There’s a war brewing in the animation software world and Cartoon Brew is right in the thick of it. In fact, I only became aware of the no-holds-barred battle in the past few months because two of our biggest advertisers have been the dueling companies: Adobe and Toon Boom. The latter is currently making a serious run to overtake Adobe Flash as the preferred software package for 2D digital animators. Toon Boom’s new Animate software has an animator-friendly set of features and more importantly, it’s price-competitive with Flash. This isn’t a new development. We spoke of the animation community’s increasing dissatisfaction with Flash last January when Mucha Lucha creators Eddie Mort and Lili Chin announced they were switching to Toon Boom software.
[Toon Boom] Animate is definitely an exciting release for animators who are frustrated with the animation limitations of Flash. It’s also the most intuitive of their fantastic animation programs to date and it’s priced very competitively. Packed with animator-friendly tools, is based entirely on traditional animation workflow (with all the benefits of digital animation) and has a library of effects that will put your work way ahead of the average web animator.
Phillips’ verdict on Flash CS4:
If you’re sticking with Flash and you decide to upgrade to Flash CS4, I think you’ll be blown away by it. There are a few persistent gripes, such as masking, audio, video format export, brush sizes & shapes, colour management and the Timeline. However, certain new features have thrilled the shit outta me! They include armatures (Inverse Kinematics), 3D movieclip translate/scale/rotate, the Motion Editor (an amazing, kickarse version of the old Custom Ease window), Spray Brush (which can spray movieclips all over the Stage – perfect for say, millions of flowers in a meadow, animated swaying in the breeze) and completely new motion tween model.
It’s no coincidence that industry website Cold Hard Flash recently hosted three launch events in LA, NY and Toronto celebrating the release of Toon Boom Animate. Not to mention the site’s primary advertising spots are taken up by Toon Boom. The bottom line is that this competition between software makers should lead to more powerful and efficient packages for the animation community. Hopefully both software makers will continue to use Cartoon Brew as a battleground for spreading their message. We could use the few extra bucks.
Would be interesting to hear some animator perspectives in the comments–who’s switching to Toon Boom and who’s sticking with Flash? Speak up.
This is the time of year that news and media organizations begin the avalanche of annual “best of” lists and the like. The thought of doing a “best of” list strikes me as arrogant, especially when it comes to something as subjective as art. So instead I present you with my personal picks of the year. I make no claim that these are the best of 2008; these are only the things that I enjoyed most during the past year. Also be sure to read Cartoon Brew co-editor Jerry Beck’s personal picks of 2008.
Let me begin by apologizing for not praising this film enough on Cartoon Brew (thankfully Jerry has). So let me just say it now: Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues is hands-down one of the most entertaining animated features I’ve ever seen. That fact is even more impressive because I went into the film thinking I wouldn’t be able to sit through an entire Flash-animated feature that looked like the image above. But Paley’s deeply personal story kept me captivated for its entire length, a rarity in my feature animation viewing experiences, and the animation only added to the story. There wasn’t a false note in the film. That it was made by one-person is nothing short of unbelievable. That nobody can see the film due to copyright issues is nothing short of criminal.
Violence and animation: a tried-and-true combination that is taken to new heights in Superjail, a surprisingly well-done piece of TV animation that airs on [Adult Swim] of all places.
It’s a tie between the same filmmaker–David OReilly. Whether he’s pranking the world with his Octocat series or exploring contemporary forms of animated storytelling in his Please Say Something series, OReilly is one of the most promising young animators on the contemporary animation scene.
There were plenty of fine animated shorts in ’08 including, but not limited to, Chainsaw by Dennis Tupicoff, I Am So Proud of You by Don Hertzfeldt, The Tale of Little Puppetboy by Johannes Nyholm, My Grandmother Beijing by Mats Grorud, Cattle Call by Matt Rankin and Mike Maryniuk and Drux Flux by Theo Ushev. One film stood out above all. It is a remarkable grand-scale animation experiment that turns the entire world into an animation canvas. Pencil or digital–who cares? All you need is a wall and housepaint. No doubt about it, my favorite animated short of 2008 is Muto by Blu.
