World Wildlife Fund PSA by Stephen Watkins

Stephen Watkins, repped by Melbourne’s XYZ Studios, created “Tick,” a stylish PSA for the World Wildlife Fund. The piece, set to Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal” (which has its own animated music video too), makes effective use of digital animation and CGI to create a hand-crafted feel. The agency behind the piece, Leo Burnett Sydney, gave the following brief to the filmmaker:

Sometimes it’s hard to get people to support a cause because they think, ‘I’m just one person, what can I do?’ We wanted to show individuals how their support can have a direct and positive effect on Australia’s natural environment. So we took the universal symbol for pledged support, the ticked box, and we animated it. Then that ticked box joined forces with hundreds of other animated ticks and they built habitats around some of Australia’s precious native animals so they can survive.

(Thanks, Tony Sykes)

David O’Reilly Wins Top Prize the Berlinale

Please Say Something

Congrats to David O’Reilly who just won the Short Film Golden Bear at the 59th Berlin International Film Festival for his animated film Please Say Something. It’s a thrill to see animation take the top prize at one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals where distinctions aren’t drawn between live-action and animation and both mediums have to compete in the same category. (Don Hertzfeldt accomplished the same feat at Sundance in 2007.) O’Reilly’s ten-minute computer-animated short, a self-described Internet turbodrama that examines the “troubled relationship between a Cat and Mouse set in the distant Future,” uses a unique narrative structure comprising 23 episodes of exactly 25 seconds each. Below you can watch the first five of twenty-three episodes in the series. (On a sidenote, last December I also chose Please Say Something as my pick for the year’s best online animation.)

Jr’s Fun To Draw

Fun to Draw

I could have sworn someone would’ve posted the animation section from Alan Dale Bogorad’s 1943 book Jr’s Fun To Draw by now. When comics/animation historian Mark Arnold offered to scan his copy (in better shape than my own) I jumped at the chance to put it here for posterity. This chapter was compiled by Nat Falk and is a companion to his 1941 How To Make Animated Cartoons, combining model sheets, storyboards and animation sketches from Terrytoons, Fleischer and Warner Bros. Click on thumbnails below for full size images.


Cartoon Brew TV: To the Moon

To the Moon

We’ve arrived at the end of season one of Cartoon Brew TV and we’re going out with a bang. This week’s offering, To the Moon (2008), by Jacob Ospa is one of the finest examples of cartoon animation we’ve seen in a long time. That it was animated by a 21-year-old reaffirms our faith in the future of animation. The Flash-animated thesis film was created at the School of Visual Arts. Watch To the Moon only on Cartoon Brew TV.

Cartoon Brew TV #19: To the Moon

We’re wrapping up the first season of Cartoon Brew TV today with a spectacularly animated student short called To the Moon (2008) created by Jacob Ospa at the School of Visual Arts. The dialogue-less film follows a British adventurer’s journey to the moon (which bears a striking resemblance to Ralph Kramden). Ospa’s amazing grasp of cartoon animation, with shades of Tex Avery and Bob Clampett throughout, is made all the more incredible by the fact that he was only twenty-one years old when he made the film. We expect to be hearing a lot more from him in the coming years.

If you have a question for Jacob, he’ll answer them in the comments section. And if you’d like to find out more about his work, visit him at JacobOspa.com. Below are some notes about the film from the director:

I first got the general idea for this cartoon back in my third year at SVA (School of Visual Arts) when I read an article about The Great Moon Hoax of 1835, in which the old New York Sun published a series of articles claiming that an astronomer had discovered fantastical life on the moon when he looked through a powerful new telescope. I thought, “Gee! What if the newspaper articles were actually accurate and someone was actually intrigued enough by the discovery to actually go to the moon and actually make contact!”

At first I wanted to think of a somewhat scientifically plausible way to get fictional 19th century explorer Professor G.H. Emerson to the moon, but when it came time to storyboard I decided to throw reality out the window and have him use a hot-air balloon. I also altered the “life on moon” angle. I think I finished the first storyboard some time in August or September ‘07, but I really don’t remember. What I do remember is having a tough time coming up with a good beginning and ending. It was difficult to reconcile the differences between the explorer and the moon.

