In case you missed it – Today’s Lio comic strip by Mark Tatulli.
It’s the 10th episode of Cartoon Brew TV! And we’ve got a special treat today: Sunbeam directed by British director Paul Vester. This cel-animated tribute to classic animation, produced in 1980, has been long admired and is available online for the first time ever. Watch Sunbeam on Cartoon Brew TV.
This week on Cartoon Brew TV, we’re reaching back to 1980 and rediscovering Paul Vester’s animated short Sunbeam. The independent short, which is an homage to early cel animation, was released in UK theaters with the feature film Chariots of Fire. It was produced at Vester’s commercial studio Speedy Films inbetween commercial gigs.
Paul Vester, currently a Guggenheim Fellow, is working on a new short film, In the Woods. He is also repped for commercial work by DUCK Studios and teaches in the Experimental Animation department at CalArts.
Here is a bit of background about Sunbeam from Vester:
In 1974 I was taking time out from my studio in London and working on a film in Portland for an entity that I think was called the Energy Institute of New York. We got paid for the first two weeks and then the money dried up. For some reason we believed the promises we were given, and we all kept working on the film and did finish it, and were rewarded at the end of the job with all our back pay. I drove down to LA and rented a quarter of a small house on Cabrillo in Venice, which was very cheap then, and started work on a comic strip (unfinished) called the “Non Adventures of Nellie Nada.” I also did a lot of drawings and took many photographs of Venice. Sunbeam comes out of this period of my life.
Don’t let the title of this post scare you. We haven’t started stalking any animation artists (not yet at least). Thanks to Apartment Therapy, everybody can have a (legal) peek into the quintessentially midcentury LA home of Seonna Hong, who is currently the art director of Nick’s The Mighty B and has done background painting on My Life as a Teenage Robot, Powerpuff Girls and Teacher’s Pet, among other shows.
Here is a message from Treat Studios co-founder Matt Layzell:
Thanks very much for the attention but we’re not actually connected to the film director Danny Boyle. We are a new animation studio based in London although Daniel Boyle, who works in our team, is a talented animator and illustrator from Kingston University, where we all met. Its easy to see where the mistake has been made and we’re not sure how this rumor got started but just wanted to clear it up. Thanks again for posting us on the site as I am a regular reader of cartoon brew and hope your readers will still want to check out our films.
Danny Boyle, director 28 Days Later, Trainspotting and this year’s early Oscar frontrunner Slumdog Millionaire, has started an independent animation studio with five young and talented British animators: Julia Pott, Robin Bushell, Will Crook, Matt Layzell and Alex Robinson. It’s a little unclear as to why he’s chosen to align himself with these particular artists or what they’re planning to do, but they recently posted a Halloween viral (see below) to promote themselves. Their website TreatStudios.com offers nothing at the moment except a playful bit of animation about trees and paper.
According to /film, Boyle had previously tried to create an animated project but gave up, telling the Hollywood Reporter: “You talk about indie financing being troublesome – animation is so expensive because you can’t estimate how long its going to take. On most films, if you haven’t stopped after 12 weeks, they’re going to stop you anyway, whereas an animated film can go on for years and years.”
Also interesting is this comment from Boyle to ComingSoon.net in which he talks about how animation is a “weird different discipline” because it means he has to give up some of his control to the process:
“It’s a weird different discipline, it’s very strange. You’re more like a ringmaster, kind of organizing this huge army of illustrators who can change the movie. It’s really weird. They often do scripts and they have no gags in them at all, but then you see the finished film and it’s full of funny gags, and they say that it’s not in the script, that all comes through the process of the animators. It’s like learning the skill of letting certain ones of them off their leash to do the gags.”
(Thanks, Rohit Iyer)
Within the last two weeks I saw Disney’s Bolt and rewatched Pixar’s Wallâ€¢E (as well as moderating a Q&A with writer/director Andrew Stanton). Talking to Stanton about his innovative new film, I was reminded that Pixar’s next release is Pete Docter and Bob Peterson’s offbeat Up and Stanton’s next project is an adaptation of Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars. Two completely different films, pushing Pixar (and animation by extension) in new directions, following several prior envelope-pushing efforts from Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles, etc.).
Meanwhile Bolt, the first effort from Walt Disney Animation Studios (the new name of the Feature Animation group), is a good solid commercial production. It plays it safe and gives audiences what it expects from a film labeled with the Disney brand.
I had wondered how John Lasseter, running parallel studios, might differentiate the material Pixar would tackle versus the projects to be released under the WDAS banner. Originally I had hoped that John would return Disney to being a hand drawn animation studio, empowered (as Pixar is) to challenge the preconceptions of what hand-drawn character animation can be. However, the choice of The Princess and The Frog seems (to this outsider) a throw-back to what Disney once was, designed to placate the demand for further Disney Princesses’â„¢, and not the progressive direction I was hoping for.
And then it occurred to me. It all became clear.
I don’t know if this is by design, or is Lasseter’s master plan, or if it’s just my wild fantasy… But I think the two studios could (should?) co-exist as a modern day, feature length equivilent of Disney’s two concurrent shorts series of the 1930s: Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies. At least it seems to be where they are heading.