Ironically, movement and animation are often the most ignored parts of an animated production, so I want to give special credit to two animated shorts that had creative tour de force animation performances. Both films can be viewed online though neither of them have English translations.
When will CG studios recognize that the opening and end credits are not the only parts of their films that should be interesting to look at? Case in point, the appealing opening titles to Kung Fu Panda. A joy to watch–I’m waiting for the CG equivalent of this.
One of the great joys of doing this website is that it affords me an outlet to record my personal discoveries about the art form, whether it’s learning about amazing films I haven’t heard about (FehérlÃ³fia), artists I wasn’t aware of (Stan Vanderbeek) or understanding the nuances of animation history (the unacknowledged diversity of the industry during the Golden Age).
ANIMATION STUDIO Fred and Sharon’s Movie Productions: Quality-wise they’re somewhere between Roadside Romeo and Space Chimps, but this Canadian husband-and-wife directing dynamo set themselves apart by tackling weighty subject matter like anti-war dramas:
Alcohol and drug abuse, male prostitution and child molestation are not exactly standard fare for animation biographies. The Ballad of a Thin Man: In Search of Ryan Larkin by Chris Robinson is the story of fallen-from-grace NFB animator Ryan Larkin (1943-2007). Robinson, the director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival, was responsible for bringing Larkin back into the spotlight in the 2000s which culminated with Chris Landreth’s Oscar-winning shortform biopic Ryan, but by the end of the book, Robinson largely regrets “rediscovering” Larkin. Chris also weaves in stories from his own troubled past resulting in a powerful and poignant book. The book comes with a DVD of Landreth’s Ryan and two of Larkin’s films, Walking and Street Musique.
ANIMATION BLOG (CONTINUING)
Michael Sporn’s Splog: The personal blog of Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award-winning animation director Michael Sporn is truly a thing of wonder. Updated every single day for three years running, it is a phenomenal resource of ideas and artwork. His passion for the art form comes through in every post.
ANIMATION BLOG (NEW) Animondays by David Levy. Technically, it started last fall, but 2008 was ASIFA-East president Levy’s first full year as a blogger. He writes just one post a week, but they’re invariably thought-provoking and insightful.
ANIMATION BLOG (NEW – HONORABLE MENTIONS) Popeye Animator ID: Master animator and timing director Bob Jaques tells you more about Popeye animators than you could ever want to know.
Spectorphile: A blog about animation legend Irv Spector created by his son Paul Spector.
ANIMATION ART EXHIBIT
Whenever I’m depressed about the state of the art form, I only have to watch a film by the Hubleys like Tender Game or Moonbird to regain my enthusiasm for the medium. Despite being intimately familiar with their work, I still wasn’t quite prepared for the awesomeness of seeing John Hubley’s background paintings and storyboard panels from Adventures of an * (1957). The exhibit covered all of one wall in the basement of the Museum of Modern Art this past summer, but that’s all that was needed. Hubley’s work represents animation at its most artistic and daring, and offers a guide for where we still need to take this art form. Piece after piece, Hubley discarded animation’s tendencies for crude mass-produced imagery and created a vision of uncompromising individuality and aesthetic beauty. More art from the exhibit can be seen at Michael Sporn’s blog.
Disney is prepping Beauty and the Beast for a 3D release in 2010. Producer Don Hahn spoke to SlashFilm.com about why and how the studio was reformatting Beauty and the Beast for 3D screens. The ‘why’ part is fairly obvious–Disney is in the business of making money and they’re not exactly raking it in at the box office with their current batch of features. In corporate speak, Hahn translates that to: “It’s a chance to take a title that’s very beloved by the audience and try to share it in a way that people haven’t seen before.”