For the look of the film, I wanted it to have a somewhat dreamlike quality, especially in the scenes in space. At first I intended to draw everything on paper and scan it in and color it in Photoshop, but I just wasn’t happy with the line quality I was getting. Instead, I decided that I would ink everything in Flash. I soon realized however, I would never finish it that way and decided to draw everything directly into the Flash using my Wacom tablet. It was very tempting to use all of those wonderful tricks and shortcuts that Flash offers, but I resisted as much as possible. Daniel Neiden (a friend of the family, a composer, and a Cantor) came up with the idea of using Holtz’ “The Planets” as the basis for the musical orchestrations. He brought in Charles Czarnecki to do the arrangement and composition. Charles and I worked together on timing the animation to the music, and vice-versa. Doug Crane was a great advisor who gave me good advice and lots of encouragement.

Looking back on it, there are a ton of things I wish I’d done differently, but I won’t go into too much detail with that. The biggest one is that I wish I’d kept it shorter and simpler with quicker pacing. I had only managed to finish coloring everything on the actual day of the screening. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to transfer it in time. I can’t tell how embarrassing it was to look up at it on that big screen with every single jagged edge (due to not working at a higher resolution) blown up to gargantuan proportions for all to see, seeing unfinished20lo-res rough animation, quite a bit of sloppy inking and background rendering, the limited animation in many places, and so on. I always intended to work further on it and really finish it, but after not working on the film for over half a year I want to move on. Despite all of that, I’m still proud of what I did accomplish, and of how much I learned.

The Ranft Bros. in Coraline

I mentioned in an earlier post that there is a nod to the late great Disney/Pixar storyman Joe Ranft (Lion King, Toy Story, Roger Rabbit, Cars, etc.) in Coraline. Thanks to the fine folks at Laika Entertainment, we can show you that acknowledgement.

The moving men who help the Jones family move into their new home are The Ranft Brothers, and the puppets are caricatures of real-life brothers and animation artists Joe and Jerome Ranft (Jerome, a sculptor at Pixar, provides the duo’s vocals). Joe Ranft worked with Henry Selick on both The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and The Giant Peach and was a valued member of the Pixar family. Selick’s tribute is a beautiful, fitting salute to a colleague and a friend.

Click on thumbnails below for large images.

Sculptor Damon Bard also posted photos of the Ranft model on his website:

Joe Ranft

UPDATE: Shane Prigmore writes in:

“It’s really cool you posted about the Joe and Jerome movers. Tonight I will post my original designs of the Ranft Brothers on my blog. You can use them in this post if you would like, so you can have the complete progression. I would be honored.

It was an honor to have Henry ask me to design Joe and Jerome. Joe’s family and freinds sent us tons of photos and told lots of stories to get me inspired. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a little teary eyed surrounded by photos of and watching video of Joe and really trying to capture what made him Joe. I was so nervouse that his family and friends would not like what I had done (including Henry). But they were all so gracious and happy about what I had done. It was a wonderful memory that I am very glad you posted about. It brought it all back. Thanks for your continued support for Coraline, Jerry. We all apreciate it.”

(Design above by Shane Prigmore. Ranft Bros. photos from Coraline, at the top of this post, courtesy of Fumi Kitahara, Jade Alex and Laika)

Harvey Comic Art at MoCCA

The Harvey Comics art exhibit, From Richie Rich to Wendy which began it’s tour last summer in San Francisco, is now in New York City at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. The exhibit will run through April 18th and is well worth a visit. The Villager just published a story (which quotes yours truly) about Harvey and the art show in this week’s edition. MoCCA is located at 594 Broadway at Houston St., in suite #401. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday, 12 noon through 5pm. Here is a video report on the exhibit from local New York News channel NY1.

