Annie Award contest

ASIFA-Hollywood will be presenting the 36th Annual Annie Awards on Friday, January 30, 2009, at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Westwood, California. The evening begins with a pre-reception at 6 p.m. and event will be hosted by Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants).

Cartoon Brew has four sets of tickets (four pairs) which we’d like to share with our readers. These are the $250. VIP tickets and we are giving them away to the winners of our latest trivia contest. At 11am Pacific Time we will post a simple question relating to the Annie Awards in the space below. The first four correct respondents in the Comments section below will win the tickets.

The Contest is Now Closed! We have our winners!

THE QUESTION WAS: WHAT YEAR WAS THE FIRST ANNIE AWARDS CEREMONY? (The answer was 1972).

Entrants must live in the Southern California area (or are willing to transport themselves there by their own means). Please do not enter the contest if you cannot accept the prize.

For info on buying tickets to the event, go to the Annie Awards website.

January Cartoon Dump in L.A. and San Fran

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! This be the official plug for the Jan 27th Cartoon Dump show at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood. In addition to hosts Compost Brite and Moodsey, the Clinically Depressed Owl, the show will also feature the return of Buff Badger — and guest comedians Laura Kightlinger and Jay London! Reserve tickets here. Join us next Tuesday at 8pm.

Extra! Cartoon Dump is also coming to San Francisco on Saturday January 31st. Our acclaimed cartoon/live-comedy show will be part of the San Francisco Sketchfest – with guest comedians Andy Kindler and Mary Lynn Rajskub (“24″) – at the Eureka Theatre, 8pm. Tickets available now!

Oscar Nominations

The Oscar nominations were announced this morning. Nominated for BEST ANIMATED FEATURE were:

Bolt – Walt Disney
Kung Fu Panda – Dreamworks
Wall•E – Pixar

WALL•E was nominated for six Academy Awards. The Pixar hit was also nominated for Best Screenplay (congrats to Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter and Jim Reardon), sound mixing (Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt), sound editing (Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood), music (Thomas Newman) and Original Song.

WALTZ WITH BASHIR was nominated for Best Foreign Film.

Nominated for BEST ANIMATED SHORT are:

La Maison en Petits Cubes – Kunio Kato
Lavatory – A Love Story – Konstantin Bronzit
Oktapodi – A Gobelins, L’école de l’image Production
Presto – Pixar, Doug Sweetland
This Way Up – Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes

The winners will be announced Feb. 22 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

Tom & Jerry CG/live action movie

Here we go again! Variety is reporting today that Warner Bros. is planning to turn Tom and Jerry into its own Alvin and the Chipmunks-like family franchise.

Plans are to bring the constantly warring cat and mouse to life as CG characters that run around in live-action settings.

Studio-based Dan Lin will adapt the classic Hanna-Barbera property as an origin story that reveals how Tom and Jerry first meet and form their rivalry before getting lost in Chicago and reluctantly working together during an arduous journey home. Eric Gravning is penning the script.

Warners owns the rights to Hanna-Barbera’s slate of popular animated properties and has several of them in development for bigscreen adaptation. Those include Robert Rodriguez’s version of The Jetsons and producer Donald De Line’s Yogi Bear.

It worked for Warners before (i.e. Scooby Doo), so adapting Hanna Barbera’s Tom & Jerry sounds logical, but its something that has to be very carefully approached.

The Annie Awards

The International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood, will be presenting the 36th Annual Annie Awards a week from Friday, January 30, 2009, at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Westwood, California. The evening begins with a pre-reception at 6 p.m. followed by the Annie Awards ceremony at 8 p.m. and post award party at 10 p.m. Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants) will once again be hosting. Presenters include voice actress June Foray, director Henry Selick (Coraline), actors Brad Garrett (Ratatouille), Seth Green (Robot Chicken), Michael Clarke Duncan (Kung Fu Panda), James Hong (Kung Fu Panda), Donald Faison (The Boondocks), and Ben Burtt (Wall-E). Presenting the Winsor McCay award to Pixar’s John Lasseter will be Roy Disney.