The ‘how’ part is more interesting. Apparently because it was all composited on separate layers and level using the studio’s early CAPS system, they can now separate those layers into a depth of field to create a 3D experience. Says Hahn:
“We didn’t want to do the layers of flatness. There are some old Chip and Dale cartoons that do that…I think what we we want to do is not do that, and create a truly dimensional environment. It’s a very hybrid approach. There’s some proprietary software that Disney created for this, and it actually bends the drawings around geometry. You take a character like Belle or the Beast and you create geometry in the computer that matches the image on the screen, and then bend the original movie around that geometry, be it the character or a background, a tree, or a building or whatever. That creates very dimensional, round faces.”
Sorry this is a bit hard to see, but it’s an early pencil test of Tissa David’s “Candy Hearts” sequence from Richard Williams Raggedy Ann and Andy (1977). I meant to post this last year when we acknowledged the film’s 30th anniversary, but I couldn’t find it then. Copies if this (in 16mm) were floating around the New York animation community in 1976 and I was lucky enough to snag a dupe copy back then. It’s interesting to compare it to the finished version. It’s one of the few animated features never released on DVD and that’s a real shame. Michael Sporn has written extensively about the film on his Splog, and of course John Canemaker wrote a wonderful companion book detailing it’s creation.
Variety is reporting that the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. has named Disney/Pixar’s “Wall-E” its best picture of the year, the first time in its history that it has given its top prize to an animated film. The L.A. group also named Waltz With Bashir Best Animated Film of the Year and Bashir was also named Runner-up in Documentary category.
And you thought the live action movies were the end of it? Think again!
I don’t know how I missed this news item buried in a story about writer Marco Pennette (Ugly Betty) in Daily Variety last Tuesday:
Pennette also is expanding to stage: Scribe is close to signing on to write the book for a musical based on “The Flintstones.” The legit production, aimed at Broadway, will come from Warner Bros. Theater Ventures. Pennette was brought in by Jeff Marx, who’s writing the music and lyrics with Jake Anthony. Gary Griffin is directing. Pennette’s script will rely on contemporary issues: Wilma, for example, mulls leaving Fred because he still acts too much like a caveman and hasn’t adapted to more modern ways. Barney and Betty tackle fertility issues before deciding to adopt. Musical will also tackle global warming — but in this case, as “The Flintstones” takes place before the ice age, the characters will confront “global cooling.”
Has anybody gotten their hands on this book yet? A Century of Stop-Motion Animation: From Melies to Aardman is co-authored by animation legend Ray Harryhausen and film historian Tony Dalton. It looks very comprehensive both text-wise and image-wise. A potentially valuable addition to animation libraries.
This isn’t new, but I feel the videos from the Japanese pop band Sour are certainly worthy of Brew attention. Hangetsu, above, combines hand shadows and animation; their latest, Omokage No Saki, uses pixilation (or cleverly done CG) over live-action–really clever ways to visualize the band’s music.
No, we’re not referring to MTV’s old animation show; this is real cartoon sushi. Anna the Red creates aesthetically delightful cartoon bento boxes, including a lot of Mario and Miyazaki dishes, and documents them on her blog. A description of the ingredients in the Wall-E sushi above can be found on Flickr.
The BBC reports that British animator and TV show creator Oliver Postgate has passed away at age 83. He’s responsible for TV series like Ivor the Engine, the Clangers, the Pogles, Noggin the Nog and Pingwings (which I wrote about on the Brew last year). Many of these shows are beloved in his native England though they remain largely unknown outside of the UK. A short video in the BBC link above explains that Postgate’s earliest animated shows were created in a horse stable with minuscule budgets and homemade equipment.
It’s our 13th episode and we’ve got Adventures in Broccoli, a 2008 Pratt graduation film created by Dan Mountain. It’s a surreal mindtrip of a film that follows the adventures of a boy who wakes up in a broccoli world where anything can happen. Watch Adventures in Broccoli on Cartoon Brew TV.