The State of DreamWorks Animation

Jeffrey KatzenbergThe NY Times published a lengthy piece last week about how DreamWorks Animation is performing financially. None too shabby is the Times’ verdict. “This company is a flower that is just beginning to blossom,” Katzenberg tells the paper. The studio’s features are obviously popular–their last four have outgrossed Pixar’s efforts–and they’re aggressively expanding with two TV series on Nick, theme parks in Dubai and Singapore, and the Shrek Broadway musical (which has flopped, according to the article). My opinion of the company’s output hasn’t changed, but their success can’t be denied. Katzenberg has clearly found a way to generate short-term profits by tapping into the audience’s desire for celebrities, crude humor, and pop culture-fueled entertainment. At what cost though? In my opinion, Katzenberg has sacrificed long-term cultural relevance (and profits) by ignoring the need for honest storytelling, meaningful artistry, and offering a unique point of view in his films.

(Thanks, Celia Bullwinkel, for the link)

No Original Ideas Required: Welcome to Advertising

Even though Motionographer posted this advertisement for the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, I felt it was important to post it again on Cartoon Brew. Not because it’s visually impressive (it is), but because of the technique it “borrowed” for its production.

The creators of the spot–director Elliot Jokelson and NY-based studio Ghost Robot–credit recent Pratt grad Javan Ivey for coming up with the Stratastencil technique upon which they’ve based their entire piece. When Javan posted his short “My Paper Mind” on his website last year, he also posted technical notes on how he achieved the look. (We mentioned Ivey’s work in last month’s piece about 3D papercraft animation.)

The ethical question here is, If an artist comes up with an original technique and style and a studio decides to use it shortly after the artist puts his work online, should the original artist be offered a job, financial compensation, or creative credit on the project?

Let me make one thing clear: techniques can’t be hidden away; they need to be pushed around, explored, discovered. Computer animation would not exist today if not for the early SIGGRAPH conferences where artists and technicians openly shared their discoveries. There’s a big difference here though in that Ghost Robot and Ivey were not working collaboratively and contributing to each other’s artistic development. Ghost Robot took another artist’s fleshed-out technique and got hired by a client to replicate that look. Examine Ivey’s original piece and the Bonnaroo spot and you’ll see that they not only borrowed the technique, they brazenly took actual animation ideas from Ivey’s piece. In my opinion, if you’re a studio that’s taking money on the basis of another individual’s brand-new technique, it’s shamelessly low not to make an effort to have the originator direct the piece.

In the comments of the Motionographer post, Ivey notes that he was emailed by the director but he didn’t respond to their initial inquiry. Ghost Robot’s single email to Javan does not, in my mind, constitute a sincere effort to communicate with him, and since the director was emailing him, it was clear that they weren’t looking to have Ivey direct. They’d already sold the job based on Ivey’s technique and, more than likely, they wanted to make their own jobs easier by having the originator show them the way.

In my opinion, this is what it boils down to: how creatively bankrupt does a commercial studio have to be to troll the Internet looking for the ideas of college students to rip off? Is there nobody at Ghost Robot who possesses an ounce of creativity so that they don’t have to pitch the ideas of college students to clients? Sadly this situation is considered business as usual in the icky world of advertising where studios regularly repurpose ideas, technique and styles. And just as I feel it’s important to point out the creative people in this business, I also feel it’s important to point out the Jokelsons and Ghost Robots who coast off the creativity of others.

At the end of the day, Javan lost money and work because of this, but he’s gained credibility within the animation community by having the validity of his animation technique proven by an uncreative commercial studio supported by deep-pocketed clients. It should be pointed out that despite being taken advantage of, Ivey has been a class-act about the situation and tells Motionographer:

“This is precisely what I mean every time I say ‘I’d like to see someone try.’ Because I do, I love to see what someone else does with it. They’ve taken the idea and applied manpower and a budget to it, and I’m absolutely floored. It looks great. I mean, I’m kinda bummed I wasn’t invited to the party, but I really enjoy seeing what they’ve done.”

“Welcome to the Third World” by Webster Colcord

If Fritz the Cat had been done as an artsy independent animated film, it might look something like “Welcome to the Third World,” an offbeat video directed by Webster Colcord for The Dandy Warhols. It was produced through the now-defunct Orphanage. Artists who worked on the piece inlcude Jan Van Buyten and Eric Kilkenny, as well as a crew of students from DeAnza College and Ex’pression College of Digital Art.

(Thanks, Karl Cohen)

Will Ryan and his Cactus County Cowboys

Howdy, Pardners! This is a plug, slighty OT, for a musical event happening on Monday night, February 9th, in Hollywood California – sorry for the short notice.

