The International Family Film Festival

The 14th Annual International Family Film Festival starts next week in Los Angeles. It’s a kids movies and children’s television conference with competition screenings, industry panels and opportunities to network with filmmakers.

On Friday February 27th at 1pm, there’s an animation panel with guest Phil Roman and on March 1st the festival gives an annual Friz Freleng Award for Excellence in Animation (which Mr. Roman will receive this year). There will be several outstanding animated shorts and features shown, including Kyung Hee Shon’s La Lune (pictured above) on 2/28 at noon, and Gili Dolev’s The Happy Duckling (pictured below) on 2/26 at 2:30pm.

For more information on this festival, screening showtimes and admission charges, check the festival website.

Emily Hubley in L.A.

Emily Hubley swings into L.A. to screen her feature film, The Toe Tactic, at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, California, on Friday night (2/20). The program begins at 7:30pm with several classic films by John and Faith Hubley including restored prints of The Tender Game and Windy Day. A Q & A moderated by yours truly follows, and then the screening of her new live action/animation feature film at 9pm. For more information on this screening check the Aero website.

UPDATE: David Moniger posted a video of my Q&A with Emily on Facebook.

Daffy Duck makes The Village Voice

Look who made it to the front page of this week’s Village Voice! Animator Jake Friedman just spotted the latest issue on the news stand, snapped this pic and sent it in to us. The cover portrait illustrates an article on the despicable treatment of ducks bred for food. But what we want to know is: who painted this wonderfully unauthorized homage to our favorite water fowl?

Uncensored Animation from the Van Beuren Studio

Steve Stanchfield is back, doing the Lord’s work at Thunderbean Animation, restoring and releasing rare cartoons from the 1930s on DVD. This time it’s Uncensored Animation from the Van Beuren Studio, featuring outrageous pre-code animated cartoons from the obscure New York studio that was Max Fleischer’s biggest east-coast rival. The prints, as always, are from best available 16mm and 35mm sources. In addition to the politically incorrect Laundry Blues, and several classic Aesops Fables and Tom & Jerry cartoons, the highlight of the set (for me) is the inclusion of the only two Amos and Andy cartoons ever made, featuring the voices of the original cast (I even do an audio commentary on one of them)! Milton Knight Jr. drew the cool box art. Support the cause – buy it from Steve directly at Amazon.com.

Sultan The Warrior

Four scary words: Motion Capture from Bollywood.

Submitted for your approval: Sultan The Warrior. This new Tamil-language animated feature opens in India in May through Big Pictures, a Reliance Group company (Dreamworks recently partnered with them). It will then be distributed throughout the rest of the world by Warner Bros. Consider yourself warned.

(Thanks, Liam Scanlan)

Disney’s forgotten live-action releases, 1957-59

This is perhaps the most off-topic post I’ve written for Cartoon Brew, but I hope you’ll indulge me. It’s regarding a neglected aspect of the Walt Disney Company that I’ve been curious about for years and haven’t read about anywhere else. It’s regarding the six live action feature films (at least, that’s how many my research has uncovered so far) released by Buena Vista in the late 50s – directed by no less than Sidney Lumet, Frank Borzage and Michael Curtiz, starring the likes of Henry Fonda, Alan Ladd and Lee Marvin.

Walt Disney took many gambles in the 1950s: with Disneyland, with True-Life adventures, with television, with CinemaScope… to name but a few. Perhaps his biggest, outside of Disneyland, was to control his own destiny in Hollywood by creating the Buena Vista Distibution Co.

It began in 1953. The hand-writing was on the wall, Disney was growing unhappy with his 18 year arrangement with distributor RKO. In protest, Buena Vista was created to market a single film (The Living Desert). Once established, plans were quickly made to expand Disney’s annual release slate with live action features and shorts, documentaries, comedies, dramas, westerns and fantasies – and to get out of the RKO deal as quickly as possible. After several additional British costume dramas (The Sword and The Rose, Rob Roy The Highland Rogue), 1955′s Music Land, a pastiche of segments culled from Make Mine Music and Melody Time, fulfilled Disney’s obligation to RKO — and was the company’s final RKO release.