On a sidenote, we have also re-uploaded an earlier Brew TV short The Shoebox that fixes the encoding problems which were affecting picture quality.
As I was watching Dan Mountain’s Adventures in Broccoli at the year-end Pratt screening a few months back, I was thinking to myself that not only is this a damn good student film, it’s also something I wouldn’t mind seeing every week on television. The setup is draped in mystery–a boy wakes up in a broccoli (or is he even awake?)–and odd characters and events are introduced into his life in rapid-fire stream-of-conscious fashion. It’s somewhere between Avatar and Adventure Time with equal mixes of action and whimsy. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of any cartoon that gives the hipster-on-a-bicycle his comeuppance.
Dan Mountain will be participating in the comments section so fire away if you want to know anything. Here are some comments from Dan about how the film came about:
Adventures in Broccoli got its title in early May 2008, after about eight months of production, and about forty hours before it was due. This was a very haphazard time, because when I came back to Pratt for the Fall 2007 semester, I had a completely different story already storyboarded, and I was eager to start ASAP on that particular story. However, Pat Smith and Andy London (our class’ thesis advisors) kept telling me that it wasn’t even a story; it was just a bunch of random ideas with the only thread being that it takes place in giant broccoli. This greatly discouraged me, but was the first driving factor to making this.
The problem was that this film is a mere idea of a greater story I have been working on that is sort of an on going social commentary placed in an alternate reality to point out things I think about in this reality. Its a pretty epic story I hope to develop into a series, which is loosely based on The Mars Volta album “De-Loused in The Comatorium”, the evolution of music and the images that come to mind when I listen to music, the colonization of North America, technology, and every day human nature. Also super heroes and the idiots that become them.
I started drawing in October, knowing what I wanted to put in the film, but not how to organize it. I didn’t even have a storyboard; just a few scene animatics that I started placing here and there. Only then did I begin to figure out how to segue between them. This ended up with me accruing a total of about two weeks of all nighters during the Spring 2008 semester. I think that is what made this film so ridiculous; the fact that it was put together on the fly, as it went, while being completely sleep deprived.
Adventures in Broccoli is my first animated film, and I plan to make many more, because I had so much fun making it. It’s funny to sit back and think seriously about how ludicrous you can make a story.
The Sundance Film Festival announced today their short film selections for the 2009 festival which runs January 15-25 in Park City, Utah. Animation is well-represented this year with nine American shorts and ten international shorts in competition. This is in addition to the festival’s opening night film which is also animated: Adam Elliot’s Mary and Max. This is the feature debut of Elliot, who won an Oscar for his clay-animated short Harvie Krumpet. It is described as the “tale of two unlikely pen pals: Mary, a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year old, severely obese man living in New York. The story is based on the director’s own pen-friendship that has also lasted over twenty years.”
Among the animated shorts, the sentimental favorite at Cartoon Brew headquarters is Dominic Bisignano‘s From Burger It Came. That’s because we chose this film to be featured in episode 7 of Cartoon Brew TV. We’ve removed it temporarily at the filmmaker’s request, so he can comply with Sundance regulations, but it’ll be back up shortly. Also congrats to Cartoon Brew Guest Brewer PES whose short film Western Spaghetti is also in competition.
A complete list of the nineteen animated shorts in competition can be found after the jump.
Another curious entry is For Sock’s Sake, which is a stop-motion short produced by one person, Carlo Vogele. Though Vogele graduated from Gobelins, he made this film during an exchange semester at CalArts. I’ve seen pieces of clothing anthropomorphized like this before but the quality of acting and personality in Vogele’s animation is particularly impressive and shows a promising animator in the making.