Will Ryan (voice actor in Land Before Time, The Gummi Bears, G.I. Joe, The Little Mermaid and creator of Elmo Aardvark) has created a new live musical revue at the Steve Allen Theatre featuring all original songs off his latest album, the western themed Rhythm Rides The Range. To connect this to cartoons I will mention his band features John Reynolds (an amazing guitarist who happens to have been a background painter at Klasky Csupo for many years, but even more importantly, is the grandson of Zazu Pitts!), musician Ian Whitcomb (who recently performed at Pixar and was a friend of Bob Clampett!), cartoon voice actress Diane Michelle (Superman, Invader Zim, etc.), and Anna Kasper (daughter of Fleischer historian Leslie Cabarga).

Ryan will also screen, as part of the show, a vintage black and white western cartoon, The Wild and Woozy West (1942) a Columbia/Screen Gems gag cartoon (see images above and below) somewhat influenced by Warner Bros. style. The fun starts at 8pm. For more information and tickets click here.

How Pixar Hires

Randy Nelson, head of the in-house Pixar University, gives a 10-minute talk that offers insight into character traits the studio looks for when it hires employees. One of the primary factors is to hire people who are interested rather than interesting. Also, collaboration does not simply mean cooperation, but it means amplification–people who bring separate depth to the problem and bring breadth that gives them interest in the entire solution.

(via Kottke)

An interview with Walt Disney

For your weekend pleasure, here’s a terrific interview with Walt Disney circa 1963, conducted by Fletcher Markle. Markle, who had just made The Incredible Journey for the studio, was a Canadian filmmaker and broadcaster. Clips from this interview have been seen in various specials and documentaries. Here’s the whole thing; it’s thirty minutes and delightful. It’s Walt just being himself, answering questions about his career, being candid about the failure of Fantasia, the success of Disneyland and his own Canadian roots.

(Thanks, Don Brockway)

Coraline Opens Today

Coraline

The first animated feature out of Laika, Henry Selick’s Coraline, opens in theaters today. Jerry loved the film, I haven’t seen it yet. The overwhelming critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes is that it’s a solid film with a nearly 90% positive review rate. Personally, I can’t wait to see it. It’s so rare for any animation studio to start out of the gate with a film that looks and feels this different from everything else out there. Selick and company have created a gutsy film that appears to take risks and doesn’t repeat the tired formulas and conventions that make most animated features such a chore to watch. For that alone, the film deserves the support of the animation community, and you can be sure that I’m going to be planting my butt into a theater seat this weekend.

There are plenty of interviews with director Henry Selick appearing online. One of the smartest series of questions, especially as it relates to the techniques used in the film, can be found in this chat with the A.V. Club. Selick has this to say about the continuing relevance of stop-motion in a CG-dominated world:

“You know, I love stop-motion. I’ve done almost all the styles of animation: I was a 2D animator. I’ve done cutout animation. I did a CG short a few years ago, “Moongirl,” for young kids. Stop-motion is what I keep coming back to, because it has a primal nature. It can never be perfect. There’s always something like–[Points to the Coraline puppet on the table.] Coraline’s sweater, you can notice here that it’s sort of boiling. And that’s because people are touching it and moving it for every frame. There’s an undeniable reality that I don’t think any of the other mediums give you. You know these things are real even if you don’t know exactly how they move, how big they are. It’s something I got when I was 4 or 5, and I saw my first Ray Harryhausen film. I saw some monsters he created. So why still follow that in this day and age? Well, it has certainly been the age of CG, and the hits keep coming. You know, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s company [DreamWorks], they seem to have a formula. Pixar as well. And they make very, very well-made films with maybe the best story department in the world. But I do think there’s a part of everyone that likes to see handmade stuff. That’s what we offer. It’s never going to be the dominant filmmaking style. It’s always going to be the cousin off to the side. You know, the more eccentric relative of yours that some of the kids like.”