Beginning with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), BV became a Hollywood player with a strong slate of promised Disney productions – animated features such as Lady and The Tramp and Sleeping Beauty supplemented with lighter, suitable family fare, mainly westerns and true-life adventures. However, Disney productions alone were not coming fast enough to keep the new distribution staff busy. Like any business, the company’s life blood is a steady stream of new product.

Between 1957 and 1959, BV released six acquisitions that played a part in keeping the company afloat during this initial phase of its growth. None of these films were produced by Disney (at least I think they weren’t) but all reflected something of his views and values. It began with a couple of foreign language pick-ups:

If All The Guys In the World (released April 1957) D: Christian-Jaque. An optimistic French film about how the world comes together to save twelve poisoned fishermen.

The Story of Vickie (released January 1958) D: Ernst Marischka. Starring Romy Schneider. Filmed in Vienna, it’s the story of Queen Victoria.

The Missouri Traveler (released March 1958) D: Jerry Hopper. Brandon DeWilde and Lee Marvin star in this film about a runaway orphan and the townspeople he affects.

Stage Struck (released April 1958) D: Sidney Lumet. Starring Henry Fonda and Susan Strasberg, about a young girl coming to New York to become an actress (this was one of last films produced by RKO, ironically it ended up being distributed by Disney).

Proud Rebel (released May 1958) D: Michael Curtiz. Starring Alan Ladd and Olivia DeHaviland, the story is about a western doctor trying to find a cure for his mute son.

The Big Fisherman (released October 1959) D: Frank Borzage. This was a big budget wide-screen Biblical epic starring Howard Keel as the Apostle Simon Peter.

Disney no longer owns any rights to these films – at least I think they don’t. If anyone has further light to shed on this period of Buena Vista’s history, I’m interested in hearing about it. Additional information about these releases is encouraged in the comments below.

UPDATES: As noted in the comments below, there was a seventh independent BV release, Yang Kwei Fei (Japan) in 1956. Also, please read John McElwee’s post on C.V. Whitney, Disney and the early days of Buena Vista.

Click thumbnails below to see full size images: left: A 1958 Buena Vista trade ad. Note The Young Land, mentioned in the ad below, was ultimately released by Columbia Pictures in 1959. center: A piece of Disney stationary for Proud Rebel courtesy of Mike Van Eaton. right: The one sheet poster for The Big Fisherman.

How-To Post Comments on Cartoon Brew

For the amount of traffic we receive, the comments on Cartoon Brew remain remarkably trouble-free, owing largely to the awesomeness of our readers. January 2009 was our highest month of traffic ever on Cartoon Brew, and with so many new readers coming onboard, we think now would be a good time to remind folks to check out the comment posting guidelines for this site. The most common infractions are folks who post their names/signatures in the body of their comment (your name is already listed at top with a link to your website) and those who don’t include real email addresses (we’ll delete comments with fake emails if we’re in a bad mood). Also, please remember that we don’t tolerate personal insults directed towards any other commenter (or Brewmaster, for that matter). It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment discussing an art form that we’re all passionate about, but comments must be directed towards the other comment writer’s opinion, not the writer himself. Now back to your regularly scheduled blogging…

Comic Starring Jones, Avery and Kimball

Directorama border=

The late Ward Kimball, Chuck Jones and Tex Avery have a showdown with the notoriously mean-spirited Alan Smithee in this week’s edition of Directorama. According to the artist Peet Gelderblom, “Directorama is a weekly webcomic that chronicles the afterlife of a pantheon of legendary directors duking it out for artistic supremacy. Their heavenly mission: To inspire filmmakers carrying the torch back on Earth. The strip was inspired by the near simultaneous deaths of cinematic masters Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni in the Summer of 2007.”

Pooh diapers — and a rectal thermometer!

