Open Thread: President Obama

Barack Obama

We couldn’t let the historic events of last night pass without notice on Cartoon Brew. It was a crazy evening for anybody who experienced it, and this morning the entire Internet is talking about it, from Facebook and Twitter status updates to seemingly every blog and website. My personal cab ride home through Brooklyn last night was nothing short of surreal – the entire city was engaged in a spontaneous street celebration with cars honking their horns, cabbies yelling out of their windows, people dancing and shouting in the streets, and an electricity generally reserved for sports championships. We don’t inject off-topic posts into the Brew often, but this is a milestone moment in American history that transcends left-right politics. I know you’re all talking about it at work today and I wanted to create an OPEN THREAD for the animation community (both in the US and abroad) to share with the rest of the world their thoughts, feelings, drawings and artwork about last night’s events, Obama and the elections.

Cartoon Brew TV #8: The Story of One-Eyed Ophelia Jackson

This week’s short, The Story of One-Eyed Ophelia Jackson is a 2008 graduation film by Kat Morris from School of Visual Arts. The eye-catching short, about the luckiest girl in the world, Ophelia Jackson, and her encounter with a Sea Witch, stands out for its confident drawing style and sophisticated sense of design.

Recently Kat Morris has contributed to the Adult Swim series Superjail. To see more of Kat’s work, visit her blog or check out this experimental short animated in Ralph Steadman’s style.

The filmmaker will be participating in the comments section so if you have any questions for her, feel free to ask. Here are some production notes about the film from Kat:

From initial concept to finished film, The Story of One-Eyed Ophelia Jackson took approximately nine months to complete. Everything was drawn with graphite on animation bond, then inked with a Kuretake brush pen, scanned, and composited in AfterEffects. The final look was achieved by assigning levels of grey to different layers in AfterEffects, and then applying a scanned texture (a book cover) over the entire composition. I tried to keep everything lo-tech to prevent the film from feeling too polished.

The script was both very difficult and amazingly simple to come up with. I knew I wanted a voice-over narrative that took place by the sea, but it wasn’t until I drew Ophelia that I knew the direction I wanted to go in. I think as an artist, I am first and foremost a storyteller, therefore I made it my primary goal to create characters I cared about. The characters dictated the tone of the story, which in this case resulted in a less quippy take on Fractured Fairy Tales. The story was further brought to life by Allan Todd, the actor I was fortunate enough to find to read the script.

Thematically, I wanted to explore the relationship between the Maiden and the Hag (like Vasilisa and the Baba Yaga) . I love and hate archetypal characters: on one hand they’re boring and cliched, but on the other hand, they can be much more efficient at conveying ideas and emotions, especially in short stories. With Ophelia and the Witch, I wanted to create two characters that were both archetypes and individuals –‚ Ophelia is young and naive, but also prideful and selfish, while the Witch is old and mean, but ultimately just a lonely woman who likes to play games.

Visually, my aim was to display as much of my personal aesthetic as possible. Ophelia began as a doodle on a scrap of paper, while the witch was designed after the soldiers in Raoul Servais’s Chromophobia. The secondary and background characters were all gleaned from pages in my sketchbook. I’m not a very strong animator, so I tried to design each shot to work well as a still image, which is probably why the film has a “comic book” feel to it. My advisor, Don Poynter, really kicked my ass to make sure those compositions were the best they could be, I owe a lot to him.

A selection of pre-production artwork from the film:
Ophelia Jackson artwork

CONTEST #3: The Art Of Madagascar

Yep, those are sketches of Baby Melman, designed by Craig Kellman, and featured in my brand new book, The Art of Madagascar, Back 2 Africa (on sale NOW!).

In today’s contest, the first two people to post the correct answer in our comments section below will win a copy of this magnificent volume.

Question: The Madagascar Penguins are being spun off into a series for Nickelodeon. Who is the voice of the lead penguin, Skipper? (Hint: he’s the co-director of the Madagascar films)

Contest Closed! Winners announced in the comments section below.

Money Matters

As our financial markets continue to meltdown and our currency is in flux (I recently found myself staring blankly at a $14 Whopper at the Zurich International Airport),  Mark Wagner seems to be having the time of his life.

Wagner, a collage artist, has been busy cutting up thousands of U.S. one dollar bills and reshuffling the pieces into fantastic works of art.   The meticulousness of these collages is awe-inspiring.   Just one look and you can see what I am talking about.  Here’s Riddle of the Sphinx:  Click for a high resolution scan.

In one of my personal favorites, Marxism, Wagner scrambles the portrait of George Washington into a portrait of Groucho Marx, a clever reduction of our founding father to the father of Duck Soup.

In Bout,  George Washington is seen in a boxing ring fighting a shadow of himself, which is skillfully constructed by using the shaded parts of a dollar bill.   It’s a fantastic piece, and I’m sure it’s hanging in some investment banker’s living room right now.  Click for a high resolution scan.

I love thinking of Mark Wagner sitting in his studio, destroying money like a shredding factory.  Just the artist, thousands of dollar bills, and a few X-Acto knives.