General Admission Tickets are $25. VIP tickets, which include the pre-reception and post awards party are $250. Discount VIP Tickets for ASIFA-Hollywood, The Animation Guild, Visual Effects Society and Women in Animation Members are $150. To order tickets or for further information, visit www.annieawards.org

Cartoon Brew will give away a pair of VIP tickets to four lucky winners in a contest on Friday. Check back here tomorrow (1/23) at 9am (Pacific Time) for details.

Los Campeones

Eddie Mort and Lili Chin (Mucha Lucha!) have returned to the cartoon wrestling arena to create a full length flash feature, Los Campeones. The movie opened theatrically in Mexico back in October. It has no U.S. distributor yet, but will be screening in Los Angeles at the Egyptian Theatre on Thursday February 5th. Eddie and Lili will be there to introduce the film and show off original art at the 7:30pm show. For more details check the Campeones MySpace or the Fwak blog.

Also check the Fwak! website to see some juicy images from other projects they’ve developed, like the retro-flash animated Hanna Barbera promos for Boomerang…

…and check this line-up (below) for La Familia Gonzales an aborted attempt by Warners and Cartoon Network to revive and update Speedy Gonzales:

Cartoon Brew Takes Over Facebook

We’re pleased to report that last weekend the Cartoon Brew community on Facebook surpassed 1500 members. Thanks to everybody who has joined. It’s big fun being able to finally put faces to our readers. We’ll try to use our Facebook group more in 2009. We tried a ticket giveaway on there last year which worked out well so expect more giveaways and contests this year. It’s also a fine place to share your animated projects with the Cartoon Brew community. In fact, we’ve picked up at least a couple news items for the Brew from tidbits that people have posted on the Facebook group. Or use it as a forum to start discussions about animation topics that aren’t covered on this site.

Powerpuff Girls Are Flashier Than Ever

Powerpuff Girls

Earlier this week, Cartoon Network premiered a new episode of The Powerpuff Girls in honor of the show’s tenth anniversary. Notably, the cartoon was produced in Flash for the first time. All previous episodes were animated traditionally on paper. In this post at Cold Hard Flash, creator Craig McCracken and animation director Eric Pringle discuss how they transitioned the show from hand-drawn to Flash. McCracken, who came up with the characters in 1991, thinks the show should have been made in Flash from day one:

“The show was designed with very tight, crisp, bold, clean-ups. Because it was originally hand-drawn, the line weights always varied, but with Flash we were able to get that crisp look every time. Looking back at the PPG series, I realized I designed a Flash show before Flash was invented!”

On an semi-related note, why didn’t I know Craig has his own DeviantArt page with over 5,000 fans on it? The image at the top of this post–the first drawing he ever did of the crime-fighting trio–is taken from his DeviantArt.

Is Disney’s Bob Iger Worth $30 Million a Year?

Bob Iger

Blogs were abuzz last week after it was revealed that Disney CEO Bob Iger took home $30.6 million in salary and bonuses in 2008. So what exactly has Iger done since taking over the company in 2005? Fortune magazine recently published an article “Bob Iger rocks Disney” that talks about his accomplishments during the past few years.

While the studio has been financially successful with many of its projects–Hannah Montana, High School Musical, Jonas Brothers, Cars, “Princesses” and “Fairies” franchises–it could also be argued that most of these are short-sighted projects designed to cash in on popular trends. With the exception of some of John Lasseter’s initiatives, there appears to be little vision within the company for creating quality work that has long-term and multi-generational value. Is it any surprise that three of Disney’s four highest-grossing movies of the 2000s have been based on Pirates of the Caribbean, a theme park ride that opened over forty years ago at Disneyland.

Here are some noteworthy facts and figures I ran across in the Fortune piece:

* Iger’s two biggest strategic changes since taking over: One was his subtle but seismic decision to refocus the company and most of its more than 150,000 employees around its roster of ‘franchises,’ like the Jonas Brothers–Iger defines a franchise as ‘something that creates value across multiple businesses and across multiple territories over a long period of time.’ The second change was unsubtle: Just days into Iger’s new job, Disney acquired Pixar, bringing Apple’s Steve Jobs onto the company’s board in the process.