This week marks the anniversary of one of our most popular posts: the one about the Spongebob Squarepants Musical Rectal Thermometer. Nothing I find in the super-market again can ever top that.

However, last night I found myself at an overstock outlet store, Big Lots, and lo and behold: a Disney Pooh Rectal Thermometer! It doesn’t play the theme song in your ass like the Spongebob product does – but otherwise its a perfect match of character-to-merchandise! It’ll go great with the Pooh Huggies diapers and Looney Tunes Baby Wipes I also found.

Coraline Production Artists Panel

Coraline Panel

Did you miss the Coraline production artists panel at Gallery Nucleus last week? Sean Szeles recorded the discussion and has posted it onto YouTube. The artists on the panel were Shannon Tindle, Shane Prigmore, Dan Krall, Chris Appelhans, Jon Klassen and Andy Schuler. All of Chris Appelhans’ and half of Jon Klassen’s presentation weren’t recorded due to the camera battery dying. Nevertheless this is a rare opportunity to hear from the talents who helped design this extraordinary film, especially seeing as how the film’s accompanying ‘art of’ book is a farce that excludes the work of these artists. I’ll be writing more about Coraline soon. Until then, I’ve created a playlist so you can watch the entire panel with just one click below:

Sita Sings the Blues in the NY Times

Men Working

Nina Paley’s animated feature Sita Sings the Blues is the subject of a write-up in this Sunday’s NY Times. It’s a delight to see such a deserving piece of indie animation receive copious amounts of attention from the mainstream media. Of particular interest are the latest developments in how Nina is tackling the film’s music copyright issues and finding a way to make her film available for public consumption:

Because of an exception in the copyright act, public television stations can broadcast music without having to clear individual licenses, and “Sita” will be shown on the New York PBS station WNET on March 7, after which it will be available on the station’s Web site. “My thing,” Ms. Paley said in November, sounding glum, “is that I just want people to see it.”

Recently, though, the licensing fee was negotiated down to approximately $50,000, and “Sita” is close to being sprung from what Ms. Paley calls “copyright jail.” Still, she hopes to release it in a manner as alternative as her film. Using the free software movement – dedicated to spreading information without copyright restrictions – as her model, she has decided to offer “Sita” at no charge online and let the public become her distributor.

Sita Sings the Blues was my 2008 pick of the year for best animated feature, and we also presented the first eleven minutes of the film a few weeks ago on Cartoon Brew TV. Watch it below:

The Bravest Warriors

Most people who view Pen Ward’s Adventure Time either passionately love it – or don’t get it at all. I’m in the camp that loves it, and I’m delighted Cartoon Network has gotten behind it. It’s practically the only animated series on the horizon I’m excited about (admittedly, I’m not that aware of most series currently in production). In fact, I think Invader Zim was the last show I felt had the potential to shake up the TV cartoon landscape as this does.

Adventure Time could be considered a perfectly skewed update/reimagining of Tom Terrific crossed with references to several early anime features… though Pen told me he hadn’t ever seen Tom Terrific nor any vintage anime for inspiration. Wherever he gets it from, Pen has the freshest vision in TV animation today — and it’ll be fascinatining to see how his cartoons fare with the general public.

His other short for the Random Cartoon series hasn’t gotten as much attention, but I think it’s equally good. The Bravest Warriors (co-directed with Randy Myers) proves (to me) that creator Ward isn’t a one-shot wonder. Warriors plays like his take on the Johnny Cypher-Captain Scarlet-Space Angel school of space cadet adventures (with a heart-felt dose of teen angst), but I bet he hasn’t seen those old cartoons either.

It’s all coming from somewhere inside his soul — and that’s where the best cartoons come from.

I, for one, would like to see more Bravest Warriors cartoons. Click here to read the brief production blog.