Back when, the Mickey Mouse cartoons were the soul of studio. Disney’s bread-and-butter pictures; they were what the public expected and demanded from his studio. Big, broad and designed to please. The Silly Symphonies were the heart (or at least where Walt’s heart was, en route to Snow White). Each Silly was completely different, pushing the latest technologies, developing new ideas and pursuing new talent. And won all the Oscars.
Presently, WDAS is in full “Mickey Mouse” mode: reinforcing the brand, producing crowd-pleasing films of highest artistic quality and delivering what audiences of all ages, all over the world have come to expect.
Pixar’s films are already reminiscent of the pioneering ways of Walt’s Silly Symphonies. In fact, the basic situations in Toy Story, A Bugs Life and Cars might’ve been inspired by classic Disney shorts like Broken Toys, Grasshopper and the Ants and Susie, The Blue Coupe. They don’t play it safe, consistently break new ground – and win all the Oscars.
There’s no way to bring back Walt Disney. He was one of a kind. In addition to his triumphs in film, theme parks and family entertainment, Walt laid the foundation to create great works of animation – and the blueprint is right there in the studio’s history. Perhaps John Lasseter has figured that out.
If not, may I make a suggestion…?
Not enough people talk about animation budgets and salaries and I think that’s a shame. It’s hard to produce good work without knowing what it costs to make something. Brad Graeber, creator of Captain Capitalism, was faced with this situation recently and decided to actually do something about it. For the past year, he’s been researching animation budgets and has created this unbelievably useful interactive animation budget chart that shows animation budgets from the 1920s through today. The graph allows you to view production costs by minute, second, foot and frame. Brad writes a lot more about the project on his blog. Hopefully this spurs even greater discussion in the industry, especially about music video, commercial and Flash animation budgets, which seems to be where a lot of people underprice themselves nowadays. Brad has provided a super-valuable service for professionals and students alike and we should all thank him.
I’m really digging the video for Autokratz’s “Stay the Same” directed by Laurie Thinot and animated by Gustavo Almenara. It’s an oddly entrancing mixture of infographics and illustration-like images set against a white background. The director Thinot recently signed on to Partizan Lab for commercial repping. More of Thinot’s work can be seen on her YouTube page.
It’s comic book time on Cartoon Brew.
I recently acquired a rare 16 page promotional comic book for Kinney Shoe Stores produced by animator Dave Tendlar. I’ve decided to post it here for three reasons: It’s not listed in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, it’s quite brittle and its very possible my copy might be the only one in existence.
It is not particularly “oddball”, nor especially attractive, but it has a few things classic cartoon fans might find interesting. First, notice on page 16 Kinney Komics was “prepared by Tendlar Publishing”. Did Tendlar produce other promotional comic books? Next you’ll note the main story, Little Jimmy Stout is illustrated by Howard Post (Anthro, Hot Stuff, Spooky). I have no idea what year this book was produced, but based on this Post story, I’d guess mid-to -late 40s.
Tendlar himself drew pages 2, 13 and 14 and may have drawn the center spread (pages 8 and 9). Note that the lettering on pages 1, 2, 15 and 16 is the work of the mysterious Fleischer/Famous Studios lettering genius, who designed the logos and signage in hundreds of Paramount cartoons.
So there you have it. If anyone has additional information on this, please let us know. Enjoy!
Sega is also releasing a separate Sonic short film, Night of the WereHog, to promote the game. I don’t know if the game itself will be good, the visuals do seem to be well executed. Is this the first time Sega, or any video game company, released an animated short to coincide with a new game?
(Thanks, Lev Polyakov)
Animator, character designer and layout artist Bob Givens (UPA, Warner Bros.) dropped by the Asifa-Hollywood Animation Archive a had a chat with animation artists Will Finn and Mike Fontanelli and Asifa archivist Stephen Worth. The excerpt above is devoted to his career at Warner Bros. Cartoons. Another section devoted to his career in TV Animation is posted on the archive site.
(Thanks, Thad K)
Our friends at Funnypages Productions in Nashville, Tennessee, just finished their first fully animated music video for the group Relient K. It’s a classic Christmas song, Sleigh Ride and it’s really cute – put me in the holiday mood instantly. Former Disney animators Tom Bancroft and Rob Corley co-directed. The animation team was made up of Brent Bouchard, Enoc Castaneda, Erik Girndt, Michael Huang, Chris Kennett, Missy Roode, Mike Owens, and Jayson Thiesson. Background Paintings by Tod Redner.
The next several Saturday nights at the Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles will feature a rare festival of vintage stop motion animation films. Tonight (11/15) at 7:30pm is Stop Motion Rareties featuring Starevich, Bowers’ and Svankmajer amongst much odd and unusual. Next week (11/22) at 7:30pm an entire show of George Pal Puppetoons; and on November 29th at 6pm, a fully restored 35mm print of Lou Bunin’s Alice In Wonderland (1949).
And that’s not the only animation event at the Silent Theatre this month. Spend An Evening with Don Hertzfeldt on Sunday November 30th at 7pm.