Another fun interview peppered with insider details about the production is this one which appeared on Ain’t It Cool News a few days ago. There’s also a profile of Selick in the LA Times in which he points out Laika’s questionable plans to build a new studio campus from the ground up. Those plans have temporarily been put on hold, and that’s fine with Selick, who’d like to see the company spend its money elsewhere:

“I’m in favor of no campus — let’s use our resources to put the movies on the screen. You build a campus after you’ve had five hit movies. And without a doubt, ‘Coraline’ will have an impact on the number of films put into production. If we do a little business, it will be a good first film — because then it will have proven its worth.”

As Selick alludes to in that last sentence, expectations are modest for the film’s opening weekend with forecasts in the $9-12 million range. One of the reasons that could prevent Coraline from becoming a smash hit is also the reason that it’s such a promising film: the fact that the original vision hasn’t been watered down so that it attempts to appeal to each and every member of the audience. Any animated film that takes chances also carries with it the risk of failure, especially with a general public that still assumes every animated feature is designed for four-year-olds. Films like Coraline will eventually broaden the audience’s palette for different approaches to animated storytelling, but they don’t guarantee instant piles of money like your average Kung Fu Panda does. Coraline‘s creator Neil Gaiman had the best retort about whether Coraline is appropriate for every child in America; in an interview with Canada’s National Post he said:

“Someone asked me last week if Coraline would be an appropriate film for their six-year-old son. I don’t know. That’s like asking me if their six-year-old would like mushroom soup. I don’t know the kid and so I have no idea what is appropriate for him.”

This article from The Oregonian offers the most detailed look at the business side of Laika and what Coraline means to the fledgling studio’s prospects. Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who started Laika, is upbeat and tells the paper, “Even if nobody goes to see it, we’re going to make another couple of movies at least.” But the reality is that no follow-up film is currently in production at the studio and, according to the article, their next feature might not premiere until 2014. To be fair, this lag is not uncommon in a start-up studio; there was a three-year lag between Pixar’s first feature, Toy Story, and their follow-up A Bug’s Life. According to the article, the film’s $60-70 million production cost went over-budget by more than 12 percent and the film was completed a year late. “We really got surprised a little bit on the production, on how complicated that was,” says Knight. “We were going along fat, dumb and happy.”

Fans of stop-motion (and intelligent animated filmmaking in general) have a lot to look forward to in 2009 with another major stop-mo film scheduled for November–Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox–and hopefully the wider releases of two indie films, Tatia Rosenthal’s $9.99 and Adam Elliot’s Mary and Max.

The Orphanage Shuts Down

The Orphanage

Yesterday, Stu Maschwitz, the co-founder of San Francisco-based visual fx house The Orphanage, announced on his blog that they’re “suspending operations indefinitely.” The studio, founded in 1999 by Maschwitz, Jonathan Rothbart and Scott Stewart, employed 160 people at its peak and contributed vfx work recently to Iron Man and The Spirit. If the hundred-plus comments on Maschwitz’s blog are any indication, the studio set high standards for the work it produced and was well-loved by its former employees. Its TV commercial unit is also shutting down, however, the LA-based Orphanage Animation Studio, headed by Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Lab) will continue to remain in operation. More details come from this Variety article:

OAS [Orphanage Animation Studio] and the Jim Henson Co. continue to work on “The Power of the Dark Crystal,” OAS’ first announced feature. Maschwitz told Daily Variety on Thursday that while the Orphanage Inc. had had an ownership stake in OAS, “The management of the Orphanage no longer has any ownership in Orphanage Animation Studios.” Maschwitz said that the company’s owners were unsure whether they would sell or liquidate, but “whatever we do, that money is going first to creditors,” including employees who have not yet been paid in full.

(Thanks, Karl Cohen)

Disney Artists Write Home During WWII

Drawing by David Swift

During World War II, dozens of Disney artists were drafted into the US military. Today I’m sharing letters written by three of those artists who served in uniform—Berk Anthony, Carl Fallberg and David Swift. The letters were all addressed to Ward Kimball, who continued working at Disney’s Burbank studio during the war. Not only are the contents of the letters fascinating but also the artists’ writing styles which exhibit a surprising level of literary sophistication. I’ve annotated the letters with some information about the artists as well as references they make in their writing. Please add your own notes if you know any more about what is described in these letters. Click on each image to see the full page.