Fulfilling its obligation to qualify for an Oscar nomination, the latest anime feature from Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell) opened in L.A. last Friday (at the Los Feliz Cinemas). In case you miss it this week, The Sky Crawlers will open in New York next Friday at the Walter Reade Theatre, and they’ll be free screenings for Asifa-Hollywood and Academy members within the month. Here’s the trailer.
Click control arrow to see the trailer for $9.99:
I caught an advance screening of Tatia Rosenthal’s $9.99(Thank you, Asifa-Hollywood) a few weeks ago, and it’s a remarkable film. Smart, funny and at the same time, deadly serious – it stands with Ari Folman’s Waltz With Bashir, Bill Plympton’s Idiots and Angels and Nina Paley’s Sita Sings The Blues as the advance guard of the coming wave of independently made adult animated features.
The film opens Friday (12/12) in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Music Hall on Wilshire Blvd. It’s absolutely worth seeing and highly recommended.
J.J. Sedelmaier and Howard Beckerman are assembling rare materials for a forthcoming series of animation exhibits showcasing the legacy of New York area animation. In preparation for the display, Beckerman is digging out rarely seen pencil animation sequences from his archive, and J.J. is refilming them, adding inbetweens where necessary. This one, above, looks like an outake from Famous Studios’ Lumberjack And Jill (1949).
There will be screenings/panels at the Jacob Burns Center on Silent Cartoons, Cartoons for Kids, as well as J.J. Sedelmaier Productions and Blue Sky Studios retrospectives. The Pelham Picture House will be doing NY Commercials & Indy Animation programs. Howard and J.J. are also doing a presentation on the History of New York Animation at the NY ComicCon (Feb 6-8). The centerpiece exhibit, It All Started Here!, featuring vintage art, photos, equipment, film programs and panels at the Westchester Arts Council Gallery in White Plains, runs from the evening of January 17th until February 28th. More information, when available, will be posted here.
I was sorting through some files the other day and came across some of the more amusing summer vacation photos I’ve taken. Last year I had commented to Jerry that I wanted to post these photos on Cartoon Brew and he had suggested that I write about this particular trip, so here we go — our somewhat accidental visit to Flintstones Bedrock City in Custer, South Dakota.
I should mention first that I had always been curious about Flintstones Bedrock City, which is a theme park and camp ground in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Curious was about the extent of it, since I felt reasonably sure I’d never find myself in South Dakota. The reason I knew about this vacation destination was a trail of off-model merchandise that seemed to find me in each job I had. When I started at Nickelodeon in 1986, someone there had just returned from a Nick At Nite TV-themed road trip and had left some bell-shaped salt and pepper shakers on the desk that would become mine. It wasn’t an act of kindness — no one wanted them so they landed on the empty desk. I showed up and as a Flintstones fan, was delighted to acquire these. They were ugly, but campy enough and they had the Flintstones on them, and this was before the merchandising mania of the early 90s, so I was more than happy to keep them.
Fast forward nine years, and at the start of my Cartoon Network job, again, someone had done the obligatory roadtrip through Custer and I somehow became the proud owner of an aluminum Flintstones ashtray. Again, it was surprisingly ugly but campy enough, and since I was at Cartoon Network, I was more than happy to add this to the now growing collection of cartoon related ephemera that seemed to find me. I was pretty curious about Bedrock City, and mostly why they didn’t try a little harder to get their merchandise on model.
When I got to PBS, no Flintstones merchandise was awaiting me. I kind of forgot about Bedrock City, since I wasn’t thinking about the Flintstones every day anymore.
Now fast forward to last summer, where we loaded up the family and headed from a family visit in Colorado up to South Dakota for a trip to Mount Rushmore. We were on our way to a cabin in Custer State Park. We zipped up Route 16 and just as we were getting closer to the state park, there it wasâ€¦Flintstones Bedrock City. “Wow, there it is,” I yelled, “I had completely forgotten about this place!” And like Camelot, there it was shimmering in the distance, and I was finally going to get to see it, after wondering about it for 20 years. “We need to go back there,” I declared. The rest of my family seemed ambivalent. We had planned out our week to include Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Wind Cave, and a lot of things that would involve buffalo or rocks or caves or nature of some sort. The Flintstones seemed like the part of my life I was on vacation from. But to my family, it mostly didn’t look like it would be that much fun.