* Cars is an example of a Disney franchise that is successful on many levels: Three years after the movie came out, sales of [Cars] licensed merchandise are running at more than $2 billion annually. [The film only grossed $462 million worldwide.] A Cars sequel is in production. Disney will soon launch an elaborate Cars virtual world. But the biggest bet on Cars is Cars Land, a 12-acre stretch of Disney’s California Adventure theme park set to open in 2012.

* Iger has been getting rid of some middle-management: Internally, in a move treated like D-day, Iger dismantled a corporate strategic-planning department that had to clear most of the company’s major decisions. “When he took that job, Disney was really messed up,” recalls Jobs. “Bob looked at the guys running the divisions and said, ‘You’re in charge of your businesses now.’”

* Disney makes a lot of money from sports: Sports juggenaut ESPN–80% owned by Disney–is estimated by Doug Mitchelson of Deutsche Bank to have generated around one-third of the company’s $8.4 billion in 2008 operating income.

* Their classic franchises are not as big a part of the company as they once were: A decade ago the Mickey Mouse and Winnie-the-Pooh franchises accounted for 80% of the company’s consumer products business; today it’s closer to 50%.

* Disney is currently the most valuable media company in the world: Under Iger Disney has become the world’s largest media conglomerate by market value, worth around $40 billion.

* Steve Jobs, who is Disney’s largest individual shareholder with a 7% stake, likes Iger: “I consider Bob Iger a friend,” says Jobs. “I don’t have a lot of friends. I just really like him, and he’s a really solid guy.”

Coraline artists at Gallery Nucleus

Gallery Nucleus is having an artist panel with some the artists who worked on Coraline. The recent Art-Of book on the film mainly highlights Tadahiro Uesugi for characters and background designs. This panel will represent several of the other key artists who worked on the film. They’ll be bringing samples of their work to show and will talk about their involvement on the new Henry Selick film.

The artists are as follows: Shannon Tindle, Shane Prigmore, Dan Krall, Chris Appelhans and Jon Klassen. Gallery Nucleus is in Alhambra, California. The event is at 2pm on Saturday February 7th – Admission: FREE! Check the gallery website for more information.

“I Can’t Stand Modern Animation”

That’s the headline in the Singapore based The Straits Times this morning. The outspoken Hayao Miyazaki was quoted by Hong Kong’s Sunday Morning Post in an interview to promote his latest movie, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.:

Miyazaki said his recruits are tested in a boot camp where mobile phones, iPods and other electronic devices are banned. “Young people are surrounded by virtual things,” Miyazaki was quoted as saying. “They lack real experience or life, and lose their imagination. Animators can only draw from their own experience of pain and shock and emotions.”

That’s why we love this guy. Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy and John Lasseter are currently producing the English dub featuring Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin and Cloris Leachman.

Mary and Max opens Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival in Park City started last Thursday night, kicking off with an independent animated feature by Adam Elliot. The first reviews appearing online are intriguing – catching many veteran festival goers by surprise. Check out these quotes from Scott Foundas’ review in the LA Weekly:

For the first time in its 25-year history, the Sundance Film Festival opened Thursday night with a movie from Australia. It was also the first time the festival has opened with a feature-length animation — one, I feel confident in saying, that is among the strangest animated films ever made.

Pixar this most certainly isn’t. In fact, where most feature-length animated films, by sheer virtue of the painstaking labor involved, aim to reach the broadest possible audience, Mary and Max — which took over a year to produce, at an average rate of five seconds of finished animation per day — is as insular and private as any live-action “personal filmmaking.”

In the eight years that I’ve been covering Sundance, this is one of the only times the opening night film has been less than a calamitous failure, and maybe the only time it has been a movie of serious ambition, worth talking, thinking and arguing about afterward.

Mary and Max is in negotiations for theatrical distribution and will hopefully open in the U.S. in 2009.

Disney Moments Flipbooks

Disney hasn’t figured out every way to merchandise their brand… but they’re coming very close! Check this out:

Now you can create animation without drawing, without thinking… without really doing anything! Upload ten seconds of any video and Disney will print it out as a flipbook – for $12.95. To be fair, it does come with an imitation leather slipcase. For more info click here.