Berk AnthonyThis first letter dated August 18 (presumably 1941) is written by Berkeley “Berk” Anthony. He is a mysterious figure in animation history and I haven’t been able to turn up much about his life and career. He began working at Disney in the mid-1930s. He was Ward Kimball’s assistant for a period of time before David Swift and Tom Oreb took over the assistant spots. I have no records on what he assisted on, but I’m guessing he helped Kimball with Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio and Bacchus in Fantasia. Anthony also worked in story on The Reluctant Dragon. He was drafted while still working at Disney. I know only two random facts about his post-military career: he designed the Arizona State mascot Sparky the Sun Devil in 1946, and according to a late-’90s interview with Ward Kimball, he committed suicide.

Page 1:
Berk Anthony Letter

Page 2:
Berk Anthony Letter

Notes about Berk Anthony’s letter: In the 1st paragraph, Anthony makes reference to Walt Disney’s trip to South America, which was happening during the time this was written. In the 2nd paragraph, Anthony mentions Carl Nater, who was the production coordinator for military films at Disney. (Nater later became the director of Disney’s 16mm film division and tried to suppress the release of Kimball’s Mars and Beyond to schools because he felt it “promoted evolution”.) In the same paragraph, Anthony also mentions his college background. If it’s not evident from his writing, he had an intellectual bent, and having seen a photo of the library in his home, it is also safe to assume that he was well read. In the 3rd paragraph, I interpreted one of his sentences to mean that he appeared in the live-action portions of Reluctant Dragon. I don’t have time to check the entire film right now but should anybody wish to search for him, I’ve included a photo of Anthony above from January 1939, dressed up for a costume party. In the 8th paragraph, he references Hardie Gramatky, the former Disney artist who became a well-known fine artist and author of the Little Toot series.

The next letter, dated November 23, 1942, is from Carl Fallberg who was stationed in Quantico, Virginia as part of the Marine Corps film unit:

Page 1:
Carl Fallberg Letter

Page 2:
Carl Fallberg Letter

The unit housed an impressive group of people including not only the animators that Fallberg mentions in his letter but also actor Tyrone Powers, director Richard Brooks and the future Abstract Expressionist painter Richard Diebenkorn. In the 1st paragraph, Fallberg thanks Kimball for the shot of #2, in reference to the train that Kimball was restoring at his home. In the 2nd paragraph, Fallberg references a live-action feature that he had made with fellow Disney animator Lars Calonius. The one hour and fifteen minute Western parody was partly shot at Kimball’s home using his #2 train, the Emma Nevada. In the 4th paragraph, Fallberg lists the Disney artists at Quantico at the time of the letter, who were Ralph Chadwick, Keith Robinson, Walt Smith, Charles McElmurry, Art Babbitt, Nicholas J. George, Don Lusk and Jack Whitaker.

In the 5th paragraph, he says that Frank Thomas was being considered for the unit; Thomas eventually ended up directing animation in the First Motion Picture Unit of the Air Force stationed in Culver City, California. As Fallberg states in this paragraph, Disney layout artist Tom Codrick would become the head of the animation unit in Quantico. In the 6th paragraph, he thanks Ward for giving animation pointers to his sister Elinor Fallberg. In the 9th paragraph, he writes about visiting his live-action filmmaking partner, Lars Calonius, who was in the Army’s Signal Corps film unit further north on the East Coast. (Calonius stayed in New York after the war and ran a successful TV commercial studio for many years.) In the 12th paragraph, he references G.F.R.R.–the Grizzly Flats Railroad–which was the official name of Kimball’s backyard.

The final letter is from December 28, 1945 from David “Bud” Swift, who was Kimball’s top assistant on Dumbo, The Reluctant Dragon and Education for Death among other projects.

David Swift Letter

Swift’s letter, written from England, is addressed to Fred [Moore] and Tom [Oreb] as well as Ward. Unlike Anthony and Fallberg who were working in film divisions during World War II, Swift was flying a B-17 Flying Fortress in the Air Force. In fact, he flew thirty-four bombing missions into Germany in 1945; the Germans had already surrendered by the time he wrote this letter. In the 1st paragraph, Swift’s mention of “Hal” refers to Hal Adelquist, the head of Disney studio personnel. In the 3rd paragraph, he writes that he wished he were back in the States, where women didn’t “carry pro kits.” A description of pro-kits can be found in this book excerpt on Google Book Search. Swift has a way with words, and after the war, he became a writer at Warner Bros. Later, he created the TV series Mr. Peepers and directed features like The Parent Trap and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.