But this wasn’t about them, it was about me. And statues of Fred.
Anyway, Bedrock City wasn’t really shimmering. It was more like the way miniature golf courses look when it has been 95 degrees out for a long time. South Dakota can get pretty hot, and it was hot the entire time we were there. We finally got back there after lunch one day and my daughter, who was two at the time, had just settled down in the car for an afternoon nap. Anne volunteered to wait in the car with her. Ethan and I explored the, uh, parking lot. We walked around a little bit, but it was extremely hot, and Ethan, who had never watched the Flintstones to begin with, looked at me with an annoyed squint and said, “Can’t we just go to the gift shop?” No, I explained, we have to take some photos. You don’t understand, I told him, I’ve always wanted to come here. He looked around, looked back at me quizzically, and then looked just looked sad and tired. The walk across the parking lot to take pictures in front of the signs seemed unnaturally long. We took some photos and walked back. He posed by signs and by the souvenir shop, which was designed to look like a Flintstones house.
We went into the souvenir shop where I was anticipating rows and rows of amusing off-model merchandise that I could bring back to entertain my friends. I guess most of that merchandise existed from the era before HB and WB figured out how to market the Flintstones. They had a fair amount of actual Flintstones merchandise there, and it reminded me of the old HB store in the HB offices. They also had a lot of dinosaur themed merchandise there, as well. Barney dolls were on sale. Apparently Fred sells much better than Barney does. We looked around and couldn’t find anything ironic. Ethan ended up getting some dinosaur toys that had nothing to do with the Flintstones, and we went back to the car. The next step should have been a walk to the theme park but no one was willing to budge. Sara was still asleep. Anne looked bored. Ethan looked hot and tired. “Anyone want to check out the campgrounds?” I asked. No. They did not. The truth was that suddenly I didn’t want to, either. This wasn’t really any more ironic than a miniature golf course or any campgrounds built in the 60s. After all that anticipation and curiosity, I couldn’t seem to summon any enthusiasm to talk my family into trekking in 95 degree heat to see more statues of Dino. It didn’t help that there were probably only about ten cars in the lot at that moment. Everyone else clearly had found a pool to hang out in. We left and headed up route 16, off to our cabin in the woods. In retrospect, I do wish we had gone to the theme park part of it, but I’ll just save that for the next trip there. After all, if I made it to SD once, why not twice?
Starting today, the Nicktoons Network presents Frederator Studios’ Random! Cartoons each Saturday and Sunday at 10:30am Pacific time /1:30pm Eastern time. This week, Saturday (12/6) Episode 101 (Doug TenNapel’s Solomon Fix, Kyle Carrozza’s MooBeard, Nikki Yang’s Two Witch Sisters) and on Sunday (12/7), Episode 102 (Jeff DeGrandis’ Finster and Finster, Pen Ward’s Adventure Time, and Anne Walker’s Mind the Kitty).
I’ve been informed that my Random cartoon, Hornswiggle, may be delayed from its originally scheduled December 20th slot and is being held for a “possible stunt” next Spring. As usual, I’ll keep you posted. You’ll know when I know.
Click the arrow to watch “Villains” by Zack Keller.
Zack Keller used to work for Pixar and is currently in LA working as a writer/director. He and Ed Skudder have established RootFilms and just finished a music video (using Flash/After Effects) called William. Their other work is multi-media, utilizing live action, puppets, CG and special effects. Fun stuff. Check it all out at www.rootfilms.com.