It reminds me of that guy who discovered that pennies made before 1982 were 95% copper (as opposed to today’s which are 97.5% zinc), so he melted them down and sold the copper and made a fortune.* Of course, the government caught up with him, but there’s something similar going on here.  Our money is worthless -  more so every day – so Wagner cuts it up and turns it into art that sells for $20,000 a piece.  I love it.

Detail, Waiting to Close the Deal

*More on the bizarre worthlessness of our currency: Penny Dreadful from The New Yorker.

Peanuts Animated Comics

Warner Bros. Motion Comics division has created new series of Peanuts Animated Comics to bring a group of Charles Schulz comic strips to life. They are now available through Apple’s iTunes Store. Here’s a sample:

If you need a hit of old-school Charlie Brown, here are several suggestions: 1. Check the Brew TV episode we posted last week. 2. Slate posted a nostalgic article on the DVD re-issue of the Peanuts holiday specials. 3. The Slate article also includes a link to a 1985 Peanuts documentary posted on YouTube.

(Thanks, Alex Rannie and Variety’s Hal Blog)

Popeye DVD Vol. 3

On sale tomorrow is Popeye Vol. 3. This 2-disc set features the classic wartime cartoons (banned from TV for several decades) with Popeye versus the German and Japanese armies. Restored cartoons, bonus documentaries and special features – the perfect video to watch after the election results come in! Here’s a tip: Best Buy is offering a bonus “vintage mini-comic book” if you buy it at the store.

CONTEST #2: Waltz With Bashir

This is the second of two contests today. The prize for this contest are two tickets to Ari Folman’s animated feature Waltz With Bashir. Prizes will only be awarded to contestants who can actually use the passes. Please only enter if you can attend the AFI Fest at the ArcLight Cinemas at Hollywood & Vine (the screening will be held on Friday night, Nov. 7th at 7pm).

Contest Question: Sony Pictures Classics is releasing Waltz With Bashir on December 25th. Last year Sony Classics release Persepolis (which was nominated for an Academy Award). In 2003 Sony Classics released what film (also nominated for an Academy Award)?

UPDATE: CONTEST CLOSED! Answer and Winners in the comments link below.

CONTEST #1: Idiots and Angels

This is the first of two contests today. The prizes for today’s contests are tickets to animated features at the AFI Fest in Hollywood. Prizes will only be awarded to contestants who can actually use the passes. Please only enter if you can attend the screening of Bill Plympton’s new feature Idiots and Angels at the ArcLight Cinemas at Hollywood & Vine (winners can choose between Wednesday Nov. 5th at 9:40pm or Thursday November 6th at 1pm).

Contest Question: What was the name of Bill Plympton’s first animated feature?

UPDATE: This Contest is now closed! Winners posted in Comments below. Contest #2 will be posted here at 10:30am PST.

Tytla at Tempo

Here’s a neat find. Chuck Howell, curator at The Library of American Broadcasting at the University of Maryland, came across this two-page article from the Oct. 1950 issue of a trade publication called Advertising Agency and Advertising And Selling (I assume two trade organs had merged to come up with that mouthful). “Clipping Board” was a regular feature that focused on art and graphic design trends, covering everything from billboards to direct mail to (as in this case) the still-new
medium of television (click on thumbnails below for enlargements). These pages detail the creation of a TV commercial, for Sealtest ice cream, produced at Tempo Productions and directed by Bill Tytla (the article mis-spells his name “Wm. Tytle”).

Oswald Pin

I swore on a stack of 16mm Kodachrome that I wouldn’t mention every piece of Oswald The Lucky Rabbit merchandising I came across – but I couldn’t resist pointing to this one.

I find it fascinating to watch the Disney corporation of today attempt to market an 80 year old cartoon character that most people (Cartoon Brew readers excepted) have never heard of. I love that they are doing it, of course, but some of the items produced are head scratchers. This Jumbo Oswald pin (above) looks like none of the merchandising models they’ve been using, nor the version of the character in any existent animated cartoons. This image was taken from the cover of the Oswald Stencil Set from 1928 and it was used in Universal trade ads. Apparently it’s the earliest model of the character, from possibly Poor Papa (which is a lost film) – an odd choice, but it certainly makes for an interesting fashion accessory.

The Big Contest next week

The Presidential sweepstakes isn’t the only big contest being held next week. Cartoon Brew will hold several contests next week with prizes to help ease the pain (or add to the joy) of the U.S. election results.

On Monday we will offer several pairs of free tickets to AFI Fest events in Los Angeles, including passes to Bill Plympton’s latest feature, Idiots and Angels and the acclaimed Israeli animated film, Waltz With Bashir.

For those unable to attend the L.A. screenings, our Tuesday contest will offer my new art book, The Art of Madagascar as prizes and on Thursday (no contest on Wednesday) we will give away several sets of the new Hanna-Barbera Mini-Books (pictured below) from Insight Editions.

The contests will be posted at 9am (Pacific Time) 12 noon (eastern Time) on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Check in on us at that time.