Here is a photo of Swift (standing) and Kimball during the production of The Reluctant Dragon.

Swift and Kimball

Heavy Metal Thumper

A few years ago we posted about a musician applying a rock guitar soundtrack to a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Now a band from San Antonio called Spastic Ink wrote music to match directly with several animated sequences from Disney’s Bambi. It’s a pretty interesting experiment.

To experience all six videos in this suite click here, go to the middle of the page under the heading “A Wild Hare from ‘Spastic Ink -Ink Complete” to play the Bambi tracks.

(Thanks, Emmett Hall)

Fleischer’s Superman Feature???

Peter Rosenberg of Cartoon Crazys, the folks restoring Gulliver’s Travels, as I mentioned in this post, wrote this on our Comments thread:

…we are planning on doing all 17 Max Fleischer’s Superman episodes later this year as well as using Max Fleischer’s original notes to re assemble them into the full length movie he had originally wanted to do and had planned on doing at a later date when he did the cartoons for Paramount.

Huh?? I never heard this before… and I don’t buy it. You’re telling me Max wanted to assemble the 17 Paramount Superman cartoons “into the full length movie he had originally wanted to do”??? Can anyone not connected to Cartoon Crazy’s confirm this? Methinks this is major B.S. – but then again, what do I know about Superman?

Zodiac Race by PandaPanther

Asics Onitsuka Tiger

NY animation studio PandaPanther, whose work I quite enjoy, completed a quirky three-minute short called Zodiac Race for the Onitsuka Tiger line of Japanese shoe company Asics. It celebrates the company’s 60th anniversary with the re-telling of the Zodiac Race Legend. A director’s cut of the film can be seen on the PandaPanther website along with a ‘making of’ video that gives a sense of how they combined miniature backgrounds with the CG characters.

Here is more about the project from PandaPanther:

We were approached by Amsterdam Worldwide, previously known as Strawberry frog to produce a short film, along with an in-store display of an actual 1 Meter Diorama Sneaker which is currently showing in Amsterdam. The actual shoe was used in parts of the film as a backdrop and environment and functions in real life as a miniature race track with moving parts. We were given tons of creative freedom with the characters and environments, and also worked together with a great creative team at Amsterdam Worldwide to expand their script into a full epic. Because the film is for an online campaign, we were not restricted by a set time length and thus the film expanded to 3 minutes in order to give each character some screentime and to hit on all the key moments in the story. A big challenge was to make sure everyone involved felt their Zodiac Sign was represented in some way. We really enjoyed this project, it felt like it perfectly suited us, and we got the opportunity to use many of our techniques, combining miniatures, CG and cel animation.

Oscar Animation Screenings



On Thursday February 19th, in Beverly Hills, Tom Sito will moderate an Oscar Nominated Animated Feature Symposium celebrating the work of the 2008 Feature Film nominees. The nominees (subject to availability) will discuss their film’s development and their creative process as well as present clips illustrating their techniques. This is the first year the Academy is hosting this event as a part of its Oscar Week festivities. Admission is free, but advance tickets are required.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is also screening all the Oscar nominated shorts publicly in New York and Los Angeles. New Yorkers can take a look at the live action and animated nominees this Saturday at either 12 noon or 4pm at the Academy Theatre at Lighthouse International on 59th Street. Details on the NY show are posted here. The Los Angeles screening will be held on Tuesday February 17th, 7:30pm, at the Goldwyn Theatre on Wilshire Blvd. – L.A. details here. Admission price for the Academy screenings on both coasts is $5.

In case you feel left out, Magnolia Pictures is distributing a program of this years Oscar nominated shorts to movie theaters all over the U.S. (to over 100 cities) beginning this Friday. A complete list of playdates and locations is posted here.

P.S. Check out an audio podcast I did today with Dave Dubos, film critic for ABC in New Orleans, where I discuss the Oscar nominations.