The Japan Times has details about a press conference that Hayao Miyazaki held in Tokyo a few weeks ago. The article describes him as a “cranky 67-year-old” which is not too inaccurate a description considering what he said at the conference. Then again, anybody who makes films as well as Miyazaki does deserves to be as cranky as they want.
Miyazaki seemingly has an opinion about everything, from Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso’s apprecation of manga (“It’s an embarrassment. He should do that sort of thing in his private time.”) to how classic films don’t work for today’s audiences (“[A]udiences today can no longer enjoy films that are more than 30 years old, save in a historical sense…If Casablanca were released now, it wouldn’t be a hit.”). He also thinks that today’s kids shouldn’t use so much technology (“It takes away their strength.”) and that the world is ending (“I’m not confident that we can stave off the collapse of civilization, though we must make the maximum effort.”)
That latter statement is actually more positive than he was about the fate of humanity in this 2005 The New Yorker profile (a highly recommended read by the way):
“I’m hoping I’ll live another thirty years. I want to see the sea rise over Tokyo and the NTV tower become an island. I’d like to see Manhattan underwater. I’d like to see when the human population plummets and there are no more high-rises, because nobody’s buying them. I’m excited about that.”
Animation historian, artist, logo designer, friend and colleague Leslie Cabarga is having a yard sale on ebay – and there are some amazing things here of historical importance. Many of his auctions end this Sunday night and others are Buy It Now. Check out Leslie’s ebay store page here. He’ll be putting up lots more next week too, so check back. Rare Hollywood photos, Paramount model sheets, Fleischer animation art, Terrytoons backgrounds, Disney stills, Harvey Comics original art, and more!
Tamás Patrovits (aka “Patro”) is a 40 year-old Hungarian animator and illustrator – and also the president of ASIFA Hungary. Six months ago he started an online Flash cartoon series for one of Hungary’s biggest news sites. Says Patro:
I make these alone, sometimes with a musician. All the shorts are made in 5-10 days, and are about our Hungarian public life and political bullshit – created with with old-style graphic design mixed with Flash animation. The series becomes more popular every month. Please take a look my blog site. Unfortunately its in Hungarian, but I plan English subtitles in the future.
The holidays just got a little less jolly for NY animation artists. I’m hearing reports that among the casualties of yesterday’s massive 850-person layoffs at Viacom is the entire Nick Digital Animation Studios division. If word on the street is accurate, they’re shutting down the whole shop; from top to bottom, everybody is out the door. This would be a big blow to the New York animation community: Nick is not only one of the largest animation employers in the city but also the last network animation studio remaining on the East Coast. Among the affected shows are Dora the Explorer, The Backyardigans, Go Diego Go, Bubble Guppies, and the forthcoming Umi Zumi, the latter being the only show animated in-house. No word yet on how they’re going to continue producing these shows or when everybody is getting laid off. Feel free to add details in the comments.
Wednesday morning, a large portion of your community crowded unsuspectingly into conference room 4-110, and were given the news that 1633 Broadway would no longer be the home of the Nick Digital Animation studio.
The crushing blow was that, after a long and difficult deliberation, the Network had made the decision not to rebuild the studio in a new location. After a decade of producing ground-breaking, award-winning pre-school animated television, an Era was given an end date.
The studio itself and the production units, or shows, are two different things. There are four remaining production units on the 4th Floor of 1633. “Dora the Explorer”/”Go, Diego, Go!”, “Backyardigans,” and the yet to premiere “Bubble Guppies,” and “Team Umizoomi.” The former three stay mostly intact and will simply move to other locations. “Team Umizoomi” has a full team that includes Designers, Animators, and Editors. Those are the people who no longer have a Network studio to call home.
But if you’re looking for a villain in all this, you’re not going to find one, at least not on the Network level. In a move that, in my knowledge, is unprecedented, the artists who are being dismissed early are not only being paid through the end dates on their contracts, but are being given severance packages on top based on the years they’ve worked with Nick Animation. It was a classy way to handle it.