“Bubblicious” and “Unboxed”

Following up on the piece about the 3D papercraft/cut-out trend, here are two new works that are more-or-less from that school of thought.

I’ve received three emails about this first project in the past day so I figure it’s what all the young kids are talking about this week. It’s a music video for the song “Bubblicious” by music producer Jake Williams, aka Rex the Dog. It was directed by Geoffroy de Crecy at Partizan Lab. The DIY stop-mo aesthetic is fun to watch, but it began to feel repetitive once I realized that that was the video’s entire gimmick and it wasn’t building towards anything more substantial. It’s a great ‘making-of’ video; it’s too bad they weren’t actually making anything.

More successful as a finished piece–yet flawed in an entirely different way–is “Unboxed”, a stop-motion and traditional hand-drawn commercial for Audi co-directed by Aaron Duffy at 1st Ave Machine and Russell Brooke of Passion Pictures. There’s an interview with Aaron Duffy about the commerical at Motionographer. I like the piece, but it’s uncomfortably derivative of cartoonist Saul Steinberg, both conceptually and design-wise. It would have been a classier move if they’d been straight up and acknowledged they were using Steinberg’s work as inspiration instead of pretending like they have no idea who he is and saying in their interview that they “did dozens of designs” for the ad agency. I’m sure they did dozens of character designs, but I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the character is handled in such a Steinberg-esque manner.

Coraline sneak peek

I’ll keep it brief: Go see this film!

I saw Laika’s Coraline tonight and, despite the publicists request to embargo reviews for three weeks, I can’t stifle my enthusiasm. It’s great! A beautiful little gem, a stop-motion masterpiece and certainly Henry Selick’s best film.

The Academy has its first contender for 2009. I will have a lot more to say about the movie in future post… but here are a few more superlatives: The animation is terrific. The art direction is fantastic. Shane Prigmore, who did the 2D animation the replacement faces were based on, is the unsung hero of this show – his work is superb! And yeah, the story is solid. They Might Be Giants have a cameo song in the film! And speaking of cameo’s, there is a nifty visual tribute to Joe Ranft…

That’s all I’ll say about it for now. However I’m a bit concerned about the marketing. The bus posters and billboards (particularly one at Hollywood and Highland) are not very attractive. This film has so many incredible visuals, surely something more compelling than this could be created. Memo to Focus Features: you have a hit on your hands, please tell the world.

What Frank Zappa, Tex Avery and Monty Python have in common

Last week’s post about Frank Zappa, Tex Avery and the place of executives generated a lot of feedback, including this email from Bruno Afonso in France:

Recently, you posted a great video with Frank Zappa, about how the old-school executives were way more hands-off than now. It reminded me of something I had seen in a BBC programm called “Comedy Connections” about the creation of the Monty Python. It was more or less the same thing. When they made their first TV series, the BBC executives just told them “Well, you’ve got an order for thirteen episodes, go and make them, you’re on the air in September” and that was it! I found the clip on YouTube where the Montys explain it. They say it in the first minute. I, for one, think it’s quite interesting that all of these geniuses (Tex Avery, Frank Zappa, Monty Python) made their best work when left alone.

For the sake of posterity, here are the comments from the castmembers. John Cleese said:

“I was incredibly impressed with the risks they’d take. We went in to see Michael Mills and we explained extremely inadequately what we had in mind. There were huge gaps absolutely everywhere and at the end of a thoroughly unsatisfactory meeting, from Michael’s point of view, he said just go away and make thirteen.”

And from Eric Idle:

“Well, the BBC was a much more laid back place. It was a bit more like a retirement from the RAF filled with people who were having offices and going off smoking their pipes and having beer. So they were very laid back about it. They said, “Well look, here we are, we’ve got thirteen of them, you’re on the air in September and see you then,” and they sort of left. They didn’t really care. It was fabulous. It was the golden age of executives. There weren’t any.”

