. The canine flick even screened in 980 3D theaters and featured the voices of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus, but that did little to spark excitement. However with kids getting out of school for the holiday this week, sales could stay strong in the days ahead giving the Mouse House a respectable ten-day start.

Frater Films

We’ve posted about Benji Davis and Jim Field’s Frater Films before (their music video Out on the Water is still one of my favorites). They’ve been chugging along making several nice commercials and videos since – check this page for some of their highlights. They have a new short film in development – Grub (pictured above) – and are currently seeking funds to produce it. A teaser trailer is online here.

Their studio works in a variety of techniques. Here’s one of their best spots, for Oxfam, animated in After Effects, using vectors and a few handmade rubber stamp prints for the patterns:


Irv Spector storyboards

It seems like suddenly everyone has just discovered animator, cartoonist and director Irv Spector. I’ve been a fan of his comic books for years, and now his son Paul has dedicated a new blog to his work, Spectorphile. I look forward to whatever goodies he posts from the family archives.

One of my prize finds, several years ago, was an original Spector storyboard for a Famous Studios cartoon Fido Beta Kappa (1954). I’ve been meaning to put it online for sometime and have finally posted it below (click on thumbnails to enlarge).

People have knocked Famous Studios for many things. In my opinion, the problem wasn’t the animation nor the stories – it was the direction. Here’s a perfect example. First read the Spector storyboard below and think about how you would pace the gags and time the animation. Irv’s sketches are great and poses are perfect. Next watch the finished film (You Tube video embed below; note the changes to the opening sequence). Almost every gag falls flat. The revised character designs don’t help.

Bolt Talkback

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Bolt opens today. The film may need the Dalmatians “Twilight Bark” to fight off the blood-sucking box office competition this weekend.

What did you think of the film? This post is open to our readers who have actually seen the picture. Please submit your comments below.

Hallmark’s Cartoon Christmas

Holiday time is coming and that can only mean one thing: Hallmark is once again selling new Christmas ornaments based on classic cartoon characters! This year they have a nifty one (click thumbnails above) based on the Chuck Jones cartoon Rabbit Seasoning, as well as Tom & Jerry, Hanna Barbera’s The Jetsons, and The Flintstones and several other based around Peanuts, Jonny Quest, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Space Ghost and The Simpsons. Click here for more information.