Watchmen: Black Freighter trailer

In conjunction with the March 6th release of Watchmen, Warner Bros. is releasing (on March 24th) a direct-to-video animation of Tales of The Black Freighter. In the original Watchman graphic novel, a Black Freighter comic book story is read and weaved within the main narrative. I’m particularly excited about this project because of the two talented directors helming this adaptation — animator Mike Smith (Tank Girl, 1001 Nights) and designer/filmmaker Daniel DelPurgatorio.

(via Frames Per Second)

No Girls Allowed?

Men Working

Danny Hayes, a guy who worked on Coraline, complains in Bitch magazine that the Coraline production was too much of a boys-only club. Says Danny:

Make no mistake — Coraline (the just-released stop-motion feature made by Laika Productions right here in Bitch’s hometown of Portland, OR) may be a girl’s story, but the animation industry is still very much a boys’ club. Stick around for the credits after the film and you’ll see that the screenwriter, director, editors, most of the animators, and the “Based on the Novel by” guy are all dudes. This tidbit may come as a surprise, but it shouldn’t. Men were at the helm of almost every major animated feature in recent and not-so-recent history, including those movies that have been embraced specifically by female audiences.

But what does keeping female voices out of the upper echelons of the movie machine do to the industry as a whole?

In my (admittedly limited) experience, it creates a stressful, and at times hostile, work environment. From Henry Selick (the movie’s sometimes maniacal leader) on down, there was definitely a machismo feeling on the set. Competition among co-workers and an assembly-line type of atmosphere was imposed on employees, most of whom were there because of their obsession with the art form but let down by the studio’s poor treatment of its workers.

Danny has a valid point that animation production in general is too male-dominated, but I’d argue that the situation has been changing very rapidly during the past decade. Though the mainstream industry’s creative figureheads remain almost entirely male, the independent animation industry has become much more diverse, with many of the coolest commercials, music videos and independent films being made by women like Gaelle Denis, Suzie Templeton and Laurie Thinot. Two recent indie animation features were also directed by women–Tatia Rosenthal’s $9.99 and Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues–and women are principals of some of the coolest studios around like Shy the Sun, Panda Panther and Tiny Inventions. In other words, the animation world is currently experiencing an unprecedented diversification of its gender make-up, and as a result, the art form is becoming much richer and more interesting to watch.

Paint by Norman Gollin

Paint is a trippy live-action short from 1968 directed by West Coast advertising art director Norman Gollin. Why post it here on Cartoon Brew? Not only because it has the mesmerizing voice of Paul Frees, but because it was produced at the Haboush Company, which was the commercial production studio of animation legend Victor Haboush. I’ve known Vic for quite a few years and I’m always amazed by how many cool projects and people he’s been involved with throughout his career, from studying with Lorser Feitelson at Art Center, apprenticing under Tom Oreb for much of the 1950s on Disney films like Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom and Sleeping Beauty, art directing Gay Purr-ee, starting a commercial studio with the inimitable John Dunn, and later directing hundreds of live-action commercials and producing experimental animated shorts at his own company. Oh yeah, he also worked on The Iron Giant. Somehow it’s not surprising that he’d be involved with a film as wild as this.

The painter in Paint is Charlie White III, a veteran airbrush artist who is one of four people featured in the new book Overspray: Riding High with the Kings of California Airbrush Art. White notes that Gollin shot the entire film without any re-takes. No paint-overs or practice; it was all painterly improv.

(Warning: This film might be considered NSFW, though most people would consider it art.)

Dear Anna Olson

Dedicated independent animators will do – and should do – anything they can to complete their films. Case in point: East coast animator Dean Kalman Lennert has been working on a personal film for over ten years between professional jobs on Doug, Beavis & Butt-head, TV Funhouse, and Ice Age. Inspired by a note he found tied to a balloon, Dear Anna Olson is hand drawn, fully animated and entirely dependent on donations for completion. In an effort to raise the funds to finish the last 30% of the project, Lennert is doing everything he can think of, including making this recent appearance on local TV (“Better Connecticut”, WFSB, Channel 3 in Hartford) to make his case:

For more information on Lennert’s film, or to make a donation, go to DearAnnaOlson.com.