Personally, I find the contemporary balance of power between executives and artists very curious. Why do non-creative people exercise so much control over artists in the creation of animated projects? Does it make the finished product any better? Is there a precedent showing that quality work was previously created in this manner? The answer to that latter question is clear at least; if one looks back at the history of how classic works of animation (and other media) have been produced, in every instance it was different from the way animation is produced nowadays. How much of that is the fault of the artists themselves? If somebody accepts the input of a creatively inferior person and gives equal weight to that person’s opinions, doesn’t that eventually legitimize that person? In other words, could it be that industry artists have weakened their own standing throughout the years by consistently collaborating with creatively inferior people?

Krazy over Herriman

Kat lovers unite – you’re about to be hit with a brick! Craig Yoe has just started a website devoted to cartoonist George Herriman.

It’s a treasure trove of all things Krazy including separate blogs filled with Herriman comic strips, rareties, animation, news and more! Go there now!

(In the archival photo above: producer Charles Mintz, unknown, Miss Krazy Kat, animators Ben Harrison and Manny Gould)

Cartoon Brew TV: Love on the Line

Love on the Line

Cartoon Brew TV is back from the holidays and we’re ready for action–19th century style! This week’s offering, Love on the Line (2008) by G. Melissa Graziano, offers the tale of a pair of star-crossed lovers who yearn to communicate with one another in a time before texting, IMing and the Internet. A combination of stop-motion cutouts and 2D computer animation, the short was made at the UCLA Animation Workshop and has won multiple awards since. Watch Love on the Line only on Cartoon Brew TV.

Cartoon Brew TV #16: Love on the Line

Cartoon Brew TV is back from the holidays and we’re ready for action–19th century style! This week’s offering, Love on the Line (2008) by G. Melissa Graziano, offers the tale of a pair of star-crossed lovers who yearn to communicate with one another in a time before texting, IMing and the Internet. A combination of stop-motion cutouts and 2D computer animation, the short was made at the UCLA Animation Workshop, where it won the Dan McLaughlin Award at the 2008 Animation Prom, the school’s year-end animation screening It has also won the Best Visual Storytelling Award at the ASIFA Student Film Festival and has also been shown at the Bradford Animation Festival (BAF), NextGen Film Fest, and Dam Shorts Film Festival.

The director, Melissa Graziano, will be participating in the Brew comments if you have any questions for her. Here are a few thoughts from her about the making of the film:

My background is mainly in writing and art, but I’ve done a little bit of everything. Growing up, I could never decide which form of art I liked best. I played violin, wrote poems, plays and short stories, took tons of photographs, made videos, drew incessantly, even dabbled in experimental sculpture…but I could never decide on which medium to settle on. When I discovered that animation was the only art with the potential to include every other kind of art, that did it for me. I was no longer forced to choose between my loves; I could use them all to make a single work. I think that’s partially why I like to combine different animated media in my films, too. I can combine different elements to create something that couldn’t have been accomplished by its separate components. And, more importantly, it makes the story stronger.

The first night Love on the Line played in front of an audience, I was nervous as hell. I’ve been performing in front of people since I was six, and I’ve rarely been nervous. I was afraid that nobody would laugh; it seemed like every time I presented my storyboards and animatics in class, I would hear crickets. My teachers and fellow students would tell me it was funny, that they just needed to see it timed out to get the full effect. Once I started animating and watched the finished sequences, I started laughing–and the people I’d drag in to see my dailies started laughing, too. I felt much more confident about it.

The film had such an overwhelmingly positive response at Prom (UCLA’s end-of-the-year screening for Animation), I could hardly believe it. Even my most conservative relatives were cracking up (maybe that’s why I was nervous, all that Catholic guilt). Every time I watch it with a different audience and they laugh in all the right places…it’s the best feeling in the world. I know I’ve done my job right. It gives me confidence as a filmmaker, to know I’m capable of doing what I set out to do: to have the audience react a certain way, to feel what I wanted them to feel, and feel it strongly. That’s very important to me as an artist and as a storyteller.

I’m currently working on my thesis film, When Walls Could Talk, which will be a hybrid of different animation techniques and live-action puppetry. I want to go into storyboarding after graduation, eventually working my way to director for animated features.